AuthorTopic: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?  (Read 3002 times)

Offline RE

  • Administrator
  • Chief Cook & Bottlewasher
  • *****
  • Posts: 41595
    • View Profile
Re: The Population Bust
« Reply #15 on: August 17, 2019, 02:23:00 PM »
Interesting piece of contrariana here. Interesting argument.

How could he write an article on this topic without once mentioning ENERGY usage and availability?

I prefer "Population Knockdown" to "Population Bust".  The latter is too reminiscent of "Financial Bust" and doesn't deal with the fact that it means a lot of DEAD PEOPLE.

Save As Many As You Can

Offline Surly1

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 18654
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
Re: The Population Bust
« Reply #16 on: August 17, 2019, 08:32:02 PM »
Interesting piece of contrariana here. Interesting argument.

How could he write an article on this topic without once mentioning ENERGY usage and availability?

I prefer "Population Knockdown" to "Population Bust".  The latter is too reminiscent of "Financial Bust" and doesn't deal with the fact that it means a lot of DEAD PEOPLE.



Who cares how the Mad Rat Cook of Palmer characterizes the article?

The article is talking about broad demographic strokes and does not delve into specifics aside from addressing the trends of pressure of inc erased population on all resource components, including energy. And as far as that goes, water trumps energy, IMO. We are already seeing migration as a result of climate instability; wait until the water runs out.

Population knockdown or bust,

"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline RE

  • Administrator
  • Chief Cook & Bottlewasher
  • *****
  • Posts: 41595
    • View Profile
Re: The Population Bust
« Reply #17 on: August 17, 2019, 08:40:24 PM »
Who cares how the Mad Rat Cook of Palmer characterizes the article?

I'm not precisely sure.  A few hundred I think between the Diner Blog & Forum, Utoob, Soundcloud and Reddit.  Reddit has 1600 subscribers now, although they ain't all fans. lol.

Save As Many As You Can

Offline Surly1

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 18654
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong?
« Reply #18 on: September 05, 2019, 06:39:45 AM »
The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong?
The Pentagon is using a moral panic over “fake news” to gain influence over the domestic news landscape

December 1950: Security guards on duty outside the Pentagon in Washington DC from where the nation's security and armed forces are directed. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

December 1950: Security guards on duty outside the Pentagon in Washington.

Keystone Features/Getty Images

If there’s a worse idea than the Pentagon becoming Editor-in-Chief of America, I can’t remember it. But we’re getting there:

From Bloomberg over Labor Day weekend:

Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections.

One of the Pentagon’s most secretive agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is developing “custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips.”

Once upon a time, when progressives still reflexively distrusted the military, DARPA was a liberal punchline, known for helping invent the Internet but also for developing lunatic privacy-invading projects like LifeLog, a program to “gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees, or does.”

DARPA now is developing a semantic analysis program called “SemaFor” and an image analysis program called “MediFor,” ostensibly designed to prevent the use of fake images or text. The idea would be to develop these technologies to help private Internet providers sift through content.

It’s the latest in a string of stories about new methods of control over information flow that should, but for some reason do not, horrify every working journalist.

From the Senate dragging Internet providers to the Hill to demand strategies against the sowing of “discord,” to tales of hundreds of Facebook sites zapped for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” following advice by government-connected groups like the Atlantic Council, it’s been clear the future of the information landscape is going to involve elaborate new forms of algorithmic regulation.

Stories about the need for such technologies are always couched as responses to the “fake news” problem. Unfortunately, “fake news” is a poorly-defined, amorphous concept that the public has been trained to fear without really understanding.

The term surged into public view three years ago. Experts insisted Macedonian troll farms and pranksters like the late Paul Horner (who once conned Fox News into doing a story that Barack Obama was funding a Muslim culture museum) had an enormous impact on Trump’s victory.

Had they? When “fake news” first became “a thing,” as media critic Adam Johnson put it in The Nation three years ago, I was skeptical.

Fake news has a long history in America. Its most pernicious incarnation is never the work of small-time scam artists. The worst “fake news” almost always involves broad-scale deceptions foisted on the public by official (and often unnamed) sources, in conjunction with oligopolistic media companies, usually in service of rallying the public behind a dubious policy objective like a war or authoritarian crackdown.

From the sinking of the Maine in 1898, to rumors of a union-led socialist insurrection before the Palmer raids in 1919, to the Missile Gap in the late fifties and early sixties (here is the CIA’s own website admitting that one was “erroneous”), to the Gulf of Tonkin lie that launched the Vietnam War, to the more recent WMD fiasco, true “fake news” is a concerted, organized, institutional phenomenon that involves deceptions cooked up at the highest levels.

The other “fake news” – the dubious panic over which began in November-December of 2016 – is a strange, hybrid concept that mixes fear of fever-swamp conservative lunacies with satire, Russian propaganda, legitimate dissent, and other content.

The most infamous example usually cited is Pizzagate, in which Hillary Clinton and campaign chief John Podesta were falsely said to be running a pedophile ring out of the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant. The hoax carried import because a 28 year-old North Carolinian named Edgar Maddison Welch was idiot enough to shoot up the joint in response.

But the other specific examples cited of “fake” news most often cited are patently absurd: that the Pope or the Amish endorsed Donald Trump, that Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS, that an FBI agent investigating Clinton had died in a house fire (a story broken by the nonexistent “Denver Guardian”), that the Democrats paid protesters to heckle Trump events, etc.

The idea that these fake tales had a major impact in 2016 is absurd on its face. They didn’t change things any more than ALIEN BACKS CLINTON swayed the 1992 election.

It was laughable beyond belief to see stories in outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post taking seriously the notion that small-time hoaxers like Horner — who was trying to sucker Trump fans to websites so he could make maybe ten grand a month off click ads – were a major threat to national security. (That some cited Horner’s own claim of responsibility for Trump’s election was even more preposterous).

When officials calling for a crackdown talk about “fake news,” you’ll often see them conflating examples of provably false stories with true stories circulated or interpreted in undesirable ways: the Clinton email scandal, the Uranium One story, the Podesta email leak, etc.

Even a controversy about Hillary Clinton’s health, cited by Ohio State University researchers as an example of the pernicious impact of fake news, was an amalgam of true and fake.

There was indeed wild speculation on the Internet and by goons like Sean Hannity about Clinton suffering from seizures or dementia. This was mixed in with real events like a 2012 collapse that caused a concussion, the subsequent discovery of a blood clot in Clinton’s brain ( called it “life threatening” in a headline), and Clinton’s September, 2016 collapse at a 9/11 memorial event.

The New York Times, CNN, CBS, the Washington Post and other reputable outlets covered the latter episode in great detail. As Vox noted at the time, this turned an online conspiracy theory into a “mainstream debate.”

If there’s a fake news story out there, it’s the fake news panic itself. It has the hallmarks of an old-school, WMD-style propaganda campaign.

It includes terrifying pronouncements by unnamed “intelligence officials,” unprovable, overblown, or outright fake statistical assertions about the threat (like the oft-cited claim that fake election news had more engagement than real news), open conflation of legitimate domestic dissent with foreign attack, and routine dismissal of experts downplaying the problem (here are two significantstudiessuggesting the “fake news” phenomenon is overstated).

Of course, the final, omnipresent ingredient in most major propaganda campaigns is the authoritarian solution. Here, it’s unelected, unsupervised algorithmic control over media. We’ve never had a true news regulator in this country, yet the public is being conditioned now to accept one, without thinking of the consequences.

The most enormous issue posed by the modern media landscape is the industry’s incredible concentration, which allows a handful of private platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Google – to dominate media distribution.

This makes it possible to envisage direct levers of control over the public’s media habits that never existed back when people got much of their news from local paper chains with individual distribution networks. We’ve already seen scary examples of misidentified foreign subversion, from the Washington Post’s repeateditorials denouncing Bernie Sanders as a useful idiot for the Kremlin to the zapping of hundreds of domestic political sites as “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

What if the same people who can’t tell the difference between Truthdig and Pravda get to help design the new fake news algorithms? That’s a much bigger worry than the next Paul Horner or even, frankly, the next Russian Facebook campaign. While Donald Trump is in the White House, progressives won’t grasp how scary all of this is, but bet on it: In a few years, we’ll all wish we paid more attention when the Pentagon announced it wanted in on the news regulation business.

