Not all racist words have to specifically invoke racist terms. They can be simple, everyday words, but used in a context and with a tone that makes them hateful. If a large group of people takes offense at simple, everyday words, then those words were racist. If you don’t think those words were racist, then you will want to check yourself.
For social media companies, insecurity is an integral part of their business model. It’s all down to how they work. They want to sell advertising and their rates are determined by the popularity of the pages where the ads run. More popular pages means higher ad rates, so anything that boosts popularity also boosts revenue for the social media companies.
Of course, when accounts that are liking and following are found to be fraudulent, advertisers cry foul and demand a purging of those fake accounts and also a reduction in their ad rates. This creates an incentive for social media companies to obscure account ownership so that fake accounts are less likely to be discovered. There’s also an incentive to engage in clickfraud, but I’ll pass over that for now. Instead, I’d like to focus in on how those fraudulent accounts can do more than just hike up revenues.
The Russian intelligence agency Федеральная служба безопасности Российской Федерации (ФСБ) – FSB to English-speakers – has made use of misinformation and agitprop since it was the FSK, and before that the KGB, and before that the MGB, and before that the NKVD, and before that the NKGB, and before that the Cheka, and before that the Okhrana. One could say that misinformation and agitprop have been hobbies of Russian intelligence agencies for about 130 years. What is new for this age are the avenues available to the FSB to spread its poison messages.
Before social media concerns, Russians wishing to whip up extremist political movements and create internal discord in Western democracies had to buy their own presses and pay for their own mouthpieces, which could be quite expensive. If one of those were unmasked, then the expensive operation would be compromised and that expense and effort would go to waste.
But with FaceBook and Twitter and blogs, the FSB now has drastically reduced costs and much higher levels of cover. It’s Agitprop as a Service! Consider how easy it is to run multiple fake online accounts, compared to hiring multiple agents. These accounts generate interest and activity on social media, so they drive up ad rates – the firms that would be policing them in an authoritarian regime are protecting them in a capitalist system.
Even better for the FSB, the ability of extremist groups – particularly the far right – to sequester themselves from other news sources means that, once a message is injected into their media echo chambers, it will be repeated often enough so that, in the observation of Josef Goebbels, it will be held up as a truth. What shows up on RT.com will be tweeted and retweeted by FSB accounts active in far-right forums and will soon be heralded as non-fake news in outlets such as Fox, ZeroHedge, and Breitbart.
Back when ZeroHedge was more focused on the financial misdeeds of large banks in the wake of the Panic of 2008, I was an avid reader of stories posted there. But something changed over time, particularly in the run-up to the 2016 election in the USA. It went from examining financial issues as its primary focus and slid deep, really deep into pro-Trump positions with lots of posters on its boards echoing comments that could be classified as pro-Russian, anti-Semitic, racist, neo-fascist, and/or a combination of the previous.
The slide in bias was obvious to me. I’ve been a follower of non-corporate media since the 1980s, and I know the difference between an investigative journalism piece and a partisan propaganda paper. ZeroHedge had definitely lost a lot of the former and had gained a lot of the latter. As the onslaught of Russophilism, antisemitism, racism, and neofascism increased, I felt a need to get out of that news source and seek out alternatives. In so doing, I did a lot of searching. In those searches, I was stunned to see how many other outlets were parroting the sludge from ZeroHedge, like they were sheep from Animal Farm bleating out “four legs good, two legs better!”
From all this agitation in stirring up the far right, Russia knows it is destabilizing America. The heads of the FSB know that the American far right will prove Pushkin right at every turn: it will reject ten thousand truths in order to cling to the lie that justifies itself. This is how I know Judge Moore is highly likely to win the Senate election in Alabama. The Russian Twitter choir is singing his praises and millions of far-right users of social media are echoing those sentiments, actively and belligerently.
Judge Moore, of course, is a hand grenade being lobbed directly at the US Senate. The man has shown a pattern of serial sexual predation against minors. If he wasn’t running as a Republican for the Senate, he’d be the focus of a true crime show right now. Russian tweets and far right echoes claim falsely that his accusers have either forged evidence against him or recanted their claims. Those lies allow his supporters to push hard for his election. If Moore is elected, it will roil the Senate as many senators will demand that he not be seated and that Alabama send a different favorite son to the Capitol. Each house of Congress can do just that, accept or reject the people sent to it – and Moore is ripe for rejection.
