Archives for category: manipulation

After ‘firing’ Trump, the President, America’s most important stake-holders, “we, the People”, are scrambling to adapt to what Trump had laid bare.

Books are being written.
Many blame Trump. And explain, in detail, what he had done while manning the Oval Office.

The G.O.P. is somewhat fractured. Some want to get over Trump, others to hide behind his still towering presence.
The Dems act like he was a mere accident. One which can, and they are hard at work attempting to do it, be ‘band-aided’ with some money. Government money, of course.

A few years ago, I had read an interesting article claiming that Trump had been made possible by the media.
Googling to find it, I stumbled upon another. Which summarizes what Trump had done to the media

I still have to find, only I’ve lost patience, an explanation for what had ‘fed’ Trump.
Trump as social phenomenon…

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.
Washington flourished but the people did not share in its wealth.
Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.

Trump has made himself famous. Among others, for imparting new meaning to the concept of ‘fake-news’. And for using “alternative facts” to introduce us to an ‘alternative reality’. His…

Only his reality did have something in common with that faced by many of his fellow Americans.

Middle class incomes have shrunk 8.5 percent since 2000, after enjoying mostly steady growth during the previous decade. In 2011, the average income for the middle 60 percent of households stood at $53,042, down from $58,009 at the start of the millennium.

Oops!
Suddenly, Trump’s ‘alternative’ reality – part of it, at least, has become one with that experienced by “we, the People”. By a majority of them, anyway.

What made so many people – dispirited, undoubtedly, believe that a self professed pussy grabber and proud member of the Washington establishment would solve their real-life problems… by ‘draining’ the very ‘swamp’ in which he had grown to his present stature … that’s something for other people to explain.

My point being that Trump’s behavior had very closely followed that of Goethe’s Apprentice Sorcerer. He had used his uncanny knack of playing hide-and-seek with reality to climb into the Oval Office only to be fired after one mandate.
To be the first American President who had survived two impeachments.
And the second one who had witnessed – more or less unmoved, the untimely demise of half a million Americans due to disease

But the first who had done that during a mostly peaceful mandate. Pandemic, true enough, but otherwise peaceful.

NB. The ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic, which had happened during Woodrow Wilson’s mandate, had caused the death of 675 000 Americans. Only that had occurred just after a world war, when viruses hadn’t yet been discovered and man hadn’t yet walked on the Moon.

What will happen next?

Who knows… Goethe’s poem had a relatively happy ending because a master sorcerer was at hand. Who had solved the problem with a swift gesture of his powerful wand.

No such easy solution is available now.
But one thing has become clear.
Again…

Two things, actually.
Too many dispirited people eventually become a powerful – and highly unstable, ‘Petri dish’. Where all kinds of ‘social experiments’ might ‘spontaneously’ explode.
And playing with people’s passions might take you places. But will, almost always, end up badly.

I challenge you to try an experiment.
Click the illustration bellow, copy the link and post it to your favorite social media.
Then observe the likes you’ll get. I wasn’t surprised to notice that many people on the right side of the political divide were quite fond of it’s spirit…

‘Yeah, only MLK hadn’t been “formally affiliated with either political party“…”

Well… how about this one?

‘OK, and your point is…?’

That there’s not much real difference between the radicals. Between the radical members of both parties.
Both are so convinced that they ‘know better’ that neither have any qualms trying to impose their vision upon everybody else.
Both are so convinced that they are right that they ‘hate’ all other authority but their own. And they hate each-other’s guts… only that comes with the territory…

Let me start with the beginning.

I grew up under a communist regime. Drowning in propaganda. The education system was finely tuned to raise us, children, as ‘the New Man’. All cultural effort – culture was ‘sponsored’ by the communist state and heavily censored, was meant to achieve the same goal. Immediately after the communist regime had grabbed the absolute political power, the legislation had been altered to reflect the ‘new reality’. And then used to convince the people to change their behavior according to the new rules.
According to whatever the new masters had in mind …
So that they could control everything. That nobody else could have exerted any authority. That nobody else could have had any real influence over anything.

