Comments Policy at Thrasher's Wheat
(Please Note: The image above illustrates irrefutable evidence of the reality of "Troll Farms". No other inferences are intended or implied.)
Whenever we have a period of high Neil news all sorts of things start happening around Thrasher's Wheat. Traffic surges. Comments go up. Emails explode. Servers slow down.
And these are all somewhat predictable and manageable events. Other events are more troubling. During last year's Living with War meltdown, we pretty much threw in the towel on trying to deal with the onslaught from radical conservative websites which had targeted us and brought the server to its knees.
Now with Neil hitting the road again, it seems that there's a certain element that takes pleasure in bashing all things Neil. If it's not ticket prices or Pegi or using 3 old unreleased songs to fill out an album it's something else. One wonders the purpose of these efforts? We'll provide our theories below.
But first, to the point of this post -- the comments policy at Thrasher's Wheat -- which until recently didn't exist. Anyone could write anything. But we recently gradually began to implement one and some folks are none too pleased. From one of our favorite readers
I guess I'm not really surprised that Thrasher is now censoring what he considers offensive remarks and grammatical faux pas. It was getting a bit loud in here lately for the Neil zombies. They might wake up with all that noise, and then where would the whole Neil myth be?
Amazing that you allowed Chili to post all his neocon trash during the LWW era, but now you're going to start deleting posts with misspellings. Makes one wonder what's really going on here. Is the Neil machine getting pissed now that they're being forced to do things like abort the ill-timed Neil cover story for the unfortunately-named GOLDMINE magazine? (Does that qualify as excessive capitalization? Not to be confused with excessive capitalism.) Is Elliot demanding that you quell the threat$ to commerce? Are you afraid Neilco will cut off your special access? Do you actually believe in the message of the Freedom of Speech tour? Does Neil?
I don't think things have gotten that offensive around here, with the exception of the plate of s*** post. But even that person was obviously sincere, though unnecessarily crude. Where are all these misspellings and excessive !s and capitalization's?
What has happened is that, for once, real legitimate, long-overdue criticism of the legend of Neil Young has surfaced, some satirical, but still legit. You're not saying you're going to quash that, are you?
Are you actually even allowing real anonymous posts here or are you monitoring and commenting on that? What does anonymous actually mean here? Full anonymity or pretend anonymity with winking editorializations?
The answer to most of the above questions is "no". We've allowed ALL of the diverse speech here at Thrasher's Wheat and it's our intention to allow as much of it as we can to continue. Last year we implemented the painful word verification process to help things out. Then we tried moderating comments but that proved to be burdensome and inhibiting the flow of dialog. The next step would be to require registration of all commenters but that would most likely kill off commenting entirely.
So what we did essentially is try and ban a single poster who goes by Chili. There's a loose consensus here that the time had come to make the move. So sorry about that. If Chili stops posting in ALL CAPS and using excessive exclamation points maybe we'll allow them to go through.
Otherwise, we've allowed some pretty obnoxious stuff here in the name of freedom of speech which we whole-heartedly support.
Now as for theories as to what's going on lately and what happened last year during LWW and the CSNY tour. This nastiness is largely due to allowing anonymous posts. And we'll be the first to say that there's a time and place for it. From Forbes Magazine:
"Question this right of Net anonymity and you risk an unmitigated thrashing (anonymously, of course). So maybe we are asking for trouble when we dare to say that Internet anonymity is out of control. Today the Net still protects the abused and the disenfranchised, people who go online for help because they can do so in secret. But it also shields creeps, criminals and pedophiles. It emboldens the mean-spirited and offers them a huge audience for spewing hatred and libel. Caustic cowards are free to one-up one another in invective and vitriol--haters who would tone it down if they had to identify themselves."
Probably nothing surprising with the above if you've been hanging out on the Internets for awhile. Sort of like vandals running around spray painting graffiti on walls.
But why here on a little ol' Neil fan site? I mean don't folks who don't like Neil's music have better things to do? Apparently not. It seems this goes way beyond not liking his music. Hey, what's that sound? Look what's going down.
Take Bruce Springsteen for example. Springsteen has taken a tremendous amount of heat from his fan base for his recent positions on the Iraq war (see Springsteen: Silence Is Unpatriotic, Rocker Answers Critics Who Say He's Unpatriotic). There is a tremendous amount of effort that goes into trying to marginalize artists who take controversial positions.
So might this have something to do with what Neil stands for? This would be the politics of Neil. Starting with calling out Nixon in "Ohio", Neil hasn't been one to play it safe. So now with Neil hitting the road, selling out venues, bringing beautiful music to this wonderfully screwed up world we live in, some folks just can't abide by the notion and they're harshing Thrasher's mellow.
Take the The Rustie's Pledge!
UPDATE 11/9/07: An addendum to this blogs comments policy modified from the Stand and Deliver America blog:
This website is established to generate discussion on topics that are related to Neil Young's music. All that is asked is that you post comments that are civil, do not rely on obscenities to make your point, and that you not post items that are illegal. I have no intention of always agreeing with what is posted, but I will not stop it from being posted. I will not be your censor on this site because I believe that most can censor themselves. It is not my place to deny you your right to free speech on this website just because I do not agree with your opinion. It was once said - I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. That is what this site is for and it is what I believe. For many, at least for now, free speech is still the way we live, and it is what is important in a free society.
One other thing - stupidity is not a crime, and if you do not agree with a person's ideas or opinions, or you think my ideas are not your ideals, then you are free to say so. However, do so with tact and with facts or alternatives, not with negativity. This site is meant to bring people together to find solutions, not battles with each other. Read with an open mind, answer with a reasonable mind, and compassion should be shown to everyone who posts on this site. We are still people with real feelings and beliefs and we deserve respect from others, even those who do not agree with us.
So instead of censorship, this site will practice respect for others, honesty, truth, ideals, and beliefs. All I ask is that everyone who posts here do the same. Then I do not have to act as a censor, not of opinions, but of intolerance and bigotry. Thank you.
Regarding troll comments: **Ignore the Trolls**
Do not validate their comments by completely dissecting their rants. Ridicule them, embarrass them, but do not debate with them or offer any sort of retort to their comments.
It is well known amongst the blogosphere that troll comments are intended simply to disrupt communities as opposed to having a sincere dialogue over differences. We welcome opinion diversity but will not tolerate comments submitted merely to inflame. Sorry, but you'll have to make more of an effort in order not to be banned. And you know who we're talking about.
It is encouraged -- but not required -- that a profile ID account be established for posting comments. Here's how to establish a Google Accounts. This will give you a valid signature for posts. This will better enable us to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Still wonder why we have a comments policy? Watch out. The Internet will cut you - Technotica- msnbc.com
The comment crackdown continues.
Death by moron / Has anonymous commenting destroyed meaningful online dialogue? Oh, hell yes:
Anonymity tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, the meanest and nastiest and least considerate. Something about not having to reveal who you really are caters to the basest, most unkind instincts of the human animal.
No more hiding. No more anonymous cowardice. No more hit-and-run verbal spitwads and avoiding responsibility for what you say. Hey, writers and journalists have been doing it for years, posting our names and email addresses and even photos for the entire world to see. If Web 2.0 means we're now all in this public sphere together, shouldn't I know exactly who you are, too? Shouldn't everyone?
Snark: the language of losers - AmyTuteurMD - Open Salon
This exchange with Robin (Bonn, Germany) where she challenges the intention's of the deletion of negative Neil views sums up the situation pretty well. And
our response on why we delete.
Due to ongoing trouble-makers, unregistered/unsigned comments that are negatively unsubstantiated will be deleted with prejudice.
Adapted from Tara Stiles: Zen And The Art Of Social Networking:
Ok, now that we've all been diagnosed with social networking rage it's time to do something about it. Let's get acquainted/reacquainted with the Yamas and Niyamsas, often referred to as the 10 Commandments of Yoga. They are the ethical precepts described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as the first and second of the eight limbs of yoga. So basically we are supposed to pay attention to these before we do any downward dogging or social networking for that matter. Having proper ethics will rid us of stress, addiction, and madness, and also classy up your image.
Yamas: Precepts of Social Discipline
Ahimsa: Non-violence. Not harming other people, oneself, or the environment. Not speaking that which, even though truthful, would injure others.
Social Network translation: When snarked or trolled, resist the urge to smack back. Step away from your mobile device and take 5 deep breaths.
Satya: Truthfulness. Note that sometimes we may know our words are literally true, but do not convey what we know to be truthful. Satya means not intending to deceive others in our thoughts, as well as our words and actions.
Social Network translation: Stop thinking because you held restraint from calling out childish acts that you are "so much better than them now." Let it go.
Social Network Application: If you feel like you have a problem, you probably do. Think about it and work it out.
Social Network Application: How many comments have you blogged? Think about shifting your social networking toward a purpose, other than serving and entertaining yourself.
Here are the ground rules:
1. Be yourself. A nickname will be used for posts, but if the editor finds a user without a verifiable name, that user will be warned or banned.
2. Keep it clean. Foul language (defined by prime-time standards) will not be tolerated. Neither will the intentional misspelling of foul language or the use of non-English curse words.
3. Be truthful. Do not lie or link to sites that may be considered libelous, defamatory or false.
4. Be nice. Don't harass anyone. Don't threaten anyone. Don't use racial slurs. Don't post anything sexually explicit.
5. Be an individual. Do not advertise or solicit. Do not harvest any information for business use.
6. Be original. Do not post copyrighted material.
7. Follow the law. Don't do anything or post anything considered illegal by city, county, state or federal regulations and laws.
UPDATE: 7/24/09: Is deleting comments from my blog censorship?:
"Let's start by defining our terms. Here's a simple definition of censorship for us to work with: 'The practice of suppressing a text or part of a text that is considered objectionable according to certain standards.'
If you host a party at your office and someone comes in off the street, spouting obscenities and saying comments that are patently offensive to the rest of the participants, should you ask that person to leave? Of course you should. That's because they're violating the standards of behavior expected of people at a business party or other social event. Of course, those standards are going to vary based on the group too, so a clique of rough and tumble bikers or street gang members is going to have a very different set of behavioral standards than the symphony society tea, but in both cases, there is a definite expectation of acceptable behavior."
To summarize, deleting comments from our blog is not censorship or suppressing your freedom of speech rights.
Don't like our policy? Then start your own blog.
UPDATE: 8/14/09: Adapted from Huffington Post
We only delete those comments that include the following transgressions:
• are abusive, off-topic, use excessive foul language
• include ad hominem attacks including comments that celebrate the death or illness of any person, public figure or otherwise
• thread spamming (you've posted this same comment elsewhere on the site
• are posted with the explicit intention of provoking other commenters or the editor of Thrasher's Wheat.
UPDATE: 9/30/09: Adapted from Daily Kos: Community Trust:
Every community, it goes without saying, is built on trust - and nowhere is this more true than online. In the digital realm, where you can't see and seldom know the people you're interacting with, being able to trust the folks on the other end of the line is of the utmost importance. We need to know, as best we are able, that people are who they say they are, that they mean what they say, and that they have the community's best interests at heart.
Conversely, pretense, hidden agendas, and fabrications can do great damage to a place like this. Without a basic level of trust, an online community loses its credibility, its cohesiveness, and its influence. Both the administrators and the users of this site understand this well, and it's why we all spend as much time as we do trying hard to preserve the trust we've built here.
Because of this fundamental need to maintain trust, in the musical blogosphere, we hold musicians and fans to the highest of standards and we expect nothing but total scrupulousness.
When a fan or musician violates this trust, it's an abuse of our entire community and cannot be allowed to stand.
It is our policy to ban those who create sockpuppet identities. This is a lesson to anyone - contemplating something similar. We will remain eternally vigilant in policing this site. We will not tolerate this kind of behavior. And we will do everything in our power to ensure that the trust which animates this site remains unbroken.
UPDATE: 11/1/09: Adapted from Washington Post - "Listening to the Dot-Comments" by Doug Feaver:
I am writing in defense of the anonymous, unmoderated, often appallingly inaccurate, sometimes profane, frequently off point and occasionally racist reader comments that Thrasher's Wheat allows to be published at the end of articles and blogs.
I have come to think that online comments are a terrific addition to the conversation and that Neil Young fans need to take them seriously. Comments provide a forum for fans to complain about what they see as unfairness or inaccuracy in an article (and too often they have a point), to talk to each other (sometimes in an uncivilized manner) and, yes, to bloviate.
