Archives for category: manipulation

For those who have managed to conserve enough naivety, politics is a team job.

For them, ‘political power struggle’ is an oxymoron. A figure of speech.

Unfortunately, those who have lost their political naivety (innocence?, virginity?) have given up all table manners and have introduced the concept of ‘RealPolitik’.
At first in the international arena and then, using the back door, on the domestic stage.

To what consequences?

When Bismark had coined the concept of RealPolitik, the major players in the international arena were following an already ancient mantra. Divide et Impera.

If ‘naive’ politicians attempt to convince their partners, the ‘real ones’ have only one goal in mind. Theirs.
While the ‘naive’ start any interaction by listening to what the others have to say, in an attempt to learn before starting to build a solution – one designed to fulfill the widest possible array of expectations, the ‘realists’ will use every trick up their sleeves to impose ‘their’ solution. The one which best fits ‘their’ interests and which has been devised without/before any proper consultation with the rest of those who will bear the consequences of that solution being implemented.

Some of the politicians whose naivety has been chipped during constant contact with the social reality eventually ‘wise’ up and reach the point where they accept manipulation as a ‘valid’ political tool. They start to hid part of the truth, to promise a tad more than what would be realistically possible… but at least they continue to pay lip service to the notion of ‘liberal democracy’.
The hard core ‘realists’ are way more ‘straightforward’. They burn bridges and give up any pretense of ‘window dressing’. ‘Struggle’ is no longer understood as a figure of speech.

Political struggle descends into the ring. Or, more exactly, the entire Agora becomes a battle field. The whole ‘arrangement’ devolves into a ‘dog eats dog’ situation.

To the glee of the ‘realists’ outside the border. Who can hardly wait for those ‘inside’ to start fighting in earnest. So that the outsiders might, yet again, put ‘divide et impera’ to work.

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I’m gonna insert three links.
They might be opened in any order, the link between them is evident, in all directions.

 “It’s a natural and powerful temptation to do unto them as they have done unto others. They have abused, reviled, and humiliated others: So let them be abused, be reviled, be humiliated. Yet if you go that way, you do not repudiate Trump. You become Trump.”

David Frum,
Michelle Wolf Does Unto the White House as It Has Done Unto Others,
The Atlantic, Apr 30, 2018

“It is particularly rich, too, to see a president who brags about his lack of political correctness and willingness to tell it like it is to be so thin-skinned he won’t even attend a party where he knows he’ll be roasted. It is revolting to see members of the press, who should have an adversarial relationship with the White House, comforting the press secretary and standing up for her honor when she is a chief architect of and apologist for these new political norms of idiotic crudeness, rank corruption, and unapologetic deceit.

Reporters allegedly expressed their sympathy to Huckabee Sanders after the dinner. This is insane. Reporters: Sarah Huckabee Sanders lies to you. She is a powerful and influential figure, and it is your job to be a check on her and the administration she speaks for – not to commiserate with her when a comedian makes some salty jokes, and certainly not to be her sympathetic friend.

Michelle Wolf ended her monologue by wishing the audience a good night, and then adding, “Flint still doesn’t have clean water.” “

Jill Filipovic,
The Bizarre Reaction to the WHCD Reveals We’re in Deeper Trouble Than We Thought,
Cosmopolitan, Apr. 30, 2018

Donald Trump is here tonight! Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald.
And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter –- like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?
But all kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of
experience. For example — no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice – at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around.
But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’ Jon or Meatloaf. You fired Gary Busey.
And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.
Well handled, sir. Well handled.
Say what you will about Mr. Trump, he certainly would bring some change to the White House.”

Barack Obama,
2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.

Apparently, modern civilization ‘is all about the money’.

Fundamentally, it’s still about trust.

Drivers trust their follow drivers that each will stay on their side of the road, stop at the red light and yield at the famous yellow triangle.

yield

 

Each of us trusts that the elevators we use daily won’t fall under their own weight, that our daily bread contains exclusively what’s mentioned on the label and that tap water has been adequately filtered before being pumped into our homes through proper pipes.

We trust, and follow their advice, ‘higher authorities’. Science people, teachers, government ‘agents’…

Modern ‘consumers’ order a lot of stuff online, food included. From people they’ve never met, trusting they’ll get what they’ve read about in an add they never asked for.

We keep a lot of data online. Mails, tweets, pictures, more or less intimate thoughts shared on our FB walls. That’s the ‘free’ part. We also pay increasingly handsome amounts of money to ‘upload’ for safekeeping ‘in the cloud’ a lot of sensitive commercial and personal data.

