Friday, July 20, 2018

The Very Unhinged John Brennan


Authored by Richard Galustian via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

Winston Churchill said all there is to say about political summits with his quote: “Jaw jaw is better than war war.”

That is the thing to bear in mind when examining the rights and wrongs of the The Trump-Putin summit: Two leaders of two of the world’s most powerful nations, in Trump’s words "competitors" sorting out differences eyeball to eyeball.

Both men share Churchill’s approach, with Putin saying: “As nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility” for international security.

Putin said Russia (as a devout Christian country) considered it necessary for the two countries to work together on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation – and to avoid weapons being placed in space.

“Even during the tensions of the Cold War, the US and the Soviets were able to maintain a strong dialogue (with now Russia),” said Trump. “But our relations (with now Russia) have never been worse than they are now. However that changed as of about four hours ago."

He added: "nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to engage" which would "appease partisan critics, the media" and the opposition."

Donald Trump correctly reiterated the significance and importance of holding a meeting with Putin, despite the widespread criticism from within his own country and most notably from the mainstream media who are very now clearly controlled entirely by what has popularly become known as the "Deep State."

And what was the response in America to the summit?

The most vitriolic insult came from the odious former CIA Director, John Brennan.

The not so funny irony is that Brennan literally voted for the then Soviet Union dominated US Communist Party to take power in the United States of America. Incredible, almost beyond belief. If you look at Brennan’s extremely insulting tweet repeated below, the full irony of his being a communist in the Soviet era should hit home.

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018

So what are the facts? Well John Brennan was accepted into the CIA in 1980 even though he admitted voting Communist in 1976. This is something inexplicable and astounding for any thinking person to understand of itself.

Brennan, who by then had been appointed President Obama’s CIA chief, first publicly revealed this at the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus, on 15 September 2016, in Washington DC. There, he said that when he had applied in 1980 to join the CIA, he admitted to them that in the 1976 Presidential election, at the height of the Cold War against the "Godless" Soviet Union, when a strong Christian presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter was running against Gerald Ford, Brennan had voted instead for the candidate of the US Communist Party, Gus Hall, and that he was then greatly relieved to find that this information didn’t cause rejection of his CIA application. One must ask why, as it happened 11 years before the "end of the Cold War" in 1991.

At the risk of being repetitive, take this in: John Brennan literally voted for the Communist Party, the Soviets, to take power in the United States of America!

As a Brit, a keen observer of American politics for decades, it appears astonishing that a father and son, Americans Ron and Rand Paul seem to be representative of only a few sane voices that debate logically and objectively on the subject of Russia, acknowledging, as Trump put it, that they are our competitors not enemies.

On Monday on CNN Wolf Blitzer was aghast that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul spoke on his programme saying that critics of Trump, Putin summit have “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

Blitzer almost angrily asking the Senator “Let me get right to the questioning. Do you believe that President Trump’s meeting with Putin made America safer?”

The Senator answered “You know, I think engagement with our adversaries, conversation with our adversaries is a good idea. Even in the height of the Cold War (with the Soviets), maybe at its lowest ebb when we were in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis, I think it was a good thing that Kennedy had a direct line to Khrushchev. I think it was a good thing that we continued to have Ambassadors to the Soviet Union even when we really objected greatly to what was going on, especially during Stalin’s regime. So I think , yes, that it is a good idea to have engagement.”

So from the outside as a Brit, the question one must ask is why haven’t the Clintons, Brennan, and their ilk been arrested already for the countless allegations of crimes that have been revealed to the public?


Ecuador Reportedly Preparing To Hand Assange To UK In "Coming Weeks Or Days"


Ecuador is preparing to hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the UK in "coming weeks or even days," RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan reported, as political support and sympathy for Assange's predicament have more or less evaporated since the arrival of an administration that largely views Assange as an inherited problem, and would like more than anything to finally be rid of him. "My sources tell [Julian] Assange will be handed over to Britain in the coming weeks or even days," Simonyan wrote in a recent tweet which was reposted by WikiLeaks. "Like never before, I wish my sources were wrong," she continued.

Editor-in-chief of RT: "My sources tell me that @JulianAssange will be handed over to the #UK in the next weeks or days. Like never before I wish that my sources are wrong''

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 20, 2018

Earlier this week, reports surfaced in the UK media that high level talks were happening between UK and Ecuadorian officials to try and remove Assange from the embassy.

Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan is said to be spearheading the diplomatic effort. Sources close to Assange said he himself was not aware of the talks but believed that America was putting "significant pressure" on Ecuador, including threatening to block an IMF loan, if he continues to stay at the embassy. The Times report comes just weeks before a visit to the UK by the newly-elected Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno, who has labeled Assange a "hacker", "an inherited problem" and a "stone in the shoe."


Hostilities to Assange's presence in the embassy have been climbing for weeks. In late March of this year, the Ecuadorian government suspended Assange’s communication privileges with the outside world and cutting off his Internet access. That crackdown followed Assange's decision to speak out about the Spanish government's treatment of the Catalan independence movement.

Assange has been holed up in the embassy since 2012. Though Sweden long ago dropped its request that Assange be extradicted, he is still struggling with legal issues in the UK: Earlier this year, a UK court declined to reverse his arrest warrant for violating his bail terms when he initially took refuge at the embassy. Wikileaks has released thousands of diplomatic cables belonging to the US, and US officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have said Assange's arrest is a "priority."

As things stand, appears Assange will almost certainly be arrested once turned out of the embassy. But as that fate looks increasingly certain, it's important to remember that a UN panel determined that Assange’s stay in the embassy amounted to "arbitrary detention" but it wasn’t enough to change his fate.

Furthermore, as we pointed out earlier this week, US imported a record amount of crude from Ecuador last week (a massive unprecedented surge all of a sudden), which begs the question...was there a payoff?



Inside WikiLeaks: Working With The Publisher That Changed The World


Authored by Stefania Maurizi via Consortium News,

Silenced and cut off from the outside world, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the last six years with no access to sunlight, fresh air, or proper medical treatment. Furthermore, last March President Lenin Moreno’s Ecuadorian government cut his access to the internet, phone calls and even visitors and journalists. For a man who has already been confined to the embassy for so long, these restrictions are particularly harsh.

I began working as one of WikiLeaks’ media partners in 2009, before Assange and WikiLeaks published such bombshells as the “Collateral Murder” video. Over the last nine years, I have partnered with WikiLeaks on behalf of my newspaper, the Italian daily La Repubblica to work on the Podesta emails and many of its other secret files, except for those that WikiLeaks released without media partners: the DNC emails, the Saudi Cables, Turkey’s ruling party emails, the Hacking Team documents, the Collateral Murder video and the Brennan emails.

Like its work or not, WikiLeaks is an independent media organization that doesn’t have to rely on traditional media to publish its scoops. Indeed it was founded to bypass the legal qualms traditional media may have about publishing classified information.

With its 5.5 million followers on Twitter, WikiLeaks has a huge social media presence that gives its work immediate impact. But WikiLeaks has published most of its revelations in collaboration with a number of media partners.

For instance, I was a partner in the publication of the emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, which were published by WikiLeaks shortly after the infamous Access Hollywood video revealed candidate Donald Trump making rude remarks about women.

Many media outlets continue to report that the Podesta emails were released only minutes after the Access Hollywood video aired, hinting at some sort of coordination between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign. In a indictment issued last Friday, Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, charged 12 officers of the Russian military intelligence service, GRU, for having allegedly hacked both the DNC and Podesta emails and allegedly passed them on to WikiLeaks for publication.

