Saturday, August 25, 2018

Critical Path


Why is John Kerry going down to Antarctica just a week after the election to discuss climate change and then you have energy beams coming out of Antarctica splitting hurricanes?
-- Owen Shroyer, Infowars


We are under attack.

America is under attack.

From weather weapons and energy beams wielded by John Kerry, if you believe Alex Jones.

It’s true. Quite literally. But not in the manner described by hysterical conspiracy theorists. And nothing so simple or as silly or as easily countered.

America is under attack. It’s true. We are under attack in a war that very few Americans, most especially including those in charge, or those pushing conspiracies, understand. Worse, it’s not just that we don’t understand this war, it’s that so very many Americans are not even capable of understanding this conflict.

And thus America is ill-equipped to fight off this assault.

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A study published today in Research and Practice, describes how Russian operators have weaponized health communication.

Specifically the authors, David A. Broniatowski, PhD; Amelia M. Jamison, MAA, MPH; SiHua Qi, SM; Lulwah AlKulaib, SM; Tao Chen, PhD; Adrian Benton, MS; Sandra C. Quinn, PhD; and Mark Dredze, PhD, show how information warfare pushed by social media automation (i.e. "bots) and directed by troll accounts, can use wedge issues like the conspiracy theories surrounding vaccinations to sow measurable chaos and division in the American population.

I have some significant experience in this field.

This is what I used to do for a living.

In the beginning I was a technical cryptologist. A codebreaker specializing in electronic signals. Back in those ancient days of the early 1980s, the world was a very different place.  As now, America faced myriad threats, but most of those took a backseat to the Soviet Union.

Over the years, the politics and the enemies changed, the tools evolved, but for most of the 20th Century intelligence work remained pretty much the same.

All that changed in the last 20 years.

And the most profound change in intelligence work is volume. Volume of information.

You see, back when I first joined the Intelligence world, bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Communication channels from out on the pointy end of the stick where I was back to certain three-letter agencies in Washington – and then on to the decision-makers and perhaps the public – was limited.

Extremely limited.

Limited in a fashion most of you who are reading this from your smartphones are unlikely to understand.

Let me give you an example: We often reported via encrypted satellite text-based messaging systems that operated at 75 baud. 

No, that’s not a typo. 75 baud.

What’s a baud?

Exactly.

Unless you’ve worked with old electronic communications systems, you’re likely unfamiliar with that term, baud. It’s a measurement of information rate, a unit of transmission speed that describes signal state changes per second in an analog shift-key teletype system.

Huh?

Right. Huh indeed.

Let me put it in modern terms: a baud is equivalent to one bit per second.

You, of course, looking at your 4G smartphone, you are much more familiar with megabits or even gigabits per second. Millions, billions, of bits of information per second. Every second.

But back in day, information moved at a much slower rate.

Depending on the character-set/encoding system used, it takes anywhere from 5 bits (Baudot code) to 21 bits (Unicode) to make one character, i.e. a letter or number or other special character such as a period or question mark. The very symbols you are reading right now. Back then, our systems generally used 8-bit character sets (ASCII). Meaning that it took eight state changes, eight bauds, to send one character. Now, if you’re running at 75 baud, each bit (the smallest unit of information in the system) is then 13.3 milliseconds in length, or about 13 one-thousandths of a second to transmit. Multiply that times eight and you find that it takes a little over a tenth of a second to transmit one character – and in practicality, longer, because we were pushing those bits through high-level encryption systems, and through multiple levels of bi-directional transmission error-checking.

Now, what all that technical gibberish means in practical terms is that sending data was slow.

Very slow.

In the amount it took to send one character back then, you could have reloaded this webpage on your smartphone half a dozen times over.  Or more.

In the last decade of the 20th Century, and the first two decades of this one, communication speed and the amount of data that we can send reliably – even from a satellite cell phone in the warzone, far out on the pointy end of the stick – has increased by several orders of magnitude, i.e. hundreds of thousands of times. In some cases, millions.

Volume.

Volume of information.

And that’s not necessarily a good thing. Not when it comes to quality and reliability of information.

Not when it comes to fact and truth.

You see, back in the day, every bit was precious. So, when we gathered information, sometimes at great risk to ourselves, that raw intelligence was examined on site by analysts, specialists in that particular target. If it was deemed worthy of further examination, then it was formatted into electronic reports. And those reports had a very specific structure, they were very lean, using only the characters necessary to relay the information and no more. Before the reports were transmitted, they were examined by a very experienced senior NCO – who was typically also an analyst.  Then, in many cases, the information was checked one final time by an officer. The report was sent up-echelon to a regional processing center, where it was again examined by a team of analysts and  combined with other information (a process that was in those days known as “fusion”), and then that report was examined at multiple levels and forwarded up the chain of command to one of those aforementioned three-letter agencies back in Washington, where it was combined with yet more information and turned into national intelligence assessments for those in the White House and Congress.

We had plenty of people, what we didn’t have was bandwidth and computing power.

So, it was imperative that every bit sent was as accurate and as reliable as possible, so as to make the absolute best use of our resources.

And the side effect of this painstaking process was that the final intelligence product was of very high quality and presented to the president by those were very, very familiar with the targets and who specialized in explaining this information to politicians in a fashion they could understand.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, how that information was interpreted and used by politicians at the top end of the chain of command is a different matter – and likewise when that information was declassified (in some cases) and pushed out to the general public. And it wasn’t just the intelligence community, news organizations labored under those same technological restrictions and the same biased-interpretation by the politicians and the public. Which had similar impact on the information they presented and how it entered the public consciousness.

That said, the information that arrived at the consumer was often as accurate and as reliable as is humanly possible.

All of that changed with the advent of dramatically increased bandwidth and processing power.

Over the last few decades the information cycle has become highly compressed, increasingly so.

And as the volume of raw information increases exponentially, at the same time the ability of both the news media and the intelligence community to analyze it and filter out the noise has dramatically decreased.

It has become utterly impossible to examine each piece of information in the detail we once did.

And as such, it is utterly impossible to ensure the quality and reliability and accuracy of that information.

Now, here’s the important part, so pay attention: Our society, both the decision-makers who run it and the citizens who daily live in it, is habituated to having information processed, analyzed, and presented in a fashion where they can have reasonable confidence in that information.

And that information thus directly shapes our worldview.

Up until recently, the average politician, the average citizen, didn’t have to be an information analyst, didn’t have to have critical information processing skills, because the information system for the most part did that on the front end. The consumer very rarely received raw information about the world outside of their own immediate sphere of observation.

Almost everything you knew about the greater world was filtered through information processing systems by experts.

That is no longer true in any fashion.


And yet, we operate as if it still is.


You can see this most clearly in the older generation, many of which still believe that “they couldn’t print it if it wasn’t true.”

This is bad enough in the general population, but it is a disaster of unmeasurable scale when government, and society itself, begins to operate on this unstable foundation.

The massive increase in information volume means that all of us are daily bombarded with a firehose of raw information, unprocessed, unfiltered.

