A Survey of Propaganda

This is an excellent survey article on modern propaganda techniques, how they work, and how we might defend ourselves against them.

Cory Doctorow summarizes the techniques on BoingBoing:

...in Russia, it's about flooding the channel with a mix of lies and truth, crowding out other stories; in China, it's about suffocating arguments with happy-talk distractions, and for trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos, it's weaponizing hate, outraging people so they spread your message to the small, diffused minority of broken people who welcome your message and would otherwise be uneconomical to reach.

As to defense: "Debunking doesn't work: provide an alternative narrative."

Posted on February 27, 2017 at 6:24 AM • 82 Comments

Comments

JTRIGgredFebruary 27, 2017 6:41 AM

First, there's the Russian kind of propaganda... Then there's the Chinese kind of propaganda... and third and that's all, there's the a-, I mean the kind of propaganda that individual bad people in America do if they're really bad cause there's no United States Government propaganda, what do you mean, how could you say that, don't you love America?

Holy crap you statist government contractors think we're dumb.

francFebruary 27, 2017 6:46 AM

and for trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos, it's weaponizing hate, outraging people so they spread your message

This in itself has been a propaganda exercise for well over a year - demonising Yiannopoulos, a gay Jew that likes black dudes, as some kind of KKK/Aryan Brotherhood Frankenstein monster. "Weaponising hate" is one of the many thought terminating cliches being painted on him, yet there is never any citable detail that proves it*. No I don't agree with him on everything, but no he is not a hatemonger. He is a provocateur, yes. A Devil's advocate often. And reducing his opposition to gibbering puddles of outraged incoherence? Always - but only by using their own words and actions against them.

Doctorow has been as guilty of churning out anti-Yiannopoulos propaganda for over a year now as have the legions of other social justice warriors out there. There is pot and kettle shrapnel everywhere Cory.

* This process is called "establishing the threat narrative" - it is the bread and butter of the SJW pseudo-left everywhere and used against anyone that has the nerve to question their words and actions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAoxZjat7fc

Couldn'tPossiblyCommentFebruary 27, 2017 6:52 AM

None of this is hugely new. People have manipulating other people for centuries. What's changed is that we've trained an entire generation of youngsters stuck in their social media echo chamber bubbles to believe the first headline that turns up from their favorite Twitter feed. Maybe we shouldn't have done that.

Perhaps most amusing in this article is the propaganda within it.

* Restricts the mentioned list of 'propaganda' sources to the existing liberal targets
* Uses all the right buzzwords in describing those targets & their behavior e.g. label anything they disagree with as fake news
* Calls the violent thuggery of the 'protesters' in places like Berkeley 'experiments'
* Talks about changing the narrative - because nobody really deals with truth and lies any more apparently, they mis-speak or don't recall...

Where's the behaviour of CNN? How about the tactics of the DNC in 'getting the taco vote' and their propaganda machine? The paid seat-filling at the Democratic convention after the Sanders walkout? The tactics revealed by Project Veritas? The money trail to Black Lives Matter? Come on, it's not even fun to watch when the bias is this transparent.

That said, there's a kernel of truth in there. If journalists weren't all racing to be the first with a scoop, and did fact-checking worthy of their profession, we would see a lot more propaganda being ineffective. Of course, that's not what many desire - they just want their propaganda to win.

keinerFebruary 27, 2017 7:10 AM

@franc

If you really don't understand which kind of utter nonsense you are writing, ask your mother, she will most likely be able to explain it to you.

bobFebruary 27, 2017 7:23 AM

@keiner On the one hand, reasoned yet contentious writing; on the other, insults. Your post do neither yourself nor your argument any favours.

farkus888February 27, 2017 7:32 AM

@keiner

You played right into what @franc said. No facts no details, just ad hominem. You attacked him for listening and considering the point without doing either yourself. You will never convert a Milo supporter to your side by insulting them.

tombFebruary 27, 2017 7:58 AM

The only notable feature of the "new propaganda" model is that it's effective without concern for the truth. They get away with it precisely because social media and blogs can a) flood our attention and consume our time b) if the media doesn't admit it's wrong, nobody remembers the mistakes in the midst of the latest fear/anger inducing crisis and c) the media outlets convince us that nobody else is being truthful except d) the sources we seek that confirm with the the source in c) is saying.

The old propaganda model spread from the intellectuals to the mainstream where it was irrevocably fixed within small groups like Bible study groups or Book clubs. The new model is spread directly to the "common person" target audience who are convinced they have special access to some hidden truth and either can't comprehend or refuse to think in depth about anything. A major part of this is people growing cynical and nihilistic in the flood of information that appears to wash away all hope of rational truth "if we don't stick to listening to the people who tell us what we already expect to hear".

It's an inter-generational susceptibility to disinformation. It's not a youth problem. You see the same behavior among the young and old who are so arrogant and demoralized that they'll believe anything you tell them so long as its contrary to the status quo or establishment narrative.

keinerFebruary 27, 2017 8:02 AM

I would also recommend dumb little kids like this Donald T to take to their mother, but in his case it won't buy much from what a read about his really sad youth and family. Normally talking to your mother is no insult. At least for reasonable people.

1035-960February 27, 2017 8:28 AM

And of course the propaganda finger-pointing immediately gets diverted to two synthetic factions herded into centrally-controlled political parties. CIA's decisive propaganda masterstroke was to get you to blame what the government does on the other party. That keeps everybody all pissed off and takes your mind off the real work of brainwashing:

http://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/cia/russholmes/pdf/104-10406-10110.pdf

http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

abbaFebruary 27, 2017 8:38 AM

Methinks Corey is unable to keep a cool head when talking of Milo. His writing suffers as a result.

WinterFebruary 27, 2017 9:03 AM

@Frank et al.
"demonising Yiannopoulos, a gay Jew that likes black dudes"

Milo is not demonized. He is just shown to be a troll who is fanning the flames of hate wherever he can. That is a simple observation. But the PC Vigilantes of Breitbart et al do not allow anyone to say these obvious facts.

Just looking what Milo says and how he says it can lead only to a single conclusion: He attempts to start a riot between his supporters and anyone who does not support Trump.

His religion and personal preferences are utterly irrelevant to these conclusions.

https://www.salon.com/2016/12/19/trolling-in-the-name-of-free-speech-how-milo-yiannopoulos-built-an-empire-off-violent-harassment/

Clive RobinsonFebruary 27, 2017 11:03 AM

@ Bruce,

As to defense: "Debunking doesn't work: provide an alternative narrative."

As has been observed in the past,

There are those that can not hear.
There are those who chose not to hear.
There are those who hear but chose not to listen, or alow their prejudices to be shown as false.

An alternative narrative rarely stops conspiracy theories or the like, no matter how they are presented. Even ostracising such people fails to stop them (think moon landing deniers). For people dug in like ticks in a dogs pelt, who will not respond to reason then ridicule, shaming and being made the but of jokes is perhaps a better way to deal with them.

ProfessionalFebruary 27, 2017 11:07 AM

@All

Could we please stay focused on the topic of this blog : professional security, being discussed between security professionals.

I have been following the blog for years, decades in fact. It has always been of great quality. But for a few months now, I see aggressivity and insults in the comments. We all see that this is related to the recent political situation inside USA.

Could you please understand that 1) there is a life outside USA, 95% of humanity in fact, 2) there are many dedicated places elsewhere online to debate politics, 3) this is a professional place.

Dear all, please leave your political aggressivity outside and come back to rational and professional security topics.

Thank you in advance.

keinerFebruary 27, 2017 11:29 AM

...but you have already recognized that your "95%" are basically dead if the junta at the White House succeeds, huh?

WinterFebruary 27, 2017 11:35 AM

@keiner
Indeed, if I keep quiet when they come for my neighbor, who will protest when they come for me?

trentFebruary 27, 2017 11:38 AM

> As to defense: "Debunking doesn't work: provide an alternative narrative."

Every time I see something like this I can only read "humans still unable to favor reason over emotion, even in situations with objective answers." Are we saying that it is now the responsibility of "debunkers" to guide the unenlightened to a "correct" outlook despite the subjects inability to apply their own critical thinking?

Focusing about how to sell someone a particular story is how we got into this cognitive dissonance mess in the first place. Having a population only able to grasp an engaging & well crafted story is not the path to a functioning democracy. The sensible long term play would be to improve the critical thinking skills of the entire population; as the moral goes, teach a person to fish.

AnuraFebruary 27, 2017 11:47 AM

If you want to stop propaganda, or conspiracy theories for that matter, you need a transparent society. When you have a society where secrets are the default then people are less informed, and more distrustful; both of those can be exploited by propagandists.

Individuals should have a right to privacy, but the institutions that we deal with should not. Institutions themselves are only important so long as they are serving the public, and their secrecy only serves to give them power over the public. Propaganda is not just about truth vs lies, it's about control over the information itself. This is why relying on leaks is dangerous: it is trivially easy to withhold the information that doesn't fit your narrative, and leak the information that does.

vas pupFebruary 27, 2017 11:51 AM

@all: support 100% comment of respected blogger @Professional.
The problem is that REAL facts affects us based on how they are presented to us due to psychology (we still human, not AI). I'll suggest this small video presentation of Prof. Lakoff:
http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/26/us/trump-prof-fact-check-cnntv/
Please pay attention not actual matter, but to psychology presented there. You'll need that because human is the weakest link in security, and those who understood psychology could manipulate that weakest link for their advantage (social engineering based on science - you just need to understand it). That is as 'excuse' to satisfy Professional's point of the subject matter of Bruce's blog.

