I’m still quite new to WordPress and up until this point I’ve mainly been focusing on getting on with writing my own blog posts to share with people. It’s only really within the last week that I’ve tentatively started to interact a little more with other bloggers. Its taken even less time than that for my experiences – both positive and negative – in this small corner of the web to make me think about what role the internet may or may not play with regards to civil rights and human freedom.
There seem to be two dominant frames with which people think about the internet. There is a line that sees the internet and social media as instruments of liberation, promoting greater individual freedom. The internet in this interpretation provides people with ways of accessing news ‘from the ground’ independent to the channels and editorial censorship of the traditional media conglomerates, encourages whistleblowing, and allows people to connect with other like minded people wherever they might be in the world. The internet has played a role in helping people to bring down regimes, influence the outcome of primaries and communicate directly with their political representatives. Social Media provides a vibrant and inclusive space in which individuals can express their beliefs without needing to fear being silenced or coerced into conformity. The internet engenders new forms of media activism and political citizenship, facilitating the creation of bottom up horizontal networks that are characterised by a contestation of elites, elected representatives and other ‘so called’ experts. That is one view.
The alternative view is that the internet is not as free and open as it might seem. The great firewall of china provides an example of how content can be controlled by the powers that be, while the global surveillance disclosures that Edward Snowden has made demonstrate the extent to which National governments are using the internet to undertake mass surveillance of their citizens via the internet. Not only this, but social networks, search providers and content management systems do not operate within a political and social vacuum but have to be understood within the context of pre-existing power structures. Even if internet users chose to use alternative internet spaces, traditional power brokers have quickly moved into this new realm, taking a dominant position that affects the visibility of oppositional voices. The internet can also reduce political engagement to a few clicks of a mouse button whilst the emergence of filter bubbles, via personalised search and news streams, can lead to process of cyberbalkanization. The internet can simply serve as an echo chamber in which individuals become shut off from views and information that might challenge or broaden their pre-existing beliefs.
I’ve recently discovered a blog by a nice young man who – according to his blog anyway – is nothing more than a humble novelist and (unpublished) playwright, who just so happens to really, really believe in Freedom (and yes, incase you were wondering, he is a citizen of the United States). He recently wrote a comment piece called ‘The suicide of Venezuela‘ which went viral, receiving over 220,000 hits, and which we can therefore consider to have had a not inconsiderable impact in colouring a significant number of people’s opinions on the situation.
I stumbled across the piece because it appeared via WordPress Discover which consists of content that has been handpicked by an editorial team as being ‘the best’ content on WordPress and which is then promoted to WordPress users. There are a number of interesting talks and pieces discussing the role of algorithms in tailoring the information that is made available to us on the internet and the potential problems that can arise from these ‘filter bubbles.’ However in this case, information is being filtered in much the same way as it would be in a traditional media organisation, that is to say actual people (with their political views and opinions) are making editorial decisions about what content should be put front of house. This is also the case with Facebook news, the biggest news distributor on the planet, which also relies to a surprising extent on a small editorial team to determine what news is currently trending. That such a biased article as the one I am discussing would be promoted via WordPress Discover raises interesting questions about the political affiliations of said editorial team, especially if one considers the advice provided by WordPress on what you should do if you want your blog to be featured in WordPress Discover (We care about the facts, support your work with research when necessary, be respectful; these are just three of the suggested guidelines on which – it could be argued – ‘The Suicide of Venezuela’ falls short.) Personally I find it hard to accept that any piece of writing that lovingly quotes Ayn Rand could in anyway be considered ‘good’ content, but those are my own personal opinions. Either way, I have a feeling that – however tightly I might follow these guidelines – none of my posts will ever be appearing in the editors picks, particularly by the time I have finished writing this one.
