Despite recent efforts by Facebook, Twitter, and governments to rein in the proliferation of fake stories on social media, Oxford researchers found that the use of bots to quickly spread disinformation is growing exponentially.
In emerging and Western democracies, data analytics and political bots are being used to poison the information environment, promote skepticism and distrust, polarize voting constituencies, and undermine the integrity of democratic processes.
Social media manipulation is big business. It’s estimated that tens of millions of dollars are being spent on social media manipulation campaigns, involving tens of thousands of professional staff.
“We actually found 38 countries used bots last year, compared with 17 in the year before,” Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute and co-author of the new study, told McClatchy.
“Social media have gone from being the natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement, to being a computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants, and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike,” the study concludes. “We cannot wait for national courts to sort out the technicalities of infractions after running an election or referendum. Protecting our democracies now means setting the rules of fair play before voting day, not after.”
Many Americans are dismayed by the attitude Donald Trump has taken vis-a-vis Vladimir Putin, both before and after the 2016 election. Why, we have wondered, does Trump go out of his way to show a distinct preference for the Russian leader over long-standing US friends and allies? Why does he seem eager to engage Russian officials without regard for national security. To most Americans, this is a dangerous game, with no apparent benefit to national interests. To our traditional allies, it must appear as sheer madness.
But, could it be there’s a deeper meaning to such madness? Could it be part of a diabolical plan for world domination? Could Trump be an evil genius who has figured out a way to fulfill his egomaniacal dream of world conquest?
Consider this possibility:
1. Convince Putin that he (Trump) is a simpleton who really believes the US and Russia can co-exist as allies. To do this, Trump will promise to dissolve NATO, leave the G7, and lift all sanctions. He proposes a policy of favored trading partner between the two former enemies. He invites Putin to open embassies in every large American city, and in a spirit of transparency, invites Russian emissaries to view cabinet meetings in the White House. Trump suggests regular meetings with just himself, Putin and translators – no one else will be present.
The President asks for nothing in return.
This is exactly what Putin has been scheming to accomplish. This is why Russia rigged an election to favor Trump. He is now convinced of Trump’s incompetence and is satisfied that he can manipulate the American President to do whatever he wants. Confident he has Trump under his control, he mistakenly allows himself to relax and drop his guard.
Then, in a surprise Christmas Eve attack, US Navy seals invade a vodka-soaked Kremlin, take Putin hostage, and set up a provisional government with Steve Bannon as Governor.
2. Now with Russia under US control, Trump threatens to invade China, North Korea, South Korea and Japan unless they agree to the same arrangement as Russia. Since China can no longer rely on Russia, and North Korea has dismantled its nuclear arsenel, and South Korea is already dependent on the US, and Japan is an island, there is no choice but to allow additional provisional governments to take control. Don Jr. becomes regional Governor for Asia.
3. The Philippines becomes a penal colony for political enemies, with former President Rodrigo Duterte serving a dual role as Governor and Warden. Among the inmates are leaders of the G7 countries for which Trump held great contempt because they made him feel so inferior. Other incarcerees include Alec Baldwin, Kathy Griffin, Michael Avenati and the entire editorial staff of the New York Times.
4. With Russia, China and the Koreas in alliance with the US, all of Europe will have to accede unconditionally to US demands, and in effect be subjugated to US control under Gov. Ivanka Trump. She fulfills a life-long ambition by setting up both government headquarters and offices for her fashion business in Paris, France.
5. Canada and Mexico will then have no choice but to follow suit and fall in line. Both are governed by the other Trump son, Eric, who quickly deports all Canadian citizens to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, where in an act of revenge for Canada’s unfair treatment of the US, they are put to work in sweatshops making clothes for Ivanka’s company. They are also forced to declare their love for, and allegiance to, Donald Trump.
