You also neglect two additional factors. The first is that during the Cold War, the US was playing an information war that often exceeded the Soviets in sophistication. Why? Because where the Soviets were able to employ physical violence against their own citizens, the Americans resorted to "softer" tactics to maintain the status quo. The press was often that fourth estate. Edward Bernays comes to mind. The second is that the 1990s were also met with an increase in independent internet media. The access to information became greater.
I'm comparing the journalism in US before media consolidation and after. After 1987 repeal of the FCC fairness doctrine, rules of the game changed and companies started to buy up media assets knowing that they can use media to tell just their side of the story. This process finished in 1990s with 90% of media companies owned by 6 media conglomerates.
The other seminal moment in US media space the was 2013 amendment to the Smith Mundt Act, allowing US to employ the same propaganda both inside and outside of the United States.
So, I am not overstating the loss of freedom and diversity that the US media experienced over the past 25 years.
Is it though? I know that in a business context I've often been told that I have an 'incredible ability to see both sides of a question'; that's actually a problem, because at some point one has to decide for one side or another on a particular question.
Likewise, in real life there often aren't cut-and-dried issues: rather, there are two (or more!) sides, each with valid perspectives, valid grudges, and they can't all win; indeed, in some cases compromise is simply impossible. And yet people must decide between them.
Indeed, the more one learns the truth about an historical conflict, the less obvious is the Right Thing to do in that situation. But what great masses of people need is a clear, obvious Right Thing. You don't win WWII by emphasising that the post-WWI plebiscites were fixed against Germany, or that Japan had some valid grievances against the U.S.
I'm curious what Japan's valid grievances against the Chinese, Koreans, or various Pacific island groups was...
Japan until mid 1800s was happily doing their own thing, and not caring for their neighbours, suddenly they had US metal ships on their docks, and the mighty China falling to UK.
Their solution was outright imitate what western powers was doing, in several aspects (even clothes, mannerisms and cultural trends were copied), with the most important one being to act imperialistic, invade weak countries, and try to build the most strong military that you could, using resources from all the colonies as needed.
Japan was only following a bad example set by the western powers, and trying to not become China.
I realize this, but WW2, for Japan, was mostly about taking over much of SE Asia and that would have happened regardless of them going to war with the US.
Just our of curiosity I've replied with another double bind "downvotes proof comment worthiness" which seems have reversed the trend.
Speaking on topic, I think that choosing between Right Thing and Full Picture for the "masses" is like choosing between acceleration and breaks for a car: it is better to have both. Right Thing mobilizes masses while Full Picture helps to avoid dumb aggression.
I don't agree with him and he could have perhaps left some bits out of his comment but I don't think it deserves downvotes and to be greyed out.
The truth sometimes is extremely damaging and narrative is a national security concern. The US works because of a couple of key national advantages - one being that it carries very positive international political capital and soft power. Some truths if widely understood, like the US caused colored revolutions in Ukraine and the Baltics including Euromaiden and its current coup-making and revolution kindling in Venezuela, harm the US's narrative of justified interventionism. It's therefore important that the US and media don't open up about it.
The US has had media operations for nearly a century, from Operation Mockibird to Radio Free Europe, down to the trend of hollywood movies done in co-operation with the army (e.g lending infrastructure etc) to spread official versions of issues etc. There are literally TONS of sponsored NGOs, organisations and news sites operating all around the globe, especially in areas of special interest (regarding oil, resources, etc).
If Russia has some "internet trolls" of their own, so be it. It's as if what the master does, in 1000 times the scale is looked down upon on the lesser countries, and judged as if it was on par, or even worse.
Here's wikileaks documents: https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/releasedate/2012-06-18-08-canv...
These are conversations at Stratfor with and about an 'export-a-revolution' group for hire. If you look through the (ppt) slides in the Introduction to CANVAS you will see them boasting about their role in the colored revolutions. Get back to me on that and if you want more there's more.
I get a heavy soldier-of-fortune wanna-bee vibe from them.
