Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Alt-Right Watch: The Propaganda Machine

Hoo boy. Okay. Haha. Wow. Whew! Oh man. Okay. Hmm.




So. I just finished reading this article, which you may have already seem going around. It's been out for two days, and people were kinda freaking out about it, but it's pretty long and not even sectioned out so I didn't get around to reading it until today.

Um, here's the thing. It's a good read. It's fascinating, in fact. But it took me quite a while to get through due to the fact that with every paragraph I finished, the screaming in my head got louder.

Another problem is that providing a quick summary of what the article is about when you don't have any background in the shit they're talking about 100% sounds like an outlandish conspiracy theory on par with "the plastic lining on the inside of juice boxes makes you gay," only without the homophobia. And the author of this article hasn't been given high praise by Lord Dampnut.

Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media

The headline really doesn't do it justice. This is about more than the clear war being waged on news media and journalists by Dampnut and his sith army. Those guys have already outright declared "the media" to be the enemy. It's an organized effort to control how people think and how they view the world via wordplay, Twitter bots, and cheating the Google search engine algorithm to produce a terrifying psychological war machine.

I told you it sounded ridiculous. But these are all real things. Being an expert on words, I've explained many times how they're used to influence people's thinking. This is a well known fact among political pundits and strategists, including the people who came up with terms like "welfare queen" and "liberal media" to effectively demonize certain groups of people and turn public opinion against them. This is done deliberately, and it's not a secret.

We all know that Twitter bots are a thing. And that there are a lot of them. They're not hard to make and it's not hard to trick the average person into thinking they're real people.

As someone who was once in the business of digital marketing and SEO (search engine optimization), I am well aware of the battle between the makers of search engines (the primary one being Google) and people who seek to subvert their algorithms to artificially put their sites at the top of the list when certain terms or phrases are inputted into the search bar.

I always thought of that last group as doing it to make a quick buck. They make a quick, cheap website, pull a bunch of bullshit to get at the top of the list, and make some money before Google can figure it out and dropkick the site into the dumpster. It's a well-known problem among the SEO crowd. It's called "black hat" marketing or "black hat SEO" or whatever.

I've known of Twitter bots being used politically. Most of us have probably at least heard of the creation of bots used simply to harass certain people. Some heroes are even starting to create bots dedicated to good instead of evil.

Somehow it never quite clicked that all of this could be put in motion on a vast scale for political purposes. All it would need it a lot of funding. And who has a lot of money? Oh yeah, the billionaires who are often conservatives because god forbid they be made to share a tiny fraction of their obscene wealth.

All this knowledge combined with being a psych nerd who has some understanding of how the human mind works and how easy it can be manipulated and you have me, curled up in a ball on the floor, just trying to breathe.

Did you know that Breitbart has more views coming from the U.S. per year than PornHub? That's terrifying not just because it suggests a lot of people are viewing it. Those views could be faked. The problem is that popularity is one of the main ways that search engines and social media sites determine if a website is legitimate. So if you search for a phrase or term or question on a certain issue, Breitbart is all the more likely to come up. Recently, I noticed that a lot of the news on my Facebook news feed was coming directly from Breitbart. I assumed it must have been my fault. I must have looked at Breitbart recently because they had yet another shitty, bigoted article that I wanted to scowl at in disgust and/or laugh at before leaving, and therefore Facebook was like "hey you like this site, right?"

I manually told Facebook to stop showing Breitbart on my news feed, but now I wonder if it had nothing to do with my own activity. Maybe Breitbart has been gaming the system so well that it's getting into everyone's feeds with its misleading or outright ACTUALLY FAKE information and bigoted messages, including headlines that routinely demonize and blame Muslims, black people, and immigrants for every bad thing that happens, including when they're the victims of said bad thing.

Combine this with cheap websites that, instead of selling products, sell a message. Combine that with millions of Twitter bots also pushing that same message. All of this, according to this article in the Guardian, is being funded by ultra-conservative billionaires with programs being developed by conservative computer geniuses. And all of this is connected to Steve Bannon. Conservatives, fascists, white supremacists and neo-nazis are controlling the information. This effectively means that net neutrality is an illusion. They're already funneling us to the websites and messages that benefit them. And "they" are not Jewish people, by the way. They're people who hate Jews and want them to die.

This is why so many people are the way they are. The everyday conservatives robotically repeating lines from the mouth of Lord Dampnut live in a world where these are the only messages they get. They watch Fox News, they listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, and then they go online and see nothing but Breitbart-style messages, and all of this is now confirmed by the President of the United States. Those of us who have been inoculated against this propaganda machine can come to them with facts, but they've basically been programmed to scream "FAKE NEWS" at it until it goes away. And I do mean programmed. This is a large-scale brainwashing effort.

And if that sounds outlandish, you don't understand how easy it is to influence and brainwash the human mind. We're all susceptible to it. This is widely recognized by psychologists.

But perhaps more than anyone, Professor Rust understands how the kind of information people freely give up to social media sites could be used. 
“The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. It’s what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. It’s how you brainwash someone. It’s incredibly dangerous. 
“It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.”

If this doesn't terrify you, then you might be in a state of hardcore denial that frankly, I can understand.

But people have been concerned for a while about what online advertising and data mining could be doing to the public. People are often unnerved when they find out how easily and readily websites collect their information and use it to target certain advertising at them, and for good reason. But it's so much worse if rather than trying to get you to buy a certain brand of toilet paper or tempt you with that shirt you were looking at earlier, they were trying to influence your view on political matters. On other human beings and what they deserve. On things that affect the future of the human race.

There's a specific term used in the "intelligence community" we've been hearing so much about lately. It's "psyops." It's simply short for "psychological operations." It's not only real, it's routine. Psychological warfare is routine, and now it's being used on all of us. I don't really care at this point how much it involves the Russians. What I care about is how to stop it.

I don't know how to stop it. At all. It's making me wish I had gone for a computer science degree. It's making me think I should focus all my energy on becoming a hacker so I can bring down bots where I see them, at least. I continue to struggle with feeling like I'm not making enough of a difference here. What good is my blog if too many people are just going to label anything I say "fake news" and go on their self-destructive way?

Somebody tell me. If the internet is compromised, now what?

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