And, as you might know, the communist regime – most of them, anyway, had eventually crumbled. Under its own weight.

Which teaches us two things.

That whenever a system is run in an authoritarian manner, mistakes keep piling. One on top of the previous one. Constituting the dead-weight which will eventually sink the ship.
That no artificial ‘New Man’ will ever survive for long. Yes, you may ‘legislate behavior’ – even against the true wishes of the general population, only the ‘new’ arrangement will not last for long. For a ‘legislation’ to be able to survive for any substantial amount of time it has to reflect the ‘true heart’ of those called to put it into practice. To ‘follow the rules’. That you ‘can restrain the heartless’ but for only as long as the ‘heartless’ remain a small minority.

Want to ‘change’ something? Then open people’s eyes first. Only that way they’ll eventually open up their hearts.

‘What about the spat between AOC and Ted Cruise? Where’s the link between what happened with GameStop and MLK’s attempt to regulate behavior?’

Both AOC and Ted Cruise hate the fact that there are independent agents. Besides them, of course. That there still are people who call their own shots. Private companies they cannot control, media venues, independent authorities… The ‘AOC’-s and the ‘Ted Cruise’-s of this world hate each-others guts but have more or less the same convictions.

That they are right – and everybody else is wrong.
And that there must be a way!
That there must be a way, a ‘rational’ way, in which their righteousness may be imposed upon the rest of the world.

That ‘rational’ way implying two things.
Control over the ‘material’ resources and control over people’s minds.

That’s why the communists had ‘abolished’ private property. That’s why the (no longer free market) contemporary capitalists are OK with extreme wealth polarization. As long as they on the right side of the ‘in-equation’, of course…
That’s why education has become such a hot subject.
That’s why control over the legislative process has become so important.
Why controlling the markets – controlling them, not preserving their freedom, is paramount…

The only bright thing in this whole mess being that the two sides still hate each-other’s guts.
Which gives us some more lee-way.

Time to understand that for progress to be possible we need to take care of our roots. To ‘conserve’ them!
Time to remember that ‘pruning’ needs to be done carefully.

That we have to ‘cut’ only what’s ‘wrong’, not everything we don’t like.

How to tell those two apart?
‘Humility’ comes very handy in these moments….
Freedom isn’t for free. Nobody is free by itself, only together.
Those who really want to be free must start by respecting each-other.
That’s how mistakes are avoided. By asking for a second-opinion. By listening to what others have to say on the matter.
That’s how normalcy is being defined. And preserved.
How we learn what’s ‘wrong’. How to tell what works from what needs to be pruned.

I cannot wrap this up before giving you a fine example of how ‘propaganda’ works.
It starts with cutting up the truth. By actually pruning it to fit the purpose. Then let’s our already primed brains to do the rest.

See what I mean?

Trump summoned supporters to “wild” protest, and told them to fight. They did

One of my high-school mates had emigrated to Canada. From Romania. He’s been living there for 25 years now. We keep in touch. A few years ago, he told me:

“We come from their future. I currently experience things which had already happened in Romania.”

His prophecy had been fulfilled, and then some, yesterday. The sixth of January, 2021.

1991, Romanian miners occupying the Romanian Parliament.

The differences between the two instances exist and they are not insignificant.

Both Trump and Iliescu – the Romanian president at that time, had been democratically elected. Both on populist platforms, even if the concept wasn’t as widely used in 1991 as it is now.

Only 1991 wasn’t the first time the miners had come to Bucharest.
In 1990 Ion Iliescu – the ‘cripto’ communist leader who had risen to power as a consequence of the 1989 uprising, had ‘thanked’ the miners for quelling a ‘festering’ anti neo-communist protest organized mainly by students.
In fact, this had been yet another precedent. ‘Occupy’ Piata Universitatii 1990 versus Occupy ‘Everything’ 2011.
In 1991, the miners had, again, ‘occupied’ Bucharest. Again, ‘supposedly’, under their own volition. The then prime minister, Petre Roman, had adopted some very stringent free market reforms. Which had fallen foul of both Iliescu and certain swaths of the population. Hence the miners had not been driven back to Valea Jiului until Petre Roman had been revoked from office.

