The Spanish Senate’s approval on Wednesday of Spain’s new Data Protection Law without discussion or amendment, which allows political parties to sidestep legislation affecting companies and to target voters with ads based on their internet browsing history, is the latest, and arguably clearest, indication of the shift toward partitocracy, whereby elites decide on key issues, particularly those that benefit themselves, without consulting the rest of us.
Partitocracy is the biggest problem facing many societies today, and is driving the growing trend toward populism in many of our democracies. Partitocracies also encourage corruption, because political parties see it as perfectly normal to set up funding structures for their own benefit, using force majeure and creating pacts with whomever to maintain themselves in power, while passing laws to further enshrine privileges for the representatives and structures of political parties that hark back to the days of the Sun King. This “anything goes” approach protects the powerful at the expense of the vulnerable, which, it goes without saying, is pretty much the wrong way round.
The way in which Spain’s politicians have decided to allow themselves to infringe with total impunity the country’s privacy laws to allow themselves to carry out their electoral marketing is cause for concern. Throughout the EU, we have made it clear to our elected representatives that we do not approve of technology being used to harass us through hyper-segmented advertising, that we don’t wish to be converted into merchandise, and that online marketing should only be sent to us with our express consent. The result was the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May and the impact of which is still being evaluated. Six months later, what do Spain’s politicians decide to do? Exempt themselves from the GDPR as though they were somehow a case apart.
The Spanish Senate’s decision is all the more worrying in light of the recent attempts at electoral manipulation around the world precisely through hyper-segmented advertising: regardless of the evidence that these scandals are a danger to democracy, Spain’s politicians decide to put themselves above the law. Who do our politicians think they are? Instead of encouraging a public debate over concerns about the media invading our privacy or what exists on Google about us, instead, Spain’s elected representatives pass laws allowing the media to be forced to rectify or eliminate certain news without due judicial process.
Partitocracy is a system where our legal protections are ignored “for the good of the system”. Separation of powers? Sure, but in name only… otherwise our politicians wouldn’t be able to influence the courts. Partitocracies stretch the system to breaking point, until people stop voting to get things done and instead vote to prevent things from being done: the vote as a means of protest. The moment we use our vote as a protest, the moment we vote based on reaction and not action, is the moment voting makes no sense. We vote with our heads not our guts: we all know what comes out of our guts… A protest vote puts a Trump or a Bolsonaro in charge: one thing is to be governed by people we might think are scoundrels, but it is something else to governed by people who really are scoundrels, turning the supposed remedy into something worse than the disease. But that’s where we seem to be headed. And what’s most worrying is that it seems to be what more and more people say they want.
(En español, aquí)