Where ‘apparently’ meets ‘fundamentally’, in our individual/personal lives, we are flabbergasted when cars become weapons and are used to kill innocent bystanders. Our friends and relatives.

When manufacturers implement planned obsolescence, artificially increase nicotine contents in cigarettes and replace sugar with corn syrup in ‘soft drinks’.
When piped water is dirty and the authorities shrug their shoulders.
When we discover that animal fat is not as bad for us as we’ve been told for the last 50 years or so. When we realize that our children are saddled with huge debts simply because they wanted a good education. When we realize that some of the people involved with ‘government’ become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

When our personal data becomes a merchandise.
Traded to be transformed into a manipulative tool.
Used to influence us into buying certain things.
Used to influence us into making certain political decisions.

Trust will, probably, survive for a while.
But I fear the day when too many people will have lost it.

Price tag

 

 

Some of my right-of-center friends maintain that political correctness is a leftist aberration while some of my left-of-center friends are convinced that most conservatives are bigoted male chauvinists cum white supremacists cum LGBTQ+ haters.

I’m afraid both are mistaken.

The way I see it, none of this has anything to do with left nor right and everything to those on each side of the divide driving themselves into self allocated and mutually exclusive corners.

Otherwise said, this dichotomy is a consequence of populism.
People residing in each ideological corner are constantly barraged with messages telling them exactly what they have prepared themselves to hear.
People residing in each corner are constantly barraged with messages deemed appropriate by those who reckon there is something to be gained, by ‘them’, from keeping those people as far apart as possible.

Maybe now, that Cambridge Analytica has just hit the fan, we’ll start to understand how fake this whole thing is.

And I can’t wrap this up without mentioning something which really bothers me.

“As I said in my How to Fail book, if you are not familiar with the dozens of methods of persuasion that are science-tested, there’s a good chance someone is using those techniques against you.

Scott Adams, blog.dilbert.com

The ‘run of the mill’ populism is directed towards the ordinary people. Which have a valid excuse for not knowing what’s happening to them.
Political correctness is a self sustaining bubble which was generated and is maintained  inside a supposedly more sophisticated medium.

Intellectually more sophisticated medium….

political correctness zizek

Hopefully, Zizek’s arguments will help us puncture this bubble!
Click on the picture above and see for yourself.

Recent developments connected with some people having used Facebook to manipulate the public opinion have led me to understand something absolutely trivial.

Almost everything can be used as a resource.
And it’s us, all of us, who are ultimately responsible for how these resources are being used.

For no other reason than it is us who will eventually bear the consequences.

Having said this, I’m now wondering about the wisdom of our ancestors…
And the nearsightedness of some of our contemporaries!
the golden rule

So.
A bunch of ‘well intended people’ had somehow laid their hands on a ‘trove of personal data’ and used it, commercially, to influence electoral processes.
The data was gathered by ‘creatively’ exploiting the ‘opportunities’ put in place by the very existence of Facebook and by the manner in which so many people chose to use the said ‘social network’.

And most of us blame it on ‘Zuckerberg’.

OK, I can understand the psychology of all this.
I can also understand those who put the entire blame on anybody but ‘Zuckerberg’…

Let’s gather some facts.

“Facebook has lost nearly $50 billion in market cap since the data scandal”. recode.net, Mar 20, 2018
In one day, Zuckerberg’s net worth fell $5 billion”. qz.com,  Second day it had fallen a further 4 billion…
Anyway, some 31 ‘missing’ billions used to belong to some other people but Zuckerberg.
Weren’t they supposed to take good care of their property? Weren’t they supposed to check what Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, was doing with their money?

 

“In Hidden-Camera Exposé, Cambridge Analytica Executives Boast Of Role In Trump Win” npr.org, March 21, 2018
CA’s CEO wrote that the firm had “teamed up with Leave.EU” — then furiously backpedalled”
Impossible to say how much influence Cambridge Analytica’s efforts had over Trump becoming the 46-th American President or Brexit. If any at all.
Yet who bears more responsibility for these developments?
The guys who came up with those ideas in the first place? Trump and Cameron?
The guys who made them possible? The Republican Party Convention who had nominated Trump to run and the British House of Commons who had voted 544-53 in favor of the “United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016”?
The guys who had campaigned above the board, in any direction?
Those who had exerted their influence ‘under the radar’? ” “We have already helped supercharge Leave.EU’sial media campaign by ensuring the right messages are getting to the right voters online, and the campaign’s Facebook page is growing in support to the tune of about 3,000 people per day.

