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Guest Post: You Know Those Obnoxious Posters Who Almost Seem Like Alter Egos Of The Same Person? They Actually Might Be …

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Washington’s Blog
The news out of Libya is dramatic.

Dictator Moammar Gadhafi is bombing his own people with military jets.
Two senior officers in the Libyan air force have defected to Malta:

A top Sunni cleric says the army should kill Gadhafi.

Gadhafi’s son is warning: “Stop the protest or face civil war & colonialism”. He states that the U.S. and Europe will occupy Libya if the protests are not reined in.

Libya’s own diplomat accuses Gadhafi of ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘crimes of war’. Military officials are reportedly calling for Gadhafi’s removal. And diplomats and the justice minister have resigned. See this.

And Al Jazaeera reports:

Unconfirmed reports suggest the Migraha tribe has now abandoned Gaddafi. This follows the Tuareg and Warfela tribes who came out in support of the protests yesterday.

These are true native peoples. For example, the Tuareg people are nomads of the Sahara:

Tuareg Nomads

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74 comments

  1. Deus-DJ

    A most interesting analysis. Nothing like that would work on this blog, though. This kind of manipulation would only work on blogs without self-conscious and world-conscious individuals running them and posting on them. If a loser attempted to express an alternative(wrong) view here he would immediately be shut down.

    1. Deus-DJ

      In other words, the power of ideas and the power of fact-based knowledge nullifies anything that intends to spread propaganda, ultimately.

      1. wunsacon

        Wait until the MIC merges social media tricks with IBM’s *WATSON*!

        On the path we’re on, statism+technology might facilitate a societal transformation from Huxley to Orwell.

        What these people are doing scares me.

        1. Parvaneh Ferhadi

          And rightfully so. You are not alone in that. I continue to be abhorred by the abyss you stare into when you try to look into these people’s souls – it’s almost as if they had none.

          1. GLOBAL GROUNDHOG


            souls – it’s almost as if they had none.

            One of them would need to stand on tall ladder to reach the bottom. What does one of them do for recreation? Part-time-duty as inspector at Security-Check-Point in Reagan National. Second favorite recreation? IAD, Dulles International.

    2. Richard Kline

      So Deus-DJ, I admire you the comfort of your naivete, if that’s what it is, but you are mistaken: not only can it happen here, it does on a regular basis. The function of intervention is not to convince any one person to a particular view but to interject just enough contrary disinformation to prevent consensus from forming on a particular issue. It’s subtle, and reasonably skilled propaganda. The range of issues is broad, but all of a type: gross malfeasence exposed and with reasonably supporting data in finance, right wing politics, Israel, and government imperialism _always_ draws subtle, undercutting remarks. Dissent from those convinced of other views is not remarkable or unreasonable. The kind of deliberate manipulation to which I refer has a discrete templet of how their remarks are framed. There is obviously a style-sheet being followed. I’m not going to say more, but if you’re a regular reader/commentor here and haven’t spotted the ‘potted plants’ look closer. This isn’t the kind of dittohead screaming that may work in other places but that anyone not a fool just filters out; the manipulation here is deliberate manipulation.

      What is interesting is how immediate this response is, typically high in comment threads (it would be much less effective once a consensus forms in the thread). This requires relatively constant monitoring. I don’t know that the military is paying for it, but somebody is. But actually, I find the effort comforting in its way: those in the money/power behind the effort fear something here to be making the effort. And they should: nothing in their conduct can withstand exposure or investigation, so anything close to the truth is their nemesis. The more they try to confuse matters, the closer to the truth I know Yves and the rest here approach.

        1. Richard Kline

          Is that Patricia or Patrick? Bro, you’ve got style. I wonder though: Can the money really really be worth it to you? Naw, I think you do this for kicks, really.

          Who’s paying you, though? Seriously, give us a hint . . . .

    1. DownSouth

      The power of propaganda to manipulate public opinion has been quite a hotly debated subject.

      If one buys into Rendon’s boast that “This time we didn’t have it under total control yet-next time we will,” then we’re just as well toss democracy into the trash bin of history.

      Hannah Arendt in her chapter “Lying in Politics” from Crises of the Republic takes Rendon to task:

      The only limitation to what the public-relations man does comes when he discovers that the same people who perhaps can be “manipulated” to buy a certain kind of soap can’t be manipulated—-though, of course, they can be forced by terror—-to “buy” opinions and political views. Therefore the psychological premise of human manipulability has become one of the chief wares that are sold on the market of common and learned opinion. But such doctrines do not change the way people form opinions or prevent them from acting according to their own lights. The only method short of terror to have real influence on their conduct is still the old carrot-and-stick approach. It is not surprising that the recent generation of intellectuals, who grew up in the insane atmosphere of rampant advertising and were taught that half of politics is “image-making” and the other half the art of making people believe in the imagery, should almost automatically fall back on the older adages of carrot and stick whenever the situation becomes too serious for “theory.” To them, the greatest disappointment in the Vietnam adventure should have been the discover that there are people with whom carrot-and-stick methods do not work either.

