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Facebook Bullshit

Written By: - Date published: 12:04 pm, February 26th, 2018 - 70 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, elections, facebook, International, Media, Politics, Propaganda, tech industry, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , , ,

From Macedonia to the San Fransisco Bay, clickbait political sites are cashing in on Trumpmania – and they’re getting a big boost from facebook. – wrote The Guardian back in August 2016.

In November 2016, the Washington Post ran with “This is how facebook’s fake news writers make money.

And also in November 2016, The New York Times got embedded Inside a fake news sausage factory – “This is all about income”

Post US election, a Mr. Latsabidze from Tbilisi told a NYT reporter –

“If Hillary had won, it would be better for us,” he said. “I could write about the bad things she was going to do,” he said. “I did not write to make Trump win. I just wanted to get viewers and make some money.”

If you read the links, you will see it said time and again that setting up a web site jam-packed with ads that pay the site owner on a per click basis, and getting traffic to that site by way of outrageous posts made to facebook, is an easy (and profitable) thing to do. It’s also clear that some, but not all, operators of such sites wrote unique pieces rather than trawling wordpress or wherever for some “profitably clickable” piece to send out on social media

Upscaling and better organising all that’s covered in the three mainstream articles I’ve linked to would merely enhance the money generating capacity of such schemes. And just like with the one or two person operations, fake facebook IDs would also be used by a larger operation to push posts further into “facebook land” where “believers” would then get directed to advert heavy sites set up for all that ad click revenue.

And that’s not a minor detail. Clickbait pieces are preaching to the choir and the trick is merely to successfully hook into the largest choir. As such, clickbait pieces don’t shape opinions or change minds – they reaffirm general believes or perceptions. So if your largest choir hates on Hillary Clinton, all that’s required is a piece that massages that hate by way of ridicule or outrageous baseless claims – it’s the emotive, not the cerebral that counts.

Anyway, here’s the Indictment served by Robert Mueller against Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ the Internet Research Agency this month for being “engaged in operations to interfere with [US] elections and political processes.”

If you read through the indictment, there is nothing in relation to social media allegations that isn’t just par for the course – nothing that isn’t indulged in by individuals and groups of people the world over in search of a quick buck.

But the same can’t be said of Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ. They have trawled personal data from, for example, facebook and used that data to then target adverts at people in order to influence their perceptions. As the Guardian reported back in March of 2017

The UK’s privacy watchdog is launching an inquiry into how voters’ personal data is being captured and exploited in political campaigns, cited as a key factor in both the Brexit and Trump victories last year.

So why, I wonder, is there a whole lot of hoo-ha about a company from St Petersburg running clickbait for ad revenue (that’s in line with what thousands of others do), and yet barely a squeak about a London based company that’s dedicated to mining huge amounts of personal information and using it to shift public opinion? Where’s that indictment?

The companies are known. Their locations are known. Their clients are known.  Their activities are known. So why the relative silence on a foreign company and known individuals known to have “engaged in operations to interfere with [US] elections and political processes.”?

70 comments on “Facebook Bullshit”

  1. I get the feeling ALL media, main stream and blogs, both in America and world wide, are using Trump as click bait.

    Note the ‘Bought vs Free Media’ graph.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/upshot/measuring-donald-trumps-mammoth-advantage-in-free-media.html

    These are older figures, but hes still punching well above his weight with so called articles and commentary just raking over the same limited narratives.

    • xanthe 1.1

      well certainly our own herald uses outrageous trump stories in that way. most of what is on the herald website would qualify as clickbait , that would seem to be their predominant business model really quite hard to distinguish between the herald and that other site who’s name must never be spoken here

    • greywarshark 1.2

      TS also? I notice a fascination and a watching brief on Trump’s doings and prognostications.

      • gsays 1.2.1

        I agree grey.
        Trump and the politics around him, generate more acrimonious arguments than any other subject (apart from 9/11).

        It seems to bring out lots of ‘willy waving’, as one character on TS called it recently.

      • Matthew Whitehead 1.2.2

        IIRC, clickbait would be counterproductive because the site doesn’t even pay for itself, let alone make money. The extent authors talk about Trump is the extent we’re interested in debating or rebutting him or points adjacent to what he’s doing or what he represents.

        • Bill 1.2.2.1

          Firstly the site would have to be awash with ads.
          Secondly, posts would have to be aggressively pushed through facebook and other social media via groups etc to trawl up enough “clickers”.

