Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What is "real" and WHO decides and polices?

The war over truth is being waged out in the open as various groups vie to shape public opinion in the new Internet public sphere.

Here are several interesting articles that explore this war over truth.

The first article "Russian Propaganda Effort" published in the Washington Post promotes the neoconservative Cold-War 2.0 view that the Russians hacked the American election:

Craig Timberg November 24, 2016. Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say. The Washington Post,

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.  Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.
I've always said that Russians are master propagandists because their winning strategy has been to provide platforms for critical voices that resonate with targeted audiences as authentic, because they are in a sense "organic."

But acknowledging Russian expertise with propaganda does not mean that I believe the Russians hacked the election. Matt Taibbi chastises the Washington Post appropriately, in my opinion, for inflammatory rhetoric:
Matt Taibbi (2016, November 28). The 'Washington Post' 'Blacklist' Story Is Shameful and Disgusting. The Rolling Stone,

The capital's paper of record crashes legacy media on an iceberg. Last week, a technology reporter for the Washington Post named Craig Timberg ran an incredible story. It has no analog that I can think of in modern times. Headlined "Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say," the piece promotes the work of a shadowy group that smears some 200 alternative news outlets as either knowing or unwitting agents of a foreign power, including popular sites like Truthdig and Naked Capitalism…

…The meat of the story relied on a report by unnamed analysts from a single mysterious "organization" called PropOrNot – we don't know if it's one person or, as it claims, over 30 – a "group" that seems to have been in existence for just a few months.  It was PropOrNot's report that identified what it calls "the list" of 200 offending sites. Outlets as diverse as, and the Ron Paul Institute were described as either knowingly directed by Russian intelligence, or "useful idiots" who unwittingly did the bidding of foreign masters.

Forget that the Post offered no information about the "PropOrNot" group beyond that they were "a collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds." Forget also that the group offered zero concrete evidence of coordination with Russian intelligence agencies, even offering this remarkable disclaimer about its analytic methods
The battle over the truth of the election is waged while newly elected Trump promises to cut social services and public education in a not-so-veiled attack against the very people who elected him.

Trump's authoritarian turn - not a good time to burn the flag people - coincides with more overt efforts to police truth by American companies:
Mike Isaac. November 22, 2016. Facebook Said to Create Censorship Tool to Get Back Into China. The New York Times,

Inside Facebook, the work to enter China runs far deeper. The social network has quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas, according to three current and former Facebook employees, who asked for anonymity because the tool is confidential. The feature was created to help Facebook get into China, a market where the social network has been blocked, these people said. Mr. Zuckerberg has supported and defended the effort, the people added.

Facebook has restricted content in other countries before, such as Pakistan, Russia and Turkey, in keeping with the typical practice of American internet companies that generally comply with government requests to block certain content after it is posted. Facebook blocked roughly 55,000 pieces of content in about 20 countries between July 2015 and December 2015, for example. But the new feature takes that a step further by preventing content from appearing in feeds in China in the first place.

Facebook does not intend to suppress the posts itself. Instead, it would offer the software to enable a third party — in this case, most likely a partner Chinese company — to monitor popular stories and topics that bubble up as users share them across the social network, the people said. Facebook’s partner would then have full control to decide whether those posts should show up in users’ feeds.

The current and former Facebook employees caution that the software is one of many ideas the company has discussed with respect to entering China and, like many experiments inside Facebook, it may never see the light of day
One has to wonder what forms of censorship and propaganda warfare are being deployed by companies operating in the US? 

Of course, we all know that every blog post, every comment, every tracking cookie is recorded somewhere in Utah in vast servers that promise to map the passage of every Internet electron.

Intrusive surveillance and excessive policing are the way of the future unless rapid change occurs. Unfortunately, the change that Trump is delivering will only accelerate that course:
Are Trump's Plans to Expand Obama's Surveillance State & Activate Muslim Registry Unconstitutional? Democracy Now
In the near-term future, the war over truth will go underground as "mass media" once again is monopolized by the few, for the few. The public sphere created by the Internet will have been policed into conformity around truths that promote the interests of those few.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fukushima Looks Terrible and Japan Will Re-Start Reactors at the Sendai Plant

November 30, 2016 00.09

November 30, 2016 4:44

No coverage of the ice-wall anywhere.

Even after last week's very significant earthquakes, it looks as if the Sendai plant is going to be re-started:
Governor under fire as Sendai nuclear reactor likely to restart. The Asahi Shimbun,

KAGOSHIMA—Anti-nuclear activists are castigating Governor Satoshi Mitazono, saying the politician has retreated from his campaign promises regarding the planned restart of a nuclear reactor in the prefecture. Despite stressing that he would take a hard look at safety issues, Mitazono’s actions on Nov. 28 indicate that Kyushu Electric Power Co. will be allowed to restart the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai plant on Dec. 8 as was expected
This is really tragic. Japan has the opportunity to lead energy innovation but is choosing to re-start reactors during a sustained period of very high earthquake activity.