      And indeed, do re-read George Orwell. In his book 1984 you not only have the fine tuned propaganda machine, but an ubiquitous and brutal police state as well. But not even the combination of propaganda and terror seems to have, at least in the long run, worked. As Arendt goes on to observe:

      This is one of the lessons that could be learned from the totalitarian experiments and the totalitarian ruler’s frightening confidence in the power of lying—-in their ability, for instance, to rewrite history again and again to adapt the past to the “political line” of the present moment or to eliminate data that did not fit their ideology…

      The results of such experiments when undertaken by those in possession of the means of violence are terrible enough, but lasting deception is not among them.

      For much more on the debate as to how powerful propaganda is there’s Daniel Yankelovich’s book Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World. On your team we find Philip E. Converse and his group of political scientists at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center. Yankelovich sums up the “Converse thesis” as follows:

      Their empirical analysis shows the average American voter to be minimally involved in politics, inattentive to the issues, poorly informed, pragmatic, inconsistent, and focused on concrete concerns rather than on general principles. Mountains of subsequent opinion research studies validate this picture: average American voters are not intellectuals or ideologists. They are not abstract thinkers. They do not approach issues or candidates conceptually.

      On the opposing team we find Everett Ladd who heads the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Storrs, Connecticut. According to Ladd, “Another type of public opinion research yields conclusions very different from Converse’s or even those of his critics. It focuses on the overall patterns of responses Americans give. These turn out to be remarkably stable and predictable.” Ladd sums it up cogently:

      Opinion research in the U.S. does reveal a public strikingly inattentive to the details of even the most consequential and controversial policies. This suggests a potential for manipulation. But the research also indicates great stability and coherence in the public’s underlying attitudes and values. Americans show themselves perfectly capable of making the distinctions needed to determine what Harwood Childs called “the basic ends of public policy,” and of pursuing these logically and clearly. There is a persisting structure to American opinion that belies the picture of a populace helpless before the “engineers of consent.”

      You can mark me up more in the Arendt-Ladd column. Or as Reinhold Niebuhr put it: “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”

      1. John Hemington

        If anyone is interested in learning just why propaganda works so easily in main stream working America, I suggest you run right out and get Joe Bageant’s book Deer Hunting With Jesus. It better than any academic source I have come across details down-home working Americans are convinced without much external effort of vote and participate in acticities completely contrary to interest. I also explains in detail just why it is that these same folks do not now and are not soon likely to trust liberals and supposedly liberal politicians. It is a “must read” if you really want to know how this nation works and why it is so screwed up.

  2. Roaring mouse

    Just plug me back into the Matrix so I can be a copper-top for some really important computers.

  3. Deus-DJ

    If past comments by Yves are any indication, she has been suspicious of certain posters that have made remarks that may suggest they come from the outfits she is targeting(and reading this, it seems quite appropriately so).

    It will not happen here, they will be ran out and/or appropriately banned, given the subjective banning standards Yves has(which I support, btw).

    1. Yves Smith

      For the record, they are not subjective so much as qualitative. I can look at the history of a poster along various lines, and certain patterns stand out. For example one is use of different handles by the same person, especially in the same thread, effectively sock puppeting themselves. Seeking to control a conversation, whether you are orchestrated or just have a screw loose, is a way to lose your commenting privileges.

      1. Deus-DJ

        hehe like I said I agree with it, but typically forums allow people the comfort of their opinions, even if they do have a screw loose.

        1. skippy

          “I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves’…Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein.

          Personally I find that screws that are torqued to tight, fail catastrophically when stressed, reality being subjective, especially in the cases of monies_equal_absoluteness.

          When god gives you something only it can take it back…snicker…Koch…rightly tightly…lefty loosely…or…in my case tightened and backed off a bit…lma0…work in progress…see caution bunting and flashing lights…

          PS…”Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness”…George Orwell…

          Think about the *pursuit of happiness* as_a_tool_…(their tool}…eh…the most powerful, primal, neuro-chemical, ancient stimulus, incorporated in our very DNA…pointed at humanity’s potential_as a weapon_, your first mental firewall is to avail your self from this attack.

          Skippy…I rejoice[!] every time I hear one of these *screws inserted*_not by myself_hitting the floor.

          To Yves metaphorically speaking:

          Message to my Girl

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUC_jE78FNE

  4. fronius

    Great article as usual on NC.
    I was disgusted by the wave of propaganda by Israel-bots during their massacre of Lebanon a few years ago. In the German media you routinely get such IDF-posters whenever there is an article critical of that Apartheid-state. Of course they either threaten with the Holocaust club or use it directly each time.
    I know Israel is an Apartheid-state coz I grew up under Apartheid in South Africa, and as a brainwashed Afrikaner believed in that crap. I also went to Israel several times and could see how they treat the Pals like dirt in the occupied territories. It was disgusting. I saw all the oppressive structures, except that Apartheid was much more lenient and gave blacks in South Africa much more breathing room that the Israeli-occupation which must be a nightmare.