"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline Surly1

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 18654
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2019, 04:52:15 AM »

A federal judge’s ruling has raised hopes that we may better understand any possible ties between Saudi Arabia’s ruling family and the 9/11 hijackers — the vast majority of whom were Saudi citizens.

Just ahead of the 18th anniversary of the attack, US District Judge William J. Zloch ruled that the FBI unlawfully withheld from journalists important parts of its own highly sensitive investigative report on the subject.

Earlier, the FBI had declined to release to the Florida Bulldog — a nonprofit news organization which first broke the news about the ruling — key sections from records of the bureau’s probe of a South Florida-based Saudi family that apparently had ties to many of the 9/11 hijackers.

According to a 2011 Bulldog report (and to a Sarasota Herald-Tribune story published the same day), Mohamed Atta, the 9/11 plot leader, had visited the family of Abdulaziz al-Hijji several times, and phone records documenting communication over more than a year connected them to Atta and 11 other terror suspects. (See below for details.)

Two weeks before the 9/11 attack, the al-Hijjis suddenly left the area, abandoning cars, furniture, clothing, food, and medicine, and leaving the door of a safe ajar. Soon after, they all — including Esam Ghazzawi, the father of al-Hijji’s wife and owner of the home — flew to Saudi Arabia.

Connecting the Florida Family to the Saudi Royal Family

Through its own investigation, WhoWhatWhy discovered that there is a direct link between Ghazzawi and the ruling Saudi royal family.

Ghazzawi served as director of Eirad Management Company, the UK division of Eirad Trading and Contracting Co. Ltd., which among other things holds the Saudi franchise for many multinational brands, including UPS.

Esam’s brother Mamdouh, whose name shows up on public records associated with family properties in the US, was the executive managing director of the parent firm, Eirad Holding Co. Ltd. Eirad has connections to the US government via contracts. In 2008, records show, the State Department paid Eirad $11,733 for rental of facilities, presumably in Saudi Arabia.

And the chairman of Eirad Holding Co. Ltd. — i.e., the Ghazzawi brothers’ boss — was Prince Sultan bin Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

The prince is a prominent member of the ruling Saudi royal family. He is a great-grandson of King Abdul Aziz (commonly referred to as Ibn Saud), founder of modern Saudi Arabia, and grandson of the current king.

A 2009 article in the publication Arab News covering an Eirad awards ceremony for outstanding employees features quotes from Prince Sultan and Mamdouh Ghazzawi as, respectively, Chairman and Executive Managing Director.

A 2017 article in the UK’s Telegraph described Eirad as “the company which managed the [royal] family’s properties, fleet of cars and vast collection of artwork.”

The link between the Ghazzawis and high ranks of the Saudi establishment reopens questions about the Bush White House’s controversial approval of multiple charter flightsallowing Saudi nationals — including princes — to depart the US, beginning about 48 hours after the attacks, without the passengers being interviewed by law enforcement. This was after the identification of the majority of the hijackers as Saudis.

In addition, these revelations draw further attention to a web of relationships that include the long and close business, personal, and political ties between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family.

September 11, World Trade Center

Fires still burn amidst the rubble and debris of the World Trade Centers in New York City in the area known as Ground Zero two days after the 9/11 attacks. Photo credit: Mike Goad / Flickr

A Mysterious Disappearance

The al-Hijji family left Florida on August 27, 2001, according to reports released in 2019 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. (The date had previously been given as August 30.) A counterterrorism agent and an administrator/security agent of the gated community got into the house and reported these findings:

There was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of the bathrooms … all the toiletries still in place … all their clothes hanging in the closet … TVs … opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house … the pool running, with toys in it … The beds were made … fruit on the counter … the refrigerator full of food. … It was like they went grocery shopping. Like they went out to a movie … [But] the safe was open in the master bedroom, with nothing in it, not a paper clip. … A computer was still there. A computer plug in another room, and the line still there. Looked like they’d taken [another] computer and left the cord.

They abandoned three recently registered vehicles, including a brand-new Chrysler PT Cruiser, purchased in mid-August 2001.

The al-Hijji family left in a white van and traveled to another Ghazzawi property in Arlington, VA; then — with Esam Ghazzawi — they went, via Dulles airport and London’s Heathrow, to Riyadh.

Evidence Linking Family to 9/11

The Florida Bulldog reported the following discoveries:

Records subpoenaed from the phone company linked calls dating back for more than a year to and from the house to several of the 9/11 hijackers, and other terrorist suspects, including senior al-Qaeda member, Adnan Shukrijumah,

Mohamed Atta (who crashed a plane into the WTC), and Ziad Jarrah (who crashed a plane in Pennsylvania) were documented by gatekeepers to the Florida complex as visitors to the family. And their license plates were photographed as they went through the gate.

Three of the four men who piloted planes on 9/11 lived within 10 miles of the [al-Hijji/Ghazzawi] family and attended flight schools nearby.

Denial Upon Denial

The FBI failed to provide the information to congressional 9/11 investigators, or to the presidential 9/11 commission. They also did not turn over information connecting the hijackers to other Saudis living in California — which congressional investigators later discovered on their own.

When these investigators turned over to the 9/11 Commission a large body of information on the hijackers that they themselves had acquired, the panel seemed uninterested.

“They did very little with it,” said former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who served as co-chair of the congressional joint inquiry into 9/11, “and their reference to Saudi Arabia is almost cryptic sometimes. … I never got a good answer as to why they did not pursue that.”

The final 28-page section of the congressional report — which deals with “sources of foreign support for some of the Sept. 11 hijackers” — was entirely blanked out when it was released in July 2016. It was kept secret from the public on the orders of former President George W. Bush and is still withheld to this day, Graham said. (See additional revelations reported by WhoWhatWhy.)

Also kept from the public: Esam Ghazzawi and Abdulaziz al-Hijji had been on the FBI watch list — even before 9/11.

In response to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune article, the FBI issued a statement on September 15, 2011, claiming that the occupants of the house had been tracked down and interrogated, and that they were found to have no connections to the hijackers.

In March 2012, Lee Hamilton, former Indiana congressman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, said, “We looked quite carefully at [possible Saudi involvement] and even sent investigators over there, and we found no hard evidence of any linkage to the hijackers. At the end of the day, you have to have hard evidence. Having said that, I will also say that despite our thorough investigation, a lot of questions about 9/11 remain unanswered.”

In a story published August 30, 2019, in Britain’s Telegraph, the FBI is quoted as saying, “At no time did the FBI develop evidence that connected the family members to any of the 9/11 hijackers … and there was no connection found to the 9/11 plot.’’

In court filings seeking to stave off a media Freedom of Information request, the FBI stated that releasing documents relating to this issue will harm “national security.” 

As proof of the sensitivity of the matter, the FBI gave the judge a document dated April 4, 2002, in which the FBI states provocatively that its own inquiries “revealed many connections” between a well-connected Saudi family with a house in South Florida and “individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.”

More Denials

Abdulaziz al-Hijji, who rented the Florida house from Ghazzawi and is married to Ghazzawi’s daughter, now lives in London, where he works for his country’s state oil company. In an email to the Telegraph, he made the following assertion:

I have neither relation nor association with any of those bad people/criminals and the awful crime they did. 9/11 is a crime against the USA and all humankind and I’m very saddened and oppressed by these false allegations.

He also denied that he left his home in haste:

No, no, no. Absolutely not true. We were trying to secure the [Aramco] job. It was a good opportunity.

He added the surprising claim that his wife and children followed him to Saudi Arabia a few weeks after he left. But that directly contradicts what the FBI found, including the disarray in the abandoned house, and the bureau’s assertion that the whole family left the country within days of abandoning the Sarasota house.

A former neighbor and close friend of al-Hijji, Tom Bello, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribunehis Saudi friend did not raise any suspicion because of his “easy manner.” But then he remembered something significant:

He felt Americans came to their country to steal their oil and take their money. He said he did not like Americans because of what we did to his country.

He said: “How would you like it if we came to your country and did that?”

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from The U.S. National Archives / Flickr.

"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline Surly1

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 18654
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
Paging Galileo.