I have no idea who WikiLeaks’ sources were for the Podesta emails: the whole concept of WikiLeaks is based on the submission of secret or otherwise restricted documents by anonymous sources. Assange said numerous times that his source for the Clinton emails was not the Russian government nor a state party.

As I worked on the Podesta emails, I do know that their publication was not a last-second decision. I had been alerted the day before, and their staggered release was a choice WikiLeaks made after the organization was harshly criticized by mainstream media for publishing the DNC documents all at once. This time the emails would trickle out to make them easier for the public to digest. But that was criticized too by the U.S. media and the Democrats as an attempt to leave Clinton  bleeding a few weeks before the elections.

Ready to Release Trump Documents

I was also a witness when WikiLeaks received four documents about Trump’s business at a certain point during the campaign and media partners were asked to help verify the documents to determine if they should be published. The WikiLeaks team had already prepared a placeholder graphic for a possible release on Trump: a caricature of Trump and his characteristic hairstyle. Unfortunately, we found that the documents had already been made public.

Over the last nine years of my work in partnership with WikiLeaks on behalf of first the Italian newsmagazineL’Espresso and then La Repubblica, I have spent many hours talking to Assange and his staff, maintaining weekly contact with them. Looking back, I realize that in all those years, I only met Assange as a free man once. That was in September 2010: he had just left Sweden to meet me and other journalists in Berlin after the publication of the Afghan War Logs. At that time, I didn’t realize so many years would pass without seeing him free again.

He is one of the most demonized men on the planet. “We are in the business of crucifixion,” he told me several months ago, before Ecuador cut his social contacts. Indeed he has been crucified for whatever he has done: he talked to the press? He is a narcissist. He didn’t talk to the press? He wants to fuel his image as an international mystery man. He is a complicated human being, but he is neither a hard man nor the imperious, James Bond-style villain depicted by newspapers. He can be warm, with a sharp sense of humor, and he is definitely brilliant and bold enough to publish exceptionally risky documents.

The Full Force of the State

WikiLeaks is rather unique from many standpoints. As a media organization publishing exclusively secret or otherwise restricted documents on “invisible powers,” such as intelligence agencies, which citizens do not normally perceive as directly relevant to their lives, there is little doubt that WikiLeaks has the full force of the State against it. It is probably the only Western media organization to have been under continuous investigation by the U.S. authorities – and probably others—since 2010, and it is definitely the only one whose editor is arbitrarily detained in the heart of Europe.

Assange: No way out?

Whenever I say that Assange is the only editor arbitrarily detained in Europe, some object that he isn’t detained, or that he isn’t an editor at all. But that he is arbitrarily detained is the opinion of the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, whose decisions are considered authoritative by the European Court of Human Rights. The UK government has always rejected the UN body’s decision on Assange, and even tried to appeal it. Since losing this appeal, the UK authorities have continued to ignore the decision and apparently no one else has anything to say about it.

Many argue that Assange is not detained, but rather is in a state of “self-imposed exile,” since he could leave the embassy at any time. He could, if he wanted to, walk out and be arrested by the UK authorities, on now flimsy skipping bail conditions after Swedendropped its investigation against him, and he’d face the risk of extradition to the United States. Last year the former head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, attacked him and his organization ferociously, calling WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” The current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has declared that arresting him is a priority.

Assange’s lawyers believe a grand jury in the state of Virginia has likely rendered a sealed indictment against him. Theoretically he is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution, which protects publication of stolen documents, something that major media does routinely. However, through the last years we have seen many attempts by the U.S. authorities to claim WikiLeaks and Assange have no First Amendment righrts.

Curiously, those critics who insist he is in a form of self-imposed exile or confinement seem to forget that Assange has attempted all sorts of legal routes to challenge his detention. I have never heard of someone imposing exile on himself while at the same time attempting various legal means to put an end to it.

Assange’s latest appeal to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court was dismissed last February by the British judge Emma Arbuthnot, in a ruling indicating that for UK Justice it is perfectly fine for an individual to remain confined to a tiny building for almost six years with no access to sunlight, fresh air or proper medical treatment. “I do not find that Mr. Assange’s stay in the Embassy is inappropriate, unjust, unpredictable, unreasonable, unnecessary or disproportionate”, concluded Arbuthnot with no British irony.

As far as the concept of “editor” goes, I can refer to my own experience, describing what I have seen on my end: Assange has always been the person coordinating WikiLeaks publication activities, making the editorial choices, deciding how to present the revelations to the public—just like any editor of traditional media. He and his organization are far from perfect: they have made mistakes and questionable choices, but it is a matter of fact that they have revealed very important information in the public interest.

Journalism and Beyond

Thanks to WikiLeaks, it has been possible to reveal the true face of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq (Afghan War LogsIraq War Logs Filesand Collateral Murder), the identities of Guantanamo detainees (Gitmo Files), the scandals and embarrassing diplomatic deals contained in 251,287 U.S. diplomacy cables, such as pressure from the U.S. to neutralize Italian prosecutors investigating the extraordinary rendition of the Milan cleric, Abu Omar (Cablegate).

Tunisia: Protests fueled by WikiLeaks sparked Arab Spring.

It has been possible to reveal the inner workings of the U.S. private intelligence firm Stratfor (GIFiles) and the National Security Agency intercepts on German, French, Italian and Japanese leaders, including intercepts of the controversial, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (NSA World Spying Files). WikiLeaks also revealed EU operations to stop migrants and refugees (EU Military Ops Against Refugee Flow Files), and the CIA cyber weapons (Vault 7 Files). Its Tunisia Files contributed to the uprising there that set off the so-called Arab Spring. WikiLeaks has also released a cache of Spy Files from Russia.

All this valuable information has been made available to the world by WikiLeaks completely free of charge, so that once in the public domain, journalists, activists, scholars and citizens can access it directly worldwide, without needing media organizations or journalists to access the original files and make informed choices.

This publication strategy has worked: the exiled Islanders from the Chagos Archipelago for example have been using the U.S. diplomacy cables in court to support their struggle to return to the Chagos Islands, while a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, used the cables to support his case at the European Court of Human Rights against his extraordinary rendition.

As WikiLeaks sees it, publishing information in the public interest is an act that involves journalism, but also goes beyond journalism. That is why after partnering with media organizations, WikiLeaks makes the files publicly available so that everyone can access and use them.

Assange and his team pioneered a model so effective that it has been copied by many. They started a platform for anonymous submission of secret or otherwise restricted documents, a concept which has since been adopted by almost all major media outlets. They also established cross-jurisdictional collaborative reporting, now a model for major organizations like the Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which published notable revelations like the Panama Papers.


Throughout the last nine years, I have seen Assange and his staff take enormous risks. “They run towards the risks everyone else runs away from,” Edward Snowden once told me in an interview. That means they take risks corporate media won’t take. At the end of the day corporate media are corporations: many decide they can afford only limited legal risks. As for the extralegal risks, few traditional editors and journalists are eager to end up confined to an embassy for six years.

Snowden: Saved by WikiLeaks.

We have seen what happened to Snowden when he was abandoned in Hong Kong: it took Assange’s close adviser, Wikileaks journalist Sarah Harrison, and the WikiLeaks’ staff to help him seek asylum. Although the newspapers that had obtained the Snowden files could have exerted enormous contractual power if they had wanted to broker an agreement with the U.S. government to protect Snowden, none of them did. As the American science fiction author Bruce Sterling put it: “It’s incredible to me that, among the eight zillion civil society groups on the planet that hate and fear spooks and police spies, not one of them could offer Snowden one shred of practical help, except for Wikileaks.”

