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Big Ideas and MediaGlyphs

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Mad Scientist asks, John Robb responds]

Today’s call and response comes to me via two blog posts that followed one another in my RSS feed — in the reverse order to the one I read them in. I’ve straightened that out so response now follows call for your convenience.

From Max Brooks (World War Z) lecturing for the Army’s 2016 “Mad Scientist” initiative:

One of the US government’s biggest challenges today, particularly in the context of military issues, is its inability to communicate big ideas to the American people .. This has caused a significant portion of the population to disengage from government, including and especially from the military .. It may take several decades to reverse the trend ..

There’s more there in the report at the Atlantic Council‘s Art of the Future blog, as Brooks discusses particular big ideas that need communicating — but it’s the communication issue itself that caught my eye.


So how does communication happen most powerfully in todays media environment?

Here are a few points from John Robb‘s thoughts on that very question, posted today at Global Guerrillas. First, a sample of what’s commonly known as an internet meme, but which John would prefer to call a MediaGlyph — his candidate for the punchiest mode of delivery:

And now his comments under the header All Hail The MediaGlyph, The New King of Political Communications:

Successful mediaglyphs blanket social networks, often going viral to reach tens of millions of viewers in days as they are rapidly with an ever expanding network of friends.

Collectively, mediaglyphs generate tens of millions of impressions an hour. Several orders of magnitude (100x) more than any other form of political communication.

Unlike TV, Print, and most forms of online communication, mediaglyphs are built for consumption on smartphones and visual modes of social networking. They are also built for speedy consumption, providing a quick emotional hit in comparison to a long winded article with an uncertain payoff.

Nothing other form of political communications compare.

Mediaglyphs are one of ways online conflict, in this case political conflict, is being fought. These online wars are occurring everywhere, all the time, at every level. They are deciding the future.

That’s why I’m writing a new book called as a natural follow on to my previous book: Brave New War:

The War Online: How Conflicts are Fought and Won on Social Networks

I look forward to reviewing John’s book, which will no doubt get into some detail not easily stated in a single MediaGlyph — my guess, however, is that John’s text will itself be a terrific mine for glyphs, given his obvious delight in short, quotable one-sentence paragraphs.

Net gains in Turkey and Iran?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — when two data points contradict a trend, what’s up? ]

Gotta love the graphic of “Twitter being written into the ancient Persian Cyrus Cylinder in an animation film for Farsi Twitter, highlighting the platforms importance for communications in Iran” (upper panel, below):

Tablet DQ internet saved

— and there’s something faintly Escherian about the screengrab of Turkish President Erdogen in, what, a hall of screens? (lower panel, above).

I’ve said before that single data-points mean little, but two of them — outliers from a general trend — may consitute an eddy in the stream, a knot in the wood, a disturbance in the force worth noting, worth looking into.

Thus far, our interest in social media in the Middle East has largely focused on terrorist uses [eg Berger 1, 2] and counter-terrorism & CVE measures [eg Aistrope], with a sidelong glance at authorities blocking the net {eg Kerr]..


Here’s the video:


  • Zeynep Tufekci / NYT, How the Internet Saved Turkey’s Internet-Hating President
  • Global Voices, Iranian Hardliners Want to Stop Blocking Twitter — to Defeat Saudi Propaganda
  • Food for thought:

    Note that knots in wood are generally indicative of a third-dimensional force, oblique to the wood’s surface plane. In considering any situation analogous to a knt in wood or eddy in a river, it’s worth asking: is there an oblique force at work disturbing the current, and if so, what is it, why here, and what does it portend?

    The curious case of the Ominous Share

    Thursday, June 9th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a side-note on web practice — American Lands Council vs BLM ]

    JJ McNabb is a Fellow with the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, and author of the book The Seditionists, Inside the Explosive World of Anti-Government Extremism in America. Today she posted two linked tweets.

    This first one shows what you can find on the American Lands Council site:

    while the second shows what you will be sending if you hit the “share” button at the bottom of the same page.

    As McNabb points out, you are “sharing” something quite different from what you might have expected to share — although you do get to see it ahead of time, and can thus decide not to share it after all.

    McNabb makes a neat use of the rhetorical device I call the DoubleTweet — revealing the squirrely nature of the ALC’s “share” button.


    FWIW, the text under the new and menacing image is the vision statement of the American Lands Council:

    To advance prosperity and self-reliance, improve the health of public lands, and provide increased funding for public education by securing and defending local control of land access, land use and land ownership of public and private lands.

    and can be found on the group’s About page.

    Birds of a feather

    Monday, December 14th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — in this case, Trump / Clinton ]

    Friend of a friend or two Corey Robin on FaceBook — as quoted by Michael Degerald — pointed up an illuminating DoubleQuote between Trump and Clinton, which I’ve dropped into my usual graphical format:

    SPEC DQ Trump Clinton

    Whatever diagnosis you might be inclined to make of one of these two persons on the basis of their quote, perhaps you’d like to consider affixing it to the other one likewise..


    It’s that old liberty / security paradox, chestnut, koan or trade-off again, isnh’t it?