If you were to take the time to read the ‘Suicide of Venezuela‘ post for yourself, you would immediately notice that it is written in an extremely evocative style (the most excellent gentleman is an author after all) in which the ‘long and tragic suicide of Venezuela’ is explained as a direct consequence of the ‘dictatorship’ of the hate filled Venezuelan government. The author – without providing any evidence whatsoever – holds the Venezuelan state accountable for a multitude of sins including regulation, corruption, bureaucracy and ‘monumental stupidity’, along with a tendency – in true ‘tribal shamanic’ style – to blame the weather for its problems. The man behind this bleeding-heart analysis of the ‘marathon of destruction’ taking place, speaks as if he were a desperately saddened and concerned citizen. Yet he also talks as if he were an expert who has no need to makes reference to any other authority or source of information on the subject, and who claims to have ‘tried to fight’ on behalf of the ‘good men and women’ of the country. If we ignore the religious fervour, evocative language and messiah like tone present in the piece, the line of argument largely fits with the mainstream explanation provided in the Western media regarding Venezuela; namely that the crisis is the result of economic mismanagement and the ideological rigidity of the country’s authoritarian Chavista led-government. The analysis – if we can call it that – of ‘The Suicide of Venezuela’ does however go a few steps further than most mainstream interpretations, in labelling the administration a dictatorship, and in its refusal to acknowledge any other factor – beyond the failings of the what the author regards as the corrupt tyrannical socialist dictatorship – as having had a role to play in the crisis. This extreme view is interesting when you think about it being selected by WordPress as ‘high quality’ content, and it subsequently going viral as a result of this.
But before we go any further, we need take a step back. For those of you who have not been following the situation in Venezuela – and feel free to skip ahead if you have – here is a quick overview; Venezuela is currently in the midst of an economic crisis. Inflation was running at 275% last year and is likely to be significantly higher this year. At the same time the country is experiencing power and water cuts, a shortage of basic goods and essential medicines and increasing levels of crime. The president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro. His predecessor Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998 and oversaw a socialist revolution that focused on using oil revenue to oversee a broad range of social reforms that – according to the world bank – lifted 20% of the population out of poverty in a 15 year period and left it as the most equal society in the region with one of the highest levels of literacy (95.5%). On the international front the Venezuelan government has been a fierce critic of American foreign policy and US supported neoliberalism (I provide a quick summary of neoliberal thinking in my blog Capitalism and the pursuit of healthiness). It has also actively pursued initiatives to encourage greater Latin American and Caribbean cooperation, particularly with other countries with left wing governments such as Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
The opposition in Venezuela, a centre-right coalition, are demanding a recall referendum which could cut short Maduro’s term in office. Following Chavez’s death, Maduro was democratically elected as President of Venezuela with 50% of the vote and his term in office is not due to end until 2018. The opposition, which following the 2015 parliamentary elections has a majority in the national congress, want this to happen sooner (because it would trigger a new election) rather than later, as the constitution states that Mr Maduro’s strongly Chavista vice-president would then take over. Some polls suggest a majority of the people want Mr Maduro to go. Yet as recently as last December the Chavistas won 41% of the vote in elections for the national assembly. What is clear is that the severe economic crisis gripping the country is leaving an increasing number of Venezuelans more and more unhappy with the current situation, and that the subsequent protests and increasing levels of violence and hostility between the two sides is making the situation on the ground increasingly volatile.
There is no doubt that the United Socialist Party of Venezuela has struggled to effectively address issues such as corruption – something which Maduro himself has accepted is a serious problem. The government has contributed to its troubles by keeping prices rigidly fixed at artificially low levels for too long (with the price of gasoline for example having been fixed until February this year at an almost giveaway price), and setting multiple exchange rates that overvalue the price of the bolivar against the dollar at the official rate. These policies have created the conditions for scarcity and a growing black market. But the root of the crisis surely lies in the dependence of the Venezuelan economy on oil. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world and oil-related sectors making up around 96% of export earnings and contributing to about 45% of Venezuela’s budgeted revenues. With this level of dependence, a fall of just $1 will cause a significant loss of government revenue. It is no surprise then that with oil prices having plummeted from an average of $109 per barrel in 2012 to $30 a barrel in 2016 that the shortfall in dollars earned has played a major role in Venezuela’s economic crisis, having led for example to a massive reduction in imported goods, even if issues such as a shortage of some basic goods already existed.
It is probably worth mentioning the idea of the resource curse at this point, a theory that posits that developing countries rich in mineral resources are often unable to use that wealth to boost their economies and how, counter-intuitively, these countries have often experienced lower economic growth than countries without an abundance of natural resources. Reasons for this include commodity price fluctuations, an over dependence on imported goods, and the potential for vast amounts of wealth to be accumulated through corruption. It is also worth pointing out that Corruption predates the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela with, for example, $36bn being misused by the foreign exchange programme RECADI during the presidency of Jaime Lusinchi in the five year period between 1984 and 1989.
