In a hearing today before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee charged with investigating technology and information warfare, cyber policy and national security expert Dr. Herb Lin of the Hoover Institution told lawmakers that in the modern era we are not formally at war, but we are not at peace either:
Every time the topic of the fake president, Guiliani, and the Ukraine scandal raises it's ugly head, I cringe regarding what they did to two innocent scapegoats in particular: Ambassador Yovanovitch and Lt. Col. Vindman.
As our ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch became the victim of defamation and dirty politics by Guiliani and the sitting, imposter POTUS. Lt. Col. Vindman, then Director of European Affairs in the White was equally diminished. Both lost their positions and were treated as personae non grata!
IMHO, they both deserve a formal apology from the US government, medals of honor, and huge monetary compensations.
Thank you for going beyond the 100 days, dear Prof. HCR. Just please ensure that you don't over-extend yourself -- first and foremost, we want you to remain vibrant and healthy!
Russia is waging all-out cyber war against the US and has been doing so for quite a while. Clemson University researchers Patrick Warren and Darren Linvill have been able to pinpoint exactly how the Russian bots manipulate public opinion.
The Russian social media posts are generated en masse by an industrial-style system created by Putin’s Internet Research Agency. By using a simple user template that could be repeated and tweaked according to specialized types of information, these so-called “troll factories” manufacture lies in much the same way a bottle factory churns out plastic soda bottles. And it works. The bot posts look just human enough to be believed, and the more extreme and angry they are, the more enraged other users become.
One of their most insidious skills is to pile support behind a few human outliers. This way the extreme sentiment comes from a real American, while the bots are agreeable but just polarizing enough to tip the scales. As Linvill has observed: “People are persuaded by things they’re already inclined to believe, not by someone yelling at you. The trolls were trying to be your friends, not your enemies.”
Worst of all, the bots’ stealthy emotional impact tends to linger long after they are discovered and kicked off of social media. This, Warren argues, is where the true danger lies, because their influence is “like an infection. It spreads into the social media ecosystem. And even when you take away that vector, you’ve done lasting damage to the body.” This body is not just the Twitter-verse, but American society and democracy, itself. As the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence notes, the Russian trolls are intended to “stoke anger, provoke outrage and protest, push Americans further away from one another, and foment distrust in government institutions.” Our best option for protecting ourselves against this infectious disease of collective illusion is to understand what it looks like, and how it spreads.
Unmentioned in this story are other Republicans who conspired with Russia to spread disinformation - Michael Flynn, Ron Johnson, Roger Stone and Devin Nunes (and likely others). I hesitate to contradict HCR - but I think it does matter whether foreign actors are working in concert with American politicians. Because it means that those foreign actors have leverage over those politicians. That is why Flynn had to be fired. Conspirators are compromised, they can be black-mailed. We saw Trump (and Flynn, and Nunes and Johnson) carry out questionable activities that seemed designed to help Putin. We saw Trump destroy notes from his meetings with Putin. We saw Johnson hold Senate hearings that directly benefitted Putin (and Trump). It’s highly likely that Trump was a Manchurian candidate, beholden to and directed by Putin. That matters greatly.
Most of the news today and yesterday began with searches by the FBI of Rudi Giuliani’s home and office, seizing his phones and computers. In recent years, Giuliani has made a fool of himself, telling one bizarre tale after another. He was Trump's mouthpiece (as though Trump needed another mouth) and his defective-detective. Rudi made a show of himself at January 6th pre-insurrection rally: 'Over the next 10 days', he said, 'we get to see the machines that are crooked, the ballots that are fraudulent, and if we’re wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. Let’s have trial by combat.' and so they did.
Heather's Letter did not start with Rudi. It began instead with cyber policy and national security expert, Dr. Herb Lin. A couple of days ago, he testified before the House Armed Services Committee charged with investigating technology and information warfare. America have been through cyber attacks, wildfires and hurricanes, the pandemic, widespread hunger, racial protests, a threatened economy and political turmoil. Dr. Lin had something more to add:
“Information warfare threat to the United States is different from past threats, and it has the potential to destroy reason and reality as a basis for societal discourse, replacing them with rage and fantasy. Perpetual civil war, political extremism, waged in the information sphere and egged on by our adversaries is every bit as much of an existential threat to American civilization and democracy as any military threat imaginable.”