And 1991 wasn’t the last time the miners had attempted to make themselves noticed…
As the old saying goes, it’s harder to quiet down a hornet’s nest than to stir it up!

We’ll see, as the blind man always says.

You live in a house.
And need a gardener.
You find one.
Because you don’t know him, you hire him for only a year, with the option to renew.
When the contract is due to renewal, you attempt to make up your mind.
The guy wasn’t that bad – for the garden, all things considered, but you’ve learned that he doesn’t brush his teeth and he occasionally beats his wife.
‘What the hell!. I seldom see the guy and I don’t know his wife! Why bother finding another?’

You live in a walled in community. Which is operated as a condominium.
The community needs a gardener.
In the area, there are only two agencies which provide gardeners. Each of them sends somebody. One of the guys is selected.
After one year, the community organizes a meeting to decide whether to extend the contract or to hire another guy. The garden is, more or less, OK only the guy is rude. So much so that he had alienated some of the owners as well as some of the neighboring walled-in communities.
The caveat being that the guy available from the other agency is deemed unreliable by those who would like to continue with the current one.
The owners are so divided that some of them no longer pay their dues while some of the opposition picket the entrance gate.

You live in a village.
You need a mayor…

One of the best examples of professional grade propaganda which had recently crept up on my FB wall

As always, the ‘gaslighters’ use ‘the obvious’ to get inside our heads.
Once there, they actually twist our minds.

In fact, the professional propagandists act like viruses do.
They use the internal mechanisms of the target to alter its ‘software’. To ‘convince’ the target to act in a manner favorable to the ‘virus’ rather than in its own interest.

And the fact that both sides – or trolls embedded there?!?, use the same ‘tools’ only makes it harder for the targets – for us, really, to defend ourselves. To maintain our sanity.

Let’s go back to the example at hand.
Yes, it’s ridiculous to blame this child for Pearl Harbor. This is the evident part of the meme.
Only it’s very legit to blame those who deny that Japan attacking Pearl Harbor was ‘murder’. Legit enough to become a must.
Just like it’s a must to blame those who deny the Holocaust.

Same thing with slavery. And with other crimes of the past.
Blaming people alive today for what their ancestors had done in the past is ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as denying that past crimes had consequences. Some of which continue to pull us down today.

Present day colored people in America – and Roma people in Europe, continue to suffer the consequences of having been enslaved for many generation.
Denying that only burdens entire societies.
It burdens the colored people themselves and, on a way larger scale, it burdens the rest of us. The colored people having less opportunities than the rest of us is a waste for the society at large. The disproportionate number of crimes and felonies perpetrated by the colored people are a cost shouldered by all of us.
Meanwhile, the blame is not entirely ‘theirs’. Had they been ‘defective’ in any way would have prevented any of them from ‘prospering’. Hence we’re dealing with a rather ‘cultural’ thing. Which cultural thing has appeared at the intersection between us and them. We had enslaved them. We had kept them at arm’s length until not so long ago. So many of us continue to look down on them.
We consider it’s their individual responsibility to pull themselves up!
And how are they supposed to do that? Statistically speaking, and in the present conditions, not only the most talented and the very lucky among them….

How are we going to proceed? Continue with the blame game – and play into the hands of those who want us weak, or attempt to do something about it? To find a real solution?

There is no such thing as a soul?
OK, then how do you explain what happened the last time you encountered a soul-less person?
You didn’t?
Good for you only I have my doubts.

Either a divine gift or an emanation of the human mind, soul is what separates us from the animal realm.