Turkish Scientist Sentenced to Prison for Publishing Paper Linking Pollution to Cancer

A Turkish food engineer, columnist and human rights advocate was sentenced to 15 months in prison last week for publishing an environmental paper that linked pollution to a high incidence of cancer in Western Turkey, according to Science Magazine.

The court in Istanbul found that Bülent Şık, former deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University, had disclosed classified information when he published the results of his study in a Turkish newspaper in April 2018. Amnesty International described the sentenced as "a travesty of justice," as Agence-France Presse reported and published.

"Bülent Şık fulfilled his duty as a citizen and a scientist and he used his right to freedom of expression," his lawyer, Can Atalay, said in his closing statement, as Science reported.

Şık carried out his study with several other scientists from 2011 to 2015 to test whether soil toxicity, water pollution and food had a link to the high rates of cancer in Western Turkey.

The study, which was commissioned by Turkey's Ministry of Health, found dangerous levels of pesticides and heavy metals in various food and water samples from several provinces in western Turkey. Water in a few residential areas also tested positive for unsafe levels of lead, aluminum, chrome and arsenic pollution, according to Science.

Şık published his findings in the newspaper Cumhuriyet after three years of lobbying the government to take action, but realizing his pleas were falling on deaf ears.

The study "clearly revealed the extent to which water resources were contaminated by toxic materials," said Şık to reporters after the verdict, as AFP reported. "The court ruling shows that the results of a study that directly concerns public health can be hidden. This is unacceptable."

Şık was unapologetic about his actions, even though offering an apology would have allowed him to avoid jail time.

"[H]iding data obtained from research prevents us from having sound discussions about the solutions," Şık said in a statement to the court provided to Science by his lawyer. "In my articles, I aimed to inform the public about this public health study, which was kept secret, and prompt the public authorities who should solve the problems to take action."

Environmental groups have pointed out that Turkey has put economic growth ahead of safety as it has ignored environmental regulations during a boom in industrial growth, as AFP reported.

Şık's report singled out the industrial zone around Dilovasi, about 50 miles away from Istanbul and home to several chemical factories, as having cancer rates well above the international average.

"The case against Bülent Şık has been, from the start, a travesty of justice," said Andrew Gardener, Amnesty International's Turkey researcher to the AFP. "Instead of pursuing a whistleblower through the court, the Turkish authorities should be investigating this important public health issue."

"What is quite striking in this case is that the Ministry of Health did not argue that what Bülent Şık published was not true," said Milena Buyum, a senior campaigner on Turkey at Amnesty International in London, as Science reported.

She added that the government's argument that the information was confidential suggests there is a real danger to health.

"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline Surly1

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 18654
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
The CIA Takeover of America in the 1960s Is the Story of Our Times
« Reply #21 on: October 10, 2019, 01:40:55 AM »
The CIA Takeover of America in the 1960s Is the Story of Our Times
The Killing of the Kennedys and Today’s New Cold War: A Quasi-Review of A Lie Too Big To Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy by Lisa Pease

First published by Global Research on April 2, 2019

“‘We’re all puppets,’ the suspect [Sirhan Sirhan] replied, with more truth than he could have understood at that moment.” – Lisa Pease, quoting from the LAPD questioning of Sirhan

When Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968, the American public fell into an hypnotic trance in which they have remained ever since. The overwhelming majority accepted what was presented by government authorities as an open and shut case that a young Palestinian American, Sirhan Sirhan, had murdered RFK because of his support for Israel, a false accusation whose ramifications echo down the years. That this was patently untrue and was contradicted by overwhelming evidence made no difference.

Sirhan did not kill Robert Kennedy, yet he remains in jail to this very day. Robert Kennedy, Jr., who was 14 years old at the time of his father’s death, has visited Sirhan in prison, claims he is innocent, and believes there was another gunman. Paul Schrade, an aide to the senator and the first person shot that night, also says Sirhan didn’t do it. Both have plenty of evidence. And they are not alone.

Image result for A Lie Too Big To Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

There is a vast body of documented evidence to prove this, an indisputably logical case marshalled by serious writers and researchers. Lisa Pease is the latest. It is a reason why a group of 60 prominent Americans has recently called for a reopening of, not just this case, but those of JFK, MLK, and Malcom X. The blood of these men cries out for the revelation of the truth that the United States national security state and its media accomplices have fought so mightily to keep hidden for so many years.

That they have worked so hard at this reveals how dangerous the truth about these assassinations still is to this secret government that wages propaganda war against the American people and real wars around the world. It is a government of Democrats, Republicans, and their intelligence allies working together today to confuse the American people and provoke Russia in a most dangerous game that could lead to nuclear war, a possibility that so frightened JFK and RFK after the Cuban Missile Crisis that they devoted themselves to ending the Cold War, reconciling with the Soviet Union, abolishing nuclear weapons, reining in of the power of the CIA, and withdrawing from Vietnam. That is why they were killed.

The web of deceit surrounding the now officially debunked Democratic led Russia-gate propaganda operation that has strengthened Trump to double-down on his anti-Russia operations (a Democratic goal) is an example of the perfidious and sophisticated mutuality of this game of mass mind-control.

The killing of the Kennedys and today’s new Cold War and war against terror are two ends of a linked intelligence operation.

Moreover, more than any other assassination of the 1960s, it is the killing of Bobby Kennedy that has remained shrouded in the most ignorance.

It is one of the greatest propaganda success stories of American history.

In her exhaustive new examination of the case, A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease puts it succinctly at the conclusion of her unravelling of the official lies that have mesmerized the public:

The assassination of the top four leaders of the political left in the five year period – President John Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 – represented nothing less than a slow-motion coup on the political scene.

If anyone wishes to understand what has happened to the United States since this coup, and thus to its countless victims at home and throughout the world, one must understand these assassinations and how the alleged assassins were manipulated by the coup organizers and how the public was hoodwinked in a mind-control operation on a vast scale. It is not ancient history, for the forces that killed these leaders rule the U.S. today, and their ruthlessness has subsequently informed the actions of almost all political leaders in the years since. A bullet to the head when you seriously talk about peace and justice is a not so gentle reminder to toe the line or else.

“But the way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time,” writes Pease, “and too few recognize this. We can’t fix a problem we can’t even acknowledge exists.”

Nothing could be truer.

Lisa Pease has long recognized the problem, and for the past twenty-five years, she has devoted herself to shedding light on the CIA’s culpability, particularly in the Robert Kennedy case. Few people possess the grit and grace to spend so much of their lives walking this path of truth. The extent of her research is dazzling, so dazzling in its voluminous detail that a reviewer can only touch on it here and there. She has written a book that is daunting in its comprehensiveness. It demands focused attention and perseverance, for it runs to over 500 pages with more than 800 footnotes. This book will remain a touchstone for future research on the RFK assassination, whether one agrees or disagrees with all of her detailed findings and speculations. For this book is so vast and meticulous in its examination of all aspects of the case that one can surely find areas that one might question or disagree with.

Nevertheless, Pease fundamentally proves that Sirhan did not shoot RFK and that there was a conspiracy organized and carried out by shadowy intelligence forces that did so. These same forces worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, federal, state, and judicial elements to make sure Sirhan was quickly accused of being the lone assassin and dispatched to prison after a show trial. And the mass media carried out its assigned role of affirming the government’s case to shield the real killers and to make sure the cover-up was successful.

No doubt others will investigate this case further. Yet I think no more research is really needed, for as with these other assassinations, additional analyses will only result in pseudo-debates about minutiae. Such debates will only serve to prolong the hallucinatory grip the perpetrators of these crimes have on a day of reckoning, suggesting as they would that we do not really know what happened. This is an old tactic meant to delay forevermore such a day of reckoning.

The facts are clear for all to see if they have the will to truth. All that is now needed is a public tribunal, which is planned for later this year, in which the fundamental, clear-cut facts of these cases are presented to the American public. In the case of Robert Kennedy’s assassination as with the others, a little knowledge goes a long way, and only those who are closed to basic logic and evidence will refuse to see that government forces conspired to kill these men and did so because all were seeking peace and justice that was then, and is now, a threat to the war-making forces of wealth and power that control the American government.