From the very beginning, I have witnessed the virulent attacks against Assange and his staff and the dramatic failure of mainstream and non-mainstream journalists to seek factual information on the Swedish case by means of FOIA or other investigative tools. In the course of these last seven years, no media has tried to access the full file on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

It took an Italian journalist to litigate a FOIA in Sweden and in the UK because no international or local journalist had done so. While my FOIA litigation unearthed some suspicious facts (like the deletion of many crucial emails written and received by the British lawyer who had handled the Assange case for the Crown Prosecution Service – a deletion for which the UK authorities have provided no explanation) there has been no follow-up by any international or British media.

The Kremlin’s Useful Idiots?

Recently, The Guardian said, “Assange has a longstanding relationship with Russia Today. He has regularly appeared in interviews with the Russian broadcaster and hosted a program on RT in 2012.” In reality the broadcasting license for that program, known as “The World Tomorrow”, was acquired by my newsgroup as well, which publishes La Repubblica and l’Espresso. As far as I know, that program was not the product of any unique collaboration between WikiLeaks and RT.

While it is true that Assange and his staff have appeared on the Russian channel numerous times, I have only heard of one instance in which RT was a partner with WikiLeaks in the publication of secret files: the “Spy Files”, a series about brochures on private companies selling surveillance technologies. When WikiLeaks partners with traditional media, the partners know each other, they share the findings and the workload. Based on what I have observed, RT has never been part of this process, though it is true that RT quickly jumps on whatever WikiLeaks publishes, running articles on WikiLeaks publications based on the organization’s press releases and reporting on everything on the WikiLeaks front.

Russia perceives Assange as a sort of Western dissident. The country definitely loves the idea of “Western dissidents” and is happy to stick a finger in the eyes of the West by assuring wide coverage for Assange and his organization. Russia media highlights the contradictions in Western democracies which, while preaching aggressive journalism and the protection of journalistic sources, have instead put Chelsea Manning in prison, charged Snowden, investigated WikiLeaks for the last eight years and has kept its editor arbitrarily detained with no end in sight.

WikiLeaks has been accused of being the Kremlin’s useful idiot or its laundromat, or even a front for Russian intelligence. These kinds of allegations have been spread by the media with no solid evidence, always quoting anonymous intelligence officials who have an obvious interest in destroying WikiLeaks’ reputation. To protect himself and his organization, Assange has always avoided revealing the inner workings of WikiLeaks so as to not expose its resources and vulnerabilities to powerful entities like the CIA, which perceive WikiLeaks as an existential threat to themselves.

This approach has helped project an allure of mystery and menace which has been used by many media outlets to fuel a vitriolic campaign against Assange and WikiLeaks as James Bond-style villains with something dark to hide. Had Assange and his team ever lifted the veil and allowed the public to see the inner workings of WikiLeaks, public opinion would have perceived what is really behind it: a willingness to take the heat even in the face of very powerful entities.

No one can say how it will end for Assange and his team: if they end up in jail in the United States, it will be the first time that an editor and a media organization are imprisoned in the U.S. for their work, at least not since John Peter Zenger in Colonial America. As the icon of whistleblowers, Daniel Ellsberg, put it: “Under Trump, he may well be the first journalist in this country to be indicted.” There is a deafening silence on the impact of such a scenario on the freedom of the press and on the human rights of Assange and his staff.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Johnstone: Russiagate Is Like 9/11, Except It's Made Of Pure Narrative


Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via,

The last few days have been truly amazing. I didn’t even write an article yesterday; I’ve just been staring transfixed by my social media feeds watching liberal Americans completely lose their minds. I can’t look away. It’s like watching a slow motion train wreck, and everyone on the train is being really homophobic.

I’ve been writing about Russiagate since it started, and I can honestly say this is the worst it’s ever been, by far. The most hysterical, the most shrill, the most emotional, the most cartoonishly over-the-top and hyperbolic. The fact that Trump met with Putin in private and then publicly expressed doubt about the establishment Russia narrative has sent some political factions of America into an emotional state that is indistinguishable from what you’d expect if Russia had bombed New York City. This despite the fact that the establishment Russia narrative consists of no actual, visible events whatsoever. It is made of pure narrative.

I don’t think the US media has ever been nuttier than they are right now. It would be comical if it wasn’t so dangerous. They are harming the national psyche in a profound way

— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) July 18, 2018

I don’t even know where to start. Everyone has been completely mad across the entire spectrum of what passes for America’s political “left” today, from the usual suspects like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and their indistinguishable Never-Trump Republican allies, all the way to supposedly progressive commentators like Cenk Uygur and Shaun King. Comparing this pure narrative non-event to Pearl Harbor is now commonplace and mainstream. I just watched a United States Senator named Richard Blumenthal stare right into the camera refer to the hypothetical possibility of future Russian cyber intrusions as “this 9/11 moment.”

“We are in a 9/11 national emergency because our country is under attack, literally,” Blumenthal told CNN while demanding a record of Trump’s meeting with Putin at the Helsinki summit. “That attack is ongoing and pervasive, verified by objective and verifiable evidence. Those words are, again, from the director of National Security. And this 9/11 moment demands that we do come together.”

Nothing about the establishment Russia narrative is in any way verifiable, and the only thing it has in common with 9/11 is the media coverage and widespread emotional response.

September 11 had actual video footage of falling towers. You could go visit New York City, look at the spot where those towers used to be, and see them not being there anymore. You could learn the names of the people who died and visit their graves and talk to their family members. Exactly how it happened is a matter of some debate in many circles, but there is no question that it happened. There was an actual event that did happen in the real world, completely independent of any stories people tell about that event.

Russiagate is like 9/11, but with none of those things. It’s like if 9/11 had all the same widespread emotional responses, all the same nonstop mass media coverage, all the same punditry screaming war, war, war, except no actual event occurred. The towers were still there, everyone was still alive, and nothing actually happened apart from the narrative and the emotional responses to that narrative.

Russiagate is 9/11 minus 9/11.

This is what I’m talking about when I say that whoever controls the narrative controls the world. Whoever controls the stories that westerners are telling each other has the power to advance concrete agendas which reshape global geopolitics without any actual thing even happening. Simply by getting a few hand-picked intelligence agents to say something happened in a relatively confident way, you can get the entire media and political body advancing that narrative as unquestionable fact, and from there advance sanctions, new military operations, a far more aggressive Nuclear Posture Review, the casting out of diplomats, the arming of Ukraine, and ultimately shove Russia further and further off the world stage.

As we discussed last time, the current administration has actually been far more aggressive against Russia than the previous administration was, and has worked against Russian interests to a far greater extent. If they wanted to, the international alliance of plutocrats and intelligence/defense agencies could just as easily use their near-total control of the narrative to advance the story that Trump is a dangerous Russia hawk who is imperiling the entire world by inflicting insane escalations against a nuclear superpower. They could elicit the exact same panicked emotional response that they are eliciting right now using the exact same media and the exact same factual situation. They wouldn’t have to change a single thing except where they place their emphasis in telling the story. The known facts would all remain exactly as they are; all that would have to change is the narrative.

Public support for Russiagate depends on the fact that most people don’t recognize how pervasively their day-to-day experience is dominated by narrative. If you are intellectually honest with yourself, you will acknowledge that you think about Russia a lot more now than you did in 2015. Russia hasn’t changed any since 2015; all that has changed is the narrative that is being told about it. And yet now the mass media and a huge chunk of rank-and-file America now view it as a major threat and think about it constantly. All they had to do was talk about Russia constantly in a fearful and urgent way, and now US liberals are convinced that Vladimir Putin is an omnipotent world-dominating supervillain who has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government.

