This is a post about personas
. This is a post about our ongoing internet conversation and how it can be covertly manipulated.
In the past, we've talked about the great Chamber of Commerce scandal. The Chamber's law firm worked with a cyber-firm called HBGary to come up with elaborate schemes to spy on, harass and discredit all perceived online foes of the Chamber. We're talking about
the plans to plant false documents, create "fake personas" to infiltrate the progressive organizations opposing the Chamber, and to target leaders of the groups and their families in hopes of discrediting them by exploiting "pressure points" in hopes of intimidating them.
Aaron Barr, the CEO of HBGary -- and the man whose name appears on the damning emails -- has resigned from the firm. Brad Friedman's group is now trying to get Barr disbarred, because the D.C. Bar forbids lawyers from helping clients engage in illegal or fraudulent activity. In this case, such activity included the planting of backdoor malware on targeted computers and the creation of false documents.
I'm not sure if the creation of "personas" counts as a crime, but it is definitely foul behavior.
What are personas and why would the bad guys want to conjure them up? In short: "Persona" software allows a firm like HBGary to create an army of virtual people. One operator could control the internet behavior of all of those pseudo-individuals, who could be "relocated" anywhere. In other words, the operator could be in Virgnia, but the IP address of his personas would indicate New York, Los Angeles, Tehran or wherever.
The best article on this tech is here
Revealed: Air Force ordered software to manage army of fake virtual people
Eerie as that may be, more perplexing, however, is a federal contract from the 6th Contracting Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, located south of Tampa, Florida, that solicits providers of "persona management software."
As the text explains, the software would require licenses for 50 users with 10 personas each, for a total of 500. These personas would have to be "replete with background , history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent."
Though many questions remain about how the military would apply such technology, the reasonable fear should be perfectly clear. "Persona management software" can be used to manipulate public opinion on key information, such as news reports. An unlimited number of virtual "people" could be marshaled by only a few real individuals, empowering them to create the illusion of consensus.
You could call it a virtual flash mob, or a digital "Brooks Brothers Riot," so to speak: compelling, but not nearly as spontaneous as it appears.
of Corrente read these words, his mind flashed on the pro-Obama mob mentality
that overtook the progressive blogs during 2008. That year saw not just a fevered political campaign but the creation of a genuine cult of personality. Big blogs like Daily Kos and TPM were inundated with comments from individuals never seen before or since, and they all spread horrific lies and rumors
about Hillary and Bill Clinton while lauding Obama in reverential, almost messianic terms.
Were these personas? Were the Obots actually...bots
Don't be silly. The question isn't even a question
My own blog, humble as it was, got battered by a "vitriol monsoon." The hate-spew came every few minutes, day and night. Software was obviously
involved. A large amount of that hate commentary -- including several death threats -- came from the same ISP in Chicago, Illinois. The home of the Obama campaign.
, it surely happened on a much grander scale on Kos and HuffPo.
Obama's campaign attack dog, David Axelrod, runs a little-known company called ASK, which -- surprise, surprise -- manipulates public opinion
through the creation of astroturf (fake grassroots support for a policy, company or candidate). "Persona software" was created for the purpose of astroturfing. You know damned well that a cutting-edge firm like ASK has a copy of that software.
We have discussed ASK in a previous post
. One of Axelrod's campaigns involved spreading a completely false revisionist history of the California energy crisis; he did this in order to help a public utility drum up support for a rate hike.
Not only that. In previous posts, I've spoken about the fake communication I received from someone claiming to be Evelyn Pringle, the investigative reporter who did such excellent work on Obama's pattern of corruption in Illinois. I had pushed her work in these cyber-pages, and I had also corresponded with her briefly. The pseudo-Pringle message existed for the purpose of planting malware on my system, forcing me to do a thorough reformat of my C drive.
Only someone in Axelrod's shop would have cared about Pringle enough to use her name in a scheme of this sort.
Here's something I haven't revealed heretofore: I received a similarly suspicious fake email from "Nibbles Mcgee," who used to contribute to these pages from time to time. (Her real name isn't Nibbles; that was the name of her cat. The private email message came to me under her real name.) As with the Pringle message, it contained a link to a malware-dropping website. Fortunately, my beefed-up antivirus software prevented the page from loading.
The bottom line: A lot of the stuff that Brad (rightfully) mentions in his HBGary complaint was previously done to me -- and to a lot of other people -- in 2008. The situations were parallel. In fact, "parallel" is the wrong word: It was the same thing
And yet all of blogland snarls and screams about HBGary and the Chamber of Commerce. Nobody in blogland snarls and screams about David Axelrod, who still sitteth at the right hand of the Messiah from Chicago.
I haven't noticed Brad Friedman talking about what Ax did in 2008, even though I've devoted a number of posts to the ghastliness committed by Aaron Barr. (Brad: Now
do you see why I got so pissed off by your cowardly silence during the atrocities of 2008? The trickery didn't seem so bad -- until the same tricks were played on you
Here's the kicker: HBGary's plot amounted to a proposal. A mere proposal.Axelrod's manipulation of blogistan left was put into actual practice
. He created a president. He gave us the mess we are in right now, with the Democratic brand tarnished by Obama's continuing sellout to Wall Street.
You won't find many lefties eager to discuss the resemblance between Barr and Axelrod. (Fun experiment: Try Googling "Aaron Barr" in quotes and "Axelrod.") Why? Because progs are too damned haughty to confess that they, too, can be snookered.
Progressives pretend that they are brighter than the hoi polloi
. They don't want to admit that they, like the teabaggers, can get sucked into a ginned-up political fad. Progs consider themselves independent and ornery (as do conservatives), yet you rarely see a prog defending a position unpopular within that community.
All across the political spectrum, Americans have lost the habit of thinking for themselves. That makes them perfect targets for guys like Ax and Aaron.