Friday, February 21, 2020

Will Big Tech SuperHeroes Save U.S. from Drowning in B.S.?

Each day we are subjected to a massive onslaught of misinformation, propaganda and outright lies originating from our two political parties, mainstream media, predatory capitalist corporations and a slew of other sources.

This is nothing new. Historically, the tools of disinformation, propaganda, "alternative facts", lies, misdirection, etc. have been in use since forever. All centers of power, religious, social, government, including the U.S. government, have used them when it suited their purposes.

The difference we face today is simply the medium or tools used to deliver the falsehoods and misdirection, i.e. social media, as well as the overwhelming volume or immenseness of the onslaught.

Fortunately, our world has not yet totally succumbed to this "Alternative Facts Cesspool" downpour.

With the help of the social media*giants, Google, Facebook, Twitter, we may still have time to turn the social media disinformation tools against the alternative facts / misdirection propagators

If, that is, they will turn on their awesome tech power brains and create a “tech” solution to do the “big lies” data sorting and lay bare those unadulterated truths we are all seeking.

If “they” will deal with the problem that their very existence has helped create, then hopefully, despite all the B.S. flying about, we will eventually find the nuggets of truth buried deep underneath.

As I see it, the big tech guys are all making big bucks. Now, they gotta help solve the big problem. So, Google, Facebook and Twitter – be the SuperHeroes we hoped you’d be! Save U.S. from drowning in B.S.

Here’s the story…

The Complicated Truth of Countering Disinformation, Christina Nemr and Will Gangware, warontherocks.com, 20 Sept 2019.**

A few mind boggling quotes from the article:

"...social media’s unprecedented ability to spread disinformation succeeds in part because of vulnerabilities in the way people process and evaluate information. In an information environment characterized by an oversaturation of content and algorithms designed to increase views and shares, narratives (true or not) can quickly go viral by appealing to our biases. This new, decentralized world of content creation and consumption is ripe for exploitation by nefarious actors who seek to spread doubt and untruths."

"To counter modern disinformation, then, we cannot focus solely on social media platforms or current technologies — we should also understand the psychological factors that underpin our identities and perceptions of the truth. Acknowledging the ways in which people are vulnerable to biased narratives is a key part of developing necessary multi-dimensional responses. Armed with this framework, stakeholders can then explore using disinformation tactics for the purpose of elevating credible information, supporting collaborative long-term research on psychological approaches, and creating public-private platforms to share key information across organizations."

"There are two constants in this complex information environment: the use of propaganda and disinformation as tools for influence and obfuscation, and the underlying psychological factors that make humans vulnerable to such narratives. What is subject to change, however, are the technologies by which such content is created and spread."

"Given these factors, it is important not to overstate the impact of technology, but rather to understand and address the interwoven complexities disinformation poses. In the near term, social media platforms are best positioned to lead counter-disinformation efforts, and these efforts should be made as transparent as possible in collaboration with government and other partners. However, all stakeholders should approach it as the multi-dimensional problem that it is, contending honestly with the cognitive limitations of people’s information intake and the ambiguous nature of what constitutes disinformation. Only then will we craft effective policies, regardless of the technologies involved."

Please go here for the whole thing...
The Complicated Truth of Countering Disinformation, Christina Nemr and Will Gangware, warontherocks.com, 20 Sept 2019.

*O.K., I know Google is not considered "social media" like Facebook and Twitter. Still, Google is a major player in all this disinformation mess stuff. So, they are in. Just like all the other "big tech" corps. As I see it, the big tech guys are all making big bucks. Now, they gotta help solve the big problem.

**Christina Nemr is Director of Park Advisors, overseeing counter-disinformation and countering violent extremism programming. She previously worked with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism. Will Gangware consulted for Park Advisors and previously worked with the NYPD Intelligence Bureau. This article contains select excerpts from a larger report on psychological and technological vulnerabilities to disinformation found here, https://www.park-advisors.com/disinforeport. Please go here for the full report:  https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5714561a01dbae161fa3cad1/t/5c9cb93724a694b834f23878/1553774904750/PA_WMD_Report_2019.pdf The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not reflect the views of Park Advisors or its clients.