Or this is how we see things…

After all, we are the ones who believe it is normal for us to eat animals and who consider it a tragedy for one of us, humans, to ‘return to nature’. In any circumstances…

Anyway, things are complicated… Until recently – historically speaking, some of us were comfortable with the notion that skin colour determines the ‘quality’ of one’s soul. Caucasian plantation owners used black slaves to work their land and Arabian rulers used ‘white flesh’ to adorn their harems…

Further complications spring up when we consider the fate of the soul.
Is it going anywhere after it’s ‘host’ passes away? To some other place? Does it come back to fulfill its Karma?
Or it literally goes to meet its Maker? As in ‘for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:18)’?

And when does this soul appears in earnest?
The moment when we leave the womb? A few years later, during the process through which we become conscious human beings?
Or, as some people choose to believe, in the very moment when each of us has been conceived by their parents?

As an aside, what about those conceived in a lab? Do they have a soul?

What about sexes? Are feminine souls equivalent with the masculine ones?
What happens to a transgender soul?

Are we a natural occurrence? A product of evolution? In a constant process of ‘improvement’? Obviously imperfect but, generally speaking, striving to ‘fail better’?

Or are we an imperfect ‘artifact’?

Cause this is the only issue on which there is a consensus… Everybody is convinced we’re ‘defective’. From the staunchest believer to the most rabid atheist…

I really have to stop. And go comfort my soul with something nice.

How does it work and what are the consequences.

To cut a long story short, some 25 years ago I started trading on the Bucharest Stock Exchange. The market had been freshly reinstated after the fall of the communist regime and most of us so called investors were quite naive. Due an incredible amount of luck and a small but very useful spark of intelligence I made a fair amount of money. For that time…
In an attempt to maximize my profits, I went back to school.
Where I learned the difference between fundamental and technical analysis.

I’m not going into details. It’s enough for you to know that no matter how different they are, both fulfill the same psychological function.
They ‘clean up’ the slate. They help the decision makers distance themselves from the objects they have to decide upon.

What?!?

A stock – or any other tradable item, is no different from a bicycle.
We, human beings, become attached to things we already have in our possession. We find it harder to divest ourselves from something than to buy into something new. We tend to procrastinate when having to choose between multiple opportunities to buy and to ‘defend’ an already made decision. An already acquired possession.
Fundamental and technical analyses do nothing but bridge these two ‘chasms’. Help us across.

OK. But has any of this to do with propaganda?

Well, market analysis is a tool used by the decision maker himself.
Propaganda is a tool used by somebody who intends to influence the decision maker. Using the same psychological mechanisms.

While market analysis attempts to clear the ‘sentimental fog’ which distorts the factual information available to the decision maker, propaganda works its way in the opposite direction.
Facts are presented in such a way as to ‘smuggle’ them, below the radar, into the minds of the intended targets.
While market analysis is meant to help decision makers overcome their biases, propaganda is meant to fine tune those biases towards ‘encouraging’ the decision makers into adopting the decision coveted by the propagandist.

Somebody sent me this picture.
See how things work?
Most people consider themselves as being free from racism.
Also, most people consider that other people – namely the politicians and the journalists, have ‘vested’ interests. And that these ‘other’ people use ‘divide and conquer’ to maintain their grip on power.

The key word here being ‘other’. It’s the others who engage in such heinous acts. Never ‘our’ people.

But do you know what bothers me most?
I’ve been subjected to communist propaganda for the first 30 years of my life.
I’ve never dreamed it would take me another 30 years – and a stint of daily trading on the Stock Market, to figure out how propaganda works. Only to find it being used by people who declare communism to be the scourge of the Earth.

Well, since communism actually is a scourge, how about we NOT using the same tool as those who try to infect our minds with it?
For no other reason than propaganda yielding communism having been a complete failure….

How do you determine the scope of a conversation?
What the other guy has in mind when talking to you?

You interpret whatever ‘comes’ from the ‘other’ side… there’s no other way, right?
But what if both of you have opposing views on the subject? If you don’t seem to see eye to eye on the matter? Do you give up, considering the other party as too ‘thick sculled’ to matter?

‘OK, and what alternatives are there?’