US spy agencies are relatively incompetent by historical measure, which is why it the attempts to remove all agency from foreign actors and put it into the hands of manipulations by secret groups is just nutty conspiracy theories.
Even this Russian trolling stuff is probably ineffectiveness compared to what is already forums filled with noisy trash comments. Are they really influencing anything, or just making comments worthless and untrustworthy to the average person?
I made no claims of particular effectiveness (god knows such efforts have failed - check the Arab Spring), but I'd paint your comment with the bullshit bluster hue before I would Stratfor...
To be more substantive: those with appropriately high levels of interest and low levels of cognitive dissonance can research the history of US spy agencies and their role in winning the First Cold War, of its partnerships with the UK and other nations known for having incredible espionage, to Snowden leaks to see a small fraction of its capabilities, as well as browse Wikileaks files to get more information on the effectiveness of spying operations. Of course they can and should also look at the source documents in question and determine for themselves whether they think the claims are bluster.
I don't think they need to - the larger point that the US is involved in covert regime change in the parent stands - no matter how ineffective you would like to paint it. But if they wanted to understand the relationship between Stratfor and the US intelligence community and the size, budget, role and effectiveness they can - they can also find very good overviews of covert US foreign regime change actions in the last decade and history online. :)
Here's a podcast from a State Department official who discusses some of the more overt (but still on the sly) operations done to start movements opposed to anti-American narratives in the middle east, and them pass them off to the private sector (so called Civil Society).
"In a way its flooding the marketplace with narratives that are 'cool' enough to attract young people... you use voices that are credible but you use images, the music, the sounds, the feel that are modern..."
"The US State Department now has this program to kind of flood social media with counter messages... this center is nothing new... variations have been done since the Bush administration... we also know that the experts in this are not in Washington - they are in Silicon Valley, they are in New York and in Banglor - all of these areas of high tech..."
And a DoD program to manufacture Twitter messages based on brain scans of test subjects before they are flooded into the Middle East: http://minerva.dtic.mil/doc/samplewp-Lieberman.pdf
A twitter messaging platform used to try to kindle revolution in Cuba: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/usaid-effort-t...
So out of curiousity do you have inside information on why all of this activity isn't effective - more information than Stratfor and a company that has been active and claims success in dozens of countries - or is it more of an opinion?
I encourage you to read this article on Stratfor: http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2012/02/d...
"Stratfor is a sleazy outfit. It was established as a money machine by George Friedman and a former Texas Congressman (now out of the picture) who served at one time on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. His being the co-founder along with the presence in the vicinity of numerous retired military people and civilian officials helps explain the selection of Austin as the company’s home. They hustle; everything they do smacks of a hustle. They exploit the student interns while playing on their desire to partake of the mysterious and the romantic. Those they do hire for regular positions get the skimpiest of wages. Expertise and languages are little valued. Their hallmark tool is an electronic pair of scissors. One student had spent four years as an interrogator for the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served as an employee of a contract firm there. His first assignment as a junior member of the Stratfor team was to prowl around the Rio Grande Valley looking for stuff on the drug cartels; he never had been there before.
Stratfor cultivates a mystique of secrecy and insider intelligence because in fact they have little to sell that is exceptional. They use open sources and communicate with old pals in and around government to get a feel for what’s going on. The Wikileaks material corroborates this, and it provides the further insight that they pay people for information and/or contacts. Those people include journalists, politicos, the occasional academic and professional tattlers. Sources and clients seem to overlap, i.e. Stratfor plays both ends against the middle. Having been shown a couple of Stratfor reports, I am singularly unimpressed by the supposedly inside information and the quality of the analysis."
Stratfor is just another K-street style retirement house and military industrial money milking machine. There's no evidence they produce any more value than say, Foreign Intelligence magazine. They just charge more for it and claim special abilities no one has seen (and have often been hilariously wrong) Basically the military "intelligence" version of a Gartner Group report.
