Weekend Reads


For the profit and pleasure of subscribers, here's a few longer reads on economic, social and political issues for the weekend.

Steve Bannon is a key figure in Donald Trump's White House so it's worth trying to understand where his extreme views come from. It turns out he's a big fan of a book called 'The Fourth Turning' , which applies a generational lens to predicting history. The book's co-author, Neil Howe, has written in the Washington Post about Bannon and the book and their collaboration on a documentary. He says he and co-author William Strauss didn't tell Bannon what to think.

"But we did perhaps provide him with an insight — that populism, nationalism and state-run authoritarianism would soon be on the rise, not just in America but around the world," Howe writes. "The Fourth Turning is a “Crisis” period. This is when our institutional life is reconstructed from the ground up, always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. If history does not produce such an urgent threat, Fourth Turning leaders will invariably find one — and may even fabricate one — to mobilize collective action."

Michael Gerson from the Washington Post describes Bannon's pursuit of ethno-nationalist greatness as reckless and dangerous.

The Guardian's Carole Cadwalladr looks at the man behind the man: computing genius and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer is a major funder and backer of Bannon. Mercer is also a big investor behind Cambridge Analytica, the data mining business that helped Trump use Facebook to target voters in an incredibly surgical fashion. It also helped the Leave campaign win Brexit. Who will get Cambridge Analytica to help them win the New Zealand election on September 23.

The Uber story just gets worse and is topical this week as our Government responds to tax avoidance by multi-nationals in the 'cloud'.

CEO Travis Kalanick had to make an abject apology this week for abusing a driver (there's a video) after the driver challenged Uber's regular price cuts and their affects on drivers. Bloomberg has the story. It gives some insights into how Kalanick operates and why companies such as Uber naturally appear not to care much about what Governments, employees, contractors and consumers think of them -- as long as they're making shed-loads of money.

Kalanick's apology and the growing backlash to the sociopathic side of Silicon Valley suggests some of these companies may be working out that participating in and paying your dues to society and others has some benefits in the long run.

Speaking of the new age of propaganda in a world of artificial intelligence and social networks, here's Jonathan Stray with a deep and dark look at the new dark arts: networked propaganda and counter propaganda.

And on this topic of the media's future, here's the Reuters' Institute annual report on technology trends and predictions, which is always a useful summary with a few startling. The one this year is that the websites of traditional media (ie newspaper, radio and television) and other publishers of original content (ie not Facebook and Google) won just 1% of the growth in digital advertising revenues last year. Google and Facebook won 99% of the growth.

Have a great weekend.