If Moore is rejected, it will split the Republican party even deeper. The Republicans are already incapable of putting together a coherent legislative agenda. With a Moore rejection, it will be practically open war between the different halves of the Republican party.
If Moore is not rejected, it will split the Republican party even deeper, but in a different way. Instead of Moore’s supporters repeating Russian propaganda that they were robbed, it will be outraged moderates, unable to stomach being in the same political caucus as a sexual predator. Bear in mind that the stalking of multiple daughters of single women, all around the same age, all in roughly similar ways, is an actual pattern of sexual predation. We have documentation of this. We have multiple testimonies to this effect. This is a sexual predator that the Russians, through insecure social media, are helping to force down the GOP’s throat.
When we look back to what happened in Georgia and Estonia in the decade prior to 2016, we see exactly the same thing. We see the social media misinformation. We see the political manipulation of extremists. When we look at Ukraine after the USA toppled a pro-Russian government there, we see even Russia providing armed assistance to extremists there. That fact chills me, especially in light of how many on the far right hinted at taking up arms if Trump wasn’t elected in 2016.
I doubt if they actually would have taken up arms on their own, but if they were whipped up by their social media echo chamber and shipped a few thousand AK-15s, maybe they would cross over that tipping point. If that were to happen, I have no doubt that a US Army would crush that insurrection… and then spend decades dealing with low-level guerrilla warfare, all fueled by continued echoing of Russian lies in social media echo chambers.
While there is increasing agitation on the left in the form of the antifa movement, there just isn’t as much militancy in the American left, especially after the legacy of peaceful, antiwar protests. These are not minds that will have much fertile soil for violent rhetoric. They’re also more likely to turn out one of their own if he or she is found to have feet of clay. Witness their abandonment of big donors found to be serial sexual harassers. Witness their pressure on their own political caucus to resign from office, rather than persist in running for it or remaining in place.
No, the fertile ground is in the neofascist mind. The Russians make those pushes in Greece, in Germany, and in the USA. And while I find Steve Bannon to be more of an Austrofascist than a Nazi (the strong affinity for Catholicism is a dead giveaway for Austrofascists), I don’t think such fine details matter either to the Russians or to the minds the Russians poison every day with their lies.
So how do we solve this problem? The market won’t solve it. In fact, the free market will fan these flames because the business model of Twitter and other outlets is to spread misinformation if that means more ad revenue. But in a world of multiple email addresses, how do we limit a person to just one Twitter account? In a world of VPNs and TOR exit nodes, how do we keep too many FSB-driven accounts from affecting social media? When these fake accounts actually started out years ago with softer agendas, and have loads of historical content, how do we build an algorithm that can identify a friend from a foe? Or a friend from a foe yet to reveal itself?
Hamilton 68 http://dashboard.securingdemocracy.org/ is a project that, instead of looking for the artillery shells of propaganda, seeks out the guns. While it does not claim to have discovered all sources of Russian disinformation on social media, it has found some significant signals amidst the noise. There’s some hope yet in the intel they are able to derive from extensive signals analysis. This is what any good intel agency does: read all the news to see where stories originated and how they are disseminated.
Right now, the Russian social media barrage is striving to elect Roy Moore to the US Senate. But, merely by getting the Republicans to cling to him like a piece of driftwood in a shipwreck, they’ve already demonstrated their control over that political faction. In the days and weeks to come, be certain that the Russians will continue to tug on that leash and the far right will follow every jerk and tug.
Insecure Social Media, Russians, and US Elections: Agitprop as a Service.
I’m glad you asked that question. As I read over the news today, which includes reports of massive feuding between Trump and GOP Senators, I thought to myself that Trump’s behavior is no different from that of a Russian spy whose mission was to infiltrate as deeply as possible into the US Government and then commence to sabotage everything. The endgame for this mission is to eventually get fired from the role, but in such a way as to question the legitimacy of the firing and to leave a question mark in the minds of many if the firing actually happened, thereby plunging American politics into chaos.