Or those who, through their daily decisions, had created the premises for so many people to convince themselves that Trump was good enough for President and that it would better for Britain to ‘leave’?

Yeah, it’s only normal to blame others for our own mistakes.
But how sustainable is it?

As most other words, loyalty describes a ‘multidimensional interval’ rather than the ‘precise something’ most of us usually expect.

What kind of loyalty?
Loyal to whom/what?
How far would it go?
How is it affected by the passage of time?/How does it change the passage of time?

I’ve been mulling over this subject for more than 10 years now…

For me, this is closely related to the famous “Prisoner’s dilemma”.
You now, where two guys break the law together, get caught, are indicted for two felonies and the prosecution  has solid evidence only for the lesser charge. The two guys are held in separate cells, with no way to communicate, and are pressed hard to confess of the higher charge and/or to betray the other guy. During the interrogation each of them learns that:
– If both betray, each of them gets 2 years in prison.
– If one betrays and the other stays mum, the snitch walks and the ‘mute’ gets 3 years.
– If both shut up, each of them gets a year for the lesser charge.

Interesting enough for somebody who was never in such a situation. And it gets even more interesting if you start reading what the ‘pundits’ have to say about the whole thing.

The ‘cold rationalists’ maintain that it’s only logic for both of them to betray, simply because this is the only sure way to avoid the longer sentence. You never know what the other guy might do in a pinch, right?
The more down to earth, specially those with a more ‘intricate’ knowledge of the ‘underworld’, will loose no time to point out that something like that won’t happen if the the pair belongs to the mob…
Those with economically biased minds will be quick to point out that both of them should shut up simply because this way the team would ‘minimize the aggregate cost’.
Last but not least, sociologists will consider that it’s a good thing, for the society at large, that the criminals tend to be more disloyal than the law abiding citizens – otherwise crime would be even harder to fight than it is now.

Confused?

Then let be present the situation from the ‘loyalist’ point of view.

The ‘what’ of the matter has to do with the proportion between ‘blind’ and  ‘willingly/knowingly assumed’. A mobster will be loyal because he has no other alternative – he’d walk into a self-sprung trap if he’d snitch on his partner while a true friend/brother would be loyal for completely different reasons.

Loyal to a person? To a ‘moral value’? To a ‘time honored tradition’? To a ‘local custom’?
If both guys were loyal to each other…
If both were loyal to ‘do no harm unto others’ they wouldn’t have got here in the first place…

As far as ‘distances’ are involved… In the standard example, as ‘formalized’ by Albert W. Tucker, there’s a relatively small difference between what both of them ‘get’ if both of them snitch and what the ‘mute’ would get if the other one would choose ‘the easy way out’. It’s only fair to presume that the pressure for both of them to betray the other would be far bigger if the ‘betrayed mute’ would be ‘rewarded’ with ten years instead of three while ‘mutual betrayal’ would remain at two each.

Time… isn’t this the most interesting dimension? Where you can only look, but never actually go, back and where haze always increases with distance …
Time, where the ‘good’ kind of loyalty helps those who ‘practice’ it and where bad loyalty constitutes an extremely heavy dead-weight …

How to tell ‘good’ from ‘bad’ in this case?

Consider the long term fate of the provinces/countries controlled by organized crime or by any-other form of dictatorship. No capo/dictator/authoritarian figure would ever be able to impose his will over the rest of the population, absent the loyalty of his supporters…

OK, loyalties are what defines us. What keeps us in one piece. What keeps all of us together.
In fact, the few of us who have no loyalties are nothing but sociopaths.

“Joseph Newman argues that the sociopath has an attention bottleneck that allows him to focus only on one activity or train of thought, to the exclusion of others. Researchers, including Howard Kamler, say that the sociopath lacks not “moral” identity but self-identity altogether.”

Hence, it’s up to the rest of us to spot them and to protect ourselves against them.

How?!?

By not extending misplaced loyalty towards them, of course!

Sociopaths are people who have little to no conscience. They will lie, cheat, steal and manipulate others for their own benefit. They know exactly what they are doing, they just don’t care because they don’t think that way. If you are naive enough, they will brainwash you into doing exactly what they say and what they want which is the only time a sociopath is truly happy.

‘They know exactly what they are doing’…

What’s keeping us from doing the same thing? From keeping at least an eye open for those who demand undeserved loyalty? Under which ever disguise and under which ever pretense?

Part II ended on the Western side of the Mediterranean sea, right before WWII.
Which, by the way, was a consequence of the WWI victors making a terrible mistake.

