Beware: The use of bots to quickly spread disinformation is growing exponentially.

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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.”

Source: Common Dreams

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Intuitive Anarchy: Freedom from the Inside-Out

 

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Perception – Original Digital Composition

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

-Albert Camus

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.

Postscript
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.

Georges Lechartier

 

How Big Tobacco Targets the Mentally Ill

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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.

Addicted to Guns & Violence: America Needs An Intervention

Addiction isn’t about substance – you aren’t addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.

-Susan Cheever

Guns, rights and regulations. A toxic threesome. With the possible exception of abortion, nothing in the US of A inflames the passions as much as the debate over guns and whether they ought to be controlled. Personally, it’s always been difficult to understand the level of affection many gun owners display for their weapons. I could never comprehend the manic resistance expressed whenever the subject of gun control would arise – that is, until I viewed it through the eyes of a recovering alcoholic.

The panic that can be seen in those who fear the loss of their weapon is like that of an addict who fears being deprived of his drug. Addicts will kick and scream, and do whatever it takes to protect their addiction. We will sacrifice all if need be, including our jobs, our families, our freedom, our sanity, and even our lives. We will lie to our wives, our children, and even our mothers. Woe be unto anyone or anything that comes between us and the object of our dependency.

I came across a recent online forum comment to be revealing:

“Face it, you like or love guns and accessories and make it your hobby and passion by choice. You travel the web and purchase books about firearms and ammunition and take frequent trips to the gun shop, gun smith and shooting range. You open your safe to clean your collection, check humidity, or to just plain show them off to your buds. Then there is the spending. You spend the unused part of your check each week, save up or sometimes dip into your savings for a new gun, accessories, ammo, or gear.”

The behavior depicted here could easily describe any number of addictions. Consider some of the common characteristics:

  • Obsession with an object, activity or substance.
  • A compulsion to engage in an activity, and finding it difficult, even impossible not to do so.
  • Engaging in a behavior even though it causes harm to self and/or others.
  • Denial that the behavior is a problem.
  • Ritualistic behavior involving the object or activity (like the trips to the gun shop and gun cleaning in the forum post).
  • Enabling oneself and others by associating with only those who share and even encourage the behavior.

And of course there’s the desire for the gratification (high) the behavior provides, which becomes an uncontrollable need.

Aside from genetics, two powerful contributors to addiction are the 2-headed dragon of power and control. Typically, we addicts display low self-esteem and suffer great anxiety about not feeling in control of our immediate environment. Guns enable some to feel more powerful; they feed a fantasy where guns are seen to provide an almost magical solution to any problem. In a multitude of ways, popular culture identifies the guy with the gun as the guy with the power.

Then there is the gratification derived from the act of firing a gun. Gun owners often talk about the pleasure and enjoyment they experience when holding and shooting a weapon. Another forum participant describes the activity with a feeling that borders on erotic poetry:

“My Super Blackhawk is not at all unpleasant to shoot. It rolls back in my hand, sort of tries to leave my supporting hand, and climbs near vertical with muzzle uppermost. And the target reacts in the nicest way. And this gun is indeed a pleasure to shoot.”

Like other drugs, possessing a gun provides the addict with an escape from reality and an easing of emotional pain. It may begin with the need for a momentary release from anxiety and fear, but it soon evolves into a dependency on the changes in consciousness and ritualistic behaviors that create a vicious cycle from which it is very difficult to escape.

The truth is, the intensity with which some gun owners protest any change in laws affecting weapons and ammunition, speaks to the depth of their suffering. Indeed, they are suffering in bondage to a need which has taken over their lives. That’s what addiction is. However, as with other addictions, there is a way out. But first, the country as a whole has to recognize that there is a problem and decide to end the denial. Then we have to stop enabling the addiction.

We need an intervention for our country. We need to confront the truth about the culture of fear and violence which allows those addicted to guns to control both the narrative and the legislatures. We need to be honest about profit motives driving the resistance. The gun industry and their affiliated industries spend tens of millions on lobbyists who work to convince members of Congress that effecting policies contrary to the well being of their constituents is a good thing. We need to acknowledge the silent willingness on our part that allows communities to endure domestic terror. We need to face the fact that we’ve created a popular culture in which “the gun” has become an icon, a golden calf, an object of worship.