6. A blockade can then be constructed around all of South America, forcing the continent’s governments to surrender their independence to the US. A pardoned Mike Flynn becomes regional Governor. Flynn has Argentina scoured in hopes of finding escaped Nazi’s to fill his special police force. He is disappointed to learn that all known Nazi’s are deceased except for one 99-year-old who claims he was only following orders. Flynn’s disappointed – that’s just the kind of soldier he was looking for.
With this, Donald J. Trump will have conquered the world and declared himself “Supreme Leader of Trumptopia”.
But wait, there may be a problem. What if he forgets about the Middle East. (Trump never wanted anything to do with the so-called “shit hole” countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. And he didn’t consider Australia and New Zealand to be of any significance, so that’s not a worry). But this is different. Netanyahu and Jared Kushner are infuriated, but for different reasons. Netanyahu is upset that Trump has preempted his own machinations, and Kushner, because his desire to be Governor of the region is crushed. The Saudi Princes are also enraged, resulting in an Israeli-Arab alliance and the cessation of oil shipments to the rest of the world – olive oil from Israel and petroleum from Saudi Arabia.
In the flash of a spark plug, the provisional governments, in a state of panic over oil deprivation, quickly fall apart. Attorney General Jeff (yes, he’s still on the job) Sessions orders that Trump be placed under arrest and immediately jailed.
A trial quickly follows. The former President is defended by a gleefully vengeful Michael Cohen, and prosecuted with poetic justice by none other than Robert Mueller. As a final irony, the presiding judge turns out to be Merrick Garland, the Obama Supreme Court nominee that Mitch McConnell refused to present for confirmation.
When last seen, the now divorced former Supreme Leader of Trumptopia was reported to be in the Philippines watching what was left of Fox News (a befuddled Sean Hannity and an incoherent Jeanine Pirro) and sending tweets to his three remaining followers.
Why are Donald Trump’s die-hard followers so fanatically steadfast in their support for such a flawed man? Because they are just like him, and his presidency validates their own distorted values and myopic view of the world.
“Others” have been rapidly closing in. Foreigners are encroaching on their territory by way of physical space, race, religion, language and lifestyle. Fear is the common thread. But now, after years of feeling persecuted for their beliefs and attitudes, they have at last been set free to reveal what they really think about their “elitist” jailers.
Thus, Trump is their spokesman hero, a liberator who perfectly articulates everything they had to keep bottled up and hidden away. He alone has freed them from their social and political dungeon. They have, in effect, connected their psychic wellbeing and self-worth to one person, a savior they would follow to the gates of perdition.
Trump wasn’t that far off the mark when saying he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and people would still love him. Why? Because without Trump they simply would not be.
Here’s a cautionary Tale for the normally sane who might be tempted to drink the Trump kool-aid again.
Karen Spranger, the now former Macomb County (Michigan) Clerk/Register of Deeds, was the center of a political storm that started the day she was elected as a Tea Party Republican last November. She had never run for, or held any previous political office, and some attributed her unlikely election to the prevailing mood of Macomb County voters who bought into the Trump movement – she was new to politics, so that had to be good.
The drama finally ended last Tuesday when a judge ordered Spranger removed from office for lying about her residency.
Like Trump, this political novice thought that she had complete authority over her office, and could do whatever she wanted. That included interfering with the normal functioning of her office in numerous ways, like firing anybody she wanted without going through human resources. The result was an office in disarray with a backlog of work that required a judge to intervene and order a swift resolution. (Which didn’t happen – the backlog remains for others to fix)
During Spranger’s fifteen months in office, there were 43 occurrences that contributed to an atmosphere of chaos within the office, and convinced many in county government that she lacked the requisite competence for the job. (Sound familiar?)
A sample of her brief but dramatic tenure:
Had her computer access cut off for a time after she allowed non-county workers to use it, resulting in a fine for ethics violations.
Fired the two top deputies who had helped her get elected, and who are now suing her.
Asked the county to fund an independent council so she could displace, reassign or demote unionized workers. The request was rejected.
Totaled her county car when she rear-ended another vehicle.
Sued by the county for obstructing a plan to move 2 of her offices to a new building.
She sued the county to lift a ban on weapons in her office.
