Bookmarked More Proof That This Really Is the End of History (

Over the past year, it has become evident that there are key weaknesses at the core of seemingly strong authoritarian states.

Francis Fukuyama applies his thesis that history ends with the prevelance of democray to today.

Fukuyama argues that history should be viewed as an evolutionary process, and that the end of history, in this sense, means that liberal democracy is the final form of government for all nations. According to Fukuyama, since the French Revolution, liberal democracy has repeatedly proven to be a fundamentally better system (ethically, politically, economically) than any of the alternatives,[1] and so there can be no progression from it to an alternative system. Fukuyama claims not that events will stop occurring in the future, but rather that all that will happen in the future (even if totalitarianism returns) is that democracy will become more and more prevalent in the long term.

On the flip side, he considers the many authoritarian failures.

Supporters of liberal democracy must not give in to a fatalism that tacitly accepts the Russian-Chinese line that such democracies are in inevitable decline. The long-term progress of modern institutions is neither linear nor automatic. Over the years, we have seen huge setbacks to the progress of liberal and democratic institutions, with the rise of fascism and communism in the 1930s, or the military coups and oil crises of the 1960s and ’70s. And yet, liberal democracy has endured and come back repeatedly, because the alternatives are so bad. People across varied cultures do not like living under dictatorship, and they value their individual freedom. No authoritarian government presents a society that is, in the long term, more attractive than liberal democracy, and could therefore be considered the goal or end point of historical progress. The millions of people voting with their feet—leaving poor, corrupt, or violent countries for life not in Russia, China, or Iran but in the liberal, democratic West—amply demonstrate this.

The big question, Fukuyama suggests, with all this is the United States. Although democracy is the end state, it is still something that we must struggle for.

Bookmarked Monday 14 March, 2022 | Memex 1.1 (

There’s clearly no Russian Plan B for Ukraine. If that is indeed the case, then we know what’s likely to happen.

When Chechnya was being obliterated in 1999, most of us paid little attention. After all, it wasn’t a European country. But Ukraine is.

Our complacent post-1946 holiday has really come to an end.

John Naughton wonders if the situation in Ukraine is history repeating and whether our post-1946 holiday is over.
Bookmarked Knitting a Healthy Social Fabric. – danah boyd – Medium by danah boyd (Medium)

Our civic infrastructure and social contract are crumbling. We all know that education has a crucial role to play in a healthy democracy. Yet, what I want you to take away from my talk today is that building and knitting the social fabric connecting your students is as important as the material you teach. You have the power to construct social networks in a healthy way. And those of you who build tools have the ability to enable such connections through your design decisions. Ignoring this won’t make it go away, but it may help our country fall apart. My ask of you today is to take this need seriously and strategize ways to knit the social fabric collaboratively.

In a keynote at Educause’s annual conference, danah boyd the role played by schools in building the social fabric of the future.

Beyond interests, we look for people who are like us because this is easier, more comfortable. Sociologists call this “homophily” — birds of a feather stick together. But there are choices that we make in an education context that increase or decrease the diversity of people’s social networks. And those choices have lifelong and societal consequences. Those choices happen whether we intend for them to or not.

boyd argues that there are three ways in which people bond: an intrinsic alignment, extrinsic enemy and shared vulnerability. I guess this is why things like school camps and outdoor education activities are so powerful. However, with all this, building bonds and social ties seems to have been something overlooked during the pandemic and offsite learning.

For the last year, as students have negotiated K-12 and college during a pandemic, the lack of awareness about the importance of social tie development became even more profound. We’ve seen countless tools built to help students obtain the school material. Teachers invested in finding ways to transfer classroom pedagogy to the internet, to produce more interactive and compelling video content, often using tools like polls to interact with students. But the primary relationship that was considered was one rooted in a notable power differential — the dynamic between the teacher and the student. Yes, students have still been required to negotiate group projects on Zoom, but how many tools have been rolled out this year that are really about strengthening ties between students? Helping students connect with others in a healthy way? Most of what I’ve seen has focused on increasing competition and guilt. Tools that are designed so that everyone can see each other’s assignments, complete with timestamps that reveal the complex lives students face navigating virtual school. Tools that privilege those who can perform. And tools that are rooted in accounting and accountability. Why are we not seeing tools to help students bond across difference?