Comments are automatically posted without prior review by Thrasher's Wheat. If readers complain about a specific comment, it is reviewed and then removed if it violates published Thrasher's Wheat standards.
But the bigger problem with Thrasher's Wheat comment policy, many fans have told me, is that the comments are anonymous. Anonymity is what gives cover to bashers, trolls and others to say inappropriate things without having to say who they are.
I believe that it is useful to be reminded bluntly that the dark forces are out there and that it is too easy to forget that truth by imposing rules that obscure it. As Oscar Wilde wrote in a different context, "Man is least in himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
Too many of us like to think that we have made great progress in human relations and that little remains to be done. Unmoderated comments provide an antidote to such ridiculous conclusions. It's not like the rest of us don't know those words and hear them occasionally, depending on where we choose to tread, but most of us don't want to have to confront them.
UPDATE: 12/27/09: Adapted from Climate Progress:
"Those who have been duped by the Neil misinformers endeavor to take over the comments section. Where they are allowed to do so, they ruin it for everyone else. Thrasher's Wheat has a long-standing policy of (generally) not allowing people to repeat long-debunked disinformation, since it requires me or my tireless readers to waste valuable time debunking it. The other choice, ignoring it, is not really an option because on any given day, a large number of people are visiting for the first time and if there is disinformation that is not debunked, they might assume the author and readers are accepting it as true. But sometimes I think it worthwhile to let the anti-Neil crowd have at it, just so everyone else can see what we are up against — and that leads to posts with lots of comments."
This policy above was supported by a reader who wrote [adapted]:
I have never been a censorship advocate, but my own experience writing, and especially whenever I (or other writers at that site) have used certain keywords (like "Hope Neil Young will remember, Southern man don't need him around anyhow"), the anti-Neil-traffic that pours in to attack based on google searches of that keyword does make it a temptation…
You are quite right. Writing is an educational opportunity. If you let the other side have yet another outlet for their dangerous disinformation (and ensuing misinformation), you only draw closer our shared doom at their hands.
I think, in any other matter, I would not support censoring stupidity. But, about truth, love & justice, its immoral not to. I’m sure that relatively educated but uninvolved Lynyrd Skynyrd readers were successfully turned into anti-Neil fans by the comment section there in exactly the way you describe: assuming that that the anti-Neil viewpoint is just another opinion, with equal validity.
UPDATE: 12/30/09: “While I am a rabid free speech supporter, your natural right to self expression does not require me to publish your opinion and spend bandwidth and resources doing so.” [via]
UPDATE: 1/3/10: Just a reminder that the mission of this site is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Egregious chaff will be deleted.
UPDATE: 2/3/10:New York Times Policy on Anonymous Sources : Guidelines on Integrity
UPDATE: 5/1/10:The Pathology of Trolls | Webupon:
The adult who feels powerless grasps the opportunity to use the anonymity of the Internet to create an all powerful avatar who can attack others with impunity.
With very low self images, Trolls experience that rush of control when they, who are afraid to tell their neighbor to turn down his radio, can spew invective with impunity.
No matter what the response, it is a response. One can be more insulting, threatening, it doesn’t matter. The response, any response is what their pathology requires.
As Trolls are cowards, they run in packs. It is rare to see a single troll. They take strength from each other. They delude themselves into believing they are in the majority and their views are shared by ’everyone’.
Trolling is the sad attempt at self validation, just as taking drugs, trolling emands more and more to feed the addiction that props up low self-esteem.
‘Deindividualization’ is a term social psychologists use to explain the reduction in the sense of one’s own identity. In online communication the Troll is distant from the victim and prone to aggressive behaviour.
There is some amount of sadism in the psyche of Trolls and that hint of Asperger’s syndrome, where they can not feel remorse for their actions.
UPDATE 6/1/2010 : We try and make Thrasher's Wheat a special place. We strive to maintain a high signal to noise ratio in our comment threads. Short, unengaging comments, or comments that are off topic, are likely to be deleted without notice. (to be clear--engaging, on point humor and levity, more than welcome.)
We are trying to perform a service to the Neil Young community here to coordinate fans who know their stuff with other people who want to learn about Neil's music. Promotion of that ideal will be the criteria by which we make our decisions about what stays and what goes.
Flame wars, polemic exchanges, and other content deleterious to the community will be removed, either by the editor or by the community through its consensus moderation process.
UPDATE: 7/1/10: From The definitive guide to Trolls - Ubuntu Forums:
An 'Internet troll' or 'Forum Troll' is a person who posts outrageous message to bait people to answer. Trolls delight in sowing discord on the forums. A troll is someone who inspires flaming rhetoric, someone who is purposely provoking and pulling people into flaming discussion. Flaming discussions usually end with name calling and a flame war.
A classic troll tries to make us believe that he is a skeptic. He is divisive and argumentative with need-to-be-right attitude, 'searching for the truth', flaming discussion, and sometimes insulting people or provoking people to insult him. A troll is usually an expert in reusing the same words of its opponents and in turning it against them.
While he tries to present himself as a skeptic looking for truth ... his messages usually sound as if it is the responsibility of other forum members to provide evidence that what forum is all about is legitimate.
]He (and in at least 90% of cases it is he) tries to start arguments and upset people.
Sometimes, he is skeptical, trying to scare people, trying to plant fear in their hearts. Sometimes, Internet troll is trying to spin conflicting information, is questioning in an insincere manner, flaming discussion, insulting people, turning people against each other, harassing forum members, ignoring warnings from forum moderators.
Trolling is a form of harassment that can take over a discussion. Well meaning defenders can create chaos by responding to trolls. The best response is to ignore it, or to report a message to a forum moderator. Ubuntuforums moderators usually move troll messages to the jail and may even ban trolls after a few unheeded warnings. Negative emotions stirred up by trolls leak over into other discussions. Normally affable people can become bitter after reading an angry interchange between a troll and his victims, and this can poison previously friendly interactions between long-time users.
Finally, trolls create a paranoid environment, such that a casual criticism by a new arrival can elicit a ferocious and inappropriate backlash.
When trolls are completely ignored they sometimes step up their attacks, desperately seeking the attention they crave. Their messages become more and more foul, and they post ever more of them. Alternatively, they may protest that their right to free speech is being curtailed. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for a moderator is deciding whether to take steps against a troll that a few people find entertaining. Some trolls do have a creative spark and have chosen to squander it on being disruptive. There is a certain perverse pleasure in watching some of them. Ultimately, though, we have to decide if the troll actually cares about putting on a good show for the regular participants, or is simply playing to an audience of one -- himself. For this reason the staff here often intervene, either with a warning in a thread, jailing one or more posts, sending private messages to offenders, and even banning people--temporarily or permanently--from these forums.
As an idea, the next time you see a post by somebody whom you think is a troll, and you feel you must reply, maybe you could just write a follow-up message in the thread entitled 'Troll Alert' and type something like this:
The only way to deal with trolls is to limit your reaction and not to respond to trolling messages. It is well known that most people don't read messages that nobody responds to, while 99% of forum visitors first read the longest and the largest threads with the most answers.
UPDATE: 7/1/10: From How to deal with trolls:
"If you remove a post, aren't you preventing free speech?
When troll behavior is removed from the community, the trolls frequently complain that their right to free speech is being infringed upon. Discussion boards are by design a forum for open communication, a place where the community is encouraged to freely discuss its opinions. IMDb staff will only remove troll posts when they become disruptive to open communication.
When a troll floods a message board with so many posts that they actually drown out the normal conversation, he is actually silencing the voice of a majority of the community members. When a troll continually turns the conversation to focus on his point of view, he is preventing the rest of the members of the community from expressing their own.
The goal of the IMDb discussion boards is to provide an open discussion forum for all members of our community. When a user or a user's post actually impedes open discussion, the moderator will ask the user to take their comments elsewhere.
UPDATE: 7/14/10: From How to Spot a Message Board Troll | eHow.com:
Examine the pattern of message board posts to see if the user knows more about the message board than a new user ('newbie') should know. Does the suspected troll mention events that happened long before their join date? If so, be suspicious.
Look at the suspected troll's user name. If it seems to allude to a past even or other user's identity, watch out. This can be a big clue in spotting a message board troll.
Go to the suspected troll's member profile, and read his or her past threads and posts. If they all seem negative or about a thread that happened before joining, that is a huge red flag. If so, that's a big clue you're dealing with a troll.
Ask the suspected troll lots of questions on the message board. Eventually he or she will trip up, and he will say something that is inconsistent with the persona they've created.
Call the troll out. Start a new thread in the most-trafficked area of the message board, and be ready with your suspicions, links to posts where the troll is inconsistent, and start a 'flame' on the suspected troll.
Ask an administrator to do an 'IP check' if the suspected troll denies being a troll. IP cross-checks can show whether two different users come from the same IP address. Some message board administrators will do this for you.
Search in a search engine for the troll's user name. You may find other message boards where he or she posts, and find good evidence to use to flush him or her out. Many trolls aren't creative, and reuse the same user name.
Put the troll on 'ignore' if the board has that feature, and just don't respond to his or her posts.
UPDATE: 7/14/10: From Conversation Hackers:
"'Just consider how terrible the day of your death will be. Others will go on speaking and you won't be able to argue back' - Ram Mohun Roy
Thrasher's Wheat does not own your comments and we expressly disclaim any and all liability that may result from them. By commenting on our site, you agree that you retain all ownership rights in what you post here and that you will relieve us from any and all liability that may result from those postings.
UPDATE: 7/16/10: From Inside the mind of the anonymous online poster - The Boston Globe:
The raging commentary on Obama’s aunt is a microcosm of the thorny problem many websites are grappling with right now over what to do with anonymous comments. At many of these sites, executives have begun to ask themselves: How did we get into this thicket, and is there a sensible way out? But a more basic question needs to be answered first: Who are these people who spend so much of their days posting anonymous comments, and what is motivating them?
"Maybe the best approach to getting people to behave better online is just reminding them how easy it is to figure out who they really are.
UPDATE: 8/2/10: From
Why I like vicious, anonymous online comments - Internet Culture - Salon.com BY MATT ZOLLER SEITZ:
Whatever the policy, the intention is always the same: to make it possible for substantive discussion to occur in comments threads, unimpeded by a constant flow of illiterate and often mindlessly provocative brain farts, many of them TYPED IN CAPITAL LETTERS and punctuated with childish ad hominem attacks. The logic behind this cleanup effort is basic, its animating truth self-evident: If a person's real name and/or ISP address were emblazoned across the top of every comment he or she left, the Internet would become more sane, wise and decent overnight.
But for all the downsides of comments-thread anonymity, there's a major upside: It shows us the American id in all its snaggletoothed, pustulent glory, with a transparency that didn't exist before the Internet. And in its rather twisted way, that's a public service.
Whenever a website publicly debates whether to keep allowing anonymous comments or start aggressively moderating (or instituting a more elaborate sign-in process), people in the comments thread beneath the announcement rail against it. Their logic is often some variant of, "Making people leave comments under their own names, or otherwise trying to verify their identities, restricts free speech and discourages lively debate." Maybe that's true -- if by "restricts" you mean, "requires that people take responsibility for," and if by "lively debate" you mean, "the impulse to act like a swine or a fool."
Restricting or eliminating anonymity discourages gratuitous jerk behavior, just as the invention of caller ID turned prank phone calls into nostalgic memory. Ninety-nine percent of arguments against anonymous commenting are self-serving rationalizations. Few commenters desire anonymity because their sentiments urgently need and deserve protection. Chances are they're not blowing the whistle on a corrupt boss or a murderous government or going against the grain of their hidebound company or expressing philosophies that are truly heretical. More likely they're people who in daily life get argued with, shut out, stepped on or otherwise treated with less than the reverence they believe they deserve. So they wade into comments sections to act out power fantasies -- the righteous truth-telling antihero, the schoolyard bully, the class clown -- with some assurance that their wife or mom or kids won't find out and ask, "What on earth is wrong with you?"
And yet anonymous comments -- all of them, even the written equivalent of high-speed drive-by shootings -- serve a useful function. They show us what the species is really like: the full spectrum of human behavior, not just the part that we find reassuring and enlightening.