Pease writes:

Anyone who has looked closely and honestly at the evidence has realized that more than one person was involved in Robert Kennedy’s death. So why can’t reporters see this? Why can’t the media explain this? Because the media and the government are two sides of the same coin, and those who challenge the government’s version of history, as numerous reporters have found out, all too often lose status and sometimes whole careers. Kristina Borjesson published an anthology of such stories in her book Into the Buzzsaw, in which journalists describe how they lost their careers when eachof them expressed a truth that the government did not want exposed.

Lisa Pease discloses such truths. I am reporting on her work. Therefore, the mainstream media, except for an extraordinary reporter or two, such as Tom Jackman of The WashingtonPost, will likely ignore both of us, but the publication where you are reading this is on the side of truth, and in the disclosure of truth lies our hope.

Since more than one person was involved in the killing of RFK, there was – ipso facto – a conspiracy. This is not theory but fact. The fact of a conspiracy. For more than fifty years, mainstream reporters have been cowed by this word “conspiracy,” thanks to the CIA. Many others have been intelligence assets posing as journalists, regurgitating the lies. This is a fact.

The official story is that after giving his victory speech for winning the 1968 Democratic California Primary, Kennedy, as he was walking through a crowded hotel pantry, was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, who was standing to his left between 3-6 feet away. Sirhan’s revolver held eight bullets, and as he was shooting, he was tackled by a group of large men who subdued him. All witnesses place Sirhan in front of Kennedy and all claim he was firing a gun.

Fact: As the autopsy definitively showed, RFK was shot from the rear at point blank range, three bullets entering his body, with the fatal headshot coming upward at a 45-degree angle from 1-3 inches behind his right ear. Not one bullet from Sirhan’s gun hit the Senator. In addition, an audio recording shows that many more bullets than the eight in Sirhan’s gun were fired in the hotel pantry that night. It was impossible for Sirhan to have killed RFK.

Let me repeat: More than one gunman, contrary to the government’s claims, equals a conspiracy. So why lie about that?

What is amazing is that the obvious conclusion to such simple syllogistic logic (Sirhan in front, bullets in the back, therefore…) that a child could understand has been dismissed by the authorities for fifty-one years. The fact that the government authorities – the LAPD, the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney, federal and state government officials, the FBI, the CIA – have from the start so assiduously done all in their power to pin the blame on “a lone assassin,” Sirhan, proves they are part of a coordinated cover-up, which in turn suggests their involvement in the crime.

The fact that Robert Kennedy was shot from the back and not the front where Sirhan was standing immediately brings to mind the Zapruder film that shows that JFK was killed from the front right and not from the 6th floor rear where Oswald was allegedly shooting from. That unexpected film evidence was hidden from the public for many years, but when it was finally seen, the case for a government conspiracy was solidified.

While no such video evidence has surfaced in the RFK case, the LAPD made sure that no photographic evidence contradicting the official lies would be seen. As Lisa Pease writes:

Less than two months after the assassination, the LAPD took the extraordinary step of burning some 2,400 photos from the case in Los Angeles County General’s medical waste incinerator. Why destroy thousands of photos in an incinerator if there was nothing to hide? The LAPD kept hundreds of innocuous crowd scene photos that showed no girl in a polka dot dress or no suspicious activities or individuals. Why were those photos preserved? Perhaps because those photos had nothing in them that warranted their destruction.

While “perhaps” is a mild word, the cover-up of “the girl in the polka dot dress” needs no perhaps. Dozens of people reported seeing a suspicious, curvaceous girl in a white dress with black polka dots with Sirhan in the pantry and other places. She was seen with various other men as well. The evidence for her involvement in the assassination is overwhelming, and yet the LAPD did all in its power to deny this by browbeating witnesses and by allowing her to escape.

Sandra Serrano, a Kennedy campaign worker and a courageous witness, was bullied by the CIA-connected police interrogator Sergeant Enrique “Hank” Hernandez. She had been sitting outside on a metal fire escape getting some air when the polka dot dress girl, accompanied by a man, ran out and down the stairs, shouting, “We’ve shot him, we’ve shot him.” When Serrano asked whom did they shoot, the girl replied, “We’ve shot Senator Kennedy.” Then she and her companion, both of whom Serrano had earlier seen ascending the stairs with Sirhan, disappeared into the night. A little over an hour after the shooting Serrano was interviewed on live television by NBC’s Sander Vanocur where she recounted this. And there were others who saw and heard this girl say the same thing as she and her companion fled the crime scene. Nevertheless, the LAPD, led by Lieutenant Manuel Pena, also CIA affiliated, who was brought out of retirement to run the investigation dubbed “Special Unit Senator,” worked with Hernandez and others to dismiss the girl as of no consequence.

Lisa Pease covers all this and much more. She shows how Sirhan was obviously hypnotized, how the trial was a farce, how the police destroyed evidence from the door frames in the pantry that proved more than the eight bullets in Sirhan’s gun were fired, how Officer DeWayne Wolfer manipulated the ballistic evidence, etc. Through years of digging into court records, archives, transcripts, the public library, and doing countless interviews, she proves without a doubt that Sirhan did not kill Kennedy and that the assassination and the cover-up were part of a very sophisticated intelligence operation involving many parts and players. She shows how no matter what route Kennedy took in the hotel that night, the killers had all exits covered and that he would not be allowed to leave alive.

While some of her more speculative points – e.g. that Robert Maheu (Howard Hughes/CIA) was “the most credible high-level suspect for the planner of Robert Kennedy’s assassination,” that Kennedy was shot twice in the head from behind, etc. are open to debate, they do not detract from her fundamentally powerful case that RFK, like his brother John, was assassinated by a CIA-run operation intended to silence their voices of courageous resistance to an expanding secret government dedicated to war, murder, and human exploitation. The U.S. government of today.

When Bobby Kennedy was entering the kitchen pantry, he was escorted by a security guard named Thane Eugene Cesar, a man long suspected of being the assassin. Cesar was carrying a gun that he drew but denied firing, despite witnesses’ claims to the contrary. Conveniently, the police never examined the gun. He has long been suspected of being CIA affiliated, and now Pease says she has found evidence to confirm that. She writes, “It’s hard to overstate the significance of finding a current or future CIA contract agent holding Kennedy’s right arm at the moment of the shooting.”

Yes, it is. As she rightly claims, the CIA takeover of America in the 1960s is the story of our time. And our time is now. None of this is ancient history. That is so crucial to grasp. For those who think that learning the truth about the 1960s assassinations is an exercise in futility reserved for those who are living in the past, they need to think again. Our descent into endless war and massive media propaganda to support it is part of a long-term project that began with the elimination of JFK, Malcom X, MLK, and Robert Kennedy. They were killed for reasons, and those reasons still exist, even if they don’t physically, but only in spirit. Their killers roam the land because they have become far more deeply part of the institutional structure of government and the media.

Pease says:

It was horrible that Robert Kennedy was taken from us far too soon. It is horrible that one man has borne the guilt for an operation he neither planned nor willingly participated in. It’s horrible the conspiracy was so obvious that bullets had to be lost and switched to hide it. And it’s horrible that the mainstream media has never dared to tell the people of this country that the government lied to us about what they really found when they looked into this case. Until the media can deal with the truth of the Robert Kennedy assassination, and until the people can be made aware of the CIA’s role in slanting the truth on topics of great importance, America’s very survival is in jeopardy….We’ve come perilously close to losing democracy itself because of fake, CIA-sponsored stories about our history. Should America ever become a dictatorship, the epitaph of our democracy must include the role the mainstream media, by bowing to the National Security state, played in killing it.

By writing A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease has done her valiant part in refuting the lie that is now failing. Now it is up to all of us to spread the word of truth by focusing on the fundamental facts so we can finally take back our country from the CIA.

Then we can say with RFK and his favorite poet Aeschylus:

And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.


Note to readers: please click the share buttons below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Distinguished author and sociologist Edward Curtin is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline Surly1

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 18654
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
Alex Jones Under Oath Is an Antidote to a ‘Post-Truth’ Age
« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2019, 05:36:16 AM »
Alex Jones Under Oath Is an Antidote to a ‘Post-Truth’ Age
By Charles Homans

Five days after Attorney General William Barr released his expectation-deflating summary of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s suspected Russia connections, a pair of videos appeared on YouTube, labeled “Alex Jones / Sandy Hook Video Deposition.” The hundreds of thousands of views those videos have accumulated attest to their appeal as a #Resistance consolation prize: Maybe it’s not a habitually lying president, but at least someone is getting called to account, under oath, for his role in the post-truthification of American public life.