The way I see it, people who speak to others might be driven by any combination of ‘trying to convince the other’ and ‘trying to learn something’. Let me deal with the extremes first.

Somebody is trying to mess up with your mind if/when your arguments are dully noted only to be later dismantled, ridiculed or both at the same time. When you are never asked to elaborate. When you end up feeling that the other guy doesn’t really hear what you have to say.

Somebody is trying to learn from the encounter – not necessarily from you, if … the opposite is happening. If you end up with the impression of having been heard. Of an exchange having had happened. Both of you might end up entertaining the very same ideas each of you have started with but…

In practice, most people do learn at least something from each conversation. No matter how determined they were, at the beginning, to convince the other.

But sometimes I do wonder… what if the real goal of too many of those who ‘surf’ – pun intended, the social media is to keep the rest of us busy?
As in ‘waste our time’? Slow us down in our attempt to learn? To make at least some sense of what’s going on around us?

Happy talking!
And don’t forget to learn.

Weapons are nothing but repurposed tools. Sometimes ‘enhanced’ to fit the new goal.

Clubs had started as fruit harvesting utensils, then used for hunting purposes and eventually for bashing in the heads of those who had slept with the missus when the wielders weren’t looking. And so on…

As a tool, an implement is used to ‘put things together’. As a weapon, the same (kind of) implement is used to ‘set things apart’. An axe can be used to split wood in order to build a fire or to ‘split’ furniture during a fit of rage.
Generally speaking, a tool is used towards the ultimate goal of adding to/fine tuning a structure while a weapon is used to destroy/disable something which is meant to remain so.

Our ability to communicate was ‘the’ tool which actually transformed us into what we are today. Humans.
At least according to Humberto Maturana. His theory maintains that we’ve become self-aware social individuals through what he calls languaging.
In a nut-shell, he says that we’ve become humans – self conscious apes, by continuously expressing our thoughts towards the other members of the community. Hence simultaneously building an ‘agora’ and ‘walling in’ individual private spaces.

Yet the same ability to communicate can be used also as a weapon.
Instead of being used by individuals to mutually groom themselves, and ultimately adding to the overall resilience of the community, ‘weaponized’ communication is used to ‘downgrade’ susceptible individuals.
To lower the ability of certain individuals to contribute to the community to which they belong, to lower the ability of entire communities to hold together… or both at the same time.

History suggests that, in the longer run, democracy – as a manner of decision making, increases the survivability of the communities which use it. Simply by pooling the decision making resources of the entire community instead of relying on the mental prowess – and good will, of a single authoritarian leader.
Only for democracy to be fully functional, the individual members of the community have to be able to share, in earnest, their thoughts.
This is why Freedom of Speech has been enshrined in the First Amendment.
That’s why whenever the public discourse becomes increasingly dominated by ‘fake-news’ things start to go south.

That is why whenever people allow themselves to be split into warring parties – with no real communication between the sides except for the misinformation hurled across the divide, both sides eventually end up wondering at the destruction they had allowed the ‘communication warriors’ to inflict upon them.

For some of you, this is nothing new.
For most of you, this is not at all complicated. The image being different from the real thing is rather obvious. Specially when we’re not already invested in the subject…

What on Earth is he trying to say?
Abolish his own kind? There’s nobody whiter than he is…
Or abolish ‘Whiteness’ as a race? Along with all other ‘races’?

Do you see what I mean?
Had he paid more attention in class, he would have known that such an image cuts both ways.

Magrite’s painting worked because his message was ideologically neutral. Nobody – well, almost nobody, has feelings about ‘pipes’. Hence people find it easy to keep their cool about the whole thing. To probe deeper than ‘face value’.

‘Whiteness’, on the other hand, is ‘choke’ full of sentiment. I’m certain you know what I mean. It’s a lot harder to keep a level head when the subject is mentioned.

Back to the drawing board!
The idea is generous but it doesn’t get across.
Simply because the ‘window dressing’ isn’t appropriate.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2020/june/abolish-whiteness

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