When a person comments anonymously, we’re told, they're putting a mask on. But the more time I spend online the more I'm convinced that this analogy gets it backward.
The self that we show in anonymous comments, the fantasy self, the self we see in the mirror when we fantasize about being tough and strong and feared, the face we would present to the world if there were no such thing as consequences: That’s the real us.
The civil self is the mask.
UPDATE: 8/3/10: From Cyber Terrorism Ring Revealed: A Case Study In The Depths Of Depravity | NEWS JUNKIE POST:
"Below is an extreme example of behavior on YouTube that goes well beyond cyber bullying, and could very easily more appropriately be labeled cyber terror. Extreme taunting of an only child who lost his mother, rape victims, and suicidal teens has no place in the world in this editor’s opinion, and the anonymity of the internet is no excuse. In a world where people refuse to speak out against such depravity (regardless of political ideology), it is allowed to flourish, and has very real-world consequences.
Watch the video [linked], it is an eye opener.
UPDATE: 8/9/10: So why do we so zealously protect the integrity of Anonymous comments? There are a number of reasons cited above, but essentially it serves as protection from the vast dis-information campaigns that are being waged across the internet in order to hide the truth and advance false agendas.
From A Vast Right-Wing Digg Conspiracy Expose Shows JournoList Scandal to Be a Lot of Conservative Hot Air | Media and Culture | AlterNet:
"[there is] a clear-cut right-wing online media conspiracy. Members of the Digg Patriots operated anonymously and did not publicly disclose their coordinated effort to crush progressive stories as part of a broad, conservative ideological agenda.
A group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives.
[Digg Patriots] embarked on a campaign to ban progressive Digg readers from the site by instigating petty online disputes with them [in an attempt to get them to say something that violates the Terms of Service.].
There are a few differences of opinion within Digg Patriots, although for the most part, they are extremely similar in perspective.
They hate Obama. They hate progressives. They hate the UN, diplomacy, and peace/disarmament efforts. They hate reforms of health care, Wall St., and immigration. They hate science, in fact many are creationists, and some even blog about it. They hate the secular nature of our nation. They hate environmental protection, requiring polluters to be responsible for their own cleanup, and especially hate climate efforts. They hate unions and any attempt to level the playing field to give all Americans economic opportunities. They hate the government, except the military-industrial complex. They hate abortion rights. They hate public schools and really hate higher education. They hate anyone in the media except far right personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin. They hate anyone who doesn’t think Obama is a secret islamist and/or marxist who was born in Kenya. They just love to hate."
UPDATE: 8/25/10: Some trolls go to extreme lengths to mask multiple identies. From Think Progress » Meet Bruce Majors: The Tea Partier Troll:
TPM’s Troll Watch reported that Majors (troll) has also conducted “direct e-mail harassment and identity theft against liberals,” using stolen screen names to harass commentors on blogs he has been banned from. Indeed, he is the subject of several threads on online forums warning about his harassment, and he reportedly told one woman who accused him of using multiple screen names to hide his identity, “you silly facist bitch. Do not tell me what screen name I can use or what I am free to say.”
UPDATE: 8/26/10: Just to re-iterate to anyone still reading this. The name of this site is NOT Thrasher's Chaff. Folks come here to read the best there is about Neil & music.
TW's mission is "all wheat, all the time".
From The flying Scotsman
Thrasher, I think in many ways the style with which you write stuff on here is primarily what encourages people to argue about it. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it sounds like you're actually trying to bait people into arguing even if they essentially agree with you. That, paired with your obvious desire to defend everything Neil does (especially when it doesn't need defending!), is going to get on some peoples nerves and they may very well vent that on your blog. I like what you do here, but all I'm saying is - respect others opinions and they are more likely to respect you. Obviously there will be some who just want to be nasty, in which case why don't you just ignore them?
The flying Scotsman.
At 8/14/2010 02:51:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...
@The flying Scotsman:
Thank you for the thoughts. it's appreciated.
In all the years, we've been doing this, your comment is the first we can recall quite like this. We mean that in a good way.
For the most part, our feedback is in 2 polar opposite extremes. A) Thrasher you're a pompous arrogant Neil-know-it-all asshole. or B) TW is a great resource that is a labor of love and can't thank you enough for separating so much wheat from so much chaff.
There's not too much nuance in between like yours.
That said, our response to A above is that we get an unbelievable amount of hate mail for what seems to us like a rather benign topic -- Neil Young News.
So as we're trashing comments, filtering junk/hate mail and trying to blog simulataneously while bumping along with a handheld wedged into a subway car, things can get a bit mixed up between reacting to hate & spreading Neil love. So it does tend to get a bit schizophrenic sometimes.
Such a time is this.
A charity benefit tour generates huge amounts of disgust. Neil sells out to Guitar Hero. You name it, we're on the front lines of everyone's bitterness.
Like we've said before. We don't work for Neil or have any official affiliation whatsoever. We're just a fan like you.
And we're constantly puzzled by how some seem to feel that they're venting on TW makes a difference to Neil.
That said, we have seen comments on this blog directly shift Neil. Like the Harvest Moon requests or NYA MP3's.
The first example came from the heart. The 2nd, not so sure.
Anyways, the point is that TW is kinda like this giant echo chamber/house of mirrors where it's sometimes is hard to put your finger on which way the wind is blowin' my friend.
Obviously, there are clearly folks here who love to stir things up.
And to your point, we actually welcome & love a spirited debate. But we've laid out our Comments Policy pretty clearly.
Regarding the Gulf Gigs & Tysons & factory farms fiasco, it is absolutely ludicrous that we stifle debate. look at those comments. They ran 5 to 1 negative on the subject of Gulf Aid. Nobody's free speech was infringed. But yes we do trash gratuitous slander, juvenile snark, and other misbehavior. No apologies there.
But if our tone is off at times, please try and understand the volume we're dealing with here and the precious few moments each day we have to devote to this little blog.
FWIW, we've run this website for 14 years and blogged virtually daily since 2003. 7 years straight. Are we tired? hell yeah. Do we think about quitting? everyday.
But we don't because we know that the vast majority -- similar to Neil's FB comments -- love & appreciate Neil's music. it keeps us going too and tries not to bring us down.
Cause it's only castles burnin' my friend.
peace & love
Due to the recent troubles, all commenting now requires a registered ID using an OpenID or a Google Account to provide a validated signature.
Kingwood Underground - the heart and soul of our Kingwood, Texas family:
November 29, 2010
Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt
By JULIE ZHUO
Palo Alto, Calif.
THERE you are, peacefully reading an article or watching a video on the Internet. You finish, find it thought-provoking, and scroll down to the comments section to see what other people thought. And there, lurking among dozens of well-intentioned opinions, is a troll.
“How much longer is the media going to milk this beyond tired story?” “These guys are frauds.” “Your idiocy is disturbing.” “We’re just trying to make the world a better place one brainwashed, ignorant idiot at a time.” These are the trollish comments, all from anonymous sources, that you could have found after reading a CNN article on the rescue of the Chilean miners.
Trolling, defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums, is a problem as old as the Internet itself, although its roots go much farther back. Even in the fourth century B.C., Plato touched upon the subject of anonymity and morality in his parable of the ring of Gyges.
That mythical ring gave its owner the power of invisibility, and Plato observed that even a habitually just man who possessed such a ring would become a thief, knowing that he couldn’t be caught. Morality, Plato argues, comes from full disclosure; without accountability for our actions we would all behave unjustly.
This certainly seems to be true for the anonymous trolls today. After Alexis Pilkington, a 17-year-old Long Island girl, committed suicide earlier this year, trolls descended on her online tribute page to post pictures of nooses, references to hangings and other hateful comments. A better-known example involves Nicole Catsouras, an 18-year-old who died in a car crash in California in 2006. Photographs of her badly disfigured body were posted on the Internet, where anonymous trolls set up fake tribute pages and in some cases e-mailed the photos to her parents with subject lines like “Hey, Daddy, I’m still alive.”
Psychological research has proven again and again that anonymity increases unethical behavior. Road rage bubbles up in the relative anonymity of one’s car. And in the online world, which can offer total anonymity, the effect is even more pronounced. People — even ordinary, good people — often change their behavior in radical ways. There’s even a term for it: the online disinhibition effect.
Many forums and online communities are looking for ways to strike back. Back in February, Engadget, a popular technology review blog, shut down its commenting system for a few days after it received a barrage of trollish comments on its iPad coverage.
Many victims are turning to legislation. All 50 states now have stalking, bullying or harassment laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication. Last year, Liskula Cohen, a former model, persuaded a New York judge to require Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who she felt had defamed her, and she has now filed a suit against the blogger. Last month, another former model, Carla Franklin, persuaded a judge to force YouTube to reveal the identity of a troll who made a disparaging comment about her on the video-sharing site.
But the law by itself cannot do enough to disarm the Internet’s trolls. Content providers, social networking platforms and community sites must also do their part by rethinking the systems they have in place for user commentary so as to discourage — or disallow — anonymity. Reuters, for example, announced that it would start to block anonymous comments and require users to register with their names and e-mail addresses in an effort to curb “uncivil behavior.”
Some may argue that denying Internet users the ability to post anonymously is a breach of their privacy and freedom of expression. But until the age of the Internet, anonymity was a rare thing. When someone spoke in public, his audience would naturally be able to see who was talking.
Others point out that there’s no way to truly rid the Internet of anonymity. After all, names and e-mail addresses can be faked. And in any case many commenters write things that are rude or inflammatory under their real names.
But raising barriers to posting bad comments is still a smart first step. Well-designed commenting systems should also aim to highlight thoughtful and valuable opinions while letting trollish ones sink into oblivion.
The technology blog Gizmodo is trying an audition system for new commenters, under which their first few comments would be approved by a moderator or a trusted commenter to ensure quality before anybody else could see them. After a successful audition, commenters can freely post. If over time they impress other trusted commenters with their contributions, they’d be promoted to trusted commenters, too, and their comments would henceforth be featured.
Disqus, a comments platform for bloggers, has experimented with allowing users to rate one another’s comments and feed those ratings into a global reputation system called Clout. Moderators can use a commenter’s Clout score to “help separate top commenters from trolls.”
At Facebook, where I’ve worked on the design of the public commenting widget, the approach is to try to replicate real-world social norms by emphasizing the human qualities of conversation. People’s faces, real names and brief biographies (“John Doe from Lexington”) are placed next to their public comments, to establish a baseline of responsibility.
Facebook also encourages you to share your comments with your friends. Though you’re free to opt out, the knowledge that what you say may be seen by the people you know is a big deterrent to trollish behavior.
This kind of social pressure works because, at the end of the day, most trolls wouldn’t have the gall to say to another person’s face half the things they anonymously post on the Internet.
Instead of waiting around for human nature to change, let’s start to rein in bad behavior by promoting accountability. Content providers, stop allowing anonymous comments. Moderate your comments and forums. Look into using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on your site. Ask your users to report trolls and call them out for polluting the conversation.
In slowly lifting the veil of anonymity, perhaps we can see the troll not as the frightening monster of lore, but as what we all really are: human.
UPDATE 3/3/11: From Corporate-Funded Online 'Astroturfing' Is More Advanced and More Automated Than You Might Think | Media | AlterNet:
Every month more evidence piles up, suggesting that online comment threads and forums are being hijacked by people who aren’t what they seem to be. The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns, which create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. This deception is most likely to occur where the interests of companies or governments come into conflict with the interests of the public.
UPDATE 3/9/11: From Denier-bots live! Why are online comments’ sections over-run by the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd? « Climate Progress regarding the development of denier-bots in the HBGary security firm scandal:
creating an army of sockpuppets, with sophisticated “persona management” software that allows a small team of only a few people to appear to be many, while keeping the personas from accidentally cross-contaminating each other. Then, to top it off, the team can actually automate some functions so one persona can appear to be an entire Brooks Brothers riot online.
Persona management entails not just the deconfliction of persona artifacts such as names, email addresses, landing pages, and associated content. It also requires providing the human actors technology that takes the decision process out of the loop when using a specific persona. For this purpose we custom developed either virtual machines or thumb drives for each persona. This allowed the human actor to open a virtual machine or thumb drive with an associated persona and have all the appropriate email accounts, associations, web pages, social media accounts, etc. pre-established and configured with visual cues to remind the actor which persona he/she is using so as not to accidentally cross-contaminate personas during use.