She sued the county to have the court to declare her as “The Boss” in her office.
Caused the aforementioned work backlog which dismayed residents and confounded local businesses.
Running parallel to all of this was the charge that Spranger lied about her county residency. When an investigation was finally undertaken, it found that the house in which she claimed to be living had five feet of garbadge piled up throughout, making it impossible enter. A bulldozed had to punch an opening in the exterior to gain entry.
Spranger is now facing three criminal cases, including battery for kicking an employee and taking a non-employee to a conference in Washington, D.C. at the expense of the county – in addition to perjury for signing an affidavit with knowledge that what she reported was not true.
But as might be expected, Ms. Spranger is not going quietly. In a rambling document filed in federal court, she is seeking to have her position returned, and is demanding an immediate investigation and audit into possible crimes against the clerk’s office.
The document appears to be seeking intervention by Gov. Rick Snyder and makes mention of the use of the Michigan National Guard to “execute, suppress insurrection and repel invasion.”
The 11-page document is titled “administrative claim notice of administrative overthrow of a constitutional office clerk of court of Macomb County by rogue county agents.” Spranger wants the return of “all illegally removed files by those public officials who are in insurrection and rebellion and who have gone on strike against the constitution. Who have withheld and removed books, records, files from my County Clerk office.”
The topic listed on the document is “overthrow of a Constitutional Public Office violation” and the investigation and injunction would be to “stop the overthrow of a Constitutional Public Office.” The letterhead on the document is listed “class, Rodney-Dale, Private Attorney General, 14th Amendment section 4, Constitutional Bounty Hunter” out of Cleveland, N.C. Rodney Dale Class is listed as a “private attorney general” from North Carolina on the AntiCorruption Society website.
The document is filed to the attention of Gov. Snyder; U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart (whose district covers West Virginia); David Gelios, the former head of the Detroit FBI; the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, and President Donald Trump. It also lists a number of county officials who it claims violated the constitution and are guilty of insurrection and rebellion and “are committing mutiny”.
County Executive Mark Hackel appropriately labeled the filing as “gibberish.”
The best possible outcome would be for Karen Spranger to get the help she obviously needs. It’s also a cautionary tale of warning about making uninformed assumptions concerning what’s best for a community, state – or country.
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
As a philosophy, Anarchy has many shapes and shades. In popular culture, it’s most commonly associated with rebellion, lawlessness and destruction. But in the real world, there are several dozen types, including Capitalist, Feminist, Christian, Naturalist and Pacifist, just to name a few. The one thing all have in common is a belief that authority-based hierarchical organizations infringe on basic personal liberty. Styles of opposition can range from the anti-social criminal enterprises such as depicted by TV’s Sons of Anarchy, to one of the many non-violent political strains such as Libertarianism (yes, Libertarianism is considered a type of anarchy).
A more in-depth look at the subject can easily be accomplished via web search. The point I want to make here is that despite all their effort at detailed analysis and explanation, intellectually based versions of anarchy are inherently limited. They may succeed in minimizing the effect of authority and control, but they cannot eliminate it altogether. For example, even if the federal government were reduced to the size of a deer tick, it would still have some degree of control. In truth, authentic freedom can’t and won’t be manifested as long as the focus is on ways and means external to the individual.
We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges!
In contrast to the common forms of anarchy, let’s imagine another kind which focuses on personal freedom in its most elemental form. This form circumvents every gear and lever in the social-political machine. Let’s call it Intuitive Anarchy, a term that expresses the notion of a totally different approach to dealing with authority. Instead of opposing it, Intuitive Anarchy bypasses authority altogether. And it is able to do so because it recognizes the intrinsic authority that all humans are born with, but which most fail to grasp. This basic authority, which could also be called original authority (some would call it original sin), is the true source of personal empowerment and freedom. It renders all external authority fundamentally powerless.
