From: William A. Wilson (wwilsonat_private)
Date: Mon Jul 06 1998 - 15:42:54 PDT

  • Next message: Mark Hedges: "[IWAR] PRPGNDA anti-nuke web defacement"

    Please look up the word 'grammer' in a good dictionary. Thanks, W
    At 09:36 AM 7/3/98 -0700, you wrote:
    >What's needed is education in all levels of academia on what propaganda
    >really is.  On why and how it evolved.  I just read an old book 1968,
    >"Propaganda:  The Formation of Men's Attitudes" by Jacques Ellul, it's an
    >excellent book going through the evolutionary process of propaganda.  A
    >great reminder how most of the public depends on following media for
    >defining survival and lifestyles, instead using critical filtering and
    >thinking skills to understand what objective evidence is really presented
    >for determining judgements over opinions.
    >In this information age, it's time to start integrating this type of
    >education into all levels of schooling (including grammer schools).   We
    >could be loosing in a collective sense, when determining if our Nation is
    >using critical thinking skills.   We might find that we have been all been
    >taken over and consumed in memetic-mush.   This is just my OPINION.
    >-Helen Stewart
    >7Pillars Partners wrote:
    >> I'm going to make an assertion, and comment on some things that
    >> might be worth a discussion about.
    >> Assertion:
    >> If CNN/TIME did in fact work on the TAILWIND story for at least
    >> 8 months as they claim, and interview hundreds of sources, it strains
    >> credibility beyond the breaking point that they now claim to be
    >> 'absent malice' in going on air and to press with their story.
    >> How is it that with all that data and effort, a more objective view
    >> of the same material can be made in -roughly a week- that requires a
    >> retraction and apology?  Can professionals with this level of
    >> experience truly have convinced themselves so thoroughly of the
    >> inherent dishonesty of the US military that they would ignore the
    >> flaws in their own reporting?  What does that say for the news
    >> organization and news process itself, as well as the news consuming
    >> public, that these are respected players?
    >> Comments:
    >> We're going to hear a lot of people beating up on the media; this
    >> is a Good Thing as far as I'm concerned.  What used to pass for
    >> journalism (reporting facts) has turned into something else (moving
    >> around opinion--and remember, when you have facts, you don't need
    >> an opinion; interpretations of facts are called 'judgment,' FYI).
    >> This is propaganda, by the most loose of definitions--the substitution
    >> of opinion for judgment.
    >> The press, in all its forms, have become our observational proxies.
    >> By definition, in fact--if you aren't a direct witness to an event,
    >> you're using a proxy.  In this modern world of global communication,
    >> distance has eroded, -if- you rely upon the proxies to bridge all
    >> that distance for you.  Part of being an open source professional is
    >> learning how to 'triangulate'--use multiple proxy sources to get
    >> some rough approximation of objective facts.  I'm sad to say that
    >> I notice a considerable tendency on the part of professionals to
    >> spin and add bias, which only compounds the problem of the spin and
    >> bias from the proxies.  The media consuming public, however, is in
    >> even worse shape than we professionals are.  They're out there, and
    >> they keep taking it on the chin.
    >> Worse than the press/media turning into proxies, where we have to
    >> continually calculate trust assessments into dealing with what they
    >> report, is how they've turning in brokers for reputation capital.
    >> This is going to take a view words of explanation, so bear with me.
    >> Reputation capital is poorly understood, but we use it in all of our
    >> relationships: how much do you trust those around you, and in what
    >> problem domains?  You want to trust a physician to do his/her work
    >> professionally, objectively, competently.  The same with police.
    >> Judges.  Teachers.  Violations of that trust are met with great
    >> levels of intolerance, and justifiably so.  So you want to trust a
    >> physician to do their job, but do you ask them how to manage your
    >> money?  Physicians are -notoriously- bad at this sort of thing (get
    >> a few drinks into a stockbroker and ask them which accounts they can
    >> churn most often).  Physicians themselves have a hard time
    >> understanding where their competence stops.  "What's the difference
    >> between God and a doctor?  God doesn't think He's a doctor."  For the
    >> most blatant example of reputation capital gone wrong, look at the
    >> media portrayal and public worship (sorry, that's the only word that
    >> really fits) of celebrities.  Who honestly should care what they have
    >> to say or think about on world affairs?  Do they have a -judgment- or
    >> just an -opinion-?  I can respect how a professional athlete performs
    >> in his/her sport, but I'm not about to ask them about foreign
    >> policy -unless they have domain expertise-; the same goes with rock
    >> stars, film stars, etc.  When we start confusing opinion with
    >> judgment in the political arena, that's when my blood runs cold.
    >> And herein comes the role of media/proxies as reputation brokers:
    >> -- The anonymous source.  We don't know who they are, they 'leak' to
    >> their journalist of choice for their own reasons, perhaps good or
    >> not.  TAILWIND used a reported number of sources over two hundred,
    >> with on-going claims from the now-fired producer of the story that
    >> they have 'secret sources' who continue to push the story.  Since we