If humanity is to pull up and away from its current path toward either ecological disaster, nuclear armageddon or Orwellian dystopia, we are necessarily going to have to change our relationship with narrative. As long as the way we think, vote and organize can be controlled by the mere verbiage of the servants of power, our species will never be able to begin operating in a sane and wholesome way. If all it takes to make us act against our own interest is a few establishment lackeys speaking a few words in a confident tone of voice, if mere authoritative language can hypnotize us like a sorcerer casting spells, we are doomed to slavery and destruction.

So stop staring transfixed by the narratives, and begin looking at the behavior and motives of the people advancing them instead. Stop staring at the movie screen they’re constantly drawing your attention to, turn around in your theater seat, and look at the people who are running the projector. The way out of this mess is to begin ignoring the stories we’re being hypnotized with and start critically examining the people who are conducting the hypnosis. Ignore the stories and stare with piercing eyes at the storytellers. The difference between the official narrative and the actual reality of this world is the difference between fiction and fact. Evolve beyond.

*  *  *

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Twitter Caught Censoring Conservative Journalists With Site-Wide Shadowbans


Two days after Twitter told Congress that they aren't politically biased when censoring content, several prominent conservatives discovered that the social media giant automatically includes them in a site-wide "Quality Filter Discrimination" shadowban which prevents anyone not already following them from viewing their posts.

While the filters have been around since August 2016 and were supercharged in May, Twitter's aggressive censorship of conservative accounts was noticed Thursday afternoon by the Daily Wire's Ryan Saavedra, after he said he saw reduced activity following a viral tweet with 3.85 million views in which Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters (CA) calls for attacks on members of the Trump administration. In short order, a flood of influential conservative Twitter users discovered they were shadowbanned also using an account checking tool at

Twitter shadow ban test says I am shadowbanned.

I noticed my account was getting a lot less activity after I posted a video about Maxine Waters that went viral.

It's disappointing to see @Twitter @TwitterSupport @Jack @LeslieBerland censoring conservative reporters.

— Ryan Saavedra 🇺🇸 (@RealSaavedra) July 19, 2018

Nick Short (@PoliticalShort) is also shadowbanned, which is absurd, he does nothing wrong.

— Ryan Saavedra 🇺🇸 (@RealSaavedra) July 19, 2018

Vile anti-Semite and Hitler worshipper Louis Farrakhan is NOT shadowbanned.

— Ryan Saavedra 🇺🇸 (@RealSaavedra) July 19, 2018

The site-wide shadowbans did not go unnoticed... 

A group of prominent Republican reporters, influencers and politicos discovered today they they are #QFDshadowbanned meaning if you have the automatic quality filter on you won’t see their tweets. I went ahead and checked some prominent leftist accounts. Here’s what I found...

— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) July 19, 2018

Part 4. Not 1 shadowban of any kind for these accounts. Ask yourself why @Twitter suddenly put QFD bans on conservative accounts including members of the admin, journalists, thought leaders and many others. It’s pretty obvious that someone there wants to silence conservatives.

— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) July 19, 2018

So I've been shadowbanned. It happened just a day after I livetweeted the Senate hearing on the censorship of conservatives on social media.

It's hard not to notice when your engagement in analytics drops by over half.

— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) July 19, 2018

What this means in practical terms is that newish accounts and anyone with the Quality Filter turned on (it's on by default and most people don't even know it exists) won't see most of my tweets, or the tweets of anyone else who's QFD shadowbanned.

— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) July 19, 2018

Looks like Twitter is shadowbanning @BreitbartNews' senior tech correspondent @LibertarianBlue.

Bold strategy

— Will Chamberlain 🇺🇸 (@willchamberlain) July 19, 2018

Twitter VP of Trust & Safety, Del Harvey, said that the filtering algorithm look at a number of signals, including how often a user is blocked, muted or complained about vs. receiving positive interactions such as "favorites" and retweets.

"If you send the same message to four people, and two of them blocked you, and one reported you, we could assume without ever seeing what the content of the message was, that was generally a negative interaction."  

Asked whether the change will mostly affect fake accounts and bots or real people who are behaving in aggressive and divisive ways, Harvey said it could be either. The software’s goal is to hide tweets from “accounts that are having the maximum negative impact on the conversation,” she said. -Slate 

Harvey also said in a company blog post that the impact of the filters would affect "much less than 1 percent" of accounts. 

[L]ess than 1% of accounts make up the majority of accounts reported for abuse, but a lot of what’s reported does not violate our rules. While still a small overall number, these accounts have a disproportionately large—and negative—impact on people’s experience on Twitter. The challenge for us has been: how can we proactively address these disruptive behaviors that do not violate our policies but negatively impact the health of the conversation?

Possible reasons for QFD (Quality Filter Discrimination) are:

-Blocked by too many people

-Following people blocked by too many people

-Reported by too many people (even unsuccessful)

-Following people reported too often

-Frequent interaction (comment, like) with QFD people

— Krakan Gargicz (@Krakan_G) July 19, 2018

To turn the default quality filtering off, go into your Twitter settings and unchedk the "quality filter" box.

We wonder who Jack Dorsey thinks is having a "maximum negative impact on the conversation" right ahead of midterms?


The Establishment Strikes Back


Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

There are a number of elements in the recent release of an indictment of twelve named alleged Russian military intelligence GRU officers by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein looking into possible ties between Moscow and the Trump Administration that I find either implausible or even incoherent. But before considering that, it is necessary to consider the context of the announcement.

The Department of Justice, which had, based on evidence already revealed, actually interfered in the 2016 election more that Moscow could possibly have done, continued in that proud tradition by releasing the indictment three days before President Donald Trump was due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Helsinki Summit between the two leaders was critically important to anyone interested in preserving the planet Earth as we know it and there was no reason at all to release a non-time sensitive document that was clearly intended to cast a shadow over the proceedings. In fact, the surfacing of the indictment might easily be explained as a deliberate attempt by a politicized Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller to torpedo President Trump over concerns that he might actually come to some understanding with Putin.

The 30-page long indictment is full of painstaking details about alleged Russian involvement but it makes numerous assertions that the reader is required to accept on faith because there is little or no evidence provided to back up the claims and the claims themselves could be false trails set up by any number of hostile intelligence services to implicate Moscow. From an intelligence officer’s point of view, there are even some significant areas where operational implausibility completely undermines the case being made.

The indictment identifies by name and position the twelve alleged GRU officers who “knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury (collectively the ‘Conspirators’), to gain unauthorized access (to ‘hack’) into the computers of US persons and entities involved in the 2016 US presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election.

All twelve alleged GRU officers are described in detail, together with the cover mechanisms they reportedly used and the targets they pursued. But they are all in Russia and there is virtually no chance that they will be extradited to stand trial in Washington, which was certainly understood when the indictment was prepared. That means the “facts” as stated in the document will never be subjected to the normal judicial review process or discovery that takes place whenever someone is accused of a crime, which in turn means that information contained in the indictment will never be challenged.

The document itself also provides no information on how the Russian officers and their positions were identified, which suggests that it could have been a US hack or agent in place, either run by CIA or NSA, that came up with a list of those individuals connected to GRU cyber operations. That would be information involving sources and methods, codeword protected material beyond Top Secret.