And the vast, vast majority of you are ill-equipped to handle this in any fashion.

Most of the world lacks the training, the tools, and the support to filter bad information from good, to determine the validity of intelligence. And so, increasingly, we live in a world of malleable reality, one where politicians and media personalities tell you with a straight face “truths are not truths” and “there are facts and alternative facts.”

This problem became millions of times worse with the advent of social media.

And this situation, this world of alternative facts and shifting truth and bottomless raw unfiltered information piped directly into the minds of the population without  error-checking and expert interpretation creates new and unique vulnerabilities that can be exploited on a massive, global, scale in a fashion that has never been done before.

Information warfare.

More powerful, more far-reaching, more scalable, more destructive to the very fabric of our society than any nuclear bomb.

This form of warfare is incredibly powerful, far more so than any other weapon – because it reaches directly into your mind and shapes how you see the world.

Information warfare is infinitely scalable, it can target a single individual, or the entire global population, it can target a single decision-maker, a government, a population, or alter the course of history.

For example: The president of this country watches a certain news/talk/infotainment show. Every day. Without fail. And that show, the information presented there, directly shapes how he sees the world. You can watch this happen daily in real-time. Those who control that show, have direct and immediate influence on the president, and thus on the country, and thus on a global scale. It is an astounding national security vulnerability. One our enemies are well, well aware of and a vulnerability that our own counter-intelligence people cannot plug due to the very nature of their own Commander-in-Chief.

This is unprecedented in our history.

Over time, Information Warfare has had many names and been implemented in many, many ways – sometimes hilariously unsuccessful, sometimes horrifyingly effective, often somewhere in between. Deception warfare, communications warfare, electronic warfare, psychological warfare, perception management, information operations, active measures, marketing, whatever you call it, this form of weaponized intelligence really came into its own with the advent of social media and the 24/7 news cycle. 

And unlike conventional weapons, information warfare can be wielded by a handful of operators, working from a modest office with no more infrastructure than a smartphone and a social media account.

Weaponized information.

Active measures.

This was my specialty.  Over time, as the intelligence community changed, as technology evolved, my own career changed with it, I went from being a junior technician specializing in electronic signals to an information warfare officer, one of the first in my field to be specifically designated as such. And one of the first to go to war specifically as such. Now I'm not going to discuss the details of my own military career any further, because those specifics are still highly classified. Suffice it to say, this is a field with which I am intimately familiar. And one at which I was very, very good. 

And from that experience, I will tell you this:

An educated population trained from early age in critical thinking, whose worldview is based on fact, validated evidence, and science, is the single strongest defense – the only true defense -- against this form of assault.

But, we don’t live in that world.

We can’t put the genie back in the bottle. And we lack that defense, deliberately so. Because just as our own enemies benefit from an population incapable of critical thought, so do those who seek political power within our own nation.

A population skilled in critical thought is the best defense against information warfare waged by our enemies, but it is also the best defense against tyranny, against the corruption of political and religious power.

But, again, we don’t live in that world.

And as such, given the state of America, the anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory was an easy target.

It's not the only one, or the easiest one, or the wedge issue most vulnerable to manipulation, or the one most likely to be pushed from a low-grade irritant into a full-on pitched battle among the population and thus one that directly influences the decision-makers in charge of our government.

It is simply an easy target. One of many. Low hanging fruit. An obvious point of exploitation.

It’s not the conspiracy theory itself that is the point of vulnerability, it’s the conditions, the worldview, that lead to such persistently wrong-headed beliefs.

You see, it is religious nuts, the fanatical partisan, conspiracy theorists, the uneducated, the deliberately ignorant and the purposely contrarily obtuse who are the perfect targets for Information Warfare.


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These are the perfect suckers, easily manipulated and turned into unwitting tools of the enemy.

All you have to do is tell them what they want to hear.

And in America’s case, this target is uniquely vulnerable, uniquely fertile, because they have been conditioned by centuries of first religious nonsense given equal footing with science and then decades of conspiracy theory “infotainment” media treated as fact for profit.

If you want to know how we got here, all you have to do is look for the “Infowars” bumper-sticker proudly and unashamedly displayed on the car ahead of you in traffic or listen to the holy man who tells you that despite all scientific evidence to the contrary the earth is but 6000 years old and two of every kind of animal lived within walking distance of Noah’s house.

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It’s not just Alex Jones.

Or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Michael Savage and all the others who sell conspiracy theory as fact.

It’s not just Jerry Falwell and Ken Hamm and Joel Osteen and all the other holy joes who push their religious fraud as truth.

It’s not just the politicians who lie to you every day for their own profit and power.

It’s a population that utterly lacks the ability to process information in any reliable fashion, lacks intellectual rigor, lacks intellectual curiosity, and worse, lacks any desire to acquire such.


This is the population described by Orwell in his novel 1984.


Truth is not truth.

Understand something here, those on the other side, the operators working for Russia, they don't really care one way or the other if you vaccinate your kids.

Not really

Although an unvaccinated population is vulnerable to other kinds of warfare as well, and if campaigns like this one increase that vulnerability, well, then Russia gets more bang for its ruble and its biological weapons become just that more effective. In the military, we call this a force multiplier.

The goal here is division, to sow discord in the target population, start a fight in the target country and keep that fight going, break down unity, create distrust at all levels of the target society.

This particular point of attack is one of hundreds.

If you watch social media for this sort of thing, you very quickly see dozens of other points of vulnerability in the population. And if you go looking, and you know what to look for, you very quickly find evidence of similar manipulation on those fronts.

Information Warfare can, and is, used as a primary warfare area, as powerful or more so than any bomb. I've done it myself in combat. But when used in this manner, as the Russians are using it against us right now, it is a warfare support function. An enhancer. A force multiplier, one that makes other weapons, both kinetic and political, work better.

You don't need to hack election machines, if you can hack the voter.

You don't need to hack democracy if you can hack the citizen.

You don't need to physically destroy the United States if you can make Americans distrust the fundamental institutions of their own republic.

If you show that the election machines are vulnerable before the election and you do so in a manner that is purposely detectable – that you know will be detected and thus reported hysterically to the population by the target’s own media -- then you don't have to hack the actual elections themselves.

You only have to show that you can.

Couple that to amplification of voter disenfranchisement, enhanced by the aforementioned division, and you directly influence the population into believing that democracy cannot be trusted. That the fundamental fabric of the Republic is unsound. And the voters will stay home, or vote in a manner that creates division, or will not trust any results of the election and thus be prone to riot and protest and resistance against the resulting government.


You don’t have to destroy America, when Americans are willing to do it for you.


Now, the most effective countermeasure in this particular example should be obvious.

Secure the election.

By whatever means necessary secure the election, paper ballots, secure isolated non-networked machines, validated public audits, whatever methodology of validation and integrity is most provable to the population.

Instead of closing voting stations, open more. Get citizens to polls. Make it easier for the population to vote, not harder.

End by law those institutions which disenfranchise voters, i.e. gerrymandering, certain types of primaries, and so on.