Jones, the Trump-endorsed proprietor of the conspiracy-mongering Infowars media empire, is being sued for defamation by 10 families of children who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. That mass shooting, Jones maintained until recently, was a hoax, perpetrated with the connivance of the victims’ parents — many of whom have found themselves harassed, threatened and in some cases hounded from their homes by believers in this conspiracy theory.

Some ambivalence is probably in order about the practice of publicly posting deposition videos. But in the particular case of Alex Jones — who swam happily in YouTube’s abyssal depths before being mostly banned for hate-speech-policy violations last August — you have to at least appreciate the karmic elegance of it. The deposition is the sort of thing you could imagine him experiencing in a particularly unpleasant dream. In the video, he sits at a table, much as he sits behind the desk on his flagship “The Alex Jones Show,” but he is not in charge of the production. Instead, he is compelled to answer the questions of a young attorney named Mark Bankston (offscreen and unseen), who over the course of more than three hours meticulously deconstructs the world that Jones has conjured for his audience.

Video by Kaster Lynch Farrar & Ball LLP

Bankston seems less interested in the “whys” of Jones’s universe — the ultimately unsolvable riddle of how fully Jones believes what he says on the air — than he is in the “hows”: the way information gets chopped and screwed on Infowars, distended and looped and played back into the public discourse. In a way, it’s an examination of the whole unstable architecture of influence in today’s politics. When a particularly cancerous meme surfaces in Trump’s Twitter feed, or when white supremacists suddenly materialize en masse in the streets of a college town, the operative question now always seems to be: Where the hell did that come from?

At one point, Bankston dials in on an April 2017 broadcast in which Jones and his colleague Rob Dew discuss the police inspection of the Sandy Hook school grounds after the shooting. “They’re finding people in the back woods that are dressed up in SWAT gear,” Dew says. Jones, in the video, agrees.

Bankston, in the deposition, reads this aloud and asks Jones: “That’s not true, is it?”

“I saw it on the national news,” Jones says.

“You saw somebody in SWAT gear in the woods?”

“Black and camouflage — the police arrested him, they said there was a SWAT drill in the area?” he offers hopefully.

“No, Mr. Jones, I’m asking you: Did you see a video of a man in SWAT gear being arrested?”

Jones, like most conspiracy theorists, presents himself as a close reader of reality, scrutinizing the gaps in the official narrative that reveal the big lie. But when that close reading is itself subjected to a close reading, you realize that Jones’s appeal comes not from his attention to details but from the velocity with which he blows past them — the way he hurtles through an asteroid belt of informational debris on his way to explicating the galaxy-scale perfidy of his villains. The law, and Bankston, do the opposite. They bore patiently inward, toward particularity.

Jones pauses, stares off-camera, blinks. “I saw the helicopter, talking about it, they said they later arrested the man.”

“So when you told your audience he was dressed up in SWAT gear, that’s just something you made up, isn’t it? There’s nobody dressed up in SWAT gear.”

“I do remember that being on the news,” Jones says.

“What being on the news?”

“The helicopter and the man behind the school. And the report of the guy in the SWAT gear and the police saying they arrested him, and later they said they didn’t —”

“Yeah, it’s two reporters with cameras! There’s reports about it. There’s no man in SWAT gear in that video, is there? That’s just something you made up.”

“Nope, I didn’t make it up,” Jones insists, defiantly but also a little plaintively.

Writing in The Daily Beast two years ago, the conservative commentator Matt Lewis placed Jones in the lineage of right-wing radio talkers like Rush Limbaugh, who had effectively reverse-engineered politics from pro-wrestling-style confrontational entertainment. The problem is that “politics is inherently different,” Lewis wrote. “The stakes are higher. And since ideas have consequences, our words can have grave consequences.”

This was a sly turn of phrase. “Ideas have consequences” has been a conservative battle cry since 1948, when the acerbic anti-modernist Richard M. Weaver published a book-length polemic by that title bemoaning the decline of universal truth. “On the verbal level, we see ‘fact’ substituted for ‘truth,’ ” Weaver wrote. “With what pathetic trust does he” — the “average man” — “recite his facts! He has been told that knowledge is power, and knowledge consists of a great many small things.”

As with most adages, the use of “ideas have consequences” has become dumber with time. In the mouths of figures like Limbaugh and Dinesh D’Souza, it calcified into a sort of pretentious playground taunt: You liberals have facts, but we have ideas! Alex Jones surely would have appalled Weaver, but he represents the logical, self-parodying extreme of this rhetorical pose, filling in the outlines of an increasingly conservative-traditionalist worldview with ridiculous particulars about demons reincarnated as Clintons. Last week, Candace Owens, the video blogger and recent Infowars on-air presence, was called by House Republicans to testify in a hearing on white supremacy, where she insisted that the so-called Southern strategy — the Nixon-era Republican Party’s wooing of white Southern conservatives — “never happened.” It is not really possible anymore to say where Jones’s universe ends and mainstream conservatism begins.

What’s commonly lamented as post-truth politics is, if we’re being precise about it, really post-fact politics: not the death of a higher truth (belief in which has proved robust enough) but of that “great many small things.” Small things like whether or not there was a man in SWAT gear in those woods. They might not matter in politics anymore, but they do in a courtroom. “We have a right in this country to question things,” Jones protests at one point in the deposition. To which Bankston replies: “I’m not saying what you didn’t and did have a right to do. I’m just asking you what you did.”

"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline Surly1

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 18654
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd
« Reply #23 on: December 26, 2019, 04:25:53 AM »
Excellent analysis of the failures of Fuck Toad (and by extension, the rest of the corporate media opinion-manufacturing industry) by one of the country's best observers of the press.

The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd
That disinformation was going to overtake Republican politics was discoverable years before he says he discovered it.

Jay Rosen

‘Round midnight on Christmas eve, Rolling Stone posted a short interview with Chuck Todd, host of “the longest running show on television,” NBC’s Meet the Press.

Its contents were explosive, embarrassing, enraging, and just plain weird.

Three years after Kellyanne Conway introduced the doctrine of “alternative facts” on his own program, a light went on for Chuck Todd. Republican strategy, he now realized, was to make stuff up, spread it on social media, repeat it in your answers to journalists — even when you know it’s a lie with crumbs of truth mixed in — and then convert whatever controversy arises into go-get-em points with the base, while pocketing for the party a juicy dividend: additional mistrust of the news media to help insulate President Trump among loyalists when his increasingly brazen actions are reported as news.

Todd repeatedly called himself naive for not recognizing the pattern, itself an astounding statement that cast doubt on his fitness for office as host of Meet the Press. While the theme of the interview was waking up to the truth of Republican actions in the information warfare space, Todd went to sleep on the implications of what he revealed. It took him three years to understand a fact about American politics that was there on the surface, unconcealed since the day after inauguration. Many, many interpreters had described it for him during those lost years when he could not bring himself to believe it. (I am one.)

You cannot call that an oversight. It’s a strategic blindness that he superintended. By “strategic blindness” I mean what people mean when they quote Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

The ostensible purpose of the Rolling Stone interview was to promote a special edition of Meet the Press on December 29 that will focus on the weaponization of disinformation. But its effect is to bring MTP — and by extension similar shows — into epistemological crisis. With Todd’s confessions the mask has come off. It could have come off a long time ago, but the anchors, producers, guests, advertisers and to an unknown degree the remaining viewers colluded in an act of make believe that lurched along until now. One way to say it: They agreed to pretend that Conway’s threatening phrase, “alternative facts” was just hyberbole, the kind of inflammatory moment that makes for viral clips and partisan bickering. More silly than it was ominous.

In reality she had made a grave announcement. The nature of the Trump government would be propagandistic. And as as Garry Kasparov observes for us, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” This exhaustion, this annihilation were on their way to the Sunday shows, and to all interactions with journalists. That is what Kellyanne Conway was saying that day on Meet the Press. But the people who run the show chose not to believe it.

That’s malpractice. Chuck Todd called it naiveté in order to minimize the error. This we cannot allow.

