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DoubleQuotes as claim and refutation: Ukraine

Friday, August 15th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- DoubleQuotes as an alternative to "on page 16, below the fold"]
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All too often when mass media are caught propagating falsehoods, the apologies and refutations if any get buried away in an obscure corner where few of those who saw the original claim will run across the correction. This tweeted DoubleQuote in the Wild gives “equal time” to claim and refutation:

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So there’s another useful use for the DoubleQuotes format -=- and my hat’s off to Mannfred Nyttingnes.

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DoubleQuoting hashtags on Gaza

Friday, August 15th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- don't be fooled by the pretty colors, what you see is just a mass of data points artfully displayed ]
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Here’s a fascinating graphic from the quantitative mode of analysis:

I really don’t have much to say about this, except that if a prayer is fired off each time the hashtags #prayforgaza and #prayforisrael are posted, the divine listening apparatus must be a stereo system.

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Source:

  • Gilad Lotan, Israel, Gaza, War & Data: Social Networks and the Art of Personalizing Propaganda
  • Lotan’s article is worth reading. Here’s the point that interested me most:

    Haaretz accommodates the most connections on both the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli sides of the graph, having the highest betweenness centrality. Compared to all other nodes in the graph, Haaretz is most likely to spread throughout the wider network. It has the most potential for bridging across biases and political barriers.

    Lotan closes with a plea for us all to “be more thoughtful about adding and maintaining bridges across information silos online”. May it be so.

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    Form is Insight: parliamentarian scuffle, photographer’s eye

    Monday, August 11th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- insight -- from the artistic eye via the ayat of the Qur'an and poetic and scientific "readings" to the craft of intelligence analysis ]
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    You might think this was an image taken from some art book by EH GombrichArt and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation? — or John Berger — Ways of Seeing, perhaps? — but it’s not. As you might have guessed from my title, or from seeing it elsewhere recently, on BoingBoing, Twitter or wherever.

    It’s a journalist’s photo of a brawl in the Ukrainean parliament, where debate is still as lively as it was on the floor of the US House of Representatives in 1798:

    or 1858:

    A Parliamentary brawl, it would seem, is one mode of the continuation of politics by other means. Or is it just politics as usual?

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    The illustration at the head of this post is indeed “art criticism” in the tradition of Gombrich and Berger, but it’s not an illustration of Old Masterly technique — it’s an artist’s comment on a press photo of a recent brawl, as indicated above, in the Ukrainean parliament. Here’s the photo itself:

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    It’s masterful — and indeed Old Masterful enough that Manzil Lajura posted the photo itself with the two attendant images on FaceBook under the title “Pelea en el parlamento Ucraniano convertido en arte renacentista” — roughly, Brawl in the Ukrainian parliament transformed into Renaissance art..

    And yes.

    Lajura’s post was then picked up and tweeted by James Harvey:

    And thence onwards into viral multiplicity.

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    So what does this have to do with intelligence — in the analytic sense, or the general sense of intellectual capacity?

    Just that it’s a matter of “reading” a surface for more than superficial insight — for “signs” (ayat, the word also used to describe verses in the Qur’an).

    What I’m calling “reading” here takes many forms, visual and artistic in this instance, verbal in the case of “closely read” texts — but generalizable as the ways in which we “read” the world. In my post What the Dickens? Symbolic details in Inspire issue 3 exploring the evidence for al-Awlaki’s involvement in the thankfully foiled mail attacks on two Chicago synagogues, I quoted Fazlun Khalid, Islam and the Environment:

    The Qur’an refers to creation or the natural world as the signs (ayat) of Allah, the Creator, and this is also the name given to the verses contained in the Qur’an. Ayat means signs, symbols or proofs of the divine. As the Qur’an is proof of Allah so likewise is His creation. The Qur’an also speaks of signs within the self and as Nasr explains, “… when Muslim sages referred to the cosmic or ontological Qur’an … they saw upon the face of every creature letters and words from the cosmic Qur’an … they remained fully aware of the fact that the Qur’an refers to phenomena of nature and events within the soul of man as ayat … for them forms of nature were literally ayat Allah”. As the Qur’an says, “there are certainly signs (ayat) in the earth for people with certainty; and in yourselves. Do you not then see?” (Adh-Dhariat, 51:20, 21).

    — and gave some additional details in a more recent update post, Eavesdropping on Twitter — about al-Awlaqi and Dickens.

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    For the mystic, such signs are revelatory of the divine within the natural; for artists, hallmarks of true beauty; for a scientist, for a poet, perhaps, letters in the calligraphy with which the world is written, for jihadists and natsec analysts alike, signals in a significant code — a language used by jihadists in communication, a code analysts must surely learn to read. Here’s Galileo, with a scientist’s view:

    Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever lies before our eyes. I mean the universe, but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in the mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures without whose help it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word of it, and without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.

