It’s a truth universally acknowledged that our devices are spying on us. I’m old enough to remember the bout of German Angst over the 1984(!) census, and the moral panic about bringing computers into our homes. A mere three decades down the line, my phone is constantly tracking my movements, pulse, and exact position. It knows what I read, with whom I interact, what I listen to, what I order, and where I’d rather be – all in a bid to serve me targeted ads. Amazon, Facebook, Google as well as many other players have models of me, which they update in realtime. Cue Cambridge Analytica and all that jazz.
So it fills me with great joy to see the algorithms cock up every once in a while. It began in 2019, when some machine decided to personalise the commercials which interrupt the podcasts that I’m listening to. Generic messages about products and services that I’m not interested in were replaced by ever more frantic appeals to “get ready for Brexit” (that was before the buffoon got Brexit done™, obviously). The mildly funny thing is that HMG and their algos could not decide whether I was a bloody European living in the UK, whom they should grudgingly urge to apply for settled status, or a brave expat about to get stuck with the huns.
Once the UK left for good and the pandemic kicked in, the podcast ads subsided. But then, over the last six months or so, the algorithms came up with a new image of me. They were now sure that I was a Brit trapped on the continent and began sending promoted content to my twitter feed. Stuff like this video (sorry, I only got a still)
Going by its content, it would seem that I’m a senior British person hellbent on getting the Krankenkasse to sponsor his hip replacement. Compared to this work of art, the following post was utterly generic and so boring that I did not click a single time.
I liked hip man much better, and he kept reappearing in my feed, first only on twitter, then also on Facebook. But the novelty wore off, and I stopped clicking. And so, after a hiatus, the powers that be modified their model of me and decided that I was more interested in driving than in walking and needed to get my licence exchanged.
Being already in possession of a German driving licence, I did not react. Which is why the machines that watch over us changed tack again. Today, my alter ego became younger, female, and moved to somewhat edgier surroundings.
And the volume went up. A few minutes later, the same add popped up again on a different device
It is kind of heartwarming that the same government that is turning the UK into a hostile environment for my fellow Europeans is caring so much about my wellbeing over here. Also, they keep watching me, and advertising on social is dirt cheap. That’s why I’m already looking forward to what will come next.
Sarah Wagenknecht was one of the main obstacles to a closer co-operation amongst Germany’s left-wing parties. Now that she is stepping down, there is speculation about a “red-red-green” (rather: “green-red-red”) coalition in Berlin. The main problem with that? The Green’s gains are (largely) the SPD’s losses.
Here is an interesting Politbarometer poll from mid-March 2019: 73% of Germans are sorry to see UK leave the EU, but 72% think further negotiations are pointless and will still lead to no deal. 83% believe Brexit will cause major problems for UK, vs 50% in EU.
SCoRE is our multinational project that explores the link between local and regional living conditions on the one hand and radical right attitudes and behaviours in these four countries on the other. Sometimes, serendipity is really a thing. Because we had our individual-level data collection scheduled for this year anyway, we gained some unique insights into all four big Western European elections of 2017.
But perhaps you’re pressed for time or not sure if you really want to read four (fairly short) reports? With the European Parliamentary elections on the horizon, I made a short explainer/teaser video about them to bring you up to speed in just over two minutes. I have a hunch that afterwards, you will want to read all four pieces.
You may have heard that a prominent member of the AfD was physically attacked in Bremen, which the AfD managed to put all over social media. The police say the initial account of the story does not match CCTV from the scene.
Another police officer in Hesse has come under scrutiny over ties to right-wing extremist networks: he is accused of leaking police information to two Neo Nazis. Worrying, to say the least.
Pankaj Mishra thinks that Brexit reflects everything British upper-middle and upper classes have inflicted on the large parts of Asia and Africa. A scathing and not implausible reading of modern history.
- Brexit is depressing, but the the #LiteraryBrexit tag on twitter is hilarious
- There are scientists who use the scientific method to study how science journals work. And their work is actually relevant.
- Interesting, yet depressing reading: a fact-file on right-wing terrorism in Germany
- Today’s AI is not intelligent. Thought so
- Why did the Italian President use a half-forgotten constitutional power to veto Paolo Savona’s appointment as finance minister? Here is why.
- FAZ: Russia paid 25,000 Euro charter for a private plane for former leader Petry & two other AfD politicians’ visit
- An unnamed EU official said that the UK’s Brexit negotiators are chasing a fantasy. Not exactly an Official Secret, eh?
- Three months before the September elections, the Radical Right Sweden Democrats are polling in the 20 per cent range, while the Social Democrat’s new hard line on immigration proves to be a hard sell. Will they ever learn?
Bonus track: Here is another demotivational quote from the Stata handbook:
- German media report that about 10 per cent of all MPs for the Radical Right AfD (state and federal level) are currently investigated by the police. Allegations range from incitement to fraud and tax evasion. In dubio pro and all that, but it’s not exactly what you normally mean by a law & order party, eh?
- A 89-year old “Nazi Grandma” has failed to show up for the start of her prison sentence.
- German school-leaving exam has students discuss the differences between the hopes connected to the British referendum, and the reality of Brexit since. The usual suspects in the UK are predictably outraged.
- Political involvement, cross-pressures, and multi-party identification in Germany – JEPOP journal publishes very cool article by my erstwhile PhD student @sabrinamayer
- From the Monkey Cage: Italy just voted for two very different kinds of populism
- The botrnot package for the R language: Which world leaders are actually bots? (Use your own judgment)
- Science community blogs: recognising value and measuring reach
- Germany being Germany (or Bavaria?): German minister under fire for no women in leadership team
- 11 Brexit promises the government quietly dropped. Well, “promise” was probably too strong a word. More like intentions. Out-of-the-box thinking etc.