If the GRU list is authentic, it would expose US ability to penetrate that organization, leading to Moscow tightening up security to the detriment of American intelligence. But it might alternatively be suggested that the drafters needed a group of plausible Russians and used a generic list provided by either CIA or NSA to come up with the culprits and then used those identities and the detailed information regarding them to provide credibility to their account. What they did not do, however, is provide the actual evidence connecting the individuals to the “hack/interference” or to connect the same to the Russian government. If the information in the indictment is completely accurate, which may not be the case, there is some suggestion that alleged Moscow linked proxies may have deliberately sought to undermine the campaign of Hillary Clinton to favor Bernie Sanders, but absolutely no evidence that they did anything to help Donald Trump.

Beyond what is or is not contained in the document itself, there is a clear misunderstanding regarding how a sophisticated intelligence organization, which certainly includes the GRU, operates. If there had been a large-scale Kremlin sanctioned plan to disrupt the US election, it would not be run by twelve identifiable GRU officers working with what appears to be only limited cover and resources. If the facts are correct, the activity might have been a routine probing, collecting and selective dissemination of information effort that all intelligence agencies engage in. The United States does so routinely in many countries, interfering in elections worldwide, far more than Russia with its limited resources, and even carrying out regime change.

If the Kremlin’s objective were truly to undermine American democracy, a task that is already being undertaken very ably by the GOP and Democrats, hundreds of officers would be involved, all working under deep cover and operating securely out of dispersed sites. And no one involved would be using computers connected to networks that could be penetrated to enable personal identification or discovery of the ultimate source of the activity. Everyone would be working in alias on stand-alone machines and the transmission of information would be done using cut-outs to break any chain of custody. A cut-out might consist of using thumb drives to transmit information from one computer to another, for example. There would be no sending or receiving of information by channels that could be identified by NSA or CIA and compromised.

So the idea that the United States government identified twelve culprits who were responsible for trying to overthrow American democracy is by any measure ludicrous, if indeed there was a major plan to disrupt the election at all. The indictment is little more than a political document seeking to undermine any effort by Donald Trump to establish rapprochement with Vladimir Putin. It will also serve to give fuel to the Democrats, who are still at a loss to understand what happened to Hillary Clinton, and Republican hawks like John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse who persist in seeking to refight the Cold War. As Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin said in their Helsinki press conference, the coming together of the leaders of the world’s two most powerful nuclear armed countries is too important an opportunity to let pass. Cold Warriors in Washington should take note.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Psychoanalysing NATO: Gaslighting


Authored by Patrick Armstrong via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

NOTE: Because "NATO" these days is little more than a box of spare parts out of which Washington assembles "coalitions of the willing", it's easier for me to write "NATO" than "Washington plus/minus these or those minions".

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called on Russia to explain "exactly what has gone on" after two people were exposed to the Novichok nerve agent in Wiltshire. (BBC)

The Russian state could put this wrong right. They could tell us what happened. What they did. And fill in some of the significant gaps that we are trying to pursue. We have said they can come and tell us what happened. I'm waiting for the phone call from the Russian state. The offer is there. They are the ones who could fill in all the clues to keep people safe. (UK security minister Ben Wallace)

Leaving aside their egregious flouting of the elemental principle of English justice, note that they're uttering this logical idiocy: Russia must have done it because it hasn't proved it didn't. Note also, in Javid's speech, the amusing suggestion that Russia keeps changing its story; but to fit into the official British story "novichok" must be an instantly lethal slow acting poison which dissipates quickly but lasts for months.

This is an attempt to manipulate our perception of reality. In a previous essay I discussed NATO's projection of its own actions onto Russia. In this piece I want to discuss another psychological manipulation – gaslighting.

The expression comes from the movie Gaslight in which the villain manipulates her reality to convince his wife that she is insane. Doubt the official Skripal story and it is you – you "Russian troll" – who is imagining things. Only Russian trolls would question Litvinenko's deathbed accusation written in perfect English handed to us by a Berezovskiy flunky; or the shootdown of MH17; or the invasion of Ukraine; or the cyber attack on Estonia. Only a Russian troll would observe that the fabulously expensive NATO intelligence agencies apparently get their information from Bellingcat. Argumentum ad trollem is everywhere: count the troll accusations here or admire the clever anticipatory use of the technique there.

This is classic gaslighting – I'm telling the truth, you're the crazy one.

We may illustrate the eleven signs of "gaslighting" given in Psychiatry Today by Stephanie A. Sarkis with recent events.

They tell blatant lies.

The Skripals were poisoned by an incredibly deadly nerve agent that left them with no visible symptoms for hours but not so deadly that it killed them; at least not at Easter; nor the policeman; a nerve agent that could only have been made in Russia although its recipe was published in the open media; that poison having been administered on a doorknob that each had to have touched at the exact same minute that no one else touched; a nerve agent so deadly that they only bothered to clean up the sites 51 days later. And so on: a different story every day. But your mind must be controlled by Putin if you smell a falsehood at any point. And, now we have it all over again: apparently the fiendishly clever Russian assassins smeared the doorknob and then, rather than getting out of town ASAP, sauntered over into a park to toss the container. (Remember the fiendishly clever Russian assassins who spread polonium everywhere?)

And, speaking of proven, long term, repeating liars: remember when accusing the British government of complicity in torture renditions was a conspiracy theory? Well, it turns out the conspiracy was by the other side. "Conspiracy Theorist" is the perfect gaslighting accusation, by the way: you're the crazy one.

They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.

The Skripal case gives a perfect illustration: here's the UK Foreign Secretary saying Porton Down told him it was Russian ("absolutely categorical") And here's the UK Foreign Office disappearing the statement: We never said Porton Down confirmed the origin. It's rare to get such a quick exposure of a lie, so it's useful to have this example. Here is an obvious fake from BellingcatAlready the Douma story is being re-polished now that the OPCW has said no organophosphates.

Most of the time it takes years to reveal the lie: gaslighters know the details will be forgotten while the impression remains. 64 years later we learn the "conspiracy theorists" were right about the CIA/UK involvement in the Iran coup. It's rather amazing how many people still believe the proven liars this time around.

They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition. 

Russians cheat at the sports you follow, scatter nerve agents and radioactive material in places you could be in, sneak into the voting booth with you, blow up airplanes you might be on and tear up the "very fabric of our democracy." Your favourite actor tells you "we are at war with Russia".

And the children! The boy on the beachThe boy in the ambulanceBana from AleppoMiraculous recoveries.  Dramatic rescues with camera! Dead children speaking. And finally, the little girl, Trump and the Time cover.

If it's a child, they're gaslighting you.

They wear you down over time.

Skripal story fading? How about a CW attack in Syria? No? Back to MH17: same story with one new obviously suspicious detail. Pussy Riot is forgotten and Pavlenskiy an embarrassment, but "Russian bear in Moscow World Cup parade video sparks PETA outrage"! This is what is known as a Gish Gallop: the gaslighter makes 47 assertions, while you're thinking about the first, he makes 20 more: in former times it was recognised by the the folk saying that "a fool can ask more questions than ten wise men can answer". But the fools quickly come up with more: dead dogs in Russia: without tuk-tukswith tuk-tuks; your choice.

