Legendary Australian writer and film-maker, John Pilger, has returned to Australia to seek urgent help, both government and public, for the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Pilger’s speech at Sydney Town Hall yesterday was informative and painfully moving. He asks quite simply of the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to bring Julian home. Mr Turnbull, he says, has been “sympathetic” in the past to Assange’s situation, and certainly has the power to negotiate his return to Australia. It’s really a matter of choice.
Assange, Pilger says, has not only been a victim of persecution from the US and other states, from which he was granted political asylum – or, a place to remain arbitrarily ‘holed-up’ for 6 years, according to two UN rulings… What troubles Pilger more is the “Vichy journalism”, of which he gives numerous examples, that has served to aggregate lies and smear that would demolish public support for Wikileaks, and deflect us from reading the content of their publications. If we would only read them now, we might be skeptical about journalists describing a war hawk as “the icon of our generation”…
Even more disturbingly, Pilger reminds us that it was two Guardian journalists, David Leigh and Luke Harding, who recklessly published the password to the trove of USG cables while Wikileaks was in the process of redacting them. That instantly gave criminals and intelligence agencies around the world, including those of repressive states, the information they needed to pursue whistleblowers and dissidents. Like Madelene Albright, they may have said: “It was worth it”, to place Wikileaks in such a terrible situation.
Pilger read statements from Assange’s family, concerning his deteriorating state of health, and from ‘Women Against Rape’, who are appalled at being manipulated by bogus claims that undermined the credibility of Assange and Wikileaks.
We have been quick to forget that Julian Assange received many international awards for “outstanding contribution to journalism”; including here in Australia, where he won a Walkley and the Sydney Peace Foundation medal. What’s fresh in our minds though, is that in the last few years, we have been spied upon and profiled; then flooded and manipulated by fake news. We know that our grass roots communications were poisoned by military-grade Information Operations.
Cambridge Analytica wasn’t “Vichy journalism”. They, and their hidden, offshore affiliates were paid by the likes of Trump and the British alt-right to “inject [damned lies]into the bloodstream of the internet”, that would terrify and divide us. And ironically, via the very platforms we had brilliantly used to make truthful information from organisations like Wikileaks ‘go viral’. That had united us like never before. What was different, and equally unprecedented in the turn-around, was that we weren’t all being delivered the same information or political offer. It varied, according to what was known about our personalities, religious affiliations, ‘likes’ and any other information we had shared, or could be obtained.
The inventor of the world-wide-web, Sir Tim Berners Lee, a CERN scientist at the time, offered a remarkable service to humanity. He gave it away for free, so that every citizen could eventually have an equal voice, and the same, unlimited access to information – and of course what Wikileaks did was very consistent with this vision. I’m not sure that Berners Lee’s immediate intention was to foster true democracy, but almost 30 years down the track, he is deeply concerned about that now. He says: ““Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?”. Noting that his dream of ‘net neutrality’ has also become a thing of the past, Berners Lee has recently called for a Magna Carta for the web.
“You can be prosecuted for viewing, sharing and republishing Wikileaks-style leaked governments documents unless you can prove you believed the information would not “cause harm to Australia’s interests”.
And coming soon before parliament:
“an expansion of the government’s powers to plant malware on phones and computers to undermine encryption.”
End of an era? I am stepping it up again to defend Wikileaks; and my advice, whatever you believe about its founder, is that you should too. It’s not only Assange that needs saving, but let’s not forget that he too offered humanity a remarkable, free public service. The truth of Wikileaks was solid evidence that governments lie. The truth of subsequent whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden and Chris Wylie was that they not only lie, but spy on us all, and employ AI professionals to tailor their lies to our individual weaknesses. We’re in deep (state) shit now. Everyone of us is in the firing line of ‘Weaponised AI Propaganda’, and our right to know is being bombarded by prohibitive legislation.
Information still wants to be free – especially when it is being hidden for the wrong reasons – and we couldn’t be in more need than now, of that ‘herd inoculation’ Wikileaks provided against disinformation. Let’s encourage each other to get a booster shot, by sharing John Pilger’s important message.
For ordinary citizens, there has always been a restriction on America’s First Amendment regarding freedom of speech. That freedom is limited by what people are permitted to know, by those who have the superior privilege to withhold information from public debate, or under parliamentary privilege, deliver false or misleading information to the public. Perhaps the greatest lie of all is that such a privilege serves the public interest, or ‘national security’.
Daniel Ellsberg was the first person with this level of privilege to expose (via the Pentagon Papers) the catastrophic public harm his government’s lies were causing. Shortly thereafter, the Vietnam War ended, President Nixon was impeached and the extraordinary charge of espionage laid on Ellsberg, along with theft and conspiracy (a total maximum sentence of 115 years) were dismissed.