We all share responsibility for the problem. Even if we don’t exhibit the addictive behavior, or even own a gun, we are all complicit in the culture of violence that perpetuates it. If we watch violent TV shows, we’re complicit. If we see movies depicting violent behavior, we’re complicit. If we read material which glorifies gun violence, we’re complicit. In short, we’re complicit just by being consumers.

Recovering addicts know that healing begins with a shift in consciousness. That shift is what enables the ability to see the truth about their dependency and what needs to change. This is what we need as a country. While changes in the present laws are needed, we know only too well that such actions alone will not prevent addiction. What we need is a new mind with a new awareness, allowing us to see the truth about our collective dependency, and how much it controls our cultural values. Those values, and the behavior they condone, are a constant threat to the physical and psychological well being of everyone. If we refuse to face this fact, it can only become worse.

Such a shift doesn’t come quickly, but history proves how it’s possible. Shifts in consciousness brought about the democratic form of government, the end of slavery, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

The shift that ends our cultural dependency on guns will be monumental. It will mean having a willingness to release fear and the never ending need for self-protection. The common belief is that fear is caused by crime and violence, and not living in fear is the result of eliminating the cause. Bu,t in fact, it is fear that causes the crime and violence. Fear is a choice. Few would accept that truth. As long as we believe fear is the natural reaction to a fear-filled world, we can’t be free. When we become able to understood that fear is nothing more that a hold-over from our primitive brain and its instinctive fear response, we are free to chose another way to respond.

How can such a shift happen? In 12-step programs, the second step is key. It involves turning our lives over to a higher power. That higher power is never narrowly defined. It can be God, Allah, Spirit, Higher Self, the universe, or whatever force greater than oneself can be drawn on for help to make it through, one day at a time.

But how can the 12-step concept be applied to a culture or an entire country?

In addition to the higher power options already mentioned, there’s yet one more. Addicts who can’t relate to amorphous forms are told they can consider the group of which they are a member to be their higher power. In order to apply that to America’s addiction to guns, we would first have to admit that we’re all addicted.

Even if we don’t exhibit addictive behavior, or even own a gun, we are all complicit in the culture of violence that perpetuates it. If we watch violent TV shows, we’re complicit. If we see movies depicting violent behavior, we’re complicit. If we read material which glorifies gun violence, we’re complicit.

Here’s the inconvenient truth: we’re complicit just by being consumers of popular entertainment. My drug of choice is TV’s Law & Order, what’s yours?

A Myth in Pursuit of Happiness

How Pursuing Wealth for Happiness and Security Assures Having Neither

The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle and comes out at the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich!

Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.

Show Me The Money!
Is it true that anyone living in America can get rich? A popular myth* promoted in everything from best-selling books to TV sitcoms says that it is. We are told that America is the land of endless opportunity, and anyone who works hard can come out of the jungle rich. There is even the suggestion by some that refusing the call to passionately pursue wealth is un-American.

The reality, however, is quite different. The promise of untold wealth – and the personal power that supposedly comes with it – is dangled like a carrot on a stick, enticing the aspiring rich to keep focused on reaching for something the already rich know full well is forever beyond their grasp. The myth, therefore, is part of an elaborate deception, a con.

While it’s true that many people do rise above humble beginnings to attain a degree of wealth and social standing, it is not at the same level as the few who inhabit the mountain top. It’s known that even among the rich there is a wealth hierarchy, as evidenced by the disdain “old” money displays for “new” money.

The success and endurance of the myth and its associated con is based on embedding the idea that all one needs to be happy is lots of money. And while people will sometimes pay lip service to this not actually being true, no one actually buys into the transparent denial. And how can they in a culture that lusts after lifestyles of the rich and famous, and values wealth above all else?

Ironically, the Declaration of Independence originally contained the phrase, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of wealth”. Why then was “happiness” substituted instead? Coulld it be the founders had a flash of insight, recognizing that while happiness could include wealth, it didn’t exclude other definitions? It’s unfortunate that for many, the original sentiment remains the only meaning.

Oh, Those Fatal Flaws
But upon even just a cursory inspection, three fundamental flaws underpinning the scheme are exposed. First, the numbers themselves reveal that relatively few can ever actually achieve great wealth (apart from the fact that by global standards the average American is very well off). Most Americans have become aware of the 1/99 ratio of rich to not rich that represents the stark reality.