And all of this is for the purposes of infiltration, data mining, and (here’s the one that really worries me) ganging up on bloggers, commenters and otherwise “real” people to smear enemies and distort the truth.
This is an excerpt from one of the Word Documents, which was sent as an attachment by Aaron Barr, CEO of HB Gary’s Federal subsidiary, to several of his colleagues to present to clients:
To build this capability we will create a set of personas on twitter, blogs, forums, buzz, and myspace under created names that fit the profile (satellitejockey, hack3rman, etc). These accounts are maintained and updated automatically through RSS feeds, retweets, and linking together social media commenting between platforms. With a pool of these accounts to choose from, once you have a real name persona you create a Facebook and LinkedIn account using the given name, lock those accounts down and link these accounts to a selected # of previously created social media accounts, automatically pre-aging the real accounts.
Yes!!! That’s how democracy and the first amendment are supposed to work.
In another Word document, one of the team spells out how automation can work so one person can be many personas:
Using the assigned social media accounts we can automate the posting of content that is relevant to the persona. In this case there are specific social media strategy website RSS feeds we can subscribe to and then repost content on twitter with the appropriate hashtags. In fact using hashtags and gaming some location based check-in services we can make it appear as if a persona was actually at a conference and introduce himself/herself to key individuals as part of the exercise, as one example. There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas
I don’t know about you, but this concerns me greatly. It goes far beyond the mere ability for a government stooge, corporation or PR firm to hire people to post on sites like this one. They are talking about creating the illusion of consensus. And consensus is a powerful persuader. What has more effect, one guy saying BP is not at fault? Or 20 people saying it? For the weak minded, the number can make all the difference.
UPDATE 3/17/11: From Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media | Technology | The Guardian:
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.
The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.
Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.
Centcom confirmed that the $2.76m contract was awarded to Ntrepid, a newly formed corporation registered in Los Angeles. It would not disclose whether the multiple persona project is in operation or discuss any related contracts.
Persona management by the US military would face legal challenges if it were turned against citizens of the US, where a number of people engaged in sock puppetry have faced prosecution.
Last year a New York lawyer who impersonated a scholar was sentenced to jail after being convicted of "criminal impersonation" and identity theft.
From America's absurd stab at systematising sock puppetry
The US has a chance to move on from a history of clandestine foreign policy – instead it acts like a clumsy spammer by Jeff Jarvis:
The US government's plan to use technology to create and manage fake identities for social interaction with terrorists is as appalling as it is amusing. It's appalling that in this era of greater transparency and accountability brought on by the internet, the US of all countries would try to systematise sock puppetry.
It's appallingly stupid, for there's little doubt that the fakes will be unmasked.
The net result of that will be the diminution, not the enhancement, of American credibility.
But the effort is amusing as well, for there is absolutely no need to spend millions of dollars to create fake identities online. Any child or troll can do it for free. Millions do. If the government insists on paying, it can use salesforce.com to monitor and join in chats. There is no shortage of social management tools marketers are using to find and mollify or drown out complainers. There's no shortage of social-media gurus, either.
Tools are quite unnecessary, though. Just get yourself a fake email account, Uncle Sam, and you can create and manage anonymous and pseudonymous identities across most any social service.
UPDATE 5/31/11: MODIFIED from
Comment here on comments | ThinkProgress:
Obviously, a major reason for the success of this blog has been the terrific commenters here, many of whom are actively involved in Neil Young Nation and around the world. They provide unique insight as well as the fastest posting of news and links anywhere in the Neil blogosphere.
A key reason that the comments section works is my long-standing policy of not allowing the anti-Neil disinformers to overwhelm it as they do with many if not most of the comments sections around the web.
Readers know that the Neil disinformers work overtime to squelch real discussion.
That was most clearly shown in 2009 when Fork in the Road Reviews went overwhelmingly negative in what appeared to be a concerted campaign with nearly verbatim language appearing in a variety of comments.
Yes, the Neil disinformers can’t stomach even a couple of fans posting reasonable comments about an error-riddled comments from Neil bashers. They must marshall their negative accomplices to “shout them down in the comments section.
In any case, disinformation is wildly overrepresented on the blogosphere (and elsewhere). As I’ve said many times, if I simply allow disinformation that has been long-debunked in the Neil literature and elsewhere to be posted, then it forces me to either waste time debunking it for umpteenth time — or allow the disinformation to go unanswered and thus mislead anyone who comes here and isn’t a regular reader of the Neil blogosphere.
UPDATE 6/19/11: MODIFIED fromGay Girl in Damascus hoax shouldn’t spoil online anonymity - The Washington Post by Melissa Bell and Elizabeth Flock:
Anonymous comments, which can be a miasma of profane, inaccurate and controversial rants, are often used as the prime example of why we need more authenticity online.
As bloggers, we are greeted with the joys of anonymous comments every day. “Take your ignorance back to India,” “learn to read you jerk” and “what dribble” are just some of the more printable sweet nothings that anonymous commenters whisper under our posts.
Yet, at the same time, Neil fans who read our work have told us that they would be unable to contribute to the intelligent debates that often take place in the comments section with their real names out of fear of losing their friendships among their fellow neil fans.
Beyond the hand-wringing over this past week’s deceptions, the Web itself already imperils anonymity. While the Internet offers plenty of ways to mask identity, it also makes it easy to trace people. For instance, though Anonymous commenters carefully cover their footprints, we *COULD* to find them (if we chose to bother) — on a Yahoo message board Rust, through their I.P. address, via Facebook profile and their friends postings.
In other cases, digital evidence has led repressive message boards to clamp down on writers. A founder of the blogging movement in Iran, Hossein Derakhshan wrote extensively about his country. At his trial last year, those posts helped convict him of creating propaganda against the Islamic regime. He was sentenced to nearly 20 years in the notorious Evin prison.
Anonymity has allowed bloggers in the Middle East to safely tell the world what is happening in their countries during the Arab Spring. Anonymity allows everyone online a freedom of expression, a creativity and a breadth of discussion that might not occur if a name had to be attached.
The dangers of anonymity do not outweigh the benefits. We need to allow space for the real Neil fans and the genuine Neil critics, whoever they might be.
UPDATE 8/1/11: From A Case for Pseudonyms
Commentary by Jillian York:
There are myriad reasons why individuals may wish to use a name other than the one they were born with. They may be concerned about threats to their lives or livelihoods, or they may risk political or economic retribution. They may wish to prevent discrimination or they may use a name that’s easier to pronounce or spell in a given culture.
Online, the reasons multiply. Internet culture has long encouraged the use of "handles" or "user names," pseudonyms that may or may not be tied to a person’s offline identity. Longtime online inhabitants may have handles that have spanned over twenty years.
Pseudonymous speech has played a critical role throughout history as well. From the literary efforts of George Eliot and Mark Twain to the explicitly political advocacy of Publius in the Federalist Papers or Junius' letters to the Public Advertiser in 18th century London, people have contributed strongly to public debate under pseudonyms and continue to do so to this day.
There are myriad reasons why an individual may feel safer identifying under a name other than their birth name. Teenagers who identify as members of the LGBT community, for example, are regularly harassed online and may prefer to identify online using a pseudonym. Individuals whose spouses or partners work for the government or are well known often wish to conceal aspects of their own lifestyle and may feel more comfortable operating under a different name online. Survivors of domestic abuse who need not to be found by their abusers may wish to alter their name in whole or in part. And anyone with unpopular or dissenting political opinions may choose not to risk their livelihood by identifying with a pseudonym.
As Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens put forth in deciding McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995),
"Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation—and their ideas from suppression—at the hand of an intolerant society. The right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse."
Just as using "real" names can have real consequences, mandating the use of "real" names can too, excluding from the conversation anyone who fears retribution for sharing their views. While one added value of requiring real names might be increased "civility" of the conversation, it is most certainly to the detriment of diversity.
The bloggers at Geek Feminism have compiled a wiki highlighting the people who are harmed by a real names policy, demonstrating the hundreds of potential reasons why an individual may use a name other than his or her own. Though many examples on the list demonstrate cases of at-risk individuals whose use of a pseudonym is for the purpose of safety, there are other important reasons that one may choose pseudonymity as well.
UPDATE 8/11/11: From Microsoft Researcher Calls Google+ Real Name Rules 'Abuse of Power' - Messaging and Collaboration - News & Reviews - eWeek.com - eWeek Mobile:
Microsoft researcher Dana Boyd calls out Google+' real name policy as an abuse of power of the privileged and geeky and the not so privileged and geeky.
The company's position is that by providing a common name, users will be assisting their friends, family members, classmates, co-workers, and other acquaintances to find and create "a connection with the right person online."
"'Real names' policies aren't empowering; they're an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people," Boyd said. "These ideas and issues aren't new (and I've even talked about this before), but what is new is that marginalized people are banding together and speaking out loudly."
"What's at stake is people's right to protect themselves, their right to actually maintain a form of control that gives them safety," Boyd wrote. "If companies like Facebook and Google are actually committed to the safety of its uhsers, they need to take these complaints seriously. Not everyone is safer by giving out their real name. Quite the opposite; many people are far LESS safe when they are identifiable. And those who are least safe are often those who are most vulnerable."
"Just because people are doing what it takes to be appropriate in different contexts, to protect their safety, and to make certain that they are not judged out of context, doesn't mean that everyone is a huckster. Rather, people are responsibly and reasonably responding to the structural conditions of these new media. And there's nothing acceptable about those who are most privileged and powerful telling those who aren't that it's OK for their safety to be undermined."
UPDATE 9/14/11: From BBC - Trolling: Who does it and why?:
"Online people feel anonymous and disinhibited," says Prof Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University. "They lower their emotional guard and in the heat of the moment may troll either reactively or proactively."
It is usually carried out by young adult males for amusement, boredom and revenge, he adds.
Arthur Cassidy, a social media psychologist, says young people's determination to create an online identity makes them vulnerable to trolling. Secrecy is jettisoned in favour of self-publicity on Facebook, opening the way for ridicule, jealousy and betrayal.
And the need to define themselves through their allegiance to certain celebrities creates a world in which the rich and famous become targets for personal abuse. As a result trolling is "virtually uncontrollable" until the government forces websites to clamp down, he says.
But it's not just young people. Scan any football, music or fan site and there are people of all ages taking part in the most vituperative attacks. But many of the theories that have been put forward as to why people do it don't stand up, says Tom Postnes, professor of social psychology at Groningen University in the Netherlands.
Online forums have a habit of turning sour as it only takes a minority to skew them. As a format they've lost their innocence.
After researching "flaming" - the term for trolling in the early days of the internet - he rejects the idea that people "lose it" when online. If anything they become more attuned to social convention, albeit the specific conventions of the web. Provoking people appears to be the norm in some online communities, he says.
Some think regulation is needed, but trolling is not the internet's fault, says Jeff Jarvis, author of Public Parts. "The internet does not create special threats. It's a public square where people will be saying all sorts of things, some of them offensive."
The answer is for newspaper websites and online forums to employ sufficient moderators to prevent the comments spiralling into petty vendettas, he says. To ban online anonymity in order to prevent trolling would be to remove the right of whistleblowers and dissidents to get their message across, he adds.
Manuel agrees. "People are saying nasty, stupid things. So deal with it. Shutting down free speech and stamping on people's civil liberties is not a price worth paying."
UPDATE 1/15/12: From washingtonpost - Nasty online response to family’s tale shows Internet’s ugly underside:
By Robert McCartney:
I know the Internet represents the greatest technical advance since Gutenberg’s printing press for the sacred cause of freedom of speech. So it’s too bad that so much of the torrent of commentary that now flows before our eyes is sewage.
The public reaction to the cover story in last Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine offered an especially stark example of the media revolution’s fetid underside.
So imagine how hurtful it was when much of the initial response, in anonymous comments posted on The Post’s Web site, consisted of outrageous personal insults. Writers didn’t stop at condemning Ivie for divorcing her first husband, an act that they said violated her marriage vows. They went on (and on), in one sanctimonious posting after another, to paint her as a selfish, promiscuous publicity hound.
“Talk about immoral and sleazy. This woman covers all the bases,” one posting said.
“Nothing like a disability to get in the way of your dating,” another said.
Or how about my personal favorite: “This woman has absolutely no right to any happiness whatsoever.”