I recall Julian Assange saying some years back, that his mother Christine had told him about Daniel Ellsberg when he was a little boy. Wow. I’ve met a lot of adults recently who haven’t heard of him – nor of Sir Tim Berner’s Lee for that matter, who gave us the world wide web, for free, and enabled one and all to take that quantum leap in human communication we call the digital age.
The point of Wikileaks, which Assange would go on to create as a young adult, was to offer whistleblowers like Ellsberg a safe way to continue exposing facts that were in the public interest, but which were being misrepresented or withheld from public debate.
Assange got a lot of support and participation in that endeavour: from citizens, who most crucially disseminated the facts; from many academics; from journalists and politicians; and from the legal community. For the latter, I suppose it sounded very much like “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. We should applaud the organisation’s outstanding diligence in fact-checking the information it received. After 10 years, its reliability still stands at 100% and despite the 2011 claims by US politicians, of Wikileaks having “blood on their hands”, no blood has been sacrificed for the delivery of this free public service.
I have no doubt that Wikileaks will survive, but it’s really looking like curtains for the founder and editor-in-chief. Assange has not been charged with any crime in relation to his work with Wikileaks, but it seems an espionage charge is pending, should he walk out of the Ecuadorian Embassy, and straight into a British prison, for the minor offence of breaching bail when he sought, and obtained political asylum.
Assange’s departure from the embassy is unlikely to happen by choice, even though all communications and contact with friends and family have been terminated for the last 10 weeks. There would be no point, if it were to be taken from this solitary confinement to another, where he would not be able to resume his work. What seems more likely now is that he will be evicted, for breach of an agreement he signed last year, when (only) his internet was cut off, to not say anything of a political nature on Twitter that “put at risk the good relations [Ecuador] has with the UK, the rest of the states of the EU, and other countries”.
Indeed, we the people have the right to do that, and truth protects that right, but not Assange. He knows too much, and he won’t keep his mouth shut. What was once political asylum has now has become solitary confinement. It is a flagrant example of the enforcement of public ignorance.
Berners Lee, Assange and Ellsberg: friends of democracy
Berners Lee, Assange and Ellsberg monumentally facilitated our access to information, for no personal gain and in two of the three cases, at great personal risk. Berners Lee appeared to be politically neutral, and was knighted, but he too is a believer in true democracy. In recent times, he has been explicitly warning us about another quantum leap: in mass surveillance.
We are all being watched, listened to and recorded; both in our homes and workplaces. It chills our free speech, jams our moral compass and – latest phase – is being used in a very targeted way to manipulate our political opinion with false information. Berners Lee is particularly concerned about how AI is being used to analyse our data and profile us for specific messaging that may or may not be truthful. He states:
“Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?”
Sir Tim Berners Lee
If you recall, the dissemination of false information, that would in turn be relayed by the people, was the modus operandi described by the Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower, Chris Wylie, in relation to their management of the Trump campaign and involvement in Brexit. Even the heads of “the firm”, Alexander Nix and Mark Turnbull, smugly admitted this in the Channel 4 sting video. Nix described how his company injects information “into the bloodstream of the internet”, disguises its origin and then sits back, to watch their ‘virus’ infect the minds of the populace.
What we’re seeing now is the use of military-grade information operations that were previously used to manipulate other populations, deployed on a country’s own citizens. What they know, it has been realised, can either make of them an ‘enemy’ (speaking truth to power), or an army of unwittingly mendacious sock-puppets.
The problem with Wikileaks was that it was not just a small organisation; its life’s blood was the long chains of citizens, “passing along buckets to put out the fire”, as Assange once put it. That couldn’t be stopped, but it could be perverted. The model could be used even more effectively to spread lies, with the right team of data scientists, spooks, marketing experts, creatives and ‘recruits’. Add to that a comparatively massive budget of a political party, to offer the gate-keepers of social media, and it was only too easy to poison the grass roots.
Moving forward through the 21st century, we need to protect truth like never before. That starts with opposing the fragmentation of the political message via our social networks. There can be no public scrutiny if there is no consensus on what is real in the political offer, and some would argue that the behavioural micro-targeting of voters has already “high-jacked” two democracies.
Hell, we didn’t see that coming, but we must realise now that the facilitator of this dystopian manipulation in the digital-age is mass surveillance, which is largely being used to limit free speech, democracy and even human rights. We must therefore respect and protect whistleblowers, who provide us with a much-needed ‘herd inoculation’ against the lies and deceit that divide us. And finally, we must applaud the generosity and vigilance of Wikileaks, for “keeping the bastards honest”, and all who struggled against corruption alongside them.
click on image to view Facebook event page
I fully endorse the rally on June 17th to protect Julian Assange, and call on our government to negotiate his home-coming to Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, as the lawyer Greg Barnes said: “There is an opportunity…”, and since he is an award-winning journalist, the US must abide by the First Amendment of their Constitution.