In addition to major cyber attacks, there is shocking amount of domestic misinformation at home. The Justice Department is plowing ahead, nevertheless, we don't know how lasting the BIG LIE will be. It is emotionally potent and not likely to fade, unless and until the Republicans are defeated again and again. We don't know what the effects of the last 14 months are having on our children. We don't know how our big cities will survive.. Given the Republican's desperate legislative moves and the Republicanized Courts, who can say what the midterm elections will be like?
The Information War is something we know about. Many Americans still think Trump should be president; won't take the vaccine and about 75% of elected Republicans as well as Republican voters don't take Covid-19 seriously or observe healthcare protocols. The information War has spilt family members, communities and friends. It is also right here in the forum. I call them 'tools' because they belong to our opponents. They attack our reasoning, take our time and divert us from our purpose. They are the louses in the house. Some subscribers gravitate to them out fascination, curiosity, innocence or boredom. They mess with us.
If you wear a mask and want to get vaccinated, act responsibly; care about your concentration, your learning, work and clarity of mind -- stay away from the 'tools'. They will invade your space and mess with your head. I'll learn more about them but not by giving them any of my time.
Herb Lin, the national security expert and teacher wrote book, The Art of Peace. In it he wrote, 'In short, we only have ourselves to count on. But that's not nothing. We have us.
Fake News and its use in propaganda is nothing new that's for certain. People have been telling lies to people to incite them to do something since time immemorial. Control of information flows has always been an key element in attaining positions of power and keeping that power against similarily possibly unprincipled adversaries. However, what is new is, firstly, the current widespread availability of uncontrolled networks that facilitate and help dispense these messages in channels that it is next to impossible to counterbalance. Open access social media are, of course, an ideal platform for the propagation of unsubstantiated opinion and rumour which are currently polluting the psychy of many generations of active users. This however, in less omni-present forms, has always been around in one way shape or form. Social media has not invented bad faith, it just tends to live off its back.
What is new though, and my second point, is that this fake message can have such astounding impact. Are people being so disserved by our crumbling, politically limited education systems that they are even less able now to distinguish fact from fiction....or are the messages now spiralling down the hierarchy to pockets of society that never truly benefited from sufficient education or nutrition and never understood or cared actually how the system worked...for or against their interests. This however is confounded by the sociology of the "believers" as education is not necessarily lacking...but what is lacking is the will to see the reality being obscured by the false message and the true worth of those propagating the message. People want to believe the lies that they are being told as it allows them to vent their anger on someone else...it is nolonger their fault that their life is not what they hoped it would be...it gives them someone to hate.
That many of those holding the wealth tend to beware of those, in their minds, as amoral as they....as they can not conceive of a moral person fighting for justice for the ordinary people.... who would want to take away the one thing they've managed to get in life...Money...is hardly surprising. What we do have now is a coordinated effort on their part, in different parts of the world to prevent the revolution that would significantly reduce their wealth and power, their status and their innate sense of great personal worth.....for the sake of those that they fear and despise....the people.....and their weapon of choice is "fake news".
What to do about it? Well one remedy would be to do 4 things on internet:
---- stop allowing advertising as an operating expense for tax purposes and thereby massively reduce the level of advertising and sponsorship in the economy....reducing sports salaries amongst other benefits...and thereby making internet change its business model to a subscriber base and significantly reduce the impact of its message.
-----Make "opting-in" for the personal data the dominant model without loss of service on the site for refusal and thus massively reduce the data market and further attack the companies financial structure.
----Break up the GAFFA monopolies to enforce competition between a multitude of suppliers rather than the current controlling Hi Tech Oligarchy
----Make the social media legally responsible for its content and allow individual and class action suites against them.
Then we can start to attack educational improvement which might enhance the attraction of "reality" in the minds of all the people.
The question is whether the twice-impeached former president will be charged if evidence warrants. Will the Manhattan DA file charges against him, too, should evidence indicate as such? One certainly hopes; his status as a former president shouldn’t be taken into consideration. No one is above the law.
"It doesn’t matter, Dr. Lin pointed out to the subcommittee today, whether foreign actors are working in concert or in parallel with American actors when they spread disinformation: the destabilizing effect is the same." When it is "foreign actors" it is cyber warfare. When it is domestic actors joining with foreign actors, it is treason.
So glad to see your post tonight. It would appear that the legal system is doing what the Republicansrefused to do — examine the evidence. It is my hope that this is only the opening salvo in a “war” against disinformation.
QAnon has "Made in Moscow" stamped all over it.