          And then we’d need someone somewhere to set up “thestandard” mkII or III, depending on how you want to count incarnations, because there’d be a huge hole in NZ discourse again. 😉

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    Considering that Cambridge Analytica was set up for the US market (see their Wikipedia entry for more info about this) I think it’s highly likely they’re registered with the AG, or that they’re structured so that they don’t have to.

    Plus, Mueller’s onto them.

    Edit: Yep, they’re a US company: …US subsidiary of UK defense contractor SCL Group…

    • Bill 2.1

      Hmm. So you reckon there’s “nothing to see here” because an isolated article from last December reporting Mueller’s request for emails from employees working for Trump and deft company structuring?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1

        No, Bill. I reckon precisely what I wrote and no more.

        • Bill 2.1.1.1

          Aw, fuck this OAB. You wrote that “Mueller’s onto them” when he only asked for emails pertaining to work done with or for Trump to be handed over.

          That reasonably suggests a degree of dismissal on your part.

          But since you’re incapable of offering anything other than avoidance, bullshit and snark in response to a simple query, then maybe you should just fuck off to other threads and posts.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1.1

            Brevity didn’t serve me well on this occasion.

            From the indictment:

            The United States of America, through its departments and agencies, regulates the activities of foreign individuals and entities in and affecting the United States in order to prevent, disclose, and counteract improper foreign influence on U.S. elections and on the U.S. political system. U.S. law bans foreign nationals from making certain expenditures or financial disbursements for the purpose of influencing federal elections.

            Cambridge Analytica, being a US subsidiary of SCL, wouldn’t fall foul of this law.

            Even so, Mueller’s investigating their involvement. So they’d better hope they’re squeaky fucking clean. From my perspective I think their activities are anything but clean, whether they fall inside the letter of the law or not. Especially considering some of the facts outlined in that Wikipedia entry, under the ‘criticism’ tab.

            The guts of my comment was to provide possible answers to your question, “So why the relative silence on a foreign company and known individuals…?” CA is not a “foreign company” in the USA.

            • Andre 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Another consideration is AFAIK it’s not illegal for a campaign to hire foreign help and pay for it.

              That’s why Steele’s paid work didn’t violate any laws (that we know of, yet) despite Repugs trying to draw an equivalence to the troll farms. Similarly, even if Cambridge Analytica didn’t have any US domestic connection, there wouldn’t be anything illegal about the Chump campaign engaging their services for hire. If the campaign had outright hired and paid the Internet Research Agency for their troll factory services, that may well have been legal.

              As I understand it what is illegal, however, is a campaign accepting a donation or freebie services or things of value from foreign sources. There’s the genesis of the argument that if the campaign in any way worked with or coordinated with any of these foreign activities, and it wasn’t initiating the contact and paying for, then it was committing a federal crime. Because it was accepting a thing of value from a foreign source, rather than hiring a paid service that happened to be foreign.

              If it was paying for those fake news services, as far as I know it would also have to report them somewhere like the FEC.

  3. Ad 3

    The US Democrats proposed the Honest Ads Act back in October 2017 to counter the growing political power of the big social platforms.

    Dead.

    Plenty of money to be made, from very dark clients, who have very good reason to avoid the sunlight they are required to declare on all other kinds of political advertising.

    https://www.recode.net/2017/10/19/16503006/facebook-google-twitter-russia-senate-political-ads
    The Senate Hearing that got the chiefs of Google, Twitter, and Facebook in front of the Senate committee was a good start, but only s start.

    https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/04/senate-committee-facebook-russia-probe/

    There have been so many attempts at putting global-scale regulations around the big social platforms precisely to corral their corrosion of democracy and more broadly of political orders democratic or otherwise. Again, so far all dead.

    But it must happen.

  4. weka 4

    I guess we read different things, because I definitely saw critique of Cambridge Analytica etc in the past few years. You really need to get a twitter account t 😉

    As you know, I don’t follow the whole Russia/US thing, but on the face of it one difference would be that the US and the UK are close allies and the US and Russia aren’t.

    • Bill 4.1

      Sure. Not saying I haven’t seen any critique of Cambridge Analytica.

      But their game is a different order of things to that indulged in by the likes of the Internet Research Agency and the million and one others who do the same shit as the IRA.

      Theirs (CA’s game) is very much about influence and power, while the IRA is about snaggling people in ad saturated sites for the sake of money.