    Trolls not Elves: a Putinesque Christmas

    Monday, March 30th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — a factory for words — ugh! ]

    Troll factory


    In American folklore, a Christmas elf is a diminutive creature (elf) that lives with Santa Claus in the North Pole and acts as his helper.

    Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty has a fasacinating account in which One Professional Russian Troll Tells All. I’m gonna quote that piece extensively without putting it in blockquotes, since it has blockquotes, italics and illustrations of its own. Between the double asterisks immediately below and the double asterisks following them, then, you won’t find my words but those of RFE/RL, drawn in two gobbits from their piece.

    Here’s the skinny on how it works, followed by the part that really caught my interest, dealing (obliquely) as it does with the Putin and the Patriarch theme.


    RFE/RL: So what did your department do?

    Burkhard: Our department commented on posts. Every city and village in Russia has its own municipal website with its own comments forum. People would write something on the forum — some kind of news — and our task was to comment on it. We did it by dividing into teams of three. One of us would be the “villain,” the person who disagrees with the forum and criticizes the authorities, in order to bring a feeling of authenticity to what we’re doing. The other two enter into a debate with him — “No, you’re not right; everything here is totally correct.” One of them should provide some kind of graphic or image that fits in the context, and the other has to post a link to some content that supports his argument. You see? Villain, picture, link.

    [ .. ]

    RFE/RL: Does the Villain have a role in such assignments?
    If something is pro-Putin, the Villain will have doubts. For example, for Orthodox Christmas, Putin went to Mass at an ordinary village church outside Voronezh and there was sweetness and light all around. A story gets posted along the lines of, "How wonderful, how marvelous, how great, what an amazing man he is." But the Villain disagrees: "OK, come on, Putin went to Voronezh to boost his popularity with the public." To which we answer, "What's the matter with you, what popularity are you talking about? Yes, he's popular, but he doesn't need popularity, he just wants to meet with ordinary people." That's a funny example.

    Next Assignment

    Topic: Build a positive attitude toward the domestic policies of Vladimir Putin; the president personally celebrated Christmas with ordinary Russians.
    Keywords: president rf, putin news, putin policies, christmas, vladimir putin
    Again, the assignment begins with a post published on a LiveJournal account. The post about Putin is prefaced by a fragment from a poem by Marina Tsvetayeva, "It's a sin to soar over a golden-domed chapel and not to pray in it," which in this context seems to take on a double meaning. 

    Christmas unites!
    The blessed holiday of the Nativity is upon us. And on such a miraculous day, which unites all citizens of Russia — no matter whether you're a believer or, as they say, "unchurched" — on the way to the Lord, the Russian president VP was, as always, with the people! Where else but in the provinces, far away from the urban hustle and bustle, is it possible to really experience this holy day? So this year Vladimir Putin visited the village church in honor of the Holy Virgin, located near Voronezh in the village of Otradnoye. And on such a holiday, one of the main holidays in Russia (and in the entire Christian church), at such a difficult time the president was with the people and congratulated all the clerics and faithful parishioners!

    On the Barnaul forum, the Link Troll kicks things off with praise and a link to a December 31 vesti.ru article, Putin Congratulates Obama And Reminds Him Of The Principles Of Mutual Respect.

    "Great article! By the way, the president of Russia, also congratulated the American president, the German chancellor, and other Western politicians on New Year's Eve. He's to be commended for expressing his peaceful intentions and conducting normal policy — something that's hard to get from Barack Obama."

    The Villain Troll appears incensed:

    "And what did you find that was so totally amazing in his Christmas message??? I don't understand!!! Vladimir Putin is an ordinary person!! So what if he's the president?? If I get on TV and wish everyone a nice Christmas, will you write a nice article about me too??? Finally we've found something to talk about!"

    The Picture Troll posts a photo of Putin at the church and retorts:

    "This is idiotic! Putin is our president. And it's really great that he went to a village church to congratulate everyone on the holiday. Christmas is a miracle. I envy the congregation. I would have loved to have been there on that great holiday."


    Elsewhere, on the Yekaterinburg forum, the Villain Troll attacks Putin's Christmas appearance as a stunt aimed at distracting the public from the country's massive economic woes:

    "Give your neighbor a sack of buckwheat this year!! Now that's a good deed!!! Vladimir Putin represents everything that awaits us in the future!! He just went to pray for his ass and ask for forgiveness. He's driven the country straight to hell, and now what can he do??? Pray, and that's it!"

    The Picture Troll issues a stern reprimand, illustrated with a bucolic photo from the scene:

    "Good lord, your language! Christmas is a blessed holiday, and here you are swearing. It's not worth it. There's enough buckwheat for everyone, our country will survive the anti-Russian sanctions, no problem. So I congratulate everyone on a blessed holiday and wish everyone peace and goodness. Especially YOU!"


    And thus the troika spends the day sweeping through 35 forums. 


    Oh, well — or Ah, hell:

    SPEC social media manipulation UK US


  • British army creates team of Facebook warriors
  • Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
  • And as JM Berger and Jonathan Morgan have exhaustively documented, terrorists do it too.

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