The problem is that in a world of polarisation and social fracture, connections are the strongest weapons we have. As boyd explains,

To radically alter how people see the world, you have to alter their connections to those who might challenge these new frames.

boyd puts forward some ideas for a more thoughtful social fabric. These include pushing back on drumbeat around stranger danger so that we can actually speak to others, creating digital outreach programs to support those in pain online, and being more deliberate about social networks within schools.

If you put the social network at the center of your work, how might that change some of your practices? As an administrator, you could assign classrooms strategically. As a teacher, this could shape how you constructed group projects, how you seated students. You do much of this by feel already, but a tool lets you shift your goals. Rather than making your goal be about the success of the group project, imagine a goal that’s about strengthening the graph of the students.

Although boyd’s focus is on the American education system, it is still an interesting concept to consider. Personally, I have not seen a lot of opportunity to build social ties. Sadly, when there is a will there is a way and some students find their own way to connect in less structured spaces. Although I am an advocate for more deliberate social spaces in education, someone has to support such spaces.

Replied to Monday 7 September, 2020 (Memex 1.1)

The end of democracy as we’ve known it

The point that stood out in your reflect John was this:

So the US electorate may have felt safe in taking a punt on Trump, on the grounds that if it turned out badly, well, then, the system would take care of them. In a way, that was also the thinking of my many liberal American friends who told me that, while Trump would be terrible, “we are a Republic of Laws” and the Constitution, the separation of powers and the court system would keep him under control and limit the damage, pending restoration of normalcy.

I was not really sure what it would be like, but I did not think that it would be like this.

Replied to Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted by Doug BelshawDoug Belshaw (Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel)

To be an ‘informed citizen’ these days means reading things like the EFF’s report into the current state of corporate surveillance. It means deleting accounts as a result. It means slowing down, taking time, and reading stuff before sharing it on platforms that you know care for the many, not the few. It means actually caring about this stuff.

Thank you radical Doug. I always value your thoughts and feel that the discussion is as important the actual decisions made in an informed era.

I also liked your point about human flourishing:

I don’t think we should be optimising human beings for their role in markets. I think we should be optimising markets (if in fact we need them) for their role in human flourishing.

This reminds me Cory Doctorow’s smart city of sensors rather than those sensed.

Bookmarked Sacha Baron Cohen’s Keynote Address at ADL’s 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate (Anti-Defamation League)

It’s time to finally call these companies what they really are—the largest publishers in history. And here’s an idea for them: abide by basic standards and practices just like newspapers, magazines and TV news do every day. We have standards and practices in television and the movies; there are certain things we cannot say or do. In England, I was told that Ali G could not curse when he appeared before 9pm. Here in the U.S., the Motion Picture Association of America regulates and rates what we see. I’ve had scenes in my movies cut or reduced to abide by those standards. If there are standards and practices for what cinemas and television channels can show, then surely companies that publish material to billions of people should have to abide by basic standards and practices too.

Sacha Baron Cohen provided the keynote address for the Anti-Defamation League’s 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate. Stepping away from his many guises, Baron Cohen discusses the current threat to democracy being served by the ‘Silicon Six’. He argues although they often reference ‘freedom of speech’ as an excuse, this often leads to a freedom of reach for those wishing to manipulate the structure of society.

This reminds me of danah boyd’s discussion of cognitive strengthening, filling the gaps and the challenges of the fourth estate. Also, Ben Thompson provides a useful discussion of the challenges associated with moderation, one being the human side of the process, while Tarleton Gillespie suggests that moderation is not the panacea.

Doug Belshaw provides his own response to Baron Cohen’s speech, suggesting that the issues are associated with the financial roots of platform capitalism, the need for more local moderation and the problem of vendor lock-in.

Mike Masnick pushes back on Baron Cohen’s argument that social media is to blame for fake news and instead argues that things did not take off until Fox News validated things. In addition to this, Masnick questions whether there really is a solution to the problem of moderation and communication.


Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.

Voltaire was right, “those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” And social media lets authoritarians push absurdities to billions of people.

Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach.

Zuckerberg at Facebook, Sundar Pichai at Google, at its parent company Alphabet, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Brin’s ex-sister-in-law, Susan Wojcicki at YouTube and Jack Dorsey at Twitter. The Silicon Six

Those who deny the Holocaust aim to encourage another one.

