Michael McFaul, the US Ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, warns us that the disinformation will be flowing thick and fast during the impeachment trial. He points out three tactics:
Deflect attention, also known as “whataboutism”
The net of all this is to make us feel that nothing matters, that there is no such thing as truth. Watch for Republicans to do this and for it to be amplified by bots and trolls (my collective term for automated and other troublemakers) on social media, the unthinking media, and your friends and relatives.
Don’t let the argument degenerate to “Well, that’s your opinion.” There are facts, and we need to keep pounding them.
Some weird stuff has popped up in my Twitter feed this week. Fortunately, I follow experts who are trying to figure it out.
Steffan Watkins is a Canadian who follows ships and planes via the internet. If you like that sort of thing, I recommend you follow him. He is also very sensitive to disinformation and occasionally given to lectures about it. He is very knowledgeable about the Open Skies Treaty.
The Open Skies Treaty (text, fact sheet) allows the nations that have signed it to fly observation planes over other signatories’ territory. It’s an arms control treaty in that it allows nations to follow up on suspicions or just keep an eye on each other. It says nothing about numbers of weapons. The simple fact that nations are open to each other in this way builds trust, which is needed to negotiate on more difficult subjects. Read More
There have been two notable explosions in Russia this past week.
An arms storage depot exploded at Achinsk, near Krasnoyarsk, in Siberia. Every summer, a couple of arms storage depots explode in Russia. They have a lot of them, and their safety measures leave something to be desired. Explosions have continued for a week. Once they start, it’s dangerous to fight the fire that started them and continues. Better to evacuate the area (which has been done) and let the burning and exploding continue until there’s nothing left.
This event has produced some impressive video. Because of the relative humidity, you can see the shock wave as water in the air condenses and evaporates rapidly. Mushroom-shaped clouds have resulted. Large enough explosions, whether conventional or nuclear, produce mushroom clouds. Mushroom clouds are not a marker for a nuclear explosion. Read More
Wouldn’t it be nice if kindly space people suddenly appeared to lead us out of this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into? The New York Times thinks so.
Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, there was also a continuing saga of flying saucers, as they were called then. I was intrigued, being a kid who read science fiction and was terrified of atom bombs. As recently a year ago, on a trip to Texas, I made sure to drive through Levelland, where a famous sighting had taken place.
We’ve got an international mess right now. Creeping fascism and authoritarianism. The United States and Britain consumed with their own crazy. It would be so nice if the kindly space people would land, with their wisdom.
The space people are always kindly, never mind the counterexamples we have on earth. Read More
Election hacking in Florida, municipality hacking in Baltimore, and President Donald Trump’s handing of classification authorities to Attorney General William Barr share some characteristics. Our strategies lag behind the realities of dealing with information in the age of the internet. We need to start thinking differently about how we handle information; when to withhold it and when to share it.
I’ll write three posts on ways to think about those situations. We have to find better ways to deal with information and its misuses. Read More
Donald Trump again repeated a lie at his Wisconsin rally. It’s a lie that has been around a very, very long time, the form even longer. Paint your opposition as being capable of an atrocity that no decent person would tolerate. That makes it easier to ostracize them, jail them, go to war against them.
This particular lie was used to promote World War I, the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, and two wars againstSaddam Hussein.
Babies and young children, as the most vulnerable of humans with lives ahead of them, are fodder for lies that play on deep emotions. To say someone kills babies is one of the most explosive accusations it is possible to make.
Trump takes his story from a mangling of a doctor’s statement about the heartbreak of delivering a baby that cannot live because it lacks major organs – lungs, parts of the brain or heart. That story has been told in major newspapers by mothers who have experienced a pregnancy with a severely deformed fetus. A nurse who has dealt with such tragedies describes them in this Twitter thread.
Yes, this lie has been around a very long time. It is related to the blood libel, the accusation that Jews drink the blood of children.
The New York Times says “President Trump revived an inaccurate refrain” in referring to Trump’s lie. But it’s worse than that. And it ties in with the antisemitism that Trump encourages, except this time it’s against every human who can imagine the feelings involved in a pregnancy that will result only in a dead baby, through natural causes.
Over the weekend, Will Bunch did a great tweet stream linking Jeff Bezos, National Enquirer, the Saudis, Jamal Khashoggi, and Donald Trump, along with others. He promised he would put it into a column, and here it is. It’s more cautious than the tweet stream, but fairly interesting. He introduces a number of possibilities by asking questions, a relatively safe way to introduce thoughts that you don’t have journalistic confirmation for. They are good questions, worth keeping in mind as things proceed. Read More
Hey, what better way to spend the holiday weekend than pushing for yet another war?
I can’t imagine why anyone would think that a war with Iran is a good idea. We are already involved in two wars in the region, one of them a direct consequence of the 2003 war on Iraq. Iran is a larger country, in a more strategic geographic position. As I continue to read material from the warmongers, I recall a saying attributed to Michael Ledeen:
Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.
This, presumably, is consistent with the swagger Mike Pompeo wants to bring to the State Department. Read More
I’m quoted in articles in The Verge and the Daily Beast (also Bellingcat) on chemical weapons in Syria. Rachel Becker discusses the long-term effects of chemical weapons. Adam Rawnsley debunks Russian disinformation.
This story got buried under the news of Andrew McCabe’s firing on Friday, but it’s important if we want to elect people who can bring about responsible government. That starts now, as we move toward November’s elections.
You know those cute little quizzes that are supposed to tell you something about who you are? Which movie star are you? Are you a cat or a dog person? What is your color? So much fun to compare with what you think of yourself and with your friends’ results. In fact, you could share on Facebook and urge your friends to see what their favorite color was. Those quizzes asked you to share most of your Facebook data before you could play.
You may have been contributing data to Cambridge Analytica’s work to help elect Donald Trump. Read More