The reluctance / inability of the government to effectively address some of the problems, such as profiteering and scarcity, which have arisen seemingly as a result of its populist policy measures – such as keeping the price of gasoline so low – have to be understood in the context of the aggressive acts of the Venezuelan opposition. For years, the Venezuelan opposition has made it clear that regime change is their principal goal. They have engaged in insurgent activity to overthrow the democratically elected Chavista governments — in an attempted coup in April 2002, a business-promoted general strike (aimed at bringing the countries oil industry to a halt) seven months later, and more recently during a four month period of urban violence in 2014, referred to in Venezuela as the “guarimba“ in which both supporters and opponents of the government were killed. In this context, and with the opposition wiling to go so far as to launch an attempted coup d’état (that was foiled, partly by an uprising of the poor), is it surprising the the government has been reluctant to take measures that might have helped to stabilise the economy but which could have also proven unpopular amongst its working class support base?
But what if there were more to the picture still? Before Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998, the economic levers of society were almost exclusively in the hands of a social elite of overwhelmingly light-skinned Venezuelans: the inhabitants of the wealthy neighborhoods of Venezuela’s urban centers and wealthy landowners of the campo. According to Tiffany Linton Page, writing in the International Handbook of the Demography of Race and Ethnography, Venezuela has a “long history of racial and ethnic inequality” that dates back to the colonial period. This has lead to the social, political and economic marginalization of non-white racial and ethnic groups. A central goal of Chavismo was to wrest control of the economic levers from this elite and more evenly disperse them throughout society. Significant change has occured during the last 15 years with the efforts of the Chávez and Maduro administrations to democratize economic decision-making, and to predicate it on serving the public interest rather than the pursuit of private profit. However non-white racial and ethnic groups continue to be overrepresented among the poor and continue to face discrimination. The elite in Venezuela have the motive and the means, not only to aggressively resist a recalibration of economic and social power, but also to seek to undermine the Chavista administrations that threaten their privileged position in society. It is not they but the country’s poor, darker skinned majority that are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis. For Venezuela’s 1% – who earn and spend in dollars – life, and lobster gets ever cheaper.
The unwillingness of these elite groups to tolerate, let alone work with progressive movements which want to make society fairer and more equal, is demonstrated by the speed of events in Brazil. Following the impeachment of former President Dilma Rouseff on charges of fiscal peddling, it has taken just one week for interim president Michel Temer and his centre-right administration – which has no senior female or black senior ministers – to roll back many of the social policies put in place by Workers’ party governments over the previous 13 years. Moves are under way to soften the definition of slavery, roll back the demarcation of indigenous land, trim housebuilding programs and sell off state assets in airports, utilities and the post office. Newly appointed ministers are talking about cutting healthcare spending and reducing the cost of one of the most progressive policy initiatives ever enacted, the bolsa familia poverty relief system. Four thousand government jobs have been cut. The culture ministry has been subsumed into education. This represents nothing other than a reassertion of neoliberal economic policy by the business elite.
Throughout the period of Chavista rule, there have been many claims of business-induced, politically motivated scarcity of basic commodities. Immediately following the opposition victory in the 2015 National Assembly elections, social media commentators indicated that staple goods miraculously began to reappear on shelves throughout the country. They claimed that the expiration dates of some of these products (they were out of date) indicated that the problem might not so much be with the production but rather with the distribution (a sector to the economy largely in private sector hands) of these goods, and suggested that deliberate hoarding may have been taking place.