So, here’s how I see a potential nightmare scenario playing out:
1. Trump stays in office and alienates everyone, and I mean everyone. So much so that his own party is ready to cut bait on him and seek his removal from office.
2. Mueller eventually releases his report and/or Congress decides to impeach and/or Congress decides to invoke the removal from power clause of the 25th Amendment.
3. Trump pardons himself and everyone else named on Mueller’s rap sheet.
4. Trump goes on a state visit to some European country.
5. Congress removes Trump from power in absentia.
6. Trump shows up in Moscow and immediately starts propaganda that he is a victim of an elitist coup and that he is still the POTUS.
7. The 27% of Americans that are basically going to support Trump until you pry their MAGA hats off of their cold, dead bodies constantly throw a wrench into the political works with declarations that whoever is in the White House is “not their president”.
8. These deplorable nutjobs all in “safe” GOP districts, so they elect representatives with similar deplorable nutjob views, who then go on to undermine everything done by either party.
9. Eventually, Putin’s doctors become so concerned about his popcorn intake that they put him on a low-sodium diet.
We’re then left with Trump spewing Russian propaganda from Moscow instead of from Washington DC, where he currently spews Russian propaganda. And if anyone wants to debate with me whether or not Trump is spewing Russian propaganda, try me. Trump’s response to the Russians kicking out hundreds of diplomats is classic “Radio Yerevan” stuff.
The politics of safe districts coupled with legal corporate lobbying – corporate lobbying was illegal prior to the 14th Amendment – has left us with politicians who are mostly beholden to extremist primary voters and huge campaign donors. That, in turn, left the USA highly vulnerable to what the Russians set up in 2016. I was skeptical at first, but now I am convinced that the Russians picked Donald Trump as their winner and the GOP took that bait. They took it all, hook, line, and sinker.
What we have right now is pretty bad, I’ll admit. But it could be much, much worse, as I’ve noted, above. Given the pace of the current spread of this gangrene, I figure something like this will have happened by this time next year. That’s a realistic assumption, so I’ll cut that in half and give it six months to play out. Which means this all goes down in the next two weeks, possibly…
On 12 August 2017, a white supremacist showed us all that his movement is basically the same as ISIS when he drove his car into a crowd of people. I would rather be writing about something else on a Sunday morning, but I feel compelled to call out the alt-right for what it is: the American version of ISIS.
Its history goes much further back in time than ISIS’, but we can see when they had a caliphate of sorts during the time of segregation. People who opposed them were beaten and murdered as they sought to preserve their regime through violence. As segregation fell apart, they struggled on, even when the police forces they once controlled now started to investigate their crimes.
These segregationists, Nazis, and other groups collectively labeled the alt-right are emboldened in the wake of the election of a president who has always winked and nodded in their direction. This same president refused to disavow them or to condemn them specifically after this act of terror. This president is one of them.
His basis for survival depends upon the American ISIS and, as a result, he has become their imam, their fearless leader, their führer. If he abandons them, he has no support of consequence in any other group. With them and their threats of violence if the polls do not go their way, he can keep a grip on power.
Senator Flake of Arizona recently pointed out the Pyrrhic, Faustian bargain that the Republican party has made in his recent book. In the wake of this tragedy, I hope that other Republicans join with Senator Flake in denouncing the violence of the alt-right and specifically setting themselves up as enemies of that movement. We do not see that courage or conviction in our spineless, pandering president. Let us at least see that in the Republican party itself, if it is not to go down in history as the gate that opened to let these deplorables into power.
I’m disappointed by many of Ted Cruz’ positions, but I do applaud him for taking a stand: https://www.cruz.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=3280 What disappoints me now is that I do not see a similar statement on John Cornyn’s page. Mr. Cornyn, where is your stand against terrorism?
I ask that question out of genuine concern. If a politician is not going to stand up and declare he is the enemy of the American ISIS, we have to ask why. We have to ask so that we know where our leaders stand. We have to know if our leaders will actually show courage or if they are nothing more than craven vote-counters.
Where do your representatives stand?
Where do you stand?
It’s not just enough to condemn the violence, the movement that spawned and justified the violence has to be condemned. A failure to even say a word is enough to give these murderers strength. We don’t have to engage them in arguments. We simply have to say that we do not agree with them and that we oppose and condemn the destruction of the American ideal.
