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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:

Sources:

  • 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?
     
    Burkhard:
    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

    Sources:

  • 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.

    Variations on the Blue Screen of Death

    Saturday, March 7th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — where would we be without our digital devices, minds & memories? ]
    .

    Two converging thoughts, the first from John Robb at Global Guerrillas:

    Over the weekend, ISIS threatened the life of Jack Dorsey, a co-founder and Chairman of Twitter. Why? Twitter, at the urging of the US government, has been shutting down the accounts of ISIS supporters for months. So, ISIS supporters responded by making a threat with a nifty graphic:

    IS warns Dorsey the Twitter CEO Robb GG

    We told you from the beginning it’s not your war, but you didn’t get it and kept closing our accounts on Twitter, but we always come back. But when our lions come and take your breath, you will never come back to life

    The CEO as an Objective of War

    Unfortunately for the suits in Silicon Valley, ISIS isn’t as much of a pushover as al Qaeda was. They have mass and
    momentum and they are smart enough to understand the role of the Internet in this struggle. Additionally, they have lots of experience coercing CEOs. They did it quite a bit of it during the war in Iraq (and it worked).

    Regardless, the targeted killing of a well known tech executive in sunny California by ISIS jihadis does appear impossible to imagine. Few places are more remote from each other, and not just geographically. Silicon Valley is a hyperconnected, financially mainlined zone striving for a tech nirvana. ISIS is a disconnected autonomous zone striving to return to the 7th Century. However, that’s probably a bad assumption. Charlie Hebdo showed the world that terrorism is evolving and corporate targeting on global scale is now on the agenda. This means an attack on a tech CEO isn’t just possible, but probable. Worse, once an attack on a senior tech executive happens, future threats will be instantly credible and highly coercive..

    If that occurs, we are going to find out very quickly that the corporation, and particularly tech companies, are particularly bad organizations for warfare. One reason is that they are too centralized. In particular, the institution of the CEO is a grave weakness (a systempunkt in global guerrilla lingo). The CEO’s centrality to the corporate network makes him/her a single point of failure for the entire organization. Another is that executives in most of the western world are very soft targets. Easy to find (Google and Google maps), easy to isolate, and easy to kill…

    **

    And the second from Marc Lindemann, When the Screens Go Dark: Rethinking Our Dependence on Digital Systems, from Small Wars Journal:

    In a threat environment where even the most useful digital system may be knocked out of the fight, there needs to be a back-to-basics approach that will enable units to continue to fight effectively in the absence of their digital systems and digital guidance from higher headquarters. Every commander should be able to shut off the TOC’s power, slipping the digital leash, and have confidence that his or her unit can continue to function. Junior leaders and staff sections should be able to anticipate the problems inherent in digital-system failure and know what to do without a major disruption in TOC operations. ADRP 6-0’s non-digital solutions – “establishing trust, creating shared understanding, or providing a clear intent using mission orders” – are significant. More significant, however, and more measurable is the degree of Soldiers’ basic proficiency in their warfighting tasks.

    Conclusion

    Although this paper does not and cannot advocate the abandonment of the U.S. Army’s existing digital systems, the U.S Army’s dependence on digital systems is very much on its leaders’ minds today. These systems have repeatedly demonstrated the potential to make the U.S. Army a much more efficient and lethal fighting force. Before his retirement, however, GEN Robert W. Cone, then Commanding General, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, gave digital systems an ultimatum: “Why do we want this piece of technology? If it does not dramatically improve training ef?ciency, we need the strength to walk away.” Right now, the military is poised to increase digital training requirements in pursuit of inter-service operations, multinational activities, and the expansion of the network to include all Soldiers and vehicles. Leaders at every level must understand their dependence on digital systems, successfully manage their units’ use of these systems, and promote decentralized initiative in support of clearly defined and mutually understood tactical goals. In the end, Soldiers must have tactical knowledge that transcends anything displayed on a computer monitor. Soldiers, not our digital systems, are what will win our future conflicts. When the screens go dark, the mission must go on.

    Well, the military details are way beyond me, though they presumably make sense to other SWJ and ZP readers — but the idea that the net, or large domains within it, may suddenly go dark (or blue, as the saying goes) is one that should give each one of us, dependent as we are on digital media for our communications and memories, considerable plause.

    **

    It was my friend Peter Rothman — currently editor of H+ Magazine — who wrote the now celebrated digital haiku a few years back:

    Windows NT crashed.
    I am the Blue Screen of Death.
    No one hears your screams


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