  5. notexactlyhuman

    Huffington Post’s site is certainly plagued by soulless bots. Scary place. Zombies galore. I can only imagine FOX’s site’s infection being far worse; I dare not venture there.

    Any of you seen the BBC documentary “A Century of the Self”, particularly the first episode? Bad voodoo everywhere.

  6. Toby

    Disinformation and psyops are obviously a necessity for paranoid elites fearful of losing their hold on the flow of information. We live in a system which undermines trust in our fellow human beings right from the get-go. The old, rigid, top-down structures are no longer valid, if they ever really were, yet the psychopaths who enjoy wielding the power they yield will not let go without a horrible fight. They having become very adept indeed at manipulating debate, manipulating behaviour, mixing truth with half-truth and lies, distortion, omission, and so on.

    Transitioning to a distributed, more egalitarian system is going to be painful, and sadly part of it is necessarily a defensive arrogance; we have to grow up and teach ourselves, trust no one, and accept no leader. But somehow we must also stay humble, since no one can see the whole thing. So, paradoxically, trust is part of it too. This is not going to be easy.

    Thanks, George, for all your work.

  7. Expat

    I thought the preceding comment needed to stand alone.

    What an evil work is man. Hedge funds and investment banks sucking hundreds of billions out of the economy for doing nothing more than shuffling numbers. Our leaders inventing tales of WMD to justify illegal wars so that private corporations may profit while poor minorities are blown to bits.

    Who remembers Ross Perot’s comment about NAFTA? “A giant sucking sound”? Well, that is the sound of our rulers (elected and unelected) sucking the blood and life from us and our planet.

    I’ve never been a great believer in humanity and generally a terrible cynic, but the errors and evils of the past were rarely so far-reaching, pervasive or permanent as what is happening today. Oil companies talk of persistent oil when they worry about spills. Nuclear war is regarded as particularly evil not for the deaths, but for the lasting damage.

    I doubt we could overthrow our rulers. I also doubt many people even vaguely understand enough to want to revolt. They wave the flag, shop at Walmart, and sink deeper into oblivion.

    If there were a God, what would he think of his creatures?

    1. DownSouth

      Expat,

      As Reinhold Niebuhr points out in his essay “The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness,” such “A consistent pessimism in regard to man’s rational capacity for justice invariably leads to absolutistic political theories; for they prompt the conviction that only preponderant power can coerce the various vitalities of a community into a working harmony.”

      In assessing the various “personas” that comment on the threads here on NC, it is never easy to discriminate a disillusioned and discouraged “child of light” from a bona fide “child of darkness.” Here’s how Niebuhr describes the difference between the two:

      In illuminating this important distinction more fully, we may well designate the moral cynics, who know no law beyond their will and interest, with a scriptural designation of “children of this world” or “children of darkness.” Those who believe that self-interest should be brought under the discipline of a higher law could then be termed “the children of light.” This is no mere arbitrary device; for evil is always the assertion of some self-interest without regard to the whole, whether the whole be conceived as the immediate community, or the total community of mankind, or the total order of the world. The good is, on the other hand, always the harmony of the whole on various levels.

      The problem is that the regnant credo of the “children of light,” liberalism, is built upon an overly rosy notion of human nature. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”:

      It was mainly the liberal doctrine of man that I began to question… I came to feel that liberalism had been all too sentimental concerning human nature and that it leaned toward a false idealism.

      Liberalism’s overly rosy conceptualization of man sets liberals up for disillusionment and disappointment. Here’s Niebuhr again:

      The consistent optimism of our liberal culture has prevented modern democratic societies both from gauging the perils of freedom accurately and from appreciating democracy fully as the only alternative to injustice and oppression. When this optimism is not qualified with the real and complex facts of human nature and history, there is always a danger that sentimentality will give way to despair and that a too consistent optimism will alternate with a too consistent pessimism.

      1. price of peace & inflation

        Yur freaking me out with that.

        See: “To escape this state of war, men in the state of nature accede to a social contract and establish a civil society. According to Hobbes, society is a population beneath a sovereign authority, to whom all individuals in that society cede some rights for the sake of protection. Any abuses of power by this authority are to be accepted as the price of peace. In particular, the doctrine of separation of powers is rejected:[14] the sovereign must control civil, military, judicial and ecclesiastical powers.”

      2. Expat

        I don’t have an overly rosy conceptualization of man. On the contrary, I am Hobbesian to the core. Your post implies that this is the best of all possible worlds, and we should accept ourselves as we are, flawed. While this may be our reality, there is no reason why I shouldn’t wake up screaming every morning to face it.