CasherFebruary 27, 2017 11:55 AM

Great analysis by Doctorow

As I've written before, we're not living through a crisis about what is true, we're living through a crisis about how we know whether something is true.

The people who support Trump do so tribally, like supporters of a sports team.


https://anepigone.blogspot.com/2016/08/moderate-is-race-relative-term.html

https://anepigone.blogspot.com/2016/08/conservative-is-race-relative-term-too.html

https://anepigone.blogspot.com/2016/08/and-then-there-are-left-liberals.html


Ask your gut, what version feels more truthful?

WinterFebruary 27, 2017 12:28 PM

"The people who support Trump do so tribally, like supporters of a sports team."

The civil war in Yougoslavia was tribal too. So are the wars in Syriah and Iraq.

Most of Europe has seen 70 years of peace and prosperity, the US for even longer, and people are sick of it, they have enough.

Putin understands what people want, war and poverty. He give the Russians both war and hardship, and they adore him. No wonder Trump, Le Pen and all those others want to immitate him.

Ross SniderFebruary 27, 2017 1:19 PM

This is hardly a good survey about modern propaganda techniques.

Here's a better list:

1a. Control the narrative. That means reporting on events as they happen, but spin the facts and select them in a way that contributes to a continuation of a moral point. For enemies: Everything that happens in Syria, say, should be because the government is atrocious. Terrorism there is because of the state. Run stories not condemning terrorism, but the Syrian government. War fighting over territory in which the government wins. Call it an 'invasion' rather than a 'capture' or 'freeing'. Loss of territory? The regime wasn't legitimate and could not provide credible security. People well fed? Government is trying to placate its people. People starving? Government is trying to break people by attrition.

1b. Control the narrative. That means reporting on events as they happen, but spin the facts and select them in a way that contributes to a continuation of a moral point. For America: Terrorism is there because they hate our freedom. When America captures territory, even by a population that hates the occupation and blow themselves up in protest? We’re ‘freeing’ them. Loss of territory? Despicable act of terror, we must not have intervened to limit civilian casualties. People well fed? Good old American virtue. People starving? Local warlords stealing food - this justifies our continued presence.

2a. Appeal to your audience. This means relying on their collective psychological weaknesses, such as appeal to self worth or fear. For enemies: this means spreading rumors that their leadership is dead (e.g. al Baghdadi), using video games in which your enemy is the enemy in the game (e.g. the Israeli and US game spread in Syria with Assad as the enemy), using soccer players and celebrity ‘heroes’ and attributing them with ideas you want the audience to have (much of the US propaganda in the Middle East)

2b. Appeal to your audience. This means relying on their collective psychological weaknesses, such as appeal to self worth or fear. For America: Equivocate political enemies with Putin or another foreign scary enemy. Run stories about horrific things about war in the Middle East to scare Americans into believing they are in danger and they must support the military to destroy the threat. Run stories about child pornographers to destroy the reputation of opponents and challenge the right to use encryption. Use good looking people with white teeth who flash smiles and giggle to spread the information you want them to repeat.

3a. Exhaust your opponents psychological defenses. This means both raising the cost to disagreement and raising the frequency and the reward for agreeing. For enemies: This means stringing together propaganda material so that it appears there is a consensus on an issue when there is not. This can be done with partnerships with Google, Facebook or merely with intelligence operations. Once the operating environment allowed for single newspapers or radio stations to dominate the information environment. Now messages need to be coordinated between outlets, pamphlets, on-the-ground engagement and signals operations.

3b. Exhaust your opponents psychological defenses. This means both raising the cost to disagreement and raising the frequency and the reward for agreeing. For America: This means stringing together propaganda material so that it appears there is a consensus on an issue when there is not. This can be partnering with multiple media outlets and PR firms so that the same headlines/stories run on every page (e.g. “bulk collection” rather than “mass surveillance” during Snowden revelations). It means paying distributors to run blanket coverage on the one story and creating and echo chamber. It means trying to cultivate a system in which private actors on their own accord independently adopt your talking points as their own and a chain reaction is build toward a consensus. It means punishing people who question by ostracizing them, by arguing with them, and by removing their platforms.

Ross SniderFebruary 27, 2017 1:35 PM

@Bruce

It's difficult to take you seriously if you condone the linked article, which is small, biased and bereft of detail - as 'excellent'. It's hardly realistic, hardly contextual, and looks more like a product of echo chamber than it does original investigation. I say this as I've been reading and investigating modern propaganda for a the past few years.

NarkorFebruary 27, 2017 1:49 PM

Doctorow would be a master propagandist if he was actually any good at it. He's become more shrill, intellectually inflexible and increasingly dogmatic with each passing year.

He's the poster child for why progressive liberalism is being rejected not only by the working class, but the post millennials as well.

He's the exact reason why progressives haven't been able to win the political debate against the clown car on LSD keystone cops competence of the current conservative party.

Doctorow proves that you can't use hyperbolic incompetence to overcome gross idiocy.

WinterFebruary 27, 2017 3:47 PM

It is really amazing how many new contributers are attracted to this blog the moment something anti-Trump is posted. Curiously, the overwhelming majority of the new contributions follow the speaking points of Breitbart CS.

Even more remakable, you do not only see this phenomenon in blogs on computer security, but also on other subjects, e.g., theoretical physics.

Must be a temendous coincidence. Or, maybe Cory is simply right.

SkepticalFebruary 27, 2017 4:23 PM

@Ross:

Actually the RAND article is an interesting summary of Russian propaganda techniques, the efficacy of those techniques, and possible means of countering those techniques.

Most of it is not inconsistent with what you wrote here, but there are some notable differences.

First, you describe the use of high-volume messaging as a means of exhausting opponents. The article by contrast focuses on the use of high-volume messaging as a means of increasing the probability that the message will be accepted as true. This hypothesis rests on the conjecture that when an individual hears a message from multiple sources over a period of time, she is more likely to register it as true.

Second, the article notes that the effects of a high-volume approach vary based upon certain factors, including the actual interest that a given individual has in the message or issue, and the amount of information available.

Third, the article doesn't merely advise "control the narrative," but explains why being first and often with a message about an event can have greater impact, i.e. how a given narrative is actually controlled.

I could go on, but the key difference is that you're describing objectives (control the narrative, appeal to your audience, etc.) while the article discusses actual techniques and how they might be effective.

What's striking about the article, frankly, is the extent to which the techniques ascribed to Russian information operations are so visibly in use by President Trump and his inner circle.

For example, the article notes that forewarning about a source is more effective in countering a source's message than debunking the message after the source has delivered it.

President Trump's ceaseless hammering of the press as "fake news" is simply a pernicious application of that technique.

Although - given the President's abysmal approval ratings - the lowest recorded for any President at this point in the term - and remarkably low scorings of his competence in general - it's difficult to assess how effective the President's public relations strategy is. Perhaps things would be worse but for that strategy; I doubt it though.

In a society with a free press, and a large contingent of journalists who still believe in the idea of attempting to be objective in reporting a story (contrary to the empty postmodernism of Greenwald, or certain persons on the right), the truth retains formidable force.

HorsefeathersFebruary 27, 2017 4:55 PM

Actually, @Winter, there's anti-Trump catnip for Republican suckers, anti-Russian catnip for Democrat suckers, and anti-Chinese catnip for above-it-all beltway wannabes, the most helplessly brainwashed suckers of them all.

However there is nothing in Doctorow's article for you if you're not a moron. Doctorow's US examples are Christian Science Monitor nuts praying over broken arms, and VOA with some vague nonsense about crises. Is Doctorow so stupid that he writes about propaganda without reviewing any of the actual empirical work? Is he such a sad parochial goober that he never heard of the MacBride Report? Can he be that much of a hack?

To be scrupulously fair, applying the standards of the notoriously shitty speculative-fiction genre, Doctorow is less of a dipshit than China Miéville. Who is bruce gonna quote next from his panel of experts, one of these guys?

http://www.goodshowsir.co.uk/

Ross SniderFebruary 27, 2017 5:10 PM

@ Skeptical

Thanks for the comment.

My own contribution to the thread is limited in space of course. Those reading it will note it includes both tactical examples (usually in parentheses) as well as strategic approaches (labeled 1, 2 and 3).

A number of additional comments:

> What's striking about the article, frankly, is the extent to which the techniques ascribed to Russian information operations are so visibly in use by President Trump and his inner circle.

This isn't particularly striking to me. These propaganda techniques are used by all parties involved in propaganda in different mixtures. Both the Trump Administration and the Putin Administration are fighting incumbent propaganda narratives and thus their strategic incentives (e.g. call into question both the credibility and factual basis of incumbent propaganda) mean that they must have a similar strategic approach.

> Although - given the President's abysmal approval ratings - the lowest recorded for any President at this point in the term - and remarkably low scorings of his competence in general - it's difficult to assess how effective the President's public relations strategy is. Perhaps things would be worse but for that strategy; I doubt it though.