These writers have every right to voice their disapproval of Ivie’s actions on the grounds that their view of the marriage covenant is different from hers – and, given the national divorce rate, different from that of most Americans.
But if they’re too cowardly to write under their own names and accept some accountability, then they ought to try to be constructive rather than just cruel. The Post and other media companies open these forums to all comers with little censorship, but that doesn’t relieve the writers of the obligation to exercise some self-restraint.
“It makes me sad that there are people that get some kind of jolt from nastygrams, both online and on TV. It’s like we’ve lost our compassion and our respect for each other,” said Anne McDonnell, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Virginia.
Ivie was shaken and distressed when she first saw the negative comments online, according to people who spoke to her. She was stoical about it by the time I interviewed her Thursday.
“I can see how people would look at it and make a snap judgment that choices I’d made were the wrong ones,” Ivie said. “A lot of the really ugly things that people said just reflected the fact that the [writers] didn’t understand what exactly a brain injury entailed and what a tough injury it is. So I felt that means we clearly have more work to do educating folks, so maybe we can keep this conversation going.”
The happy ending in all this is that a good chunk of the anonymous comments were positive, as well as virtually all of the e-mails and letters sent directly to Ivie and Baer. People who were willing to identify themselves were supportive and appreciative.
“People who talk [or write] to me personally, I haven’t gotten one negative word,” Ivie said. “A lot of folks wrote me and said, ‘I went home and talked to my spouse and asked: ‘What would you want me to do if this happens?’ We don’t talk about that enough. Those are good conversations to have, and let’s have them.”
Overall, then, Ivie accomplished her goal of raising public awareness.
As for the mean-spirited critics, do society a favor: Contribute something useful, or at least have the guts to sign your name. Right now, you’re just fouling a common watering hole.
UPDATE 8/28/13: Adapted from http://barryeisler.blogspot.com/:
TW has a comments section. Sounds simple enough, but as even a cursory glance at the comments of most music blogs will show, many people would benefit from some guidelines. Here are a few I hope will help.
1. The most important guideline when it comes to argument is the golden rule. If someone were addressing your point, what tone, what overall approach would you find persuasive and want her to use? Whatever that is, do it yourself. If you find this simple guideline difficult, I'll explain it slightly differently in #2.
2. Argue for persuasion, not masturbation. If you follow the golden rule above, it's because you're trying to persuade someone. If you instead choose sarcasm and other insults, you can't be trying to persuade (have you ever seen someone's opinion changed by an insult?). If you're not trying to persuade, what you're doing instead is stroking yourself. Now, stroking yourself is fine in private, but I think we can all agree it's a pretty pathetic to do so in public. So unless you like to come across as pathetic, argue to persuade.
3. Compared to the two above, this is just commentary, but: no one cares about your opinion (or mine, for that matter). It would be awesome to be so impressive that we could sway people to our way of thinking just by declaiming our thoughts, but probably most of us lack such gravitas. Luckily, there's something even better: evidence, logic, and argument. Think about it: when was the last time someone persuaded you of the rightness of his opinion just by declaring what it was? Probably it was the same time someone changed your mind with an insult, right? And like insults, naked declarations of opinion, because they can't persuade, are fundamentally masturbatory. And masturbation, again, is not a very polite thing to do on a blog.
Argue with others the way you'd like them to argue with you. Argue with intent to persuade. Argue with evidence and logic. That shouldn't be so hard, should it? Let's give it a try.
UPDATE 2/17/14: New Study: Internet Trolls Are Often Machiavellian Sadists | Mother Jones:
The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called "Dark Tetrad": Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).From Trying Some Modest Fixes on Comment Moderation Posted on March 15, 2014 by Yves Smith:
It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What's more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.
Some readers get upset about comment moderation, so it appears to be time for some remarks and reminders.
1. We have clearly stated policies (see Policies in our header bar!) and we suggest you read them. Quite a few of the complaints come from people who clearly haven’t.
2. One of the things we make clear is we get to comments in moderation when we can. We have committed ONLY to reviewing them once every 24 hours but typically we check quite a bit more frequently than that.
The mod queue is lower priority than dealing with my inbox and posting. We have said repeatedly we could come to closer to real time reviews if we got funding for it. Not a single person has written a check or made a donation for that purpose, which says readers don’t care about it that much despite the grumbling in the comments section.
3. Far too often, we get comments or e-mails accusing us of putting a particular comment in moderation. Folks, please drop your sense of persecution. All you’ve done is show you haven’t even bothered to think about how moderation works. The only way Lambert and I could intervene personally to prevent a comment from appearing is if every single comment were moderated. We clearly don’t do that; most comments appear in less than 2 minutes (we have had to implement caching, so comments do not always appear immediately).
4. Do not post a comment again if it does not go through! All you do is increase your spammer points with Akismet, which means you might find all your comments not appearing (and we are not terribly inclined to go into the spam folder to find comments, we get over 3000 spam comments a day).
And if they do wind up in the mod queue, having them show up multiple times creates more work for Lambert and me, which makes it more difficult to run the site. And it’s very discourteous given that we’ve told readers God only knows how many times NOT to do this. So we get annoyed and stressed, and that shows up in all sorts of ways, like a snippier tone when we interact with readers in comments.
Having said that, we have two known issues:
1. Some legitimate comments fail to appear anywhere. We have no clue as to why that happens and we have done a lot of investigation into this issue. The good news is it happens less often than it used to. We are sorry and we know this is very frustrating, but it is frustrating to us too. The Internet is a hostile environment. Or to quote Bloomberg, “Technology is the opposite of sex. Even when it’s great, it’s terrible.”
2. Skynet seems to be living in our backstage. We see comments we are glad to have in moderation, in that they violated house rules, yet their presence in the mod queue is a mystery to us, since they haven’t crossed any trip wires (including IP addresses). We are similarly getting comments that are OK occasionally getting thrown into the mod queue.
I spent a chunk of time time this evening deleting some of our moderation rules. This may or may not help address problem 2 (some innocuous comments winding up in moderation). I don’t expect it to be a perfect fix, but it may reduce the frequency of false positives and hence reader frustration.
The risk is even if this does help alleviate problem 2, it may also increase the level of destructive comments and trollery. I hope not, but it may well be that the Internet has devolved to the point where there is no longer a good balance between trying to implement rules that keep discourse civil and having a comments section that is relatively open.
For instance, I’d like to see more conservatives who argue in good faith like Jim Haygood and Conscience of a Conservative (to be honest, Haygood can drive me nuts occasionally, but he is good natured about being slapped around). But when newbies of differing political views wander in, too often their aim seems to be to be some combination of attacking NC readers, demonizing the site, or hijacking the thread. Or else we get the slightly less terrible version, being hectored for our ignorance, when the critics offer either no or dubious backup for their arguments (as in their position is essentially religious rather than fact based and reasoned). Both these types usually wind up being banned and they assume it’s for their views, as opposed to their communication tactics.
So we are aware of these issues. I hope we can come up with a better compromise, but the Internet may have changed to a degree that the amount of active trollery makes that impossible. Keep your fingers crossed that my concerns are overblown.
For Who the Bell Trolls by http://radiomysterium.com/
"This video explains why I believe turning off comment sections is now crucial in order to tell the truth, and keep your sanity by avoiding unnecessary conflict with trolls.
I believe it’s best to turn off comment boards and back off of social media in general. This is just my personal opinion and I do see the other side of course. I don’t mind at all if you don’t agree. But this is an unrepresented and often ignored side of the equation, and I also explain the energetic and esoteric roots behind this opinion.
I see detaching oneself from society and the opinions of others necessary for telling the dark truths that require courage and enlightenment. It’s not easy to talk about the truth these days. And group think and the growing hive mind mentality are programmed to rail against it, calling people crazy when all they are doing is informing the public.
The same way an artist must internally detach themselves from the opinion of fans and critics while they are creating their art, I believe the same rule applies when creating mini documentaries that delve into uncovering truth and other controversial topics."
And for those who have suggested we are delusional conspiricists for accusing our TW trolls as being paid shills, yes, indeed, trolls are actually rewarded for their volume of negative comments. From washingtonpost.com By Anne Applebaum:
If you are reading this article on the Internet, stop afterward and think about it. Then scroll to the bottom and read the commentary. If there isn’t any, try a Web site that allows comments, preferably one that is very political. Then recheck your views.Chances are your thinking will have changed, especially if you have read a series of insulting, negative or mocking remarks — as so often you will. Once upon a time, it seemed as if the Internet would be a place of civilized and open debate; now, unedited forums often deteriorate to insult exchanges. Like it or not, this matters: Multiple experiments have shown that perceptions of an article, its writer or its subject can be profoundly shaped by anonymous online commentary, especially if it is harsh. One group of researchers found that rude comments “not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.” A digital analyst at Atlantic Media also discovered that people who read negative comments were more likely to judge that an article was of low quality and, regardless of the content, to doubt the truth of what it stated.Some news organizations have responded by heavily curating comments. One Twitter campaigner, @AvoidComments, periodically reminds readers to ignore anonymous posters: “You wouldn’t listen to someone named Bonerman26 in real life. Don’t read the comments.” But none of that can prevent waves of insulting commentary from periodically washing over other parts of the Internet, infiltrating Facebook or overwhelming Twitter.If all of this commentary were spontaneous, then this would simply be an interesting psychological phenomenon. But it is not. A friend who worked for a public relations company in Europe tells of companies that hire people to post, anonymously, positive words on behalf of their clients and negative words about rivals. Political parties of various kinds, in various countries, are rumored to do the same.States have grown interested in joining the fray as well. Last year, Russian journalists infiltrated an organization in St. Petersburg that pays people to post at least 100 comments a day; an investigation earlier this year found that a well-connected businessman was paying Russian trolls to manage 10 Twitter accounts apiece with up to 2,000 followers. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Guardian of London admitted it was having trouble moderating what it called an “orchestrated campaign.” “Goodbye ‘Eddie,’ ” tweeted the Estonian president a few months ago, as he blocked yet another Twitter troll.The Russian trolls have been well-documented. But others may be preparing to join them. An Iranian educational group, Tavaana, has lately found its Facebook page blocked thanks to what it suspects was the activity of Iranian trolls. Famously, the Chinese government monitors the Internet inside China, using hundreds of thousands of paid bloggers. It can’t be long before they work out how to do the same in English, or Korean, or other languages as well.For democracies, this is a serious challenge. Online commentary subtly shapes what voters think and feel, even if it just raises the level of irritation, or gives readers the impression that certain views are “controversial,” or makes them wonder what the “mainstream” version of events is concealing. For the most part, the Russian trolls aren’t supplying classic propaganda, designed to trumpet the glories of Soviet agriculture. Instead, as journalists Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss have written in a paper analyzing the new tactics of disinformation, their purpose is rather “to sow confusion via conspiracy theories and proliferate falsehoods.” In a world where traditional journalism is weak and information is plentiful, that isn’t very difficult to do.But no Western government wants to “censor” the Internet, either, and objections will always be raised if government money is even spent studying this phenomenon. Perhaps, as Weiss and Pomerantsev have also argued, we therefore need civic organizations or charities that can identify deliberately false messages and bring them to public attention. Perhaps schools, as they once taught students about newspapers, now need to teach a new sort of etiquette: how to recognize an Internet troll, how to distinguish truth from state-sponsored fiction.Sooner or later, we may also be forced to end Internet anonymity or to at least ensure that every online persona is linked back to a real person: Anyone who writes online should be as responsible for his words as if he were speaking them aloud. I know there are arguments in favor of anonymity, but too many people now abuse the privilege. Human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, should belong to real human beings and not to anonymous trolls.
UPDATE: 7/31/15 - The Thrasher's Wheat Manifesto: (adapted from Zero Hedge)
- to widen the scope of Neil Young discussion and information available to fans.
- to skeptically examine and, where necessary, attack the flaccid institution that music journalism has become.
- to liberate oppressed knowledge.
- to provide analysis uninhibited by political constraint.
- to facilitate information's unending quest for freedom.
Our Method: pseudonymous speech...
anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. it thus exemplifies the purpose behind the bill of rights, and of the first amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation-- and their ideas from suppression-- at the hand of an intolerant society.
the right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. but political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.
