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Monday, January 16, 2017

Agents provocateurs and propagandists

James O'Keefe has been caught trying to instigate a riot at the inauguration.
The counter-sting, carried out by The Undercurrent and Americans Take Action, a project of a previous target of provocateur James O’Keefe, managed to surreptitiously record elements of O’Keefe’s network offering huge sums of money to progressive activists if they would disrupt the ceremony and “put a stop to the inauguration” and the related proceedings to such a degree that donors to the clandestine effort would “turn on a TV and maybe not even see Trump.” To have riots blot out coverage of Trump, the donor offered “unlimited resources,” including to shut down bridges into D.C.
A longer video of the interaction between Project Veritas operative Allison Maass and Ryan Clayton of Americans Take Action was posted online Tuesday. In it, Clayton confirms with Maass that her goal is indeed to incite a riot at the inauguration. “What you’re asking for, let’s bullet point it,” Clayton says, referring to the donor Maass claims to be representing. “He says, I’ll give you $100,000 to shut down a bridge, incite a riot and make sure we hack the media narrative on the inauguration.”
A few of you may recall the classic film noir Kiss Me Deadly, particularly the scene in which we learn that there are not one but two bombs in the car. The first one is the one they want you to catch. (One wonders how Mike Hammer gained his expert knowledge of such things.)

O'Keefe, I suspect, is the one they want you to catch. There will be others.

For a very obvious example of an agent provocateur action, check out the warning offered by this "red journalism" site. The Washington Times is still pushing the O'Keefe smear without warning readers that O'Keefe has been caught red-handed -- and not for the first time.

An entire propaganda machine is in place, designed to portray the anti-Trump left as violent. When the bombs start going off -- and let me repeat: I am predicting a nuclear event in Chicago -- the propagandists will find a way to blame not just ISIS but all progressives.

The Occupy movement was an utter cock-up from the word go, precisely because the left -- as it always does -- fell for the myth of consensus, the myth that hierarchy is always bad. Ask John Lewis: The Civil Rights movement would never have succeeded without leadership and discipline. Eschew discipline and you open the way for infiltrators and natural-born troublemakers. Occupy was destroyed from the inside by asshole anarchists, narcissists, and libertarians.

Always remember that Putin is the wealthiest man in the world, and he will stop at nothing to attain his goal of destroying NATO. To accomplish this, he will do whatever is necessary to strengthen his hireling, Trump. Putin has a troll army numbering in the thousands -- perhaps hundreds of thousands -- and he will insure that Trump keeps power in the US the same way Putin keeps power in Russia.

Sending a message. The trickery of a James O'Keefe relies on the use of propaganda. Rand calls it the "Firehose of Falsehood." This fascinating study goes a long ways toward explaining the 2016 election.
We characterize the contemporary Russian model for propa- ganda as “the firehose of falsehood” because of two of its distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions. In the words of one observer, “[N]ew Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”

Contemporary Russian propaganda has at least two other distinctive features. It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency.
Russian propaganda is produced in incredibly large volumes and is broadcast or otherwise distributed via a large number of channels. This propaganda includes text, video, audio, and still imagery propagated via the Internet, social media, satellite television, and traditional radio and television broadcasting. The producers and disseminators include a substantial force of paid Internet “trolls” who also often attack or undermine views or information that runs counter to Russian themes, doing so through online chat rooms, discussion forums, and comments sections on news and other websites.4 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that “there are thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, and vKontakte” maintained by Russian propagandists. According to a former paid Russian Internet troll, the trolls are on duty 24 hours a day, in 12-hour shifts, and each has a daily quota of 135 posted comments of at least 200 characters.
Experimental research shows that, to achieve success in disseminating propaganda, the variety of sources matters:

• Multiple sources are more persuasive than a single source, especially if those sources contain different arguments that point to the same conclusion.

• Receiving the same or similar message from multiple sources is more persuasive.

• People assume that information from multiple sources is likely to be based on different perspectives and is thus worth greater consideration.8

The number and volume of sources also matter:

• Endorsement by a large number of users boosts consumer trust, reliance, and confidence in the information, often with little attention paid to the credibility of those making the endorsements.

• When consumer interest is low, the persuasiveness of a mes- sage can depend more on the number of arguments support- ing it than on the quality of those arguments.9

Finally, the views of others matter, especially if the message comes from a source that shares characteristics with the recipient:

• Communications from groups to which the recipient belongs are more likely to be perceived as credible. The same applies when the source is perceived as similar to the recipient. If a propaganda channel is (or purports to be) from a group the recipient identifies with, it is more likely to be persuasive.

• Credibility can be social; that is, people are more likely to perceive a source as credible if others perceive the source as credible. This effect is even stronger when there is not enough information available to assess the trustworthiness of the source.

• When information volume is low, recipients tend to favor experts, but when information volume is high, recipients tend to favor information from other users.