Now let’s look more closely at his Christmas Eve confessions…

* “The Ukraine story for me really crystallized it,” Todd said. By “it” he meant the damage that disinformation “was doing to our politics.” His show has been “at the forefront” of the problem. “Whether we’d liked it or not, our platform has been used, or they’ve attempted to use our platform” to disseminate fabrications. (What has to change to prevent this went unremarked upon.)

* “We have a systemic issue here.” Which is that it’s easy to spread lies through social media. (And on Meet the Press!)

* Peter Wade, the Rolling Stone interviewer, asked about Sean Spicer’s inauguration crowd size lies. “Were you surprised that the president and other administration officials and their allies just kept it going?” Todd’s answer: “I guess I really believed they wouldn’t do this. Just so absurdly naive in hindsight… if people want to read my answer to your question, ‘Boy, that Chuck Todd was hopelessly naive.’ Yeah, it looks pretty naive.”

* Todd said he had been studying up on Trump’s methods. “He learned at the feet of a master of deception in Roy Cohn, who learned at the feet of the original master of deception of sort of the modern political era in Joe McCarthy.” (But McCarthy not only deceived the country. He exploited existing routines in journalism to do it, which is the theme of this book. “He was able to generate massive publicity that made him the center of anti-communism because he understood the press, its practices and its values; he knew what made news.” The press was implicated in McCarthy’s rise because he had gamed it by, for example, announcing wild new charges just before the wire services deadline. The accusations would be out there. The investigation of them took more time and made less news.)

* Todd said he recognized that “the right has an incentive structure to utter the misinformation” when they come on his show. And they welcome a confrontation with journalists over it because fighting with the press helps them with core supporters. (Again, this seemed to be new information to him.)

* He said he he was “stunned” that Ted Cruz came on MTP and did as Senator John Kennedy had done before: repeat the debunked claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election in a material way. “I was stunned because he’s a Russia hawk… I was genuinely shocked.” He revealed that the Cruz camp had asked to come on Meet the Press in order to spread a false story! Another shock. “And I really naively thought, maybe he wants to remind people.” Meaning: remind them that the Ukraine plot is Russian disinformation. “And it turned out not to be the case.”

* “One of the things we don’t fully appreciate in mainstream media,” he said, is that “it’s become fun to attack the press,” and “it doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong.” The attacks keep coming. “Trump has turned this into sport.”

* As if discovering this for the first time, he marveled at pervasive bad faith on the right. He said that prominent people he knows in the Republican coalition who would normally trust skeptical accounts in the establishment press over Sean Hannity’s latest conspiracy theory will now parrot the conspiracy theory. “Wow, have we gone off the rails on the right side of the silo of the conversation that’s taking place.”

* He confessed to not understanding the motivations of Republican office holders who spread lies that are easily disproved. “I don’t get why so many people are comfortable uttering stuff that they may know will look ridiculous in three or four years.”

* He said that when the Trump era is concluded, “we’re going to have another reckoning” over how the press performed during it. About journalists in the run-up to the Iraq war, he said it’s not that they didn’t believe what they were reporting, but reported it anyway. Rather: “They were too trusting of their sources. They maybe were too naive.” (That word again…)

* Throughout the interview, Todd repeatedly changed the term “disinformation” in Rolling Stone’s questions to “misinformation” in his answers, as if United States Senators were just poorly informed and not actively and deliberately misleading the public. (Thus he continued to perform his naiveté while simultaneously calling himself out for it, a weird combo.)

* In a crucial error of ommission, he said nothing about what he or his show would do to change course— other than broadcast his Dec. 29th special on the problem of misinformation.

* And to cap it off, he said of Republican operatives and office holders. “I think we all made the mistake of not following Toni Morrison’s advice, which is when people tell you who they are, believe them.” (Fact check: It was Maya Angelou who said this, not Toni Morrison.)

What to make of this performance?

It’s not naive of him. It’s malpractice. Chuck Todd’s entire brand is based on the claim that he understands politics. Since 2007 he has been NBC’s political director, which means he has influence over all coverage. He is literally the in-house expert on the subject. You don’t get to claim you are naive about politics when you have these kinds of positions. It would be like a chief risk officer saying, “I didn’t understand the gamble we were taking.” Well, that’s your job.

It’s not that he was naive. He did not care to listen. I am going to use my own writing to show what I mean, but there are many others who could be quoted in similar fashion. On January 22, 2017, two days after Trump was inaugurated, I wrote about Sean Spicer’s crowd size spectacular. There several audiences for it, I said. One of course was the press. For them the message was…

We are not bound by what you call facts. We have our own, and we will proceed to put them out regardless of what the evidence says. It’s not a problem for us if you stagger from the room in disbelief. We’re not trying to “win the news cycle,” or win you over. We’re trying to demonstrate independence from and power over you people. This room is not just for briefings, announcements and Q & A. It’s also a theater of resentment in which you play a crucial part. Our constituency hates your guts; this is the place where we commune with them around that fact. See you tomorrow, guys!

Another message went to core supporters:

To the core Trump constituency — and an audience primed for this over years of acrid ‘liberal media’ critique — two things were said. “We’re going to rough these people up.” (Because we know how long you have waited for that.) But also, and in return, you have to accept our “alternative facts” even if your own eyes tell you otherwise. This too is a stark message. The epistemological “price” for being a solider in Trump’s army is high. You have to swallow, repeat and defend things that simply don’t check out.

That disinformation was going to overtake Republican politics was discoverable years before Chuck Todd discovered it. That attacks on the press were baked into Trump’s political style was knowable from 2015 on.

It’s not naiveté. It’s a willful blindness to what the Republican Party had become. Four years before Trump was elected, Tom Mann and Norm Orstein wrote, “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Chuck Todd as NBC’s political director, and Meet the Press as its premiere politics show could have taken seriously what these exemplary members of the Washington establishment were saying back in 2012. They chose not to, but not because of their naiveté. They thought they knew better than Mann and Ornstein. And they were probably afraid of sounding too extreme themselves.

He’s not naive. He’s an insider who thought his read was better. You can smell on his Christmas eve confessions the regrets of the insider who thought he knew these people well because he broke bread with them, rang them up for off-the-record conversations, and enjoyed the kind of green room bonhomie that says, “sure, we have different roles, but we’re all part of the same industry called Washington.” He thought he could predict what a Ted Cruz would do because he has behind-the-scenes knowledge. Naiveté is not a good word for that. He thought himself savvier than the rest of us. I was not at all shocked that Senator Cruz took the party line on Ukraine interfering in 2016. Were you? Todd was because he had miseducated himself.

It’s not naive. It’s a lack of imagination, a failure of insight. The practices common to political journalism have premises to them. When the premises shatter, the practices make less sense. This has been the central problem of covering the Trump movement since 2015. (I wrote about it here.) A simple example is fact-checking. One of its premises is that candidates and office-holders can be shamed into staying roughly within factual bounds. A president who has no sense of shame “breaks” the practice by busting the premise. Doesn’t mean you stop fact-checking. But you do have to alter your expectations, and start thinking about alternatives.

A key premise for Meet the Press is symmetry between the two major political parties. The whole show is built on that. But in the information sphere — the subject of Chuck Todd’s confessions — asymmetry has taken command. The right wing ecosystem for news does not operatelike the rest of the country’s news system. And increasingly conservative politics is getting sucked into conservative media. It makes more sense to see Fox News and the Trump White House as two parts of the same organism. As these trends grind on they put stress on Meet the Press practices. But if takes imagination to see how the show might be affected— or changed. In place of that we have Chuck Todd pleading naiveté.

So what will they do now? My answer: they have no earthly idea. This is what I mean by an epistemological crisis. Chuck Todd has essentially said that on the right there is an incentive structure that compels Republican office holders to use their time on Meet the Press for the spread of disinformation. So do you keep inviting them on the air to do just that? If so, then you are breaking faith with the audience and creating a massive problem in real time fact-checking. If not, then you just broke the show in half.

There is simply nothing in the playbook at Meet the Press that tells the producers what to do in this situation. As I have tried to show, they didn’t arrive here through acts of naiveté, but by willful blindness, malpractice among the experts in charge, an insider’s mentality, a listening breakdown, a failure of imagination, and sheer disbelief that the world could have changed so much upon people paid so well to understand it.