      And no. Fuck twitter 🙂

      • weka 4.1.1

        I guess I see more overlap than you do. e.g. FB itself wants to make money, and designs its platform accordingly, but it would be naive to think that FB doesn’t also have a political agenda, nor that their unacknowledged politics don’t affect debate and information given how hugely impactful they are simply by their presence.

        Making money has a politics of its own that isn’t necessarily political party based (although it can be).

        • Bill 4.1.1.1

          Yup. Facebook is a platform designed to serve users up to advertisers. And some people have found a way to exploit its money making potential in ways that upset some “higher ups” in society.

          Sometimes I entertain the idea that mainstream media are simply getting bitten on the arse for all their energies and troubles spent in dumbing down news content these past decades. So y’know…You want dumb? We’ll give you dumb. And dumber and dumber. “Clinton didn’t eat the pizza before the baby had scoffed the lot”

          10 000 000 000 shares and $20 000 in hard cash. Thankyou and so long Rupert. 🙂

          Facebook could ban advertising. (Not going to happen).
          Government could step in and nationalise facebook (laughable)

          Or Facebook could be set up as censors – given control over what people say, see and communicate under the guise of a “fake news” crisis. And that’s happening.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.1.1.1

            They already had control. It’s their house, and they make the rules, just like here at The Standard.

            They have no control over what people write on the rest of the ‘net.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.2

        the IRA is about snaggling people in ad saturated sites for the sake of money.

        That’s one narrative about what they do.

        Another is clearly stated in the indictment:

        The ORGANIZATION sought, in part, to conduct what it called “information warfare against the United States of America” through fictitious U.S. personas on social media platforms and other Internet-based media.

        By in or around May 2014, the ORGANIZATION’s strategy included interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

        On or about February 10, 2016, … Specialists were instructed to post content that focused on “politics in the USA” and to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them).”

        • Bill 4.1.2.1

          Yes OAB. I’ve read the indictment. And like I’ve written in the post, there is nothing in it that wouldn’t pertain to all the college kids and who-ever playing social media in exactly the same way for exactly the same ends (ie money).

          If you can find an actual thing among all the rhetorical flapping in that indictment that shows what the IRA does is different to what multitudes of others using social media platforms do, then by all means point it out.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.2.1.1

            On or about September 14, 2016, in an internal review of an ORGANIZATION created and controlled Facebook group called “Secured Borders,” the account specialist was criticized for having a “low number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton” and was told “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” in future posts.

            By in or around early November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the ORGANIZATION-controlled “United Muslims of America” social media accounts to post anti-vote messages such as: “American Muslims [are] boycotting
            elections today, most of the American Muslim voters refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton because she wants to continue the war on Muslims in the middle east and voted yes for invading Iraq.”

            On or about August 4, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators began purchasing advertisements that promoted a post on the ORGANIZATION-controlled Facebook account “Stop A.I.” The post alleged that “Hillary Clinton has already committed voter fraud during the Democrat Iowa Caucus.”

            • Bill 4.1.2.1.1.1

              Like I’ll just say again. When you find something specific in the indictment that wouldn’t/couldn’t just as well apply to any other person or entity pushing click-bait for ad revenue, let me know.

              If you’re a bit hazy on what thought and honing goes into the whole click-bait malarkey, then this Wired piece offers some additional insights to the three mainstream pieces provided in the post.

              https://www.wired.com/2017/02/veles-macedonia-fake-news/

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                The examples given address your narrative about motive, specifically where you said the IRA does what it does for the sake of money.

                Some kleptocrats want sanctions lifted, but that isn’t the money you’re talking about, eh.

      • lprent 4.1.3

        Looking at all three businesses and their models, I think that they are all hires for political influence.

        Frankly if you haven’t seen criticism of your first two the you must have a severely constrained reading list – including avoiding posts and comments on this site. The real question is if that myopia is ideologicly deliberate or accidential. Perhaps you should try crawl out from under your RT rock sometime?

        One of the main reasons that this site doesn’t run paid ads or take money from any organisation (and runs on a shoestring) is precisely because of the effects of trying to make a buck from influence.

        If you look at major NZ blogs, you can see why we went that way. The extreme example is the key for defamation way that Whaleoil seems to operate.

        This site is to allow personal opinion, however daft, by authors and commenters to have some space for outright robust disagreement. It also means that we don’t try push a group line beyond who gets invited to write here as authors.Quite unlike your examples do… All of whom quite clearly get paid to influence and try to do it in an underhanded sneaky and morally repugnant manner – probably pretty illegally in the future as well.