- mcintyre v. ohio elections commission 514 u.s. 334 (1995) justice stevens writing for the majority
though often maligned (typically by those frustrated by an inability to engage in ad hominem attacks) anonymous speech has a long and storied history in the united states. used by the likes of mark twain (aka samuel langhorne clemens) to criticize common ignorance, and perhaps most famously by alexander hamilton, james madison and john jay (aka publius) to write the federalist papers, we think ourselves in good company in using one or another nom de plume. particularly in light of an emerging trend against vocalizing public dissent in the united states, we believe in the critical importance of anonymity and its role in dissident speech. like the economist magazine, we also believe that keeping authorship anonymous moves the focus of discussion to the content of speech and away from the speaker- as it should be. we believe not only that you should be comfortable with anonymous speech in such an environment, but that you should be suspicious of any speech that isn't.
Modified from Stillness in the Storm:
I know that everyone is doing the best they can with with they have to work with and my goal in making light of these logical errors is not to judge the people harshly, only their stated process. I'll refer to the argument pyramid again as a good tool for developing techniques to discuss information rationally and without it turning into a shouting match.
The goal of any discussion about ideas, beliefs or points of view is ideally about sharing information completely, as it relates to a central point. This is not to force another to accept our beliefs, in fact a good discussion should challenge our accepted truths, expanding them with insights and enriching our point of view in the process.
When a conversation devolves into an argument, it is usually because the beliefs we need for emotional support are being challenged. This is when discussion turns to argument; what is now known as trolling. And this happens for a very good reason, because we derive our emotional support from our knowledge base; what we accept as truth, known as beliefs. Recognizing this psychology can help us realize the wisdom of not taking anything personally. People defend their beliefs because of their personal needs, not because they want to offend you; in most cases. And even if they do want to cause offense, we can recognize that as a defensive stance on their part, without creating the emotional charge of being offended for ourselves.
I am hardly a perfect example of objective discussion and diplomacy, but ideally when someone is diverging away from the central point, I try to address their emotional charge using compassion and understanding. Rejecting someone's point of view usually creates further argument, as they try and justify their position. By accepting their position as is, and then building from there using compassionate questioning, we can attempt to create a emotionally easy space for vulnerability. This acknowledges the fact that the central point is no longer being addressed and now the exchange is about defending one's beliefs for emotional reasons.
If as individuals, we can learn to recognize when discussion goes off course, then it will help us avoid being dragged into an emotionally charged situation, while at the same time avoiding further conflict using reactionary comments on our part.
We get all sorts of incendiary comments on the blog and social media. Here is a good example:
"You know I can't watch these guys cause their so interested in making money."
Is this person speaking to a central point that was covered in the article? No. They have diverted off course, but in doing so made plain where they are in their discernment process. They have a bias towards money, which clouds their rational processes when considering the data presented. In this case responding with consternation and indignation will only create additional emotional haziness that makes honest discussion all the more difficult.
I responded with the following:
"What makes you think making money some how disproves the data offered? Granted there are lots of examples of people receiving money who are dishonest, but I am not sure that is what is happening here. I'd love to know how you came to this decision."
I attempted to un-confrontationally address the irrationality of their position, while at the same time accepting their point of view with compassion. This can work even with those who are actively using harsh language to stir conflict. When we remain objective and speak to the points of issue, avoiding the temptation to fall off the tip of the pyramid, it deflates the energy of the argument in most cases. Additionally other people watching from the sidelines can observe a more grounded approach.
In law this is called conditional acceptance, where one parties perspective is totally acknowledge by the other party, while a the same time citing inconsistencies in an inquisitive way. Free will beings have different points of view as an inherent property of existence, therefore accepting their currant position will help create a space for vulnerability while at the same time focusing on the critical points of discussion.
There have been several times we used compassionate techniques to quell an argument, and in doing so, realized that we had much more in common then we initially thought. In some cases we ended up making new friends and allies simply by working through the initial battlements of a conversation.
Again I am not trying to hold myself up as a guru of diplomacy, but I will say that almost all of us are quick to react defensively, and if we can stay grounded and calm, it will help unify the horribly divided truther community.]
From HOW COVERT AGENTS INFILTRATE THE INTERNET TO MANIPULATE, DECEIVE, AND DESTROY REPUTATIONS:
Two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.
The Gentleperson's Guide To Forum Spies (spooks, feds, etc.)
1. COINTELPRO Techniques for dilution, misdirection and control of a internet forum
2. Twenty-Five Rules of Disinformation
3. Eight Traits of the Disinformationalist
4. How to Spot a Spy (Cointelpro Agent)
5. Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression
COINTELPRO Techniques for dilution, misdirection and control of a internet forum..
There are several techniques for the control and manipulation of a internet forum no matter what, or who is on it. We will go over each technique and demonstrate that only a minimal number of operatives can be used to eventually and effectively gain a control of a 'uncontrolled forum.'
Technique #1 - 'FORUM SLIDING'
If a very sensitive posting of a critical nature has been posted on a forum - it can be quickly removed from public view by 'forum sliding.' In this technique a number of unrelated posts are quietly prepositioned on the forum and allowed to 'age.' Each of these misdirectional forum postings can then be called upon at will to trigger a 'forum slide.' The second requirement is that several fake accounts exist, which can be called upon, to ensure that this technique is not exposed to the public. To trigger a 'forum slide' and 'flush' the critical post out of public view it is simply a matter of logging into each account both real and fake and then 'replying' to prepositined postings with a simple 1 or 2 line comment. This brings the unrelated postings to the top of the forum list, and the critical posting 'slides' down the front page, and quickly out of public view. Although it is difficult or impossible to censor the posting it is now lost in a sea of unrelated and unuseful postings. By this means it becomes effective to keep the readers of the forum reading unrelated and non-issue items.
Technique #2 - 'CONSENSUS CRACKING'
A second highly effective technique (which you can see in operation all the time at www.abovetopsecret.com) is 'consensus cracking.' To develop a consensus crack, the following technique is used. Under the guise of a fake account a posting is made which looks legitimate and is towards the truth is made - but the critical point is that it has a VERY WEAK PREMISE without substantive proof to back the posting. Once this is done then under alternative fake accounts a very strong position in your favour is slowly introduced over the life of the posting. It is IMPERATIVE that both sides are initially presented, so the uninformed reader cannot determine which side is the truth. As postings and replies are made the stronger 'evidence' or disinformation in your favour is slowly 'seeded in.' Thus the uninformed reader will most like develop the same position as you, and if their position is against you their opposition to your posting will be most likely dropped. However in some cases where the forum members are highly educated and can counter your disinformation with real facts and linked postings, you can then 'abort' the consensus cracking by initiating a 'forum slide.'
Technique #3 - 'TOPIC DILUTION'
Topic dilution is not only effective in forum sliding it is also very useful in keeping the forum readers on unrelated and non-productive issues. This is a critical and useful technique to cause a 'RESOURCE BURN.' By implementing continual and non-related postings that distract and disrupt (trolling ) the forum readers they are more effectively stopped from anything of any real productivity. If the intensity of gradual dilution is intense enough, the readers will effectively stop researching and simply slip into a 'gossip mode.' In this state they can be more easily misdirected away from facts towards uninformed conjecture and opinion. The less informed they are the more effective and easy it becomes to control the entire group in the direction that you would desire the group to go in. It must be stressed that a proper assessment of the psychological capabilities and levels of education is first determined of the group to determine at what level to 'drive in the wedge.' By being too far off topic too quickly it may trigger censorship by a forum moderator.
Technique #4 - 'INFORMATION COLLECTION'
Information collection is also a very effective method to determine the psychological level of the forum members, and to gather intelligence that can be used against them. In this technique in a light and positive environment a 'show you mine so me yours' posting is initiated. From the number of replies and the answers that are provided much statistical information can be gathered. An example is to post your 'favourite weapon' and then encourage other members of the forum to showcase what they have. In this matter it can be determined by reverse proration what percentage of the forum community owns a firearm, and or a illegal weapon. This same method can be used by posing as one of the form members and posting your favourite 'technique of operation.' From the replies various methods that the group utilizes can be studied and effective methods developed to stop them from their activities.
Technique #5 - 'ANGER TROLLING'
Statistically, there is always a percentage of the forum posters who are more inclined to violence. In order to determine who these individuals are, it is a requirement to present a image to the forum to deliberately incite a strong psychological reaction. From this the most violent in the group can be effectively singled out for reverse IP location and possibly local enforcement tracking. To accomplish this only requires posting a link to a video depicting a local police officer massively abusing his power against a very innocent individual. Statistically of the million or so police officers in America there is always one or two being caught abusing there powers and the taping of the activity can be then used for intelligence gathering purposes - without the requirement to 'stage' a fake abuse video. This method is extremely effective, and the more so the more abusive the video can be made to look. Sometimes it is useful to 'lead' the forum by replying to your own posting with your own statement of violent intent, and that you 'do not care what the authorities think!!' inflammation. By doing this and showing no fear it may be more effective in getting the more silent and self-disciplined violent intent members of the forum to slip and post their real intentions. This can be used later in a court of law during prosecution.
Technique #6 - 'GAINING FULL CONTROL'
It is important to also be harvesting and continually maneuvering for a forum moderator position. Once this position is obtained, the forum can then be effectively and quietly controlled by deleting unfavourable postings - and one can eventually steer the forum into complete failure and lack of interest by the general public. This is the 'ultimate victory' as the forum is no longer participated with by the general public and no longer useful in maintaining their freedoms. Depending on the level of control you can obtain, you can deliberately steer a forum into defeat by censoring postings, deleting memberships, flooding, and or accidentally taking the forum offline. By this method the forum can be quickly killed. However it is not always in the interest to kill a forum as it can be converted into a 'honey pot' gathering center to collect and misdirect newcomers and from this point be completely used for your control for your agenda purposes.
Remember these techniques are only effective if the forum participants DO NOT KNOW ABOUT THEM. Once they are aware of these techniques the operation can completely fail, and the forum can become uncontrolled. At this point other avenues must be considered such as initiating a false legal precidence to simply have the forum shut down and taken offline. This is not desirable as it then leaves the enforcement agencies unable to track the percentage of those in the population who always resist attempts for control against them. Many other techniques can be utilized and developed by the individual and as you develop further techniques of infiltration and control it is imperative to share then with HQ.
Twenty-Five Rules of Disinformation
Note: The first rule and last five (or six, depending on situation) rules are generally not directly within the ability of the traditional disinfo artist to apply. These rules are generally used more directly by those at the leadership, key players, or planning level of the criminal conspiracy or conspiracy to cover up.
1. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Regardless of what you know, don't discuss it -- especially if you are a public figure, news anchor, etc. If it's not reported, it didn't happen, and you never have to deal with the issues.
2. Become incredulous and indignant. Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the 'How dare you!' gambit.
3. Create rumor mongers. Avoid discussing issues by describing all charges, regardless of venue or evidence, as mere rumors and wild accusations. Other derogatory terms mutually exclusive of truth may work as well. This method which works especially well with a silent press, because the only way the public can learn of the facts are through such 'arguable rumors'. If you can associate the material with the Internet, use this fact to certify it a 'wild rumor' from a 'bunch of kids on the Internet' which can have no basis in fact.
4. Use a straw man. Find or create a seeming element of your opponent's argument which you can easily knock down to make yourself look good and the opponent to look bad. Either make up an issue you may safely imply exists based on your interpretation of the opponent/opponent arguments/situation, or select the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Amplify their significance and destroy them in a way which appears to debunk all the charges, real and fabricated alike, while actually avoiding discussion of the real issues.
5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary 'attack the messenger' ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as 'kooks', 'right-wing', 'liberal', 'left-wing', 'terrorists', 'conspiracy buffs', 'radicals', 'militia', 'racists', 'religious fanatics', 'sexual deviates', and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.
6. Hit and Run. In any public forum, make a brief attack of your opponent or the opponent position and then scamper off before an answer can be fielded, or simply ignore any answer. This works extremely well in Internet and letters-to-the-editor environments where a steady stream of new identities can be called upon without having to explain criticism, reasoning -- simply make an accusation or other attack, never discussing issues, and never answering any subsequent response, for that would dignify the opponent's viewpoint.
7. Question motives. Twist or amplify any fact which could be taken to imply that the opponent operates out of a hidden personal agenda or other bias. This avoids discussing issues and forces the accuser on the defensive.
