From Observer (not the leftist UK newspaper, but another site):
The Washington Post reported this week that Kremlin-backed websites pushed “fake news” regularly portraying Hillary and the Democrats in a negative light. There’s really nothing new here for anybody who’s followed Russian propaganda for any length of time. Kremlin agitprop aimed at the West—properly termed disinformation—contains an amalgam of fact and fiction, plus lots of gray information somewhere in between which can be difficult and time-consuming to refute.
Back in the 1980s, when the KGB was pumping all kinds of outlandish conspiracy theories into Western media outlets to smear the Reagan administration, Washington got proficient at countering this sort of nasty deception (the Pentagon created AIDS, for instance). The Active Measures Working Group, an interagency entity stood up expressly to debunk Kremlin lies, became effective at its job, drawing on expertise from various government departments and agencies. With Cold War victory, however, it folded along with the Soviet Union.
By mid-2014, it was apparent that Moscow was up to its old disinformation tricks again, and it was obvious to anybody acquainted with the Kremlin that Washington needed to react to the torrents of lies filtering into Western media thanks to Russian intelligence and its friends in the West. Putin, that wily KGB veteran, is familiar with Active Measures, and his Kremlin has become more aggressive about employing it abroad than the Politburo ever was.
Amelia Tait, writing in the New Statesman, says,
Reddit’s CEO edited comments on a pro-Trump thread and everyone should care
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has publicly admitted to editing comments on the pro-Donald Trump subreddit r/the_donald in a move he has described as “trolling the trolls”. Huffman – who goes by “spez” on Reddit – deleted comments from the pro-Trump community on the site, and also altered comments that insulted him. He replaced comments reading “fuck u/spez” with those of the users who moderate the thread. This meant the criticism directed towards him appeared to be attacking the thread’s own moderators.
Yet although this might seem like a small and temporary lapse in judgement, the implications are huge.
Normally when a comment is edited on Reddit – by a user or a moderator – a small asterisk will appear after the time stamp to indicate that it has been changed. In this instance, no such asterisk appeared, meaning Huffman ostensibly has the ability to edit comments without a trace. This is crucial because two months ago, a Redditor was taken to court for comments he left on the site. Huffman’s editing powers could clearly be abused to cause trouble for individuals.
Beyond this, however, Huffman chose the wrong Reddit community to anger. Those on r/the_donald are already deeply convinced by conspiracies, and, in a way, Huffman has now validated their claims.
I first came across r/the_donald when news was breaking of the terrorist massacre of 49 people attending a gay nightclub in Orlando carried out on behalf of Islamic State by Omar Mateen. I say “news was breaking”, but it was not breaking at r/news. As one Reddit user said, “They deleted EVERY other thread about the shooting”. Another said, “You know whats crazy? I live in Orlando and I had no idea this was going on. I depend on reddit for my news 100% since it can rapidly deliver news from many sources that I can validate or discard. I have literally been up all night on Reddit and due to the apparent thread lockings and deletions, this story took 9 hours to make it to me — I probably live within thirty minutes of this place.” Yet another said, “This situation has been unfolding for hours, it’s the deadliest mass shooting in US history, and the only evidence of it on the front page is stuff from /r/the_donald?”
The talk is all of “fake news” at the moment, with a presumption that the fakery is coming from the right. But many of those Americans who saw with their own eyes the main Reddit news page attempting to play down a major news story while the Donald Trump subreddit reported it freely will have concluded that those Trump guys were telling the truth and the other guys were fakers – and who can blame them? Some of them will have switched from r/news to r/the_donald as their first news source and will have gone on to vote for Trump as a result. It is always fun to watch the “Nice job breaking it, hero” trope play out in real life, but r/the_Donald is not itself a good news source. The comments that Huffman altered were the usual conspiracy rubbish that is thrown at any politician these days. I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton is running a paedophile ring for the same reason that I never believed that Ted Heath was. Apart from anything else, major political figures are too closely watched. Steve Huffman had the right and was right to ban the “Pizzagate” subreddit, which made claims absurd even by the standards typical of such things and had caused real harm to innocent people. As ever, the believers in the conspiracy took any opposition to their theories as PROOOOF that the opposer was in on it too. Mr Huffman would have been completely within his rights and acting in the interests of his company to have banned the people who were libelling him. Instead he chose to play games with his own site’s credibility. A few weeks ago I would have dismissed the idea that the Reddit CEO would personally hack the accounts of his own customers on the r/the_donald subreddit as yet more conspirazoid rubbish. As Amelia Tait said, Huffman has now validated their claim to be persecuted. He has also validated their claim to be important.
In his comments over the past week, Obama has sounded some of the same themes we discussed back in 2013. He told Remnick: “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us.” The 2009 revelations from the East Anglia emails that scientists had manipulated data and abused the peer-review process? Down the memory hole.
