I’ll get back to my post on “Names” shortly, it’s a research effort still in progress at the moment, but I do want to recommend some background reading for those interested and I will do so in a follow on post.

But for those that might have started reading Creating Chaos, I’d like to bring up a point I discuss towards the end of that book – a point which has to do with the personal aspects of “enabling” political warfare. I mention in the book that during the last couple of years of the Obama Administration I began to receive a rapidly growing number of forwarded emails from personal friends…emails that were all pretty obviously well-crafted political messaging in the traditional style of professional disinformation – a little truth, a lot of spin and a great deal of emotional “loading”.

They were all based on purported news stories, which on even basic search and fact checking revealed them for exactly what they were – yet when I took the trouble to write back to my email friends and advise them of that (even providing factual sources) I determined that even when they agreed, they simply did not want to expose themselves by pushing back against their own email sources.

At the time I found it frustrating but assumed that the sources were political and it was ground work for the upcoming presidential elections.  It now appears that was quite naïve and chances are I was seeing some of the very first evidence of the political warfare machine that was being cranked up to fragment and create discord within the American public.

The current investigations of Russian political warfare are not going back that far so there likely won’t be any solid documentation – in Creating Chaos I begin my real studies of that interference in 2014. Still, the following article reminded me of both a personal experience and suggests that the effort was underway at least a year earlier.

My experience began with a relative, who knows I write about national security and military operations, advising me of a plot I might have missed. A plot clearly showing the depth of evil within the Obama Administration and its covert efforts to install martial law in the United States to perpetuate itself.

Now I hear some of these things every now and then (my relatives were talking about burying guns so the government would not seize them back during the Eisenhower Administration). But this was pretty ambitious, the word was that Obama had tried to stage an atomic strike as an excuse for imposing military rule over the country – or at least the southern states. Certain high ranking officers had opposed him and they had been fired as a result.

In case you didn’t hear it at the time, check the following link for details:

http://warisboring.com/did-obama-try-to-nuke-south-carolina/

As ridiculous as it might sound, some real research had gone into the story and there were facts – at least about the dismissal of the officers. Upon investigation it was easy to deconstruct (as the article above does) in a few minutes of research but it did indicate that some effort had gone into the story.  And I have to say I’m afraid the facts probably didn’t convince my relative; the key to success in such political warfare is to feed your message to a receptive audience. That makes countering it virtually impossible in most instances. You can’t easily “write over” what someone was receptive to and then actually heard in a purported news story.

In Creating Chaos I discuss how such things work and how 21st Century technology and social networking on the internet has made such long time practices far more dangerous. In doing so I provide a goodly number of examples taken from Facebook, YouTube and anonymous sites such as 4Chan – and its even more unrestrained and sensational spin offs such as 8chan. Even a limited study of online political warfare reveals that vehicles such as Twitter can be exceptionally fertile tools for information warfare in all its most nasty forms.

At this point in time we have moved into a place where the normal constraints of free speech are being tested. There is an old saying out here where I live – “Speak your piece but have a fast horse handy” – but social convention, peer pressure and other tactics don’t work that will with instantaneous (and anonymous) global communications. Sort of like deciding to yell “fire” in a crowded theater – things happen to fast, people get hurt. And of course yelling fire in a crowded theater brings to mind Alex Jones:

https://money.cnn.com/2018/08/10/media/infowars-twitter-alex-jones/index.html

We are all going to face the same personal struggles that Facebook and Twitter face in the commercial media space (which is where they are, whether Twitter admits it or not). The question you need to ask about your online and social media communications is whether you are addressing the problem or not. And as we used to say back in the 60’s, “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”.