In her October 2017 exposé on Cambridge Analytica, about 4 months before the appearance of its employee, Chris Wylie, Cathy Vogan drew our attention to the intelligence community’s growing involvement in election campaigns. Together with data-rich academics, they had been abandoning their government-appointed posts and ‘moving on up’ to the private sector. She then outlined how the ‘informed’ use of behavioural micro-targeting, big data & psychometrics by Cambridge Analytica got Donald Trump elected, and led to the leave vote for Brexit.
Vogan mentioned that SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica is fondly known as “MI6 for Hire”. They have specialised in British government and military information operations for over 25 years, and until recently, mostly on other countries. She referred us to researchinto their filial’s assignment in Trinidad. It was clear that PRISM-level access had been given to Cambridge Analytica for the creation of a national police database, and ironic in retrospect that this shady outfit was scoring every citizen on their propensity to commit a crime.
We have since learned that for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia’s reformer campaign, SCL created “a psychological road map of the kingdom’s citizenry and its sentiment toward the royal family”. That’s what the spooks associated with Team Trump & ALL the Brexit Leave campaigns do, and by their own admission, under a variety of shell company names. “We ghost in and ghost out”, they say, “without anyone knowing we were ever there”.
This sounds very much like the work Palantir Technologies does. In her 2014 article on Palantir, ‘The Philosopher’s Stoned’, Vogan reports their stated activity is tracking digital footprints in order to predict future behaviour; a somewhat similar brand of ‘Big Brother Meets Big Data / Pre-Crime’ fiction. ‘But it sells!”, she proclaims, and proceeds to tell us their story. Palantir was founded by the venture capitalist Peter Thiel and the “eccentric philosopher” Alex Karp. Their locale, from where they claim to have hunted down Bin Laden, is a replica of The Shire. Their mentor and client is the CIA. Cambridge Analytica have worked for the Pentagon.
A part of Palantir’s story was their involvement with HBGary Federal, a smaller agency that had allegedly been contracted, a few months after Cablegate, to destroy the reputation of Wikileaks and its supporters. The plan was also to ruin the career of the Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who had been writing favourable copy about Wikileaks; and who would go on to win a Pulitzer prize for his reporting on the Snowden revelations.
A document leaked by Anonymous from HBGary’s mail server stated:
“Together, Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal, and Berico Technologies bring the expertise and approach needed to combat the WikiLeaks threat eﬀectively.”
Palantir vs Wikileaks. The mission was to bring down the organisation. Peter Thiel's other company, Paypal, blockaded Wikileaks funding world-wide.
Writing for Wired, Nate Anderson from Ars Technica explains:
Barr had been interested in social media for quite some time, believing that the links it showed between people had enormous value when it came to mapping networks of hackers—and when hackers wanted to target their victims. He presented a talk to a closed Department of Justice conference earlier this year on “specific techniques that can be used to target, collect, and exploit targets with laser focus and with 100 percent success” through social media.
Barr’s claims of “laser focus” were bogus. The reason he got hacked was that he published a long list of names on cryptome.org (no to the actual link), of people he claimed were members of Anonymous, but the list included a lot of people who were not hackers. They were journalists, artists, musicians and writers, such as Nozomi Hayase, so the actual Anonymous got pretty angry… It came as a total surprise that the plot to destroy Wikileaks and harm both its supporters and a sympathetic journalist was buried in the mix. That was the scoop however that signalled the war on people-power had begun.
Nate Anderson continues:
“[Aaron Barr's] curiosity about teasing out the webs of connections between people grew. By scraping sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, Barr believed he could draw strong conclusions, such as determining which town someone lived in even if they didn’t provide that information. How? By looking at their friends.”
Does this sound familiar? Hardly surprising, when we learn of Palantir Technologies’ involvement in the Trump campaign, alongside Cambridge Analytica. There was even a third agency called Quid, but what of Wikileaks? Is it likely they would be playing ball with Palantir, and its co-founder Peter Thiel? He is also the founder of Paypal, who staged the world-wide blockade of Wikileaks funding. It’s hard to imagine. Slavoj Žižek aptly signals how at odds their agendas are:
“Assange characterised himself as the spy of and for the people: he is not spying on the people for those in power, he is spying on those in power for the people”.
Peter Thiel is also a board-member of Facebook, and was the site’s first major investor. He has harvested a mountain of citizen data, via Paypal and Palantir at least. It was an emissary from Palantir, Sophie Schmidt, daughter of the former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who persuaded SCL that there was a lot of lucre to be made in analytics and election services. They formed SCL Elections. It was Steve Bannon who suggested they change the name to Cambridge Analytica.