In other words, do what is necessary to demonstrate to all citizens that the fundamental institution of the Republic is sound and that democracy can be trusted and that their vote counts.

Or course, the only way to do that is to actually make democracy trustworthy and make every vote count.


Instead, ironically, those in charge have done exactly the opposite.


Why?

Because this is the natural tendency of those in power.

And that tendency, that weakness of our republic, is precisely the vulnerability this line of attack is designed to exploit.

Russian information warfare didn't create this vulnerability, it simply takes advantage of it so long as we do nothing to counter it.

This particular attack, the one outlined in the study linked to above, is insignificant when looked at in isolation. It is simply a target of opportunity. One of many. But when looked at as part of the larger whole, it is an assault in a much larger and far more significant war. One that we are losing.

Russia doesn't have to destroy America with bombs and missiles.

All they have to do is make us weaker and weaker while they grow stronger.

All they have to do is exploit the vulnerabilities we give them.

All they have to do is take advantage of the deliberately ignorant and the gleefully stupid.

History will do the rest.

And there is no greater student of history than a Russian like Vladimir Putin.


Information is not knowledge.
-- Albert Einstein

127 comments:

  1. Putin has long known what we're just starting to realize -- it's not terribly difficult to defeat your adversary without a single casualty if you can divide them and get them to attack each other. And the greater the state of technology in that adversary, the easier it becomes.

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    1. And our military is spending big bucks on ships, planes, rockets etc. War has changed but We, the People, haven't caught on.

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    2. If you mean We, the People as the politicians who are supported by lobbyists who represent the corporations who have and want contracts to supply those planes, ships, rockets etc, then what you say may be true. It could also be that they know, but frankly don't give much of a damn, the campaign dollars and other perks they receive are more important - they suffer from anal-glaucoma and can't see their asses doing anything that doesn't benefit themselves.
      If you mean We, the People to mean the general population, a great number of us have been frustrated for years knowing that the bloated military budget - larger than the Pentagon even wants - could easily be reduced without sacrificing our national security and that money being allocated to fund infrastructure, education, the social safety net and much more.
      We try to be responsible when voting, but I wonder sometimes if there isn't a magic door that our elected officials walk through when they arrive at Capitol Hill that sucks them up into the status quo, abandoning the principles that they seemed to have on the campaign trail.
      sigh

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    3. The attorneys for our courts already employ this method and have for many years. Both federal and civil. They pose as devil's advocates on message boards and news articles which influences public opinion before ever getting inside a court.

      Thanks so much for your insights! Even when you got nothing, there's a little bit of something to share. Much appreciation.
      Katie

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  2. "An educated population trained from early age in critical thinking, whose worldview is based on fact, validated evidence, and science, is the single strongest defense – the only true defense -- against this form of assault." Ah crap, we're screwed...

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    1. Lived frugally so we could provide our children with the best possible education, but there are only two of them... However, they might each have two of their own and, I'm certain, will pass the same values on to them. Hope springs...

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    2. Have read other replies decrying that public education is no longer what it once was. When was that? I graduated high school in 1970. My public school taught no critical thinking skills whatsoever. Thankfully my grandfather sent me to a private school (St. Timothy's, Stevenson, MD) where I learned how to use my brain. Studying Latin helped me to learn logical thought processes. My public school did not offer Latin, nor do any of the public schools in the three county area where we now reside.

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    3. I graduated from a public HS in Charlotte in 1977. I certainly did learn some critical thinking skills. More importantly, I learned their importance. I had some heroically good teachers.

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    4. I had some excellent public school teachers in the 1970's who DID work on our critical thinking. They set up scenarios that were amazing lessons. I remember a world history teacher who (late in the school year) assigned us to individual countries at the end of WWI. Some of us were on the winning side, some on the losing, and set negotiating terms such that the winners got to make all of the decisions regarding national boundries, allocation of resources, and
      international law, but the losers had a voice at the table. What he did not tell us was that he had deliberately put all the most confident and clever debating students in the loser countries, and the most passive and unsure students in the winning countries. Needless to say the "losers" ended up finagling voting privileges then increases in territory and resources. It was a really strong lesson that has stuck with me all of these years. There were many others from many teachers in my largely blue collar high school. Our civics class included ethics and how to be good, informed, and participating citizen, as well as details on how our electoral and legal processes work. Is civics even taught anymore?

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    5. You really were "privileged" to have such a great education in life skills, especially that creative & insightful teacher. Blue-collar unions have a history of strong negotiating skills for "collective bargaining" that benefitted not only their dues-paying members, but those in lower management as well. I give the unions ALL the credit for the growth of income that allowed our middle class to expand. As I'm sure you know, the doors to really cheap labor opened then & executives outsourced those "Made in America" union jobs.

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  3. "Those who control that show, *HAVE* direct and immediate influence on the president"

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  4. "Truth is not truth." Didn't Giuliani say that just the other day? (shudder - I just read 1984 a few weeks ago.)

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    1. Wonder how Rudy the prosecutor would have responded if a defense attorney had uttered those words in court?

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  5. Your area of expertise sounds like it was very interesting work. Thank you for doing it for us & thank you for sharing the insights into the current situation which that work gave you. Elizabeth Mancz

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  6. Oh, thank you. Thank you so much.

    Another small example. Godwin's Law was called out so often when Nazis were mentioned for any reason, that this past couple of years, it's reflexive to brush off mentions of Nazis, just when we really need to pay attention.

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    1. https://twitter.com/sfmnemonic/status/896884949634232320?s=19

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  7. Quick edit: "So many Americans are even capable..." you need a negative there. Are not even capable, perhaps.

    EMH

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  8. Absolutely spot on Chief. Critical thinking and in-depth analysis has been set aside. The media is no help. They'd rather tell you who made the cut on Dancing With the Stars than today's Congressional deliberations because THAT isn't water cooler fodder.

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  9. In electronics: "If it works it is out of date" either Bill Miller, SMPTE Fellow, or me.

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  10. Thank you sir - thoughts well worth sharing.

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  11. So much here. Yes, the first priority is to secure the election and that means driving people to the polls, fighting to keep polling locations open, looking for and reporting voter intimidation. Actual ACTIVE participation in the process. Second is to start educating the public in critical thinking skills. Yes, some people don't want them and some people will never get it, but start with the kids. It almost has to be an underground movement at this point -- imagine the uproar over adding critical thinking classes to the curriculum. And third -- there is a well-organized network of blogs that repeat/echo conspiracy theories and flat out lies, so much so that when you go to fact-check something, you have to wade through pages of these outlets to get to a valid source. It's time to create a network of factually based blogs that can refute the crazy claims and rank organically. (Sorry this is so long.)

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    1. The teachers may also need to be taught what critical thinking is and how to do it. The degradation began at least w Reagan, if not farther back, as Republican strategy for this very purpose.

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  12. Good article as usual - spot on.

    One comment

    "Russian doesn't have to destroy America with bombs and missiles. "

    That is all.

    //

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  13. Love reading your blogs and facebook and twitter post it so refreashing to read something that has been researched and has facts and truths in it ! KEEP IT UP !