        In any case, I will admit I don’t fully understand the point you or Niebuhr is making. Are you equating democracy with a quasi-anarchical state in which the desire to maximize freedoms means that many are left to act in an unfair or evil manner? Or are you saying that my pessimism about man means that I have natural totalitarian tendencies since I see a strict police state as the only social structure able to rein in man’s worst tendencies?

  8. Brick

    Clearly George suspects something going on, but many commenters will be worried now, either that they have been perceived in the wrong way or that they are somehow being monitored closely by the powers that be. I hope that this does not frighten commenters and everyone continues to say what they feel and defend there views. Its your right and government interference in this means the government is acting without the mandate of the people in my opinion.

    Firstly lets break down the post because, I perceive a number of issues. Firstly if a blog does contain inaccurate or misleading information then I see every right for that to be challenged by a memeber of government. However it should be clear who is posting ,what there role is and why. A simple analysis of email addresses used by multiple personnas should send a warning message.Equally if the government produces fake documents it should be challenged and if the intent was to deceive it should be held accountable.

    Next lets look at the concept of outsourced security which I perceive to be a risk. There is no doubt in my mind that external security agencies have at least considered persuasion and lobbying through the use of blogging and commenting on blogs. Its not that their voice should not be heard its that they may attempt to hide their identity in a way that changes the source of the message.Most of us try to protect ourselves on line by creating a seperate personna even Yves, but it is the intent which is important. There is a big difference between protecting yourself and the intent to deceive.Its yet another badly regulated too big to tackle problem.Does the Pentagon really need an information operations department other than to issue facts and why is it that this is not picked up by the US Media.If the UK media can criticse Operation Mass Appeal by british intelligence why cannot it be done in the US.

    Then we have the issue of malware, hacks and denial of service attacks. To me its just criminal activity whether its Egypt shutting down the internet, a millitary type attack on Iran, your disgruntled employee or your zealous group. Security hacking to prove a point might be OK, but why do we think its OK against perceived enemies like Iran and then get squeemish when that same technology is dirrected at us.

    Lastly we have the issue of journalism and here I can not work out whether its just a deterioration in quality, plain laziness, priorities and costs or something more nefarious such has the government directing the media. After all there is a good reason why many of Yves links are to media output outside the US. I am inclined to think its more of a if you pat my back I will pat yours. Any media outlet which sets itself against the governments interest will tend to find itself excluded from big government stories. Why is it for instance that rolling stones can pick up a story that mainstream news does not.Its basically bribery and the government ought to clean up its act in its approach to the media.John Pilger article on the invisible government probably says it best. Perhaps we should have a tally of how many times the government asks a media outlet to hold back a story or look into just how high legal expenses are for the media.

    If I could send a message to those perpetrating these activities it is that you will tracked and will be caught out and if you have not acted with integrity you will eventually pay the price. Lets not get too paranoid about it and if you blog or comment in good faith then that should count and if you do have a pro government view then that should be heard, just don’t expect me to mostly agree.

  9. John Emerson

    Any state apparatus faces objects (potential adversaries or allies) of two kinds: other states on the one hand, and its own citizens or subjects on the other. Democracy just changes the rules by which the state manipulates the populace.

    Every war is fought on two fronts, the home front and the military front. Leadership openly talks about this in exactly these terms.

    The American Constitution was an attempt to strengthen the populace against the state, but it pretty much failed. The people who carry constitutions in their pocket and pull them out and wave them around from time to time have been, by and large, among the worst enemies of the Constitution from this point of view. (With honorable exceptions like Bob Barr and Ron Paul, for all their other faults.)

  10. John Emerson

    You can’t run a blog with comments without aggressive monitoring. Even well-intended, sane people can become obsessive and bullying, and there are plenty of crazies too. My own commenting policy is pretty aggressive and I’ve been banned now and then, but philosophically I’ve never opposed banning in principle.

  11. Parvaneh Ferhadi

    Amazing but not surprising. It’s the same as the intelligence work we saw in the cold war, pursued with other means. Then you’ll create articicial persons with a ‘legend’, i.e. a fabricated CV, now you create the same online.
    Now, as then, the enemy is the citizen who disagrees. The disagreement needs to be quashed and the disagreeing person needs to be neutralised and re-educated. By any means.

    Orwell indeed.

  12. Ellen Anderson

    These blogs are not like TV game shows where a computer can beat a savvy reader. After a while it is clear whose comments are worth reading and whose are not.
    I always try to remember that government workers are people too and that the real world is a pretty good instructor. So, when the time comes for things to change, perhaps a lot of them will be on the right side. We always look back to the French Revolution, don’t we? Perhaps it is just sentimental on my part.
    The fact that the liberal media like the Times and Post are apparently wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state is worrisome and won’t last much longer. Someone on some blog has argued for a business model for locally based online papers. Where was that? Maybe Zero Hedge? Now there is a place where I scan and read some of the posts but find the comments useless. My guess is that they are entirely populated by bots.
    Anyway, locally based press where the contributors know each other is the kind of “bottoms up” solution that is on the way – if we survive the current mess and keep the net up.

