Are voters free-acting agents, responsible for their own choices? Or are they mere sheep, blindly following whatever advertising gimmick has been put before them?
To me, this is the most fascinating and largely ignored question that has arisen from the Russian hacker and Facebook algorithm meltdown over the last year. If it weren’t for all the fake news, Donald Trump wouldn’t be president they say. If fewer memes circulated on Facebook, there’d be no Brexit.
The idea that things would have turned out differently is a tantalizing theory as those in the centre and on the left still try to grasp exactly why the two votes ended in their eventual outcomes. Unable to fathom any other explanation, people must have voted the way they did because of conniving hackers hell-bent on disrupting democracy. Had voters had a clear mind and enough restraint, everyone would be singing kumbaya right now instead of snickering at the thought of Stormy Daniels spanking the president with a TRUMP Magazine.
There’s no denying that Russian meddling did occur, and that the vast reach of Facebook’s tentacles did affect voters. The question is rather how much influence it really had and is it any different from the other types of meddling – also called marketing in any other contexts – that takes place on a daily basis. When examining the facts, it all seems overblown.