8. Invoke authority. Claim for yourself or associate yourself with authority and present your argument with enough 'jargon' and 'minutia' to illustrate you are 'one who knows', and simply say it isn't so without discussing issues or demonstrating concretely why or citing sources.
9. Play Dumb. No matter what evidence or logical argument is offered, avoid discussing issues except with denials they have any credibility, make any sense, provide any proof, contain or make a point, have logic, or support a conclusion. Mix well for maximum effect.
10. Associate opponent charges with old news. A derivative of the straw man -- usually, in any large-scale matter of high visibility, someone will make charges early on which can be or were already easily dealt with - a kind of investment for the future should the matter not be so easily contained.) Where it can be foreseen, have your own side raise a straw man issue and have it dealt with early on as part of the initial contingency plans. Subsequent charges, regardless of validity or new ground uncovered, can usually then be associated with the original charge and dismissed as simply being a rehash without need to address current issues -- so much the better where the opponent is or was involved with the original source.
11. Establish and rely upon fall-back positions. Using a minor matter or element of the facts, take the 'high road' and 'confess' with candor that some innocent mistake, in hindsight, was made -- but that opponents have seized on the opportunity to blow it all out of proportion and imply greater criminalities which, 'just isn't so.' Others can reinforce this on your behalf, later, and even publicly 'call for an end to the nonsense' because you have already 'done the right thing.' Done properly, this can garner sympathy and respect for 'coming clean' and 'owning up' to your mistakes without addressing more serious issues.
12. Enigmas have no solution. Drawing upon the overall umbrella of events surrounding the crime and the multitude of players and events, paint the entire affair as too complex to solve. This causes those otherwise following the matter to begin to lose interest more quickly without having to address the actual issues.
13. Alice in Wonderland Logic. Avoid discussion of the issues by reasoning backwards or with an apparent deductive logic which forbears any actual material fact.
14. Demand complete solutions. Avoid the issues by requiring opponents to solve the crime at hand completely, a ploy which works best with issues qualifying for rule 10.
15. Fit the facts to alternate conclusions. This requires creative thinking unless the crime was planned with contingency conclusions in place.
16. Vanish evidence and witnesses. If it does not exist, it is not fact, and you won't have to address the issue.
17. Change the subject. Usually in connection with one of the other ploys listed here, find a way to side-track the discussion with abrasive or controversial comments in hopes of turning attention to a new, more manageable topic. This works especially well with companions who can 'argue' with you over the new topic and polarize the discussion arena in order to avoid discussing more key issues.
18. Emotionalize, Antagonize, and Goad Opponents. If you can't do anything else, chide and taunt your opponents and draw them into emotional responses which will tend to make them look foolish and overly motivated, and generally render their material somewhat less coherent. Not only will you avoid discussing the issues in the first instance, but even if their emotional response addresses the issue, you can further avoid the issues by then focusing on how 'sensitive they are to criticism.'
19. Ignore proof presented, demand impossible proofs. This is perhaps a variant of the 'play dumb' rule. Regardless of what material may be presented by an opponent in public forums, claim the material irrelevant and demand proof that is impossible for the opponent to come by (it may exist, but not be at his disposal, or it may be something which is known to be safely destroyed or withheld, such as a murder weapon.) In order to completely avoid discussing issues, it may be required that you to categorically deny and be critical of media or books as valid sources, deny that witnesses are acceptable, or even deny that statements made by government or other authorities have any meaning or relevance.
20. False evidence. Whenever possible, introduce new facts or clues designed and manufactured to conflict with opponent presentations -- as useful tools to neutralize sensitive issues or impede resolution. This works best when the crime was designed with contingencies for the purpose, and the facts cannot be easily separated from the fabrications.
21. Call a Grand Jury, Special Prosecutor, or other empowered investigative body. Subvert the (process) to your benefit and effectively neutralize all sensitive issues without open discussion. Once convened, the evidence and testimony are required to be secret when properly handled. For instance, if you own the prosecuting attorney, it can insure a Grand Jury hears no useful evidence and that the evidence is sealed and unavailable to subsequent investigators. Once a favorable verdict is achieved, the matter can be considered officially closed. Usually, this technique is applied to find the guilty innocent, but it can also be used to obtain charges when seeking to frame a victim.
22. Manufacture a new truth. Create your own expert(s), group(s), author(s), leader(s) or influence existing ones willing to forge new ground via scientific, investigative, or social research or testimony which concludes favorably. In this way, if you must actually address issues, you can do so authoritatively.
23. Create bigger distractions. If the above does not seem to be working to distract from sensitive issues, or to prevent unwanted media coverage of unstoppable events such as trials, create bigger news stories (or treat them as such) to distract the multitudes.
24. Silence critics. If the above methods do not prevail, consider removing opponents from circulation by some definitive solution so that the need to address issues is removed entirely. This can be by their death, arrest and detention, blackmail or destruction of their character by release of blackmail information, or merely by destroying them financially, emotionally, or severely damaging their health.
25. Vanish. If you are a key holder of secrets or otherwise overly illuminated and you think the heat is getting too hot, to avoid the issues, vacate the kitchen.
Eight Traits of the Disinformationalist
1) Avoidance. They never actually discuss issues head-on or provide constructive input, generally avoiding citation of references or credentials. Rather, they merely imply this, that, and the other. Virtually everything about their presentation implies their authority and expert knowledge in the matter without any further justification for credibility.
2) Selectivity. They tend to pick and choose opponents carefully, either applying the hit-and-run approach against mere commentators supportive of opponents, or focusing heavier attacks on key opponents who are known to directly address issues. Should a commentator become argumentative with any success, the focus will shift to include the commentator as well.
3) Coincidental. They tend to surface suddenly and somewhat coincidentally with a new controversial topic with no clear prior record of participation in general discussions in the particular public arena involved. They likewise tend to vanish once the topic is no longer of general concern. They were likely directed or elected to be there for a reason, and vanish with the reason.
4) Teamwork. They tend to operate in self-congratulatory and complementary packs or teams. Of course, this can happen naturally in any public forum, but there will likely be an ongoing pattern of frequent exchanges of this sort where professionals are involved. Sometimes one of the players will infiltrate the opponent camp to become a source for straw man or other tactics designed to dilute opponent presentation strength.
5) Anti-conspiratorial. They almost always have disdain for 'conspiracy theorists' and, usually, for those who in any way believe JFK was not killed by LHO. Ask yourself why, if they hold such disdain for conspiracy theorists, do they focus on defending a single topic discussed in a NG focusing on conspiracies? One might think they would either be trying to make fools of everyone on every topic, or simply ignore the group they hold in such disdain.Or, one might more rightly conclude they have an ulterior motive for their actions in going out of their way to focus as they do.
6) Artificial Emotions. An odd kind of 'artificial' emotionalism and an unusually thick skin -- an ability to persevere and persist even in the face of overwhelming criticism and unacceptance. This likely stems from intelligence community training that, no matter how condemning the evidence, deny everything, and never become emotionally involved or reactive. The net result for a disinfo artist is that emotions can seem artificial.
Most people, if responding in anger, for instance, will express their animosity throughout their rebuttal. But disinfo types usually have trouble maintaining the 'image' and are hot and cold with respect to pretended emotions and their usually more calm or unemotional communications style. It's just a job, and they often seem unable to 'act their role in character' as well in a communications medium as they might be able in a real face-to-face conversation/confrontation. You might have outright rage and indignation one moment, ho-hum the next, and more anger later -- an emotional yo-yo.
With respect to being thick-skinned, no amount of criticism will deter them from doing their job, and they will generally continue their old disinfo patterns without any adjustments to criticisms of how obvious it is that they play that game -- where a more rational individual who truly cares what others think might seek to improve their communications style, substance, and so forth, or simply give up.
7) Inconsistent. There is also a tendency to make mistakes which betray their true self/motives. This may stem from not really knowing their topic, or it may be somewhat 'freudian', so to speak, in that perhaps they really root for the side of truth deep within.
I have noted that often, they will simply cite contradictory information which neutralizes itself and the author. For instance, one such player claimed to be a Navy pilot, but blamed his poor communicating skills (spelling, grammar, incoherent style) on having only a grade-school education. I'm not aware of too many Navy pilots who don't have a college degree. Another claimed no knowledge of a particular topic/situation but later claimed first-hand knowledge of it.
8) Time Constant. Recently discovered, with respect to News Groups, is the response time factor. There are three ways this can be seen to work, especially when the government or other empowered player is involved in a cover up operation:
a) ANY NG posting by a targeted proponent for truth can result in an IMMEDIATE response. The government and other empowered players can afford to pay people to sit there and watch for an opportunity to do some damage. SINCE DISINFO IN A NG ONLY WORKS IF THE READER SEES IT - FAST RESPONSE IS CALLED FOR, or the visitor may be swayed towards truth.
b) When dealing in more direct ways with a disinformationalist, such as email, DELAY IS CALLED FOR - there will usually be a minimum of a 48-72 hour delay. This allows a sit-down team discussion on response strategy for best effect, and even enough time to 'get permission' or instruction from a formal chain of command.
c) In the NG example 1) above, it will often ALSO be seen that bigger guns are drawn and fired after the same 48-72 hours delay - the team approach in play. This is especially true when the targeted truth seeker or their comments are considered more important with respect to potential to reveal truth. Thus, a serious truth sayer will be attacked twice for the same sin.
How to Spot a Spy (Cointelpro Agent)
One way to neutralize a potential activist is to get them to be in a group that does all the wrong things. Why?
1) The message doesn't get out.
2) A lot of time is wasted
3) The activist is frustrated and discouraged
4) Nothing good is accomplished.
FBI and Police Informers and Infiltrators will infest any group and they have phoney activist organizations established.
Their purpose is to prevent any real movement for justice or eco-peace from developing in this country.
Agents come in small, medium or large. They can be of any ethnic background. They can be male or female.
The actual size of the group or movement being infiltrated is irrelevant. It is the potential the movement has for becoming large which brings on the spies and saboteurs.
This booklet lists tactics agents use to slow things down, foul things up, destroy the movement and keep tabs on activists.
It is the agent's job to keep the activist from quitting such a group, thus keeping him/her under control.
In some situations, to get control, the agent will tell the activist:
"You're dividing the movement."
[Here, I have added the psychological reasons as to WHY this maneuver works to control people]
This invites guilty feelings. Many people can be controlled by guilt. The agents begin relationships with activists behind a well-developed mask of "dedication to the cause." Because of their often declared dedication, (and actions designed to prove this), when they criticize the activist, he or she - being truly dedicated to the movement - becomes convinced that somehow, any issues are THEIR fault. This is because a truly dedicated person tends to believe that everyone has a conscience and that nobody would dissimulate and lie like that "on purpose." It's amazing how far agents can go in manipulating an activist because the activist will constantly make excuses for the agent who regularly declares their dedication to the cause. Even if they do, occasionally, suspect the agent, they will pull the wool over their own eyes by rationalizing: "they did that unconsciously... they didn't really mean it... I can help them by being forgiving and accepting " and so on and so forth.
The agent will tell the activist:
"You're a leader!"
This is designed to enhance the activist's self-esteem. His or her narcissistic admiration of his/her own activist/altruistic intentions increase as he or she identifies with and consciously admires the altruistic declarations of the agent which are deliberately set up to mirror those of the activist.
This is "malignant pseudoidentification." It is the process by which the agent consciously imitates or simulates a certain behavior to foster the activist's identification with him/her, thus increasing the activist's vulnerability to exploitation. The agent will simulate the more subtle self-concepts of the activist.
Activists and those who have altruistic self-concepts are most vulnerable to malignant pseudoidentification especially during work with the agent when the interaction includes matter relating to their competency, autonomy, or knowledge.
The goal of the agent is to increase the activist's general empathy for the agent through pseudo-identification with the activist's self-concepts.
The most common example of this is the agent who will compliment the activist for his competency or knowledge or value to the movement. On a more subtle level, the agent will simulate affects and mannerisms of the activist which promotes identification via mirroring and feelings of "twinship". It is not unheard of for activists, enamored by the perceived helpfulness and competence of a good agent, to find themselves considering ethical violations and perhaps, even illegal behavior, in the service of their agent/handler.