We can be really thankful that in the new party's slow crawl to get its cabinet enacted and get its administration going have delayed for some time the effects of it swinging the PR capabilities of the office in full. Once the administration establishes itself, if it makes the right 'deals' with the press, the press will act greedily as an extension of the federal propaganda machine - as it has in the past.

My guess here is that the administration is consolidating at this point support of its base, which is has done very successfully. In very centrist (mainstream) states this is pretty alienating at this point. We'll see the administration tilt to focus on legitimacy building with these parties after the base is fully consolidated. If the administration can last long enough to actually rebuild American infrastructure, for instance, it could win support from many of the people current alienated.

Having come from a historically low voter turnout year and historically low approval ratings for both candidates in the federal election it was inevitable that whoever won would have difficulty winning approval of a broad base across the homeland. I don't think this means that neither incoming team has a bad PR team - I think it says more about the difficulty of the political landscape of today's America, in which most citizens are deeply alienated from any sense of real civic process or understanding and in which confusion and ideology reign over deliberate and intelligible discourse even in the "upper classes".

> In a society with a free press, and a large contingent of journalists who still believe in the idea of attempting to be objective in reporting a story (contrary to the empty postmodernism of Greenwald, or certain persons on the right), the truth retains formidable force.

This is the most alien thing I've heard you say. The modern press does not attempt to be objective. Journalist schools teach their journalists that this is not their job. The "founding fathers" of journalism in America specifically eschew the idea of objectivity in journalism. It's just not what the press does or tries to do.

It's interesting to me that you think this is a commitment and a practice of the press. This misunderstanding I think runs deep in many communities, especially those people who feel the emotional need to believe that this is how the press functions - over actually reading any of the relevant history or literature regarding modern journalism.

Full stop modern journalism does not try to be objective.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Journalism

http://history.journalism.ku.edu/1970/1970.shtml#trends

http://history.journalism.ku.edu/1980/1980.shtml#trends

http://history.journalism.ku.edu/1990/1990.shtml#trends

Having done some paid journalism myself, and knowing quite a number of journalists in both my family and friends, I can say with confidence that the role of journalism today is to bring the stories that attract the money. Successful journalism is paid for by those who seek to control narrative by spinning incoming events the way that benefit them (why customers and partners of news media find value in the business relationship). This is because at the core of journalism practice the art of story-telling reigns supreme and because at the core of the industry rests a business mindset rather than a public good mindset.

Reading the history of news journalism in America will familiarize anyone who is curious or skeptical that this is true beyond a doubt.

tyrFebruary 27, 2017 5:48 PM


I'd suggest a quick look at archive.org for the
following:

Edward Bernays
Walter Lippman
A history book on the Creel commission.

Propaganda was invented in USA renamed as Public
Relations and advertising. The entire world has
been awash in the obfuscatory crap for generations.

The only way to fight your way through the morass
is to learn to think about everything you hear in a
critical fashion. Start with this, if it is not
from the original do not believe any secondhand
opinion about anything you are presented with until
you investigate the original material. Governments
are not your friend, and are rarely neutral in what
they feel like sharing with the governed. Brains
are in your skull for a reason not just to be an
echo chamber for the last emo crap you heard in
passing. Match any argument you hear using Feynmans
rule, if you don't understand the subjects substitute
apples and oranges instead. when you see it turn an
apple into an orange then you have detected the bogus
part of the argument.

tzFebruary 27, 2017 8:57 PM

Doctrow correctly points out the problem is epistomology, but it's actually worse. The split is between "If it feels good, it's true", v.s. "if there is reason and evidence it is true".
How do you evaluate the claims (not causal, the data) of "The Bell Curve" showing races have differeing IQs - they say Asians are smartest, not whites so spare me racism unless Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans are some kind of supremacist.

A better take is Scott Adam's (Dilbert) recently noting the problem on why we can't argue the merits of "Climate change".

http://blog.dilbert.com/tagged/Climate-science

Also don't forget that people tend to live in either blue or red bubbles. The media even insisted they had to drop any pretense of objectivity to defeat Trump. And you could see the differential treatment of stories.

At worst, Trump might have - unproven - groped women. Or used boorish words - apparently worse than shouting "Fire!" in a theater. Bill Clinton actually raped women (note he was elected just after Clarence Thomas's "high tech lynching"), at least as bad ad Bill Cosby, but I can't find a single mainstream report even discussing it.

Do you know many people who voted for the other candidate (I do). My RSS feed includes the American Conservative and Democracy Now, and I read Glenn Greenwald and listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Few in New York or other northeast cities know a Trump voter. They are suppressed on the west coast (they will have their cars vandalized if they have a bumper sticker).

With the insularity and the desire to persecute Trump voters, it became not a war of ideas but an existential threat to their jobs (ask Brendan Eich), their property, and their health or lives (beaten at Berkeley).

I'm not going to even try to have an argument with a screeching monkey trying to pepper spray me so the mob can beat me up. Or with the woman's march talking about blowing up the white house, carpet F-bombing, and talking about menstrual blood - I can't find an argument in there, only hate.

I can find hatred on the right, but far less and it isn't ignored or lauded.

The left also does propaganda. There are almost no news outlets that even try to balance things. It might be welcome, but for now you have to choose BETWEEN the New York Times and Breitbart.

There will be a civil war because we cannot talk to each other. Each side accuses the other of hate, and we can't discuss.

I don't know if California will actually secede (I remember all the horrible things about states rights and nullification - sanctuary cities are nullification, can we nullify "gay marriage" or "roe v. wade"?). But I think partition is the only thing left before we have a hot war.

AnuraFebruary 27, 2017 9:29 PM

I believe someone is conducting a study on self-awareness and they sent the placebo group here.

SpriralzFebruary 28, 2017 1:32 AM

It's no coincidence that we see and hear the Breitbart boys club brigade come out in defense of Trump and conservatives when their world view is directly challenged by the media.

It's obvious they are paid conservative lackey's who's mission it is to stalk online blogs and forums and push their right wing redneck ideology and oppose any well written fact based/science based thinking that opposes their distorted world view.

Their plan is simple: discredit the media as a bunch of left wing shills leaving no objective fact based view of current issues about society or politics.

AnonymouseFebruary 28, 2017 2:09 AM

Russia does that...
China does that...
Milo does that...
But we, we are the Good Guys[TM]!!1!!oneeleven

The most important propaganda technique: Assign to your enemies what you're doing yourself.

WinterFebruary 28, 2017 2:19 AM

@tz
"A better take is Scott Adam's (Dilbert) recently noting the problem on why we can't argue the merits of "Climate change". "

Scott Adam again shows he has no clue, or does not want to have a clue. He says he is "agnostic" about climate change. That is like saying you are "agnostic" about the germ theory of disease. Infections will kill you just as readily, whether you believe in them or not. And climate change will wreck havoc whether or not you believe in it.

Climate Change deniers do not question the models. The deny the science. They even deny the earth is warmer now than it has ever been in the past millennia. That is because they know that if they admit to the science behind the climate research, they will get better models that will still show climate is changing due to human influences. Models only get better over time.

Btw, all the big oil companies knew climate change was real as far back as the 1980's

Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/08/exxon-climate-change-1981-climate-denier-funding

Exxon's Oil Industry Peers Knew About Climate Dangers in the 1970s, Too
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/22122015/exxon-mobil-oil-industry-peers-knew-about-climate-change-dangers-1970s-american-petroleum-institute-api-shell-chevron-texaco

rFebruary 28, 2017 6:46 AM

@Anura,

2 minor comments about your link,

#1, I think the democrats are victims of the public school system. ;-)
#2, It sounds to me like both sides have a "trench" mentality, meaning:
a) keep your head down.
b) don't shoot use grenades.

AnuraFebruary 28, 2017 7:11 AM

@r

Part of the point of that link is that the whole "both sides do it" thing is part of the propaganda. Act like both sides are equal and just disagree on specifics, even if one side has facts and the other side just ignores them. This prevents rational, honest debate, and it is the main tactic currently being used by the right.

rFebruary 28, 2017 7:20 AM

Well, no. I really do think they both have a trench mentality. I as funny as it is was trying to remain neutral (as much as possible) in my response to it. I largely agree with parts of it but anyone seeing my prior responses to you could likely lob the same accusation, that I would largely agree with something you post a) and b) that we are of similar ilk.

Not to differentiate from you or vilify, but wtf are we supposed to do?

If we, I, or you stand up we get shot at - area effect and somewhat reasonably blind lobbying of 'charges2' seem to be the only thing that is ever really done.

... I think that rounds out what I was trying to say? Let me know if I left any open ends.

AnuraFebruary 28, 2017 7:53 AM

@r

The problem is that most people don't recognize a better way. They have had their backs broken, their spirits crushed to the point where they accept capitalism, and all the evil that accompanies it. Hell, people will even say "It's better than everything else" without even bothering to understand anything else! Strong community and equality are incompatible with a system in which individuals are allowed, and even encouraged, to seek to maximize their wealth and power over others, while being allowed to control the flow of information.

