HomeArticleSilicon Valley Algorithm Manipulation Is The Only Thing Keeping Mainstream Media Alive

Silicon Valley Algorithm Manipulation Is The Only Thing Keeping Mainstream Media Alive

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The emergence of the internet was met with hope and enthusiasm by people who understood that the plutocrat-controlled mainstream media were manipulating public opinion to manufacture consent for the status quo. The democratization of information-sharing was going to give rise to a public consciousness that is emancipated from the domination of plutocratic narrative control, thereby opening up the possibility of revolutionary change to our society’s corrupt systems.

But it never happened. Internet use has become commonplace around the world and humanity is able to network and share information like never before, yet we remain firmly under the thumb of the same power structures we’ve been ruled by for generations, both politically and psychologically. Even the dominant media institutions are somehow still the same.

So what went wrong? Nobody’s buying newspapers anymore, and the audiences for television and radio are dwindling. How is it possible that those same imperialist oligarchic institutions are still controlling the way most people think about their world?

The answer is algorithm manipulation.

Last month a very informative interview saw the CEO of YouTube, which is owned by Google, candidly discussing the way the platform uses algorithms to elevate mainstream news outlets and suppress independent content.

At the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Technology Governance Summit, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson that while the platform still allows arts and entertainment videos an equal shot at going viral and getting lots of views and subscribers, on important areas like news media it artificially elevates “authoritative sources”.

“What we’ve done is really fine-tune our algorithms to be able to make sure that we are still giving the new creators the ability to be found when it comes to music or humor or something funny,” Wojcicki said. “But when we’re dealing with sensitive areas, we really need to take a different approach.”

Wojcicki said in addition to banning content deemed harmful, YouTube has also created a category labeled “borderline content” which it algorithmically de-boosts so that it won’t show up as a recommended video to viewers who are interested in that topic:

“When we deal with information, we want to make sure that the sources that we’re recommending are authoritative news, medical science, et cetera. And we also have created a category of more borderline content where sometimes we’ll see people looking at content that’s lower quality and borderline. And so we want to be careful about not over-recommending that. So that’s a content that stays on the platform but is not something that we’re going to recommend. And so our algorithms have definitely evolved in terms of handling all these different content types.”


Progressive commentator Kyle Kulinski has a good video out reacting to Wojcicki’s comments, saying he believes his (entirely harmless) channel has been grouped in the “borderline” category because his views and new subscribers suddenly took a dramatic and inexplicable plunge. Kulinski reports that overnight he went from getting tens of thousands of new subscriptions per month to maybe a thousand.

“People went to YouTube to escape the mainstream nonsense that they see on cable news and on TV, and now YouTube just wants to become cable news and TV,” Kulinski says. “People are coming here to escape that and you’re gonna force-feed them the stuff they’re escaping like CNN and MSNBC and Fox News.”

It is not terribly surprising to hear Susan Wojcicki admit to elevating the media of the oligarchic empire to the CEO of a neoconservative publication at the World Economic Forum. She comes from the same elite empire management background as all the empire managers who’ve been placed in charge of mainstream media outlets by their plutocratic owners, having gone to Harvard after being literally raised on the campus of Stanford University as a child. Her sister Anne is the founder of the genetic-testing company 23andMe and was married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Google itself also uses algorithms to artificially boost empire media in its searches. In 2017 World Socialist Website (WSWS) began documenting the fact that it, along with other leftist and antiwar outlets, had suddenly experienced a dramatic drop in traffic from Google searches. In 2019 the Wall Street Journal confirmed WSWS claims, reporting that “Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results.” In 2020 the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet admitted to censoring WSWS at a Senate hearing in response to one senator’s suggestion that Google only censors right wing content.

Google, for the record, has been financially intertwined with US intelligence agencies since its very inception when it received research grants from the CIA and NSA. It pours massive amounts of money into federal lobbying and DC think tanks, has a cozy relationship with the NSA, and has been a military-intelligence contractor from the beginning.

Then you’ve got Facebook, where a third of Americans regularly get their news. Facebook is a bit less evasive about its status quo-enforcing censorship practices, openly enlisting the government-and-plutocrat-funded imperialist narrative management firm The Atlantic Council to help it determine what content to censor and what to boost. Facebook has stated that if its “fact checkers” like The Atlantic Council deem a page or domain guilty of spreading false information, it will “dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.”