Žižek offers an interesting perspective on the strict and prolonged silencing of Julian Assange. If his hunch is correct, Assange’s last significant announcement may have been that he would testify to the UK Parliament about Cambridge Analytica. Žižek writes:
“I think one name explains it all: Cambridge Analytica – a name which stands for all Assange is about, for what he fights against; the disclosure of the link between the great private corporations and government agencies…
Žižek continues: “Remember what a big topic and obsession the Russian meddling in the US elections was – now we know it was not Russian hackers (with Assange) who nudged the people towards Trump, but instead the West’s own data-processing agencies which joined forces with political forces. This doesn’t mean that Russia and its allies are innocent: they probably did try to influence the outcome in the same way that the US does in other countries (only in this case, it is labeled “democracy promotion”). But it means the big bad wolf who distorts our democracy is not in the Kremlin, but walking around the West itself – and this is what Assange was claiming all along.”
As the Cambridge Analytica investigation unravels, it would seem that the Deep State has backed the wrong horse again in the Spooks vs Wikileaks stakes; even if Assange has been nobbled. The Favourite (of the CIA) promised supremacy over enlightened people-power, but such are the ways of the Palantiri Stone(r)s. The “cognitive military complex”, as Žižek calls it, has taken a blow to the pre-frontal from Wylie’s smoking guns. Public trust sinks as low as Facebook shares. Thinking back, we have reason to predict that Assange has more to say… Certainly Wikileaks has more to say, and we need to keep hearing it.
What we already know is that the hedge-fund billionaire, Robert Mercer, is the common factor between Cambridge Analytica, Trump, Bannon, AggregateIQ (his main analytics company for Brexit) and… Siri, for whom his algorithms were used. Siri, who knows our name and is always listening… We also know that Peter Thiel is the common factor between Cambridge Analytica, the CIA groomed Palantir Technologies and last but not least, Facebook.
Meanwhile, still in the red corner according to the hawks, is the Wikileaks-Russian tag team. Over there! Over there! Didn’t Zuckerberg do a sterling job of upgrading Russia’s interference in the US Elections during his testimony to Congress? One imagines “Arms Race” is exactly what both Parties wanted to hear.
Good boy. We know you’re sorry…
Žižek is troubled by what he calls “a well orchestrated character assassination” of the Wikileaks editor-in-chief, and cites gutter-level rumours that he is too smelly for the Ecuadorian Embassy. Žižek also refers to “a disgusting attack” on Assange from the Guardian – in the midst of extensive Cambridge Analytica coverage – which described him as a megalomaniac and a fugitive from justice. Žižek once again jogs our memory, and helps us join the dots:
“…as far they [the journalists] are concerned, write as much as you want about Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon, just don’t dwell on what Assange was drawing our attention to: that the state apparatuses which are now expected to investigate the “scandal” are themselves part of the problem.”
With news emerging that Theresa May was working with SCL as recently as February 2018, Slavoj Žižek may have a point; mighty heads could roll. Or, we could be rolled… back into the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.
Cathy Vogan, on the black and white polarity of ‘Spooks vs Wikileaks’, and which future we need for the 21st Century:
For more information, watch Vogan’s Sydney talk last year on how the use of behavioural micro-targeting, big data and psychometrics by Cambridge Analytica got Donald Trump elected, and led to a vote for Brexit.
Cambridge Analytica: how big data-assisted behavioural micro-targeting facilitated the Trump & Brexit victories
Speaking at a Sydney event last month, Cathy Vogan, founder of thing2thing.com and author of ‘The Wikileaks Tapes’, offered a comprehensive view of how the use of behavioural micro-targeting, big data and psychometrics by Cambridge Analytica got Donald Trump elected and led to a vote for Brexit.
Vogan opened by addressing some of the claims made by Hillary Clinton in a 2017 interview on Australia’s ABC TV, giving Julian Assange the right of response to Clinton’s question: “Why doesn’t Wikileaks ever publish anything about Russia?”. Assange’s answer was: “Wikileaks has published over 800,000 documents about Russia, most of them critical”. The ABC journalist had left the question hanging in the air.
Clinton suggested that Wikileaks had been involved in the spread of “awful stories… the worst of which was ‘Pizzagate’”. Vogan cross-cut to John Pilger and Assange discussing the content of the Podesta emails: weapons deals that ended in arming ISIS, pay-for-play with dictators via the Clinton Foundation and the death of tens of thousands of Lybians, which she suggested would help her presidential campaign.
Vogan’s take on the 2016 US elections would not involve Russians or Wikileaks, but perception management by what Slavoj Žižek refers to as a “cognitive-industrial-complex.
There were claims by Micah Lee in ‘The Intercept’ of a ‘Nazi-Soviet Pact’ moment between Assange and the Trump campaign. When Trump Jr made his Twitter communications public, it appeared someone with access to the Wikileaks Twitter handle had communicated with him. Lee, assuming for us that it was the editor-in-chief, wrote:
“An organisation with a sterling reputation for providing the public with accurate information about secret government and corporate activities was used to launder conspiracy theories that helped elect a racist, sexual predator president of the United States.”