SkepticalFebruary 28, 2017 9:05 AM

@Ross: Both the Trump Administration and the Putin Administration are fighting incumbent propaganda narratives and thus their strategic incentives (e.g. call into question both the credibility and factual basis of incumbent propaganda) mean that they must have a similar strategic approach.

"Incumbent propaganda narratives" meaning stubborn things like facts? Even the latter Bush Administration, which treated the media with fair hostility, never went to the lengths that this President has.

It is entirely possible to make a persuasive case without resorting to labeling the press "the enemy of the American people."

Once the administration establishes itself, if it makes the right 'deals' with the press, the press will act greedily as an extension of the federal propaganda machine - as it has in the past.

Such as when the press fixated on the Monica Lewinsky scandal? Or during the occupation of Iraq? Or in the extensive reporting of classified information disclosed by Snowden? Or in the decisions to report on the locations of bases from which US UAVs operated? Or in the not infrequently misleading reporting of the number of civilian casualties caused by UAV strikes?

There are certainly news departments that exist, some quite openly, with a pronounced tilt, that act as quasi-propaganda arms. But not all news departments, and not all journalists, fall into that category.

My guess here is that the administration is consolidating at this point support of its base, which is has done very successfully.

No doubt they are trying to do many things. The incompetence with which they are doing them is remarkable however.

And speaking of attempting to discredit sources before they can deliver information that might be harmful to one's cause: what then might we make of the President's bizarre attacks on the Intelligence Community?

The modern press does not attempt to be objective. Journalist schools teach their journalists that this is not their job. The "founding fathers" of journalism in America specifically eschew the idea of objectivity in journalism. It's just not what the press does or tries to do.

It's interesting to me that you think this is a commitment and a practice of the press. This misunderstanding I think runs deep in many communities, especially those people who feel the emotional need to believe that this is how the press functions - over actually reading any of the relevant history or literature regarding modern journalism.

If by your link below you're implying that Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson are the founding fathers of American journalism...

As to whether journalists attempt to approach objectivity, regardless of whether actually achievable, or some approximation thereto (impartiality, perhaps), and whether they attempt to report facts,

https://newrepublic.com/article/115500/glenn-greenwald-objectivity-journalism-hes-wrong

"We believe there is an objective truth, and we will hold you to that. When you or your surrogates say or tweet something that is demonstrably wrong, we will say so, repeatedly. Facts are what we do, and we have no obligation to repeat false assertions; the fact that you or someone on your team said them is newsworthy, but so is the fact that they don’t stand up to scrutiny. Both aspects should receive equal weight."
--Kyle Pope, Editor in Chief of the Columbia Journalism Review, http://www.cjr.org/covering_trump/trump_white_house_press_corps.php

"But the kind of journalism The Times and other mainstream news organizations practice — at their best — includes an awful lot to be proud of, too, revelations from Watergate to torture and secret prisons to the malfeasance of the financial industry, and including some pre-Snowden revelations about the N.S.A.’s abuse of its authority. Those are highlights that leap to mind, but you’ll find examples in just about every day’s report. Journalists in this tradition have plenty of opinions, but by setting them aside to follow the facts — as a judge in court is supposed to set aside prejudices to follow the law and the evidence — they can often produce results that are more substantial and more credible."
--Bill Keller
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/28/opinion/a-conversation-in-lieu-of-a-column.html

I could go on, but that should be sufficient. There are plenty of activist journalists, some good, of course. And it's actually an older tradition of journalism. The practice of attempting objectivity, or impartiality, or attempting to suppress and counterbalance one's own biases and incentives, is in fact the more modern practice.

Having done some paid journalism myself, and knowing quite a number of journalists in both my family and friends, I can say with confidence that the role of journalism today is to bring the stories that attract the money. Successful journalism is paid for by those who seek to control narrative by spinning incoming events the way that benefit them (why customers and partners of news media find value in the business relationship).

This is far too simplistic. There are different business models relating to the publication of journalism. Some of those models actually do place a premium on efforts to report impartially and fully, as some people are willing to pay a premium to read that reporting.

Ross SniderFebruary 28, 2017 12:33 PM

@Skeptical

> "Incumbent propaganda narratives" meaning stubborn things like facts? Even the latter Bush Administration, which treated the media with fair hostility, never went to the lengths that this President has.

No. "Incumbent propaganda narratives" meaning centrally planned propaganda intended to have specific and hopefully measurable political effects on its audience.

Regarding the prior Bush Administration: it's Propaganda Director in charge of the the BBG (Kenneth Tomlinson - look him up) was ousted in a huge scandal in which the Bush Administration ran a huge domestic propaganda campaign to rally war support for Iraq.

I can see how some people are coming to silly and naive conclusions about spooky-spooky Russia, etc. Broadly there is a reluctance to admit that the Bureau of International Information Programming engages in overseas propaganda, or that signals intelligence from the NSA is used to measure the effects and plan for the strategic use of communication to propagandize populations. There's a lack of ability to read about things like Zunzuneo - or about domestic propaganda programmes like the one from the Bush Administration - and infer the correct "stubborn facts" that the United States engages in both domestic and international propaganda (by the numbers, the MOST propaganda of any nation).

> Such as when the press fixated on the Monica Lewinsky scandal? Or during the occupation of Iraq? Or in the extensive reporting of classified information disclosed by Snowden? Or in the decisions to report on the locations of bases from which US UAVs operated? Or in the not infrequently misleading reporting of the number of civilian casualties caused by UAV strikes?

Yes these are good examples. In these cases the press was pulled screaming and kicking to cover these controveries and they failed to cover most others.

In the case of the occupation of Iraq, the press played ball. Every kind of ball. Today Americans STILL believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. The propaganda is incredible.

The media _barely_ reported on the Snowden documents. They focused primarily instead on whether he is a Russian spy or a traitor or whether his girlfriend was a stripper. The media touted the government line at every step including denials that there were documents, denials that they were real, denials that there was a domestic program, support for the presumed legal basis for that program when it was undeniable. I remember that all of the major media outlets used the terminology "bulk collection" rather than "mass surveillance" to talk about the events. And when doing so they talked about them in the most dismissive terms.

The outlets reporting on UAV locations and strikes are the very edge of journalism and for the most part considered "alternative media". As far as "mainstream reporting on UAVS" don't you remember the scandals involving Ken Dilanian, etc? Most domestic American information about the UAVs being published on major media outlets were being screened and edited in secret by the CIA: https://theintercept.com/2014/09/04/former-l-times-reporter-cleared-stories-cia-publication/

> If by your link below you're implying that Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson are the founding fathers of American journalism...

Nope.

> As to whether journalists attempt to approach objectivity, regardless of whether actually achievable, or some approximation thereto (impartiality, perhaps), and whether they attempt to report facts, ... I could go on, but that should be sufficient

It isn't sufficient to cherry-pick quotes from editors actively trying to defend their PR role in leui of charges of bias. It's gullible maybe, but not sufficient? The history and practice of journalism in America doesn't suddenly change because you like some flowery poems written about it.

I derive my understanding from both participating in journalism and studying both its modern and pre-modern historical trends. In addition, I think it's important to understand context, such as what was left out of essentially your entire response regarding Snowden, the Drone Assassination Programme (I don't recall you using the word 'assassination'... huh curious), and - laughably - Monika Lewinsky.

But that's the ultimate objective of propaganda, isn't it? To control the narrative, and to make defenders and supporters of your victims - an opinion-sort-of Stockholm Syndrome.

It's important to understand propaganda for what it is, from every source. Giving an excuse to some and demonizing others is a recipe for blind nationalist fervor - and the kind associated with the worst periods of history.

To understand propaganda today it must be understood as the war that it is.

The State Department calls this the "War of Ideas 2.0". The DoD calls it something similar. The last 12 years of Quadrenial reports in Strategic Communication (DoD term for propaganda) recommend various administrative, operational and technical tools to use to update the American capability to fight in this war.

Pretending that "the bad guys" are using influencial relationships with the press and with "fake press" (*cough*) is comfortable sure. But it's embarrassing. Remember that everything we say and do now is recorded for all of history. Every keystroke written will persist in a historical archive.

I don't want to bury my head in the sand - for the sake of my own reality - and for the sake of the historians that trawl over these fragments in the future.

albertFebruary 28, 2017 12:57 PM

What's really sad about the whole affair is the apparent acceptance of social 'media' as something worthy of attention, when it's actually 95% bullshit.

"...This is an excellent survey article on modern propaganda techniques, how they work, and how we might defend ourselves against them...."

Really, @Bruce? Strays article might have been 'excellent' if he concentrated on propaganda techniques used in -discussion- or -debate-, and not in the continued MSM demonizing of Russia and China.

You don't 'fight' propaganda with more propaganda. You fight it with reasonable, logical, scientific -facts-. You educate the public to think and analyze using reason. You need media that aren't in bed with the State and controlled by the Corporatocracy. In other words, -independent- media. You need media that's -trustworthy-.

If WE want to be the Light of the World, why not reduce government secrecy, and make a more transparent government, as @Anura said?

It would be extremely useful for someone to write an article on OUR propaganda techniques; -that- would be an excellent survey.

. .. . .. --- ....

RobertrFebruary 28, 2017 2:14 PM

Really now, Milo?