Remnick himself described the Obama presidency as “two terms long on dignity and short on scandal.” The IRS? The State Department scandal that arguably sank Mrs. Clinton’s campaign? Again, the memory hole.
In Lima on Sunday the president himself declared: “I am extremely proud of the fact that over eight years we have not had the kinds of scandals that have plagued other administrations.” That’s either delusional or very carefully worded: To our knowledge no other administration has used the IRS to punish ordinary citizens for dissent, nor faced FBI findings that the secretary of state treated classified information in an “extremely careless” fashion.
– James Taranto
In this time of echo chambers and knee jerk slogans, shall I donate money to the Guardian to understand alternative views. The press is dying and alternatives still remain vulnerable to pressure and corruption. We have no online Private Eye, such an important component if we relax planning laws.
Investigative journalism is still required!
Well, here I am sitting at my desk, with a telly on it and a computer screen on it, at stupid o’clock in the morning. I’m following the internet version of events here. When I started out following this, Clinton was reckoned to be 75 percent likely to win. Now they’re saying the same about Donald Trump. But since the first figure proved so fallible, why would I trust the second figure either? What is going to happen?
A few thoughts for our commentariat – including many who have actual experience of being in the USA, as I have not – to chew over, or not, as they please.
On Brit TV, a sensible blond woman (British) is talking about Obamacare and what a train wreck it has been. I suspect a lot of Brits are hearing this kind of thing for the first time. She also talked about education, another minus for Hillary, it would seem. And another Brit – middle aged, comb-over – has talked about Hillary’s use of politics to enrich herself on a grand scale. Again, how often has this been talked about on Brit TV?
So, simply in terms of their ability to report the campaign and its nature, the British media failed as comprehensively as the Clinton-supporting media look like they’re failing.
Related point: I suspect that Trump’s use of the social media is going to be talked about a lot in the next few weeks and months. Trump is being described as a political novice. But he sure as hell isn’t a media novice. He understands television. He understands how to get attention.
Now, finally, someone is telling Britain that Hillary Clinton is too “robotic”, not “warm”. They couldn’t “humanise” her. Trump was able to exploit this. Now they tell us.
About Trump. For the last year and however long it’s been, almost everyone has been underestimating Trump, and they were underestimating him still, only a few hours ago. And now, it is being said, by people on both sides, that Trump will be a ghastly President. He will be, if he just sticks to shrieking the things he shrieked at the beginning of his campaign, to get the attention of the kind of voters who hate all the damn politicians, definitely including those Republican grandees whom Trump has rolled all over, up to and including doing much better in the Presidential election. But what if people are still underestimating him? What if he is actually a quite good President? Even to the point where he starts making sensible noises about the size of the nation’s debt? What if he actually gets that you can’t just legislate manufacturing jobs back into existence? What if he turns out to be better at handling the Russians?
The US stockmarket, we are being told, is certainly of the opinion that Trump will now be the President, but a very bad President, as in bad for American business, certain for the sort of businesses that get quoted on the stockmarket. But are they right?
I wouldn’t put it past Trump to be rather a good president, because if there is one thing that is very clear about this man, it is that he does like to be liked, and the incentives he will face, if he does get the Presidency, will now change. If he does get to be President, he will be wanting to be thought of as a great President. Well, maybe not. Maybe he will concentrate all his efforts on having his revenge on all his detractors, both Republican and Democrat, and meanwhile let the USA itself go hell. But might he not turn out rather better than that?
Or, Trump may decide that the future of America, indeed of the world, is “progressivism”, and he might turn out to be another Obama. He was, after all, a Democrat for many years, was he not?
The British lefty, on the extreme left of my TV screen, is talking about a “cataclysmic” rejection of the “progressive agenda”, as personified by President Obama. Obamacare is going to be repealed! The horror.
That Obama guy, eh? Lots of Americans seem to think that he’s an idiot, but, a likeable idiot. They carried on voting for him, while he was the candidate. But as soon as Obama himself stopped being who you had to vote for, the vote for mere Obama-ism collapsed. Well, no, not collapsed. We’re talking a few percentage points. But that is enough to change things radically. That’s democracy for you. 50.5 percent, happiness. 49.5 percent, misery.
Now, a bearded young American is saying that if Sanders – the Venezuelan candidate, so to speak – had got the Democrat nomination, he would have been more likely to have won this thing. Maybe, unlike Hillary, Sanders could have made Venezuela seem appealing. Like I say, it only takes a single figure percentage to change things.
Other Democrats have been fulminating about how racist Trump is. Well, as for that, I have been watching the political left insult white people – particularly white men – for my entire adult life, ever since the workers of the rich, white West made it clear that they preferred the affluent society (such as it has been) to revolutionary Bolshevistic self-immolation. For me, the surprise is not that the white working class has fled from the left. For me, the surprise is that it has taken them so long.