The activist's "felt quality of perfection" [self-concept] is enhanced, and a strong empathic bond is developed with the agent through his/her imitation and simulation of the victim's own narcissistic investments. [self-concepts] That is, if the activist knows, deep inside, their own dedication to the cause, they will project that onto the agent who is "mirroring" them.
The activist will be deluded into thinking that the agent shares this feeling of identification and bonding. In an activist/social movement setting, the adversarial roles that activists naturally play vis a vis the establishment/government, fosters ongoing processes of intrapsychic splitting so that "twinship alliances" between activist and agent may render whole sectors or reality testing unavailable to the activist. They literally "lose touch with reality."
Activists who deny their own narcissistic investments [do not have a good idea of their own self-concepts and that they ARE concepts] and consciously perceive themselves (accurately, as it were) to be "helpers" endowed with a special amount of altruism are exceedingly vulnerable to the affective (emotional) simulation of the accomplished agent.
Empathy is fostered in the activist through the expression of quite visible affects. The presentation of tearfulness, sadness, longing, fear, remorse, and guilt, may induce in the helper-oriented activist a strong sense of compassion, while unconsciously enhancing the activist's narcissistic investment in self as the embodiment of goodness.
The agent's expresssion of such simulated affects may be quite compelling to the observer and difficult to distinguish from deep emotion.
It can usually be identified by two events, however:
First, the activist who has analyzed his/her own narcissistic roots and is aware of his/her own potential for being "emotionally hooked," will be able to remain cool and unaffected by such emotional outpourings by the agent.
As a result of this unaffected, cool, attitude, the Second event will occur: The agent will recompensate much too quickly following such an affective expression leaving the activist with the impression that "the play has ended, the curtain has fallen," and the imposture, for the moment, has finished. The agent will then move quickly to another activist/victim.
The fact is, the movement doesn't need leaders, it needs MOVERS. "Follow the leader" is a waste of time.
A good agent will want to meet as often as possible. He or she will talk a lot and say little. One can expect an onslaught of long, unresolved discussions.
Some agents take on a pushy, arrogant, or defensive manner:
1) To disrupt the agenda
2) To side-track the discussion
3) To interrupt repeatedly
4) To feign ignorance
5) To make an unfounded accusation against a person.
Calling someone a racist, for example. This tactic is used to discredit a person in the eyes of all other group members.
Some saboteurs pretend to be activists. She or he will ....
1) Write encyclopedic flyers (in the present day, websites)
2) Print flyers in English only.
3) Have demonstrations in places where no one cares.
4) Solicit funding from rich people instead of grass roots support
5) Display banners with too many words that are confusing.
6) Confuse issues.
7) Make the wrong demands.
Cool Compromise the goal.
9) Have endless discussions that waste everyone's time. The agent may accompany the endless discussions with drinking, pot smoking or other amusement to slow down the activist's work.
1) Want to establish "leaders" to set them up for a fall in order to stop the movement.
2) Suggest doing foolish, illegal things to get the activists in trouble.
3) Encourage militancy.
4) Want to taunt the authorities.
5) Attempt to make the activist compromise their values.
6) Attempt to instigate violence. Activisim ought to always be non-violent.
7) Attempt to provoke revolt among people who are ill-prepared to deal with the reaction of the authorities to such violence.
1) Want everyone to sign up and sing in and sign everything.
2) Ask a lot of questions (gathering data).
3) Want to know what events the activist is planning to attend.
4) Attempt to make the activist defend him or herself to identify his or her beliefs, goals, and level of committment.
Legitimate activists do not subject people to hours of persuasive dialog. Their actions, beliefs, and goals speak for themselves.
Groups that DO recruit are missionaries, military, and fake political parties or movements set up by agents.
ALWAYS assume that you are under surveillance.
At this point, if you are NOT under surveillance, you are not a very good activist!
They use them.
Such tactics include slander, defamation, threats, getting close to disaffected or minimally committed fellow activists to persuade them (via psychological tactics described above) to turn against the movement and give false testimony against their former compatriots. They will plant illegal substances on the activist and set up an arrest; they will plant false information and set up "exposure," they will send incriminating letters [emails] in the name of the activist; and more; they will do whatever society will allow.
This booklet in no way covers all the ways agents use to sabotage the lives of sincere an dedicated activists.
If an agent is "exposed," he or she will be transferred or replaced.
COINTELPRO is still in operation today under a different code name. It is no longer placed on paper where it can be discovered through the freedom of information act.
The FBI counterintelligence program's stated purpose: To expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize individuals who the FBI categorize as opposed to the National Interests. "National Security" means the FBI's security from the people ever finding out the vicious things it does in violation of people's civil liberties.
Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression
Strong, credible allegations of high-level criminal activity can bring down a government. When the government lacks an effective, fact-based defense, other techniques must be employed. The success of these techniques depends heavily upon a cooperative, compliant press and a mere token opposition party.
1. Dummy up. If it's not reported, if it's not news, it didn't happen.
2. Wax indignant. This is also known as the "How dare you?" gambit.
3. Characterize the charges as "rumors" or, better yet, "wild rumors." If, in spite of the news blackout, the public is still able to learn about the suspicious facts, it can only be through "rumors." (If they tend to believe the "rumors" it must be because they are simply "paranoid" or "hysterical.")
4. Knock down straw men. Deal only with the weakest aspects of the weakest charges. Even better, create your own straw men. Make up wild rumors (or plant false stories) and give them lead play when you appear to debunk all the charges, real and fanciful alike.
5. Call the skeptics names like "conspiracy theorist," "nutcase," "ranter," "kook," "crackpot," and, of course, "rumor monger." Be sure, too, to use heavily loaded verbs and adjectives when characterizing their charges and defending the "more reasonable" government and its defenders. You must then carefully avoid fair and open debate with any of the people you have thus maligned. For insurance, set up your own "skeptics" to shoot down.
6. Impugn motives. Attempt to marginalize the critics by suggesting strongly that they are not really interested in the truth but are simply pursuing a partisan political agenda or are out to make money (compared to over-compensated adherents to the government line who, presumably, are not).
7. Invoke authority. Here the controlled press and the sham opposition can be very useful.
8. Dismiss the charges as "old news."
9. Come half-clean. This is also known as "confession and avoidance" or "taking the limited hangout route." This way, you create the impression of candor and honesty while you admit only to relatively harmless, less-than-criminal "mistakes." This stratagem often requires the embrace of a fall-back position quite different from the one originally taken. With effective damage control, the fall-back position need only be peddled by stooge skeptics to carefully limited markets.
10. Characterize the crimes as impossibly complex and the truth as ultimately unknowable.
11. Reason backward, using the deductive method with a vengeance. With thoroughly rigorous deduction, troublesome evidence is irrelevant. E.g. We have a completely free press. If evidence exists that the Vince Foster "suicide" note was forged, they would have reported it. They haven't reported it so there is no such evidence. Another variation on this theme involves the likelihood of a conspiracy leaker and a press who would report the leak.
12. Require the skeptics to solve the crime completely. E.g. If Foster was murdered, who did it and why?
13. Change the subject. This technique includes creating and/or publicizing distractions.
14. Lightly report incriminating facts, and then make nothing of them. This is sometimes referred to as "bump and run" reporting.
15. Baldly and brazenly lie. A favorite way of doing this is to attribute the "facts" furnished the public to a plausible-sounding, but anonymous, source.
16. Expanding further on numbers 4 and 5, have your own stooges "expose" scandals and champion popular causes. Their job is to pre-empt real opponents and to play 99-yard football. A variation is to pay rich people for the job who will pretend to spend their own money.
17. Flood the Internet with agents. This is the answer to the question, "What could possibly motivate a person to spend hour upon hour on Internet news groups defending the government and/or the press and harassing genuine critics?" Don t the authorities have defenders enough in all the newspapers, magazines, radio, and television? One would think refusing to print critical letters and screening out serious callers or dumping them from radio talk shows would be control enough, but, obviously, it is not.
Postscript: Over a number of years, we’ve found that the most effective way to fight disruption and disinformation is to link to a post such as this one which rounds up disruption techniques, and then to cite the disinfo technique you think is being used.
Specifically, we’ve found the following format to be highly effective in educating people in a non-confrontational manner about what the disrupting person is doing:
Good Number 1!Or:
Thanks for that textbook example of Number 7!(include the link so people can see what you’re referring to.)
The reason this is effective is that other readers will learn about the specific disruption tactic being used … in context, like seeing wildlife while holding a wildlife guide, so that one learns what it looks like “in the field”. At the same time, you come across as humorous and light-hearted instead of heavy-handed or overly-intense.
Try it … It works.
From Debunking the Debunkers an Important Message on Media Information Wars -Paul A Philips:
Whether it is in Wikipedia or any other website or media source there are certain recurring patterns in the disinformation campaign. To recognise these patterns or if you are unfamiliar with the nature of disinformation I suggest that you ask yourself:
*Does the information have hidden ulterior motive like that shown in those hoary old chestnuts: political, financial and power gain?
*Does it serve to invalidate or discredit anyone for thinking outside-of-box in the name of humanitarian benefit and therefore is he/she targeted because their work is perceived as a threat to undercutting the ruling elite's corporate business?
*On the subject of invalidating or discrediting, ask yourself are disinformation agents at work here by attacking someone personally without ever really mentioning the ins and outs of their work?
*Continuing on from the above; is the discussion on their work limited and biased? Have key points from the originator been deliberately left out? If so, does the so-called discussion therefore sneakily serve as a platform to give the illusion that all aspects of the subject are covered and make it look as if the person or whole thing is a 'crackpot idea..?'
*It must be noted that the above disinformation only works on people ignorant of the full picture or on those who have no real interest in fully inquiring into the subject discussed.
Above all, as I have been saying for sometime, just simply keep on questioning...
Debunking the debunkers
From Poisoned Mind: Social Media in the 21st Century by David Thrussell:
"According to an article on the website of ‘Radio Free Europe’, a nondescript modern 4-storey building on Savushkina Street, St. Petersburg, houses the innocuously titled ‘Internet Research Centre’.
Inside the building operate government controlled and tasked teams of professional ‘trolls’. Spread across approximately 40 rooms, the trolls prowl the Internet in 12 hour shifts, generating pro-Kremlin comments and ‘gaming’ Internet forums and online conversations.
St. Petersburg blogger Marat Burkhard recently came forward to describe the apparent covert activities in detail. Burkhard describes his co-workers as “politically illiterate young people” who must be briefed on current topics at the beginning of each shift and continually supervised.
At this point it would be pertinent to note the source of the article – Radio Free Europe – notoriously a CIA funded propaganda outlet for decades (now financed, more obtrusively, through the State Department and ‘private donors’). While only the congenitally naive would doubt the veracity of the article’s basic claims, what is (unsurprisingly) lacking is context. Whether financed and operated by Russia’s intelligence agency FSB, or some other shadowy enclave, it is estimated that the entire Russian security establishment currently operates with just one twentieth (1/20) of the US equivalent (not even including the UK and other close Western allies).
What that means, in a nutshell, is that for every Internet Research Centre in Russia, the CIA/NSA/GCHQ/private contractor nexus would be operating the equivalent of (at least) 20 such centres. Flooding the social media networks, news and other sites of their domestic populations with thousands upon thousands of comments, posts, disruption, disinformation and propaganda bullets every day. Salvos in an escalating, but largely unseen, ‘Information War’.
Furthermore, recent reports cite the development of software that actually scours the web, automatically switching between user names/identities and generating propaganda, provocations and automated comments as it goes. Coupled with Google’s recent announcement of A.I. software that can discern (Google’s version of) ‘the truth’, it doesn’t take much imagination to envisage any online expression of ‘untruth’, ‘heresy’ or ‘dissent’ being automatically swamped beneath a torrent of managed obscurity, cyber-troll bile, distraction and chicanery.
Seismically underreported, similar allegations about the ‘troll farms’ or ‘web brigades’ of the West (such as GCHQ’s ‘77th Brigade’) have barely surfaced in the blinding mass of ‘Snowden Revelations’. Chilling images (reportedly leaked from internal GCHQ presentations) document operations in ‘virtual communities’, ‘social identity theory’, ‘herding’, ‘mimicry’ and the ‘psychology of deception’. Much of the language used seems best suited to neutralising dissent and activism in the ‘target’ (domestic) populations (and not the lame-duck excuse of ‘fighting terrorism’)."