- Fighting junk fees is "woke": Visa and Mastercard want you to pay credit card swipe fees to own the libs.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2008, 2013, 2018, 2021
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
Fighting junk fees is "woke" (permalink)
"Populism" isn't intrinsically left or right. The distinction between the two is often obscured by jargon, but there's a simple litmus test (courtesy of Steven Brust): "ask what's more important: human rights, or property rights. If they say 'property rights are human rights,' they're on the right."
Which is to say, both the left and the right can be populist, but the populist left seeks to improve peoples' lives, no matter what that takes, while the populist right is only willing to make the world better when that doesn't interfere with the interests of property owners.
This is how you get the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire equating publicly produced, free insulin with forcing enslaved Black people to pick cotton in the fields:
For right populists, the property rights of pharma giants are human rights, so anything that interferes with those rights is equivalent to any other human rights violation.
This is not only wrong, but it's also a huge vulnerability in the right populist mindset. It's a button that, when pushed, produces a reliable and reflexive outrage.
This is essential for the creation, maintenance and expansion of plutocracy. In a plutocracy, a small minority owns most of the property (we live in a plutocracy). By definition, plutocracy isn't popular, since it's a system that benefits a small minority at everyone else's expense. In its natural state, plutocracy is only popular with its winners, and not the vast majority of losers it creates.
So plutocrats need to find ways to get turkeys to vote for Christmas. One important trick is to convince us all that the system is fair, guided by an invisible hand that performs mystic passes over our heads at birth and locates the very best of us and elevates us to the apex of the social pyramid.
But there's a problem with this: plutocracy is self-sustaining. The story that we're all just "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" who can rise to the top with hard work and smarts falls flat in the face of the reality that nearly everyone at the top was born there. If the system selects rulers based on merit, and if everyone the system selects was born rich, then the rich must have some genetic trait that makes them destined to rule.
This is why plutocracy always turns into aristocracy: the idea that some people are suited to rule because they have "good blood." Eugenics is, above all, a way to excuse inequality. Fitness to rule is determined primarily by whose orifice you emerge from, and only secondarily by any obvious competence or skill.
So right wing footsoldiers are mired in a terrible and shameful swamp of self-loathing. By definition, their lack of wealth and power is their own fault, and not merely their fault, but the fault of their genes. Being on the bottom is proof that you deserve to be there. Your failure to rise proves that you don't deserve to rise.
No wonder the right is so irony-poisoned. Remember 2020, when gun-nuts got "revenge" on gun safety scolds by photographing themselves pointing loaded guns at their own penises? The participants insisted that they were just trolling, and they were…by pointing loaded guns at their dicks:
Plutocrats understand that there are limits to irony, and that at a certain point, irony poisoning becomes so acute that your rank-and-file literally start blowing their balls off. To relieve the pressure, plutes scapegoat other people based on their gender, sexual orientation, race, or nationality.
This provides an important resolution to the cognitive dissonance of meritocracy. The reason you're doing so badly isn't that you lack merit, it's that affirmative action has elevated unworthy people to the positions that you deserve. You are a temporarily embarrassed millionaire – but the riches you deserve have been snaffled up by welfare queens and DEI consultants.
Cruelty isn't the point of culture war bullshit: the point is power. Cruelty is merely the tactic:
Culture war bullshit is a very reliable way to get turkeys to vote for Christmas. Take the campaign against junk fees, which have ticketmastered every part of your life with "fees" for things like "paying your rent by check" and "not paying your rent by check":
There is no broad constituency for junk fees. Scam artists (including scam artists in the C-suites of Fortune 100 companies) love them, sure, but junk fees make everyone else furious.
What's a plutocrat to do? Well, it turns out that culture war bullshit can make right wingers point (metaphorical) guns at their own junk – all plutocrats need to do is put the word out that getting rid of junk fees is "woke" and low-information right-wing thumbsuckers will demand the right to be charged junk fees.
Here's an example: one especially pernicious form of junk fee is the "swipe fees" that credit-card companies charge merchants. In an increasingly cashless age, these companies – dominated by the Visa/Mastercard duopoly – have figured out how to scrape 3-5% out of every single retail transaction in the entire fucking economy.
Every merchant you patronize has to charge more – or reduce quality, or both – in order to pay this Danegeld to two of the largest, most profitable companies in the world. Visa/Mastercard have hiked their fees by 40 percent since the pandemic's start. Forty. Fucking. Percent. Tell me again how greedflation isn't real?
A bipartisan legislative coalition, led by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) have proposed the Credit Card Competition Act (CCCA), which will force competition into credit-card routing, putting pressure on the Visa/Mastercard duopoly:
This should be a no-brainer, but plute spin-doctors have plenty of no-brains to fill up with culture war bullshit. Writing in The American Prospect, Luke Goldstein unpacks an astroturf campaign to save the endangered swipe fee from woke competition advocates:
Now, this campaign isn't particularly sophisticated. It goes like this: Target is a big business that runs a lot of transactions through Visa/Mastercard, so it stands to benefit from competition in payment routing. And Target did a mean woke by selling Pride merch, which makes them groomers. So by fighting swipe fees, Congress is giving woke groomers a government bailout!
