Thursday, June 21, 2018

For The Deep State, Smearing Julian Assange Is As Good As Killing Him


Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via,

As I write this, demonstrations around the world are taking place in protest of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange's arbitrary detention and silencing by the US-centralized power establishment that has been actively pursuing his destruction for over a decade. The demonstrations will be well-attended, but not a fraction as well-attended as they should be. They will receive international attention, but not a fraction as much attention as they should.

This is because the manipulators and smear merchants who have made their careers paving the way for oligarchic agendas have been successful in killing off sympathy for the plight of Assange. As we discussed yesterday, sympathy is key for getting narratives to take hold in public consciousness. This is why western corporate media will circulate pictures of dead children all day long when it's in the interests of advancing longstanding imperialist agendas, but never when those children were killed by western weapons. If you can tug at someone's heart strings while telling them a story, the story you tell them will slide right in with minimal scrutiny. And it works the other way, too: if you can prevent someone's heart strings from being plucked while hearing about a legitimately heartbreaking story, you can prevent that story from taking hold.

Kill all sympathy for a dissident journalist and you kill all belief in his side of the story.

And Assange's side of the story is indeed devastating to the preferred narrative of the US-centralized empire. A journalist (yes, journalist, per definition) who publishes 100 percent authentic documents exposing the inner mechanics of power structures all over the world, who was forced to seek political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to avoid extradition by the same government which brutalized Chelsea Manning, is on its face a highly sympathetic story. And it does tremendous damage to the narrative that America and its close network of allies are freedom-loving democracies whose systems of government are nothing like those naughty, oppressive regimes they seek to topple.

So they smear him. As often as possible, using whatever they can, they smear his reputation. Because if they can kill all sympathy for him and his outlet, it's as good for their agendas as actually killing him.

The smears work because the social engineers know how to manipulate people. In America, for example, people are herded into two isolated ideological holding pens and encouraged to identify as much as possible with whichever pen they're in so that narratives can be slipped into their consciousness in a smooth, streamlined way. Are you in the 'R' pen and upset about the hand you've been dealt? You should blame the 'D' pen, and those foreigners who are of no strategic consequence to your rulers. Are you in the 'D' pen and upset about the hand you've been dealt? You should blame the 'R' pen, and those Russians whose downfall would advance the longstanding geopolitical agendas of your rulers.

In the same way, those in the 'R' pen were fed narratives against Julian Assange in 2010 which they lapped up because believing them was easier than believing that the pen they're so tightly identified with had enabled the evils revealed in WikiLeaks releases about US war crimes. And in exactly the same way, those in the 'D' pen were fed narratives against Julian Assange in 2016 which they lapped up because believing them was easier than believing that the pen they're so tightly identified with is pervasively corrupt.

By enforcing a strong sense of identification with a particular ideological tribe, they ensure that the psychological discomfort known as cognitive dissonance will arise from any revelation which can be spun as detrimental to that tribe. They then create a narrative which alleviates that discomfort, and that narrative always damages the reputation of the enemies of the power establishment. It's a snake oil cure for an ailment that they deliberately caused.

Nobody actually thinks that Julian Assange is a Russian agent, or a rapist, or a "hostile non-state intelligence service", or any of the other absurd smears I've seen circulating about him throughout all political sectors of the US-centralized empire. Those are not ideas that anyone has taken on board because they sincerely believe there's enough evidence for them to outweigh the undeniable fact that many extremely powerful and influential people stand to benefit from tarnishing his reputation on false pretenses. At best, they're just fairy tales people tell themselves because they're easier than believing that their favorite country/political party persecutes journalists for telling the truth and is as corrupt and evil as the various WikiLeaks publications of their communications would indicate. At worst, it's a fairy tale they are deliberately seeding into public consciousness so that people will believe lies instead of truth.

People find all sorts of ways to wiggle their way around the cognitive dissonance that unedited, authentic documents can create in them when it challenges their deeply treasured identity structures. People who present themselves as anti-establishment progressives often say things like "Well, you can be critical of Assange and still support WikiLeaks for providing a valuable service." And sure, that may be technically true, but it's never actually true for the people who say it: look at their writings and social media posts and you won't see them aggressively defending WikiLeaks, you'll only see them smearing Assange as often as they can get away with. They're just trying to retain their anti-establishment cred (another treasured identity structure) while promulgating smear campaigns which advance the agendas of the CIA and the State Department. They pay lip service to the image they're trying to convey, but their actions tell you where they really stand.

People who disrupt dominant narratives will always be attacked and vilified, because those narratives often form the building blocks of people's identity structures, their egos. An ego is just a collection of believed "I" stories; they typically include believed ideas about really basic things like "I am this body," but they also include a bunch of other "I" stories like "I am a Democrat" or "I am a patriotic American" as well. Attacking dominant narratives on a large scale will cause intense cognitive dissonance in everyone who has a lot of identity wrapped up in the power structure which is weakened by that attack, to such an extent that it can feel as though you yourself are being personally attacked. The way Democrats have talked about Assange since 2016 you get the distinct impression they feel like he may as well have walked up and stabbed them.

As this webcomic from The Oatmeal brilliantly explains, the brain is hardwired to protect strongly valued belief systems in the same way it's hardwired to make sure the body protects itself from a physical attack. This serves a useful function in that it gives us a cognitive strategy for making sense of the world that isn't blown to pieces every time you encounter a new idea, but it can also be malformed in a way which does not accurately represent reality. When that happens, it really is worthwhile to tough it out through the brain's distress signals of cognitive dissonance and consciously restructure your sense-making apparatus in a way that accommodates a more accurate perspective.