"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline Surly1

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 18654
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
Disinformation For Hire: How A New Breed Of PR Firms Is Selling Lies Online
« Reply #24 on: January 08, 2020, 07:42:38 AM »
Disinformation For Hire: How A New Breed Of PR Firms Is Selling Lies Online
One firm promised to “use every tool and take every advantage available in order to change reality according to our client's wishes.”[/b]

Craig Silverman 

Posted on January 6, 2020, at 8:08 p.m. ET

Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images

This story was reported in partnership withthe Reporter, an investigative news site in Taiwan.

Peng Kuan Chinpulled out his phone, eager to show the future of online manipulation.

Unseen servers began crawling the web for Chinese articles and posts. The system quickly reorganized the words and sentences into new text. His screen displayed a rapidly increasing tally of the articles generated by his product, which he dubs the “Content Farm Automatic Collection System."

With the articles in hand, a set of websites that Peng controlled published them, and his thousands of fake social media accounts spread them across the internet, instantly sending manipulated content into news feeds, messaging app inboxes, and search results.

"I developed this for manipulating public opinion,” Peng told the Reporter, an investigative news site in Taipei, which partnered with BuzzFeed News for this article. He added that automation and artificial intelligence “can quickly generate traffic and publicity much faster than people.”

The 32-year-old wore Adidas Yeezy sneakers and a gold Rolex as he sat in a two-story office in the industrial part of Taichung that was filled with feng shui items such as a money frog and lucky bamboo. A riot gun, which uses compressed air to fire nonlethal projectiles, rested on his desk. Peng said he bought it for “recreational purposes.”

In the interview, he detailed his path from sending spam emails as a 14-year-old to, being recruited to help with the 2018 reelection campaign of Najib Razak, the former prime minister of Malaysia.

Peng’s clients are companies, brands, political parties, and candidates in Asia. “Customers have money, and I don't care what they buy," he said. They’re purchasing an end-to-end online manipulation system, which can influence people on a massive scale — resulting in votes cast, products sold, and perceptions changed.

Peng’s product is modeled on automation software he saw in China, which he believes no one else outside the mainland has. But while his technology may be unique, his company, Bravo-Idea, is not. There is now a worldwide industry of PR and marketing firms ready to deploy fake accounts, false narratives, and pseudo news websites for the right price.

If disinformation in 2016 was characterized by Macedonian spammers pushing pro-Trump fake news and Russian trolls running rampant on platforms, 2020 is shaping up to be the year communications pros for hire provide sophisticated online propaganda operations to anyone willing to pay. Around the globe, politicians, parties, governments, and other clients hire what is known in the industry as “black PR” firms to spread lies and manipulate online discourse.

A BuzzFeed News review — which looked at account takedowns by platforms that deactivated and investigations by security and research firms — found that since 2011, at least 27 online information operations have been partially or wholly attributed to PR or marketing firms. Of those, 19 occurred in 2019 alone.

Most recently, in late December, Twitter announced it removed more than 5,000 accounts that it said were part of “a significant state-backed information operation” in Saudi Arabia carried out by marketing firm Smaat. The same day, Facebook announced a takedown of hundreds of accounts, pages, and groups that it found were engaged in “foreign and government interference” on behalf of the government of Georgia. It attributed the operation to Panda, an advertising agency in Georgia, and to the country’s ruling party.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told BuzzFeed News “the professionalization of deception” is a growing threat.

“The broader notion of deception and influence operations has been around for some time, but over the past several years, we have seen [...] companies grow up that basically build their business model around deception,” he said.

Although Peng may be one of the most sophisticated black PR practitioners, he is far from the only one. The Saudi and Georgian revelations followed a drumbeat of similar takedowns of and investigations into marketing and PR firms in countries such as Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Brazil, Indonesia, and Poland.

Cindy Otis, a former CIA officer and the author of True or False: A CIA Analyst's Guide to Spotting Fake News, told BuzzFeed News that information operations by nation-states like Russia and Iran have provided “a playbook for individuals and groups that are financially motivated to delve into this space.”

The emergence of black PR firms means investigators at platforms, security firms, and within the intelligence community are “spending increasing amounts of time looking at the disinformation-for-hire services that are out there,” said Otis.

The Archimedes Group, an Israeli black PR firm, created networks of hundreds of Facebook pages, accounts, and groups around the world, boasting on its website that it would “use every tool and take every advantage available in order to change reality according to our client’s wishes.” For an election in Mali, it managed a fake fact-checking page that claimed to be run by local students. In Tunisia, it ran a page titled “Stop à la Désinformation et aux Mensonges” (“Stop Disinformation and Lies”). In Nigeria, it ran pages advocating for and against the same politician, former vice president Atiku Abubakar. Researchers postulatedthat the pro-Abubakar page “was likely designed to identify his supporters in order to target them with anti-Abubakar content later.”

In Ukraine, the PR firm Pragmatico employed dozens of young, digitally savvy people to pump out positive comments on fake Facebook accounts about clients. In Poland, Cat@Net managed networks of fake Twitter accounts operated by staffers with disabilities working from home, whom the agency hired because it could pay them below-market rates while they received government subsidies. Reporting by Investigate Europe also found Cat@Net performed work for one of Poland’s most prominent PR agencies, Art-Media. (The company denied working with Cat@Net.)

In Puerto Rico, journalists revealed that former governor Ricardo Rosselló was an administrator of a Telegram group chat where a consultant from marketing firm KOI appeared to plan and direct social media campaigns to push pro-government messages and attack rivals. In August, Rosselló resigned, in part over widespread outrage over the chats.

Jameson Wu / The Reporter

Peng’s career is a road map of how online manipulation services evolved from solo operations to agencies that openly advertise their services and employ large staffs.

At 14 years old, he wrote an email spam program to stuff mailboxes of people in Taiwan. “Using 30 computers I had in a room, I became a very big player in sending spam,” Peng said. “I think 1 of every 2 people in Taiwan has received junk mails that I was responsible for.”

In high school, he created software to spam popular internet message boards with offers, labeling the product as an "Automatic Bulletin Posting Kit.” One ad asked visitors to porn sites, "Do you know that excessive masturbation can cause impotence and premature ejaculation?" Peng said the fearmongering ad helped drive sales for male enhancement pills he was promoting.

Peng created thousands of fake accounts on popular Chinese message boards to promote his and his clients’ products. He soon began making and selling websites and counseling via Skype on how to make money online.

“I hosted so many that I even lost my voice! I was a high school student then, and my mother was wondering what I was doing speaking on the phone all day,” he said.

In 2011, singers from schools across Taiwan competed in a popular TV competition. Peng’s alma mater won; its performer received more than 41 million online votes, almost twice the Taiwanese population. A school official confirmed to the Reporter that the school had requested help from Peng in the competition but declined to comment further.

Since 2013, Peng has been developing his “Content Farm Automatic Collection System.” His clients use his system to overwhelm their chosen corners of the internet with torrents of AI-generated text that influence search results. Peng perfected the system by buying the services of every social media and SEO manipulation offering he could find on Taobao, a huge Chinese e-commerce site owned by Alibaba.

“I was scammed a few times in the beginning because I didn’t really understand the software,” he said. “Many of them were fake or useless.”

Peng instructed his six developers to build a system inspired by the best of what he saw.

“This marketing logic is in response to China’s huge population of 1.4 billion people, [where content] only gets eyeballs when there is volume,” he said. “In comparison, there are only 23 million people in Taiwan. Applying this logic, I will create the largest volume in the shortest amount of time, and the information I spread will reach everyone’s eyes.”

While Peng focuses on automation, black PR firms elsewhere rely on manual labor, using brute force with what he does with code.

For investigative reporter Vasil Bidun, that meant an eight-hour shift in the trendy Podil neighborhood of Kyiv. He would log on to different fake Facebook accounts to comment in favor of candidates, criticize their opponents, or steer conversations in specific directions. Ukraine’s presidential election was underway, and he said his employer, Pragmatico, seemed to have secured contracts with several people running for office. (All politicians asked about the troll farm have denied involvement.)

“The aim is to get an emotional reaction from a person,” Bidun said in an interview. “If they read a comment, even [if they understand] that it was written by a bot, it could have affected them emotionally and it becomes more difficult for them to control themselves.”

“Cat@Net said it was a PR company, but in reality it was [a] troll farm.”