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  14. Trying to explain this type of warfare to those unble to see it for themselves is almost maddening. Khrushchev would have killed for this.

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  15. It's possible to be certain both that the other side is more vulnerable to being hacked like this and also certain that one has been the victim of it oneself.

    I'm *reasonably* good at critical thinking, but not at your level. I've been fooled. Nuance and specifics and disentanglement is critically important. It's possible to recognize *both* that MeToo and BLM are legitimate movements with legitimate grievances about overwhelming injustice. *and* that the rhetoric some of us (me!) are consuming about it has had portions subtly amplified to sow division and distrust ... such that we start to believe that those who have not yet come on board or who don't understand or prioritize the messages of those movements are ... evil. Are un-American. That they are misogynist and racist *automatically*. Just because they don't share the same priority.

    And it is stunning that having typed that, *I* feel disloyal to my friends and loved ones for even typing it.

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  16. I guess I'll have to give up my blog because every time I sit down to write up my thoughts, you do it first, and better. Thanks again, Mr Wright, for saying it better (and first)

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  17. Losing confidence in our institutions, in democracy itself, is a process that has been ongoing for a couple of generations, now accelerated to warp speed. The fact that our government is filled with opportunists who have taken advantage of that very loss of confidence exacerbates the situation. What is the fix? Hard to say, but it would be nice if we could at least control the amount of future damage. But I haven't been able to come up with a solution that doesn't require at least a generation (fixing the education system) or requires people with a vested interest in perpetuating the mess to change it (reducing the influence of money in politics). But with certainty, one band-aid is to put those who have the *least* vested interest in disunion and fear in positions of power. The bleeding has to be stopped, first.

    EMH

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  18. Another fantastic essay! My father was a Russian linguist in the Air Force and would completely agree with your assessment. Reel to reel was his primary tool for playback and encoding. It was tedious and methodical but highly accurate. Technology has no doubt made our lives better but it has also numbed us to the intake of pertinent and truthful information vs crap. An educated electorate is really the only way to fix it.
    Thanks for your insight and writings. Can’t wait to read to the next one. Where do we send the whisky? 👍

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  19. Dammit, Jim, I truly hate it when you’re right. And you *are*, sadly. I work with highly educated people, but none of them have a clue about how they are manipulated into ‘turning off’ from political topics and platforms where real issues are talked about. There are days I despair of making a difference, but every once in a while you can see the light bulb click on.

    Keep on plugging away, you do reach a big audience!

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  20. Man! You keep hitting them out of the park!

    With regard to: “And the voters will stay home, or vote in a manner that creates division, or will not trust any results of the election and thus be prone to riot and protest and resistance against the resulting government.” and where an adversary might apply leverage in the system to cause such a result, I’ve been reflecting on the ubiquitous survey information being presented showing this or that candidate as far ahead, or widely popular, or...

    Leaving aside the fact that a large proportion of the population has no idea about how survey data works, is collected, or is evaluated, it seems that an easy target for a misinformation campaign would be through manipulation of the raw data sets themselves. These datasets are, presumably, stored and handled in a much less secure manner than election systems (no air gap, easier access etc.) and could be easily manipulated to present polling data that makes people think that they don’t really have to worry about voting because a “trusted polling organization” led them to believe that their candidate was far ahead.

    Once again, thank you far a thought-provoking and informative essay.

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    1. JMHO, but with cell phones replacing landlines for a huge % of our voting citizenry, polls are like Jim's 75baud. Way out of date technologically. My daughter worked evenings for a marketing company in 1989. She quickly figured out (there's that "critical thinking" thing again) the results were terribly skewed since the only people willing to answer the survey questions were lonely old ladies. Not kidding!

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  21. Perhaps the most important piece you have written. I think it is essential that you review it for some grammatical and textual errors since they somewhat distract from the weight of this article and I believe it's too important for that. I won't take up space here, but will happily oblige as editor if you wish, just email me. And Thank You!

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  22. ...and how we currently handle the onslaught....
    https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5b8065e3e4b0cd327dfca577?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003

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  23. One of your best posts ever, and that's a pretty high bar. You are spot on regarding the profound change in the information stream, though it's now not a firehose, it's more like the spillway at Grand Coulee. I'm going to have to take some time to consider how all this affects my understanding and attitude towards those who can't seem to evaluate information. And to question how well I'm doing it.

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  24. Well, we "liberals" who so many, including you, like to slam and ridicule as if we were one monolithic group (ditto us terrible Baby Boomers), are the ones who are beating the drum to get people to run for office, register to vote and then, dammit, VOTE. Because lots of us actually already get what you've so eloquently said in this post. We know we're at war for the very existence of our country as we've known it. And failure is not an option.
    Signed,
    California Liberal

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  25. Lawrence BrautigamAugust 25, 2018 at 11:48 AM

    Spot on. It's not the men you name.

    It'sour neighbors and coworkers who spout these lunacies without fear of contradiction.

    And we keep silent in the interest of comity.

    Stop it. NOW

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  26. Oh, this, this, THIS, a thousand times this, Jim!!!!!!!!

    I've dealt with this professionally as well, but not at Jim's level. Go back to 2011, just a couple months after Fukushima. The Fort Calhoun plant in Nebraska was safely dealing with severe Missouri River flooding. SAFELY dealing with it, and how do I know? I'm a spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and I had direct access to real-time reports from the plant.
    But along comes an internet troll, "Sorcha Faal," using unnamed Russian sources and twisting small details to suggest all sorts of impending doom. The Russian connection cannot be proven, but it always struck me as important that this person was quite intentionally trying to sow distrust of the people who actually knew what was going on.

    Scott Burnell

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    1. Scott ~ Can you relate the Fort Calhoun plant trouble in 2011 with the DAEC plant at Palo, IA when the river downstream flooded Cedar Rapids in 2008? I have old ties to it, but left the area in 2006. Thank you for whatever information you can divulge.

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  27. Everyone that hesitates for even a moment should read this. Hell, they should read it anyway, get off their dead asses and vote.

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  28. should it be "incapable of understanding this conflict" above the picture?

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  29. Enjoyed the article and concur. Would like to suggestions on what to look for to ID a troll. For instance if I see the person has no friends on FB, I assume troll.

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  30. Thank you, Jim Wright. You are performing a valuable service.

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  31. I thought your Bang, Bang series couldn't be topped. This changed my mind. Best writing, chilling content. Somehow, your readers have an obligation to disseminate as widely as possible. I vascillate between deep despair for our country, & dogged determination to fight on. Thank you for your voice.

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  32. Typo alert: “And as such, it is utterly impossible to ensure the quality and reliable and accuracy of that information.“
    Should be “reliability”
    Also: “And unlike convention weapons,”

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  33. In 1969, I was in the military, doing what's now called software development--then "systems design & programming". Initially we punched the program cards on a keypunch and they were hand-carried from the temporary building we were in up the hill and across a road to HQMC's computer center to be compiled. Over the next few years, both peripherals (like card readers and tape drives and printers) began to use phone lines to transmit data to and from the computer locations.