We must condemn the American ISIS for what it is. Dignity demands it of us.
“17 Moments of Spring” is very Russian. Very, very Russian. It was the most popular television serial since its release in 1973, and its broadcasts are typically associated with increased demands on power stations and severe drops in criminal activity. Everyone is glued to their televisions, fascinated by the KGB-produced spy thriller.
The main character, Maxim Isaev a.k.a. Max Otto von Stierlitz, is no James Bond. James Bond is far too jovial and carefree for the idealized KGB agent that Stierlitz exemplifies. The series focuses on minutiae, careful analysis of documents, meticulous interrogations, and has scenes where the main characters simply show facial reactions to replayed tapes of bugged meetings or where they exchange silent glances – one of those scenes goes on for six entire minutes. Americans would lose their mind with those kinds of demands on their attention spans. Russians can’t get enough of it.
This brings me to the events swirling around the Trump administration regarding members of his campaign making inappropriate contacts with Russians. One revelation has Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, working with Russian Ambassador to the USA, Sergey Kislyak, to create a back channel of communications to Moscow involving specialized Russian gear, designed to evade detection by US intelligence. Yet, the revelation came from Kislyak using a channel that US intelligence monitored. US Senator Lindsey Graham said that that doesn’t add up. Why would they go to all that effort to set up a back channel only to essentially announce it to US intelligence?
Watch “17 Moments of Spring”, Mr. Graham. In spite of numerous inaccuracies, it does nail down one key element – the mind of a Russian spy. It was, after all, produced by the KGB as a sort of “Top Gun”, entertainment designed to improve their image. Why would Kislyak do those things? To set a trap, of course.
Kislyak may even be reprimanded by his superiors, just to make things look even better, but it’s clear that they drew Kushner out, played him like the amateur he is, and then arranged for evidence of his being unfit to hold a security clearance to fall into the hands of US intelligence, thereby discrediting an advocate of neo-conservatism in Trump’s inner circle. The Russians are quite happy to have isolationist Steve Bannon whispering in Trump’s ear. That’s the guy that at least does not increase pressure on Russia, if not relieve it. Kushner, who the US media once seemed to look at as a moderating influence on Trump, was also more in alignment with neocons like Graham in keeping the USA involved on the global stage.
And now we see why Graham is scratching his head in public. He wants Kushner to stay close to Trump, so that he can keep Bannon at bay. But, leaked facts are facts… if Kushner has scored an own-goal with his zeal in setting up a back channel of communications with Russia during the transition period… he can’t have that security clearance… he can remain an advisor, sure, but he will have to read a lot of newspapers, because he won’t be getting any more security briefings.
When the USA meddled in Ukraine’s politics, it was obvious that the USA was toppling a pro-Russian leader and getting a pro-USA guy in there. It was so obvious, we even knew that Joe Biden’s son was on the board of directors of the fracking company that was about to set up operations in the Donbass region. Russia’s reaction was threefold: retake the Crimea and make it part of Russia; start a pro-Russian rump state in the Donbass, and; return the favor of election meddling to the USA.
Part of intelligence is the art of finding conaspirational individuals who will further some of your ends, even if they oppose your ultimate goal. In “17 Moments”, Stierlitz is able to play Martin Bormann against the influence of Heinrich Himmler. In real life, I’m sure Russian agents were able to influence men in the FBI and CIA to go down certain paths of action that served well their ends. That’s just what Russian agents do.
But this case with Trump is almost comical in its dimensions. It’s certainly a laughing-stock. And, sadly, jokes once used to mock the seriousness of the series and Stierlitz’ razor-thin escapes now fit perfectly on the Trump administration. I will close with one:
Donald Trump is meeting with his National Security Council. Sergey Kislyak enters the room with a cookie platter. Kislyak places the platter on the table, opens a safe, removes all the documents, waves bye-bye, then leaves.
Secretary of Defense shouts, “What the hell was that?”
Donald Trump says, “That was Sergey Kislyak, spying for the Russians again.”
Secretary of Defense: “Why didn’t you do anything about it?”
