Net works [or hurts]: why #nudge is the sociocultural equivalent of killer drones

Networks connect.  But if their connectees act in bad faith, their connections will struggle to operate for the good.

In today’s post I am suggesting all networks are open to tremendous abuse: a lesson we have learnt from, for example, the history of tactical media, as it started out in the camps of the self-proclaimed progressives and ended up in the hands of the Trumps of this world.  

We jester and undermine our trust in communication at our peril, I think.  This understanding has, however, arrived at our doorsteps a little too late.

In my own life, I have been suffering and benefitting in equal measure over the past year from various networks, none of which coincide exactly in their means, tools and goals.  One thing in common they do have, however, is their terrifying and consistent use of nudge theory. 

For someone like myself, who hates nudge theory and practice precisely because it denies its ownership – in fact, must do so in order to be able to operate! – and so to an almost fascist degree pretends it does what it does primarily for the object of its actions, when in fact it is the nudger such nudging advantages most, this sensing of all these counterpointing relationships is awfully frustrating.  After all, if I am nudged into doing something, it is not me who is responsible for the achievement.  It is, in truth, much more the nudger than anyone else.  And so even when the outcomes would be objectively positive for me, were I to blithely follow the silent and hidden commands, I could never feel I was freely and joyfully constructing my own life.

Net works, and also hurts dreadfully – even when the intentions are good.

That has to be my final position.

I am sorry, but nudge – and the networks which now use it so broadly to undermine both bad and good democratic discourse on behalf of their own multitudinous, even multifarious, ends – is always a lie, even when good is the goal.

Nudge is the modern manifestation of the idea that the ends justify the means; and we have been sold this lie, this bad, by so many people who would claim themselves usefully progressive.

Just as the tactical media proponents, in their time, did exactly the same, and caused – ultimately – exactly the same pain.

Trump is their legacy.

The wider destruction of democracy, of free will to be honest, is now clearly on a slightly different horizon – though equally horrifying.  And this wider destruction is the legacy of decades of untransparent nudge.  And it is here.


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