For the III-rd part we have to cross to the Eastern side of the aforementioned sea and to fast forward to the aftermath of WWIII. The Cold One, if you haven’t figured that out by yourselves.

I’m going to make a small detour now and bring back a subject that I’ve already mentioned.
The changing nature of war itself.
Up to the start of WWI we had war as a conflict between ethnic/imperial chieftains while from then on really important wars had been started by ethnic/imperial chieftains and won by the attacked democracies. The key word here being ‘won’.
Which is not exactly true.
Those wars had not as much been won by the victors as lost by the aggressors. All that the democracies had to do was to (actively) resist long enough for the aggressors to rot from within and crumble under their own weight.
Actually all three WWs had been lost from the first moment. Simply because the aggressors had been inflexible ‘imperiums’ – social systems where the decision making mechanisms were controlled from the top in a more or less absolute manner.

Let’s go back to Syria.
What we had here was a population who had lost patience with being mistreated by a dictator and which, somewhat encouraged by what was going on globally, had tried to ‘buck the rider’. To carve a better future for themselves.

Just as in Spain, almost a hundred years ago, things had become way more complicated than they should have been.
Opportunists of all persuasions and from almost all over the world have jumped in to the occasion. And all those who could have dragged their asses instead of doing something useful for the longer term did exactly that. Dragged their asses and done nothing.

The parallel is staggering. Unfortunately things are becoming far worse and far more complicated.

In Spain, the world had perceived the whole movement as being predominantly of a communist nature. Which, eventually, made it so. Perception wise, in this case.
In Syria, the world perceived the whole movement as being predominantly of an islamist nature. Which, eventually, made it so. Simply because only the islamists of the world became involved, while all the rest did next to nothing. On the really ‘progressive’ side, that is.

In Spain, the only ‘outside’ power which had intervened decisively was the loser of the previous WW. More precisely, the decisive intervention was carried on by the  dictatorship established over the population which had felt mistreated after WWI.
In Syria, the ‘outside’ power which intervenes decisively, helping the ‘regressives’, is the loser of the previous WW. More precisely, the most effective outside intervention is carried on by the authoritarian regime established over the population which had felt mistreated after the Cold War. In Syria’s case we also have a second intervention on the side of the ‘regressives’, carried on by yet another authoritarian regime established over yet another population which feels mistreated by some of the most powerful governments on this Planet.

Then we have the popular sentiment in the rest of the World.
In Spain, people from some 50 nations had volunteered to fight on the Republican side. Very few of them entertained any communist convictions and most of them had a place of their own where to return after the war was over. And when they did return, they were welcome to do so.
Syria has also seen her ‘fair share’ of volunteers. But there’s a marked difference here. While those who went to fight on the Republican side in Spain were animated by some romantic ideals, most of the aliens who came to fight in Syria were driven by a sort of desperate ennui and an acutely perceived lack of any perspective in their countries of origin.
While those who went to Spain did it to help the Spaniards fulfill their dream, those who went to Syria were hoping to carve a piece of land where to build theirs.
While those who went to Spain were welcomed back by their families and neighbors, those coming back from Syria are shunned by their relatives and investigated by the authorities of the states they are returning to.

And the most complicated aspect of the whole thing is ‘separatism’.

To be continued.

“Try” implies intent, right?
Towards the professed goal… otherwise it makes no sense…

Which begets yet another question:
‘But how do we determine intention?’
‘The ‘perpetrator’ must have wished for it, given what they’ve done/said!’ ?!?

Let me give you something to chew on…

 

Jordan Peterson, (12 Rules for Life, 2018) is a smart guy who has just published a rather controversial book – read ‘all about it’ here.
Cathy Newman, a “presenter for Channel 4 News” has recently become “a minor Internet phenomenon, thanks to the journalist’s extraordinary interviewing style.”
The excerpt above belongs to that interview but, unfortunately, proves that there is nothing extraordinary about this interviewer’s style. Oversimplification has become a pattern rather than an exception.

But why?
What’s going on here?
Why would seemingly sensible people, in pursuit of commendable goals, put themselves in such untenable positions? “A British broadcaster doggedly tried to put words into the academic’s mouth.” A rather harsh commentary, specially when published by the Atlantic, a magazine promoting more or less the same ideas as those ‘defended’ so passionately by Newman.

The “invisible gorilla” to the rescue.

Not familiar with the concept? Click on the link.