Vogan’s exposé on Cambridge Analytica concluded on a similar note. An audience member at their show in Germany pointed out to the CEO, Alexander Nix, that there is no glory in assisting a “misogynist buffoon into power… who is fucking up our lives” [audience cheers].
There was no mention of Pizzagate in the Trump Jr DMs, but the Intercept amplified the accusation Clinton made on ABC Australia, that Wikileaks’ co-orchestrated the spread of “preposterous conspiracy theories”. Lee’s article proved more effective than the Russian narrative in deflecting attention away from the content of Podesta’s emails, since it damaged trust in the organisation, rendered supporters vulnerable to propaganda and turned some into enemies.
He said no, he forgets and I'm saying nothing...
Lee noted, by way of remarkable omission:
“the hacked emails were used to reverse-engineer preposterous conspiracy theories, like the imaginary pedophilia scandal called Pizzagate”
Hacked means extracted via the internet. Former NSA technical director, William Binney, and his team from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have interpreted the forensic evidence available. They reported that the rate of transfer of the data could only have been on to a USB stick. That suggested the files were copied in-house, not hacked. Ignoring conflicting evidence, Lee adhered to the DNC’s hacking narrative and Clinton’s claim that there was nothing incriminating in the Podesta emails. He also aroused suspicion of ulterior motive behind their release, the editor-in-chief’s alleged partisan allegiance.
The idea of the truth-teller in league with a serial liar was too much for some to assimilate with their values and those of the Wikileaks-inspired transparency movement. In the eyes of many Wikileaks supporters, political chicanery and opportunism was perceived in the (alleged) machiavellian tactics employed by Assange in his support for Trump’s ascendency to the White House. It was sadly reminiscent for them of the cynical act of betrayal in Stalin’s signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact (“The Devil’s Alliance”) in 1939, which had a demoralising effect and also broke up the “movement” of anti-fascist Popular Fronts.
Barrett Brown, one of Wikileaks most heroic and prominent allies, who went to jail for 4 years for co-ordinating the supply of material to Wikileaks, compared their communications with the Trump campaign advisor, to those that preceded the taking over of Poland. He was done with the movement; but there were still people saying: “Why Everyone Should Do What WikiLeaks Did”, offering a broader perspective on the organisation’s activities and a different angle on the Trump Jr DMs.
The Intercept had made a point about Wikileaks ‘sleeping with dogs’, and damaging their support base, but none of this pointed to Russia, or towards the real problem of ‘What Happened’ to two democracies. Oxford & Washington university studies do; Tim Berners Lee does; and so do pending legal proceedings against Cambridge Analytica.
In the longer term, it may not be about who’s supporting whom; or financial corruption; or excess spending – as the current thrusts of Transatlantic political and legal enquiry would suggest. Money issues are simply the most viable way in at the moment. But the freshly-launched British Electoral Commission enquiry, into excessive Leave EU campaign spending and collaboration between multiple campaigns, can at best, only point to everyone spending their money in the same shop. They are not tackling the more serious problem of what that shop is selling.
The case of Professor David Caroll vs Cambridge Analytica takes us much closer to the heart of the problem that ‘we the people’ now have. It concerns an individual’s privacy, and promises to be a landmark case, if sufficiently funded.
Professor David Carroll vs Cambridge Analytica (via SCL parent company)
Sir Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the world wide web, is worried that the democratic platform he gifted humanity with is failing. He lashes out at Facebook & Twitter for facilitating the spread of misinformation and condemns the trafficking of “weaponised AI propaganda”. The term comes from Berit Anderson’s “The Rise of Weaponised AI Propaganda’, which Vogan cites in her exposé of Cambridge Analytica:
“By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion. Many of these technologies have been used individually to some effect before, but together they make up a nearly impenetrable voter manipulation machine that is quickly becoming the new deciding factor in elections around the world.”
The use of armies of bots has been proven, by Oxford University researchers into computational propaganda, to have had a profound effect in setting the agenda for political debate during the 2016 US Presidential campaign. In fact it “throttled out” the voice of humans and gave such a false sense of source diversity and consensus, they largely followed its lead. Of particular interest in that study, is that the technology is open to anyone. There was a chain reaction to the bots among ordinary citizens.
“… democratisation of online propaganda is also an especially salient issue. While government departments, academics, and journalists continue to search for evidence that campaigns used these means to manipulate public opinion, they tend to ignore the fact that anyone can launch a bot or spread fake news online. It was these citizen-built bots that probably accounted for the largest spread of propaganda, false information, and political attacks during the 2016 election.”
