Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Barr gone? Great. But what about Axelrod?

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."
Manufacturing consent

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.
When lambert 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.

If that happened here, 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...

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.
The difference is that there's proof of what HBGary wanted to do. All the Axelrod stuff is unsubstantiated. Could it be true? Sure. But without evidence, this looks like circumstantial conspiracy mongering.
Not from where I sit. I know what I experienced, and insults can't shunt aside the truth.

Look, the giveaway was the use of Pringle's name to plant malware on my system. Who OTHER than someone in Axelrod's shop would think to do that? A random spyware-planter, motivated only by money, would not have fixated on that name -- but it sure would have commanded the attention of someone trying to hide Obama's foul past.
Yeah, you make sense. Your theory makes perfect sense.

I wonder how much of a trail there is on this? Could someone go back and follow the trail back to whoever did this?

Of course, it also makes sense with regard to Israeli psy-ops.

Actually I wonder who makes the underlying software?

Let's face it, the Dems went bad with Obama. The party is screwed until we get the Obamacrats out.
"Look, the giveaway was the use of Pringle's name to plant malware on my system. Who OTHER than someone in Axelrod's shop would think to do that?"

Anybody who wanted to cause you pain and had read your posts. They thought you'd jump at the chance to correspond with her, as you did.

Axelrod? No offense, but you didn't mean jack-squat in the 2008 election, and aside from the occasional interesting post, you still don't.

But previously you DID manage to piss off a bunch of truthers, who may have carried a torch for you. Or maybe some Israeli art students weren't fond of your posts; or maybe it was somebody connected to the Florida drug scams you'd post on. In short, it could have been anyone.

You say it was a Chicago ISP, as though that means something. My ISP is in Canada. Does that mean I'm posting this on behalf of Stephen Harper? Do you think that Axelrod would leave behind a Chicago "clue" for you, when the very software you seem to claim he used can create personae that appear to live anywhere?

Despite your incorrect inference, the first comment here from Anonymous nails it. Read and re-read it until you no longer infer any "insults" designed to "shunt aside the truth." Otherwise, you're in tinfoil territory.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bull fucking shit, asshole. I've heard from blog owners who had much smaller audiences than mine who underwent the same harassment.

There HAD to be software involved. That's the only way to understand how a blog that gets small traffic would suddenly be inundated by dozens of pro-Obama robo-comments every hour throughout the night and day.

Your point about the ISP location only buttresses what I'm saying. Re-read the wording of the AF contract for persona management software. Read carefully. You'll understand that, while the basic software is some years old, the location spoofing capability is new. The wording makes it pretty obvious that older versions of this kind of software could not do that.

As for the Pringle message: Any non-political malefactor who wanted me to click on a malware-dropping email would be more likely to use the name of a fellow blogger.

At the time the pseudo-Pringle message showed up, I had not mentioned her on my blog for ages. Someone out to plant a trojan for simple pecuniary reasons (such as discovering a bank account number) would have used a name that figures in a recent post, not in the archived stuff.

But the use of Pringle's name becomes likelier if you posit that someone did a google blogs search on her name in order to track who who had republished her work.

Only someone connected with the Obama campaign would have done that.

You are resorting to the sort of casuistry employed by the tobacco company "experts" who were paid to create doubt about the link between tobacco and cancer.

We all know damned well what happened in 2008. And I think there should be a proper congressional investigation into the scurrilous tactics used by David Axelrod.

Don't show up here again, troll.
Looks like you hit a nerve, Joseph. Interesting nym that troll chose, too. Reminds me of one of the O-trolls infesting another small blog, since the primary days.
I wouldn't be surprised if something like this is being used in Wisconsin right now. It appears to me that the comments I see for news articles regarding the Walker bill do not concord with polling data (and there have been lots of professional polls, all pretty concordant with each other). Moreover, the professional polling that looks at the "passion index" (i.e. percentage of people that feel especially strongly pro and con) shows a far higher percentage of people passionately opposed to the Walker bill than in favor of it. Yet for many newspapers here in Wisconsin, the preponderance of comments appear to be written by Tea Party supporters of the bill. I've also noticed an online voting "poll" (i.e. one of those where you click a button) that within the space of a few hours registered an impossible number of votes supporting the bill (flipping the numbers from majority opposed to 80% in favor). It's leading me to wonder what is going on.
What we need is Bot hunting software.
Joe, thanks for that info. on "persona Software". I knew something like this existed but never attached a name to it and I had missed your post about it. I remember all too well how we would track with disgust the vile commenter s and see that they all had more than their love for Obama and hatred for Clintons in common. Many also had the same IP address.
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