The Shadow
Published in

The Shadow

after V.L. Cox, Break Glass

Amplification Loops on Fault Lines

HARRIS: The important thing to establish here is that the mind can be persuaded. Everyone is persuadable. … You’re always using language and when you use language you’re casting spells that create a framework for seeing reality. And we just have to be aware of this, because increasingly there are actors that are better and better at knowing which language to use to get us to feel or believe one way or the other. And then you link this with the tech equation — technology is getting better and better at reinforcing certain language patterns over and over again.

HAGENS: I just hired a coach to help me with various efforts with my organization and one thing she said off the bat was that the language I used to describe our situation is too negative. I say “the problem.” Instead I should say “the challenge” or “the opportunity.” And the facts are all the same but the language that I use tends to be too negative because I’m freaking terrified about what’s coming so naturally I have negative sounding words.

HARRIS: That’s what my colleague Renée DiResta calls because they’re just selecting what your own domestic voices in your country are saying — the most polarizing and divisive voices — and they’re just piling onto those things. So you can think of the news feed algorithm behind Facebook and Twitter and so on as a fault line finder… and then it just puts an amplification loop on that fault line. It’s like turning up the contrast in a photograph where all the lines suddenly get really visible.

The Department of Homeland Security has secretly set up a “Disinformation Governance Board”, only informing the public about its plans for the institution after it had already been established.

The disinformation board, which critics have understandably been calling a “Ministry of Truth”, purportedly exists to fight disinformation coming out of Russia as well as misleading messages about the US-Mexico border.
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“It sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities,” Psaki said. “I’m not sure who opposes that effort.”

The answer to the question of “who opposes that effort” is of course “anyone with functioning gray matter between their ears.” No government entity has any business appointing itself the authority to sort information from disinformation on behalf of the public, because government entities are not impartial and omniscient deities who can be entrusted to serve the public as objective arbiters of absolute reality. They would with absolute certainty wind up drawing distinctions between information, misinformation and disinformation in whatever way serves their interests, regardless of what’s true, exactly as any authoritarian regime would do.

I mean, is anyone honestly more afraid of Russian disinformation than they are of their own government appointing itself the authority to decide what counts as disinformation?
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We went from a massive narrative control campaign about a virus, which people accepted because they wanted to contain a deadly pandemic, straight into a massive narrative control campaign about Russia and Ukraine. Without skipping a beat. Like openly manipulating everyone’s understanding of world events is just what we do now. Now we’re seeing increasingly brazen censorship of political dissent about a fucking war that could easily end up getting us all killed in a nuclear holocaust, and a portion of the Biden administration’s whopping $33 billion Ukraine package is going toward funding “independent media” (read: war propaganda).
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Nothing about the state of the world tells us that the people who run things are doing a good job. Nothing about our current situation suggests they should be given more control, rather than having control taken away from them and given to the people. We are going in exactly the wrong direction.

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Albert Bates

Albert Bates

Emergency Planetary Technician and Climate Science Wonk — using naturopathic remedies to recover the Holocene without geoengineering or ponzinomics.

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