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From the caliphate to Ferguson and back, it’s a small world

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- starting with the news, closing with Jay Forrester & the impact of systems dynamics on our understanding of cause and effect -- a catchup post ]
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Clearing the decks grom the last few days, I found this DoubleQuote in the Wild from Ferguson staring out at me from my twitter feed — suggesting just how intricately interwoven our world really is:

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Souad Mekhennet has a piece titled Even the Islamists of ISIS are obsessing over Ferguson in the Washington Post:

You can understand if President Obama would rather talk about the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq, where he has scored some victories, than talk about the unholy mess in Ferguson, Mo. Surprisingly, though, ISIS militants are following developments in the St. Louis suburb, and some of them would rather focus on that. According to interviews and social media, members of the group and sympathizers with its jihadist ideology are closely tracking the events in the St. Louis suburb, where protesters and police have clashed. In it, they see opportunity.

Here are a couple of ISIS-fan tweets:

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Look, the point I’m making isn’t about Ferguson, it isn’t about the Islamic State, it has to do with the way that an event in one place whill have myriad unexpected effects downstream. The classic case which really opened my eyes to this was Aum Shinrikyo — the group that released sarin in the Tokyo subway system — sending a planeload of its members to Zaire in an attempt to collect Ebola samples for their biochem weapons labs.

Someone in a medium size yoga cult in Japan read the New Yorker and learned that Ebola esisted and was lethal, and the next thing you know there’s a religious terror group, led by a guy who reads Nostradamus, Asimov and Revelation — and has been granted a photo op with the Dalai Lama — working diligently to get that capability.

That was back in the last century, but Ebola’s in the news again these days, and it turns out that epidemiology needs to take into account pervasive belief in some affected corners of Africa that the whole business is a conspiracy designed to imprison Africans in “clinics” — the result being riots against at least one clinic, and blood-stained bedclothes and live virus carriers being dispersed into a poorly protected slum.

Epidemiology as theorized and modeled should be cleaner than that. But then there are other factors — in the case of polio, there’s CIA use of a vaccination team as cover for an attempt to obtain bin Laden’s DNA in Abbottabad, resulting in widespread rumors of conspiracy, refusal of vaccinations, and a resurgence of the disease.

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Big question: how can you figure out the unknown unknowns represented by riots affecting quarantine? words spoken when a mic supposedly off is in fact on? the impact of large scale climate engineering.

One of the ideas that has most influenced me in my thinking about games, simulations and models over the last dozen or more years comes from Jay Forrester. I’ll quote him from section 4.1, Cause and Effect Not Closely Related in Time or Space, in his 2009 paper, Learning through System Dynamics as Preparation for the 21st Century, though I think I first ran across the idea in one of his books, probably Urban Dynamics (1969) or World Dynamics (1971):

Most understandable experiences teach us that cause and effect are closely related in time and space. However, the idea that the cause of a symptom must lie nearby and must have occurred shortly before the symptom is true only in simple systems. In the more realistic complex systems, causes may be far removed in both timing and location from their observed effects.

From earliest childhood we learn that cause and effect are closely associated. If one touches a hot stove, the hand is burned here and now. When one stumbles over a threshold, the cause is immediately seen as not picking the foot high enough, and the resulting fall is immediate. All simple feedback processes that we fully understand reinforce the same lesson of close association of cause and effect. However, those lessons are aggressively misleading in more complex systems.

In systems composed of many interacting feedback loops and long time delays, causes of an observed symptom may come from an entirely different part of the system and lie far back in time.

To make matters even more misleading, such systems present the kind of evidence that one has been conditioned by simple systems to expect. There will be apparent causes that meet the test of being closely associated in time and in location. However, those apparent causes are usually coincident symptoms arising from a distant cause. People are thereby drawn to actions that are not relevant to the problem at hand.

That stunned me. But it gets a little worse:

Comments such as I have just made about cause and effect carry little conviction from being stated in a text. Only after a student has repeatedly worked with models that demonstrate such behavior, and has had time to observe the same kinds of behavior in real life, will the idea be internalized and become part of normal thinking.

I don’t think that’s quite right, I think we’re now seeing generations arise for whom system dynamics and networked thinking seem progressively more “intuitive” — more in tune with the zeitgeist.

But the decision makers? As far as I can see, they are largely impervious to the kinds of thinking necessary to navigate our complexly interwoven envirorment.