    Recognizing the Fibonacci series / golden ratio spiral, as in the photo of the Ukrainean brawl, is just one of the ways to “read deeper” whatever sights, sounds, texts and images come our way — one of a thousand. William Benzon, blogging at New Savanna today, mentions another. He quotes J. Hillis Miller on Kenneth Burke:

    Burke came to Harvard when I was a graduate student and gave a lecture about indexing. What he was talking about was how you read. I had never heard anybody talk about this. He said what you do is notice things that recur in the text, though perhaps in some unostentatious way. If something appears four or five times in the same text, you think it’s probably important. That leads you on a kind of hermeneutical circle: you ask questions, you come back to the text and get some answers, and you go around, and pretty soon you may have a reading.

    Who are these folk? They are the kinds of folk who would have been recruited from Yale’s English department in the glory days of OSS and CIA

    But what kind of analysis? Attempting to distinguish “signal” from “noise,” officials at the CIA and Defense Department debate competing methods of data-sifting and weigh the aggressive, “hypotheses-driven” style of interpretation favored by the Pentagon. Probability and risk are continually assessed, and sometimes the talk can sound nearly philosophical. Referring to the search for illegal weapons in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared on Aug. 5 that “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.”

    If such matters arose at a university, they would attract the attention of philosophers of science or even theorists of literature, who study how to tease meaning out of texts. And indeed, the academy has profoundly shaped the rough-and-tumble espionage trade since the founding days of the CIA. In his classic 1987 study, “Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961,” Yale historian Robin W. Winks showed how professors took a crucial role in creating and manning the agency and its forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). No university played a greater role than Winks’s own. “From Yale’s class of 1943 alone, at least 42 young men entered intelligence work, largely in the OSS, many to remain on after the war to form the core of the new CIA,” Winks notes.

    It wasn’t just globe-trotting historians and social scientists who made the leap. As Winks emphasized, Yale’s literature specialists played a key role in shaping the agency’s thinking.

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    The photographer and editor who took and “framed” that image of the Ukrainean parliamentary brawl had an ‘eye” for pattern-recognition — in terms of “form” as much as “content’.

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    Balancing acts & mirror images: 1

    Friday, August 1st, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- first in a series of (at least) three posts, mostly about Gaza ]
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    There are a whole lot of uses of balancing acts & mirror images around these days on Twitter and elsewhere, and without prejudice I’d like to repost some of them. Individual items of this kind may be designed to “take a side” — but with any luck, presenting a slew of them together will encourage a more thoughtful response.

    First up, one that compares and contrasts the Gaza situation with that in Syria:

    Why the double standard is a great question to ask, but I’m not sure any one answer will be the right one. The juxtaposition of the two death tolls, however, clearly provokes thought. And besides, as the Reverend Dean of St Pauls, John Donne saith:

    any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee

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    Here’s a “mirror image” with built in asymmetry that is clearly used to convey an Israeli point regarding Hamas:

    This gains its psychological force as argument precisely from the symmetry between the two sides — and from the way in which that symmetry is broken.

    And here’s a variant that I posted earlier, to much the same effect:

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    Here’s a “twinning” of tweets that I put together myself, providing what may be a less obvious symmetry, and again one that takes us ourside of Gaza, though not out of the neighboirhood entirely. There’s this:

    And then there’s this:

    As I say — remembering as I say it, specifically, the injunction to “love thy neighbor” — it’s all in the same neighborhood.

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    Really, the number of ironies, paradoxes, mirror-images and so forth cropping up in my Twitter feed these days is overwhelming.

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    Merch for war and peace

    Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- hint: peace comes at a far higher cost ]
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    No longer do you need to sit long hours in meditation or travel to Syria and borrow a gun to show your appreciation for peace or jihad. You can now buy a t-shirt for the cool Caliphate [upper panel, below]…

    or a comfy chair like the one made for the supercool Dalai Lama [lower panel, above].

    And that’s the power of — choose one:

  • (a) symbols in the mind
  • (b) money in the bank
  • Thing is, the t-shirt, showing your relaxed appreciation of jihad, will run you about $10 — but a similarly relaxed appreciation of meditation will cost you $10,000 — war is a thousand times cheaper than peace, give or take.

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    Sources:

  • The Wire, Retailers Capitalize on Iraq Crisis With ISIS Merchandise
  • Chicago Tribune, Desire a Dalai Lama chair?
  • Nice irony in that Chicago Tribune headline, no?

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