Having lost control of the state oil company, the business elite in Venezuela still control most of the companies importing goods into the country. They appear to have found new ways of generating income, acquiring cheap dollars from the Central Bank for false or manipulated imports, and then speculating on the growing gap in exchange rates. A more detailed explanation of how this works can be found here. According to this same article, the scale at which this activity appears to be occurring is staggering. According to the Venezuelan central bank, the period 2003 to 2013 saw the Venezuelan private sector increase its holdings in foreign bank accounts by 230% an increase of over $122 billion. Chavistas campaigning for an audit of the public debt have estimated that the total amount lost through fake imports and other mechanisms during this period amounts to $259 billion. It is eminently possible that many of the 750 offshore companies linked to Venezuela in the database released from the Panama Papers have been used to recycle this money. While poor economic management by the Venezuelan government and lower oil prices appear to be the major contributing factors to the economic crisis, it may well have been greatly exacerbated by the hoarding and price speculation being undertaken by the pro-opposition business elite as they seek both to enrich themselves and de-stabilise the Maduro administration. Which is not to say that members of the Madura administration may not have also been doing the very same thing themselves!
Although the ‘economic war’ thesis put forward by the government has been ridiculed by many commentators in the West as a desperate attempt to distract from allegations of the administrations gross incompetence, there are historical precedents. The situation in Venezuela, in particular the shortages of basic goods, are in some ways analogous to the conditions leading up to the 1973 coup against the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile. The right-wing Chilean opposition were backed at this time by the CIA, who had been ordered by Richard Nixon to “make the economy scream” by provoking food shortages, a truckers strike, and mayhem in the streets. In The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, Researcher Peter Kornbluh summaries formally classified cables at the National Security Archives. These cables show that in the days prior to the overthrow of Allende a terrorist paramilitary group and a “large segment” of the business community were “undertaking actions to increase discontent and incidents of violence…in order to create an atmosphere in Chile which would be propitious for a military coup.”
Incoporating the active role of the right-wing business elite in seeking to destabilise the Maduro administration and the heavy impact of plummeting oil prices, provide a far more satisfactory explanation of the current crisis than the one provided in ‘The Suicide of Venezuela’. If we also factor in the fact that 73% of Venezuelan electricity is generated by hydro power and Venezuela is experiencing its driest spell in decades, ‘blaming the weather’ suddenly looks less like a pathetic attempt to distract from government mismanagement and more like a reasonable explanation for electricity shortages. Clearly there are very legitimate reasons to criticise the central government, and it has doubtless had an important role to play in this crisis. However, it is equally clear that the situation itself is far more complex than the simple narrative used in ‘The Suicide of Venezuela’ blog.
There is however a further factor in the Venezuelan crisis that we have yet to address. The United States has a long history of involvement in Central and Latin America, a region which it considers to be its own back yard. A timeline of American intervention in Latin America since World War II can be seen here. A quick glance of the sizeable list reveals the numerous occasions in which the US – as a result of cold-war paranoia and in an attempt to protect its own trans-national corporate interests and to push Chicago School free market economics – has allied itself with the wealth controlling elites in this region, irrespective of however repressive or reactionary their regimes have been. In so doing so, the United States has helped to undermine democracy, stunt Latin America’s own development and contributed to some of the darkest periods in Latin America’s history by supporting, for example, the military dictatorships of the 1970s that were responsible for the “disappeared”; the brutal contra war in Nicaragua and the death squads in El Salvador.
The United States has steadfastly opposed those countries in Latin America that have sought to move away from the 10 policy recommendations of the Washington Consensus. The United States has therefore been opposed to the left wing political ideology of the Venezuelan socialist revolution with its message of increased cooperation between the Latin American countries of the pink tide from the very beginning and has consistently interfered in Venezuela’s internal affairs in the hope of undermining it. Evidence of these activities is provided by Wikileaks. From the 2002 coup in which then-President Chavez was nearly removed from power by force and which was supported by members of the Bush administration, to refusals to recognize Chavista electoral victories, sanctions, and funding for opposition parties via U.S. agencies such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), it becomes clear that the United States, despite normalizing relations with Cuba, does not seem to have the same intentions with Venezuela.
So, we can conclude that the crisis in Venezuela is not simply the product of economic mismanagement or the ideological rigidity of the country’s Chavista led-government. While it would appear that economic mismanagement certainly has a part to play, so too does plummeting oil prices, climate change and the ‘economic warfare’ being waged by an opposition who have received tacit support from the US. Having said this, it is important to reiterate that the Maduro administration quite rightly deserves criticism for its failure to deal with the economic crisis more effectively, even as it has continued with important social programmes and built 1 million affordable houses since 2011. While accusations of economic ineptitude may hold some water, and corruption remains a major problem, equally worrying is what human rights watch has described as the erosion of human rights guarantees in Venezuela as the government has sought to quell the opposition and hold on to power. José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch paints a picture of an alarming pattern of abuse, stating that Venezuela should end the rights abuses, investigate ones that have already occurred and bring those responsible for committing them to justice, regardless of the political affiliation of suspects or victims. While the government’s increasingly anti-democratic and authoritarian stance should be deplored, it must also be analysed in context.