    >> don't know who these sources are, or what materials they have or know,
    >> we can't judge them--in other words, we only have an opinion at best,
    >> we can't make a judgment.  We're forced to rely on the media to do
    >> this for us; this is how they're reputation capital brokers--based on
    >> what they know of their sources, past interaction, current activities
    >> and relationships, -they- are supposed to exercise judgment.  In the
    >> 'good old days' when I used to feel comfortable calling people
    >> reporters, this also included what we open source professionals still
    >> try to do--triangulation, or -have at least two/three (depends on the
    >> media outlet) independent, objective sources with concrete facts to
    >> back up the story-.  You'll note that the burden has shifted--the
    >> media can no longer be trusted to perform this service, but -we- the
    >> consumer need to.  This means the system is broken.  Don't look to
    >> the Internet as the quick fix; after all, it's where Drudge came from.
    >> -- The feedback element.  I know a few very professional working
    >> reporters who have made two critical observations to me in the past.
    >> One is that no matter how good their source, no matter how good the
    >> proof, they always triangulate--and something more.  They do a contact
    >> trace on sources related to the story; in other words, they're trying
    >> to guarantee that their sources are truly independent.  This is, on
    >> occasion, very difficult, particularly when dealing with this 'six
    >> degrees of separation' and instant communication world.  But in their
    >> professional experience, it was too easy to start a whispering
    >> campaign--the words out of their source could be found going into the
    >> ears and coming out of the mouths of seemingly independent sources,
    >> thus the message wasn't independent.  Memes are frighteningly hard to
    >> deal with--the message gets passed along for a lot of reasons, but
    >> generally because it's too good to be true -and- people want it to be
    >> true.  TAILWIND is an example, but I could just as easily point to the
    >> many conspiracy theories, or the '200,000 attacks on DoD systems by
    >> hackers,' or a lot of the other incredible, ludicrous 'factoids'
    >> floating around.  And that leads to the second part of the feedback
    >> problem--diffusion into the background.  The blurring of opinion and
    >> judgment, combined with the polling process, has made the public
    >> (read: masses, plebes) the driving force for politicians (those people
    >> who make law).  Progressively less informed about the myriad elements
    >> of the world (the world is impressively complex, and complexity
    >> forces specialization specifically to cope), the mass collection of
    >> opinion by media and political organizations and using it to tailor
    >> the content of what gets presented, or to make policy and legal
    >> decisions, is the logical conclusion of the feedback process, and
    >> potentially the ultimate ruin of the democratic process.  What it
    >> means is that someone takes a poll, finds out that a great number of
    >> people are interested in something, which increases the coverage of
    >> that something--which adds positive feedback (in the cybernetic
    >> sense), causing more attention, and probably eventual political
    >> action.  It cuts both ways:  good, such as increased funding for
    >> various research; bad, such as increasing crime legislation and
    >> criminalization, at a time when real crime is dropping, but media
    >> attention to crime is increasing.  Extreme cases make bad law--and
    >> with media coverage, extreme cases get -great- numbers of people
    >> interested; sizzle sells, but it's screwing up the media -and- the
    >> political process.
    >> Answers.  Do I have any?  Sure, but you aren't going to like them.
    >> Learn how to discriminate, but based on facts (which leads to
    >> judgment), and not without them (which leads to opinions).  Don't
    >> make significant moves based on opinions--particularly laws.  Learn
    >> about reputation capital, and stop buying into the cult of celebrity.
    >> Learn how to triangulate, which will teach you a lot about spin and
    >> bias.  Most important of all, get a grip on responsibility; media
    >> and political processes are turning into a 'tragedy of the commons'--
    >> we aren't 'owners' of the processes, so we don't feel any great need
    >> to do anything about them.  On the surface, this comes off as a
    >> disenfranchisement--people claiming that they "don't have any say"
    >> in the media or political process; by not asserting ownership, you
    >> leave a vacancy that -someone- is certainly going to fill, and they're
    >> going to be the one making decisions.  The best part of it, for
    >> whomever that is, is they get authority without responsibility--both
    >> the media and politics have evolved into realms of privilege where
    >> being accountable for your mistakes is so rare as to be non-existent.
    >> Incidents like TAILWIND and the CNN/TIME story and retraction, are a
    >> small example of this ownership.  Enough people suddenly developed a
    >> spine where the media content was concerned that those involved in
    >> the operation even got an -apology- from CNN's CEO/President.  That's
    >> great, but it isn't good enough--out of us.  We need to have that
    >> level of ownership and feeling of responsibility consistently, because
    >> without it we're going to get the media and political processes we
    >> deserve.
    >> Copyright 1998 by Michael Wilson.  (All rights reserved.)
    >> Managing Partner, 7Pillars Partners
    >> partnersat_private

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Apr 13 2001 - 13:11:00 PDT