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Nairobi conspiracism from a popular Kenyan tweeter

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- "certain people were warned to stay away" as a recurring theme in terror attacks ]
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Conspiracism was, I’m afraid, inevitable: it’s in the air, worldwide. What’s interesting here is the evident local popularity of the guy who posted this tweet:

This was posted early this morning.

Back in August 2012, the Nairobi Wire site ran a piece headlined Twitter Goes Silent As Robert Alai Is Arrested which referred to Robert Alai as the “tweep in chief” — so we can deduce that Alai already had quite a following at least a year prior to the Westgate tragedy. As of this time of writing, he has 88,046 followers: some may be following him for the lulz, but surely not all of them.

Let’s just call this an early indicator of an undertow in the currents rippling around Nairobi and the Westgate Mall event. It is significant (I wouldn’t go nearly so far as to say important) as one small piece of a much larger cultural puzzle. And pattern-wise, it’s a local match for the Jews were warned to stay away meme that circulated after 9/11.

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H/t Laura Seay for pointing us to this “Kenyan Truther” tweet.

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It’s been a while since anyone last used a nuclear bomb, right?

Monday, September 9th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- keeping you in the "loopy" loop ]
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There’s more ridiculous sloshing around on the web than I can hope to monitor, but my personal collection hit a couple of high points recently that I thought I should share with you. Did you know, for instance, that Israel recently exploded a nuclear bomb in Syria? How could you consider yourself informed, and be unaware of such a thing? It was on YouTube…

But pshaw, that’s secular nonsense, and as you know, my tastes run to the religious. So did you know the emeritus Pope Benedict had a demonic advisor by his side while he was making a major speech?

That sure as hell beats out the namby-pamby 10 Weirdest Fundamentalist Christian Conspiracy Theories an Alternet writer came up with, eh?

In any case, please watch both the above videos: I trust you will then realize that the world is in far worse shape than you thought it was before reading this post.

After all, it’s on YouTube.

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How about this?

Hang on a moment, Sayyida Zaynab is the shrine dear to Shiites that Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada is defending, as this graphic suggests:

And last but not least, consider this, from a US Senator:

Coincidence!?!? — or just a clumsy creative leap?

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NB: Updated to replace “Hezbollah” with “Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada” above — h/t Phillip Smyth.

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Dajjal and Antichrist: the family resemblance

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- on the assignment of archetypal roles to members of the British Royal Family ]
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For those having trouble distinguishing the Dajjal from the Antichrist, I thought I’d post two screen-caps from a video of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, one of whom is identified as the Dajjal:

together with the cover of a book identifying the Antichrist — by his coat of arms — as Prince Charles:

In true conspiracist connect-the-dots fashion, then, the Antichrist is the Dajjal’s father.

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Dajjals, Antichrists, Messiahs and Mahdis all function as Rorschach blots on which people project their hopes and fears, associating celebrities and leaders they despise and admire with archetypal instances of the final evil and the final savior.

By now, we should surely have figured out that this tells us more about those making the attributions than it does about the supposed, dreaded or hoped for end of days…

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Tamerlan Tsarnaev end times videos II: a Vinnie Paz video

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- others will know more about the context here than I do, but this video deserves to be seen alongside the "Black banners" Mahdist example ]
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Here’s the other “end times” video that Tamerlan Tsarnaev liked on FaceBook, and I think if you put the two of them together, you get the sense that he found quasi-prophetic doomish videos appealing… without necessarily subscribing in detail to either the Madhism of the first or the Icke-ness of this one… there’s even an Aleister Crowley ref!

Vinnie Paz – End Of Days Ft. Block Mccloud MUSIC VIDEO ORIGINAL! (fan made)

I’ve posted the lyrics to End of Days below.

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Hey, I’m mostly Bach, Handel, Purcell, Byrd, Gregorian, I’m also Dylan, Joni, I’m almost seventy old, and I claim no knowledge of rap, so…

… knowing that the Wikipedia is not the most academically credible source, and being an utter layperson in these matters, here are a couple of paragraphs from their coverage of Vinnie Paz. with all appropriate caveats:

Religion

Vinnie was raised a Roman Catholic just like the majority of the people in southern Philadelphia. Although his family practiced Catholicism, Vinnie always felt disconnected from the religion. In high school, a good friend of his was Muslim, and he frequented this friend’s household. This particular friend’s father began teaching Paz about the Qu’ran. As an adult he gradually converted to Islam and currently still is a Muslim. In an interview with Jason Goss, Paz stated; “Growing up yeah, I’m Italian and from Philly, so obviously my family is Roman Catholic. Religion and spirituality are a strange thing, ya know? Most people just grow up and accept the propaganda that their parents pushed on them. Christian families produce Christian kids, Jewish families produce Jewish kids, and so on. Not many people break that mold. I just never felt any connection with Catholicism, or Christianity in general. I spent a lot of time in high school at my homeboy Arif’s crib, and he came from a Muslim family. I learned a lot there from his family and I got interested in Islam through them.”

