Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is This Where Sniping In the III Community Comes From?

While at Harvard in 2008, before becoming Obama's Regulatory Czar, Cass Sunstein co-authored a paper on how the government should handle conspiracy theories.  He suggested government agents or their allies "cognitively infiltrate" conspiracy theorist groups by joining "chat rooms, online social networks or even real-space groups" and influencing the conversation.  They went so far as to suggest the government "formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech."  The Chinese government does this today, with the "50-cent party", so-named because of the fee they get for each positive, pro-party/government posting they make.  Hey, any good communist policy is a natural for the Obamanoids, right?

How this would work in practice would be that these government employees would be paid to find people who spout "conspiracy theories", and they would comment there.  Consider blogs in the liberty sphere; there's no doubt that a Big Government guy like Sunstein would believe that anyone who values personal liberty is a conspiracy theorist and potential terrorist who should be targeted (I don't think I'm going out on much of a limb here is attributing this belief to Sunstein).  They could post blog comments disagreeing with aspects of the stories on the blog, trying to break the credibility of the reports, and the trustworthiness of the story. 

It can now be confirmed that this is actually going on.  At least in the UK, in documents leaked by Edward Snowden, and reported by Glen Greenwald, formerly of the Guardian and now with FirstLook.org.   I urge everyone to read that piece, and see the formerly very classified documents detailing how the UK's GCHQ has given life to Cass Sunstein's wet dream of making disagreement with the government go away by "nudging"  everyone's behavior.  (And does it seem just a little too convenient that Bamster put Sunstein in charge of the oversight committee looking at whether or not the NSA has been "doing us wrong"? )
Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four  classified  GCHQ  documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking  “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”  

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.
Now that we know for sure it's going on (as if we doubted), perhaps some of the bickering in the III-per community needs to be looked at as tactics being used against us.  I'm sure I'm way too small potatoes for them to care about dropping by here, but think of the big guys.  I personally think I've seen this sort of thing happening on some big commercial sites, like the Blaze or PJ Media.  Have you ever noticed how quickly comments about anything veer from the subject at hand to straight political diatribe, or ad hominem attacks on the people involved?   

(Cass Sunstein) 
I'm not suggesting there aren't real and legitimate disagreements between members of the Liberty / III-per movement, and I don't want to imply any dissent indicates the commenter is a stooge.  These things always happen.  But we have a government regulator who has admitted in open press that he wants to do this, even going as far as false flag operations, and now it turns out to be verified that it is actively going on.  It would be silly to think it can't be happening here, too.  Plus, having an argument with a troll has a whole new meaning when the troll is getting paid to argue with you, doesn't it?


5 comments:

AM said...

Wizard's First Rule.

"People are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want it to be true, or fear it to be true."

All conspiracies assume competence on part of the conspirators. With the outing of several democratic shills as simply being paid to spread propoganda, how long would paid trolls last trolling the threepers? Anonymity would help some, but something that big would get out.

It is easy to generate a conspiracy, all you need is a plausible explanation for some phenomena or event that by definition cannot be either proven or disproven.

For example, considering the possibility of government paid trolls to target libertarians:

It would be very hard to hide the payments unless the trolls were contracted in a foreign country that had very tight media controls and an extensive cyber warfare division. Is that why Dennis Rodman really went to North Korea or why the Obama Administration is playing kid gloves with Iran?

Generally conspiracy theories follow Wizard's First Rule, and make us want to believe them as a form of confirmation bias about those evil people we hate or distrust.

Graybeard said...

You should read Sunstein's paper. You can download the pdf here. He goes into the psychology of conspiracy theories quite a bit. Plus it's full of just wonderful academic gobbledygook about "conspiracy cascades", "crippled epistemology" and all sorts of stuff that is simply repugnant to hard science guys like me. More to the point, what he concludes about opposing conspiracy theories and trying to destroy them, even if those theories are, in fact, true, is even more repugnant to anyone who believes in liberty.

My wife and I joke about this, but not 10 minutes ago I heard Bill Whittle say it better (of course) in his new video. "I don't generally believe in conspiracy theories, although I have to tell you that after what I've seen in the last five years, I'm no longer surprised at what I'm no longer surprised at".

AM said...

I read Sunstiens paper. I was not impressed. Fundamentally it comes down to any military "Information Operation" planning outline, shape the narrative, be first and not wrong, look for opportunities to discredit opposing IO campaigns, etc.

Not to make a "Mein Kampf" level error in judgement, as sometimes madmen really do write out their plans in advance, but I think that a lot of the infighting in the freedom community is simply the result of independent thinking people not agreeing with each other.

Probably why it is so delicious to us when the Progressives have an existentialist crisis when they start infighting over Feminism or some other Progressive cause du jour subject. However we don't have to blame that infighting on paid government trolls as we understand that progressives are nasty unhappy people prone to name calling.

Of course I could be a paid government shill trolling your sight specifically to cast doubt on the conspiracy theory that paid government shills are trying to "shape the debate."

But you can't prove that, and I can't disprove that, which means it is a perfect conspiracy theory. And conspiracy theories always have an element of "something you don't know" but use points of evidence to support, which is in and of itself a confirmation bias.

A Reader said...

I have a theory of my own. We just can't get along. We are a loosely organized cavalcade of self-consecrated Paladins. A lot of us have not yet learned the first rule of paladinry, which isn't combat (in our case, the strategy and tactics of resistance) or even piety (in our case, the definition of liberty). The first rule of being a Paladin is "Don't be a jerk about being a Paladin." It's important to discuss tactics and even more important to be able to define our motivation, both for ourselves and for potential supporters, but there's so much violation of Rule 1 that it's scarcely worth the aggravation of winnowing to find the wheat.

Given all the sniping and squabbling I've seen over the last five years, and over the last two in particular, we'll learn Rule 1 about the time we've all been dead for five years. Once upon a time, I read SSI and WRSA daily. I don't any more because I've gotten damn tired of all the back and forth. I can't tell who's lying or who's telling the truth. I don't know enough to judge the matter, never having met any of the disputants in person and knowing better than to trust anything digital implicitly. Frankly, I'm more than little pissed that it's even necessary to try to figure that crap out.

Graybeard said...

A Reader - Bingo! I think you do a better job of summing up things than I do. I could enlarge on this, but all that later.