This is the invitation whenever you're looking at a WikiLeaks drop which challenges your existing worldview. It's just raw information sitting there, and you can choose to believe a story which allows you to comfortably dismiss it, or you can stick it out through the psychological discomfort and allow it to restructure your worldview. You have defense mechanisms in place to prevent random bits of information from tearing apart your sense-making apparatus that haven't been properly audited for reliability, but a publishing outlet with a 100 percent perfect record for releasing authentic documents is as reliable a source of information as you will ever find.

If your goal is psychological comfort, you have plenty of good reasons to loathe Julian Assange and spend all day helping plutocrats and secretive government agencies damage his reputation so that nobody will ever pay attention to him or his publications. If your goal is the truth, however, it is to your benefit to ignore the smears, to accept the reality of how and why Assange is being targeted, and to allow the truths that have been revealed by WikiLeaks publications to reshape your understanding of how the world works.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018


"Delete Your Account" Warns Virtual Reality Founding Father


In a new explosive interview, Silicon Valley tech pioneer and creator of the virtual reality 'avatar' Jaron Lanier tells people to delete your social media accounts due to the strong correlation between persistent social media usage and a dramatic societal rise in depression, anger, and anxiety that he says is the result of internet-induced modified forms of behavior.  

The warning comes in the wake of his new book which details how the creators of social media and the early engineers behind the internet "foolishly laid the foundations for global monopolies."

Virtual Reality pioneer Jaron Lanier with a prototype VR kit in 1990. Photograph: Rex Features

Jaron Lanier is best known as a founding father of the field of virtual reality and throughout his polymath career has written extensively on human-computer interaction, including most recently in his book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.

Lanier explained in a recent UK Channel 4 interview

When you watch the television the television isn't watching you. When you see the billboard the billboard isn't seeing you... When you use these new designs — social media, search, YouTube — when you see these things, you're being observed constantly and algorithms are taking that information and changing what you see next.

This Silicon Valley 'computer philosopher' says you need to delete your social media.

Jaron Lanier argues we are hooked through a scheme of rewards and punishments - making us 'cranky' and 'jittery' and modifying our behaviour.

— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) June 18, 2018

According to Lanier's bio, he coined the term 'Virtual Reality' (VR) and in the early 1980s founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products. In the late 1980s he led the team that developed the first implementations of multi-person virtual worlds using head mounted displays, as well as the first "avatars," and developed the first widely used software platform architecture for immersive virtual reality applications. 

As he defiantly asserts on his personal website, Lanier himself has "no social media accounts at all and all purported ones are fake."

He's elsewhere said that most internet and social media pioneers in Silicon Valley "have regrets right now" after perfecting what is essentially mass human behavioral engineering and that that internet addiction is not only ruining people's lives but the political process as well.

This is what I could call almost a stealthy addiction. It's a statistical addiction.

What it says is we will get the broad population to use the services a lot, we'll get them hooked through a scheme of rewards and punishment, and the rewards are when you're retweeted and the punishment is when you're treated badly by others online, and then within that we'll very gradually start to leverage that, to change them.

It's this very kind of stealthy manipulation of the population. -Jaron Lanier to Channel 4

Lanier described this process of manipulation more in-depth in his book, where he puts it like this: “The algorithm is trying to capture the perfect parameters for manipulating a brain, while the brain, in order to seek out deeper meaning, is changing in response to the algorithm’s experiments…Because the stimuli from the algorithm doesn’t mean anything, because they genuinely are random, the brain isn’t responding to anything real, but to a fiction. That process – of becoming hooked on an elusive mirage – is addiction.”

There is a great deal of wisdom here. Depression is clearly up in many countries as part of the internet age, and while correlation isn't causation, it seems clear part of it is causation. The internet promised greater connectedness but in many key ways it produced the opposite:

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 18, 2018

Of the nature of this addiction he described further to Channel 4:

So it's not as dramatic as a heroin addict or a gambling addict, but it is the same principle.

...It's made people jittery and cranky, it's made teens especially depressed, which can be quite severe. 

The scariest example is a correlation between rises in teen suicide and the rise in use of social media.

Concerning practical advice especially to young people who've grown up within a digital and device driven world:

If you're a young person and you've only lived with social media, your first duty is to yourself. You have to know yourself.

You should experience travel, you should experience challenge to yourself... you can't know yourself without perspective,so at least give it six months without social media.

And among the more worrisome results of this process for society as a whole?

Though as Lanier explains in his book the internet was not established with built-in monetized functions, the potential of the architecture to be used wrongly for "global monopolies" whether political or economic has proven explosive: “Everyone knew these functions … would be needed. We figured it would be wiser to let entrepreneurs fill in the blanks than to leave that task to government … We foolishly laid the foundations for global monopolies.”

View the full interview below:

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Jaron Lanier's Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now according to his book:

1) You are losing your free will.

2) Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times.

3) Social media is making you an asshole.

4) Social media is underming truth.

5) Social media is making what you say meaningless.

6) Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy.

7) Social media is making you unhappy.

8) Social media doesn't want you to have economic dignity.

9) Social media is making politics impossible.

10) Social media hates your soul.