All the algorithm stacking by the dominant news distribution giants Google and Facebook also ensures that mainstream platforms and reporters will have far more followers than indie media on platforms like Twitter, since an article that has been artificially amplified will receive far more views and therefore far more clicks on their social media information. Mass media employees tend to clique up and amplify each other on Twitter, further exacerbating the divide. Meanwhile left and antiwar voices, including myself, have been complaining for years that Twitter artificially throttles their follower count.

If not for these deliberate acts of sabotage and manipulation by Silicon Valley megacorporations, the mainstream media which have deceived us into war after war and which manufacture consent for an oppressive status quo would have been replaced by independent media years ago. These tech giants are the life support system of corporate media propaganda.


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Latest comments

  • The World Socialist Website? Those hacks were cheering on right wingers being banned from FB, Jimmy Dore warned them that was a bad idea and the NEXT DAY they were banned. Once again, when under pressure, a communist liked it when someone else was banned. This was after 2019….those guys are just full of shit.

  • Soviet Valley

  • I’ve tried at least a dozen times to get your posts daily, without success. My email is davidslesinger(at) yahoo.com

  • So the ‘algorithm method’ has made the world pregnant with bullshit.
    Expect a lot of dribbling, babbling babies.

  • Caitlin, What do you challenge your readers to do about this? Not what to meditate about this or what to tell others about this. What practical thing should dissidents do to precipitate the implosion of the evil empire?

      • Awareness is the seed.
        Direct Action is the sprout.
        The plant will grow or it won’t – I hope it grows.
        Without awareness, action will be undirected and useless.
        Without direct action ain’t nothing gonna change.
        Peaceful direct action will be recognized for
        what it is if it is genuine.
        I pray for peace and I know peace is easy.
        Said with respect,

  • “Silicon Valley Algorithm Manipulation Is The Only Thing Keeping Mainstream” afloat.

    Fifty-plus years on, in reality, yet not a full week post the presentations of Hollywood performance Oscars, for the movie narrative a real issue,, which has not changed one iota for the better.

    In fact, the situation, in the years passed, since the event portrayed, has deteriorated, precipitously for we the people!

    Suppression of speech began way before Silicon Valley A.I. Algorithms entered the fray and became an enhanced method for command and control.

  • If only things were so simple. Changing the ‘algorithm’ may well change how the ruling class ‘narrative’ is delivered, but changing the latter won’t change the world. Much more than rewriting the software of the carbon is needed. Despite their length, the following remarks, from Trotsky in July 1921, should sober people up to the material realities of our current but eerily similar situation:

    “The bourgeoisie, even though it finds itself in a complete contradiction with the demands of historical progress, nevertheless still remains the most powerful class. More than that, it may be said that politically the bourgeoisie attains its greatest powers, its greatest concentration of forces and resources, of political and military means of deception, of coercion, and provocation, i.e., the flowering of its class strategy, at the moment when it is most immediately threatened by social ruin. The war [WWI] and its terrible consequences…have confronted the bourgeoisie with the terrible threat of destruction. This has rendered its instinct of class self-preservation sensitive in the extreme. The greater the danger, all the more does the class, like the individual, exert its vital forces in the struggle for self-preservation. Let us not forget also that the bourgeoisie finds itself face to face with mortal danger, after having accumulated colossal political experience. The bourgeoisie has created and destroyed all sorts of régimes. Its development occurred under pure absolutism, under constitutional monarchy, under parliamentary monarchy, under a democratic republic, under a Bonapartist dictatorship, under a state bound up with the Catholic Church, under a state bound up with the Reformation, under a state separated from the Church, under a state persecuting the Church, etc., etc. All this varied and rich experience which has entered into the blood and marrow of bourgeois ruling circles has now been mobilized by them in order to maintain themselves in power at any cost. And they act the more resourcefully, cunningly, ruthlessly, all the more clearly their leaders take cognizance of the threatening danger….