    Back in civilian life I watched the steady rise in data delivery to civilians across a range of outputs, from new media sources, from faster arrival of "news" (in quotes because it now included much more squashy elements to fill the additional spaces) and the lower cost to individuals and groups who wanted to share their data (true or not) to like minded folks. I could see it in the science and medical journals I read while taking a second degree and going to grad school in the later '70s and continuing into the '80s. And I could see--reported fairly well, initially, the determined effort of certain groups to create distrust, to dumb down their readers/listeners/viewers.

    So yeah, my experience agrees with yours (from a different perspective.) Having worked in the development of database management systems, I knew how easy it was to change stuff, and how persuasive (even back then) the non-facts were when presented on a neatly formatted summary report. It's easier now. Once I finally got online (we couldn't afford even a slow dialup service for years) I was fascinated and appalled at how fast things had gone badly. I was involved in Usenet groups for awhile, especially those intended as support for parents of disabled children. We knew there were anti-vaxxers even in my childhood (overruled by laws requiring childhood immunizations for school attendance) but now they clustered on the autism-related groups, initially protesting the diphtheria component of the DTP shot, then moving to the pertussis component, and finally the tetanus one. Really stupid "mechanisms" that could not work, using that charlatan from the UK as "proof" because he was a doctor. I'd read his original paper in The Lancet, so I knew it was hogwash. But true believers are true believers, and quoting facts at them didn't make a dent.

    Meanwhile the push for Christian homeschooling (which is aimed at not letting your pure, angelic little kid be contaminated by anything as gross and nasty as actual facts or develop that feared attitude of "critical thinking") ensured that thousands and thousands of ignorant kids with homeschool diplomas would learn to watch only the "Christian TV" channels (or FoxNews)
    This country has always hat its "Know-Nothings" and its determinedly ignorant religious sects and its demagogues who want to create division. But it has not always had them in the context of information overload. And it has not always had the broader disrespect and distrust of expertise that it's displaying now. There is too much information sloshing around for anyone to check everything--to more than check it, check the sources used to check the information, and recheck--all that takes time and no matter the bazillion units of information, the time available every day is the same it's always been. So: good post and thank you.

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    1. Very thoughtful & well-written, Elizabeth. Thank you. ~ Moms

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  34. This is the problem. When even people who have the job of reporting can't filter out the disinformation, making them focus on unimportant stories or outright lies is easier.

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  35. As usual, Jim, you bring your special skills to the table and clearly lay out our vulnerabilities. I would only add that myself as a retired social studies teacher have watched as school systems across the country have stolen time from courses that emphasized critical thinking and replaced them with remedial math. Not everyone needs advanced math to be successful, but everyone needs advanced critical thinking skills for this country to survive. Far too many people think that because they can breath, they can critically decipher the loads of information that you have discussed. Thanks again for your special insight.

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  36. I work in law enforcement...(28 years so far) the people we hire must have a college degree or military experience...I’d estimate that 70% of our cops back Trump as a “law and order” president ... I do not understand this

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    1. I might be telling you something you already know, but "law-and-order" is usually a dog whistle for "let's keep all the black people in their places, where they belong."

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    2. Could it be that 70% of them are simply bullies?

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  37. Gosh, what a depressing dose of truth to read before lunch on a beautiful Saturday.

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  38. Jim, very important piece, thank you for it. One slight grammatical error - "It is a astounding national security vulnerability." Thank you for this essay.

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  39. So even as those in power make it harder to vote, we need to vote even more. Read a book, not an article, not a twitter feed, and improve our critical thinking. Be diligent, not complacent.

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  40. Worse than ignoring the election problem, Trump is trying to quash a bipartisan bill in the Senate to strengthen election protections. https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/trump-white-house-objecting-senates-election-security-bill

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  41. One of our weapons is still a book by Carl Sagan. " The Demon Haunted World." He has a baloney detection kit described in it. Unfortunately you won't be able to square it with TV ads nor even the King James Version.

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    1. Might one also recommend books by Michael Shermer, "Why People Believe Weird Things" and "How We Believe". Both are useful tools in learning to separate the factual wheat from the chaff. I also frequented the James Randi Educational Forum, a good place to test your critical thinking faculties. James Randi was the magician who offered a million dollar prize to anyone who could demonstrate psychic abilities under double-blind, lab conditions; it is still unclaimed.

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    2. There are too many people who seem to believe that what I call "advertising logic" is real logic. Those same people are the ones who think that if millions of people believe something it must be true or that four out of five dentists recommend Trident gum.

      I don't think it's screen time that does the harm, it's the excess of ads. This can be corrected fairly easily amongst our kids and grandkids just by getting them to think about the ads. "Why do they make X toy look so cool? They want you to buy it" or, as I once did on a memorable day, imitated the deodorant commercial by grabbing my own and dancing around the room, sniffing the product with an expression of bliss.

      Do that a few times and you'll sow a healthy skepticism that serves very well in all areas of life.

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    3. I'd chuck Michael Schermer nowadays, he's gone alt-right

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  42. America is paying the true cost of its underfunded and unrespected public education system and the demonisation of educators and the educated; fallout from our own home-grown anti-intellectualism.

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  43. We have the same here in the UK. For years the Right have blamed all our ills on the EU. And when it came to it, those people who had bought those lies refused to listen to facts.
    Austerity? Blame the EU.
    Taxes? Blame the EU.
    We could be so GOOD if not for the EU.

    And eventually, when Cameron called a referendum, hoping a Remain vote would stop the Leavers in his own party, it bit him. The poor, the disenfranchised believed the excuses he'd given for the last 6 years, and voted out.

    Into this mix throw people who can see an opportunity. Those who can get rich from a Leave vote, those who can further their political career, and possibly, just possibly the Russians.

    If you tell a lie, Goebbels said, make it a big one. And boy was it a big one. It was so big they had to put it on the side of a bus.

    Every benefit of Brexit has proved to be a lie. And the poor, the dispossessed swallowed them. There's your enemy, say the rich, blame them.

    Every fact is ignored. "People have had enough of experts", said Michael Gove. You don't need facts when you have an instinct, when you have a scapegoat.

    And now, 2 years latter, when you say "LOOK, all these people, all these experts, say it will damage the country, people will lose jobs, the government will have less to spend," they come back with 2 things

    "It's project fear. They don't want to leave the EU because it makes them rich/lets them employ cheap labour/household help."

    And

    "But we'll be free."

    "Of what?" doesn't work. They can't tell you which regulations and laws they don't want. Just they don't want them.

    And less immigration.

    They aren't racist but...

    They come over here, taking our jobs.

    Which jobs. They can't say, or they are jobs British people won't do.

    Every fact is sneered at, as lies, or now, due to a certain person, 'Fake News'.

    The right wing press spin, presenting downsides as upsides. Calling those opposed to Brexit "Traitors."