Conspiracy theories

Jedi Mind Tricks and specifically Vinnie Paz are known for rapping about many different conspiracy theories. Most are chronicled in Paz’s song “End of Days” from his first solo album. The song features speech clips from famous conspiracy theorist David Icke. In this particular song, Paz raps about mostly conspiracy theories within the United States government. For instance he mentions that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers was an inside job. He also introduces listeners to a place in California called Bohemian Grove, where world leaders and other influential men meet to discuss things that for the most part remain a mystery. Most of these conspiracy theories stem from the beliefs of a New World Order and the Illuminati.

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I suppose it bears saying that end times and conspiracist theories alike can become established explanations of current reality in some minds, but that there are very likely a whole lot of others who find them titillating, tasty, amusing, or just crazy enough to irritate the neighbors.

They merit study, because they can show us some of the undercurrents of the times we live in that we might otherwise miss. They are instances of a style of thinking that clearly has its own motivations with little regard for the particulars invoked, and are often self-contradictory amalgams in terms of those details. And yet specific instances can also be significant indicators of passionately held individual beliefs.

Cavete a canibus.

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Lyrics: End of Days:

The greatest form of control is when you think you’re free when you’re being fundamentally manipulated and dictated to. One form of dictatorship is being in a prison cell and you can see the bars and touch them. The other one is sitting in a prison cell but you can’t see the bars but you think you’re free.

What the human race is suffering from is mass hypnosis. We are being hypnotized by people like this: newsreaders, politicians, teachers, lecturers. We are in a country and in a world that is being run by unbelievably sick people. The chasm between what we’re told is going on and what is really going on is absolutely enormous.

[Chorus: Block McCloud]

It’s like we all know what’s going down
But no one’s saying shit, what happened to the home of the brave?
These motherfuckers they’re controlling us now
But no one’s talking about it, made us proud to be slaves

And everybody’s just walking around
Head in the clouds, we won’t awake until we’re dead in the grave
By then it’s too late, we need to be ready to raise up
Welcome to the end of days

[Verse 1: Vinnie Paz]

Everybody is slave, only some are aware
That the government releasing poison in the air
That’s the reason I collect so many guns in my lair
I ain’t never caught slipping, never underprepared
Yeah, The Shaytan army, they just break it proudly
George Bush the grandson of Aleister Crowley
They want you to believe the lie that the enemy Saudi
The enemy ain’t Saudi, the enemy around me
There’s fluoride in the water but nobody know that
It’s also a prominent ingredient in Prozac (for real?)
How could any government bestow that?
A proud people who believe in political throwback
That’s not all that I’m here to present you
I know about the black pope in Solomon’s Temple
Yeah, about the Vatican assassins and how they will get you
And how they cloned Barack Hussein Obama in a test tube

[Chorus]

[Verse 2: Vinnie Paz]

Whoever built the pyramids had knowledge of electrical power
And you know that that’s the information that they suppress and devour
Who you think the motherfuckers that crashed in the tower?
Who you think that made it turn into ash in an hour?
The same ones that invaded Jerome
The ones that never told you about the skeletons on the moon
Yeah, the ones that poison all the food you consume
The ones that never told you about Mount Vesuvius Tomb
The Bird Flu is a lie, the Swine Flu is a lie
Why would that even come as a surprise?
Yeah, the Polio vaccine made you die
It caused cancer and it cost a lot of people their lives
Do y’all know about Bohemian Grove?
How the world leader sacrificing children in robes?
Lucifer is God in the public school system
I suggest you open up your ears and you listen

[Chorus]

[Outro]

The greatest hypnotist on the planet Earth is an oblong box in the corner in the room. It is constantly telling us what to believe is real. If you can persuade people that what they see with their eyes is what there is to see you’ve got them. Because they’ll laugh in your face of an explanation then which portrays the big picture of what’s happening… and they have

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