Second, not everyone is driven to become monetarily rich. As previously pointed out, there are those who have an entirely different definition of wealth and seek riches in other forms, such as art, knowledge, discovery, promoting a cause, the satisfaction of helping others, etc. Some even see earning money to live as a needless distraction from more important pursuits.

The third and most basic flaw in the myth gets to the very heart. There is a quote attributed to Author, David Mitchell: “Whoever dies with the most stuff wins”. Whether it’s stuff or money, this sums up the attitude of many regarding what they understand the purpose of existence to be. But why is that? Where is it written that the meaning of life is to become as rich as possible? On what stone? The Ten Commandments? The Bill of Rights? The Hollywood Walk of Fame?

Fact is, the closest we have to authoritative guidance on this issue comes from the world’s great wisdom traditions (religion and philosophy), and what they have to say directly contradicts the myth’s rationale. These traditions tell us that acquiring wealth is not the goal of human existence. Enlightened teachers from different times and cultures have emphasized this truth over and over. Along with iconic literary works, fine art and music, these wisdom traditions have cast light on the deepest needs and desires of the human soul.

What do they tell us? The quest for material wealth is a misdirected attempt to obtain the most basic of human needs: love and security. The myth suggests that the need for love and security can be satisfied by having lots of money. However, this is based on two mistaken beliefs. First, by itself, being wealthy may induce admiration in some and idol worship in others, but it doesn’t guarantee being genuinely loved by anyone. Second, it assumes that wealth can provide everything needed to live in safety and security.

A Simple Truth
What nullifies these beliefs is their looking to a source outside the self to provide that which only the self can do for itself. Any admiration that’s derived from status is only skin deep – and no amount of money can guarantee complete and total security.

The neurotic need that seeks approval from external sources is the result of not loving and accepting ourselves unconditionally, flaws and all. If we are not at peace with ourselves, no amount of fame or fortune is capable of filling the gaping hole.

Real security is an inner sense of well being which has nothing to do with external circumstances. The fear that lies behind an obsession with security is a subconscious fear, fueled by feelings of insecurity. Those feelings result from a false belief that by ourselves, we are not enough. From this comes the need to order and control the environment as a way to compensate for the feelings of inadequacy, and convince those around us that we have value (importance) as persons. We believe these feelings have to be hidden from view, lest the truth about not being worthy is seen by others. We can use a variety of methods to hide our insecurity, but covering it over with heaps of expensive and extravagant stuff appears to be the one preferred.

If we don’t understand that real security is found only as a by-product of complete and total self-acceptance – and the indomitable confidence in ourselves and the Universe that comes as a result – there isn’t a fortification in the world that can protect us from whatever fear we imagine. We may not be perfect, but we are enough! When this truth at last sinks in, the need to hide parts of ourselves from the world no longer exists, and that’s because we no longer believe anyone else’s opinion of us determines our value.

Author Mark Boyle experimented living for three years without money and reports the surprising effect it had:

More than anything else, I discovered that my security no longer lay in my bank account, but in the strength of my relationships with the people, plants and animals around me. My character replaced sterling as my currency . . .  My moneyless economy was one in which helpfulness, generosity and solidarity were rewarded . . . I realised I was capable of more than I ever imagined.

This eloquently stated example points to another popular but erroneous belief – that money equals freedom. In fact, real freedom is being liberated from limiting beliefs that interfere with the ability to live a full life with love and joy – on one’s own terms. Real freedom is being secure in the ability to serenely meet life’s challenges with confidence and creativity.

In Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman, Willy Loman, the play’s central character, is consumed by the quest to become rich. He accepts the myth, buys into the con, and is ultimately destroyed by his obsession. In the end, the ideal of wealth and social approval upon which he had based his life, eludes him. He then chooses to blame himself for his perceived failure, rather than accept the possibility that the real problem lie with the goal of his quest. If he only knew the real treasure was within himself. He had it all along. And so do we.

*”Myth” as used here is the popular, albeit, incorrect definition: an idea or story that is believed by many but which is not true. It is more correctly understood as a cultural construct which uses analogy and metaphor to express an otherwise inexpressible truth that arises from the supra-consciousness of individuals in a given society, and which is only accessible through intuition.