The Soviet Union primarily collapsed because it was a poorly run system. Hell, if you believe the libertarian/Austrians it was practically inevitable it was going to crash. The story that Saint Reagan ran them into an arms race which bankrupted them, or spy agencies toppled them is a form of massive survivorship bias. You could claim that external events could set a match to fuel that's already there, but the basic weaknesses that put it teetering on collapse were internal economic and political issues that were wholly self made.
If one day North Korea collapses, are you going to claim spy agencies get the credit, or that the basic economic and political system is not sustainable in the long term.
Mostly this is because I think this entire branch of conversation, as interesting it could otherwise be, seems orthogonal to the point and the claim. I don't want to get too far from the main claim and the discussions from the grandparents.
I would not argue that intelligence operations 'ended' the cold war - nor that it was just intelligence that won it. They had an important role in winning the war - by that I mean the cold war was an intelligence war as much as a diplomacy war and an arms war and a proxy war. It's like saying that the intelligence services had a role to play winning WWII. They did. The war wasn't won solely by intelligence. In any case, as you can tell, not an interesting conversation or point - it's mundane.
Factoring out whether someone thinks that Stratfor actually provides something of value to the US government or is mostly a place to couch retired generals who have too many secrets to let loose into the private sector it stands that independent of Stratfor, CANVAS was involved in starting colored revolutions and is today involved in trying to kindle revolution in Venezuela - in those same links for example are documents from 2012 providing analysis about how to do that that reflect very accurately the mobilization and activities happening today (getting students to protest, support for Leopoldo, etc).
What's more, there's far more than CANVAS that the US government uses to accomplish these things.
So if you'll allow me to exit what I'd like to leave while bowing out is that Stratfor's record of efficiency doesn't matter so much - we're only barely talking about Stratfor.
Also, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are the motherlands for hackers of all sorts, we have bots who post pro-Kremlin comments on social networks too.
My favorite example is this one: http://apikabu.ru/img_n/2012-02_4/5c7.jpg
The description says "DO NOT POST COMMENTS, who post a comment will be banned", and underneath it different bot accounts post messages about how bad it is to join protests and American government controls the opposition, nonsense like that.
Don't worry about hacker news or other sites like this one — the government thinks people don't know English to be on these sites. Partially it's true, though, most people still are unaware of real situation because they don't have internet connection (they get news from television, as here it's called "ZomboTV" ("Зомбоящик"), you guys have it too, imagine if all the channels were like CNN) and most of their time they spend on trying to survive in this economic situation (google "dollar to ruble"), they have no time to protest or find true information about their government and "president" (a mafioso Putin, google "dacha consumer cooperative Ozero")
* They sometimes drop determiners in English. (A pattern I've noticed).
* They post a lot of comments.
* They fill up the comment section early in the morning (Europe) and then nothing.
* Rampant quoting (especially zero hedge), like someone spent their whole day researching the issue.
* Assumptions in arguments are official Russian talking points.
Now, how do I distinguish these guys from just gold buying Max Keyser followers? Mainly the time that seems to have gone into it. If I were to post as prolifically I would need to dedicate at least several hours to this every day.
For a while, I've stuck to the Wikileaks suggested formula of "Scientific Journalism" [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_journalism] and I've seen the progression of State Actors (both automated and manned) across the www.
What's telling that I did a CTRL+F for the term - and it's not mentioned. Added to that, even mature news sources (such as the Guardian or Telegraph in the UK) have only ever dabbled at it - for instance, the Guardian provides links within its own articles, but the links are entirely self referential. i.e. recursive back into their own site. Even with actual science articles, actually getting a link to the paper [pay-walled or otherwise] is rare.
I will say that certain writers for the Guardian (Monbiot recently on soil), however much their bias, actually source links to multiple first / second tier sources, which is a good thing.
The upshot of this is: there [b]is[/b] a solution, and you can often spot the genuine comments by virtue of first and second tier links (wikipedia being second tier).
The actual real issue (again, not mentioned in the comments here) is to break the media consumption mold whereby people read comments as personal anecdotes / opinions. It's a form of conditioning around since forever [the TV turn to the camera, eye contact, personal little look].