You are worn down by ten new fake outrages every month: all expressed in simplistic terms. How much context is stuffed into this imbecilic headline? The Plot Against Europe: Putin, Hungary and Russia’s New Iron Curtain. How many thousand words, how many hours to discuss it intelligently? Too late! Time for "Trump and Putin’s Too-Friendly Summit" (NYT 28 June). Forget that! "Sexism at Russia World Cup the worst in history as female fans and broadcasters are harassed". (Telegraph 30 June). Gone! "We already gave Syria to Putin, so what’s left for Trump to say?" (WaPo 5 July) Stop wondering! "Amesbury poisoning: Here's what we know about the novichok victims" (Sky News 6 July). No! Trumputin again! "Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?" (NY Mag 8 July). Gish Gallop. The sheer volume of easily-made accusations forces two conclusions: they're right and you're wrong (smoke: fire) or, more simply, eventually you – you crazy one! – give up.

Their actions do not match their words.

They bomb hospitals on purposewe bomb them by accident. Discussed further here but the essence of the point is that

it would be physically impossible for Russia to be more destructive than NATO is.

If you want a single word to summarize American war-making in this last decade and a half, I would suggest rubble.

They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.

There are direct rewards of course: cue Udo Ulfkotte; many benefits to swimming with the stream; swimming the other way, not so many. It's only after they retire that British generals question the story, the cynic observes. German generals too. Maybe even US generals.

But for the rest of us, NATO bathes us in gush: "NATO’s Enduring Mission – Defending Values, Together"Together, our values: we – you and I – have the good values. NATO loves to praise itself "the Alliance also contributes to peace and stability through crisis management operations and partnerships." Remember Libya? "A model intervention" said the NATO GenSek of the time. Here is the view on the ground. Most of the "migrants" tearing Europe apart are fleeing the destruction of NATO's wars. NATO backs (plus/minus minions) the intervention in Mali, a country destabilised by its destruction of Libya. Cue the positive reinforcement: "Projecting Stability: an agenda for action". In NATOland the gaslight burns bright: "Nato chief: Vladimir Putin 'weaponising' refugee crisis to 'break' Europe". NATO keeps pouring butterscotch sauce on the rubble: "NATO is based on some core values – democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty" (25 June).

All I can say, over and over again, is Libya. NATO destroyed Libya, weird as it was, killed Qaddafi, weird as he was, and smugly congratulated itself: "NATO's Victory in Libya: The Right Way to Run an Intervention". Ubi solitudinum faciunt pacem appelant. But should that thought occur to you, you're part of "Russia's secret plan to destroy EU and NATO".

They know confusion weakens people.

Remember PropOrNot? Sites that do not agree with the Establishment are Russian bots! Authenticated experts! 100% reliable! The WaPo published the list; when under attack even from proponents of the Putindunnit hysteria, it feebly backtracked: it "does not itself vouch for the validity". Vermont power grid hack? WaPo fell for that one too. Confusion from the endless Gish Gallop about Putin: in December 2015 I compiled a number: Aspergers, pychopath, slouching and on and on and on.

You may be confused but the gaslighter isn't: Russia's to blame for whatever-it-was!

They project.

NATO projects all the time and this headline from the NYT is classic: "Russia’s Military Drills Near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression". I discuss NATO's projection here.

They try to align people against you.

NATO exerts a continual pressure for unanimity. Again, the Skripal story is a good example: London accused Russia and, "in solidarity", Russian diplomats were expelled all over the world. Allies took its word for it. Now the doubts: in Germany especially. Sanctions must be imposed on Russia because we must be in solidarity with Kiev. "Solidarity" on migrants. "Solidarity" is perhaps the greatest virtue in NATOland. We will hear more pleas for solidarity as NATO dies: when mere "solidarity" is the only reason left; there's no reason left.

They tell you or others that you are crazy.

It also must be said that when elected officials — including members of Congress — and media platforms amplify propaganda disseminated by Russian trolls, they are aiding the Russians in their efforts.

The goal is to undermine democracy. So you want America to look unstable and Americans not to trust each other.

How Russian Trolls Won American Hearts andMinds

An "existential threat posed by digitally accelerated disinformation". So no forgiveness to you, crazy Putin trolls. And don't dare doubt that American democracy is so feeble that it can be directed by a few Facebook ads. Never forget that NATO's opponents are crazy: Putin is a "madman"; Qaddafi was "crazy"; Saddam Hussein "insane"; Milosevic "rabid". Only crazy people would defend crazy people.

They tell you everyone else is a liar.

Honest people don't have to tell you they're trustworthy, and neither, once upon a time, did the BBC. The Atlantic Council smoothly moves from "Why Is the Kremlin So Fixated on Phantom Fascists?" in May 2017 to "Ukraine’s Got a Real Problem with Far-Right Violence (And No, RT Didn’t Write This Headline)" in June 2018. But it still calls Russia the liar: "Why the Kremlin's Lies Stick" (May 2018). The Atlantic Council hopes you're dumb enough not to notice that Russia hasn't changed its line but the gaslighters have. (Remember O'Brien and two plus two?)

Russian Federation is not the USSR.

I said it the last time: the USSR did lots of things in its time – influencing, fiddling elections, fake news, gaslighting and so on. But, in those days the Communist Party was the "leading and guiding force" but today it's the opposition. Things have changed in Moscow, but NATO rolls on.

Some hope, though.

While many people are still taken in by the gaslighters, there are hopeful signs. Once upon a time Internet versions of the mass media allowed comments. Gradually, one by one, they shut down their comments sections because of "trolls", "fake news" and offended "standards" but really because of disagreement. Perhaps the most famous case is that of the Guardian: an entire website, has been created by people whose comments were rejected because they violated "community standards". I always read the comments in the Daily Mail, especially the best rated, and on the Skripal stories, the comments are very sceptical indeed of the official story. For example.

This is rather encouraging: for gaslighting really to work, the gaslighter either has to be in such a position of power that he can completely control the victim's surroundings or in such a position of authority that the victim cannot imagine doubting what he says. Those days are gone. 


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Laura Loomer retweeted: The anatomy of Fake News @CNN: Step 1: Tweet something implying the President lied or sounds crazy + go viral! Step 2: Make a minor correction almost no one sees. Step 3: Full correction that few people see, Trump was right but don’t apologize. Step 4: Rinse & Repeat liberally.

Q8pV6Nkh_normal.jpg Robby Starbuck
Laura Loomer retweeted:
The anatomy of Fake News @CNN:

Step 1: Tweet something implying the President lied or sounds crazy + go viral!
Step 2: Make a minor correction almost no one sees.
Step 3: Full correction that few people see, Trump was right but don’t apologize.
Step 4: Rinse & Repeat liberally.



Obama "Surprised" At The $20 Million He Made In Washington


Former President Barack Obama told an audience in Johannesburg, South Africa that he's "surprised" by how much money he's made over the years.

"Right now, I'm actually surprised by how much money I got," the ex-commander in chief said while speaking at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Lecture. 

"And let me tell you something — I don't have half as much as most of these folks, or a tenth, or a hundredth," Obama told the crowd, discussed the wealth gap. "There's only so much you can eat ... There's only so big a house you can have. There's only so many nice trips you can take."

We should probably note that money can certainly buy Obama a very big house, such as the 8,200-square-foot Tudor style mansion he bought in Washington's Kalorama neighborhood for $8.1 million.

According to Forbes, the Obamas made $20.5 million between 2005 and 2016 - most of it coming from two book deals for Dreams From My Father and Audacity Of Hope.

The Obamas, who had earned less than $300,000 every year from 2000 to 2004, made an average of $2.4 million annually over the next four years, even before Barack got elected president. -Forbes

Obama then decided it was his duty to comment on the record surge in income and wealth inequality, saying that "There has been an explosion in economic inequality. A few dozen individuals control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity. That's not an exaggeration, that's a statistic. Think about that."