They’re now talking about Trump being 93 percent likely to win it.
Now: Nigel Farage, calling this, if it happens in accordance with the above percentage, “bigger than Brexit”. He’s not assuming it, but he is struggling to keep his grin under control.
It’s gone down to 88 percent. LATER: up to 95 percent!
Well, well, well.
This election has kept me up for so long that I am now following the start of this cricket match between England and India. The smart money says India are about 88 percent likely to win that, by a landslide. To bed, Brian, to bed. Apologies for all the typos and grammatical cock-ups. I may need to clean this up in the morning.
I now see that, with admirable brevity, Natalie Solent has said the very same thing that I have been rambling on about at such tedious length. Oh well. Repetition is allowed here. ?!? Indeed.
There are feminists and other liberals (in the American political sense) who want to portray American campuses as being hotbeds of rape and sexual assault which gets overlooked by college administrators and law enforcement officers alike because they are in thrall of the Patriarchy. Anyone sensible knows this is bullshit: women on American college campuses are not raped and sexual assaulted at a rate only ever seen by women in African war zones, and hundreds of thousands of bright, middle-class women would not borrow so heavily to live in them if this were the case. But third-wave feminists and their supporters know this, of course. They just hope that by spinning this narrative often enough they can usher in oppressive regulations and laws with which they can control people who harbour thoughts they don’t like.
– Tim Newman
Apparently the Queen ‘confused Vladimir Putin with Andrew Marr’ during a state visit.
It can be difficult to tell apart all these ex-communists who have kept their taste for being “engineers of the human soul”. There was little spiritual difference between Vladimir Putin and Andrew Marr when Marr said this:
“… though teachers are the most effective anti-racist campaigners in the country, this means more than education in other religions it means a form of political education. Only people who understand the economic forces changing their world, threatening them but also creating new opportunities, have a chance of being immune to the old tribal chants. And the final answer, frankly, is the vigorous use of state power to coerce and repress. It may be my Presbyterian background, but I firmly believe that repression can be a great, civilising instrument for good. Stamp hard on certain ‘natural’ beliefs for long enough and you can almost kill them off. The police are first in line to be burdened further, but a new Race Relations Act will impose the will of the state on millions of other lives too.”
Emphasis added. The Guardian article from which the quote is taken can be read here.
Anyway, my point is that it was the dissatisfaction of a large number of people with the mainstream media’s coverage of a major global event that drove the growth of blogging, both in the US and Britain. We are now in a period where people’s dissatisfaction with the mainstream media is plumbing new depths as it behaves abominably over issues such as the US election, immigration, and a whole load of others which people care deeply about. Twitter and Facebook have already shown they are prepared to censor unwelcome opinions, which has left more than a few people voiceless (at least until Gab picks up and develops a smartphone app.). Indeed, I’ve always been surprised how many bloggers – who had full control of their own hosting platform and content – switched to Twitter, where they had none of the former and now, we discover, not so much of the latter either. The beauty of blogging for me was always that I run the site and its content is wholly mine and subject to nobody’s approval. There is no “report inappropriate content” on this blog.
This period in the runup to the US Presidential Election is starting to feel a lot like the spring of 2003: plenty of angry voices and a feeling nobody is listening. If Trump loses, the opposite side will try to silence them. One way of making themselves heard is via a blog, leading me to believe that we might see a renaissance of blogging in 2017.
Either way, I’ll still be here. Hopefully.
– Tim Newman, very accurately describing what caused the blogosphere to appear seemingly ab nihilo, and why similar conditions of widespread alienation may well be coming into alignment to cause a new media surge tide once again, perhaps this time ab Milo.
I was looking an article by Louise Mensch over on Heatstreet in which she mentions “being hacked by Russia” and I was a bit surprised to see some dyspepsia on display. Why? In spite of the many nice anti-Putin remarks, a great many sidebar “news feeds” off Heatstreet lead to Sputnik News, a Putin-fetishist Russian state propaganda site, which has always made me very suspicious. So maybe the boys at 55 Savushkina Street have been told she has finally gone too far off the reservation by supporting Hillary Clinton in spite of the friendly feeds 😛 I admit that Louise Mensch reminds me far too much of Arianna Huffington (but with way better legs) for me to ever really trust her.
Yesterday something reminded me of the Space Cadets:
The series described itself as the most elaborate hoax perpetrated in television history. The title is a comical reference to the slang phrase, which is used to describe vacuous, gullible fools, untethered to reality (compare airhead). It was not clear if the contestants were aware of the show’s title, although a whiteboard in the ‘barracks’ had “Space Cadettes” [sic] written on it during one of the parties organised in the facility.