He's an entertainer. No different from other "shock jock" comedians that we know and love. I don't see any hate in anything he says. Maybe you're the intolerant one?

Sabrina de Souza, warble warble cheep cheep February 28, 2017 2:44 PM

Gee, why would anybody make bizarre attacks on the intelligence community?

http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/CIAtimeline.html

https://www.icc-cpi.int/afghanistan

https://wikileaks.org/plusd/?qproject[]=ps&qproject[]=cc&qproject[]=fp&qproject[]=ee&qproject[]=cg&q=impunity#result

The CIA torture cowards are shittin bricks. You CIA torture cowards don't wanna fight,you just want somebody brave to bring em in and tie em up so you can beat em up in safety. Now when you have to take your medicine you cry and cry like little pussys, 'Ooo, I don't want to go to jail, Woowoowoowoo.'

Don't worry, skeptical's come to save your timmie coward ass with his massive online cred.

vas pupFebruary 28, 2017 3:04 PM

@tz:"Also don't forget that people tend to live in either blue or red bubbles." Yes, sure because we all affected by motivational reasoning, i.e. we are selecting/filtering facts (objective things) based on our emotional preferences/biases assigning value to any input based on that emotional prejudice. "All our decisions are emotional based, that we use logic to justify already emotionally made decisions"(per psychologist Lieberman, PhD- not guarantee exact quote, but idea is like this, - he wrote many books for general public on psychology including lies). Solution? To be in purple bulb- possibly. Do not accept all ideas from any side in bulk just because you like left or right. Compare inputs from as many as possible independent sources on subject matter. Try to analyze on case-by-case basis and make up your own mind. NOBODY (person, group, party, country, religion, cult, etc.) has all correct answers for ALL questions/challenges.

albertFebruary 28, 2017 4:20 PM

@Milo M.,
Who says we don't -manufacture- anything anymore?

@vas pup,
"..."All our decisions are emotional based"..."..."

I disagree. No scientist would say that (and they would use the term 'emotionally based', if they used it at all). He's a psychologist? You don't say.

The left-right dichotomy is a product of Western 'civilization'. It's one result of good/bad, black/white, love/hate religions. We actually live in a world of grays. The left/right concept is a false construction. There a few important distinctions between left and right in this society. They are two sides of the same coin; a coin that will corrode into oblivion. The sooner, the better.

That said, there are certain things that most of us agree on, regardless of who we are or where we live. We want a place to live, food to eat, a decent job, friends/family who care for us. We want to be valued when we do good and assisted when we fail. We want strangers to be respectful to us, and us to them. We want to live in a civil, relatively safe social order.

It's really quite simple.

. .. . .. --- ....

Dirk PraetFebruary 28, 2017 6:08 PM

@ Robertr

He's an entertainer. No different from other "shock jock" comedians that we know and love. I don't see any hate in anything he says.

If, like Frank Zappa, you think of politics as the questionable entertainment branch of the military-industrial complex, then indeed he is. To everybody else, it's just common hate speech by a very troubled individual who reminds me very much of a local riotous homosexual who once saw fit to show up uninvited and dressed up in an SS uniform at a party of a Jewish friend of mine. He left with two black eyes and through the window. Nobody thought he was funny. Your mileage may vary.

JPAFebruary 28, 2017 9:52 PM

@anura

"The problem is that most people don't recognize a better way. They have had their backs broken, their spirits crushed to the point where they accept capitalism, and all the evil that accompanies it. Hell, people will even say "It's better than everything else" without even bothering to understand anything else! Strong community and equality are incompatible with a system in which individuals are allowed, and even encouraged, to seek to maximize their wealth and power over others, while being allowed to control the flow of information."

Just wanted to say that I appreciate this and your posts in general. Thanks

Erdem MemisyaziciMarch 1, 2017 1:44 AM

The most effective form of this type of propoganda isn't the actual propoganda itself. It's the logical dismissal. If you really want to guide the feelings of a person around a topic, and you've managed to setup real-time monitoring, you need to setup an audio array. Hidden speakers which can deliver audio precisely. Next step is to control the sounds in the environment of the person, such as birds, barking dogs, cars, at which point you will tie the environmental noise with the person's real-time monitored behaviour. The person will have to logically dismiss the noises as "background noise", which gives you a trigger to train. In parallel to this, you will need to play a constant high frequency background noise, which through "neural adaptation" the person will ignore. That is your second trigger, absence of the constant audio signal (usually causes tinnitus) which is also logically dismissed as noise. Only after these you begin the propaganda, and through real-time monitoring you can influence the unsuspecting person's behaviour. That is ring their ears, and play dog barking when they look at or look away from key words they read. Coupled with flooding all of their media sources you would have in your hand a very legal propoganda machine unfortunately no government is able to outlaw as of yet due to all of it being passive and technically free speech, or easily dismissable. Defenses to such techniques are disruption of the real time monitoring with misinformation, and simply ignoring all media except ones you can confirm via encryption, and reputation. Informing the public of the techniques. Doing the same propaganda to the sources in my opinion is not recommended simply due to it being akin to insulting one another for prolonged periods of time leaving an overall neurotic population. This is due to human psychology and the willingness to take action based on threatening signals once detected. Lack of taking action will increase a sense of inability to assert control, which will increase the likelyhood to take negative steps by one or both parties. In such situations, literally nobody benefits. Overall morale is decreased through action or inaction to either party's methods of propoganda. Both parties will be pushed to socialize neurotically with their peers reducing creative thought and general quality of life. They will have forced themselves to observe risk taking behaviour best put in the following summary from Freud's group psychology "... as part of the mass, the individual acquires a sense of infinite power which allows him to act on impulses that he would otherwise have to curb as an isolated individual. These feelings of power and security allow the individual not only to act as part of the mass, but also to feel safety in numbers. This is accompanied, however, by a loss of conscious personality and a tendency of the individual to be infected by any emotion within the mass, and to amplify the emotion, in turn, by "mutual induction". Overall, the mass is "impulsive, changeable, and irritable. It is controlled almost exclusively by the unconscious."

Wesley ParishMarch 1, 2017 4:34 AM

Seriously - or perhaps I should say: Facetiously - the best way to counter propaganda and convince people is to let them do the heavy lifting.

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/have-you-heard-the-one-about-the-dictator-20130410-2hl4e.html

Fifteen years ago, when Serbia's non-violent pro-democracy movement, Otpor, was just a tiny group of 20 students with $50, we decided to play a prank. We took an oil barrel, taped a picture of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic to it, and set it up in the middle of Belgrade's largest shopping district. Next to it we placed a baseball bat. Then we went for coffee, sat down, and watched the fun unfold.Before long, dozens of shoppers lined the street, each waiting for a chance to take a swing at "Milosevic" – the man so many despised but were too afraid to criticise.
About 30 minutes in, the police arrived. That's when we held our breath, waiting for what would happen next. What would Milosevic's police do? They couldn't arrest shoppers – on what grounds? And they couldn't arrest the culprits – since we were nowhere to be seen.
So what did Milosevic's police do? The only thing they could: they arrested the barrel. The image of the two policemen dragging the barrel to their police car was the best photo shoot in Serbia for months. Milosevic and his cronies became the laughing stock of the nation, and Otpor became a household name.

Keeping one's cool is essential - and judging from too many US citizens' online behaviour, it's not a skill they have ever practiced.

Likewise being self-critical and also cutting oneself enough slack to continue.

I would also suggest people read Dr Paul Myron Linebarger's Psychological Warfare:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/48612
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/48612/48612-h/48612-h.htm

MajorMarch 1, 2017 8:08 AM

What a barrage of supposed wisdom. Every side either arguing pointlessly about big issues, or arguing pointlessly about small issues.

I think the challenge is not to have a fixed and increasingly elaborated opinion about these issues that you then have to sally forth and defend from opponents and allies alike, but to simply watch events and respond appropriately without needing to create our own personal dogma. Liberal dogma, conservative dogma, pro-Trump dogma, anti-Trump dogma all lead to the same inflexibility of thinking. The need to turn people we disagree with or are afraid of into caricatures is the underlying disease, not the particular content of somebody's opinion. The psychological need to have a fixed position in an onslaught of bias and self-serving opinion is the engine that keeps the BS in orbit.

Don't believe anything that anybody is trying to sell you. And don't argue, argument just gives BS credibility. Really really needing to post something is probably the best indication that you shouldn't, that you have been psychologically hooked and are now acting as a robot.

vas pupMarch 1, 2017 8:54 AM

@albert:"and they would use the term 'emotionally based', if they used it at all)." Thank you. You are right: "emotionally".
He's a psychologist? You don't say. Yes, he is. I did:"per psychologist Lieberman, PhD" - please see above. Logic is what we think is driving our decisions, and you are right when scientists make decisions on something they research, they based them on tests dealing with real objects or scientifically based models, not emotions. But, Albert, that was discussion related to propaganda subject, and in our daily life decisions cited psychologist is right. I'll give you example on psychology of risk taking. Math scientists good with probability theory when making their gambling choices forget about their logic knowledge. They make emotionally based decisions.
What could we say about average Joe/Jane? Good judgment come out experience. Experience come out of the bad judgment. Emotional decision is not by default irrational, but rather subconscious for us. I hope that will clarify my point. Thank you for your input.

