Good Intentions Paving Project -the Economics and Politics of Knowledge Chaos

Mera Granberg Paul
2 min readMar 4, 2021

Part 4 of many — This section of Shoshana Zuboff’s important NYTimes editorial is thorny.

Social media companies’ extraction operations thrive in the unfettered world of surveillance exceptionalism. This sort of exceptionalism is the promotion of surveillance over other values and standards we hold dear. The government told us we could expect a right to privacy except when we need surveillance more.

These government policies promoting surveillance gave rise to and provide cover for social media’s destructive business model. It’s an interesting if unwitting partnership that grew out of the government’s anxious need for information in the wake of terrorist attacks.

Our understanding of terrorism has evolved since 9/11, we now live in a world where domestic, home-grown terrorists fueled by misinformation served up by social media have stormed the Capitol.

Whose fault is that?

It’s time to ask a different question: what is at fault for Jan 6th? While the courts hold individuals responsible, we should ask the broader question: what is it about our media system that empowered “stop the steal” messaging that ended up with a riot inside the Capitol of the United States of America? And what did the social media companies do about the increasing threat of chaos over the last several years? Or even just the last several months?

These companies would have us believe that the destructive nature of knowledge chaos (you know like what we witnessed on Jan 6, 2021) is inevitable. Zuboff rejects that premise. And I do too. Knowledge chaos is the consequence of surveillance capitalism. The business model -and the policies that make that model possible- are the problems.

Tomorrow: More Chaos.