The Stepford Wives was a movie that came out in 1972 and might not be very well remembered today but which nonetheless contributed a useful metaphor for describing certain aspects of our society. Briefly, the Stepford Wives were the possessed and submissive versions of their original human selves, surreptitiously transformed one by one and reappearing as empty husks of what they had once been.
Articles by Mark White
This fake news story begins in Veles, a small city of 40,000 people in Macedonia. Veles became widely known in the Trump election of 2016 as a production center for false information websites. Presumably, there were hundreds of fake news websites developed by some people in Veles that generated income from ads.
Revelations like those from Snowden and the Pegasus Project have this same unexpected and counterintuitive effect. Instead of rejecting the control, we increasingly learn to adapt and self censor. The panopticon effect lies exactly in this acceptance of the new normal. Afraid to say the wrong thing, we self censure our discourse and the allowable range of ideas becomes more and more narrow. Those who fail to ‘check their words’ are cancelled and provide an example for the rest.
Monopoly used to be understood in a kind of one dimensional space, how a company may have gained dominance in its industry. However, today’s tech monopolies exist in multidimensions; they monopolize and control our data, they decide when and if to censor our speech, and they purchase government officials, the same ones charged with reigning them in. But our old conception of monopolies is totally inadequate to describe or understand the significance of today’s big tech companies.
Witch hunts in various forms are one of those recurring themes of human history. One variation, known as McCarthyism, has returned recently, at least in the lexicon. The word McCarthyism has been thrown around a lot lately. Like ‘fascist’ or ‘marxist,’ it is a part of the word arsenal deployed in our current culture wars.