Monday, 25 July 2011

How Mass Media reframes issues

  Yesterday, I read in the New York Times an opinion column entitled “Generations Clash amid Debt Crisis” that was written by Tom Friedman in which this oft quoted author reframed the current issue of class warfare as an intergenerational conflict where the importune boomer generation spend the future earnings of their children.
Indeed, if there is one sentiment that unites the crises in Europe and America it is a powerful sense of “baby boomers behaving badly” — a powerful sense that the generation that came of age in the last 50 years, my generation, will be remembered most for the incredible bounty and freedom it received from its parents and the incredible debt burden and constraints it left on its kids.
It is no wonder that young Greeks reacted so harshly when their deputy prime minister, Theodoros Pangalos, referring to all the European Union loans and subsidies that propelled the Greek credit binge after 1981, said, “We ate it together” — meaning the people and the politicians. That was true of the baby boomer generation of Greeks, now in their 50s and 60s, and the baby boomer politicians. But those just coming of age today will never get a bite. They will just get a bill. And they know it.

  Little was said about how the vast majority of the wealth created in the last thirty years was transported upwards to the top 1% while the majority of these boomers’ salaries stagnate and the prices of necessities such as health, education and housing rocked skyward. He also seems to never have heard of Elizabeth Warren’s book, The Two Income Family Trap or any of the other books published on this topic. The obscene increase in wealth of the plutocracy gets conflated with the impoverishment of the middle class to become a generation of irresponsible consumers. So what’s the solution?
What happens is that both the American and European dreams hang in the balance. Either we both put our nations on more sustainable growth paths — which requires cutting, taxing and investing for the future — or we’re looking at a world in which democracies are going to turn on themselves and fight over shrinking pies, with China having a growing say over how big the slices will be.

  No redistribution of wealth or a more equitable society. Just the middle class sacrificing for the future while the true recipients of this golden age go unmentioned by design. The implication of this opinion piece is that Mr. Friedman along with the rest of the chattering classes has long sold out for his share of the good life. The only uncorrupted voices left are those on the Internet who wish to discuss the big issues without being the indentured servants of the masters of the universe. But they have a plan to silence us. I discussed on a previous post how the American government is plotting the criminalization of current activities on the Internet and the FBI will be given the tools to spy on us via wiretaps without the necessity of warrants. What I haven’t discussed is the proposal which was published on July 14, 2011 by DARPA, Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency - the Department of Defence, and entitled Social Media in Strategic Communication.

  Code Named SMISC (funding number DARPA‐BAA‐11‐64), the plan overview is as follows:
The conditions under which our Armed Forces conduct operations are rapidly changing with the spread of blogs, social networking sites, and media‐sharing technology (such as YouTube), and further accelerated by the proliferation of mobile technology. Changes to the nature of conflict resulting from the use of social media are likely to be as profound as those resulting from previous communications revolutions. The effective use of social media has the potential to help the Armed Forces better understand the environment in which it operates and to allow more agile use of information in support of operations.
The general goal of the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program is to develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base. In particular, SMISC will develop automated and semi‐automated operator support tools and techniques for the systematic and methodical use of social media at data scale and in a timely fashion to accomplish four specific program goals:
1. Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.
2. Recognize persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social media sites and communities.
3. Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns.
4. Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations

  For those of you who are naïve enough to think that the Posse Comitatus Act will protect you from domestic use of this DOD activity, I would suggest that this act has already been abrogated under the Patriot Act which specifically and with the knowledge of the current administration with respect to support operations has been extended by President Obama.

The Posse Comitatus Act is a United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385) passed on June 18, 1878, after the end of Reconstruction, with the intention (in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807) of substantially limiting the powers of the federal government to use the military for law enforcement. The Act prohibits members of the Army from exercising nominally state law enforcement, police, or peace officer powers that maintain "law and order" on non-federal property (states and their counties and municipal divisions) within the United States. (Wikipedia)

  How does this activity work? From the proposal outline:

The development of a new science of social networks and the solutions to the problems posed by SMISC will require the confluence of several technologies including, but not limited to, information theory, massive‐scale graph analytics and natural language processing. While SMISC will not directly support natural language processing development efforts, it will certainly use the results of previous programs as well as contribute new challenges to further stimulate ongoing efforts. Technology areas particularly relevant to SMISC are shown here grouped to correspond to the four basic goals of the program as described above:

1. Linguistic cues, patterns of information flow, topic trend analysis, narrative structure analysis, sentiment detection and opinion mining;
2. Meme tracking across communities, graph analytics/probabilistic reasoning, pattern detection, cultural narratives;
3. Inducing identities, modeling emergent communities, trust analytics, network dynamics modeling;
4. Automated content generation, bots in social media, crowd sourcing.

   Basically this is a cross agency integrated plan to detect individual bloggers whose ability to contribute to political persuasion rises above a predetermined threshold. These folks could then be excised from further dialogue using a variety of methods including the new extensions to the “criminal uses” of the Internet as well as old fashioned wiretaps.   

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