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example Russiagate meme

PolySci: A Look Back at Russiagate

The Russiagate narrative stops being interesting when it dead ends in “tcp/ip-ville” i.e. in internet jargon. Not that readers don’t care about embedded spyware and malware, they do, but they care more regarding the dark art of implanting memes in just the right way to create butterfly effects.

The DNC clearly lacks skills in this regard or it wouldn’t have been blind sided by a New York businessman and his ragtag crew of mostly family members.

Where Russiagate picks up again is around the Internet Research Agency, supposedly headquarted in St. Petersburg, and which was apparently more effective than even Cambridge Analytica, and with a much smaller budget.

The latter eventually took the brunt, and shifted blame onto Facebook, while the former may be at it again. The trolls behind the IRA walked away to fight another day, according to recent press accounts, including Facebook’s.

The Russians keep winning in this area, which is interesting. We’re used to self-aggrandizing “last/only superpower” talk, which gets stale rather quickly. In Cold War Two, the USG, already hijacked by neocons, seems an easy target for their foe. Russia seems to always outclass the Joe Lieberman types.

The IRA (not to be confused with the Republican IRA) gets press because it was supposedly into event organizing and institution spoofing, not just into couch potato hacktivism. More like Yes Men, the effective satirical troupe.

Seen from the shallows, the exhibited memes don’t seem to add up to any particular or obvious message. They’re not saying to vote for Trump, or if they are, they’re saying not to as well.

At the literal (shallow) level, the memes appear to self-cancel, which makes them all the more intriguing as a curated exhibit. We feel like we’re seeing some hidden layer in a deep learning model, all eyes and nose parts, but no definitive creatures.

“What do they know about us that we don’t?” ask the politicos.

The key question on everyone’s mind is:

“Has machine learning really netted the kinds of breakthroughs some of the more boastful will claim, or are the PR arts still pretty much where we left them in MAD Magazine’s early days?”

Put another way:

“How much more effective is the Vance Packard invisible army of hidden persuaders, given the swift evolution of social media?”

We’re not just listening to your grandmother’s radio anymore. Nor are we still in the age of network television. So much innocence has been lost, a paradise mislaid. There’s no going back to Leave It to Beaver nor even Gilligan’s Island.

Could anyone with money actually “tip an election” through clever placement of memes, or is that empty PR about the effectiveness of PR? That is the question.

We’re used to hollow claims from advertisers, about their supposed neurolinguistic abilities, their superpowers. Then we wonder: are the Russians that much better at it?

If brainwashing is the name of the game, then which camp is best, at washing brains? We learned in the first Cold War that there’s a competition for hearts and minds. Each side is trying to get the most “bots”.

Yet we’re so used to hyper-inflated claims for the psychometric arts. Sure, Cambridge Analytic talks a great game around OCEAN, but where is the peer review? Everyone has their pet personality test, their palm reading, their enneagram.

But when you wish to know about the effectiveness of Scientology would you get all your opinions from top Scientologists? When does due diligence enter the picture? Since when were such questions best addressed by vested sources? Researchers learn to consult a variety of sources, and weigh them accordingly, based on track record.

The chief empirical question, following from all of the above, is was the IRA up to no good in the Pizzagate sphere?

Liberals see the Pizzagate story culminating in some nutcase showing up at Comet Pizza (with no basement) and riddling the ceiling with bullets, while never mentioning the darker story, that the ripple effects from Pizzagate were what brought down the DNC.

To not even mention Pizzagate is too much of a gaping hole, and many newcomers to the debates will tune out a channel on the basis of this elision. The pundits sound hollow in their willingness to just stay on the surface, where we talk “leak versus hack” and meta-data, IP numbers.

As I said, that’s a dead end if the plan is to address core concerns.

The good news is avoiding these deeper questions is going to get harder now, with the emergence of Q-Anon, another memetic snowball rolling down the mountain, with the thinking of normal peeps very much in the cross-hairs.

The “normals” or “squares” (archaic), are chuckling about this new eruption of esoterica into public consciousness. “Aw, isn’t that cute,” coo the Young Turks, “another alternative reality, brought to you by anonymous sources through 4chan”. Is that all they have to say?

I agree there’s some cuteness there, but so was Pizzagate cute. So are landmines somewhat cutely symmetric, with some spherical (underwater) others disc-shaped (on land).

To put it bluntly, people of blood type DNC are concerned their immune system has been breached, or at least compromised, by some viral intelligence more menacing than the “intelligence community” knows how to deal with.

In the meantime, Q-Anon is fingering CIA’s Mockingbird in particular, decades after the fact, and creating a new context for it. The mainstream media is cast as defending a dinosaur status quo, whereas a new cast eyes Alphabet (Youtube) suspiciously, testing boundaries. Some have jumped ship. Others continue to color within the lines.

Facebook and Twitter have failed some tests, passed others.

Social media continues to bifurcate. The consensus reality continues to break down and turn to foam.

Speaking of “the dark web” in knowing terms doesn’t hack it anymore.

Some in the intelligence community want to respond as would-be white knights in shining armor, chivalrously protecting their fair ladies from the leers and barbs of any rival gangs. They posture as heroes.

Naturally there’s a Jungian dimension to all psy-ops, and without some awareness of archetypes (i.e. stars to steer by), navigation becomes all but impossible.

The question then becomes: are some groups better at cyber-steering in these depths? Obviously, the answer is “yes” however the devil is in the details.

This core question quickly becomes a query, in that Quaker sense of “open ended”. The best answer, or at least a first step is, “we don’t know, how could we?”. Nor should we be too quick to assume all “rival gangs” (cabals) are unfriendly. Some may actually be friendly.

So how does one keep from getting hit by, or being a source of, friendly fire, in waters as murky as these? That’s not a new question in spydom, the land of the double cross.

Those more skilled at distinguishing friend from foe are more likely to advance their agendas. The politicos already know this, but then this observation is a tautology, so not especially useful. Philosophy is full of such a priori restatements of everyday grammar. Politics is replete with faux profundities.

Speaking of philosophy, I’ve got my own pet theories to share, and you’re free to data mine them e.g. check my blogs and other posts to Medium.

However, I don’t want to assume my readers here are all that interested in what I think, about the aforementioned meme campaigns, not much examined in mainstream media. I’m more inclined to sit back to take in the views of others, having said my piece.

For example, my focus on kites (Kite Campaign), stayed under the radar except among a few mathematics teachers, the intended audience. Alexander Graham Bell built some rather gigantic structures he called “kites” (“so what?”).

If you know your esoterica, you know where the segues go next: to NASA space frames and global Expos, to the geoscope and macroscope, to digital data displays and the DEW line in Canada. Another snowball. #HP4E.

In sum, are those saying the Russians actually tipped the 2016 election now able to incorporate Q-Anon into their telling?

The same upsurging of a collective unconscious is evident. Keeping one’s analysis superficial risks self-marginalization.

If the attitude is to just pooh pooh all this Q-anon nonsense, that might indicate a misunderstanding of Pizzagate as well.

When it comes to rescuing investigative analysts from irrelevance, I’m not going to do their jobs for them. How could I?

I’m mostly just echoing the popular frustration with superficial narratives about Cozy Bear and the Guccifers.

The DNC should stay nervous if that’s the only level of response.

Stay tuned.