SkepticalMarch 1, 2017 9:43 AM

@Ross: I can see how some people are coming to silly and naive conclusions about spooky-spooky Russia, etc. Broadly there is a reluctance to admit that the Bureau of International Information Programming engages in overseas propaganda, or that signals intelligence from the NSA is used to measure the effects and plan for the strategic use of communication to propagandize populations.

On any given subject, I am certain we can find some people who hold silly and naive conclusions.

As to US propaganda, there's nothing particularly secret about the fact that the US Government engages in information operations in foreign countries. However there are fundamental differences between US operations, due in no small part to the fact that the US is an open society with a free press, and Russian operations.

I also suspect that there is an enormous difference in the strategic importance that the US attaches to propaganda and that Russia does. That's not to claim that the difference derives from a superiority in virtue, but rather that, given the respective interests, forms of government, strengths/weaknesses, and cultural outlooks of each, I would guess that Russia is pursuing such operations with more focus and with a higher opinion of their strategic importance than is the United States.

Within the United States, there are limits as to what the US Government may do with respect to information operations.

There's a lack of ability to read about things like Zunzuneo - or about domestic propaganda programmes like the one from the Bush Administration - and infer the correct "stubborn facts" that the United States engages in both domestic and international propaganda (by the numbers, the MOST propaganda of any nation).

Kenneth Tomlinson was investigated under the Bush Administration - twice - and in widely reported and published findings, both investigations - conducted by the US Government - found him to have acted improperly and unethically.

ZunZuneo was also widely reported, if at times inaccurately.

And this is the difference between an open society and a closed one. It is not that governments in open societies are without scandal - no government composed of human beings is, or ever will be. Rather the difference is that such scandals are reported upon by a free press, and that such scandals are acted upon by institutions that act according to the rule of law rather than a brutality of force governed only by the shifting preferences and favours of corrupt men.

Yes these are good examples. In these cases the press was pulled screaming and kicking to cover these controveries and they failed to cover most others.

Who pulled the press kicking and screaming? The press reported on those things because they are of interest to its audience. You really believe that anyone had to pull the press to cover sex scandals, allegations of enormous scandal at NSA, or the lack of the WMD programmes alleged by the Bush Administration to have existed in Iraq, or the steadily increasing failure of the US to provide security or democracy in Iraq?

That's the stuff journalists love to report. And did. That's why most Americans believed that the US was "losing" the war in Iraq, and that's why the occupation was so deeply unpopular in the United States. And those reports were followed, of course, by a steady stream of books and studies, sometimes authored by journalists who had closely covered the events in question.

The media _barely_ reported on the Snowden documents. They focused primarily instead on whether he is a Russian spy or a traitor or whether his girlfriend was a stripper. The media touted the government line at every step including denials that there were documents, denials that they were real, denials that there was a domestic program, support for the presumed legal basis for that program when it was undeniable.

I find these contentions somewhat bizarre, considering that the documents received immediate and extensive coverage by every major US news organization before Snowden was ever known. Certainly Snowden himself became a part of the story, and there were stories on him - but hardly to the exclusion of the documents, and what they did (or did not) contain.

I remember that all of the major media outlets used the terminology "bulk collection" rather than "mass surveillance" to talk about the events. And when doing so they talked about them in the most dismissive terms.

No doubt you would have preferred more outrage from the media, rather than reporting. Yet The New York Times editorial board, among others, wrote in favor of Snowden being pardoned; The Washington Post favored leniency, though not a pardon - and in addition earned a Pulitzer for its reporting (not, assuredly, for writing about the documents dismissively).

The outlets reporting on UAV locations and strikes are the very edge of journalism and for the most part considered "alternative media".

Unless you consider the largest newspapers in the United States, including The New York Times, or widely distributed wire services such as the Associated Press, to be "the very edge of journalism," you're simply mistaken.

It isn't sufficient to cherry-pick quotes from editors actively trying to defend their PR role in leui of charges of bias. It's gullible maybe, but not sufficient? The history and practice of journalism in America doesn't suddenly change because you like some flowery poems written about it.

The point is that, contrary to your opinion, a significant contingent of journalists do consider the reporting of stories impartially and fairly to be an important, and central, part of their profession. You're free to disbelieve them, or to argue with them; but the point is that they, and their views, exist.

I derive my understanding from both participating in journalism and studying both its modern and pre-modern historical trends.

Then you certainly could not be wrong.

In addition, I think it's important to understand context, such as what was left out of essentially your entire response regarding Snowden, the Drone Assassination Programme (I don't recall you using the word 'assassination'... huh curious), and - laughably - Monika Lewinsky.

All are excellent counterexamples to the notion that the press is merely a propaganda arm of the federal government. Or have you forgotten the assertion that prompted my introduction of those counterexamples?

albertMarch 1, 2017 12:00 PM

@vas pup,

I didn't mean to imply that -all- decisions are made emotionally. Certainly, a lot of folks make most of their decisions that way.

If we don't understand our -own- propaganda, we can't make rational decisions; we are left with emotional ones. The latest election showed that. There is no rational choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee*.

Why are folks using terms like 'fake news', 'true' facts, 'real' whatever? A 'fact' is, by definition, true. So is 'news'. Everything else is a lie, or an opinion. It bugs me, like 'exact same', which isn't even good grammar...

Whoa, I'm 4 posts behind.

I gotta go...

-------------
* so I chose not to vote. Thereby (hopefully) avoiding the karma associated with choosing one evil over another.

In the poem Ode To An Ocelot (author unknown) the author states:

Oh ocelot, do you really?
I oce a little, myself, on occasion.

. .. . .. --- ....

Ross SniderMarch 1, 2017 2:41 PM

@Skeptical

> On any given subject, I am certain we can find some people who hold silly and naive conclusions.

Right the criticism here is that the "meme" opinion (spooky-spooky Russia) is naive. I'm not talking about a marginal opinion. I'm talking about a broad narrative consensus.

> As to US propaganda, there's nothing particularly secret about the fact that the US Government engages in information operations in foreign countries. However there are fundamental differences between US operations, due in no small part to the fact that the US is an open society with a free press, and Russian operations.

There is. In the United States we don't give press to US propaganda. We talk about it in the terms "getting our adversaries information" or "communicating better with our adversaries" in whitewashed, editorialized tones. This is the moral equivalent of calling torture "enhanced interrogation." Nobody is against interrogation. And enhanced sounds pretty good. Similarly the broad population is very welcoming of "information" and "communication".

You are strictly wrong. I gave an hour presentation to an audience about the the history and current practice of US (overseas) propaganda authorities and practices. They were shocked and felt like I was talking about something incredibly secret.

> I also suspect that there is an enormous difference in the strategic importance that the US attaches to propaganda and that Russia does. That's not to claim that the difference derives from a superiority in virtue, but rather that, given the respective interests, forms of government, strengths/weaknesses, and cultural outlooks of each, I would guess that Russia is pursuing such operations with more focus and with a higher opinion of their strategic importance than is the United States.

I don't think so. I've been reading StratCom reports from US intelligence long enough to understand that they take information warfare incredibly seriously. The primary difference today is asymmetrical: the US's international propaganda role in the world is as a successful incumbent. Not everywhere, but with a true foothold. It's old broadcasting capabilities need some reform to new media, sure, but that's happening.

For Russia, the importance of propaganda is that the United States not dominate the narrative scene. Syria is a good recent example: had to US acted unilaterally in information space wrt Syria we would understand the conflict not as the regime change operation it was, or for the role the US Coalition played in supplying al Qaeda there in an effort to succeed in that War of the Middle East Campaign. This was white propaganda by the Russians, countering the grey propaganda (Assad is a dictator, al Qaeda just wants the Gulf to win regional influence and is really moderate opposition).

> Within the United States, there are limits as to what the US Government may do with respect to information operations.

Let's be clear about what those limitations are. The State Department is barred from broadcasting material for the purposes of affecting the homeland for any reason not directly related to national security. The State Department is NOT barred from broadcasting material for national security purposes. It is perfectly legal for the government to propagandize its citizens in the event it supports a national security or emergency situation (the United States today is in ~30 ongoing national emergencies). Then, the press offices may mislead the public so long as it does not outright lie from an official post. This includes expressing opinions that are not official in nature, emphasizing information in an official nature that is not congruent with the "whole truth and nothing but the truth" and by implying or not refuting information that it would like to see coverage. It's intelligence agencies are not limited by the law in their approach to "communicating" with the public, and it is perfectly legal for the intelligence community to lead domestic media to produce stories congruent with national objectives. The "free" media means "free market": the right of media to contract for stories within the borders of the United States. The United States then overwhelms this market as it has by far the most money. It also is allowed to use privileged access to press secretaries and other officials to solicit coverage from journalists - so long as it is not quid pro quo. Finally, the US has extremely stringent laws regarding the coverage of war in which protection to journalists, access, overviews, information and support are only given to outfits that report on the themes and narratives provided by the US military and all journalism is subject to editing and censorship.

> Kenneth Tomlinson was investigated under the Bush Administration - twice - and in widely reported and published findings, both investigations - conducted by the US Government - found him to have acted improperly and unethically.