What Matters in Producing and Disseminating High-Volume, Multichannel Propaganda?

• Variety of sources

• Number and volume of sources

• The views of others, especially the views of those who are similiar to the message recipient.

• In online forums, comments attacking a proponent’s exper- tise or trustworthiness diminish credibility and decrease the likelihood that readers will take action based on what they have read.
The experimental psychology literature tells us that first
impressions are very resilient: An individual is more likely to accept the first information received on a topic and then favor this information when faced with conflicting messages.13 Furthermore, repetition leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to acceptance:

• Repeated exposure to a statement has been shown to increase its acceptance as true.

• The “illusory truth effect” is well documented, whereby people rate statements as more truthful, valid, and believable when they have encountered those statements previously than when they are new statements.

• When people are less interested in a topic, they are more likely to accept familiarity brought about by repetition as an indicator that the information (repeated to the point of famil- iarity) is correct.

• When processing information, consumers may save time and energy by using a frequency heuristic, that is, favoring information they have heard more frequently.

• Even with preposterous stories and urban legends, those who have heard them multiple times are more likely to believe that they are true.

• If an individual is already familiar with an argument or claim (has seen it before, for example), they process it less carefully, often failing to discriminate weak arguments from strong
I strongly urge you to read the entire piece. What Rand doesn't tell you, of course, is that these techniques were pioneered by our own CIA. To prove that point, you should read up on the destabilization of Chile (Death in Washington by Freed and Landis is an excellent source) and on the work of Paul Linebarger.

Added note: Have I mentioned how stupid it was to label the main anti-Trump rally a "women's march"?  

Look, democracy requires a mass movement. Identity politics is the opposite of a mass movement. Always have been, always will be. The irritatingly predictable counter-argument that you are right now dying to make is nothing but pure casuistry.

Throughout the Reagan era, lefties kept opposing the Republicans with identity politics -- and guess what? The left kept losing and losing and losing to the hyper-conservatives. This strategy is a proven loser -- just like the myth of "consensus" -- yet the left keeps using strained argumentation to convince itself that this time, it's gonna work.
I like that Rand article. Gullibility taking the form of psychological internalisation is the curse of our time.

"What Rand doesn't tell you, of course, is that these techniques were pioneered by our own CIA". Indeed, and the CIA used them most extensively not against Russia but against the US population and against the population of the rest of the West, and then against the Arab world. (The "Arab spring" was CIA bullshit from the very beginning, as practically no lefties understand.)

The CIA probably thought that Russia was in their pocket because many Russians, especially middle class Russians, favour western consumer goods. That is true, but it doesn't mean Russia was ever going to roll over and play doggo for the US. They had practically no regard for the role in Russia of the notions of motherland, fatherland, and destiny. And they didn't appreciate that, as I keep saying, whereas the CPSU disappeared, the ~KGB got stronger.

After setting up Facebook, the CIA experienced a gigantic blowback.

The scale of blowback dwarfs what they got when they funded fundamentalist Islam in the 1980s.

Trump certainly needs a Reichstag event before too much time passes.

Side note: do you know why when Trump meets people the photos often show the pair of them doing a thumbs up gesture, or some other gesture that doesn't involve shaking hands?

It's because he is pathologically afraid of shaking hands. There's a massive HANDS thing going on with that guy. You know the triangle gesture he makes with his hands when sitting? He may be trying to "air" his hands.
Women planned their march not as a mass movement, but as a protest. Others have joined in. You cannot blame women for wanting to protest women's issues. You also cannot blame them for the way their march has been co-opted by others.
What was dumb about the Woman's March was the idea came up so soon after the election that it took away focus from Comey's letter and potentially putting up real heat for the electors to consider versus the faux 5 million petition that was started by a Sander's supporter.
I encountered the 3 comments parroting the same point of view and even using the exact same phrase under three different ID's on Nate Silver's 538 site.
The electors were never going to really switch. Even if you had a critical mass ready to switch-not likely, these are party die-hards, nobody was prepared to shield them from the firestorm they would have endured as a result. So they would-and could be pressured to "stay the course".

And it attacks the problem from the wrong end. We should be prepared to do things to keep them from getting to the point we need turn-coat electors. Back in 2001, there should have been a movement for voting reform and one to abolish the Electoral College jumpstarted. Now we should do so, and keep the pressure up to end it. Suffrage reform is never easy, and I have no illusions it would be a short course. Women took 80 years to get the vote. However, just having something up and running puts on the pressure and gains results. There were several states that already had women voting beforehand, which never would have happened if there was no underlying movement.

There is real discontent that has nothing to do with the CIA in the Arab world. The Arab would has a great deal of hereditary and generalissimo politics that is abusive to say the least. People go away to school and see that there's a better way of running things and no longer want to submit to the old ways
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