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Dr. Jen Schradie – Show Notes

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But fear not, we recorded everything. Below is the audio file from our Zoom meeting as well as a written transcription.

Dr. Jen Schradie provided a much needed context and structure around how and why and where conservative groups are highly organized and effective in influencing the outcomes of political elections.


On December 9 at 17h Paris time, Ben Costantini will host Natalia Brzezinski, Head of U.S. Strategy at the Swedish FinTech firm, Klarna. Together, the duo will discuss change and building for good.

The first half hour is open to all to attend, but you must register.

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The second half hour of the event will feature a one-on-one/ask me anything session with Natalia and will be reserved exclusively for our Paid Members.


The Selected Salon 001 with Dr. Jen Schradie

[00:00:00]

Selected founder Ben Costantini welcomes participants.

“This is a monthly gathering of members around a topic that generates genuine conversations. And that will trigger a lively debate. It’s like an open forum and ask me anything, type of session.”

[00:02:00]

It’s going to be recorded and we’ll make data available afterwards. So don’t worry if you are missing a session for this first edition, just waiting to open the session to a few more participants including active contributors of selected by sesamers, the event guide for professionals.”

Housekeeping notes from Ben.

Talk Format – Q&A’s

Feel free to socially share this session tonight.

“Our topic today is when hashtags disrupt democracy, I’m really happy to do this today for several reasons.

[00:04:00]

Jen Schraddie is a sociologist and assistant professor. Her work has been featured in CNN, the BBC and the New Yorker, Washington Post, Time, Daily Beast, et cetera. She was awarded the public sociology alumni prize at the university of California, Berkeley and I directed like six documentary films. After her career as a documentary filmmaker, Jen received a master’s degree from Harvard Kennedy school and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in sociology.”

Ben outlines Dr. Schradie’s further work, and why her topic is particularly relevant considering the recent U.S. Presidential Election.

Jen discusses what she’s heard from friends in the U.S. and on the internet, but notes that not much celebration is taking place in France.

[00:07:00]

“Can you explain why it’s so complex in the U.S. to get the winner of the presidential elections?”

Jen breaks down how voting goes in the U.S. from national to state to county elections, and how each one of them has the own subsystems as well. “And a lot of that is based on State’s Rights.”

Further outlining of the process including the Electoral College.

Explanation of the balance of power via the Senate.

[00:10:00]

What are, and why swing states are influential.

“And it’s really not until  December 8th that States even have to resolve any kind of disputes.”

[00:11:00]

“Swing States that tend to be Republican and Democrat just among the middle. And that’s why the vote was relatively close in those States. Not as much as in 2016, but still relatively close.”

[00:11:27]

“How do you prefer to look at the results?”

[00:12:00]

Jen discusses how state by state maps aren’t quite effective because states themselves can have large areas of land all affiliated with the same political leanings.

[00:14:14]

Ben introduces the topic of campaign ad spend, and what portion of that budget is reserved solely for social media

[00:15:04]

Jen discusses that Obama campaign’s effective use of social media

“The fact that our democracy depends on money rather than the will of the people with basic information is very problematic.”

[00:17:00]

Jen lays the stage for data collection and analysis and how this method was used to engineer Brexit.

[00:19:00]

Jen outlines the effectiveness and power of grassroots organizations, their networks, and groups online.

[00:19:46]

“Tell us about right wing conspiracy theory groups such as Qanon.”

[00:20:21]

“So there’s a lot of conspiracy theorist focusing on, anti child sex trafficking and the thing that’s interesting about QAnon, is how it’s been reported. it’s this idea, It’s just this unique thing that’s popping up out of nowhere

[00:21:00]

and that’s not at all the case. Conservatives have been really focused on, on the one hand on child sex trafficking for years.

These very grassroots groups are really part of this recycling of information.”

[00:22:23]

“That’s a great way to transition into the second part of this conversation we’re having.”

[00:24:00]

Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.

Dan explains to his friends in the U.S. that Trump is merely a figure head.

[00:24:45]

Jen further outlines this statement and explains why and how it’s happened, and why the U.S. is in a Constitutional crisis at the moment.

[00:26:00]

“tangible, uh, hatred that I think both Clinton, but especially Obama had with some of these far right groups.”

“The work is not over in terms of what needs to happen because the folks that I started interviewing again, this was before 2016, before Trump even decided to run. And so much of the social media data that I collected during my interviews, so much of my observations by spending time with folks, Trump really

[00:27:00]

capitalized on that language and a lot of what we attribute to Trump, whether it’s fake news or other kind of catch phrases of Trump’s.

He has borrowed from grassroots and far right activists. And I think it’s really important to remember that now.”

[00:28:00]

Key aspects that make conservative groups more successful with digital media.

  • Structural Organization
  • Ideology
  • Digital Bureaucracy

[00:29:00]

Jen discusses the background data collection used for her book.

“So the early 2000 tens were a very euphoric time for digital activism. 2009, the beginnings of the so-called Arab spring, 2011, the Indignados in Spain that really started to spread throughout the world. Not so much in France at the time, and certainly in the U S. With the occupy wall street movement.

