Standardized Thought

“From this [advertising] expert he learned that the key tool of the ad trade was to “standard[ize] thought by supplying the spectator with a ready-made visual image before he has time to conjure up an interpretation of his own.3 In that instant before the process of making sense was completed, a presupplied image and, subsequently, a thought (not quite your own) could take hold. Thought was being standardized.”

—Rebecca Lemov, “Into the Whirlpool.” The Hedgehog Review. Summer 2020.

A discussion of legibility and mass manipulation from print media through YouTube and Facebook algorithms. Nothing new here for people familiar with James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State or Edward S. Herman’s Manufacturing Consent. However, I did like this idea of standardizing thought, which is clearly what the 24 hour news networks, YouTube, Twitter, etc. are doing.

Disinformation: Heartland Institute & Climate Change

“The document, a product of our joint investigation with ZDF Frontal21, gives exclusive insight into the million euro business of climate change deniers. It proves how disinformation is professionally scattered around society with the help of supposed experts, corrupt scientists, intentional spin and YouTube.”

Katarina Huth and Jean Peters, “The Heartland Lobby.” Correctiv. February 11, 2020.

A good place to get an understanding of how disinformation, online radicalization campaigns, etc., work.

How a “Political Astroturfing” App Coordinates Pro-Israel Influence Operations

“…a pro-Israel smartphone app that seeds and amplifies pro-Israel messages across social media — saw its first major test in May 2019. It offered a glimpse of the novel methods by which future influence campaigns will
be conducted and information wars won…[the app] assigns users a series of ‘missions’ — typically a comment, retweet, or ‘like’ — intended to boost pro-Israel content across multiple platforms. Through these missions, Act.IL claims to have reached millions of people.”

—Emerson T. Brooking of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, “How a ‘Political Astroturfing’ App Coordinates Pro-Israel Influence Operations.” Medium.com. August 19, 2019.

Also:

“One of the most unique aspects in our activity is our “no-logo” strategy. The no-logo strategy allows anyone to use our content, [sic] and makes it easier than ever to reach audiences that aren’t necessarily pro Israel since they look at the content without a bias that is based on who created the content.”

—Act.IL internal documentation quoted in ibid.

Astroturf, pretending to be or hiding behind a third party to obscure identities and sources of information isn’t unique, it’s what defines astroturf. It’s manipulative, jackass behavior that works only when it isn’t found out. When it is discovered, it reflects poorly both on its origin and the interests they are attempting to promote. Choosing this approach says a lot about someone’s character.

A Narcissist’s Prayer

“That didn’t happen.

And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.

And if it was, that’s not a big deal.

And if it is, that’s not my fault.

And if it was, I didn’t mean it.

And if I did…

You deserved it.”

-Anonymous

There’s a support group on Reddit called /r/raisedbynarcissists that provides some basic resources for helping people understand the behaviors of their parents and other people in their lives who may have Cluster B personality disorders. They have guides to traits and tactics, and the idea of FLEAs, that living or growing up with someone with these behaviors often means you will pick up these traits and strategies yourself, even if you do not have a personality disorder.

Perhaps the most useful resources is their Best of post that links on red flags, boundaries, forgiveness and so forth. If you’ve encountered this kind of person in your life, it’s probably worth a look.

Facebook & Cambridge Analytica

“A whistleblower—a former Cambridge Analytica employee—presented a dossier of evidence to reporters that, according to the Observer, “includes emails, invoices, contracts and bank transfers that reveal more than 50 million profiles – mostly belonging to registered US voters – were harvested from the site in the largest ever breach of Facebook data.” The story is surprising on a number of levels. It suggests that Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, intentionally made misrepresentations in recent testimony to the British Parliament. It implicates the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, who together played a major role in the Trump campaign. But more than anything, it calls into question Facebook’s handling of what is clearly a massive breach of user privacy. ”

—Justin Hendrix, “Follow-Up Questions For Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Trump Campaign on Massive Breach.” Just Security. March 17, 2018.

It makes as much sense to leave Facebook today, as it did a year ago. Except, today, we know that many of our worse suspicions were true.