> ZunZuneo was also widely reported, if at times inaccurately.

Kicked dragging and screaming without the US public getting a whiff of the truth of the matter, with narrative nationalism, exceptionalism and excusatory language overriding the coverage.

Improperly and inethically?

How about illegally? Was there a criminal charge? No. Because what he did was not illegal. Mass propagandizing the American public is not illegal.

The man got a golden parachute and has retired into comfort a hero in Washington.

> And this is the difference between an open society and a closed one. It is not that governments in open societies are without scandal - no government composed of human beings is, or ever will be. Rather the difference is that such scandals are reported upon by a free press, and that such scandals are acted upon by institutions that act according to the rule of law rather than a brutality of force governed only by the shifting preferences and favours of corrupt men.

Is the implication we a closed society then? I remember the reporting on the Snowden Documents. I read the documents themselves as they came out. I had Facebook censor my links to the documents themselves when I tried to share them with friends. I watched the free press choose to contract with the US government about what the coverage should be and focus on obscuring the content of the documents: "bulk collection" over "mass surveillance", "was snowden's girlfriend a stripper? Is snowden a russian spy?" over the contents of the documents detailing the mass infiltration and partnership with of American companies to create a surveillance state. Today I don't hear about police threat scoring algorithms. I have to dive deep for them. You can find some articles mention them with PR terminology and coverage in "public safety" sections of the news.

I don't care that the propaganda is privitized. When I speak with friends and family it is quite clear: they are not aware of the scandals. They do not understand the legal implications.

> Who pulled the press kicking and screaming? The press reported on those things because they are of interest to its audience. You really believe that anyone had to pull the press to cover sex scandals, allegations of enormous scandal at NSA, or the lack of the WMD programmes alleged by the Bush Administration to have existed in Iraq, or the steadily increasing failure of the US to provide security or democracy in Iraq?

"Security and democracy in Iraq". You drank the Kool-Aid.

Let me express this clearly: the press covered these kicking and screaming because allegations, facts and scandals - if at a certain threshold of public consciousness - need to be replied to. Propaganda admits to scandal. It does it with public relations. It mitigates the scandals, explains them away, frames them if it can not obscure them. This happens everywhere. It happens in the authoritarian countries of Qatar and Singapore.

When a story is big enough, propaganda will acknowledge a scandal in order to deflect or incorporate it.

American domestic media - the big names in reporting - tried to turn Snowden into the police. He finally found outlets willing to publish the documents (foreign outlets in the Guardian and Der Speigel). The coverage that domestic American media then provided was entirely misleading about the contents of the documents. When the Congress met to reauthorize surveillance authorized it was barely covered - and when it was it was covered as "fixing surveillance" with the unknowing viewer now understanding that "fixing" entailed legalizing.

> That's the stuff journalists love to report. And did. That's why most Americans believed that the US was "losing" the war in Iraq, and that's why the occupation was so deeply unpopular in the United States. And those reports were followed, of course, by a steady stream of books and studies, sometimes authored by journalists who had closely covered the events in question.

Laughable. Maybe if you read the rest of above you'll understand how narrative and context are the fundamental fixtures of American propaganda. The US can't deny that it was "losing" the war in Iraq. That the war was deeply unpopular in the US wasn't a product of the media but a reality by those suffering from the costs of the occupation and the crash of international finance.

You somehow forgot Jessica Lynch, incubator babies, fake letters from fake soldiers, and all the other nonsense that - throughout the war convinced the American people that we were the victims in Iraq, that we were there for "freedom" and that broadly the Iraq war - if a bad idea - was a mistake rather than a crime.

> I find these contentions somewhat bizarre, considering that the documents received immediate and extensive coverage by every major US news organization before Snowden was ever known. Certainly Snowden himself became a part of the story, and there were stories on him - but hardly to the exclusion of the documents, and what they did (or did not) contain.

No. I have spoken with many people about the contents of the Snowden documents. They continue to be surprised at what is in them. I encourage other people reading this exchange to visit https://edwardsnowden.com/ to read the documents themselves.

Those remembering the Snowden days will understand that you are revising history. Again I read the documents as they came out - in great detail. I watched the mainstream popular coverage of the documents. They did not cohere whatsoever. Do not gaslight me.

> No doubt you would have preferred more outrage from the media, rather than reporting. Yet The New York Times editorial board, among others, wrote in favor of Snowden being pardoned; The Washington Post favored leniency, though not a pardon - and in addition earned a Pulitzer for its reporting (not, assuredly, for writing about the documents dismissively).

No, I would have preferred honest coverage using appropriate language. Calling surveillance "surveillance" is not outrage. Similarly I expect news media outlets to call torture "torture" rather than "interrogation" and propaganda "propaganda" rather than "communication" or "information".

> Unless you consider the largest newspapers in the United States, including The New York Times, or widely distributed wire services such as the Associated Press, to be "the very edge of journalism," you're simply mistaken.

Please see the above to understand that the role of narrative editorialization of coverage. I covered quite nicely in the other comment how the reporting on the assassination program was being edited by the CIA. I don't see how you can write this with a serious face.

> The point is that, contrary to your opinion, a significant contingent of journalists do consider the reporting of stories impartially and fairly to be an important, and central, part of their profession. You're free to disbelieve them, or to argue with them; but the point is that they, and their views, exist.

> Then you certainly could not be wrong.

Please do not attempt to troll. You points are very plainly incorrect and have no rational standing. Trolling as a last resort is not going to win you favors with anyone who happens to read the content of this exchange. I also think you are intelligent enough to be above this tactic.

> All are excellent counterexamples to the notion that the press is merely a propaganda arm of the federal government. Or have you forgotten the assertion that prompted my introduction of those counterexamples?

We don't need your alternative facts here. I understand that you are determined not to understand that privatized propaganda is still propaganda. It's not a particularly nuanced position and it falls down as soon as it is labeled what it is.

Thank you @Skeptical for the discussion thus far. I'm not likely to come back to this thread as the commentators and topics have moved on. I fully understand and have fully refuted your perspective, as curious and inconsist and revisionist as it is.

[1]March 1, 2017 3:58 PM

The moderation on this thread exemplifies the oafish extremes of another key function of statist propaganda: suppression of unauthorized information. In this case the suppressed information pertains to CIA's use of British intelligence as a cutout for disseminating unsourced and undocumented propaganda; and CIA's control of British intelligence by means of pedophile blackmail. CIA can rely on government contractors like IBM and Harvard-branded centers to remove impermissible information under various pretexts. The effect is to diminish public awareness of ongoing CIA subversion of a president they did not choose, and to prevent discussion of a widely-used CIA control technique, pedophile blackmail. The proof of CIA's control over Hannigan waits on declassification or unauthorized release of NSA's contact chaining on Graham Spanier. Proof of Hannigan's CIA tasking is in the hands of foreign intelligence services that are not under CIA's control.

My InfoMarch 1, 2017 4:10 PM

@[1]

Pedophile blackmail?

That's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard of. And you're susceptible to that? Right, if you weren't fiddling with little children, you wouldn't have a thing to worry about. You Brits are the ones who created the pedophile culture and popularized it in the tabloid media. You brought it on yourselves. Clean it up, and leave the kids alone.

RatioMarch 1, 2017 4:15 PM

@Ross Snider,

One of the other people reading this exchange (me) thought the repeated use of ad hominem in your latest comment distracted from factual points you were making.

(That said, I appreciate the surprisingly civil back and forth.)

albertMarch 1, 2017 4:48 PM

@Ratio,
Whaaat?

Please give examples of ad hominem in @Ross latest comment.

. .. . .. --- ....

RatioMarch 1, 2017 4:58 PM

@albert,

Please give examples of ad hominem in @Ross latest comment.

Sure, here's two:

  • Please do not attempt to troll.
  • I understand that you are determined not to understand [...]

PhilosopherMarch 1, 2017 9:38 PM

@Ratio

The first one of these is definitely not ad hominem.

Ad hominem comes in the form: "You are a ____, and therefore your argument is invalid."

@Ross did not say "You are a troll, and therefore your argument is invalid." He actually did not accuse @Skeptical of being a troll. He politely requested that the act of trolling stop.

The second one comes across as impolite, but also isn't an ad hominem. He appears to be frustrated and criticizing the other guy for stubbornly not taking the points of the argument seriously, playing word games, etc. It does not fit the regex "You are a _____, and therefore your argument is invalid." It looks more like "Your being stubborn about not taking this argument point to the degree where it looks like a conscious effort." Again rude, but not an ad hominem attack.

Both of them sound like they really know what they are talking about.

Dirk PraetMarch 2, 2017 5:26 AM

@ Major

The psychological need to have a fixed position in an onslaught of bias and self-serving opinion is the engine that keeps the BS in orbit.

However much that may be true, there is a difference between "bias" as a philosophical or ideological reference frame without which no information can either be understood or interpreted, and bias as an unwillingness to listen to or accept anything that doesn't fit that specific reference frame. Those are two entirely different things.