Putin and his quite capable team of hackers and trolls must be astounded at the gullibility of so many Americans that so far-fetched a tale as spun through the QAnon digital avatar has been swallowed whole by so many. Baby eaters, fergawdsakes!
It will be difficult, maybe impossible, for many of those taken in by QAnon and all the other "alternative facts" promoted by the Republican mis-information media industrial complex to admit at some point that they've been hornswoggled. It's not easy admitting you've been completely fooled.
Still, it's good to see the DOJ, through its investigation into L'Affair Ukraine, beginning the process of disassembling the ediface of lies constructed under the previous administration.
And do I understand this part correctly: The FBI was ready to execute this raid at Slippery Snake Guiliani’s home before Biden took office but the Trump administration squashed that effort? I for one am actually relieved that Merrick Garland is the AG. An absolute snub to the GOP for not conducting a Senate hearing on his Supreme Court nomination. A talented individual who hopefully will operate with integrity and above the fray.
This is the clearest explanation of this whole dirty little game that I’ve heard. As well as how destructive it is. At last, I get the full picture. Thank you, Heather.
Thanks again for the clear summary. Let us all remember, the mechanism at work on the Fox News, OAM etc. side is still the same as it was when DT was in office. It's called projection - a term originally from psychoanalysis but easily transferred to the political sphere. The mechanism works quite simply: Whatever they accuse "the other side" of doing is exactly what they are doing themselves. Combined with displacement (another term from psychoanalysis, here as in,"what about"ism and also "look at the shiny object over there", sent daily to media once they are onto their game), and you have a fairly straightforward summary of the media strategy at work. Apply just a tiny drop of healthy scepticism to this lurid mixture, and their own discourse becomes an excellent source of clues about their own wrongdoing. Looks as though the FBI figured this out some time ago, with or without the fancy lingo.
Yes, it is karma that Merrick Garland is the AG. Great turn of events. And, while he has too much class, doesn’t have the time, inclination, or attitude I’ll say it for him “payback is a .....”
Rachel Maddow has been following the story of “Lev and Igor” for years. She and Heather are both skilled in their respective mediums in putting the pieces together for clarity. The trump cabal did a huge disservice to Ambassador Yovanovitch. With Merrick Garland at the helm her, on the record, testimony has an excellent chance of being the final nail in Giuliani’s proverbial coffin.
Next, the laser focus needs to turn on trump for his role (and that of all his minions) in Ukraine and January 6th. But, it must not be dragged out...this is not a young group of criminals!
This story about the Trump administration and the Russian intelligence services working "in concert or in parallel" also heralds, in my humble opinion, the obsolescence of RICO and conspiracy law, historically some of the most potent legal weapons against corrupt cabals seeking to foment crimes and weaken institutions. With the rise of Facebook and it's ilk, conspirators no longer have to meet in secret or exchange covert messages; all one has to do is post a dog-whistle message on Facebook. Revolution and insurrection has become crowdsourced -- there never has to be any direct conspiracy to effect nefarious plans.
I recall spotting a specific instance of this from Turkey a few years ago, where a dominant party functionary posted a social media message declaring an opposition figure an "enemy of the people," or some such nebulous charge, calling for supporters to find him, beat him to a pulp, and deliver him to party headquarters. Sure enough, the man was spotted and attacked within a few hours.
Now, doxing and disinformation have become favored tools for violent militias, ideological fanatics, and the moneyed interests that profit from chaos and weakened social institutions. Law and policy will have to evolve to catch up, and I suspect that will require a relaxing of privacy interests and a strengthening of trust in law enforcement entities. For all that we've seen horrible abuses by police and some law enforcement agencies, there are far worse actors out there, domestic and international, and we need those institutions to fight back.
No need to go overseas to find information warfare. We have some of the worlds finest in Newsmax, OAN, Tucker Carlson, the Former Guy, on and on and on.
All y'all do the heavy lifting here, info and analysis-wise. I provide color commentary.
Because there is so much trumpian back story and so many villains, it's been easy to back-burner some of the essential history re trump's destructive administration. This particular HCR letter alerted me to how careless I've become about my personal recollections. Ergo, this particular focus today:
18 U.S. Code § 2384 - Seditious conspiracy
"If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."
What bothers me most is this Code's "not more than twenty years." Nevertheless, what say the U.S. plan to put its southern border jails/cages/detention residences to far, far better use?! That said, a final question: "When?"