Indeed the ‘hive-mind’ has become The Wild West, and The Law has not yet ridden into town. The Oxford study revealed more inter-connectedness between the Trump campaign and its citizen-generated bot networks, than with those associated with the Clinton campaign. Maybe that was because so many DNC supporters preferred to “Feel the Bern”, and the party was divided – or maybe they were more scrupulous. The study shows, in any case, that citizen recruitment in the spread of false information and propaganda is the principle catalyst for political chaos in the UK and the US.
A foreign power, and Wikileaks, may or may not have influenced the outcomes of the US elections, but domestic armies of bots and bot-meisters did much more so. To focus so much on foreign influence, we risk to assume that anything local is fair game, even when technology is used by Everyman to disinform and persuade. Theoretically, we can all play, but it is no longer an even playing field when humans are being driven or drowned out by armies of propaganda bots. Tim Berners Lee also believes that highly-funded dark political messaging threatens democracy and net neutrality:
“We have these dark ads that target and manipulate me and then vanish because I can’t bookmark them. This is not democracy – this is putting who gets selected into the hands of the most manipulative companies out there,”
Cambridge Analytica boasts the use of ‘dark strategy’ for the Trump campaign – that practice of dividing the political offer on the basis of information obtained about the target’s personality type. On their advice, the Leave EU campaigns did the same, sending a billion psychologically tailored messages to the British public. Both were were focusing on those who were undecided about their vote, and thus ‘persuadable’.
The Russian troll influence has been exposed in the US, via targeted social media advertising – for a very nominal sum of money. Their targeting techniques are being exposed as shocking, but as if they apply uniquely within the Russian context. The elephant in the room is that the Trump and Brexit campaigns spent millions using the same techniques! Figure it out. Is it not our own back yards that been occupied, and that are sorely in need weeding?
Dark Strategy on Facebook - the dividing of the political offer
Considering that the company who persuaded impressionable people to vote Trump and Leave EU, themselves claim to have a 25 year record of performing similar psychological operations on populations for governments around the world, I suggest that ‘What Happened’ in the US and UK is more akin to a military coup, primarily funded by the playful and principled western oligarch – Robert Mercer, and that his ‘MI6 for Hire’ people at SCL need to be stopped, before they break any more democracies.
What we should be examining is the abuse of power, in locating and propagandising impressionable people, and those who could be identified as ignorant of politics. This would have made targets of the BeLeave campaign, who were very young, especially vulnerable to manipulation.
One is suddenly reminded of Assange’s words in 2013, during his Australian Wikileaks Party campaign speech:
“When all of the communications – heart-felt – the inner core of our life – communications between boyfriends and girlfriends – between husbands and wives, sons and daughters – between business partners – even between bureaucracies and states – when all of those communications are swept up, hoovered up, into a vast collection apparatus – indexed and stored for all time – available only to a select few – then we are in a situation where we have a tank on the street of the inner core of our lives – a soldier under the bed, listening…”
It’s not sure Assange anticipated what the “select few” would say back to the masses, after the indexing of that vast collection was complete. He knows now.
After a 20-year hiatus, Australia’s most notorious populist Far Right politician has risen to power again. Pauline Hanson came out of the woodwork in 2016 to run for the Australian Senate, and win 6 seats for the Pauline Hanson One Nation Party.
One Nation has been accused of “xenophobia”, homophobia, climate denial and contempt for Aboriginals, welfare recipients and trade unionists. Hanson’s career began in the mid 1990s, when she asserted that Australia was being overrun by Asians. Today, it’s Muslims, and Senator Hanson’s call for a halt to Muslim immigration has fuelled Islamophobic sentiment around the country, and divided the nation.
‘ We’re coming after you and your jobs’
Pauline has recently declared: ‘”We’re coming after you and your jobs” to the current political leaders of her home-state Queensland, where she has garnered her strongest support to date. The One Nation leader has rallied an army of 36 candidates for the 2017 state election. Given that over half a million Australians voted One Nation in to the Senate at the 2016 Federal election, both of mainstream parties have good reason to quiver in their boots…
On the eve of the Icelandic Elections… WITHER DEMOCRACY, by Professor Lawrence Lessig, speaking from the University of Iceland.
Lessig explains how democracy has failed the US and other citizens of the world, and how Iceland is on the brink of implementing an entirely new and improved system, based on a PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTION. Yes, it’s a world first, but then Iceland was the first country ever to form a parliament.
Lester Lawrence “Larry” Lessig III is an American academic, attorney, and political activist. He was the co-founder, with our beloved Aaron Swartz, of Creative Commons. He is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; and the former director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.
The founder of Tesla Motors, co-founder of Paypal, and CEO/CTO of the company SpaceX, Elon Reeve Musk, aims to establish a colony of 80,000 humans on Mars by 2040. While fixing his short-term goals on sustainable energy production, Musk believes that life must ultimately become multi-planetary, to reduce the “risk of human extinction” due to global warming. Interestingly, Musk’s preference for Martian government is direct democracy “because the potential for corruption is substantially diminished in a direct versus a representative democracy”.