    “In a period when the productive forces of capitalism have run up against a blank wall and can go no further we see the bourgeoisie gathering in its own hands the army, the police, science, schools, church, parliament, the press,.. tightening the reins and mentally saying to the proletariat, “Yes, my position is dangerous. I see an abyss yawning under my feet. But we’ll wait and see who plunges first into this abyss. Perhaps before I perish, even if such is to be my fate, I’ll succeed in casting you, the working class, into the abyss.”…

    “Europe and the whole world are passing through a period which is, on the one side, an epoch of the disintegration of the productive forces of bourgeois society, and, on the other side, an epoch of the highest flowering of the counter-revolutionary strategy of the bourgeoisie. We must understand this clearly and precisely. Counter-revolutionary strategy, i.e., the art of waging a combined struggle against the proletariat by every method from saccharine, professorial-clerical preachments to machine-gunning of strikers, has never attained such heights as it does today.

    “Lansing, the former US Secretary of State, in his book on the Versailles Peace remarks that Lloyd George is ignorant of geography, economics, etc. We readily incline to believe him. But for us it is absolutely incontestable that this same Lloyd George has stored in his head all the usages of duping and coercing the toilers, from the most cunning and subtle tricks to the bloodiest; he has assimilated the entire experience provided by English history on this score, and has developed and perfected all this in the experience of the last three stormy years. Lloyd George is in his own way a superb strategist of the bourgeoisie, threatened with historical ruin. And we must say – nowise minimizing thereby either the present or all the less so the future of the English Communist Party which is still very young – we must say that the English proletariat possesses no such strategists as yet.”

    While the US bourgeoisie presently is showing a colossal ineptitude and crude hubris bordering on recklessness, its smarter and more cunning class conscious proponents will come to the fore the moment real threats to the ruling order present themselves. They perforce will be more receptive to the longer and deeper historical experience of their European class brothers (and sisters). And their front men will be smarter and more ‘left’ talking than AOC, Sanders or the ‘squad’. But until the working class and all the oppressed layers of this rotting capitalist society are led in revolutionary struggle by strategists of a calibre that outmatches that of the best in the ruling class, then all struggles of the oppressed at best will be wars of attrition that will lead to all-sided ruin. Algorithm or no algorithm.

    • Maybe. Maybe not.
      I’ll take my chances as a peasant.
      Let the chips fall where they may.

    • Moreover, the bourgeoisie of these days are pathetic to no end and the story ain’t the same as it used to be and all the old fogies are fixing to be buried in the past history of their own making. Good riddance to you old fogies who know nothing but war. We won’t miss you a bit. You missed the game.
      Time for better times. So Says this peasant.

    • Same conditions: the same hierarchy. Yet modern innovations make for new strategies to maintain the power. Recognition that we are at a stand still. Multi-level shock called the great reset breaks up family life and breeds loveless atomized, undeveloped individuals. Same rigid belief systems makes self defense not comprehensible. Racism instead of class war.There are different nations than the mainstream. This is a great forum. Thank you Caitlin. I homesteaded in 1971 and still live rural and know many practicing socialists.

  • The mainstream authoritative content is where the real craziness is….full of wrongness…official sources are the one’s that are full of shit…especially in the area of health and medicine…so talk of the crazy people is off…..

  • Just coming up for some air.
    Sally is not breathing on her own and their ain’t no effing algorithm in all the universe that is gonna save her.
    Her own body kept alive by modern machinery is gonna have to rise to the occasion if Sally wants to live.
    I’m the navigator, so I’ll sit here in Mississippi by her side, but I won’t be sitting here forever.
    She better wake up soon cause if not I will miss her.
    Sally is what makes live worth living for me.
    Without her, I’d be nothing.
    She is the love of my life.
    Come on Sally – I need you baby!

    ps – eff the effing effed up fefe uffe fufe fugi effing algorithms.
    We are smarter than that – ain’t we?

    • Reality is, as much as I love Sally, she started inquiring about my family, and then seems “right-off” the mission came to a rapid end. Funny how sometimes when something ignites a cell in you mind, that something else happens to bounce it off almost seems. Funny how that goes. Funny, but not so funny when you are sitting with somebody who has gone all quiet as Sally has for me. I reckon it is time for me to move on and so that is what I’m gonna do. I love you Sally, but you died on me when you started asking about my family as we drove into Mississippi, and I sat here with you for awhile, to witness your death, but honey, I love you so much, and you know, I gotta move on. So now, it is time for me to go Sally – you are the dream of my life and I don’t know why you had to die – it seems so unfair. I don’t know what to say honey – …….