    "We're not racist." But xenophobic incidents have gone up since the vote. Highly educated and trained Europeans have started to flee, taking their skill with them. And so have some of the employers. They need to be in the EU.

    The problem, the real problem Jim?

    The amygdala.

    The inner caveman. When you are threatened it lights up - the fight or flight instinct kicks in.

    Do you know what also makes it feel threatened? Being disagreed with. Tell someone they are wrong about something they believe in, and the caveman tells them they are in danger.

    So if you want to manipulate a population, just give them a reason to believe in something that isn't true, but helps you.

    Keep telling them. Tell them Democrats are far left Socialists (listen carefully, and you will hear Europe laugh). Tell them about the Kenyan Muslim, the millionaire crook.

    Just tell them what they want to hear.

    And they will do the rest for you.

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    1. You are right. I wish I had a solution and the ability to put it into place but I have neither. I am perhaps a little less vulnerable to manipulation than others but only a little and that terrifies me.

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    2. It appears my comment (long one) didn't get submitted under my name: It's Last Hussar.

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  44. Thank you, once again, for highlighting and helping all folks truly understand the causes and affects of information manipulation.

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  45. Another great essay and one that scares me to death because I know what you say is true. It's not fake news, it's real and makes me worry for what our country has become and how much worse it will get before it will get better, if it ever can.

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  46. Wow, you read my mind. I don’t have your military experience but I do have the computer background. I couldn’t argue with any of your points. Lack of a widely implemented system of education that rewards critical thinking is responsible for this mess. But,the thing that was most on my mind as I read your blog is that you are preaching to the choir with your followers and you don’t tell us how to reach the educationally challenged members of our society. They have adopted belief systems devoid of evidence and we know how hard it is to change someone’s beliefs. But, your ideas and ability to communicate with educated people is still welcome and might have a chance of being understood by the fringe ignorant.

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  47. A good explanation of the problem. What are the possible solutions? We laugh at Soviet style re-education camps. We need critical thinking skills distributed among the populace much like we need vaccination to establish herd immunity. We do not ensure our progeny have the skills needed to analyze the flow of data available to them. Universal sufferage is an ideal we have tried to implement via law. What we cannot legislate is the need to be an informed citizen for universal sufferage to work.

    How do we insure we have informed citizens capable of the critical thinking needed to make decisions about the issues of the day? Who decides what those issues are? The dangers of universal sufferage can only be addressed by education and competency. Our elected leaders need to be scholars dedicated to truth and the best interests of their constituency. We need a way of vetting our legislators and holding them to their oath of office.

    We as a people object to competency tests for our legislators. Universal sufferage seems to include the idea that any person can govern wisely and selflessly without any need to vet these assumptions.

    Jim how can we function in a modern society where all information appears to have the same weight? The problem as is stated doesn't lead to attractive solutions.

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  48. The GOP really don't care, like Melania. Rather be Russian than a Democrat. Kill public education. Keep power. Keep sucking the country dry. Taking it back will not be easy. Thanks for the clarity of your voice.

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  49. Thank you for connecting the politicians' desire for a malleable population with an enemy's desire for the same. I've been aware of both for a while (thank you, Jim & David Brin), but hadn't connected them. That's part of why I've feared the traction gained by various schemes to 'revolutionize' schools by giving education a short-term profit motive. We need schools to provide young adults who can adapt to changing realities, not who are led by them.

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  50. Great post Jim, I'm not sure we can ever get to a solution to our problem now that we've gone so far in the wrong direction but you laid out the sure fire way to unhack the electorate.

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  51. This essay is exactly the kind of truth that will take us back towards a healthy freedom!

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  52. Absolutely terrifying.... Thank you for a look behind the intelligence curtain.

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  53. Thank you for this very insightful article.

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  54. "One our enemies are well, well aware of and one, a vulnerability that our own counter-intelligence people cannot plug due to the very nature of their own Commander-in-Chief."

    I would posit the problem runs much deeper than the idiot-in-chief now squatting in the WH. It stems from our own Constitution in the form of the 1st Amendment. I'm a member of the "older population" you speak about, I have lived long enough to know that any mention of throttling back freedom of speech is met with fire and fury from both sides. As you so succinctly point out, times have changed and so should the document that defines our government. While I strongly adhere to the notion that the Constitution is the corner stone of the Republic and the laws it is built on. That said, it needs to be revisited and amended to acknowledge the magnitude of changes that have taken place over the last 200 yrs. especially the 1st and 2nd Amendments.
    The Founding Fathers could not have imagined the internet, Face Book, Twitter, Instagram nor could they have imagined that our Gov would be so easily manipulated by a non-governmental, unappointed unelected organization like the NRA. They could not have imagined bump stocks, AR-15s, AK-47s or that our politicians would ever allow these weapons to be freely sold to the general public from giant box stores. They could not have imagined CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, cable or satellite television. They did however take into account the possibility that religion would become an inherent problem but didn't go far enough to insure the separation of church and state simply by including those words in the final document.
    I often wonder if we could bring them all back, what would they advise? To continue to try and work with what we have given the dramatic changes since they signed that document or tear it down and start over? Remember, they did make an argument for the overthrow of a completely corrupt Gov.

    Thank you for another excellent essay. I look forward to the day you are invited on MSNBC or CNN as an expert contributor.

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  55. Brilliant -as usual. Ehank you sir.

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  56. I am older than you are, Jim. People my age, even in the rural states that are overwhelmingly trumpazoid these days, were taught how to identify propaganda in civics class. Now, the intent was to get us to see what those godless commies were up to.... but we could also then see what the people running the country in that day (Nixon era) were up to as well.

    No wonder the idiots in power today want to keep the population ignorant.

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  57. Thank you. This is educational and terrifying. And as a teacher, I would add that our government further undermined the development of critical thinking skills with their passage of NCLB and its requirement of annual standardized testing tied to punishment for poor scores.
    Many teachers worked hard to develop critical thinking in students, in higher math classes as well as literature and history classes. True, there have always been teachers who believed regurgitation indicated learning, but there were enough of us who wanted students to think and demonstrate their thinking. Then NCLB hit, and suddenly we had to spend weeks, if not months, preparing students to bubble in the correct choice out of 4, deciphering the language of test prompts, not writers and mathematicians, and if we didn't do it well enough, we, our schools, and our districts were labeled and punished.
    And now I have teenage students coming to me asking how a cartoon like The Tick could predict the bombing of the Twin Towers unless it were a government conspiracy. And I have 50 minutes, 5 days a week, to try to help them understand that coincidence is not causation, and people on YouTube have many motivations other than helpfully sharing the "truth", in addition to teaching them the standards they are still tested on (and I am still judged on) annually.
    It's in moments like this that I feel so hopeless and fearful for our future.

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  58. This is something that I normally would have read intently. You kept taking me away from it with what I read as talking down to people. Not me, people in general. There's no doubt in my mind that you are incredibly intelligent. However, there are different ways to say the same thing. It just turned me off to the rest of your article and I'm actually sorry that it did.

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  59. Or course, the only way to do that is to actually make democracy trustworthy and make every vote count.

