By Anthony Gucciardi, Stephen Webster, David Warner and Peter Ludlow
If there is one thing we can take away from the news of recent months it is, in the words of the New York Times, that “the modern American surveillance state is not really the stuff of paranoid fantasies; it has arrived.”
“Surveillance and deception are not just fodder for the next ‘Matrix’ movie, but a real sort of epistemic warfare,” the paper reported.
In their recently piece entitled “The Real War on Reality,” detailed information was uncovered from hacked data regarding the military operation to stage ‘grassroots’ responses and organizations in order to deceive the masses. Professor of philosophy Peter Ludlow writes for the Times:
The hack also revealed evidence that Team Themis was developing a “persona management” system — a program, developed at the specific request of the United States Air Force, that allowed one user to control multiple online identities (“sock puppets”) for commenting in social media spaces, thus giving the appearance of grass roots support. The contract was eventually awarded to another private intelligence firm.
This cyber warfare is clearly not just in the capacity of ‘improving international reputation’ as military commanders are claiming on record (just like there is ‘no such thing’ as domestic spying and it’s only for terrorists). Instead, we’re talking about running a major network of computers that are constantly running code specifically written to post to social media and news comment pages.
This is hardly the first that we’ve heard about this. Two years ago, Raw Story ran an article on the Military’s multi-million dollar ‘persona’ software used for ‘classified social media activities’
A fake virtual army of people could be used to help create the impression of consensus opinion in online comment threads, or manipulate social media to the point where valuable stories are suppressed.
Ultimately, this can have the effect of causing a net change to the public’s opinions and understanding of key world events.
An excerpt from a particularly concerning summary of a recent German report on how political activists are targeted reads:
The targets of these attacks are scientists… It does not stop at skirmishes in the scientific community. Hackers regularly target various web pages. Evaluations of IP log files show that not only Monsanto visits the pages regularly, but also various organizations of the U.S. government, including the military. These include the Navy Network Information Center, the Federal Aviation Administration and the United States Army Intelligence Center, an institution of the US Army, which trains soldiers with information gathering.
We at Political Blind Spot have in fact witnessed this first hand. Monsanto employees have not only regularly visited our articles critical of their environmental terrorism, but they have tried to post company propaganda in the comment section, even using official Monsanto email addresses in their profiles.
All of this leaves us with one very important question: HOW DO WE KNOW if something circulating via social media is organic in nature, or the product of Military Industrial Complex or Corporate Elite shills?
The answer is fairly straightforward: attempts to discredit voices which are critical of powerful interests should be suspect. Military, government and corporate voices are very powerful. They can and due have people on payroll who dedicate vast amounts of time and resources to discrediting critical voices online. Such attempts typically employ tactics of mocking, and gang-up responses via probable “sock puppet” accounts.
Balanced criticisms against such interests are almost certainly not examples of such propaganda. Corporate polluters like Monsanto, and the military industrial complex will not budge an inch. They will not admit that they are wrong on anything.
All critics are “enemies of science” who just don’t understand how safe GMO food is, or they are “bleeding hearts” who fail to understand just how important drones, NSA surveillance, and other such things are for keeping us safe from “terrorists.”
If you think back over the past year, you’ve probably encountered many of such people on social media groups, mailing lists and the like. Maybe some of them will even chime in to denounce this article.