      So ends the story of Sally – a sad ending if there ever was one, but if it wasn’t sad would you remember?
      Better times on the way!
      Peace is easy,

      • Here is the algorithm that will make the difference.
        Ha, ha.
        As Kropotkin already discovered.
        Peace is easy.
        Mutual Aid is where it is at and we will get there or we won’t.
        If we don’t, then let me say goodbye to each and every one of you.
        If we do,
        then can you IMAGINE the fruit and bounty that will be there for all of US?
        So, I hope we do, and I’m sorry Sally is dead, but sometimes stories have sad endings. Fruit and bounty is where it is at and if you don’t know that then you are behind the times – get with the game.
        Peace is easy,

        • So Kropotkin thought to himself after he had his special invitation with Lenin. He thought – that crazy fool is going to make a difference but his ideas will need to be refined some and hopefully there will be somebody who understands a bit more about love for the sake of that.
          Still, Kropotkin thought to himself. I have made a difference for the better.
          What could be better than that?

          • Kropotkin took that to his grave and he slept easily when they laid down his head. I will as well and there won’t be a 6th post in this string from me even though I’m a big fan of the hexagon. When it comes to making “games” of the future, I’m well equipped, and hexagon pieces will be a critical element of the game in my imagination. The game I’m making as I type this.
            Later on you all will have the chance to buy the game I’m making and if you tell me you knew me beforehand then I will give you a discount!
            Ha, ha.
            Go Bills!

  • Well, these are the good guys for you. After the election in India where the left won, take a look in search results. Covid is just not a lethal sickness, now it’s weaponized to undermine without proper justifications entire governments. You cannot dance in weddings but you can see 3000 soldiers abroad having a good time without being censored. Some truths or lies are more convenient than others. It’s all about the bench-marketing.

  • https://youtu.be/_xe0twpIdPM

    That’s Richard Wolff talking about narrative and why it’s going to go even more skew-wise in coming months. Might seem OT but it’s not. The media, after al, is the mouthpiece for all of this.

    If you check this board, Caitlin, I hope you’ll give it a watch. It’s a good window on what’s happened before vs. How things are unfolding now.

  • This 50 minute talk with Tomiwa Aladekomo of Big Cabal Media, Joe Lauria of Consortium News, and Paul Jay, founder of The Real News Network, makes the point that mainstream US news outlets often just aren’t interested in investigative journalism, even when someone’s done it for them and offers it for free – they’d rather stick with their usual pap and Dem v Rep twaddle, or simply peddle official propaganda. Quite a few other ideas of interest, including getting taken down by Google/Youtube for reporting, and how the rise of agnotology makes fertile ground for fascism.

  • My mother was murdered by these people on a religious holiday that joyously celebrates revenge for real or imagined offenses against g_d’s chooses people, no trial, no charges, just plain, execution style murder. May 9th is Mother’s Day in the US; May 16th is a religious holiday celebrating for the coming of Judgement Day. I championed for the return of King Von, but apparently he is still in hiding, and his mother still loves him, so the question is; will these murderous freaks ever get their day in heavenly court?

  • Personally, my favorite bullshit story is the following – just in case anybody has any illusion about mankind’s “elites”‘ ability to ever abide by the truth when vested interests are at stake and political correction is demanded. In 280 BCE, which doesn’t make us any younger, Greek astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus of Samos presented the first known heliocentric model that placed the Sun at the center of the known universe, with the Earth revolving around it in a year and rotating around its axis in a day, in contradiction with the geocentric theory proposed by Aristotle in the previous century. In the second century CE (over 400 years later), astronomer and mathematician Claudius Ptolemy overlooked Aristarchus’s realistic model (whether he knew about it or not) and presented his own geocentric theory which was later adopted by the Catholic Church (the Silicon Valley of the Middle Ages) because having man at the center of God’s creation was more flattering for his ego than streaking aimlessly through space on an insignificant speck of dust anyway. The Catholic Church maintained that fable for seventeen centuries (!), burning at the stake (the “Silicon Valley ban” of the times) the occasional heliocentric dissident (like Giordano Bruno in 1600) in spite of Copernicus’ rehabilitation of Aristarchus’ model in 1543. The Catholic Inquisition concluded in 1632, at Galileo’s heresy trial on the same ground, that heliocentrism was foolish because it contradicted the Holy Scriptures. Couldn’t get more scientific than that and Silicon Valley must be praised for following on this commendable path with its references to various “authoritative sources” under Mammon’s control. It was not until Isaac Newton finally made mincemeat of geocentrism around 1700 that heliocentrism was adopted by the scientific community, followed by the Catholic Church only… one century later in 1822, which gives a pretty good idea of their historical relevance. Just like Silicon Valley’s “follow the $cience” imprecations nowadays :o)