    Should that be "Of course"

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  60. Wow...I'm overwhelmed. Thank you so much,

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  61. Very informative! It looks like I need my own blog before I weigh into the vaccine discussion but thank you for illuminating the message behind the message. I've been frustrated scrolling through TW & seeing the vaccine debate boiled down to one line or a photo and then watching the sesame street generation amplifying that misinformation as if the argument is black and white. 280 characters is not enough to suggest people actually research susceptible genetic markers, adjuvants, aluminum crossing the blood-brain barrier due to leaky gut and NSAIDS causing inflammation and question if the information or disinformation they are receiving is worth that instant gratification when they click it.
    As a retired teacher and someone who worked with NATO & the USAF as a SME, it's been disheartening to see the decline of critical thinking & civil arguments with an open mind. I hope more take the time to read this piece and think before they tweet.

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  62. Thanks for the read! I'll read this again, and perhaps a third time as well. It made me realize that I'm not as educated about your topic as I thought. Thanks again. I have much to learn.

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  63. Your recent blog is spot on. I'm one of those "old folks," but I have a different lens through which to view the world than most. I did my first online searching in 1980, long before there was an Internet. (We used acoustic couplers to dial into remote systems. My first modem had a speed of 300 baud. How many people today actually know what the term "modem" means?)

    For the rest of my working life, I taught college courses in IS and IT (and on occasion, CS). Like you, I'm extremely frustrated in what appears to be willful blindness on the part of the majority of information consumers. Whenever a Facebook friend posts a wild story, I attempt to vet the content before posting anything. Many times the post is just that -- a wild story, a hoax; in most cases it's not too hard to discover. I do wonder, however, if I'm doing people a favor by calling out their gullibility, embarrassing them online. They're not likely to become more sophisticated information consumers just by being told that one post in untrue. Sometimes I feel like I live in an isolated cocoon of skepticism.

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  64. Yes, Jim, the amount of information I'm flooded with daily is astonishing. I'm 67 and grew up with trusted news sources. Walter Cronkite, The New York Times, Washington Post, Huntley & Brinkley. I felt I could trust them and that they had dug into the story and were presenting what they had found accurately.
    Now I see bullshit galore on Facebook and Twitter. Most news reporting is mostly entertainment and almost all of it has its own slant on the story. It takes such an effort to wait until I've heard from as many sources as possible and then try to coalesce it all into something I can proclaim as truth.
    I'm a skeptical old fucker. I even double check you once in a while. Haha

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  65. Frightening and disheartening, but dead on accurate and needs to be said.

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  66. Excellent, as we all know you to be.
    Slight typo: "The goal is here division" S/B The goal here is division.
    Thanks for keeping us informed.

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  67. I was nodding and nodding and then I saw the word 'marketing' and screamed YES! And went back to nodding. I worked in marketing. I see its methods being used in SO many ways; politics and etc. LOVE this essay.

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  68. Brilliant and frightening. Thank you, as always, for the time and care you take to post your thoughts and share your experiences.

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  69. Dear lord, Sir Jim, your essays, brilliant as they are, are becoming ever more terrifying.

    I see illustrations of what you posit every day - the "deliberately ignorant and the gleefully stupid." I don't know how to battle this (effectively) as an individual. But I won't give up trying.

    Some typos I noted:
    * The paragraph/sentence reading "But back in day, information moved ... " - add 'the'
    * The paragraph beginning "In the amount it took to send one character." - Should it be "In the amount *of time* it took ..."?
    * The paragraph beginning "We can't put the genie back in the bottle ... just as our enemies benefit from an population ... " - *a* population.
    * The paragraph beginning "Although an unvaccinated population ... and its biological weapons become just that more effective." - "Just that *much* more effective."
    * The paragraph beginning "The goal here division, ..." - "The goal here *is* division, ..."
    * The paragraph beginning "Information Warfare can, and is, used as a primary warfare area, ... - Did you mean a primary warfare weapon?
    * The paragraph beginning "Or course, the only way to do that ..." - Of course.

    Whatever you do, never stop writing. Your country and your country's neighbour-countries (I am Canadian) need you.

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    1. I never notice your typos or grammatical errors as I'm to intent on absorbing your informative article.

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  70. Why I left infosec and went into farming....

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  71. I am an old CTA2 65-69 and I know what you were about in your early years. I have seen the changes you describe and they make me very concerned also.I appreciate your thinking. On twitter keep using the airlock.

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  72. You come from my era, although you were on the official side, and I was on the more-or-less unofficial side: a geek before they were widely known, a hacker when hackers weren't malevolent creeps. Your essay is impressive in its analytic breakdown of the origins, process, and modern consequences of this so-called "Information Age." I must, however, caution that your exclusivity in naming people and institutions on the extreme Right is inappropriate: I have seen, and been the target of, extremists on the Left who are every bit as misinformed as the hate mongers on the other side of the divide. Both sets of extremists exhibit the same single-mindedness, use of quotes and kennings, and sheer dismissal of reason.

    Even more troubling for the future of our civilization are the young adults I teach, far too many of whom are willing to grab any bit of information from the Web without the slightest concern for its veracity. Many of them are quite comfortable with using highly questionable sources of "information" like Wikipedia, and they have no qualms about taking the information products of others without attribution or conscience (that's a polite way of saying that they cheat without even so much as constructing a justification for doing so). Far worse, though, is that they have no concept whatsoever that an answer has no truth valence if the question has no foundation in prior knowledge of the subject. "Truth is truth" only if the right question is asked, and "proof" is not the same as mere evidence, which is all we actually have in any short-run situation.

    Again, though, I must be grateful to you for writing this article. It brought back good memories for me, although it offers a dose of sadness, as well. Some years back, I wrote this: " When I was a boy, I just couldn't wait for the future. Now, I wish it had never arrived."

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    1. "Someone should have labeled the future; some assembly required."

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  73. I can definitely relate to your comments about the speed of old electronic communication systems and the movement of information as I worked in military communication facilities for 12 years in the late 70's to early 80's, including cryptographic "back room" requiring top secret special access security clearance. So I also understood very well your essay on security clearances (and Trump should never have gotten one). You have a gift for explaining things that seem complicated and I agree that there are so many people who just have no idea how to process or analyze information. We used to have to read the perforated tapes that the old teletype machines spat out by the pattern of the holes. We had to learn the code. Then they started making it easier for us by having the letters typed on the tape as well as the holes. It may have been faster for some but it made us think less. It made us lazier but progress marched on relentlessly. Most of the "modern conveniences" have made us lazier - less willing and able to think or analyze.

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  74. Great essay.
    One typo in the paragraph beginning, "And the side effect...", the line "those were were very, very familiar" should be, "those who were very, very familiar".

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  75. I attended the local AFT, American Federation of Teachers luncheon today. Good food, good speakers, and discussion of the testing issue.

    My state district is being contested by a 28 year old teacher named Clayton Adams. The gerrymandering says it's strictly uphill. Still, he was the first candidate mentioned. Also, his T-shirt has a solid design, and the material is also very good.