I won’t bother you with the details of this very modern experiment but I’m gone quote a ‘classic’ Romanian proverb
‘As soon as people gaze long/deep enough into a single spot/subject, their knowledge horizon becomes ‘their’ point of view’.
At this point, I have a confession to make. I don’t know how classic it is, nor whether it is actually a proverb. I was introduced to it by my 7-th grade history teacher, Mr. Bucataru. More than 40 years ago, at least 20 before the ‘invisible gorilla’ strolled across the basket ball court, ‘blissfully’ unnoticed by half of the people ‘present’ for the occasion.

So.
Was Newman really trying to sound dumb? As in ‘assuming the perceived dumbness as a cost towards a more valuable goal’?

Or was she so absorbed by the ‘more valuable goal’ – which ever that might be, I cannot pretend to know what she was after, that she wasn’t even aware that her very behavior was detrimental to whatever she attempted to achieve?

Could it be that sometimes we concentrate so much on whatever we consider to be  ‘the occasion’ that we fail to actually be there?

Why Can’t People Hear What Jordan Peterson Is Saying?”

Conor Friedersdorf, the Atlantic, Jan 22, 2018

If this book has a blind spot, it’s largely a function of the fact that Peterson is a professor. If you’re an academic, especially a Canadian academic, living in a real city, you rarely (if ever) meet right-wing crazies. But you’re exposed to left-wing crazies on a fairly regular basis. This tends to skew and distort your conception of where the crazies are to be found mightily….
.
.
I share Peterson’s deep discomfort with any mode of analysis that reduces individuals to the status of group representatives. But to say that this pernicious mode of analysis is solely a function of “Marxism” or “postmodernism” is a gross oversimplification. Among other things, it makes it seem like this is a uniquely left-wing problem—when clearly it’s not. Right-wing reactionary racists regularly reduce individuals to the status of group representatives. And they’re doing pretty well politically lately.

John Faithful Hamer, Commiting Sociology, Feb 2, 2018.

“So you’re saying … we should live like lobsters?” or: Why does politics make us stupid?

Pascal Boyer, Blog, Cognition and Culture, Feb 1, 2018

PS. I’ve just realized that the ‘Romanian proverb’ I mentioned above is somewhat related to Nietzsche’s: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss the abyss gazes also into you.”
And since ‘becoming a monster’ basically means loosing the ability/willingness to fit into the society where you have been born,  the logical conclusion of Nietzsche’s advice is ‘never attempt to fight monsters by yourself’. It’s easier to retain your humanity when belonging to a team and even more so when the teams involved in any competition behave fairly and respectfully to each other.

I'm not a racist

And you know what?

I believe him!

‘Cause racism is much more than meets the eye at first glance…

Dictionaries teach us that a racist is “a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
But there’s a problem with this definition.
When was the last time when you’ve met a self proclaimed ‘racist’?

‘Racist’ is label. Affixed by others, on people they do not agree with.

Meanwhile, those who entertain, or just display, such sentiments see, or just describe, themselves as ‘defenders of their own kin’.
As ‘fighters for justice’ while those belonging to ‘the other side’ see them as villainous oppressors.

In fact, there are two kind of ‘racists’. The bona fide and the con-artists. Oftentimes both inhabiting the same persona….
The bona fide are ‘somewhat scared’ about what’s going on around them and in dire need of social support – the reason for them huddling together with like-minded people while giving up a sizeable portion of their free will/intellectual autonomy.
The con-artists are those who mimic the fears experienced by the bona-fide in order to gain control over them. Or to otherwise exploit the situation. Oftentimes the con-artists interpret their roles with so much passion that they end up convincing themselves…

Donald Trump is neither.

He has convinced himself that he is so above everything and everybody that nothing will ever hurt him.
He’s not afraid of anything. He cannot, ever, be a bona-fide racist.

Neither is he a ‘fake’ one. He’s simply too smart for that. He actually knows that pretending such things would be bad for business.

Then why did he say something so awful?

It was a Freudian slip…

Back in the 1980s, psychologist Daniel Wegner suggested that the very system which aims to prevent Freudian slips may be to blame. According to his theory, subconscious processes are continuously scouring our thoughts to keep our innermost desires locked away. When such a thought occurs, instead of remaining quiet – ironically – the thought may be announced to the conscious brain, causing you to think it.

Then it’s only a matter of time before the truth slips out. “When we’re thinking about something we’re priming the relevant words, they’re being prepared to be spoken in case we need them,” says Motley. With so many options, the word we end up choosing can be revealing.

s---house

“$hithouse, not $hithole”

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