Bookmarked Annika Smethurst: ‘Worry is my new normal’ (The Daily Telegraph)

The responsibility of speaking up for something as important as press freedom is daunting and I constantly worry that I am not up to the task.

I worry for my parents and for my friends. Worry is my new normal.

Annika Smethurst’s recount of life after the Australia Federal Police’s raids is a sobering account of what is on the line when reporting on the government and security.
Listened TER #139 – Re-Imagining Education for Democracy with Stewart Riddle – 30 Sept 2019 from Teachers’ Education Review

Visit the post for more.

Stewart Riddle discusses the issue of democracy in education captured in a book Re-imagining Democracy in Education. He suggests that liberalism has been too tilted towards the individual, in a democratic approach every school would be a good school, not just those with the ‘right’ community or outcomes. The challenge is that there are many facets where this plays out, from student strikes to questions around surveillance.

For more on democracy and education, there is going to be another summit on the topic:

Bookmarked I live-tweeted the raids on the ABC — and it was a first for the AFP (ABC News)

John Lyons spent nine hours in a room with six AFP officers — who were unfailingly polite and respectful — but who were doing something he believed attacked the very essence of journalism.

John Lyons reports on his use of Twitter to broadcast the AFP’s raid on ABC. He explains that each day journalists receive tips, often anonymous. The choice to publish the two pieces which instigated the raid did not put anybody in danger. The raid signifies a particular challenge on journalism and truth.

In almost 40 years in journalism — and having myself been on an AFP warrant after I received and wrote stories based on leaked defence intelligence documents — I had never seen a warrant this all-encompassing.

The power to delete official documents reminded me of George Orwell’s book 1984.

Remember Winston Smith, who worked in the records department of the Ministry of Truth?

Part of his job was to delete documents or newspaper reports of wars which his government wanted to pretend never happened.

But this was Australia in 2019 — not George Orwell’s Oceania in 1984.

As Cory Doctorow argues in a separate piece:

The Australian authorities insist that the raids were not coordinated and that it’s all a coincidence. As Caitlin Johnson points out, that’s a hell of a coincidence, and if it’s true, it’s even scarier than the idea that the raids were coordinated — instead, it means that Australia’s cops and prosecutors have gotten the message that it’s open season on public interest journalism and are acting accordingly, with lots more to come.

Rebecca Ananian-Welsh argues that the raids are a threat to democracy:

One of the most disturbing outcomes is not prosecutions or even the raids themselves, but the chilling of public interest journalism. Sources are less likely to come forward, facing risk to themselves and a high likelihood of identification by government agencies. And journalists are less likely to run stories, knowing the risks posed to their sources and perhaps even to themselves.

In regards to 1984, Dorian Lynskey argues that we have gone beyond the vision painted by Orwell.

Liked Re-imagining education for democracy in these politically troubled times (EduResearch Matters)

I believe the more educators talk about what we see going wrong in education, the more our communities will understand and respond to our concerns. However, it is not simply a matter of talking about what is going wrong; we need to talk about what could happen instead. We need to deeply connect with our communities over our disquiet, hear what they have to say, and build credible alternate visions of education together.

Bookmarked How China Turned a City Into a Prison (

Children are interrogated. Neighbors become informants. Mosques are monitored. Cameras are everywhere.

Chris Buckley, Paul Moz and Austin Ramzy report on the step up of surveillance in China in response to the Uighurs. This reminds me of an ABC investigation into China’s social credit. Although it might seem harmless to accept Westfield’s capturing of gender or McDonald’s personalised drive-thru service, but this is only the beginning. We need to be informed and have an eye on tomorrow.
Replied to Exit Option Democracy by Doug Belshaw (Thought Shrapnel)

What I do accept, though, is that Vertesi’s findings show that ‘exit democracy’ isn’t really an option here, so the world of technology isn’t really democratic. My takeaway from all this, and the reason for my pragmatic approach this year, is that it’s up to governments to do something about all this.