What might be a fun project for HN viewers would be an independent (eff?) project that pattern matched text and caught similarities. Probably using a modified code base from a commercial plagiarism detectors. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism_detection]
Note: the US at least has spent a lot of money on their own versions. As probably have the Russians / Chinese: you can be fairly sure comments are chucked through an automated detector to see the (likely) source: yours, theirs, randoms, bots or the 'Other'.
[Let's see if this comment gets flagged by evul bots!]
Data, Text, and Image Mining—Analysis of data stream in real time as well as cluster analysis and their applications to data, text, and image mining are important tools for anomaly detections in the global war against terrorism. New and unifying methodologies are needed in order to provide efficient search for patterns or meaning from the analysis of usually huge data sets that consist of multivariate measurements. Developments of mathematical theory for data, text, and image mining techniques are also highly desirable.
The sites like the one you mentioned should close their comment section when it's morning in Europe and open it at night when their work day is over.
I hope people won't judge other Russians just because of these trolls...
The upshot of all this trolling is that all legitimate support for Russia is effectively ignored. The Kremlin troll phenomenon is now so widespread that it is working against whatever intentions they could have had.
Basically, anyone who holds a pro-Russian opinion is now either dismissed as a troll or a victim of propaganda. Unfortunately, this is just as it has to be. They have destroyed any sensible debate and have rendered themselves and their followers labelled.
There are russian trolls here as well. Just search for topics on Ukraine.
What I am guessing is happening is the initial post is made by a putinbot and upvoted by other putinbots. When I make my comment asking for sources, they all downvote me. Then after sometime the reddit community gets a chance to vote on the comments and they adjust them to the actual score they should be. Obviously this doesn't confirm the existence of these bots, but it is very suspect.
UPD: The hosting was US-based. So they were deliberately looking for Russian forms.
"Victoria Nuland Admits: US Has Invested $5 Billion In The Development of Ukrainian, 'Democratic Institutions'".
However, my question is this...is a "troll" just defined as someone who disagrees with you?
For example, I am sure, as unpleasant as it may seem, that there are plenty of people who sincerely think it's good that Russia invaded Ukraine...if these people voice their support, are they "trolling"?
How are you supposed to tell the difference?
Is calling someone a "troll" just a way to try to quickly marginalize any POV they may be trying to defend or promote? And if so, isn't it just a shortcut to censorship of any ideas you may not agree with? Is that the way we want discussions to work?
These are serious questions that I, personally, have about this issue. Am I considered a "troll" for having these questions?
Edit: Changed  to a more recent poll.
People judge someone as a troll and immediately stop thinking about the subject matter, e.g. "Russia invaded Ukraine" is that a fact or an opinion?
If you believe that an opposing point of view is objectively wrong and mostly upheld by propagandists, you want to prevent people from actually considering "the lie" for their own safety.
Of course, doing this usually leads to an argument and tea-leaf reading session that creates a bigger distraction than the trolls (whether they exist or not) probably could have managed.
In this case, it's because he's paid by the government.
In (most) other cases, it's because the troll wants to see you get angry.
Do people really do that?
I've been posting to newsgroups for 35 years...I have never once even considered betraying my personal beliefs just to make someone angry.
I guess that's why I struggle so hard with the whole "troll" meme.
Yes, though true trolling is actually pretty rare. But yes, trolls try to completely disrupt an otherwise functioning forum by keeping a fake "discussion" going.
The most obvious one I know of is Mike Vandeman who has been trolling mountain bikers online since the 90s:
I do think trolls have gotten an undeservedly bad reputation because of being conflated with griefers. To me, trolling is relatively harmless attention-seeking vs. GamerGate, which is definitely griefing.
Their modus operandi is not to convince people by the force of argument; their goal is to frustrate people who disagree with them and make any reasonable discussion of Russian policies impossible. They make excessively exaggerated claims; it is hopeless to refute those claims by reason because their goal is not dialogue at all, but to make all discussion about Russia obscure and distrusted.