Trump: “I’ve tried in the past, but he always manages to wriggle out. Not worth the effort going after him… Must say, though, he did bring us all cookies…”
Trump intends to hire thousands more Border Guards. Ostensibly, that can be a good thing. More jobs in distressed areas, things like that. But there’s a cloud for that silver lining: whenever the US Government has a mass hiring program, standards for hiring are lowered. Background checks and polygraph tests are skipped and we wind up hiring some bad hombres that later make headlines for use of excessive force, diverting evidence for their personal use, or, worst of all, be involved as inside men for organized criminal activities.
We’ve already got a big problem with cartel moles in the US Border Patrol. Hiring people to go to remote places like Presidio, Texas, where the nearest grocery store is about 90 minutes away, increases the chance that someone way out there, alone in the dark, will fall victim to a bullet or a bribe.
Some Congresspeople have said we could skip background checks by hiring former veterans, but that’s not such a cheerful idea when one realizes that already we have issues with former veterans getting hired by cartels to penetrate organizations that skip background checks for veterans.
So what good is a wall that’s manned by people that are paid to look the other way and to turn off the cameras when criminals want to cross it? At that point, it’s no longer a wall, no matter how high it may rise. It’s just a particularly nasty speedbump.
To say that we’ll deal with that via more stringent controls is dangerously naive. We’ve already got endemic corruption along the border that our current stringent controls were supposed to deal with. And shouldn’t the stringent controls be applied at the time of hire, not afterward? Remember, in this scenario, we got people to work in desolate regions of the US border precisely because we lowered standards. No lowered standards, no people to watch the wall, which potentially saves the cartels some money that would have otherwise been spent on bribes or ammo.
I’m not presenting a bleeding-heart, think of the children reason to not have a border wall because other people have put forward those stories and, frankly, folks most in favor of the wall don’t care for such stories. But I know that they do care about security and fiscal conservatism. To spend billions on a wall that produces a false sense of security is a massive fault against both such standards. That money can be better not spent and thereby not increase the deficit. Or, if the border is in dire need of reinforcement, then it is imperative to use funds to strengthen, not weaken, the Coast Guard, increase controls at the border and for heaven’s sake, repair relations with Mexico, which is only fighting the War on Drugs – La Guerra Contra Narcotrafico – as a favor to a nation it considers to be its friend. If Mexico is not our friend, then it does nothing to stop the flow of criminal activity and those trucks roll north, past bribed guards who see nothing, nothing at all.
And before you suggest something like legalizing heroin to take away those profits from criminals, ask yourself, “If I was a criminal and couldn’t make money smuggling heroin, what else could I profit from smuggling into the USA?” That’s the thing that will fill the trucks instead of what you just legalized.
In my view, the solution along the border has more to do with improving the way we handle immigration and drug addiction. These are tough problems and saying that building a wall will solve them is only a fool’s escape from realities. Building that wall is a form of giving up, like saying, “There’s a wall and, therefore, no problem.” But, as I’ve illustrated above, this border thing is so complicated that the wall soon becomes part of the problem.
So, who exactly pays the ultimate price of this wall?
Yes, I know Trump said he’d get Mexico to pay for “The Wall.” I’ll believe that when the Treasury of Mexico cuts the check. In the meantime, Trump’s people are proposing moving some budgets around to pay for that big, useless wall. One such proposal is to cut the Coast Guard budget by 14%. Link: The Independent
The Coast Guard is our floating wall, some of the most involved people in the security of America’s borders. In fact, quite a lot of the USA borders a major body of water. And if there’s a big wall and a closed border crossing at Brownsville, then that smuggler of drugs and/or people is going to load everything and everybody on a boat and sail it past an overworked, understaffed Coast Guard. That’s just stupid, cutting the Coast Guard budget to pay for a wall that will block the places where most of the illegal traffic isn’t going.
Remember my example? I stipulated that the border crossing was actually closed. That’s not likely to happen. It’s those border crossings where most of the trucks roll across with their loads, legitimate and otherwise. If one wants to stop the otherwise stuff, then there has to be better searching and control on those crossings. Next up is the sea traffic, which is where our Coast Guard comes in.