    1. Glenn Condell

      ‘Zero Hedge? Now there is a place where I scan and read some of the posts but find the comments useless. My guess is that they are entirely populated by bots.’

      My sentiments exactly. Same with Max Keiser’s site. The technique there is not so much to dispute or demur, subtly or otherwise, but to simply distract with mindless nonsense, zany ‘humour’, mock stridency etc, always of course under a nom de plume. If you get enough of that on a thread (and both sites suffer from industrial quantities on the most important stories) it does tend to muffle genuine reaction, either by swamping it or discouraging real people from contributing.

      My sense is it’s not such a problem here, but maybe that’s an impression bolstered by some commendably efficient monitoring by Yves and co.

      And of course, it is possible all those monkeys dominating threads elsewhere are actual human beings, just look at the comments on YouTube.

      1. Yves Smith

        I try to intervene as little as possible, since I prefer to devote as much of my efforts as possible to new posts. You’d be amazed what throwing out obvious trolls and abusive posters, plus occasional reminders about the need to remain civil will to do for the caliber of comments

  13. Sufferin' Succotash

    If governments were as strategically wise as they are often tactically clever we would’ve had a totalitarian dictatorship decades ago. But when it comes to the wide-angle and the long term governments just aren’t that smart. Which is why the stunts invented to manipulate opinion on the web, while pretty exasperating sometimes, don’t indicate the Impending Fall of the Republic. Of course it is one more tidbit of evidence proving the depravity of the opposition–as if we needed any more tidbits.

    1. Psychoanalystus

      Somebody above wrote that he does not think the US is a totalitarian state. This is not true. We currently do have totalitarianism in the United States. However, it is not classic totalitarianism, where an autocratic political leader controls everything, including the economy. What we have here is known as “inverted totalitarianism,” as described by Sheldon Wolin in his book Democracy Incorporated. Inverted totalitarianism is basically a corporate structure very much like our own, where anonymous plutocrats control the economics as well as the government and the political spheres.

      The military-industrial-complex is very much an integral part of that corporate structure. In fact, it is the greatest beneficiary of it. However, as the United States is being economically and financially hollowed out by this massive military industrial system (which consumes most of our resources but produces nothing of economic value), we continue to lose all commercial production capacity, and we become little more than a banana republic with nukes, the illusion of economic prosperity needs to be maintained at any cost.

      This is why our inverted totalitarianism relies on a massive propaganda machine, combined with a sophisticated ability to manufacture any number of illusions that the dumbed down masses would readily accept. Among such illusions are: the illusion of prosperity, the illusion of freedom, the illusion of choice, the illusion of community, the illusion of happiness, the illusion of safety, the illusion of news, and so on.

      Furthermore, what the internet, social media, smart phones, realistic games, and the advent of virtual reality offers our inverted totalitarian rulers is the ability to finally manufacture the Illusion of Reality. Yes, that is the Matrix.

      I assume most contributors here are not teenagers, thus we still remember reality as it once was. However, I fear for the young Americans entering adulthood. They are so far removed from reality, so embedded and surrounded by reality-distorting devices and technologies, so devoid of real personhood and personality, so unable to form basic human connections and attachments, I think it will be very easy for our corporate big brothers to control them. What I wrote in this last paragraph was filtered through the lens of a psychologist, and it is a phenomenon I have lately spent a good while observing.

      Psychoanalystus

  14. Redgerrymander

    What’s becoming clear is that the Shock Doctrine is finally being deployed in North America.

    Whether it be the brutal treatment of G20 protesters in Pittsburgh or Toronto, or the virtual banning of unions in Wisconsin, what’s clear is that these actions are neither separate nor independent of one another. They all follow the playbook perfectly.

    Manufacture a crisis and then target the most effective opposition, which is then destroyed, criminalized and/or bankrupted as a perfect scapegoated as part of a slow-motion coup.

    Just as ‘Black Bloc’ black flag operatives are hired and deployed to vandalize and riot as a means to tar ALL protesters as violent and evil, trolls and astro-turfing aim to stifle and/or throw doubt on an open and honest debate on the internet.

    This is class war, pure and simple and it’s being fought on multiple fronts, in both realtime and online. Their most effective weapons are fear, secrecy and lies, ours bravery, transparency and the truth.

    It’s come down to a choice of standing up against them – like Egyptian protestors, Wikileaks and Anonymous – or cowering in your personal bunker waiting for the Rapture.

    Choose well…

  15. Noumenon

    A most interesting analysis. Nothing like that would work on this blog, though. This kind of manipulation would only work on blogs without self-conscious and world-consciALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!