The Greatest American Hero Theme Song - Believe it or Not - Joey Scarbury -1981


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"A Client No Other Bank Would touch - Donald Trump"

Just in case you don't know, this is what  Real Slime looks like.
Have we finally reached the Trump-Republicans' Slime Limit?

Could the Trump / Russian dirty money / Deutsche Bank connection be too much slime for them to eat?

Please watch this clip from Rachel Maddow's interview of David Enrich, finance editor at The New York Times, about his forthcoming book,  Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction.




-more here-
Maddow breaks down potential ‘direct financial connection’ between the Russian government and Donald Trump, Bob Brigham, rawstory.com, 17 Feb 2020. 



Monday, February 17, 2020

The Gift

Robert H. Lustig, M.D., M.S.L.
If there were just one gift that would make your life better... make the lives of all those you love better... what would that be?

In my view, the gift is Dr. Robert Lustig's presentation, given 4 Feb 2020 at the University of Michigan. It's about our Processed Food Disease.

Please watch and share Dr. Lustig's comments. Your life may literally depend upon it.

Corporate Wealth or Public Health? - Robert Lustig - 4 Feb 2020

Friday, February 14, 2020

Where Are Those Swamp Creatures?


For just a moment or two, please join me as we travel way back in time to 29 Nov 2016, when we last visited the Swamp topic: Ah... about Draining That Swamp...

Yes, we were younger back then… but not dumber.

When Mr. Trump crowed about draining the D.C. swamp, most of us knew he was just spewing more B.S. to keep his followers' minds occupied with delusions of: "He's doing things no one else, especially Democrats, would think of doing, getting rid of the nasty people who steal my tax money and give it to the black/brown/illegal alien/do-nothings-on-welfare scum.”

So, what has transpired?

Here’s former Labor Sec. Dr. Robert Reich to bring us up-to-date about that swamp and its creepy occupants, who are now working for Mr. Trump and screwing you over. “You” means 99.9% of the U.S. population - even those who voted for Mr. Trump and still support him to this minute.

5 Ways Trump Has NOT Drained the Swamp with Robert Reich





Thursday, February 13, 2020

Our Alternate Information Ecosystem

Illustration Credit: After Paris - sorting truth from fiction, Toby Manhire & Toby Morris, rnz.co.nz.
I’ve spent most of my life studying, observing and working within the “process of communication, understanding and misunderstanding”. For me that process revolved around helping clients communicate with the mainstream media, employees and customers.

I can honestly say that I never wrote or distributed inaccurate, misleading or false information. I never was asked to do so by my clients and I never thought of doing so on their behalf.

Sadly, I’ve now come to believe that honesty, reliability, integrity and facts have become passé.

While propaganda, distortion and falsification have always been with us, the people who practiced those “techniques”, since WWII and up to 2016, were not respected and to a large extent repudiated.

Things are different today. We live in the era of “alternative facts” and institutional-level deceit.

Outright lying has become the norm. We have descended into an abyss so deep that not even the brightest, laser light of truth cannot penetrate the darkness surrounding us.

We no longer know how to distinguish truthfulness from deceitfulness nor fact from fiction.

And, the saddest part of all is... we all want to hear “our” lies, “our’ fiction.

McKay Coppins’ recent article, The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President, published in The Atlantic, explains how deeply we have fallen into "an alternate information ecosystem" and how the Trump people are using it to their advantage.

Here are a few quotes:

"What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal* political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise."

"After the 2016 election, much was made of the threats posed to American democracy by foreign disinformation. Stories of Russian troll farms and Macedonian fake-news mills loomed in the national imagination. But while these shadowy outside forces preoccupied politicians and journalists, Trump and his domestic allies were beginning to adopt the same tactics of information warfare that have kept the world’s demagogues and strongmen in power."

"Parscale didn’t invent this practice—Barack Obama’s campaign famously used it in 2012, and Clinton’s followed suit. But Trump’s effort in 2016 was unprecedented, in both its scale and its brazenness. In the final days of the 2016 race, for example, Trump’s team tried to suppress turnout among black voters in Florida by slipping ads into their News Feeds that read, “Hillary Thinks African-Americans Are Super Predators.” An unnamed campaign official boasted to Bloomberg Businessweek that it was one of “three major voter suppression operations underway.” (The other two targeted young women and white liberals.)"