That truism was suppressed about 2500 years ago, when Sparta crushed the selectively direct democracy of Athens. Curiously, the exclusively adult, male slave-owners who ran Athens around 500 BCE, were quite close in number to the future demos of Mars. That land however, will impose absolute consensus on the direct democracy of ‘Elon and the Elites’. No more talk of fossil fuels being good for humanity. They require oxygen to burn.
Build a Wall!
Crazed bargaining is predictable, as Earth’s denizens enter the third ‘stage of grief’ over the presumptive loss of Mother Earth. Musk’s exit strategy brings to mind The Hanged Man, as he plummets, head down, from the Twin Towers. At least he doesn’t fry. As least he gets to fly. Unfortunately the 68th wealthiest man in America, who has stated that he wants to die on Mars, but “not on impact”, will also be cursed by gravity.
Wir sind die Hautkrankheit der Erde
(We are the Earth’s skin disease) Günter Gras, ‘Dairy of a Snail’
The Mask of the Red Death?
The Washington Post reported that as climate departure looms, a year has been pinned to every major city in the world, and Kingston, Jamaica’s number is 2023. The subject of liquid democracy becomes a talking point, as the ‘plebs’ conclude that representative politics has bleached us. Might as well try something else, to delay that tipping point for a few years…
(Black as the ace of spades)
Michael Hart and Antonio Negri, in their books ‘Empire’ and ‘Multitude’, describe how a potentially new type of society is maturing inside the womb of the old; how the rise of the ‘multitude’, in the midst of capitalism, “makes democracy possible for the first time”. And how, historically, democracy was constrained by systems of political representation and hierarchically centralised state structures (‘‘the form of the One”).
The development of new forms of ‘immaterial labour’ corresponds with the rise of the ‘multitude’, who produce “not just goods or services; the multitude also and most importantly produces cooperation, communication, forms of life, and social relationships”. What thereby emerges is a vast new domain – the ‘commons’ – comprised of shared knowledge, revolutionary new forms of cooperation, social interaction, information and communications technology, etc; and this new domain is seriously at odds with the private ownership of the means of production by a privileged elite.
Directly socialised, immaterial production renders owners progressively superfluous – (good job, if they’re leaving for Mars!). The objective, material conditions therefore exist for an ‘absolute democracy’, where the associated producers directly regulate their social relations without the interference of democratic ‘representation’.
Professor Simon Tormey, in ‘The End of Representative Politics’, his study of the Arab Spring, Occupy, Anonymous and, in particular, ‘The Spanish Laboratory’, describes how ‘vertical’ systems of political representation are being subverted and overtaken by ‘horizontal’ political movements. Tormey celebrates:
“…a plethora of forms and styles of what might be called immediate or non-mediated politics: direct action, flash protests, Twitter-led mobilizations, pinging, hacking, squatting, boycotting, buy-cotting, occupying and other interventions of a direct, practical kind. Increasingly, politically engaged citizens don’t vote, they act. They don’t join mass parties contesting power; they create their own initiatives, ‘micro-parties’, networks, affinity groups, deliberative assemblies, participatory experiments. They don’t wait for elections; they seek to make their views, anger, displeasure, known immediately, now. They don’t read the media, They (to quote Indymedia) are the media.”
In his 1929 short story, Chains (Láncszemek), Frigyes Karinthy first introduced the notion of ‘six degrees of separation’– where everyone is potentially connected, via ‘friends of friends’ through a maximum of six intermediaries. In 1990, we still thought that idea equally viable, or dubious. Four years later, author Kevin Kelly would write ‘Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World’, which would predict our post-millennial vision of ‘Chains’, as a Hive Mind. One giant leap for mankind, that would disrupt all manner of hierarchy and ruse…
Brigitta Jónsdóttir – former Wikileaks associate, co-founder of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative and leader of Iceland’s Pirate Party – is likely to become the country’s Prime Minister this November.
The Pirates were already well ahead in the polls before the current coalition government’s PM, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, was named in the Panama Papers in relation to the offshore secretion of funds. Although he allegedly did not break Icelandic law, almost 10% of the population took to the streets outside of Parliament to oust him. Gudni Johannesson, historian at the University of Iceland, and man most likely to become the next President of Iceland, explains:
“His message to the country was more or less that we should all be together, we are all in the same boat, but at the same time he had taken a boat of his own, filled it up with gold and moved it abroad.”
Same old same old… Dr Aleks Kotaris, who created the series: The Virtual Revolution, advances the notion that the greater the number of people who contribute to a body of knowledge, the more reliable that body of knowledge becomes, if it is structured to ‘self-correct’. She was alluding to Wikipedia, which in its nascence was scorned, but which rose over time to be 1% more reliable than Encyclopædia Britannica.