Face it, some of the easiest ways to move bulk goods involve trucks and boats, not mule trains crossing the Sonoran Desert or the Sierra Madres. If I was in charge of blocking illicit traffic, I’d put money into searching trucks and boats and kick a few bucks more towards intercepting small aircraft. A wall? Please. That’s totally useless. I don’t care who you voted for or what human rights are or are not violated by a wall. A wall is stupid, especially if, in order to get it, we practically invite everyone to travel by sea instead of land.
As I write this, President Trump is now 25.75 days into his administration. In that time, there has been a major court challenge to one of his executive orders, an ethics violation by his chief of staff, massive acrimony between his press secretary and the White House press corps, a resignation of his National Security Advisor, and a number of security breaches as unvetted civilians mingled with the Japanese Prime Minister’s state visit to the USA. Normally, stuff like this takes much longer to develop and unfold in an administration, but this is the worst presidential honeymoon I can imagine.
Democratic resolve to resist everything Trump is doing and his acrimonious relationship with GOP insiders aside, there’s another force that seems to be working to undermine President Trump: the intelligence community.
We’ve had presidents and advisors with questionable, shady dealings in the past that didn’t get anyone canned because the intel community in the USA was either involved or favorable to those dealings. But when Nixon passed over Hoover’s #2 at the FBI to head that agency when Hoover died, that man became Deep Throat and he brought down a president. It didn’t have to be Watergate, that just happened to be a topical scandal that presented itself. There were a number of other crooked things that Nixon’s administration was involved with: if Watergate hadn’t happened, one of those would have sufficed.
But it wasn’t just Nixon that went down. It was a large part of his top staff that fell from grace, even including his vice president. He had crossed the FBI, and he paid a dear price.
It’s now 2017, and Trump is finding out what happens when one angers the CIA in one’s presidential campaign. It’s not just that he insulted the agency. Trump campaigned against much of what the CIA is involved in and placed himself as an enemy to the agency. In return, they let him set himself up for a fall.
If the CIA were loyal to Trump, they could have let him know it was best to steer clear of a National Security Advisor with questionable contacts with Russia. Instead, they let Trump go with his choice and then, in just under 25.75 days, they provided enough evidence to torpedo the guy. Who else have they let slip through, only to destroy later?
Trump represents more than just a personal threat to the intel community. Because his populist, nativist movement is hostile to the CIA, they can’t just take down Trump and be done with it. Before they destroy the man, they have to destroy is ideas. As Trump’s staff have their failures made known, watch for the national media to educate one and all of the folly of their ways. Watch for stern, disapproving lectures from GOP senators that are close to the intel community – McCain and Graham come to mind – about the sad things that Trump and his associates are involved in.
The opposition he faces in the Democratic party will have its own day of humiliation, should they dare to support Sanders or anyone like him again. Clinton was undone by the FBI and it seems to me that Trump’s undoing is a quid pro quo agreement with the CIA, who finds him as odious to their ends as Clinton was to the FBI’s.
It’s easy. Get rid of the regulations that keep the banks from doing insane stuff. It’s easy, and Trump is getting underway with that very action. The process is simple. It’s known as the Minsky Cycle, which is then followed by the Fisher Cycle. The Minsky Cycle describes how things get completely out of hand and, in the middle of a euphoric bacchanal brought on by deregulation and speculation, a moment arrives at which investors panic and the economy collapses. At that point, the Fisher Cycle describes the resulting depression and how it persists in spite of efforts by the government to make things better.
The sad thing is that while those two cycles are some of the most accurate models to emerge from modern economics, they fly in the face of the grand beliefs of the neoliberal economists that believe only free trade and the gold-plated anarchy of deregulation will save the world. Since those neoliberals are also running the world’s major private banks as well as the central banks, they’re always promoting policies to further their ideological views, even when those views always end in tears. Their battle cry is “This time is different!” as they pilot financial machines toward the abyss.
That President Trump has chosen a Goldman Sachs banker for his treasury secretary came as no surprise to me. His speed in junking banking regulations, as well, is no surprise. With markets at all-time highs and debt structures in Europe ready to collapse, the ensuing financial collapse will also be no surprise.
Protip: If you want to make a nation great, keep its banks on a tight leash. Letting them run free never ends well.