Nationalism was crafted in the 18th century, became useful in the 19th century by providing scale to larger ethnic groups, then delivered all the horrors of the 20th century through ethnic cleansing across Europe, Asia and Africa.
A key goal of Trump’s Goebbels, Steve Bannon (left), is to let this monster loose across the Western World again, revisiting the horrors of our grandparents on our grandchildren. Steve Bannon makes Dick Cheney look like Santa Claus.
But Bannon is now running the Trump budget.
Why increase the military budget by 10%, when we can already beat any conceivable collection of enemies with ease, unless you intend to intimidate or invade? The Department of Defense is once again becoming the Department of Offense. This is what got us into Vietnam, Iran and Afghanistan.
More important, the march toward ultra-nationalism is going to cost tech companies their fortunes. No more importing engineers and entrepreneurs with H-1B visas. No more moving data around the world with impunity. When every nation controls its own Internet resources, they will demand that tech toe every line a dictator can devise. They will destroy the Internet, as WWW founder Tim Berners-Lee has predicted.
The five U.S. Internet companies worth a collective $2.5 trillion -- Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon.com and Microsoft -- depend on free global trade in data for their wealth. You take that away, demanding that other nations build their own analogs for what we’ve been selling, and you destroy the U.S. economy’s strength at a stroke.
Doing precisely this is now official U.S. policy. It is destructive to the American economy by its nature, because it is destructive to the tech economy, which dominates American industry.
Google and/or Facebook can lead the way by doing what they already know how to do. Here's how.
Every state has lists of registered voters. The biggest web companies have web data that can identify the existence of people in the world. It should not be hard for them to identify unregistered voters.
Every American citizen over 18 has a black letter right to vote. It’s written in the Constitution. More amendments to that document involve voting rights than any other subject. Yet the minority party, the Republicans, have made themselves an electoral majority by preventing people from voting, and keeping their votes from counting equally.
We know all the tricks. Gerrymandering. Voter ID requirements, like driver licenses and birth certificates that become virtual poll taxes. Voter purges. Limitations on polling places, and on voting hours. After President Obama’s election, the Republican Party declared war on democracy – not the Democrats but democracy. They’re winning. Trump’s election was like Hitler’s march into Paris, and it needs to resound in every tech boardroom like Pearl Harbor.
Google and Facebook have the data. What’s needed is software to extract that data, a mechanism for getting it to people who can do something about it, plus activism and financial wherewithal to get people back on the rolls. There is even a living organization dedicated to this work, the League of Women Voters. Call them.
Many technology leaders, like Tim Cook of Apple, already understand that making Americans act on their fear of one another, or of other countries, is counter-productive, but they don’t know what to do about it.
What America needs, more than liberals bemoaning Trump’s election or what he’s going to do, is a concerted effort to find and register millions of “missing” voters, and programs that will get those people to the polls no matter how Republican officials may try to stop them. That is where the rubber meets the road in the battle for our time.
Technology is a vital part of that effort. The same technology machine that elected Barack Obama needs to be rebuilt, enhanced, and placed in the service of democracy, if this system of government is to survive. Hey, Trump is scared to death of Obama, make him chair of it. Pay him well. Make him a billionaire. It wouldn't be hard to do.
Second, technology businesses must create a viable business model for real news, specifically local news.
The destruction of the journalism trade isn’t about the problems at The New York Times or MSNBC. The solution isn’t about Amazon subsidizing the operations of The Washington Post. It’s the lack of local papers, the training grounds for tomorrow’s journalists, that is the real problem.
I’m thinking of sites like Decaturish, struggling to gain “paid subscribers” without becoming a newsletter, and selling ads they can’t prove are as effective as buying from Google or Facebook. You create a working business model for this kind of work, and you’re going to get more of it. You tell a few journalism schools about this new business model and you’re going to get a lot more of it.
This business model will cost money to subsidize, at least at first, but if you can put together a $1 billion fund, you can create one-thousand million-dollar businesses and create 20,000 well-paid journalism jobs, at $50,000 each. Apple alone has $250 billion of cash sitting around. Release some of it. Or create a fund into which Apple and its competitors will contribute that cash. We’re talking about barely 2% of Apple’s net income alone, from last year, to fund this entire effort. We’re not counting what Facebook and Microsoft and Google and Amazon made. You can do this. Yes, you can.
We also know that intrinsic targeting for advertising does not work. Sending me an ad because I'm me, or because of something I just did or some Web site I just visited, doesn't work. The only reason people are doing it is because the costs are so low that they can afford the waste. Most clickthroughs are the result of clickbait.
This is a problem Google needs to solve in its own self-interest. The answer lies, again, in data. Help small sites prove their audiences, without demanding that they open themselves up to clickbait ads, and you will rebuild extrinsic targeting models, which are based on what you're reading. I should find ads about Decatur at Decaturish, ads about bicycling at Bicycling, ads about next season's TV shows at Daily Variety. You don't do that right now.
Once extrinsic targeting is rebuilt, the journalism business will do the rest of the work of rescuing itself. Click rates will increase as well, meaning here will be more money for everyone.
Trump and the GOP are declarations of war against the technology industry and against democracy itself. Technology has the means with which to win that war.
Those means must be deployed.
Now. While you still can.