Ok you might say, so the picture in Venezuela might be more complicated than the one being expounded by much of the media, or the even more extreme version provided by our friend, the author of ‘The Suicide of Venezuela.’ But actually what is the big deal? We know that the mainstream media normally has a significant bias reflecting the interests and political leanings of its (normally rather rich) owners and therefore tends to be in favour of low tax low spend laissez faire government, and against social democracy and the welfare state. As for the blog post, well its just some guy who writes a blog, got lucky and went viral. He might quote Ayn Rand, be unable to make any distinction between the free market and actual political freedom, have an almost pathological hatred of socialism in any shape of form, and also have something of a Messiah complex, but at the end of the day he’s just some libertarian crazy guy who can’t even get his play published. Right? Wrong (but not about the play bit.)
I don’t think I had ever come across such a perfect caricature of a right-wing Libertarian before I met my new friend. I found myself reading other posts the he has written, and finding them absolutely fascinating, albeit it in a ‘I can’t believe that this isn’t actually a big joke‘ and ‘where does all of this anger and self righteousness come from‘ kind of a way. At this point, and getting back to that initial question of whether the internet is a good or a bad thing – I would give it a wholehearted thumbs up. Clearly my friend lives in an almost hermetically sealed (and by the sounds of it, rather lonely) echo chamber in which his study of economy ended at some point during the first half of the twentieth century and Ayn Rand heroically stands as our greatest advocate of individual liberty (unless you are gay, a woman or native American of course). But there we were, each sat on our own side of the Atlantic, arguing away in a fair and frank way over our diametrically opposed views of the world, and both trying to find ways of shaking each other out of our own pre-existing beliefs. And all because we had both decided to share these views through an online blog. This definitely feels like 1-0 to the ‘internet as a force for good camp’ doesn’t it?
It was around about this point that I decided to do a little background research into my new friend. It turns out that he has been being rather modest. Despite what his WordPress blog says, it doesn’t take long to realise that he is not just a humble author and (unpublished) playwright. It also turns out that he was also a fellow of the George W Bush Institute.Wait a minute you might be thinking, wasn’t the Bush administration involved in the attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002? Yep. Here is what the Institute have to say for themselves; “The Bush Institute’s Human Freedom initiative advances freedom by developing leaders in emerging democracies, standing with those who still live under tyranny, and fostering U.S. leadership through policy and action.” I guess it’s a bit more understandable why my friend, in fiercely calling for the Venezuelan people to be free from (democratically elected) dictatorship, forgot to mention the Bush administrations support of the 2002 attempted coup (or even to mention the coup at all), not to mention America’s ongoing funding of the right-wing Venezuelan opposition, and his very own connection to all of this charming behaviour via his freedom fellowship at the Bush Institute. Luckily I was happy to amend this oversight on his behalf by drawing people’s attention to these facts in the comments section.
I then discovered that my friend was also a fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations; an American think tank based in Washington DC that promotes globalization, free trade and reduced financial regulation for transnational corporations. Membership of the Council on Foreign Relations has included senior politicians, more than a dozen secretaries of state, CIA directors, bankers, lawyers, professors, and senior media figures. This is Noam Chomsky’s review of a recent book about the Council on Foreign Relations entitled Wall Street’s Think Tank; “a very revealing account of how a small group of planners drawn from sectors of concentrated private and state power, closely linked, along with ‘experts’ whose commitments are congenial to their ends, have set the contours for much of recent history, not least the neoliberal assault that has had a generally destructive impact on populations while serving as an effective instrument of class war.” Interesting.