    • Yeah, well, Galileo was also a fraud, and they’re also doing the same thing today concerning Einstein, not that Einstein wasn’t a nice guy, but his wife would say in secret otherwise, Einstein said himself that he couldn’t even do his own math to be able to even make a believable argument for his theories. But, yet his mathimatian friend who made it happen is never mentioned. I’m inclined to believe that the reason that they do this is the same reason why they were a thousand years behind the rest of the world in knowing that there was a connection between diameter and circumference, and how to raise chickens. Same way that even college professors should know better, but still supplement their income by shoplifting and thinking themselves geniuses until finally get caught and their careers on the line as a result of it. These aren’t geniuses, they’re thieves, over compensating for either actual or perceived inadequacies.

  • ‘US Government Marks World Press Freedom Day By Ignoring Their Attacks On Press
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned governments that are incarcerating, harassing, and targeting journalists with violence
    Blinken’s comments entirely ignored press freedom in the United States and instead focused on countries like China, Russia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, and “third world countries” in Africa and Central Asia. Yet, he could have been describing his country.’

    • What the ‘Blinkers’ are you insinuating?

      :- a light that flashes intermittently, especially one that serves as a traffic signal

      How unfortunately apt!

      Intentionally blind directing the unaware blind

      • I suppose I’m insinuating that at the same time Silicon Valley does its job as Caitlin describes, the US government and legal system is doing a parallel job of suppressing journalism.
        From that same article by Kevin Gosztola (it’s not all that long), “Already in 2021, twenty-nine journalists have been arrested or detained in the U.S. Thirty-five journalists have faced assaults. Seven have had their equipment damaged.

        If Blinken and other officials want any of these pronouncements to be taken seriously, they should stop lecturing other countries and address clear and present threats to press freedom in the United States.”

  • Local TV news is mostly about murders, the weather and sports. I don’t waste my time on national TV news. I subscribe to one paper (Sunday’s) and, with it, get the newspaper’s digital 7-day/week version at no additional cost. Now, other than a couple of its many sportswriters, the digital version has stopped taking comments, essentially turning it into a magazine. Since it spreads a lot of misinformation by not permitting comments that amount to interchange between readers, anything it now posts must be taken with a grain of salt – if it is even worth following up on.
    As I’ve expressed frequently, anything that I read online is never a fact until I do extensive research to either validate or discard it -and that’s only if it actually is of interest at all.
    That brings us to Facebook or, rather, the ‘new’ Facebook. It really doesn’t have to do much censoring. All it needs to do is what it has done. It used to send notifications whenever the majority of your ”Friends’ has posted or said anything. then it was up to you to decide what to view. So, all it has to do is to identify someone, like me, whom it is not overly fond of, and not send notifications about my posts, or to me from others they find to be questionable. I’ve gone from over 200 notifications/day referring to my timeline shares from Caity, Lee camp, Eleanor Goldfield, Greg Palast and others, to 2 or 3 per day at most. It does have a group button where t puts things from some groups, but usually not more than a small handful per day – and it adds the same content several times at once and keeps marking it as new. The only quantity of notifications, wasteful ones, is when I’m watching a streaming concert by one or more friends, and others in the chat ‘Like’ my comment in the chat, ‘so much,’ is normally merely applause. Deleting them, so that I don’t miss actual notifications (infrequent as they now are), is an utter waste of time, but it must be done so that I can save important notifications in view until I have the time free to deal with them.
    I’ve come to the position where I trust only the people I trust – and not even everything, merely that majority, from them. But then, if we were all identical, the world would only need one of us.
    Call me a cynic, but I don’t believe anything I read – anywhere until I’ve proven it to myself that it is, or is not, factual.