    People here in SW Ohio get the part about improving education. There's a huge charter school scandal in Ohio, $600,000,000 gone away bye-bye. Education can get us out of the hole we're in, but we have to all in.

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  76. Small edit: "...were were very, very..." I think should be "who were very, very"

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  77. Very good and informative article on the state of our union. I have often thought along these lines myself and agree with most of what the author is saying except for one thing . . . critical thinking leads me to questioning 911 . . . the Kennedy assassination . . . the outlawing of marijuana fiasco . . . put a deep thought/research into any of these and you find conspiracy. . . or at least a great argument for one . . . In short I would say that information warfare is just one arm of a vast and powerful enemy that exists far beyond the Russian border. Is Putin the power behind all this stuff . . . or is his ass on the line as well and he is the only one who seems to notice that fact? . . .

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    1. If you want a good/insightful look at drug laws in this country read Licit and Illicit Drugs by Consumer Union; ie. Consumer Reports. ALL drugs laws, at their heart, are racist.

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  78. I would love to see an elaboration of your argument that it is the natural tendency of those in power to make democracy unreliable and untrustworthy. In particular, do you think it would be the natural tendency of those elected to power in a reasonably fair democratic election to then try to make that process untrustworthy?

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    1. Only if there is an R after their names.

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  79. I am not completely suggesting that chickens have come home to roost on this matter (but the notion has crossed my mind), would not ours and British efforts to create the 1953 Iranian coup d'état be a good example of this type of warfare?

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  80. You been had, you been took, you been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok. This what they do. Thank you Brother Veteran Nance, Keep up yhe work of informing and protecting America. I got ya back.

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  81. Just recently, I posted a similar comment (somewhere? FB? Blog? I don't remember) saying that Russia has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams of making Americans believe what they pushed and thereby, they interfered with the elections of 2016. They didn't have to actually touch a single voting machine.
    I was roundly criticized, laughed at, insulted and denigrated. It's astounding how so many "intelligent" people can't see what is happening. Do they need a Russian flag to be planted in their own front yards to begin to believe it? I'm beginning to think so!
    So, thank you. Thank you for saying, in much more detail and much more eloquently, what I have been saying. I finally feel justified and affirmed.

    Back in the 1970s and '80s, I worked for what is now the Tampa Bay Times, and later and less remarkably, the Rocky Mountain News. I remember the heady feeling of being with people who truly cared that what they were reporting and writing was the accurate truth. It is so sad and disheartening to see even those fine institutions losing sight of what they once were. Sad days, indeed. And to the larger population who won't read a real newspaper article, or even attempt critical thinking, the days are frightening as well.
    Thank you for the good you do daily. Thank you for this essay, Jim. I wasn't sure you could ever top "Antipodes", but this one is up in that rarefied air too.

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  82. The Republican party lost me during the Reagan ascendancy precisely because the tendencies and underpinnings for this situation were evident to me during that (successful) campaign.

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    1. When RWR ran for the White House in '76 he scared the sh*t out of me...who will he bring in as VP some spook?: and thats exactly what he did, GHW Bush former chief spook. The first thing this ex union president then did was fire the striking PATCO workers; beginning the decline of unions in this country. It only got worse from there.

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  83. Ignoring my misinformed knowledge, and using my uneducated critical thinking, I would say that another dark age may be on the horizon. I also see the ear marks of an organized crime world possible if that is not what it already is.

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  84. Thank you for this piece,Jim. It is well written and very interesting as well as thought-provoking. I can't help but think that the underfunding of the public education system in this country for the last five decades has created generations of people who just can't even comprehend the fact that they are being manipulated by the media, and now social media. I can only hope that the generation born after 9/11 will be more savvy as far as figuring out what information they can trust and what they can't through actually fact-checking.

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  85. Well said
    Vetting, fact checking, verifying, triple sourcing, skepticism, critical thinking: all in decline or open disdain

    The modern media having components actively seeking to deceive for their own end.

    Remninds me of an allegory I heard recently:
    99% of the world scientists dissect the data and conlcude human caused climate change is real and a risk
    But a minoirty of plucky politicians risk it all to prove them wrong

    Might have been a fake movie pitch

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  86. People are naturally conservative. No great conspiracy is necessary for a liberal regime to begin to lose its grip on people's hearts and minds. All that is needed is for the regime to overreach, grow corrupt, inept, arrogant or complacent. I would argue that this is the issue more than some insidious global conspiracy to steal our freedoms and contaminate our precious bodily fluids. I
    think of it as the Tao reasserting itself. Here are some ancient words of wisdom that Enlightenment Cult liberals might be wise to ponder:

    "Do you want to improve the world?
    I don't think it can be done.

    The world is sacred.
    It can't be improved.
    If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
    If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it."


    “The world belongs to those who let go.”

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    1. Which of course makes so much sense only if you forget to wonder why your acknowledged "liberal regimes" are evne a thing in the first place.

      If people are naturally conservative, why would there be liberal regimes?

      Insert conspiracy theory here.

      This, the above, is the very example of the sort of people that are helping in the destruction of their own country in the very way noted in the article.

      Oh and the world belongs to those who let go?
      Well then, for a start, if you truly believe in that, you might want to start by putting forward a petition to Trump to resign as per your "conservative view" above. Same goes for the rest of the GoP.

      Then they will have the world. Isn't that what they would want?

      Delete
  87. Nothing surprises me...I'm from the neighborhood....

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  88. Better yet, what about the influence of AIPAC?

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  89. Once again, spot on. I HATE it that you are so correct. We have been (repeatedly) warned.

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  90. Bow before my 300-baud acoustically coupled modem, 80's cybernaut!

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  91. Timely article - thank you Jim for writing it. I have also been trained as an analyst and it has been very frustrating and disheartening to hear people dismiss well researched factual information because it doesn't fit their view.

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  92. I am retired from a career as a newspaperman, and I remember back at the beginning (1980 or so), the modems we used to send in stories were 300 baud. It was only slightly faster than "Get me rewrite." I remember 15 years later when I downloaded photos to my home computer, it would literally take minutes per photo.

    Are we better off now? Clearly we can do more things more quickly, but those things can also be done to us more easily. And the worst part of it is, we can't go back.

    There is no one writing on the Internet that I enjoy and value more than you, and no one who fills me with more despair when I read your truth.

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  93. One thing you kind of missed was in, even the 80's & before was, everybody got their news from basically 3 pipes, ABC,NBC & CBS and local newspapers. Now you have designer news, to match your views. But indeed you are spot on in pointing out the band width issue. What many miss is that democracy is a compromise. Not one 'supreme' leader, not one theocracy, but our country was based on staying away from that and forming a government that our founding fathers thought the best way forward. Human nature leans towards, my way or the highway, and evolving we have devolved to this. Correctly as you point out because of a lack of a strong education. When Walter Cronkite signed off with "And that's the way it is.", you could pretty much take it to the bank. This is one of the few "pipes" of my designer news that I pretty much feel that way. Thanks Jim.

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