Original authority is only actualized by connecting with the individual’s inherent transcendent core. This transcendent core is not subject to, and more importantly, has no need to be subject to, “principalities and powers”. The transcendent core is able to nullify external authority because it is not controlled by ego (small self) needs. Its only desire is to experience connection with a larger, more inclusive identity. In contrast, the behavior of an average human being is motivated by the ego’s self-interest – what I want, what I need, what is mine, what or who I need to be protected from. The ego relies on left brain functioning to gather information and make decisions based on what it believes to be facts and reason. It deceives its host by planting the conviction that logic determines their choices when unconscious motivators are actually doing the work.
The transcendent core, on the other hand, connects us with a vast and far more reliable way of knowing – intuition. Even though intuition is available to all, it is not fully understood and accessible to most. Intuition is related to introspection and feelings, things that people (mostly men) work very hard to avoid. Traditional education trains the thinking mind, while failing to value and nurture intuitive sensitivity. Music and art classes, the closest the system has come to encouraging this side of the mind, have been systematically cut back or eliminated altogether.
The “F” Word
So why has intuition been relegated to the second tier? Because It’s easier for humans to identify with a physical object (like a possession), which is the currency of the thinking mind. Identifying with objects feeds the belief that all things are separate – I am separate from you and everything else that can be objectified. My feelings of separate-ness create the belief that I need to gain some measure of control over others in order to protect myself from them. If I were to recognize intuition as a valid method of perception, it would upset my ordered, albiet mistaken, world view and therefore be seen as a personal threat.
Intuition exposes the basic fallacy of the object-as-primary view. Intuition knows that everything is connected in a way that cannot be perceived by the senses, as Saint- Exupery expresses so well in The Little Prince when he says, “It is only in the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
A person’s true identity is not the physical body or the thinking brain (despite what Descartes believed: “I think, therefore I am”). Rather, identity is rooted in the transcendent core, through which access is gained to a limitless universe of perception. This is the source of intuition. And when the “I” of one’s core being is actualized, the way is cleared for authentic and incorruptible freedom – Freedom with a capital “F”.
This is anarchy in the purest sense. It is Freedom grounded in compassion for self and others – not tearing anything down, not trading one form of myopic politics for another, but simply having a level of self-awareness which gives an individual the ability to opt-out of playing the game as defined by political-social convention. It removes conflict instead of creating it. It knows there is nothing to fear when identity is grounded in the transcendent core of one’s being. This is what the principalities and powers fear most. They know that just one individual empowered by their inner authority is big trouble (eg. Socrates, Jesus, St. Francis, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Gandhi).
The Razor’s Edge
OK, so Intuitive Anarchy is a way of accessing authentic Freedom. But how do we get there? How does one integrate with, and internalize original authority? Consider this verse from the Katha-Upanishad:
The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over, thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.
And what is the sharp edge of the razor? Conscious Awareness. Intuitive Anarchy implies a capacity to actualize a level of being that, up till now, has not been experienced by most humans. It requires an evolved consciousness which is no longer trapped by ego attachments that typically create and feed the kind of social dysfunction which so far has defined the human condition. It’s a consciousness that radically alters one’s relationship with . . . well, everything!
Personal value is no longer derived from income, possessions or social standing. Ego-enhancing props lose all value, having been replaced by a conscious awareness that declines to judge self and others by arbitrary and meaningless standards. Artificial barriers between people, countries and races come down. The social darwinism which justified much of our care-less behavior is discarded and never again used to legitimize unscrupulous, deceitful and destructive interactions. Commerce becomes less preoccupied with profit by giving greater importance to the meaning and purpose of right livelihood instead. As the level of consciousness rises, so does the index of compassion and love. Fear is replaced by love as the primary motivating force in social and political activities. Love is Freedom, and Freedom is Love. And that is our salvation.
This level of being has long been considered the exclusive province of mystics and saints. We are now learning otherwise. Along with innate authority, humans also posess the innate capacity to actualize higher levels of consciousness. Nurturing that capacity is now the greatest need. Just as being born with the mental ability to do math (more or less) and speak in intelligible sentences still requires instruction and practice to become proficient, so too we’re born with intuitive ability, but may need guidance and practice to gain confidence in its use. There’s no great mystery; it’s really as natural as breathing.