  16. john

    You don’t need computers to do this. Just hire a few frat boys and let them have at it. I think this was posted here before:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/dec/13/astroturf-libertarians-internet-democracy

    Related: A friend just did a brief stint in telemarketing and (3 days was all he could take) described to me how much fun the smoke breaks were. He said the typical successful telemarketer was really, really funny but sociopathic. Seems like you could say the same about some commenters on blogs.

    1. Yellow Tainted Breath

      Whoa, whoa, whoa …

      Re: “Teams of these sock-puppets are hired by party leaders to drown out critical voices and derail intelligent debates.”

      ==> How can an intelligent debate be derailed? If there is intelligence in a debate, the debate has clarity … it’s when ambiguity is introduced into the equation, and thus doubt, then grey areas grow hazy and then the debate falls apart at the center (is that Yates). In that gray light, how does one form an opinion related to having intelligence …. what tips the balance to make people pull the trigger or focus on a final condition of what clarity means to them?

      1. lambert strether

        How can an intelligent debate be derailed?

        Easily. The bots shout down the opposition, or use rhetorical tactics that destroy honest debate (like throwing out a talking point, abandoning it when refuted, and just throwing out another talking point). You really can’t have intelligent debate when a community’s been infested by armies of bots paid to push talking points. It would be like trying to reason with one of Mubarak’s paid thugs, who’s been paid to beat you up, not reason with you. So, you can spend your time fighting off bots, or you can leave the community.

        1. TimOfEngland

          If you want an illustration of a blog overrun by one faction by using straw men. outright denial, twisted facts and outright shouting down of the sympathetic faction, take a read of Richard Black’s BBC Earth watch environmental / climate blog. Just skip back over the last month or so of comments, you’ll get the idea.

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/

          The climate change deniers have “won” because others have given up against the noise. They even have a name for their club and sign often off as “One of the Lobby” :(

      2. sdemetri

        Debate about anything concerning the September 11 attacks, regardless of the logic, scientific integrity of the argument, empirical evidence, is immediately dismissed as “truther BS,” all the time. This is a taboo subject where one side has monopolized ALL discussion in favor of the orthodox view that amateur pilots were very lucky and a shortsighted US government failed to stop it. The facts do not support this, but ALL discussion has been shut down except in the most limited of forums.

  17. Walter Westcot

    Powerful people conspire. Every day, in every way. Yet consensus dictates that conspiracy theories are the stuff of fools and tin foil hats. [how many of us have heard that moniker?]

    In Durbuy Belgium at around 5pm on 9/11 – the streets emptied and as travelers gathered with strangers around the TV sets of cafes and hotels – the only word we could all understand from each other was MOSSAD.

    And a good chunk of the Japanese and Dutch businessmen in my hotel nodded in agreement as the towers fell – looked like Mossad.

    Power conspires. Governments conspire.

    Joe Stack – the Austin pilot who flew his plane into the IRS building — shared his hanger with Homeland Security Program Manager… imagine that.

    http://www.justgetthere.us/blog/archives/Joe-Stack,-Austin-Suicide-Pilot-Co-owned-Hanger-With-Homeland-Security-Initiative-Program-Manager.html

    and if you follow the web pages of the 9/11 families and engineers for truth…. you’ll discover that the neighbors in that building knew the Saudis were friendly with Israelis that lived there. Or that employees at the airport where they learned to fly was also used by intelligence agencies.

    The internet makes discovery pretty routine – yet the goonies work overtime to plant disinformation at those same websites.

    Never pooh poo conspiracies. Men conspire to do the most heinous things. We have the tools to stop this madness.

    We just have to have the will to make these monsters accountable.

    1. Larry Elasmo

      Walter Westcot said: “In Durbuy Belgium at around 5pm on 9/11 – the streets emptied and as travelers gathered with strangers around the TV sets of cafes and hotels – the only word we could all understand from each other was MOSSAD.”

      Good post. Interesting, the exact same thing happened to me at approximately the same time, between 5 and 7PM on 9/11, in Mulligan’s Irish Pub, Rue de Grenus, Geneva, Switzerland.

      I remember being surprised by this reaction because Mossad was not the first thought that occurred to me….

  18. Ellen Anderson

    @redgerrymander “bravery, transparency and the truth.” I like that. Bravery and transparency, though not easy, are the easy part. For the truth we have sift through all of this written information and then test our hypotheses against what is really happening. That is why the lack of an honest free press is so alarming. Where do we find good, eyewitness accounts of what is happening in Wisconsin and Egypt?

  19. sdemetri

    In the 1999 court case that examined whether James Earl Ray was in fact responsible for Martin Luther King’s death, William Schaap testified as an expert witness of the government’s history of this type of media manipulation and propaganda, including large sums to cover direct placement of operatives in news rooms, fake news, news room fronts that are government staffed and run, direct manipulation of public opinion through a variety of media streams. That “social media” is now under their purview is hardly surprising.