So, what does that mean? Basically? It means that people were saying, look, the internet is massively changing social movements. But only looking and analyzing social movements that had very advanced levels of digital use.”

[00:31:00]

“So this was the beginning of the use of hashtags. So really just focusing on something that already happened.”

Further explanation and information behind Jen’s study specifically detailing why she took the approach she did and what she hoped to gain from it.

“So I first picked the issue and then found which groups were organizing around the issue.”

[00:33:00]

“I tracked the entire Facebook, Twitter and website footprint of each of these 30, 34 groups.

At the time Facebook had its API open, so we could access a lot of this information. But there were some problems with it.”

Jen dives DEEP into social media usage and it’s effectiveness in the hands of conservatives.

[00:38:00]

Audience question from Vincent Touati-Tomas: “I learnt everything online and what we call a “Digital Native”. I was sold a dream that internet would reduce frontiers, and tech (an industry I work into) is actually doing worse today for democracy than a couple of years ago…. Why is it going into this direction and why are we building “Parler” applications instead of confronting ideas directly on Twitter? (Trump tweet deleted or recent Malaysian PM tweets on French). Happy to elaborate on this – would love to get your thoughts!”

[00:41:00]

“I think that’s the million dollar question, first of all, and it’s great you’re asking that question. I think you’re not alone.

[00:44:00]

All of us have friends in Normandy or elsewhere that don’t have high-speed internet access. There are still digital inequalities everywhere.

This isn’t a technological fix.

I think that’s something that white conservatives tend to be very active in the U S and all over, we see a rise in right wing populism everywhere in the world.”

[00:45:13]

Can you tell us a bit more about your views, about what’s going on here in Europe, in particular, I’m thinking like of cases like Brexit in the UK, you mentioned also here in France …

[00:47:00]

“These three findings of mine around inequality, institutions and ideology are everywhere. There is inequality.”

[00:49:00]

“The work of digital democracy is also everywhere. So it’s important to think about who is able to do some of this digital work, and who isn’t.

Um, what’s been fascinating for me is what has happened with other social movements. Historically. …  social movement information spreads much more quickly. It’s much more efficient.

So obviously there are those differences, but very quickly, what we find is that John is all of a sudden there was a lot of disinformation.”

[00:50:00]

“Over time institutions tend to dominate the question which type of institutions and who is running institutions.

The third issue of ideology in terms of the findings of my book and how that could be applied elsewhere, that’s the one that can depend on this political situation.

And that is the one that can have the biggest impact in terms of how people think about being motivated to use technology, how different political groups shift over time depending on what’s happening.”

“And that’s why I think it’s important to think about what, again, what’s happening on

[00:51:00]

the ground and not just what’s happening online.”

“It certainly was the case you had mentioned with Brexit. That was absolutely the case with Brexit.”

[00:51:22]

Thank you. We’re getting to the end.

When you did your research, snap, we’re just at the beginning, that you have tik tok.

We also have sort of accused, you know bots, troll farms, uh, and a lot of lie all the technologies to be very much active in what’s happening with digital media currently.

What do you think, you know, kind of down the line in terms of technical, like technological utopia, do you really expect that technology can sort of save our ass down the line or do we need to put ourselves into motion to take back control?

[00:52:43]

“You may be familiar with this idea of technological determinism. This idea that technology can solve all of our problems? No, I don’t think it’s technology that’s going to solve our problems.

It’s more a question of political power using different types of technology. I will point out that a very interesting new platform that conservatives have started to use. I will pronounce it, how they pronounce it, which is parlor, but it’s spelled parle. From the French word.”

[00:54:00]

“Should we continue to rely on big tech for democracy? And the answer is no.”

[00:54:25]

Audience Question: Dan Taylor: “Is there a link between geography and political affiliation? and more so, political alienation if you don’t fall in line?”

An example comparing voting colors and urban vs. rural geographic locations.

[00:56:05]

“Okay. So that’s a great, that’s a great question. …

I will respond with another swath of rural area which is what we call the black belt South. Where there were cotton plantations, where there was a large majority of slaves and slave owners. And that’s a largely rural area.”

“If you look at a map kind of County by County level in the United States, that swath of blue within the red is predominantly rural now. Yes, you have Atlanta. You have some big cities as well. But you have a lot of counties that are still majority African American so you also have the

[00:57:00]

confounding factors of race.”

[00:57:42]

Thank you, Jen. We’re getting to the end. What do you think will be happening in 2024 in short ?

[00:57:49]

“I think people are going to continue to organize and people like AOC and other progressive activists are going to continue to

[00:58:00]

organize and things will get be very, very different than they were this year, if that happens.

But I think that’s what needs to happen in order for there to be a shift, not only in the U.S., but elsewhere as well. Thank you.”

[00:58:13]

On the 9th of December and we’re having with us Natalia Brzezinski, who is now the Head of U.S strategy with Klarna, the Swedish FinTech and we’ll be talking about change and building for good. …

[00:59:13] Thank you. Bye.

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