        But here we just learn to agree to disagree.

        • Ad 4.1.3.1

          t’s pretty hard for the Republicans to argue that the Russian troll farms and all the others they bought and infected had no impact on the US 2016 elections, when the Trump campaign had been using precisely the same tools and platforms effectively on their own campaign.

          I might have a go at a post on why it is necessary to have global protocols to limit the influence of social media on elections, and why it is consistently failing. If I get time ….

          … failing that LPrent have a crack yourself.
          You’d probably have something useful to say 🙂

          • adam 4.1.3.1.1

            I think most/all of the authors here should put up pieces role of social media and its impact on politics.

            Different takes would be great.

            • adam 4.1.3.1.1.1

              I’d really like to add “about the” between ‘pieces’ and ‘role’ in the above sentence.

        • Bill 4.1.3.2

          Pushing clickbait and targetting ads off the back of mined personal data are nothing at all like the same thing. (I assume you were referring to IRA, AIQ and CA as the “three businesses and their models”.)

          Well done you for running some infantile RT line in a personal capacity when I’ve said over and over on this site that I can not access RT on this computer.

          And anyway. Where is RT mentioned in the pos,t or what information used in the post is sourced from RT? (Hint: “not mentioned” and “none” are the two correct answers)

          Running click-bait pieces for ad revenue means the pieces must be clicked, in order that the viewer/reader is delivered to the site containing the ads.

          Running ‘personalised’ political ads for specific political agendas off the back of huge amounts of mined data is far more “underhanded sneaky and morally repugnant”.

          But of course, you’re not daft and so can discern the obvious difference between those activities.

  5. weka 5

    And that’s not a minor detail. Clickbait pieces are preaching to the choir and the trick is merely to successfully hook into the largest choir. As such, clickbait pieces don’t shape opinions or change minds – they reaffirm general believes or perceptions. So if your largest choir hates on Hillary Clinton, all that’s required is a piece that massages that hate by way of ridicule or outrageous baseless claims – it’s the emotive, not the cerebral that counts.

    I think that only works if one assumes that people have already taken a position on something. Whereas I see whole swathes of people still trying to figure out wtf is going on and when presented with clickbait that is targeted to them they can be influenced. A huge number of FB posts get shared without people opening the link to see what they are sharing. That of course serves people making money, but it also establishes ‘received wisdom’ and affects how debates can be had.

    e.g. the dude last week who pushed the whole Parkland’s teens are really actors think. Hundreds of thousands of shares before youtube and FB did something.

  6. Andre 6

    The scope of Mueller’s investigation is:

    ” … (b) The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James 8. Corney in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including:
    (i) any links and/or coordination bet ween the Russian government and individuals
    associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
    (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
    (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a). ”

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Appointment_of_Special_Counsel_to_Investigate_Russian_Interference_with_the_2016_Presidential_Election_and_Related_Matters.pdf

    Mueller wouldn’t have reason to look at Cambridge Analytica unless something involving them directly arises from his investigation into Russian actors. Similarly for the Macedonians.

    Mueller may also have good reason to believe the organisations and individuals named in the indictment are acting at the behest of the Russian government for the specific purpose of messing with the election and any ad revenue is just a bonus, in contrast to the likes of the Macedonians that are only interested in the ad income.

    • McFlock 6.1

      That’s the main difference from what I can see: CA was working in the US election on behalf of US funders running a campaign.

      The other was working in the US election on behalf of foreign employers wanting to disrupt a campaign.

      Were the CA ads official campaign material, with all the required disclaimers, or were they pretending to be from other sources?

  7. joe90 7

    Trying to get my head around this article written by a FB monetisation team member.

    So if I’ve got it right, dude reckons because Trump’s ads were displayed in much cheaper markets and pandered to the racist bigots he was targeting with racially charged and provocative content and generated more shares, they were way cheaper per eyeball.

    During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters. But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices. Facebook users in swing states who felt Trump had taken over their news feeds may not have been hallucinating.

    https://www.wired.com/story/how-trump-conquered-facebookwithout-russian-ads

  8. adam 8

    This what the right does, it provides smoke screens and excessive amounts of bull excrement to muddy the picture.

    So a handful of russian tried to influence the election, they tried, is the best we can give them in reality. I means look at the adds themselves, and the numbers.

    The reality is, a private company at the beset of the corporations did fix the election – via social media.

    So the same people who are the enemy of working people, stay the same enemy of working people.