"There has been an explosion in economic inequality. A few dozen individuals control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity. That's not an exaggeration, that's a statistic. Think about that." @BarackObama at the #MandelaLecture #Obama

— Andrew Kimmel (@andrewkimmel) July 17, 2018

Of course, this was ironic because as David Sirota reminded us, Obama "literally twice bailed out Wall Street, you rejected pay caps for execs at bailed out banks, you signed a reauthorization of the Bush tax cuts and you refused to use your unilateral executive authority close the carried interest tax loophole."

Dude, you literally twice bailed out Wall Street, you rejected pay caps for execs at bailed out banks, you signed a reauthorization of the Bush tax cuts and you refused to use your unilateral executive authority close the carried interest tax loophole.

— David Sirota (@davidsirota) July 17, 2018

Obama also offered a wide-ranging rebuke of "a politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment," one day after President Trump made waves during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a lecture in South Africa. Obama warned of "strongman politics are ascending suddenly, whereby elections, some pretense of democracy, are maintained."

Then, without actually naming Trump but clearly referring to him, Obama said we are in "strange and uncertain times" and that "each day's news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines." 

"We see the utter loss of shame in political leaders when they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more," Obama said, warning that undermining facts and reality could "be democracy's undoing."

(We would note that the Obama administration knew full well that the Benghazi attack wasn't sparked by a YouTube video immediately after it happened, then doubled down on that lie when they sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on a press junket to sell the fabrication.) 

Former Pres. Obama: "Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up...we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they're caught in a lie and they just double down"

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 17, 2018

Put off by what Obama called the “messiness of democracy,” developing nations are increasingly turning to the Chinese model of “authoritarian control combined with mercantilist capitalism.” -Politico

Obama then slammed autocratic leaders across the world.

“Democracy depends on strong institutions,” said the former President, who called on people to reject election results where “the winner somehow gets 90 percent of the vote because all of the opposition is locked up or can’t get on TV.”

At the end of Obama's address, he called on young people to take action.

"My message to you is simple," he said. "Keep believing, keep marching, keep building, keep raising your voice."

While Obama has largely remained out of the public eye since leaving the White House, last month we reported that he has been advising potential Democratic contenders for the 2020 US election, including Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Deval Patrick, at his personal office on the third floor of the World Wildlife Building in D.C.'s West End.  

In quietly arranged one-on-one meetings confirmed by Politico, Obama is "eager to be a sounding board and counselor" to the Democrats he thinks has the best chance of shaping the future of the Democratic party. 

Many of the conversations have circled around Obama holding forth about how much Democrats should be heading into the midterms talking about the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election versus focusing on kitchen table issues. Don’t chase the shiny objects, he tells them. Don’t hyperventilate over the flash of any tweet. Think about what’s going to stick in the long term. -Politico

In other words, drop the Russia thing and try to reconnect with your base. As we noted in March, several Democrats see the Trump-Russia investigation as a "running joke," and that Americans are worried about said "kitchen table issues" more than the spectre of Russian involvement in the 2016 US election.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

How Twitter Degrades Discourse and Encourages Distortions: Illustrated by ex-Pentagon Official Ryan Goodman


There are multiple reasons political discourse is degraded by the fact that it now plays out primarily on Twitter, reasons that are inherent in that site’s format and functionality: the elimination of nuance due to space constraints; mob behavior coercing adherence to group-think orthodoxies; the addict-like, insatiable craving for re-tweets and likes which the brain processes as approval and for which it thus produces chemical rewards of ecstasy and a sense of worth; and highly tribalized fiefdoms where it’s remarkably easy to create self-affirming bubbles in which one only hears from from those who affirm, cheer and validate, rather than challenge and dispute, what one believes and what one wishes to believe is true. (I say this not as some above-it-all sociologist magically immune to those dynamics but as someone who uses Twitter as a necessary part of my work and am thus viscerally aware of the lure of those temptations and the challenge to consciously resist them).

But perhaps the most the discourse-degrading feature of Twitter is how it makes deliberate distortions uniquely easy and effective, by enabling the tearing of statements (single tweets) out of their context and, months or years later, imbuing them with a meaning they never had. I am unable to count how many times this has been done to me over the last two years but I’m by no means unique: it’s not an exaggeration to say that – because of the ease with which this is done on Twitter specifically – this has become one of the most preferred means for partisan operatives and pundits to smear others in the never-ending political wars that play out on social media.

I’m going to briefly highlight one that happened last night in part because it comes from a former Obama Pentagon official and current NYU Law Professor, Ryan Goodman, and thus was imbued in the minds of some with the stamp of some sort of authority, but also because it’s such a vivid illustration of this type of distortion, since anyone who has ever heard or read a word I’ve ever uttered (let alone someone such as Goodman who has read my work regularly over the years) will instantly see that the view he attributed to me with an out-of-context tweet is something I have never believed and would never suggest (I realize some are tempted to dismiss all of these sorts of discussions as “trivial Twitter beefs” but “Twitter” is nothing more than the venue in which so much influential political discourse is now conducted; thus, there’s nothing trivial about the systematic abuse of it for dissemination of propaganda and systematic distortions).

Here’s the tweet posted by Professor Goodman last night:

Greenwald vs Greenwald

Glenn (to @chrislhayes) July '17: "The good thing is there's a real prosecutor who will get all docs…make legal judgments based on those"

Glenn (to @MattBors) July '18: Russian Indictment proves nothing, good reason to doubt Mueller#MovingTheGoalposts

— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) July 14, 2018

Goodman’s point here is a simple one and – based on the snippets of information he chose to provide – appears at first glance to be valid, like he caught me in some sort of contradiction. He’s implying that back in July of last year, I told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that, at some point, Robert Mueller is going to tell us all what happened and that we should wait for him to do so before deciding what we believe, but now that Mueller has told us what happened (in the form of the indictment filed on Friday), I’ve now radically changed my view by arguing that indictments are merely prosecutorial assertions presented without evidence and not something we should blindly assume true. (Just in case someone did not understand Goodman’s accusation on their own, he added a helpful hashtag to encourage them to believe I’ve changed my view: “#MovingTheGoalposts”).

Indeed, if you look just at the 24-word tweet-reply of mine from last year that he tore out of its context (which was a long discussion about the validity of “collusion” claims), and then set that single 2017 tweet next to the other short tweet-reply from this week that he also tore out of its context (a long discussion of Mueller’s indictment), they do indeed appear contradictory.

With this tactic, Goodman successfully created the appearance that, last year, I was arguing that we should place blind faith in the pronouncements of Mueller, but now I’ve changed my mind and instead am arguing that Mueller’s claims should be subjected to skepticism and that evidence should be seen before believing them.

But for anyone with the most minimal familiarity with my views as expressed over the last 13 years in journalism and politics – to say nothing of the decade before that practicing law – Goodman’s deceit here is self-evident, requiring no work to explain. Of course I am not someone who ever believed that we should blindly believe a prosecutor‘s assertions on faith, without seeing evidence. Of course I am not someone who ever advocated that we should treat as Gospel whatever claims George W. Bush’s former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, asserts about this matter without being able to evaluate the evidence for ourselves.