    The effectiveness of the operation is in the fact that most people still consider James Earl Ray responsible for King’s shooting. The jury in the 1999 trial rules contrary to this, and the King family’s statement says they believe he had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Memphis police and military operatives were implicated with others. Their statement reads:

    “After hearing and reviewing the extensive testimony and evidence, which had never before been tested under oath in a court of law, it took the Memphis jury only 1½ hours to find that a conspiracy to kill Dr. King did exist. Most significantly, this conspiracy involved agents of the governments of the City of Memphis, the state of Tennessee and the United States of America. The overwhelming weight of the evidence also indicated that James Earl Ray was not the triggerman and, in fact, was an unknowing patsy.”

    Schaap testified that once a myth becomes firmly implanted in a person’s mind, he had been told by neurologists that actual physical changes must take place in the brain to accept the truer account, even when the evidence is overwhelming. The propaganda operations are designed to establish the myth of our day as firmly as possible, knowing it is very hard to dislodge them once established. The official account of the September 11 attacks is one such well organized, well established myth. Upon closer inspection, however, it fails in countless ways, a chief reason 9/11 family groups continue to call for an independent investigation.

  20. lambert strether

    So, maybe “Obots” wasn’t such an inaccurate term after all for what went down in the 2008 D primaries. Axelrod’s day job, after all, was and is corporate astroturfing; he would have been remiss had he not done his best for his client, Obama, by using this technology.

  21. lambert strether

    From the standpoint of architecting democratic systems, it would seem that a scale-free “monoculture” of extremely large sites (HuffPo, Kos, and has anyone ever ventured into the threads of news sites Yahoo?) are very susceptible to infection by agents of disinformation.

    Conversely, a network of smaller, curated sites, where commenters need to display adaptability and build a track record, is probably less susceptible to such infectious agents (though the race between organisms and their parasites is never-ending…) Whether business models can be developed to support such sites is the $64K question.

    I’m very pleased to imagine, however, that whoever paid those billions for HuffPo (I forget, and who cares) thought they were getting a vibrant community with a lot of eyeballs, when in fact they were getting a sterile congeries of simulated interaction between armies of bots. Hopefully, they lose all their money, having not done their due diligence.

    1. Joe Rebholz

      “…when in fact they were getting a sterile congeries of simulated interaction between armies of bots.”

      Beautiful thought! I wonder if someone could write a bot to analyze Hufpo’s comments to determine how true this is. It will take some more thought but it should be relatively easy to count the percentages of ad hominem, non sequiter, and other giveaways of robot arguments in comments. A kind of memetic analysis. Could work for any blog.

  22. wind blown donut box

    “many questions remain about how the military would apply such technology”

    There are two obvious situations that come to mind, the first being that it is being used for spying and gaining access into social networks, the second is related to preparing methods for shutting down social networks and disrupt communications, and hence control the ability of people to organize. See Wisconsin, Egypt and China as examples.

    Amen

    1. unauthorized access

      What about facebook demanding your telephone number … that’s a nice way to connect with your Big Brother and credit card company and all those cool people around the globe waiting to screw you…

      1. lambert strether

        And I’m sure that the US demanding that Internet access to facebook and twitter be restored in Egypt had NOTHING WHATEVER to do with their intelligence value, putative or not….

  23. Allen C

    Any direct or indirect statement made by the government to its citizens should require disclosure. Perhaps this was missed in the Constitution.

    Looking unpromising…

  24. Oh Poop and P

    Whoa, whoa, whoa .. I know something weird was happening:

    n concert with the Google Instant launch, Google disabled the ability of users to choose to see more than 10 search results per page. Instant Search can be disabled via Google’s “preferences” menu, but autocomplete-style search suggestions now cannot be disabled. A Google representative stated, “It’s in keeping with our vision of a unified Google search experience to make popular, useful features part of the default experience, rather than maintain different versions of Google. As Autocomplete quality has improved, we felt it was appropriate to have it always on for all of our users.”

    …. ahhhh…. Google is Big Brother, but you already knew that, right?

  25. Autocomplete Not Good!!!!!!!

    To get rid of Autocomplete

    See: The Firefox Search Bar is a convenient way to search using your favorite search engines. Firefox comes with a set of pre-installed or “default” search engines which are available to all user profiles.

    The default search engine is Google. Other available search engines are accessible from the Search Bar drop-down menu.

  26. Batcrap Infested PC

    Ok, everything on that list, with the possible exception of Wiki, is deleted. I’ll still use Google (most of the time, because of larger database) but not with auto complete … now I have to look at my library files and see what Google has embedded in there for autocomplete .. it is a battle cleaning out the attacks by corporations!