    And to quote a old NZ socialist flag –

    “If Blood be the price of your Cursed Wealth. Good God we have brought it in full.”

    • Bill 8.1

      Hmm. It’s a hard one innit?

      Invisible billionaires or yea old pesky Russian phantom?

      Best get out the pokey sticks and pitchforks and march on that pesky Russian phantom then, innit?

      People freely sharing outrageous and sometimes funny or ludicrous political memes with one another, or deliberately targeted, personalised political ads designed to influence your thoughts on specific issues?

      Keep marching East!

      • adam 8.1.1

        The people who gave us this, we are being asked to belive fixed the election.

        It’s a video – its viewing is supposed to taken as a piece of satire – the video is 4.10 sec long, I’d fast forward it to about 2 min in for the best giggles.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1.1.1

          fixed the election.

          Can you show me someone telling you to believe that? The great bogeyman CNN, for example, said there’s no evidence that they affected the election result at all. Just that they tried.

          So who was it again? I only ask because the last time I asked I didn’t get an answer.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.2

      a private company at the beset of the corporations

      If you mean Cambridge Analytica, they were working for the Republican Party and the Cruz and Trump campaigns.

      At the behest of plutocrats then. I see few reasons to be more suspicious of that than someone working at the behest of kleptocrats, if that’s what occurred.

      Last time I checked, kleptocrats are just as much the enemy of the working people as plutocrats.

      There is an allegation floating around that CA helped coordinate the IRAs activities, if you want to go down that rabbit hole.

      • adam 8.2.1

        The enemy of working people wear many labels. The common denominator is that they all billionaires who think the likes of you and me are crap.

        If you want to give one faction a free pass, that’s your issue not mine. I don’t trust the Russian Billionaires any more than the USA ones – both are corrupt. the USA ones are just better at it in this case. Hell they even got away with blaming the Russians, and people are buying it – got to give them the kudos when they get a win like that.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 8.2.1.1

          Good thing I didn’t give anyone a free pass then.

          • adam 8.2.1.1.1

            Glad to hear.

            My real fear is, it’s a short step away from blaming the Russians, to some sort of jinogist cluster*&%.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 8.2.1.1.1.1

              Good thing I didn’t blame “the Russians” then.

              “Kleptocrats” ≠ “Russians”: ethnicity has nothing to do with it.

              • adam

                I was talking about the tone of the debate happening in the USA, not you personally.

                Sorry for the confusion.

              • spikeyboy

                Thats bollocks. Like claiming that the etnicity has nothing to do with over representation of black Americans in prison statistics or Maori and Pacific Islanders in NZ. If nationality has nothing to do with it and everyone is targeted equally as you seem to believe then you must believe in the superiority of your own race or at least the inferiority of the targeted one. Targeting Israeli or Saudi influence in the election would yield far more easily indictable evidence than the flimsy case raised against Russia. When one nation is targeted as undeniably Russia has been then nationality is the first criteria before any investigation or attempt to find evidence.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  everyone is targeted equally as you seem to believe

                  Do you know what the word “context” means? If not, look it up (in a dictionary), and then read the full exchange between Adam and I, starting at comment 8. Pay close attention to the context.

                  When defining the terms ‘plutocrat’ and ‘kleptocrat’, ethnicity isn’t a factor. When discussing the nature of “the enemy of working people”, ethnicity isn’t a factor.

                  Adam understood what I was talking about, hence his apology and clarification: “I was talking about the tone of the debate happening in the USA, not you personally.”

                  Are you genuinely confused by the context of Adam’s clarification, or do your weasel words – “it seems” – simply indicate bad faith?

                  Plutocrats and kleptocrats both stir up division and hatred among the people, in order to deflect and distract from their own criminal behaviour. I note that you’re running interference for the kleptocrats.

  9. tom 9

    good interview on democracy now the other day worth watching i thought about this topic, hopefully the link works, otherwise try democracynow.org and is on the main homepage

    https://www.democracynow.org/2018/2/23/masha_gessen_did_a_russian_troll

    Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, a longtime critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Her recent book, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

    ‘ the United States is starting increasingly to imagine Russia as all-powerful, as incredibly sophisticated, as capable of, you know, sending out some really absurd tweets, in sub-literate English, and somehow changing the outcome of the election. And that projects such a belief in the fragility of the system and the basic instability of it and in the gullibility of voters who read something that’s not even comprehensible English and suddenly change their vote. I mean, the working theory of the investigation—right?—is that Russians influenced the election by influencing American public opinion. And so, we’re asked to believe that a significant impact on American public opinion could be produced by, you know, the Bernie the Superman coloring book tweet.’