No rational person would believe such a manifestly moronic proposition, let alone someone such as me for whom skepticism of institutions of authority, security state officials and prosecutors is a central prong of my journalistic, political and intellectual worldview. The very notion that I once urged people to uncritically accept Mueller’s assertions as true – the crux of Goodman’s tweet – is laughable; just watch the short video I posted in March in order make exactly the opposite point: that Mueller, like any other FBI official or prosecutor, should have his claims not blindly accepted but subjected to great scrutiny:

From George W. Bush's post-9/11 FBI Director and Iraq War advocate to liberal icon symbolizing integrity and salvation, in just one decade. Politics can be very weird:

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 20, 2018

Indeed, I’ve been long actively mocking – not affirming – the very idea that Goodman tried to mislead people into believing I advocated last year: that Mueller’s indictment claims should be accepted as true:

In Bob Mueller we trust. George W. Bush's 9/11 FBI Director is both infallible and above reproach. Once he indicts someone, I don't even think we need a trial – let's just skip to the punishment part.

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 16, 2018

In sum, the view Goodman attributed to me to make his point is literally the exact opposite of the view I’ve spent years vehemently advocating. But realizing this takes a brief moment of reflection, along with a desire to understand the truth.

And Goodman – like all of those who exploit the design of Twitter for this tactic – knows that so many users don’t spend time critically analyzing what they’re told by political allies about political enemies, and have as their main goal political warfare rather than truth-seeking. For that reason, Goodman – who has become one of the online leaders of the Trump/Russia fixation – knew he could get some fleeting social media rewards (re-tweets, applause, gratifying chemical brain reactions from crowd approval) by making me look like I contradicted myself, all by attributing to me a claim that I very obviously have never believed and never suggested and is indeed the exact opposite of my anchor beliefs about the world.

What I obviously meant by the tweet to Hayes that Goodman tore out of context is the same incredibly simple point I’ve been advocating for two years about this topic: that our beliefs about what happened should be shaped by a rational assessment of evidence we can evaluate rather than blind, faith-based trust in the assertions from anonymous CIA officials, security state agencies, and prosecutors. When I told Hayes that it was a good thing that there was now a credible prosecutor with subpoena power, I obviously did not mean that once that prosecutor issues an indictment unaccompanied by evidence that we should all treat it as pronouncements from a deity. What I meant instead, obviously, is that this investigative process will ultimately enable all of us – as journalists, as citizens – to finally see the evidence and make rational judgments about what happened here because, at some point, the process will require that this evidence be disclosed.

My demand this week that a prosecutor’s indictment not be treated as proof – a proposition that, before Trump/Russia mania, was too self-evident to need expressing, especially among lawyers – was so obviously not a contradiction of what I said in 2017, or at any other point in my life, but an affirmation of what I’ve always said and believed. It was an expression of what I’ve been saying over and over since the entire Trump/Russia controversy emerged: that we should only believe claims when there is credible evidence available to assess.

Mueller’s indictment – like most indictments – contains only assertions, not evidence for those assertions. That includes critical assertions such as GRU operatives were responsible for the DNC and Podesta hacking; Mueller has asserted this in the indictment, but presented no evidence for those assertions. No rational person should assume their truth.

In fact, I’m truly ashamed to see journalists, including ones I respect and have worked with, treat Mueller’s indictment as proof, just as I’ve been ashamed by journalistic peers who have treated CIA and DHS assertions as Gospel. Whatever dangers one thinks the Kremlin poses, there are grave dangers from having journalists (of all people) treat the claims of CIA officials and prosecutors as gospel without being able to see the evidence on which those claims are based. Goodman’s attempt to suggest that I once advocated that we should place blind faith in Mueller’s assertions is utterly self-evidently false, but it’s central to his little tweet game.

The problem – one faced by all who are targeted with these kinds of distortion campaigns – is that in order for me to debunk Goodman’s purposeful distortion, I just had to write multiple complex paragraphs that take work to read and process. By contrast, it took Goodman roughly 20 seconds to concoct and disseminate his deceitful summary into a single tweet that is remarkably quick to digest and even quicker and easier to spread with the click of finger.

That’s what Twitter incentivizes and why it’s so toxic: Goodman knows that he can derive instant social media benefits by appearing to vilify someone regarded as a villain by Democratic Party loyalists, and securing those benefits – rather than making any sort of accurate point about inconsistency – is his goal. One of the many ways to know this is what motivated Goodman – and this is really quite sad – is that he employed a somewhat obscure feature on Twitter that allows a user to alert other users with bigger platforms of one of their tweets in the hope of getting greater exposure for them.

Goodman used this feature: he went out of his way to alert one of the internet’s most stalwart Democratic Party loyalists, Josh Marshall, who has a much bigger follower count than Goodman filled with other Democratic loyalists who Goodman knew would spread his tweet. Inside Goodman’s brain, this thought process obviously occurred: If I alert Josh Marshall to this tweet, he’ll probably re-tweet it to his audience of Democratic partisan who hate the person I’m attacking, and I’ll get more re-tweets and more attention that way. This is the level of petty, juvenile craving for crowd approval and tribalistic affirmation that Twitter fosters:

And, needless to say, and just as Goodman hoped, some of the Democratic partisans with the largest platforms instantly re-tweeted his distortion about me and my statements, meaning that tens of thousands of people if not more have seen the tweet and – just as Goodman intended – were misled into believing that, last year, I wanted Mueller’s claims to be uncritically accepted as truth but now I’ve changed my mind (#MovingTheGoalposts).

Over the past two years, I’ve discussed my views of Trump/Russia in dozens, if not hundreds, of lengthy interviews, TV appearances, speeches, podcasts, and articles. If someone like Goodman were genuinely interested in accurately engaging what I have argued and believe, they would use those more substantive, contextual discussions.

By contrast, someone who was interested in securing cheap online applause and smearing people would use a single out-of-context tweet and then purposely attribute to it a belief that I obviously do not hold. That’s one way to know when someone is trying to use Twitter to deceive and smear rather than discuss and inform.

Replies to Goodman’s tweet were predictably filled with claims that I’m a paid Kremlin agent and proto-Trump supporter: the type of following this mentality cultivates. One can’t prevent this sort of deceit, but one can, and should, periodically highlight how it functions and take steps to prevent its efficacy.

To combat exactly this kind of distortion – which has become more common and concerted given the religious-like fixation in the U.S. on Russia and the corresponding need to expel heretics – I’ve compiled in one place my actual views and statements, rather than those commonly misattributed to me. Here, for instance, are the long list of statements I’ve made from the start of this controversy in 2016 (in interviews, articles, etc.) that explicitly acknowledge the possibility that Russia was behind the hacking and expressly urged the need for an investigation into them, but merely demanded evidence before those claims were believed;

Here are statements I made just last week in Moscow, sitting on a panel next to a Russian official, stating explicitly that Russia is not only the victim but also the perpetrator of such online disinformation campaigns:

While we’re at it: here are the statements I made about Trump throughout 2015 and 2016 that disprove the widely circulated accusation that I supported his candidacy. Here are the statements I made about Trump throughout 2016 that give the lie to the claim that I depicted him as a “peace candidate.” Here are the articles I’ve written in 2017 and 2018 that negate the widely circulated claims that I don’t report critically on the Trump administration.

That’s a long record of in-context, developed, substantive statements and articles that express the views I actually hold and have advocated. There is plenty in what I do, say and believe that can be subject to reasonable critique and dispute. That’s why those, like Goodman, who try to attribute to me things I so plainly do not believe – indeed, that are so contrary to my core beliefs about the world – are so transparent in their motives. But Twitter has provided a venue that is uniquely designed to disseminate falsehoods of this sort and to shield them from meaningful refutation, which is why he and those like him use it for that, and why tiresome refutations like this one become necessary.

The post How Twitter Degrades Discourse and Encourages Distortions: Illustrated by ex-Pentagon Official Ryan Goodman appeared first on The Intercept.