So, the panopticons of power, media and knowledge seem to be crumbling… Bring it on! It is perhaps time to pool together to ‘future proof’ our communities, education and planet. Clive Hamilton, at the launch of his book Requiem for a Species said it would take thousands of years to undo the damage Capitalism and the Industrial Age has done to our eco-system, even if we were to drastically reduce our carbon emissions tomorrow. We won’t, while “Coal is good for humanity” continues to dominate our airwaves, and Trump convinces 40% of his followers that climate change still isn’t real.
Mr Assange once made a rather cynical comment, that it wasn’t so important who was telling the truth, as who had the biggest megaphone. My first port of call, within the context of this project, will be Iceland, to visit my friend, ‘The Mouse That Roared’ – Birgitta Jonsdottir. She and the Pirate Party have agreed to welcome me, and it is my intention to document the events leading up to the November Elections. The world has its eyes on Iceland. Not only did they refuse to bail out their ‘banksters’ after the GFC; not only did they jail them and go on to successfully re-build their economy… should the Pirates win, this will be the first government in the world to operate on a model of Liquid Democracy.
‘Liquid’ is a form of Direct Democracy, on an interactive, online platform; where (rightfully!) informed citizens can discuss, approve and create policy directly – or nominate ‘floating’ representatives whose expertise they trust on a given issue. I’ll be looking at the efficiency of specific platforms, such as Liquidfeedback, which was developed in Germany, as well as DemocracyOS, which is used by Pia Mancini and the Net Party in Argentina.
As for my own position within the ‘hive mind’, I became a citizen journalist in 2010, in the wake of the Wikileaks revelations, and I played my part in the genesis of a people’s movement that concerned itself with holding power to account. Over the next few years, I wrote around 200 articles on my citizen journalist’s blog Thing2Thing.com (see ‘Archives’), and self-produced about 80 films, including a DVD edition entitled The Wikileaks Tapes. It took little time (given my skills, media strategy and deep investment) to attract the attention of those who would provide wind for my sails.
This review of The Wikileaks Tapes tells much of my story, and style… During my travels to put this production together, I surprisingly befriended people who had changed history, such as Daniel Ellsberg; I collaborated with other citizen journalists, such as Alexa O’Brien, who ‘self-produced’ the daily transcripts of Bradley Manning’s trial; and I recorded the laments of many professional journalists and members of the legal community. This was a big labour of love; I did a pretty good job; and I kept the connections open…
The Next Generation
Briefly, I also plan to re-visit my friends in the US, including a number of whistle-blowers, film-makers and writers. Ecuador is also on the wish-list, to examine how their 2009 constitution is panning out, particularly in relation to the laws governing media ownership. Finally, there is much to document regarding the congregation and cross-talk between social movements in Australia; from the Climate Angels to the Knitting Nannies; from Lock the Gate to Stop the War; from WACA to RACS. It’s a small world after all, and although ‘we the people’ will be hard put to save it, there appears to be much that can be done to mitigate the worst effects of inclement weather. We will not despair. We will not accept…
Irony on Mars
My crowd-funder film to attend COP21, the 2015 Paris climate conference.
Special thanks to Chris Hedges.
After a blistering scare campaign from the Right just before the Icelandic elections, the Pirate Party did less well than expected, but they nevertheless tripled their votes from the last election, and won 10 out of the 63 seats.
Disgraced Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson’s former Progressive Party won only 8 seats, thus leaving the ‘winner’ of the elections, the Independence Party with 21 seats, impotent in forming government with them, as they had done before. 32 of the 63 are required.
Initially the Independence Party could find no other allies among the five other parties, so the mandate to form government was passed on to the Left. Given the numbers, all five parties would have to unite to table a majority.
Both the Left Green Party and the Pirates attempted to manage this, but failed. Finally, on January 17th 2017, a Coalition emerged, composed of the Independence Party, Bright Future and the Reform Party.
The new Prime Minister of Iceland is Bjarni Benediktsson, the leader of the Independence Party. He was one of the high-profile Icelandic politicians who managed to stay afloat, after being named in the Panama Papers. He is alleged to have buried a report on the names of other Icelanders with offshore accounts until after the elections. Benediktsson has recently come under heavy criticism from the Green Left Party and the Pirates. To be continued…
“I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, “Where is that?” If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini”, they say, “You mean the swimsuit.”
Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 – the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.
Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.
Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo”. The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.
On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini swimsuit, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.” A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I had interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies”; each had suffered thyroid cancer and other life-threatening cancers.
Unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious superpower that is today more dangerous than ever.
I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us. The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government”.
How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.
In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make “the world free from nuclear weapons”. People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was all fake. He was lying. The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion…”