Food for thought from across the pond…
Below is the unedited text of a statement sent to to the UK Parliament’s Fake News Inquiry on November 21 2017. The intention at the time of its submission was to provide Parliament and MPs the time to deal with inevitable future disinformation campaigns led by the Kremlin.
If I may offer an opinion by way of metaphor: A dose of bureaucratic inertia, with a chaser of simple-minded weakness, salted rim of cynical political manipulation, and this toxic tonic of state and military justice is made ready yet again for our body politic to gut.
GTMO symbolizes the inversion of American ideals. It’s a tragedy, a poison in the system that endures.
Mr. Trump, give these men trials, sentence them to normal military prisons — show real strength and affect real change where your predecessors could not: Find a deal to shutter this ugly creature from the swamp. The legacy you seek, to make America great again, can yet be secured.
President Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order to keep open the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, after pledging during the campaign to “load it up with some bad dudes.”
In the interview below, a Googler speaks about “the redirect method”, a technique her colleagues used to influence extremist sympathizers away from ISIS through targeted advertising. While any effort to combat extremism is good news, what the savvy young employee of the megacorporation misses is that it’s the targeted advertising itself, and the consolidation of media online, that her company and its very few rivals like Facebook have done to global society that may be the more relevant concern. As many have noted, Google and Facebook’s recommendation algorithms and market dominance create closed information systems, rabbit holes of intensification that steer viewers toward greater consumption of self-same information. So the young man who watches an ISIS video will be bombarded with more ISIS videos well before he ticks a blip on anti-ISIS algorithm, and is finally served alternative information that may pull him back from the abyss.
Alphabet and Facebook are not honest brokers. They have engineered, deliberately, media systems that offer free societies high-stakes emotional manipulation over civil discourse: propaganda over debate, all in service of that age-old, but deadly sin, avarice. This new old-reality begs a few questions: Who benefits? Can it be controlled? Would mandating a diversity of viewpoints from the algorithms be helpful? Maybe it’s time to consider breaking up businesses that control so much of what we see, what we think?
We need to deepen our understanding of how social media platforms are being weaponized-and to find technological solutions to counter this trend. MIT Technology Review’s Martin Giles and Yasmin Green of Jigsaw explore this topic.
“Everything is PR”. Peter Pomerantsev explains the transformation of Russia from an aspirational, fledgling democracy to a cynical, authoritarian quasi-oligarchy. According to Peter, a madness of sorts now pervades the culture:
America and her NATO allies might be wise to focus on finding a path forward for the Kurds that works for Turkey. After the vote for Kurdish independence in September, tensions will likely increase in the area. The article and video below provide details.
It’s important to note here that losses incurred in our nearly generation-long engagements in the Middle East have been as much diplomatic as military. Without receiving significant support from Turkey, a nation that fought side-by-side with NATO in the Korean War and supported the first Gulf War, we were unwise to start conflicts in her Ottoman-era territories. The Turkish border has become a conduit for human traffic into and out of Europe, including refugees and jihadists, and the government trends authoritarian and Islamist. This situation is arguably more consequential to world affairs than instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so should be reversed.
The good news is that America and her allies have made great strides against the menace of ISIS, lessening the pressures of human traffic. We can seize this opportunity to work wth Turkey, Iraq, Syria and the Kurds to map a future for the region that is as stable and peaceable as possible, a political solution that provides dignity and security to the Kurds — who have earned some freedom — without taking those same interests away from the Turks.
Turkey, a key member of NATO, has so far chosen to sit out the war against ISIS. Instead, it is at war with Kurdish militias in Syria, the only ground forces so far that have managed to take on ISIS and win.
I recently had to write a few paragraphs about something called a hybrid threat. Results below.
Scholar Andrew Bacevich lectures Googlers in 2013 about what he considers an uncomfortable, new characteristic of American political culture: the rise of militarism and the unquestioned worship of soldiers as the standard bearers of American virtue. Bacevich argues that this new feature of our lives is not only unrealistic, but also permits folly: We’re spending lavishly on the military in a way that is not commiserate with the threats we face and we’re giving military tools primacy over diplomatic channels as a means to exert influence. Bacevich shows us the power of intellectual honesty when asked around minute 27 to argue the counterpoint to his own assertions.