If they manage to destroy trust in any regular media or reasonable discussion partners, they have achieved their goal. And that works quite well.
To For Russian Trolls (or Russia Today) to succeed, they don't need to be believable. It is enough if they make all media not believable so that no one trusts anything, even good sources.
Russian news is of an entirely different nature. They were famous for industrious propaganda during the cold war. They are now at it again in full force. The troll factories are just one facet of it, but it encompasses nearly all of Russian media.
>...valid pro-Russian arguments are down voted for no reason, while 'Fuck Russia' posts are up voted. The same with stories. But this is folly, not malice.
You can say this all you want but it's merely conjecture. You can see the exact same trends you'll find with these Russian "trolls" (shills is a better word) on almost every topic on the internet.
It is not a stretch to believe that the NSA and other organizations, private and public, are waging a public/private war of popular opinion all over the internet and media.
Remember when the NSA and DOD lied to American congress about collecting American's cell phone data and stuff? If they're willing to BLATANTLY lie to congress then what's a couple million of their hugely bloated budgets to pay an office of trolls to throw smoke screens over any topic they please?
And if you're inferring that private corporations don't offer this service...well...if that's true, I just found my next business.
Vote brigading and shill accounts corrupted reddit long ago. These tactics have probably been in use since before reddit even existed.
The internet is essentially a big propaganda machine and you can't till what is what unless you are keen and aware.
Governments including those in the Five Eyes, Russia, China, Israel and more have been shown to have massive operations - JTRIG for one - that seek to disrupt and manipulate online discourse, create and spread false information, etc.
PR firms run rampant across social media sites, forums, etc. and disrupt and manipulate online discourse and the flow of information. Everything from the largest companies in the world to small local restaurants engage in manipulating how their company and its actions are perceived.
News entities, small and large, serve their corporate interests and promote whatever they want promoted, or rally against whatever they want rallied against.
And then people, with their inherent biases, buying into propaganda, toeing the party line, etc. do their own part in the same, whether it's in spreading purposely created disinformation that they believe to be true, trying to silence those that disagree with them and more. One of the most toxic things I've seen is the rise in very rapidly dismissing a statement that one disagrees with as being that of "trolling" or "shilling" in order to shut down the discussion.
With regards to Reddit, the fact that moderator accounts, accounts with large numbers of upvotes, etc. can be readily bought online says more than needs to be said about the bizarre behaviour on display on that site every day.
Wikipedia has been utterly bastardized.
And so it goes on.
It's a shame to see a tool that was created for sharing information being so heavily corrupted. Widespread propaganda from all sides, mass surveillance, the active actions of intelligence agencies such as the recent CIA attempt to inspire an uprising in Cuba, etc.
It has become very hard to know what to trust online now. It's sad, but not unexpected, and one can only wonder what the future holds for it.
Too many people in one subreddit killed reddit. Go to the outskirts. It's fine.
That and the mountain of evidence which demonstrates how Russia makes a concerted effort to command the media narrative of a story through online comments.
This article is just about these paid people and doesn't question that there are people with pro-Russian government position. But in this case bandwagon effect and propaganda take major role.
(What I think is that the only thing these paid trolls cannot admit is that they are paid trolls. They can write anything, criticize Putin and such, but they cannot admit they exist.)
Also, I may or may not be an employee who was told to come and disrupt the discussion here. So there's that too.
Incomplete list of domestic stuff: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8856218 like "public opinion campaigns": http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/us/20generals.html?pagewan...
Incomplete list of international stuff: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8709976 like using social media to kindle revolutions: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/usaid-effort-t...
Some things almost sound like science fiction, like the DoD program to predict successful overseas propaganda by observing brain scans of test subjects: http://minerva.dtic.mil/doc/samplewp-Lieberman.pdf
Based on the state of that powerpoint slide they're probably achieving fuck-all in practice.
"The operations described [include] a major disinformation project to plant false stories in any available news media."
Way more professional.
Also Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been around for ages.
They stood on the altar.
Afaik, they caused no physical damage to the church, nor defaced anything.