My friend is also a principal of Cordoba Group International LLC, an organisation that seeks- in their own words [but with my own comments included in brackets] – to build ‘the strategic and organizational capacity of civil society groups and political organizations to establish and protect free [market?] societies’ and works with businesses to ‘preserve and protect their achievements through organizational and political strategies that improve [by undermining socialist governments that might wish to nationalise or even just tax them?] their environment.’ The Cordoba Group is closely linked with yet another right-wing think tank, the Centre for a Secure Free Society, which concentrates on “promoting free markets and limited government, both inside and outside the United States.” Isn’t it interesting how the concept of free society and free markets are used interchangeably. I am all in favour of democracy, but free market capitalism works just as well with dictatorship (you could even argue better) as it does with democracy. Singapore, officially the best place to do business in the world, provides the perfect repost to those who argue that free markets and political freedom go hand in hand, as does the American backed neo-liberal Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Given America’s long track record in Latin America of overthrowing left-wing democracies in favour of right-wing business friendly dictatorships, given the close links between organisations such as this and transnational corporations, you have to ask very carefully what kind of ‘freedom’ organisations such as this are really promoting.
I wanted to ask my friend about his involvement with the Council on Foreign Relation and his work at Cordoba Group International, and how this might relate to his analysis of the situation in Venezuela. Unfortunately, I discovered that I was no longer able to comment on his blog. If you are reading this my friend, and I hope that you are, please don’t give up the playwriting. I know you must be a busy man and all, but if you stick at it I’m sure you will get one published one day.. you do write such excellent fiction after all. Given how fervently my friend champions individual freedom, I was a little disappointment at the way he had deprived me of the opportunity to comment on his blog any further. After all, all I had really wanted to say was that I finally understood why his commentary on Venezuela – with its state intervention in the economy, nationalised oil industry, currency controls and leading role in fostering closer co-operation between the social democracies of Latin America – had received such a one sided tongue lashing from him, and why his commentary had completely avoided talking about the role of falling oil prices, climate change, the American sponsored opposition, or the economic / class warfare being waged by the business elites, in undermining the Venezuelan economy. It was suddenly all so clear; this man was not just an author and (unsuccessful) playwright, but a paid up member of the predominantly white, male and reactionary right-wing American establishment. An establishment that sees Venezuela, and progressive left-wing Latin American governments in general, as posing an existential threat to their own power, privilege and political and economic interests, and that is actively seeking to overthrow and destabilize them in the name of ‘freedom’ (or should I say free markets?) Perhaps that is why he didn’t want me to draw attention to his other career?
So we are nearing the end of the story… my first week of talking to other bloggers has certainly been an interesting one. Although communication with my new friend has tragically come to a halt, it did serve to remind me of some of the more positive and negative aspects of the internet. The internet allowed a card carrying member of the very institutions of American power that have sought to discredit and undermine social democracy in Latin America to present his own propaganda piece as nothing more than the heart-felt sentiments of a humble writer and concerned citizen. It enabled’The Suicide of Venezuela’ to be selected by the editors of WordPress as ‘high quality’ content for dissemination to its many users, and therefore facilitated the piece in going viral and attracting nearly a quarter of a million views. Going by the comments, it also succeed in influencing or reinforcing many peoples perspectives on the situation in Venezuela. However the internet has also allowed me to debate with the author of the piece, to draw attention to the gaping holes in his analysis, and to reveal how they might relate to his undisclosed political and institutional affiliations. In combination with this response, I hope in some small way it will send a jarring new tune, however faint, bouncing around a cosy echo-chamber in the making.
The internet allows us to become better informed and to be better mislead. It exposes us to new views and more information than ever before, and in doing so makes it harder for us to accurately ascertain their real value or validity. It allows us to challenge the powers that be, and it allows the powers that be to reassert themselves over us. Ultimately, my experiences of the last week has served to remind me of the fact that the internet is like any other tool; it may be used for fair means or foul and does not fit neatly into either the liberational or repressive frames that I outlined at the beginning of this piece. The same, despite the best efforts of people like my friend Joel D Hirst, can be said of the political situation in Venezuela, and so many other situations that are not as simple as people might like us to believe. The internet is very good at breaking the world down into sound-bites, memes, gifs and simplified, emotive, easily digestible narratives. These we can graze, regurgitate or rebuke, often without having ever engaged our own critical reasoning. We must resist being lulled into ignorance by those who use the internet as a tool for transforming a complex reality into simple ideological parable.