 

Advertisements

2 responses »

  1. Anthony M says:

    In a sense the vulnerability of our societies to this sort of disinformation in nothing new, as you point out. Just as an example, back in 1952 a CIA analyst (looking at the UFO phenomena) noted that a large part of the population seemed conditioned for the acceptance of the incredible (or words to that effect).
    In many ways this susceptibility (or limited capacity for critical thinking) is a by product of our education systems in which such skills are not systematically developed until the higher stages of education, with many people leaving education before that stage is reached. In the past, whilst it represented a risk, it was also manageable to a large extent as the flow of information was slower and politicians adept at presenting (spinning) a case that many people would believe within that context.
    Technology appears to have created an amplification effect to the flow of information and also disrupted the patterns of information sources people are looking at, creating opportunities for such nonsense (and in there too, no doubt, useful and well researched information) to disseminate much more quickly than could have been achieved twenty years ago, thereby increasing the net impact. The net effect is similar to moving from what is systems theory is termed a ‘complex’ state, which has a kind of semi-equilibrium into a more chaotic regime, in which ideas, memes, opinions etc. are forming all over the place and spreading (or not) in an unpredictable and uncontrollable manner.
    Just as an example (and partially why I’ve been thinking about this a bit more recently), I had a truly bizarre conversation with a neighbour the other day. He seems to have combined a whole load of these ideas, including flat earth, 9/11 deniers, moon landing deniers etc. with some notions around a sort of global paedophile network based on satanic rituals running the world’s governments (!). The Illuminati got in there somewhere but I confess my mind was reeling by that stage, so not sure exactly how!
    Needless to say my attempts to suggest an approach based on falsification and critical rationalism didn’t really get anywhere.

    And he’s a graduate, recently retired after almost forty years in a professional role!

    The same basic issue that you highlight keeps cropping up (Jeff Morley was discussing something similar the other day, for example) and seems to me to represent a new threat to the capacity of a democratic society to function – or at the very least provides new opportunities for unscrupulous politicians to fuel the flames of division and a politics of ignorance, fear and ‘othering’, regardless of the consequences (and in some cases intentionally to achieve disruptive effects).

    Tackling this will raise some very profound questions around the limits of freedom of speech in an open society, media regulation (and including digital media, blogs, tweets etc as being, for practical purposes, media), tackling cross-border threats in terms of disinformation and related threats and a serious debate about the very purpose and core design of our education and social systems in a world moving towards artificial intelligence. I have some thoughts on each but all at a very early stage, and alas I don’t see much sign of a serious discussion on this at national and international level. In some ways almost the reverse, the opportunities presented have been used very effectively by a number of political leaders including Trump, Putin, Orban, Salvini and the Brexit campaign here in the UK etc.- in each case the prize has seemed to outweigh the costs or future risks to them so I doubt if any of the above will attempt to do anything about this until it all far too late.

    Thanks for yet another very thought provoking post.

    • larryjoe2 says:

      I’m afraid all those observations are quite on the mark. The emergence of the Q conspiracy believers within the Trump political spectrum demonstrates how quickly such things can escalate – based totally on anonymous postings which match the worldview of the readers. The amount of faith they place in a totally unknown source is frightening. A diagram of the conspiracies they accept within the Q worldview is stunning, is almost impossible to sketch out on paper and reaches across millennia and in some instances multiple types of alien intervention.

      There are remedies for the problem, a classic approach used to be to separate news from editorial in newspapers. Of course with today’s media conglomerates certain news sources have become almost totally editorial – and are even open enough to distribute directives or implement policies to their affiliates which clearly demonstrate that: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/business/media/denver-post-alden-protest.html

      A simple solution is to establish fact checking sites which monitor public statements and provide hard data to support or refute them. Currently the American media is making that effort – with extremely limited success (large numbers of people clearly want only the “facts” they want to believe).

      Another solution is to use the science of semantics to “deload” highly emotional, suggestive or persuasive wording from “news” stories. One of my favorite science fiction authors brought that into play in Methuselah’s Children back in the 1950’s – however in his story, when the political administration in power sees an advantage to be gained, all the semantic news filters established by law disappear in about 24 hours. The only thing Heinlein didn’t anticipate was presidential tweeting..

      In the long run ignoring facts is like ignoring reality, not a survival characteristic either individually or or groups. On an individual basis, over the short term it appears to be a type of intermittent reinforcement, addictive in the same fashion as gambling.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s