Zuboff’s book sounds interesting. Having just finished Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway, I have been listening to quite a few interviews associated with the book. One of the messages which he argues for is hopefulness. I think that an informed pragmaticism is all we can wish for. This is what I tried to capture in my post.
Replied to Media for the people by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (

Fascist propaganda led directly to modern advertising, and modern advertising has now led us right back to fascist propaganda, aided and abetted by people who saw the right to make a profit as more important than the social implications of their work.

I think this is the time to take more direct action, and to build institutions that don’t just speak truth to power, but put power behind the truth. Stories are how we learn, but our actions define us.

This reminds me of danah boyd’s call for:

  • Create a sustainable business structure without the pressure of ROI
  • Rebuild the social networks
  • Develop new ways of holding those who are struggling
Liked Democracy and Education by Cameron Paterson (It’s About Learning)

Democracy requires active work. Every generation has to reclaim it. Educators have a critical function, at a moment when we live in filter bubbles and echo chambers, to create safe spaces and facilitate points of confrontation to break single identities. If we are serious about democracy, it is about how we teach. It is about living democracy in the classroom. It might be timely for teachers to consider whether they model authoritarian leaders, how they might support curricula disobedience and academic freedom, and what their professional code of ethics is.

Liked An Avalanche of Speech Can Bury Democracy (POLITICO Magazine)

It’s not speech per se that allows democracies to function, but the ability to agree—eventually, at least some of the time—on what is true, what is important and what serves the public good. This doesn’t mean everyone must agree on every fact, or that our priorities are necessarily uniform. But democracy can’t operate completely unmoored from a common ground, and certainly not in a sea of distractions.

via Mike Caulfield
Liked Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange and Hand Him Over to the UK. What Comes Next? by (The Intercept)

Will journalists, due to hatred of Assange, unite behind the Trump DOJ in support of one of the gravest threats to press freedom in years?

📓 Demagoguery

Reflecting on the state of democracy, Branko Milanovic looks back at the work of those like Max Weber and the concept of demagoguery:

These old-school writers were also very astute about the political science of demagoguery, which Weber defined as manipulation of the electorate through proffering of unrealistic promises. He thought the rise of demagogues was specific to Western political culture; it was a potentially dangerous side effect of democracy. Demagoguery appeared, according to Weber, first in the Mediterranean city-states and then spread to Western parliamentary systems through the role of party leaders.source

Wikipedia defines a demagogue as:

A leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation Demagogues overturn established customs of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so.source

Bookmarked Social Media Has Hijacked Our Brainstorm and Threatens Global Democracy (Motherboard)

The ‘social media revolution’ gave us Donald Trump and Brexit—and is making politics impossible.

David Golumbia discusses the changes to democracy associated with social media.

least reasonable parts of our minds, on which a democratic public sphere depends. It speaks instead to the emotional, reactive, quick-fix parts of us, that are satisfied by images and clicks that look pleasing, that feed our egos, and that make us think we are heroic. But too often these feelings come at the expense of the deep thinking, planning, and interaction that democratic politics are built from. This doesn’t mean reasoned debate can’t happen online; of course it can and does. It means that there is a strong tendency—what media and technology researchers call an “affordance”—away from dispassionate debate and toward strong emotions.

He argues that we have lost the ability to think slowly, therefore making us more susceptible to irrational decisions.

In 2007 and again in 2008, Kahneman gave a class in “Thinking, About Thinking” to a powerful group of executives from companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia Microsoft, and Amazon (he also gave another talk about “Thinking, Fast and Slow” at Google in 2011). Kahneman is well known for bringing public awareness to the distinction between so-called “System 1” and “System 2” thinking. System 2 is good old fashioned, actual, “slow” thinking, it’s “effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious.” System 2 is the kind of rational cogitation we like to imagine we do all the time. System 1 is “fast” thinking, fight or flight, “automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious.” Facebook and Twitter are built on System 1, as is most social media. That’s why so many tech executives were at those master classes. And that’s what they learned there: How to craft media that talks to System 1 and bypasses System 2.

Golumbia describes this as a ‘revolution’

Those who celebrated the Facebook revolution and the Twitter revolution were celebrating the replacement of (relatively) calm reflection with the politics of reactivity and passion. This domination of System 2 by System 1 thinking is the real social media “revolution.” The question that remains is whether democracies have both the will, and the means to bring considered thought back to politics, or, whether digital technology has made politics impossible.