A group of twelve contestants (who answered an advert looking for “thrill seekers”) were selected to become the first British televised space tourists, including going to Russia to train as cosmonauts at the “Space Tourist Agency of Russia” (STAR) military base, with the series culminating in a group of four embarking on a five-day space mission in low Earth orbit. The show and space mission contained aspects of Reality TV, including hidden cameras, soundproofed ‘video diary’ rooms and group dormitories.
However, the show was in fact an elaborate practical joke, described by Commissioning Editor Angela Jain as “Candid Camera live in space” and claimed by Channel 4 to have cost roughly £5million. Unknown to the “space cadets”, they were not in Russia at all, but at Bentwaters Parks (formerly RAF Bentwaters, a USAF airfield from 1951 to 1993) in Suffolk staffed by costumed actors, and the “space trip” was entirely fake, complete with a wooden “shuttle” and actor “pilots”. Indeed, during the shooting of Space Cadets, smokers amongst the production crew were given Russian cigarettes to smoke in case any of the cadets discovered the butts. The production crew went so far as to replace lightswitches and electrical outlets in the barracks with Russian standard. In addition, three of the Cadets were actors, included to misdirect any suspicious cadets and to help reinforce the illusion.
At the time I talked about it a great deal, as everybody did, but I could not watch it for more than a few seconds at a time. Too close to home. On discovering that it was a hoax one of the cadets said, “I was planning my speech about achieving my childhood dreams. I’m a little bit broken-hearted.” I was a little bit broken-hearted for her. I, too, had grown up dreaming of space. The cruellest aspect of the show was that it made clear to the world that the cadets had been selected for their credulity and lack of scientific knowledge. Like many of those reading this I would have “failed” that particular test. But let us not put on airs; it is proverbial among scammers that there is good hunting to be had among educated people who think they could never be fooled by anything.
Why am I still thinking about these nine innocents sold a pup when a whole decade has gone by? Millions agree to take jobs and find them not as advertised. Billions agree to take spouses and find them not as advertised. Such is the way of the world. At least the cadets were handsomely paid. Enough, I assume, to head off any lawsuits about breach of contract – and I would imagine that those contracts were written by clever lawyers in the first place. If the cadets had been the type to read every sub-clause in a contract they would not have been chosen to be filmed larking around in a wooden replica spaceship allegedly equipped with gravity generators.
My memory was triggered (not, like, triggered triggered; just triggered) by all the talk now about consent. I am not thinking primarily about sexual consent, although that is relevant, but about the increasing sensitivity around posting any photographs and films of people without their permission. This new sensitivity isn’t just politically correct wailing. Brian Micklethwait of this parish finds it entirely consistent with his libertarian principles to take care to hide the faces of ordinary people he photographs, as he mentions here, even as he points out that the case is different for public figures. The world has changed. The internet never forgets a name. It is getting closer to never forgetting a face. When the cadets signed their contracts that wasn’t so obvious.
First they came for Robert Stacey McCain but I had no idea who he was…
Then they came for Milo but I had no idea who he was either and anyway, he had silly hair…
Then they came for Instapundit…
A little earlier today Instapundit’s Twitter account got blocked. Due to Twitter’s Orwellian… no, Kafkaesque censorship policy it was not initially clear which tweet or tweets had earned Twitter’s ire. There was certainly no question of Glen Reynolds (Instapundit’s webmaster) being allowed to defend himself. At least not to Twitter – to the rest of the world Reynolds is most robust.
This is serious stuff. Instapundit was one of the original blogs. Although I was not present at it’s conception, my belief is that if it hadn’t been for Instapundit there wouldn’t have been a Samizdata. Certainly, Instapundit blazed a trail for hundreds, if not thousands of others and crucially Reynolds is not a nutter. If they can ban him they can ban us all.
Worse still, it is not as if Twitter is alone. It is remarkable how quickly internet stalwarts like Google, Facebook and Twitter have gone from being dynamic, “don’t be evil”, believers in freedom to being fully paid up members of the bansturbationary elite.
The question is what do we do now? Rob attempted to answer this very question earlier this week and I am happy to give gab.ai a go. The key question is if anyone else is prepared to. These things need critical mass and right-wingers are not known for engaging in collective action.
Like many I had high hopes for the internet. I thought it would lead to a renaissance of freedom. Instead it is quickly coming to resemble the very MSM I hoped it would check. And what have we got to show for our 15 years or so of being able to say what we think?
If you see FRENCH MAN ARRESTED AFTER BOMB ATROCITY as a BBC website headline, you know that there might have been a bomb, there might have been an atrocity, and the person arrested was probably a man. But you can be quite sure he wasn’t French.
– Lee Moore