Who Mediates Your Data?

Peter Stannack
2 min readSep 1, 2020

Democratic Social Media

Is social media democratic?

Because democracy is always harder- and more complex than it looks.

For those of us who find social media frustrating, it may be that it’s frustrating because it’s democratic. Because while democracy offers power to the people- right on- that power is useless unless its mobilised.

And democracy needs orators — or interpreters to mobilise it. Whilst we might not feel like digital orators when posting stuff- posts or comments- on LinkedIn, Medium and other social media platforms, we actually are.

But don’t lets get above ourselves.

Sadly, this is not as grand as it sounds.

And there is a price to pay.

The Price of Posting

According to the work of authorities as diverse as Cicero, Plato and Sophocles, an orator is not able to give an “account of the nature of whatever things s/he applies by which s/he applies them, so that s/he is unable to state the cause of each thing.”

So, broadly, the more we post, the less effect we have — on our own careers and those of others.

Five thousand years ago conventional oratory was held to proceed by holding forth “what’s most pleasant at the moment,” by which “it sniffs out folly and hoodwinks it. It is able to convince those that it seeks to convince because they lack knowledge, “so that if a pastry baker and a doctor had to compete in front of children, or in front of men just as foolish as children, to determine which of the two, the doctor or the pastry baker, had expert knowledge of good food and bad, the doctor would die of starvation”. (Plato, Gorgias)”

Oratory does what it does — that is, it pleases its listeners — “because it guesses at what’s pleasant with no consideration for what’s best.” audience is ignorant, on Plato’s account, but it is not the only locus of ignorance.: orators, as Plato puts it lack nous, which Zeyl translates as “intelligence.” The orator, lacking the consistency that intelligence should give, changes like the wind. Approval is the currency he or she seeks.

“If you say anything in the Assembly and the Athenian demos denies it, you shift your ground and say what it wants to hear.” And because the orator says only what she guesses that the audience wishes to hear, she appeals to particular appetites, not those that make an individual better, but rather “those that make him worse”

So, every time you publish on #LinkedIn, #Reddit. #Facebook and even #Twitter, not only does a puppy die, but you strike a hammer blow against democracy.

Even if it’s not pro-Trump. Or against banksters.

Because you are an orator, remember? And orators find it hard to make the shift to being actors.

So, are you an actor? Or an orator?

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