But Bidun wasn’t just punching the clock at the agency. After three months working undercover at the agency, he published an in-depth investigation. He and roughly 50 other Pragmatico employees worked in a single apartment, rotating in three shifts. It was mostly students trying to earn extra money, just over $300 per month, he said. No one talked about the ethics of the work — they just did what they were told, promoting the candidacies of both conservative and progressive politicians, including popular musician Svyatoslav Vakarchuk.

“It was the summer break and it was a method to earn a bit of money,” he said. “Most don’t think much about the consequences their work can have; they just write.”

Two days before Bidun’s investigation was published in September 2019, Facebook announced the removal of the firm's assets on the platform, which amounted to 168 accounts, 149 pages, and 79 groups. The social media giant also revealed that Pragmatico had spent $1.6 million on ads, a significant sum for the Ukrainian market.

But black PR continues to flourish on social media in other parts of Eastern Europe. This year, while reporting for Investigate Europe, Katarzyna Pruszkiewicz spent six months undercover working for Cat@Net, a Polish company that describes itself as an “ePR agency comprising specialists who build a positive image of companies, private individuals and public institutions — mostly in social media.”

“Cat@Net said it was a PR company, but in reality it was [a] troll farm. They did fake accounts,” she told BuzzFeed News. (The company denied it was a troll farm in a statement posted to its website.)

Pruszkiewicz said she and her colleagues used fake Twitter and Facebook accounts to deliver work for the firms’ clients. This meant promoting Polish state media, pumping up the left-wing politicians who hired them, or attacking the government’s decision to place an order for American F-35 fighter jets.

Cat@Net’s staffers worked remotely, congregating in Slack to receive their assignments. Sometimes a professional copywriter would provide them content, but many times it was up to employees to come up with messages for the fake accounts. Team members would celebrate each other’s successes, such as “when someone important like a politician answered a comment from the fake accounts,” Pruszkiewicz said.

Cat@Net focused on hiring people with disabilities because they could be paid less and qualified for government subsidies, according to Pruszkiewicz.

“They are in a wheelchair and have bills to pay. They are often without professional skills, and Cat@Net gave them work and got from the state a lot of money for [employing] these people,” she said.

After her reporting was published in October 2019 in Newsweek Poland, the Polish government opened an investigation into the company for the disability benefits it received. However, Twitter accounts run by Cat@Net are still online, Pruszkiewicz said.

“The fake accounts still exist today and are writing on Twitter like nothing happened, and every day I can see what they are writing on Twitter and Facebook. It’s really frustrating, because I spent six months [investigating] and the company still exists,” she said.

Nowhere is the rise of black PR firms more intertwined with marketing and politics than in the Philippines. Many legitimate-seeming agencies here offer black PR services that include fake social media accounts, websites, and coordinated harassment campaigns.

This year, Facebook announced takedowns of properties attributed to Twinmark Media Enterprises, a digital marketing company in the Philippines, and Nic Gabunada, the social media director for Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2016 campaign. In both cases, Facebook said the operations were engaged in “coordinated inauthentic activity.”

Gabunada previously insisted in an interview with BuzzFeed News that the Facebook engagement for Duterte’s campaign had been “organic” and “volunteer-driven.”

As previously reported by BuzzFeed News, some politicians who had decried Duterte’s use of fake Facebook accounts and trolling in 2016 had used social media manipulation services in their own campaigns.

Black PR services have become so lucrative in the Philippines that many PR firms feel pressured to offer them. One agency director told BuzzFeed News it’s “tempting” to offer black PR services because of the potential profit. It’s difficult to compete against companies who deliver these services, she added.

“We've had several campaigns where we were up against other firms that were willing to employ any kind of tactic to combat whatever we were putting out there if we were promoting a candidate and they were promoting an opposing candidate, for instance,” said the agency director, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely about the industry.

“The Philippines offers a cautionary tale for other countries.”

Jonathan Corpus Ong, an associate professor of global digital media at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been studying black PR firms and trolling in the Philippines for years. “The Philippines offers a cautionary tale for other countries for what happens when disinformation production within the PR industry has become so financially lucrative that they have moved from shady black market transactions to the professional respectability of the corporate boardroom,” he told BuzzFeed News.

Ong said PR firms use industry jargon while communicating with clients to help “neutralize the stigma of the real disinformation work that they do.”

“For instance, they would use the terms ‘supplemental pages’ and ‘digital support workers’ to describe what is otherwise known as ‘fake news sites’ or ‘paid trolls’ when they pitch their services to prospective clients. This lends an aura of respectability to the transaction and — crucially — gives politicians a level of plausible deniability,” he said.

The rise of black PR firms is on the radar of the global PR industry, which haslongbattledproblemsofitsownmaking. In 2017, the industry took a stand against social media manipulation when the Public Relations and Communications Association expelled Bell Pottinger, a now-defunct London-based PR firm, after investigating its work in South Africa, where the firm stoked racial tensions in service of a billionaire client. Bell Pottinger previously received a $500 million contract from the Pentagon to execute a top secret propaganda program in Iraq, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Global agencies often look to industry rules. Jill Tannenbaum, the chief communications and marketing officer for PR giant Weber Shandwick, told BuzzFeed News that the company must “engage audiences with campaigns that are rooted in truth,” even when it “compete[s] in markets where dishonest tactics take place.”

“We have a process in place to assess any client engagements that might not adhere to our values or include tactics that are not truthful or transparent, so we can counsel our teams and our clients accordingly,” she said in a statement. “Our local leaders – in the Philippines and around the world – are empowered to turn away work that is of concern or that does not adhere to our values.”

In the wake of the Bell Pottinger expulsion, the International Communications Consultancy Organisation, an umbrella organization representing PR trade groups around the world, established 10 principles known as the Helsinki Declaration. They require communication professionals to “be aware of the power of social media, and use it responsibly” and to “never engage in the creation of or knowingly circulate fake news.”

Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA and chief executive of the ICCO, told BuzzFeed News that black PR firms give ethical practitioners a bad name.

“Our members are furious that they are ever tainted with the stain of these people who operate outside of [the industry's] ethical parameters,” he said.

In spite of the increasing number of information operations being attributed to PR or marketing firms, Ingham said, these firms are the exception.

“I recognize there will always be a tiny percentage of people who call themselves PR or marketing practitioners who operate in the gray or black area,” he said.

While the legitimate PR industry works to differentiate itself from these practitioners, platforms are finding it increasingly difficult to prune black PR from their ecosystems.

“If the company is working on multiple platforms and has a wide range of business interests, we might not be able to completely destroy them,” said Facebook’s Gleicher.

He said Facebook’s approach is to remove assets involved in a specific operation and ban the entire organization. In some cases, Facebook also bans key employees from the platform.

“The reason we do that is making it very clear that it’s not going to be a profitable business model on our platform,” Gleicher said. “You build a business around this, we will remove you.”

Peng, however, is undeterred. He said it’s easy to evade Facebook’s controls, and that demand for his services remains strong.

“I think cracking Facebook is quite easy. My software is developed to constantly fight against Facebook,” he said. “This is done because there are markets, customers, and needs, and people have money to pay for the service. We do it because there is a demand.” ●


Najib Razak was defeated in the 2018 Malaysian elections. This article misstated that the former prime minister resigned.


Facebook removed accounts and other assets linked to Pragmatico before Vasil Bidun's investigation was published. This article misstated that the removals occurred after his report.

"...reprehensible lying communist..."

Offline K-Dog

  • Global Moderator
  • Sous Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 3894
    • View Profile
    • K-Dog
« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2020, 10:33:38 AM »
$500 million contract from the Pentagon to execute a top secret propaganda program in Iraq

I'm sure no R & D is involved and the money is all going to continuing operations.  A good reminder not to get sucked into arguments too far.  The person you argue against might not even be a person!

Under ideal conditions of temperature and pressure the organism will grow without limit.

Offline Surly1

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 18654
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
« Reply #26 on: January 18, 2020, 04:08:37 AM »
Soon they want us to believe that #Neverwarren is a thing.

This chart shows CST. See where it starts to lift off between 4:00 am and 7:00 am? Then it drops off at 9:00 am when actual Americans start logging in.

This is consistent with Russian trolls seeding hashtags for Americans to wake up to.

his is from btw. Feel free to search yourself.
"...reprehensible lying communist..."