"After the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, Facebook was excoriated for its mishandling of user data and complicity in the viral spread of fake news. Mark Zuckerberg promised to do better, and rolled out a flurry of reforms. But then, last fall, he handed a major victory to lying politicians: Candidates, he said, would be allowed to continue running false ads on Facebook. (Commercial advertisers, by contrast, are subject to fact-checking.) In a speech at Georgetown University, the CEO argued that his company shouldn’t be responsible for arbitrating political speech, and that because political ads already receive so much scrutiny, candidates who choose to lie will be held accountable by journalists and watchdogs."

"Both parties will rely on micro-targeted ads this year, but the president is likely to have a distinct advantage. The Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have reportedly compiled an average of 3,000 data points on every voter in America. They have spent years experimenting with ways to tweak their messages based not just on gender and geography, but on whether the recipient owns a gun or watches the Golf Channel."

"While these ads can be used to try to win over undecided voters, they’re most often deployed for fundraising and for firing up the faithful—and Trump’s advisers believe this election will be decided by mobilization, not persuasion. To turn out the base, the campaign has signaled that it will return to familiar themes: the threat of “illegal aliens”—a term Parscale has reportedly encouraged Trump to use—and the corruption of the “swamp.”

"Beyond Facebook, the campaign is also investing in a texting platform that could allow it to send anonymous messages directly to millions of voters’ phones without their permission. Until recently, people had to opt in before a campaign could include them in a mass text. But with new “peer to peer” texting apps—including one developed by Gary Coby, a senior Trump adviser—a single volunteer can send hundreds of messages an hour, skirting federal regulations by clicking “Send” one message at a time. Notably, these messages aren’t required to disclose who’s behind them, thanks to a 2002 ruling by the Federal Election Commission that cited the limited number of characters available in a text."

Please go here for the whole story:

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President, McKay Coppins, The Atlantic, 10 Feb 2020.

*An illiberal democracy, also called a partial democracy, low intensity democracy, empty democracy, hybrid regime or guided democracy, is a governing system in which although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power because of the lack of civil  liberties; thus it is not an "open society". There are many countries "that are categorized as neither 'free' nor 'not free', but as 'probably free', falling somewhere between democratic and nondemocratic regimes".[2] This may be because a constitution limiting government powers exists, but those in power ignore its liberties, or because an adequate legal constitutional framework of liberties does not exist.[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illiberal_democracy

Fleetwood Mac - Little Lies - 1987

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wolf Rebranded Sheep?


Will the real Michael Bloomberg please stand up?

A "former" Republican now running as a Democrat, Mr. Bloomberg is clearly a billionaire enigma, clothed as the potential "Democrat" savior and Trump alternative.

What would he do if he became president?

Would he resurrect the George W. Bush administration? (That might include the infamous neoliberals who gave us our current Iraq/Iran/Afghanistan debacle as well as the extensive "American Empire" we now are policing around the world. And, even worse, brought us to the "alternative facts" Trump era.

Scary, isn't it?

Some light on this subject comes from a recent Democracy Now interview:

"NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, Bloomberg is really, I think, a subtext. He is the oligarch-in-waiting to try to grab control of the White House. And a lot of facts just aren’t getting out there. I mean, it is just a classic of, and it is a dystopian classic of, “Can the White House be bought?” Just the onslaught of advertising, particularly on TV around the country, and he’s rising in the polls. Has he hit the ceiling? We don’t know."

"One of the bits of video that I think must be circulated to millions is on YouTube. And that is with Michael Bloomberg speaking at the 2004 Republican National Convention, vehemently expressing his support and endorsement for the re-election of George W. Bush. So, how do you go from 2004 with that kind of speech to saying in 2020 you want to be the Democratic presidential nominee? Well, that would require tremendous amnesia among people who vote in Democratic primaries. It would require forgetting about or discounting the human lives that George W. Bush destroyed and that Bloomberg helped him destroy in Iraq and, for that matter, the war at home, the class war, the racism that George W. Bush embodied through his policies. So, it comes down to: Are we going to live in this fantasy world driven by a $55 billion man, or are we going to get real about humanity and what is at stake?"

Here's the rest of the story:

Bloomberg is a billionaire Republican who terrorized black and brown youth: Sanders’ supporters


Please go here for the interview script.