  • After “Iraqi WMD” and “Russiagate” and “Russian Bounties” they dare to call mainstream outlets “authoritative”? Only to drooling monkeys.

  • It is worth noting that all of the lamestream media propaganda companies would not be economically viable if it weren’t for 2 sources of revenue; big pharma, and the billions of dollars pumped into it every 2 or 4 years by the corrupt electoral system.
    Boycotting them would pull the plug. Don’t go to them for info when we know they are serial liars responsible for genocides.

    • Good point. It seems to me that at least half of national TV commercials are purchased by Big Pharma. In local TV markets, it seems that maybe 25 percent of commercials are placed by plaintiff trial lawyer firms.

      It’s interesting to observe who has the advertising budgets to buy spots. It’s not the “Mom and Pop” retailers that’s for sure.

  • I am interested as to why you don’t speak much about the jab. I would have thought, that at this critical juncture, you would be making some reference to it..ie.vehemently pointing out the flaws in the scientific advice which IS the MSM’s main push. Ps. when did ‘gotten’ become a word? It makes sense, to a non-English speaking person but it ain’t ‘English’. Up here in Scotland, folk say “amn’t I?” which also ‘makes sense’ but, again, ain’t correct.

    • Gotten is older than got. It goes back to at least the fourteenth century, while got emerged as a sixteenth century short form.

    • About the jab–taboo here, as well as any mention of the underlying propaganda.

  • So, basically Susan Wojcicki’s idea is that AI programming is not made up story?!

  • So, who are the “responsible” journalists who should be anointed to regulate what the world’s public gets to see and hear? For that Orwellian task, a kind of Ministry of Truth has been set up by Google (supposedly formed in 2015, after Ukraine scenarios).
    In these times, we should continually remind ourselves of the power of words, alone. Ask questions: What do they serve? Whom do they serve? Where are they leading?

    • In the Macro picture, the following is totally related — to Google’s actions, to Assange, to any remaining independent journalists, to any country, to any citizens of any country:

  • It is good to know that one’s own experience with Google searches is world-wide, but very hateful that that is so. Freedom of the press, which is essential to making free speech of value, is in shackles. Yet the sacrifices of Julian Assange take on so much more meaning because much of the world learned from Wikileaks not to trust the mainstream i.e. government-allied media. The cat is out of the bag the lies are being met with so much more information than ever, even if only by word of mouth.

    People can give in to their egos and become hopeless about a world that is definitely seriously endangered, but in more of a pitched battle between truth and falsity. Caitlin Johnstone is an important voice in behalf of truth.

  • Caitlin has written another excellent and important essay – one that will NOT be ranked high by the algorithms.

    I’d add that there is another way the mainstream “pack journalism” organizations ensure that only content that supports the narrative gets published – they do NOT allow freelance submissions that would contradict or challenge this narrative.

    There are a few freelance journalists who do research and write stories that challenge conventional wisdom. But these submissions are rejected. The echo chamber is protected, and no real “search for the truth” is allowed.

    • What you say is so very true Bill. What Caitlin says here is right on, but on here she is preaching to the converted. Rarely do I find anyone on here who disagrees with her.

  • Talking of media manipulation, would you have guessed Iran has developed an interest in Scottish elections? Citing a study by the Henry Jackson Society think tank, the Times tells us, ‘Its report concluded that the growing presence of activity encouraging Scottish separatism was an attempt by the Iranian regime to “attack the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom”. The report concludes: “Iran has shown itself to be a country which engages in Russian-style disinformation campaigns, repeatedly establishing fake websites and internet accounts in an effort to disrupt the political systems of liberal democracies. Judged within this context, Iran is almost certainly looking to disrupt our current elections, most likely those under way for the Scottish assembly.”’

    • I guess those stuck-up Russians were too busy for Scotland.

  • What a surprise !!!!??? I’m NOT gobsmacked.

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