From the Archive: In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Trump announced that he had signed an executive order to keep the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay open. On this occasion, we republish an article from 2012 by Nat Parry marking Guantanamo’s ten-year anniversary.
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 swallow.
GTMO symbolizes the inversion of American ideals. It’s a tragedy that endures.
Mr. Trump, give these men trials, sentence them to normal military prisons — show real strength and effect 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, the consolidation of media online, that her company and its very few rivals like Facebook have done to the internet 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 served alternative information.
Alphabet and Facebook have engineered, deliberately, media systems that offer high-stakes emotional manipulation over civil discourse. This new 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:
I recently had to write a few paragraphs about something called a hybrid threat. Results below.
15 years ago, it was predicted…
Going to war with Iraq would mean shouldering all the responsibilities of an occupying power the moment victory was achieved. These would include running the economy, keeping domestic peace, and protecting Iraq's borders-and doing it all for years, or perhaps decades. Are we ready for this long-term relationship?
ISIS’s military defeat, which Western officials believe will come sometime later this year or early next, will hardly put an end to the conflicts that gave rise to the group. For much of the battle against ISIS has taken place in a region that has been fought over ever since oil was found in Kirkuk in the 1930s.
Liu Xiaobo was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. In 1996, Liu was sentenced to three years in a labor camp for criticizing China’s one-party Communist system. It was during this time that he married his wife, Liu Xia, who was placed on house arrest in 2010 after informing Liu of his Nobel Prize win.
Every month, the Chinese poet, photographer, and artist Liu Xia boards a train bound for the country’s north. Carrying food and books and escorted by four plainclothes police officers, she heads for a prison in the city of Jinzhou where her husband, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, is serving a sentence for subversion of state power.
Social media, power, algorithms and politics combine to “gerrymander us down to the person”. Author, social scientist and university professor Zaynep Tufekci speaks with Sam Harris in the podcast below. Zaynep asserts that the tools of what she terms “asymmetric surveillance capitalism” — algorithms Google and Facebook build for targeted advertising — have been used by political power-brokers to micro-target individuals for persuasion and control. The click-bait politics of social media are “a perfect setup for authoritarians”, Zaynep states: algorithms stoke divisions and create closed systems that push viewers down a rabbit hole toward extreme ideas.
In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Zeynep Tufekci about “surveillance capitalism,” the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook, AI-enabled marketing, the health of the press, Wikileaks, ransomware attacks, and other topics.
“I was born in North Korea and stayed loyal to the country but got treated like a criminal. I got abandoned by China because I wasn’t their citizen, but the country that was supposed to be my enemy welcomed me with open arms… I couldn’t believe it.”
— North Korean defector