Social Mood Shift and Preference Cascades

The West is dominated by a suffocating political and media establishment which silences dissent, but a backlash has begun.

The latest example of silencing dissent comes from Twitter. The social media site launched a "Trust & Safety Council" staffed with left-wing feminist ideologues. The results quickly manifested: Twitter Shadowbanning ‘Real and Happening Every Day’ Says Inside Source. A shadowban allows a site to effectively ban a user, without the user knowing. The social media site is silencing right-wing voices by hiding their tweets, making it appear as if they are not active on the site. If you visit the person's Twitter account, the tweets are there, but they do not show up in timelines. Right-wingers are the main target of the policy, yet Bernie Sanders supporters also say they are being shadowbanned: Twitter accused of shutting down Hillary critics and also Did Twitter's Exec Censor #WhichHillary in advance of Key Primaries? Twitter users speak out. Twitter executives are Hillary supporters.

While Twitter provides a timely example, the wider social environment is also heavily policed. Many right-wingers on Twitter and online operate anonymously to protect themselves and their employers from retribution by social media mobs. There is a site detailing the success these mobs have had over the years at the New Blacklist. There are lots of examples, one of the most egregious was Brandon Eich. He created JavaScript and co-founded Mozilla, which developed the Firefox browser. He was hounded out of his own company for making a contribution to California's Proposition 8 campaign in 2008, which limited marriage to between a man and woman. Although Eich's position was exactly the same as Barack Obama's at the time, 6 years later gay and progressive activists launched an attack campaign against Eich, eventually causing him to leave this own company. Although Eich is high profile, there are many cases of low level employees being fired from their jobs for posting something unpopular on social media, be it a Halloween costume or saying they support the police.

What results is much dissent takes place anonymously, online, away from the mainstream debate. (Not a few websites have shut down comment sections to silence debate as well, further insulating the mainstream.) The political and media establishment end up in a bubble, an echo chamber where they are only talking to themselves. Most media and politicians believe they are on different sides, that there is a battle between right and left, but much of the public believes they are one. The growing number of Republican establishment types saying they will vote for Hillary if Trump is the GOP nominee merely confirms the public's suspicions.

In response to growing efforts to silence debate and economically punish dissenters, there are active efforts to build alternative media and technology to completely cut off the need to engage with the mainstream/establishment. Brandon Eich has developed a new browser called Brave which could disrupt not only the browser wars, but also the entire online business model because it blocks advertising and replaces a website's ads with its own. There are multiple efforts underway to disrupt social media and other businesses which leverage their position in society to silence dissent. The example of what Fox News did to the media establishment is going to unfold across multiple industries in the coming years.

In terms of current politics, the issue that was most out of whack with public opinion was immigration. Since social mood peaked in 2000, most of the world is shifting away from pro-immigration to anti-immigration. European anti-immigration parties rose rapidly in the polls and some nations implemented anti-migrant policies, including in Australia. In the U.S., however, shifting mood was ignored. Objective polls routinely showed a majority of the public favoring some level of restriction or reduction in immigration, but the establishment pushed ever harder for peak social mood policies. Opponents of this policy were dubbed racists, xenophobes, yahoos, etc.

Now a phase shift in public opinion is underway. The mainstream opinion, manufactured by the media and political establishment, is revealed to be not so mainstream. Preference cascades are underway as formerly unspoken beliefs are publicly raised, resulting in very shocking and rapid changes.

USA Today: Glenn Reynolds: A Trump wave is on the way
In his terrific book, Private Truths, Public Lies:The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification, Timur Kuran writes about the phenomenon he calls “preference falsification”: People tend to hide unpopular views to avoid ostracism or punishment; they stop hiding them when they feel safe.

This can produce rapid change: In totalitarian societies like the old Soviet Union, the police and propaganda organizations do their best to enforce preference falsification. Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don't realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it — but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers — or even to the citizens themselves. Kuran calls this sudden change a “preference cascade,” and I wonder if that’s not what’s happening here.

Novelist Bret Easton Ellis, for example, recently tweeted: "Just back from a dinner in West Hollywood: shocked the majority of the table was voting for Trump but they would never admit it publicly.” What he describes is preference falsification — but if people stop hiding, it will become a cascade. And Ellis himself has started that process with this tweet. Meanwhile, confronted with PC nonsense, college students have started chanting ”Trump! Trump!” (Law professor Ann Althouse has been predicting this cascade for weeks.)
He goes on to describe a similar shift may be underway in the UK, where a vote for Brexit is four months away.

All of this flows from changes in social mood. The volatility in politics reflects the volatility in financial markets because they are both expressions of changing social mood. If you're placing bets on politics or the markets, erring on the side of extreme volatility will likely be a profitable strategy in the coming year or more.

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