I don't think people get multi-year sentences for saying bad words in a church ;)
Just like Russians or their assisted rebels didn't shoot down that passenger plane.
It's all made clear in the Russian press, blogs and forum postings!
2 months in 12h shifts working 4 days a week is not that bad.
RFE/RL is supervised by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an agency overseeing all U.S. federal government international broadcasting services.
And so we enter the wilderness of mirrors...
(FWIW the radio in my kitchen is set to the BBC world service, which is funded exclusively by the foreign office...)
Are the facts of the story in dispute because Radio Free Europe happened to publish the interview? This I'm not so sure of.
Also writing a comment like this in the context of the linked article fills me with a sense of dread. Am I merely emulating the villain troll perspective by refuting your claim and (seemingly) suiting my biases? Will it be possible to have discussions in the future without a subtext of having some covert motive?
(For the record, I agree with your view. If you want to feel even more confused about the issue, check out this video concerning Vladislav Surkov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcy8uLjRHPM)
We should start a pool on who and what is being funded by the russian govt.
Pussy Riot 8/1
Adam Curtis 9/2
I think a general education in reasoning, criticism and logic, that would happen along with the typical primary/secondary courses( math, english ) would help not just in this case, but also in many other areas.
Simple and beautiful. Just don't think it's only happening in Russia.
Maybe you could make a case for Palestine or the Senkaku Islands dispute but I don't think those examples would hold muster for a multitude of reasons.
err Tibet ? hmm Palestine ?
China still wants to annex Taiwan, and the 50 Cent Party reliably speaks out in support of "reunification" when Western media bring up the topic. Still not quite the same, but at least the PRC has lots of missiles pointing to Taiwan (more than to the Senkakus).
It's slightly more complex than that. Officially, for the past 65 years both Republic of China and People's Republic of China have been agreeing that there is only one China, of which Taiwan is a province. There's no question about either one "annexing" what is already considered part of the country.
They have just disagreed which one is the legitimate government of that one China. Only more recently the idea of a separate , independent country on the island of Taiwan has been gaining popularity on that island.
An interview with a member of China's 50 Cent Party.
Back in ancient times, around the beginnings of Eternal September, we had Serdar Argic. He used to piss off half of Usenet with his repetitive denials of the Armenian Genocide.
We also had Canter and Siegel (who I affectionately referred to as Cancer and Slime). They were the first massive commercial Usenet spammers.
Ahh, good times. Such humble beginnings for the Information Superhighway.
There was a report of a similar operation in the US a few years ago (I lost the link, can't find it, no PDF), where this kind of thing was done as a paid service for political groups within the US. The author of that article had worked there as part of some "pro-Isreal" group. It was better than this Russian op - there was a relatively deeper briefing of the material at hand.
1. Sides with Iran/Assad
2. Bash U.S/NATO
3. Claim USG is supporting terrorists and CIA is training them.
4. Claim "Arab Spring" is a conspiracy to destabilize the Middle East.
5. Claim 9/11 was an inside job.
6. Everything bad happens is a conspiracy by USG to attack the Democratic Putin. (lol)
If you want a look, check the comments of Reddit or Youtube topics about Ukrine, Syria, Russian/Middle East related, etc...
The sockpuppets tend to be more influential than drive-by commenters though. Some of them actually pretend to be respectable journalists and opinion-formers. The Church Committee in the 1970s blew the lid on this.
Operation Mockingbird is a famous historical example:
The National Endowment for Democracy is more recent:
Given history, it would take someone with more faith in open government than I have to believe there are no equivalent online operations today.
Damn, it's like stalinist times all over again...
Not surprising that the major amount of propaganda is directed onto domestic sites. And, yes, clear visible double standards applied by the major powers in the world do make that propaganda work much more successful.
So if you ignore the nonsensical people you will ignore the trolls too. It's a pretty good rule to follow anyway.
Of course, it can be difficult to tell those who are a bit fanatical about an issue from astroturfers, usually because the fanatical people are sourcing from blogs etc written by the astroturfers