It's literally that stupid. It's being pushed by a dark money group based in Kansas, which is targeting Senator Marshalls constituents with mailers that warns voters they'll "lose their credit card points" because he's thrown his lot in with "liberal politicians":
The fliers also warn that competition could result in "your financial data could be processed by partners of the Chinese Communist Party" (the bill bans foreign companies from routing transactions, and bans China UnionPay by name).
The fliers are anonymous. The only ghoul shameless enough to put his name on the campaign is Grover Nordquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform tells its Christmas-voting-turkeys to "side with consumers, not woke retailers."
The dark money org pushing this line have placed op-eds in newspapers across red states, comparing transaction routing competition to your kids' data being snaffled up by Tiktok:
This nonsense was peddled by League of Southeastern Credit Unions president Samantha Beeler, whose org has spent $20,000 fighting the CCCA, claiming that a "cheaper" system would be "less secure":
But that's small potatoes. Millions are being spent, right now, lobbying against CCCA – $5m from the American Bankers' Association, $2m from the Credit Union National Association, another $400k from Mastercard.
For these rentiers, corrupting our government with millions is a stellar bargain if it lets them continue to collect rent every time we spend money. And millions of people who'll end up paying that will demand the right to do so, provided they're told that they're fighting "woke capitalism" and China.
Hey look at this (permalink)
- The Watch Pocket Project https://chrisbathgate.blogspot.com/2023/08/the-watch-pocket-project-wp1.html
Internet providers that won FCC grants try to escape broadband commitments https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2023/08/internet-providers-that-won-fcc-grants-try-to-escape-broadband-commitments/
How Corporate Medicine Destroys Doctors https://prospect.org/health/2023-08-02-qa-corporate-medicine-destroys-doctors/
This day in history (permalink)
#15yrsago DMCA does not apply to US government, which can crack DRM with impunity https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2008/08/air-force-cracks-software-carpet-bombs-dmca/
#10yrsago Attacking the popular Kwikset lock: open in 15 seconds with a screwdriver and a paper clip https://www.wired.com/2013/08/kwikset-smarkey-lock-vulns/
#10yrsago Six blatant lies about spying from the NSA up to Obama https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eptZuXkUGmI
#10yrsago Prosecutor Stephen Heymann told MIT that Aaron Swartz was like a rapist who blames his victim https://web.archive.org/web/20130804190514/http://news.firedoglake.com/2013/08/01/prosecutor-stephen-heymann-compared-aaron-swartz-to-rapist/
#5yrsago When Zephyr Teachout is elected New York Attorney General, she’s gonna emolumentize Trump right out of the White House https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/03/nyregion/zephyr-teachout-is-running-for-attorney-general-but-her-real-target-is-trump.html
#5yrsago When should the press pay attention to trolls, lies and disinformation? https://datasociety.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/0-EXEC-SUMMARY_Oxygen_of_Amplification_DS.pdf
#5yrsago Wells Fargo: we stole houses and we’re being investigated for dirty low-income housing credits https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-03/wells-fargo-faces-u-s-probe-on-low-income-tax-credit-purchases
#1yrago A TRAP for workers: Oops, we re-invented indenture https://pluralistic.net/2022/08/04/its-a-trap/#a-little-on-the-nose
Today's top sources:
- A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. ON SUBMISSION
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. ON SUBMISSION
Latest podcast: The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation (audiobook outtake) https://craphound.com/news/2023/08/01/the-internet-con-how-to-seize-the-means-of-computation-audiobook-outtake/
- Armadillocon (Austin), Aug 4-6
Medium Day (online), Aug 12
San Diego Union Tribune Festival of Books, Aug 19
Defcon (Las Vegas), Aug 10-13
Burning Man Center Camp, 1430h, Aug 29
EFF Awards (San Francisco), Sept 14
An Evening with VE Schwab (Des Moines), Oct 2
- Haunted Mansion Ghost Post Panel Live From Midsummer Scream
how big tech makes the internet worse (What's Gonna Happen)
Let The Platforms Burn: Bringing Back the Good Fire of the Old Internet (IETF117)
- "Red Team Blues": "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books http://redteamblues.com. Signed copies at Dark Delicacies (US): and Forbidden Planet (UK): https://forbiddenplanet.com/385004-red-team-blues-signed-edition-hardcover/.
"Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- The Internet Con: A nonfiction book about interoperability and Big Tech, Verso, September 2023
The Lost Cause: a post-Green New Deal eco-topian novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias, Tor Books, November 2023
This work – excluding any serialized fiction – is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.
Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.
How to get Pluralistic:
Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):
Medium (no ads, paywalled):
(Latest Medium column: "Microincentives and Enshittification: How the Curse of Bigness wrecked Google Search" https://doctorow.medium.com/microincentives-and-enshittification-574290ea196f)
Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla