In FTR #718 (recorded on Independence Day weekend of 2010), we noted that the new social medium–Facebook-might very well be the opposite of the liberating, empowering entity many believed it to be.
On the contrary, we said–it received financial backing from the CIA, permits unprecedented gathering and databasing of users’ personal information, and might very well be a “panopticon”–a type of prison in which the interned can never see his or her jailers, but their keepers can see the interned at all times.
In particular, we noted the prominent position of major Facebook investor Peter Thiel in “Mondo Zuckerberg.” Of German (and probable I.G. Farben) origins, we opined that Thiel was Underground Reich. Opposed to democracy because he feels it is inimical to wealth creation and doesn’t believe women should be allowed to vote, Thiel has now emerged as one of the most prominent of Donald Trump’s supporters, transition team creators and influential policy wonks.
Whereas we explored the “virtual panopticon” concept of Facebook with a question mark in 2010, we now feel affirmatively on the issue.
A very important story from New York magazine sets forth Facebook’s role in the just-concluded election. ” . . . . Facebook’s size, reach, wealth, and power make it effectively the only one that matters. And, boy, does it matter. At the risk of being hyperbolic, I think there are few events over the last decade more significant than the social network’s wholesale acquisition of the traditional functions of news media (not to mention the political-party apparatus). Trump’s ascendancy is far from the first material consequence of Facebook’s conquering invasion of our social, cultural, and political lives, but it’s still a bracing reminder of the extent to which the social network is able to upend existing structure and transform society — and often not for the better. . . .
” . . . . Facebook’s enormous audience, and the mechanisms of distribution on which the site relies — i.e., the emotionally charged activity of sharing, and the show-me-more-like-this feedback loop of the news feed algorithm — makes it the only site to support a genuinely lucrative market in which shady publishers arbitrage traffic by enticing people off of Facebook and onto ad-festooned websites, using stories that are alternately made up, incorrect, exaggerated beyond all relationship to truth, or all three. . . .
” . . . . And at the heart of the problem, anyway, is not the motivations of the hoaxers but the structure of social media itself. Tens of millions of people, invigorated by insurgent outsider candidates and anger at perceived political enemies, were served up or shared emotionally charged news stories about the candidates, because Facebook’s sorting algorithm understood from experience that they were seeking such stories. Many of those stories were lies, or ‘parodies,’ but their appearance and placement in a news feed were no different from those of any publisher with a commitment to, you know, not lying. As those people and their followers clicked on, shared, or otherwise engaged with those stories — which they did, because Trump drives engagement extremely bigly — they were served up even more of them. The engagement-driving feedback loop reached the heights of Facebook itself, which shared fake news to its front page on more than one occasion after firing the small team of editorial employees tasked with passing news judgment. . . .
” . . . . Something like 170 million people in North America use Facebook every day, a number that’s not only several orders of magnitude larger than even the most optimistic circulation reckonings of major news outlets but also about one-and-a-half times as many people as voted on Tuesday. Forty-four percent of all adults in the United States say they get news from Facebook . . . ”
Symptomatic of Facebook’s filter of what its users see concerns the social medium’s recent non-coverage of the women’s march:
” . . . . We don’t usually post on Pando at the weekend, but this is too topical and too shameful to wait until Monday. As you certainly know, today is the day of the Women’s March on Washington in protest of Donald Trump. The main event is in DC, where something close to 500,000 protesters of all genders and ages have packed the streets — but there are also major protests in Chicago, New York and around the world. Including Antarctica.
You certainly know this because the protest march is the top story on every major news outlet, and because updates and photos from the event are flooding your Twitter and Facebook feeds.
And yet, here’s what Facebook’s trending news feed looked like at the height of the march…
And here’s its trending politics feed…
Notice anything missing?
Like, say, a half million women? . . .
In case you think I’m seeing something different from the rest of the world, be assured I’m not….”
Facebook has changed its algorithm, no longer factoring in “likes” and other personal preferences in determining its news feed.
This, however, does not bode as well as Facebook would like us to believe. Facebook has promoted, among others, Campbell Brown, to an important position in structuring its news feed: ” . . . . Brown has longstanding ties not just to the traditional news media, but also to conservative politics, although she describes herself as a political independent. She is a close personal friend of Betsy DeVos, the Republican megadonor who is Donald Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, and is married to Dan Senor, a former top advisor to Mitt Romney who also served as spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. . . .
. . . . And alongside her mainstream media experience, Brown is familiar with the world of non-traditional news outlets springing up online. In 2014, she founded a nonprofit news site, The 74, which bills itself as nonpartisan but which critics have said functions as advocacy journalism, tilted in favor of charter schools and against teachers’ unions. The site was launched with money from donors including the foundation run by DeVos, Trump’s proposed Education Secretary. When the nomination was announced, Brown said she would recuse herself from The 74’s coverage of DeVos. . .”
Brown is joined by Tucker Bounds, a former John McCain adviser and spokesman for the McCain/Palin campaign.
Exemplifying the terrifying possibilities of the virtual panopticon, we examine the nexus of Cambridge Analytica, its principal investors, Robert and Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon, a key member of the firm’s board of directors and a political guru to Rebekah. ” . . . . For several years, a data firm eventually hired by the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, has been using Facebook as a tool to build psychological profiles that represent some 230 million adult Americans. A spinoff of a British consulting company and sometime-defense contractor known for its counterterrorism ‘psy ops’ work in Afghanistan, the firm does so by seeding the social network with personality quizzes. Respondents — by now hundreds of thousands of us, mostly female and mostly young but enough male and older for the firm to make inferences about others with similar behaviors and demographics — get a free look at their Ocean scores. Cambridge Analytica also gets a look at their scores and, thanks to Facebook, gains access to their profiles and real names.
“Cambridge Analytica worked on the ‘Leave’ side of the Brexit campaign. In the United States it takes only Republicans as clients: Senator Ted Cruz in the primaries, Mr. Trump in the general election. Cambridge is reportedly backed by Robert Mercer, a hedge fund billionaire and a major Republican donor; a key board member is Stephen K. Bannon, the head of Breitbart News who became Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman and is set to be his chief strategist in the White House. . .
” . . . . Their [the Mercers] data firm, Cambridge Analytica, was hired by the Cruz campaign. They switched to support Trump shortly after he clinched the nomination, and he eventually hired Cambridge Analytica, as well. Their top political guru is Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart News chairman and White House chief strategist. They’re close, too, with Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who also has a senior role in the White House. They never speak to the press and hardly ever even release a public statement. Like Trump himself, they’ve flouted the standard playbook for how things are done in politics. . . .”
Bannon’s influence on Rebekah Mercer is particularly strong: ” . . . Another of the Republican operatives described Bannon as the ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ to Rebekah Mercer, and a third was even more pointed: ‘Svengali.’ Bannon is ‘really, really, really influential’ with Mercer, said the former Breitbart employee. The Mercers, the former employee said, made their wishes known through Bannon, who would sometimes cite the company’s financial backers as a reason for Breitbart not to do a story. Bannon didn’t respond to a request for comment about this. . . .”
In turn, the influence of Steve Bannon within the Facebook virtual panopticon is even more sinister considering Bannon’s political outlook: ” . . . . But, said the source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about Bannon, ‘There are some things he’s only going to share with people who he’s tight with and who he trusts.’
Bannon’s readings tend to have one thing in common: the view that technocrats have put Western civilization on a downward trajectory and that only a shock to the system can reverse its decline. And they tend to have a dark, apocalyptic tone that at times echoes Bannon’s own public remarks over the years—a sense that humanity is at a hinge point in history. . . .”
One of the influences on Bannon is Curtis Yarvin, aka Mencius Moldbug, who has actually opened a backchannel advisory connection to the White House: ” . . . . Before he emerged on the political scene, an obscure Silicon Valley computer programmer with ties to Trump backer and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel was explaining his behavior. Curtis Yarvin, the self-proclaimed ‘neoreactionary’ who blogs under the name ‘Mencius Moldbug,’ attracted a following in 2008 when he published a wordy treatise asserting, among other things, that ‘nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth.’ When the organizer of a computer science conference canceled Yarvin’s appearance following an outcry over his blogging under his nom de web, Bannon took note: Breitbart News decried the act of censorship in an article about the programmer-blogger’s dismissal.
Moldbug’s dense, discursive musings on history—’What’s so bad about the Nazis?’ he asks in one 2008 post that condemns the Holocaust but questions the moral superiority of the Allies—include a belief in the utility of spreading misinformation that now looks like a template for Trump’s approach to truth. ‘To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable [sic] demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army,’ he writes in a May 2008 post.’It’s been a while since I posted anything really controversial and offensive here,’ he begins in a July 25, 2007, post explaining why he associates democracy with ‘war, tyranny, destruction and poverty.’
Moldbug, who does not do interviews and could not be reached for this story, has reportedly opened up a line to the White House, communicating with Bannon and his aides through an intermediary, according to a source. Yarvin said he has never spoken with Bannon. . . .”
After discussing Facebook’s new AI technology being employed to search users’ photos, the program concludes with the shift of Silicon Valley money to the GOP.
Program Highlights Include: review of Steve Bannon’s role on the NSC; review of the martial law contingency plans drawn up by Oliver North during the Reagan administration, involving the deputizing of paramilitary right-wingers; review of Erik Prince’s relationship to the Trump administration and Betsy De Vos, Trump’s education secretary.
Continuing analysis and discussion from FTR #891, we further explore the CIA-generated background and funding of the “privacy” advocates who comprise much of “Team Snowden.” Recall that Snowden himself was with CIA when he chose to double on NSA. We begin by reviewing our scrutiny of Edward Snowden from the perspective of Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, the Air Force “Focal Point Officer” who developed a CIA-controlled network inside of the branches of the military and other agencies of the federal government. This “focal point” network constituted a “secret government within a government” that appears to exist to this day. Next, we set forth the evolution of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and Radio Free Asia, the parent organizations of the Open Technology Fund. The OTF has capitalized much of the encrypted “anti-surveillance” technology that has been developed. “Team Snowden,” in turn, has evolved from this milieu. In our past discussions of the assassination of President Kennedy, we have noted that the very same covert action networks used to overthrow and eliminate governments and individuals deemed hostile to U.S. interests were ultimately deployed against Americans and even the United States itself. “Regime change” and destabilization came home. In a similar fashion, it is our considered opinion that a CIA-derived technology milieu developed to assist and effect “ops” abroad was used to destabilize the Obama administration through the Snowden “op.” ” . . . Readers might find it odd that a US government agency established as a way to launder the image of various shady propaganda outfits (more on that soon) is now keen to fund technologies designed to protect us from the US government. Moreover, it might seem curious that its money would be so warmly welcomed by some of the Internet’s fiercest antigovernment activists. . . . . You’d think that anti-surveillance activists like Chris Soghoian, Jacob Appelbaum, Cory Doctorow and Jillian York would be staunchly against outfits like BBG and Radio Free Asia, and the role they have played — and continue to play — in working with defense and corporate interests to project and impose U.S. power abroad. Instead, these radical activists have knowingly joined the club, and in doing so, have become willing pitchmen for a wing of the very same U.S. National Security State they so adamantly oppose. . . .” Program Highlights Include: The controversy over WhatsApp’s encryption technology; the development of WhatsApp’s encryption technology by the CIA-derived Open Technology Fund; FBI Director James Comey’s support for Mitt Romney in 2012; the apparent role of Comey in destabilizing the Obama administration and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Bringing up to date our ongoing inquiry into “L’Affaire Snowden,” we note a number of important developments, particularly with regard to Germany. After the international hue-and-cry about NSA monitoring Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, the German probe into the alleged event has been dropped for lack of evidence! After reviewing the BND’s monitoring of mobile phone calls by U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, the program notes the rhetorical and legal stratagems used by German intelligence to conduct precisely the same type of electronic espionage that NSA performs. In addition to its [apparently failed] attempt to gain entrance to the “Five Eyes” spying consortium, Germany has acquired BlackBerry’s source code, this in exchange for allowing the Canadian firm to acquire a Dusseldorf-based company that handles security for mobile phones. Germany also seeks access to Google’s search engine algorithm. Both the Google algorithm and the BlackBerry source code will give German intelligence important tools to conduct precisely the type of snooping condemned by Merkel et al. Much of the latter part of the program highlights technological developments that are heralding a new phase of civilization. With potentially devastating cyber-terrorism a present reality, the development of artificial intelligence and small, inexpensive, privately-owned drones that can mimic cell phone towers are indicative of the “Brave New World” we have created. Much of the uproar over Snowden’s disclosures stems from future shock–the public has not adjusted to an entirely different technological landscape, in which (as Albert Einstein said with regard to the development of the atomic bomb) “Everything has changed but our way of thinking.”
With the nation and much of the world focused on the gruesome shootings in Newtown, Connectcut, we revisit the topic of the schoolyard shootings. In past programs, we have noted that a number of the [alleged] perpetrators of the school shootings have links to Nazi and white supremacist groups. A form of terrorism, these massacres destabilize society, leading to the popular sentiment for “order.” Endorsed by some elements of popular culture, the schoolyard shootings are functioning in a manner analogous to the Fritz Haarmann incident in Weimar Germany. That serial murder of more than a hundred juveniles, whose corpses were butchered and baked into meat pies, discredited the authorities of Weimar Germany, helping to sow sentiment that would benefit the Nazis.
Famed literary journal “The Paris Review” exemplifies the inextricable relationship between American liberal political culture and the CIA. The “Salon” piece is the tip of the iceberg and we have all booked passage on the Titanic.
RFK Jr’s wife dead of hanging. An “assisted suicide” to send a message as RFK Sr.’s assassination returns to the courtroom?
Relationship between the U.S. psychological warfare establishment and American communication research as an academic discipline.
Relationship between the U.S. psychological warfare and the development of mass communication research as an academic discipline.
Long-standing effort by neo-fascists to acquire “specialized knowledge and abilities,” military, law-enforcement and espionage proficiency; UFO devices developed by humans, not space aliens.
Sexual misconduct charges; Schwarzenegger’s private investigator Anthony Pellicano’s past career: Mark Fuhrman (O.J. Simpson trial), Watergate.