@ Ratio

Re. ad hominem

In which context it needs to be pointed out that @Skeptical also used words as "naive" and "laughable", which could be interpreted as the same. Neither @Ross Snider or @Skeptical however seemed to be having a problem with each other's tone, so why are you? Especially because their exchanges, as per your own admittance, were an example of civil and well-informed discourse many commenters on this forum seem to be utterly incapable of. So from where I'm sitting, that's a +1 for both.

vas pupMarch 2, 2017 11:02 AM

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170301-lies-propaganda-and-fake-news-a-grand-challenge-of-our-age
For a special series launching this week, BBC Future Now asked a panel of experts about the grand challenges we face in the 21st Century – and many named the breakdown of trusted sources of information as one of the most pressing problems today. In some ways, it’s a challenge that trumps all others. Without a common starting point – a set of facts that people with otherwise different viewpoints can agree on – it will be hard to address any of the problems that the world now faces.
Some warn that “fake news” threatens the democratic process itself. “On page one of any political science textbook it will say that democracy relies on people being informed about the issues so they can have a debate and make a decision,” says Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol in the UK, who studies the persistence and spread of misinformation.
“Having a large number of people in a society who are misinformed and have their own set of facts is absolutely devastating and extremely difficult to cope with.”
Working out who to trust and who not to believe has been a facet of human life since our ancestors began living in complex societies. Politics has always bred those who will mislead to get ahead.
We need a new way to decide what is trustworthy. “I think it is going to be not figuring out what to believe but who to believe,” says Resnick. “It is going to come down to the reputations of the sources of the information. They don’t have to be the ones we had in the past.”
“The major new challenge in reporting news is the new shape of truth,” says Kevin Kelly, a technology author and co-founder of Wired magazine. “Truth is no longer dictated by authorities, but is networked by peers. For every fact there is a counterfact. All those counterfacts and facts look identical online, which is confusing to most people.”
Google is also working with fact-checking organisations like Full Fact to develop new technologies that can identify and even correct false claims. Together they are creating an automated fact-checker that will monitor claims made on TV, in newspapers, in parliament or on the internet.
Initially it will be targeting claims that have already been fact-checked by humans and send out corrections automatically in an attempt to shut down rumours before they get started. As artificial intelligence gets smarter, the system will also do some fact-checking of its own.

This idea of helping break through the isolated information bubbles that many of us now live in comes up again and again. By presenting people with accurate facts it should be possible to at least get a debate going. But telling people what is true and what is not does not seem to work. For this reason, IBM shelved its plans for a fact-checker.
“There is a large proportion of the population in the US living in what we would regard as an alternative reality,” says Lewandowsky. “They share things with each other that are completely false. Any attempt to break through these bubbles is fraught with difficulty as you are being dismissed as being part of a conspiracy simply for trying to correct what people believe. It is why you have Republicans and Democrats disagreeing over something as fundamental as how many people appear in a photograph.”
“By suggesting things to people that are outside their comfort zone but not so far outside they would never look at it you can keep people from self-radicalising in these bubbles,” says Lewandowsky. “That sort of technological solution is one good way forward. I think we have to work on that.”
“Search algorithms are as flawed as the people who develop them,” says Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network. “We should think about adding layers of credibility to sources. We need to tag and structure quality content in effective ways.”
Mantzarlis believes part of the solution will be providing people with the resources to fact-check information for themselves. He is planning to develop a database of sources that professional fact-checkers use and intends to make it freely available.
[!]Eddie Copeland, director of government innovation at Nesta, points to an example in Taiwan where members of the public can propose ideas and help formulate them into legislation. “The first stage in that is crowdsourcing facts,” he says. “So before you have a debate, you come up with the commonly accepted facts that people can debate from.”
[!]There is an unwillingness to bend one’s mind around facts that don’t agree with one’s own viewpoint,” says Victoria Rubin, director of the language and information technology research lab at Western University in Ontario, Canada. She and her team have been working to identify fake news on the internet since 2015. Will Moy agrees. He argues that by slipping into lazy cynicism about what we are being told, we allow those who lie to us to get away with it. Instead, he thinks we should be interrogating what they say and holding them to account.
Ultimately, however, there’s an uncomfortable truth we all need to address. “When people say they are worried about people being misled, what they are really worried about is other people being misled,” says Resnick. “Very rarely do they worry that fundamental things they believe themselves may be wrong.”

tyrMarch 2, 2017 1:49 PM


@vas pup

John Taylor Gatto once said that he always dug
into what he believed to be true and after a lot
of examinations it turned out to be falsified.
Like you said examining the premises of our own
beliefs is an uncommon occurence but might turn
out to be a precious asset in your future. The
unspoken and assumed parameters of belief systems
are as invisible to most as the water is to a
fish. We swim in a sea of the stuff rarely to
bother to examine any of it.

Clive and others continually point out that any
assumptions of secured computing via air gap and
other isolations can be defeated. It is the kind
of attacks that you didn't anticipate that turn
out to be the worst for security. In the rush to
think outside the box the contents of the box
turn out to be a major fail point by never being
examined.

Clive RobinsonMarch 2, 2017 6:10 PM

@ tyr, vas pup,

In the rush to think outside the box the contents of the box turn out to be a major fail point by never being examined.

It's actually worse than that, in the rush for the new many forget the hard won lessons of the past. Thus even when the contents of the box have been examined and found wanting in the past the makers of new boxes fail to take it on board and thus old attacks that effective solutions were found for, suddenly work again with the new boxes.

One such was the reoccurance of MBR style attacks on removable media. Another was the gapping legacy hole of device code in BIOS ROMs that both BadBIOS and Lenovo persistant malware exploited.

We also know that "hidden firmware" is bad news for exactly the same reason, but the known protection mechanisms do not get implemented, therefore systems can not be trusted when they are delivered let alone after being connected to the Internet or other method of communication.

As I observed when GCHQ sent tweedledee and tweedledum up for a day trip to London calling in at the Guardian Newspaper HQ to trash some computers, alowing photos of what was done to be published was a bad idea for GCHQ. It alowed people to find out which chips on the computer PCBs were probably suspect to "firmware attacks". It also revealed the supposed secret that supply chain poisoning and interdiction attacks by the likes of the NSA's TAO group did not need to add extra hardware. A point @Nick P myself and one or two others make from time to time, but the majority appear "not to accept into their world of facts"...

As has been observed before "Those who fail to learn from history, are condemed to re-live it ad infinitum".

RatioMarch 2, 2017 7:35 PM

@Philosopher,

Ad hominem comes in the form: "You are a ____, and therefore your argument is invalid."

Not all instances of ad hominem come in that form, and not everything that has that form is ad hominem. That makes using the above to decide if somehting is ad hominem problematic.

The examples I gave were ad hominem.

@Dirk Praet,

Neither @Ross Snider or @Skeptical however seemed to be having a problem with each other's tone, so why are you?

I have no problem with their tone. What makes you think I do?

As one of the people reading their discussion, I said that the use of ad hominem distracted from genuine points made to someone who remarked that certain debating moves were not going to win you favors with anyone who happens to read the content of this exchange.

Especially because their exchanges, as per your own admittance, were an example of civil and well-informed discourse many commenters on this forum seem to be utterly incapable of.

Well... Let's just that even you and I have had some issues in that area recently.

So from where I'm sitting, that's a +1 for both.

Which is why I said that I appreciate the surprisingly civil back and forth.

PhilosopherMarch 2, 2017 8:23 PM

@Ratio

the meta conversation were having is not very interesting anymore wouldnt you agree?

anyway wikipedia describes ad hominem as:

"Ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute OF THE PERSON making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself."

the stanford dictionary of philosophy describes ad hominem as:

"The ad hominem fallacy involves bringing negative aspects OF AN ARGUER, or their situation, to bear on the view they are advancing. There are three commonly recognized versions of the fallacy. The abusive ad hominem fallacy involves saying that someone’s view should not be accepted because they have some unfavorable property."

"Another, more subtle version of the fallacy is the circumstantial ad hominem in which, given the circumstances in which the arguer finds him or herself, it is alleged that their position is supported by self-interest rather than by good evidence."

"The third version of the ad hominem fallacy is the tu quoque. It involves not accepting a view or a recommendation because the espouser him- or herself does not follow it."

which version is @Ross supposed to be guilty of?

it is clear that he was pretty mean to @Skeptical but it is not ad hominem to be mean.

anyway its a stupid point and i dont really care. i think we can all agree that conversation was really, really good and that both of the authors took jabs and 'pot-shots' at one another at various points.

personally i didnt find any of distractin

good shit

Phil OsopherMarch 3, 2017 5:41 AM

14 repeating archetypes of news stories, plus 10 government stories at every news desk.

RatioMarch 3, 2017 5:40 PM

@Philosopher,

which version [of ad hominem] is @Ross supposed to be guilty of?

"Guilty"? That's an odd choice of words.

Both examples are about the motive a person has for making an argument, not about the argument being made. It's why someone would make a particular point instead of addressing their point.

xMarch 4, 2017 2:32 AM

for trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos, it's weaponizing hate, outraging people so they spread your message to the small, diffused minority of broken people who welcome your message and would otherwise be uneconomical to reach.

OMG, like new free speech conduits are like *double* edged swords? If only we could have the good speech without the bad speech. I'm sure if we think about it for a few hours we can totally solve that conundrum and reap big rewards.

There is a narrative going on here. No doubt.

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