Not Your Father’s Utopia
Skeptics will say this is just another version of the tired old utopian ideal. They take great pleasure in deriding the notion of a world populated by individuals who chose to live in harmony with each other and with the planet; who value simplicity and compassion over consumption and acquisition. Such thinking is casually dismissed as fantasy, not worthy of serious consideration.
But it’s not that critics don’t take the possibility of a real Utopia seriously. In fact, that’s the problem – they can imagine it all too well. Being able to forsee the implications of a workable utopia scares them to death. That’s because where some see a society flourishing with the applied principles of Intuitive Anarchy, (through simplicity, sustainability and cooperation) others see only limitation and infringement on their right to exploit people and resources to the fullest extent of the law – and beyond.
This is the great fear. They cannot comprehend how long accepted (and in some cases, worshiped) values of wealth and power could no longer be attractive for a growing number of people whose core values embrace leading lives of simple abundance and personal fulfillment. Indeed, an evolved consciousness turns the world upside down. It must appear as puzzling as a Zen koan – logic is no longer logical.
Being reborn into a new level of awareness is challenging (the razor’s edge). Openly engaging the world as an Intuitive Anarchist who is empowered with original authority requires enduring the labor pains brought on by breaking free from the shell of self-imposed restraints. We mistakenly believe the shell is for our protection when all it does is limit our limitless potential. Salvation (Love/Freedom) can only be realized when the restrictive shell is shattered, and a truly Free being emerges. That goes for a country and a planet as well.
The energetic connection between everyone and everything is a basic universal truth. With humanity’s contagious collective insanity, that truth has been more burden than blessing. However, the underlying connectivity can also work for us. Those who undergo transformation influence others with their positively charged energy. Each person who awakens then adds to the momentum of our collective evolution in consciousness, and that makes it easier for others to follow.
The true founder of anarchy was Jesus Christ and … the first anarchist society was that of the apostles.
Want more proof that nothing is out of bounds for tobacco companies in carrying out their profitable mission to push “nicotine delivery systems” any way they can? Consider this –
Did you know mentally ill adults smoke one third of all cigarettes in the US? It’s true, and it didn’t come about just by accident. In 2007 Big Tobacco was forced to admit that starting in the 1950s it had targeted mentally ill people with bogus scientific evidence and free cigarettes.
Two whopping lies were used to convince vulnerable people, their families and even the medical profession that smoking cigarettes was a good idea. It was claimed:
1. Smoking relieves the symptoms of psychosis, depression and anxiety.
2. Mentally ill people have special immunity to tobacco-related disease.
These unbelievably cynical fabrications were pushed so aggressively by cigarette-makers that many customers/victims still believe them and suffer the effects.
But that’s not all we have to offer!
Smoking has become an expensive addiction, and most people in this population are disproportionately poor. That usually means having to sacrifice things that would actually benefit their well being – simple things like food and medicine.
And yet an industry, which openly merchandises death and misery, is recognized as a legitimate business, with government subsidies, and continues to be pushed by Wall Street as a viable investment.
Maybe it’s time to broaden the definition of mental illness.
What a great idea! Prison artists doing portraits of CEOs, and listing their crimes against the environment, economy and society. They can be seen in a book published by The Captured Project, whose website states that all “profits go toward holding corporations responsible for their crimes, reforming the criminal justice system, and removing corporate control over government” – the pillars of Bernie Sander’s campaign for president.
The book displays the portraits (which are rendered quite skillfully) and lists the CEO’s offenses below. Is it possible this kind of approach can open previously closed eyes and bring a new awareness of the crimes Big Business commits in order to “produce the products and services that better their customer’s lives”?
For too long these corporate mobsters have been foisted off as champions of democracy and protectors of the common good, when they are nothing more than corrupters of the same. It’s time they were stripped of their pretense to reveal the shameful naked truth.