    This also makes me return to another point about local cookies and all the trash associated with Flash cookies and Adobe cookies and tracking sessions… folks, get to know your pc’s and look for all that crap. You could have several gigs of crap that can be deleteed, needs to be deleted!

    See: Adobe finally acknowledges, fixes Flash “cookie” abuse

    Look at all your caches and prefs and dig deeep. Adobe had massive amounts of collection data, as in storing every pdf file you’ve ever touched and well, uhhh, I’m sick of this topic, and sorry to go off there. Ooops. There’s so much more…

  27. Francois T

    It’s our role to provide a clear and accurate, completely truthful and transparent picture for any audience.”

    Mbwahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!

  28. Neural correlates of consciousness

    wisconsin protest

    why ‘week of rage’ matters to rest of America

    No region of the country was more comprehensively recast by the 2010 elections than the seven states of the upper Midwest that arc from Minnesota to Ohio. Where before Democrats had held the upper hand, Republicans now have a virtual stranglehold on politics, controlling both houses of the legislature and the governors’ chairs in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

    The full import of that switch has become apparent on the streets of Madison, Wis., this week. At least 25,000 union Wisconsin protesters amassed Friday morning in and around the Capitol to protest the governor’s plans. Earlier in the week, there had been as many as 40,000. Schools have been canceled, and one rally lasted a marathon 17 hours.

    With the state’s tea party activists set to counterprotest Saturday, the drama has set the scene for the streets of Madison to become a surrogate for the clash of broader forces that currently define American politics.

  29. Paul Tioxon

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/nov/05/whos-in-big-brothers-database/?pagination=false

    Who’s in Big Brother’s Database?
    November 5, 2009 NY REVIEW OF BOOKS
    James Bamford

    The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency
    by Matthew M. Aid

    In the near decade since September 11, the tectonic plates beneath the American intelligence community have undergone a seismic shift, knocking the director of the CIA from the top of the organizational chart and replacing him with the new director of national intelligence, a desk-bound espiocrat with a large staff but little else. Not only surviving the earthquake but emerging as the most powerful chief the spy world has ever known was the director of the NSA. He is in charge of an organization three times the size of the CIA and empowered in 2008 by Congress to spy on Americans to an unprecedented degree, despite public criticism of the Bush administration’s use of the agency to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance as part of the “war on terror.” The legislation also largely freed him of the nettlesome Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). And in another significant move, he was recently named to head the new Cyber Command, which also places him in charge of the nation’s growing force of cyber warriors.

    1. Yotta

      Thanks for the employment link!

      Re: “As the sensors associated with the various surveillance missions improve,” says the report, referring to a variety of technical collection methods, “the data volumes are increasing with a projection that sensor data volume could potentially increase to the level of Yottabytes (1024 Bytes) by 2015.”1 Roughly equal to about a septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text, numbers beyond Yottabytes haven’t yet been named. “

  30. Psychoanalystus

    I posted this above, although I meant to post it here, at the end of the thread.

    Somebody above wrote that he does not think the US is a totalitarian state. This is not true. We currently do have totalitarianism in the United States. However, it is not classic totalitarianism, where an autocratic political leader controls everything, including the economy. What we have here is known as “inverted totalitarianism,” as described by Sheldon Wolin in his book Democracy Incorporated. Inverted totalitarianism is basically a corporate structure very much like our own, where anonymous plutocrats control the economics as well as the government and the political spheres.

    The military-industrial-complex is very much an integral part of that corporate structure. In fact, it is the greatest beneficiary of it. However, as the United States is being economically and financially hollowed out by this massive military industrial system (which consumes most of our resources but produces nothing of economic value), we continue to lose all commercial production capacity, and we become little more than a banana republic with nukes, the illusion of economic prosperity needs to be maintained at any cost.

    This is why our inverted totalitarianism relies on a massive propaganda machine, combined with a sophisticated ability to manufacture any number of illusions that the dumbed down masses would readily accept. Among such illusions are: the illusion of prosperity, the illusion of freedom, the illusion of choice, the illusion of community, the illusion of happiness, the illusion of safety, the illusion of news, and so on.

    Furthermore, what the internet, social media, smart phones, realistic games, and the advent of virtual reality offers our inverted totalitarian rulers is the ability to finally manufacture the Illusion of Reality. Yes, that is the Matrix.

    I assume most contributors here are not teenagers, thus we still remember reality as it once was. However, I fear for the young Americans entering adulthood. They are so far removed from reality, so embedded and surrounded by reality-distorting devices and technologies, so devoid of real personhood and personality, so unable to form basic human connections and attachments, I think it will be very easy for our corporate big brothers to control them. What I wrote in this last paragraph was filtered through the lens of a psychologist, and it is a phenomenon I have lately spent a good while observing.

    Psychoanalystus

  31. decora

    i want to assure you that all of my obnoxiousness is 100% authentic. nobody is paying me (for damn sure) to write the comments that i write.

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