    ‘Well, among the Facebook ads—you know, a lot of them were truly absurd. They’re like caricatures of American political propaganda. For example, there was a coloring book of a sort of buff Bernie, with tweets going out saying that it was suitable for all ages, and that was supposed to sort of advance the Sanders candidacy to detract from Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. There was the Satan arm-wrestling Jesus ad, where Satan is supposed to be Hillary and Jesus is supposed to be Trump, and you have to vote the right way. And we’re asked to believe that that had a measurable impact on a billion-dollar campaign?’

    ‘The interviewed people who told them, you know, what they were told to do. They were very explicitly told to mess with the election, right? They were not told to support one candidate over another. They were told to create a lot of static. They were told to mirror a lot of things. They talked—these so-called trolls talked about organizing offline demonstrations, right? So those stories about how they would find real U.S. persons, actual U.S. persons, and sometimes offer them money, sometimes offer them other incentives, to organize a demonstration here or there, right? But again, you know, we’re looking at a cacophony, cacophonous messaging. And, of course, my favorite part is that after the election, they went on and immediately organize an anti-Trump rally and a pro-Trump rally. And that sort of sums up the way they worked.’
    ‘you know, their goal was to create a mess, to screw with us, right? And I think that what Rob Goldman is probably looking at is a huge mess of incomprehensible sort of messaging. Incomprehensible messaging is a very important part of Russian propaganda. I mean, it’s not—you know, this is not an imaginary phenomenon, right? Creating a cacophony—
    But creating a cacophony, creating confusion, creating the sense that nothing means anything anymore is definitely important, right? But that is different from saying that their goal was to sway the outcome of the election and that we can say with any amount of certainty that that worked and that’s how we got Trump.’

    • Bill 9.1

      Masha Gessen was talking some mighty common sense in parts of that interview tom. Thanks for the link.

      To paraphrase/summarise some of her better points.

      To talk about “Russiagate” is to not talk about many important why’s and wherefore’s of the US and of the current US admin.

      Constantly harping on about the effect/non-effect of IRA facebook memes is to insult the intelligence of US voters and avoid asking why so many people registered a protest vote or a no-vote.

      Since the current admin threatens every person on this planet by way of global warming or nuclear war, US politics concern everyone and if US politics concern everyone, then the US ought not be allowed to isolate itself behind some political curtain fashioned from the fabric of xenophobia.

      What she missed entirely to my mind, is that the IRA did what they did to raise money not, as she unconvincingly claims, to sow confusion. Put the income stream into the picture and the raft of memes make sense even though particular memes often contradicted other memes.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.1

        What she missed entirely to my mind, is that the IRA did what they did to raise money…

        To my mind, maybe she just doesn’t believe that narrative.

        • Bill 9.1.1.1

          Well, I’d suggest if she didn’t believe the IRA were in it for the money, she’d have have flagged that alongside proposing her (kinda weak) “chaos” theory as an alternative to goal orientated meddling. But she didn’t. So I’m thinking it’s most likely a blind spot.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.1.1.1

            …the Russian state and the Russian government is a mafia state … Whether Prigozhin, as a person, is actually particularly important in this game, you know, none of us can say, right? But we do know a fair amount about how that company functioned, right? Again, there’s been like great Russian reporting on what they were doing. And a lot of that reporting is regurgitated in the indictment, with, apparently, some inaccuracies introduced in translation.

            Masha Gessen. My bold.

            Do you recall that exchange we had about potential mistranslation, Bill?

            I think your blind spot is the motive, which is money: the money involved in the sanctions against various kleptocrats.

            • Bill 9.1.1.1.1.1

              I do recall OAB. The bit you claimed as being a translation error was the actual charge being made under US Law.

              When countless operations run carbon copies of one another, the balance of probability suggests the motivation for each is the same as for any other.

              The US sanctions that were in place against Russian kleptocrats before Trump got elected are still in place. So not looking good in terms of realistic motive. And have the IRA shut up shop now that the cunning plan that would remove sanctions fell over?

              As an aside, I ran down the rabbit hole of those Magnitsky Act sanctions. Bill Browder’s an “interesting” chap. His accountant (or so the story goes) uncovered a $250 million scam. His accountant (so the counter narrative goes) was perpetrating the $250 million scam on Browder’s behalf when he was sprung. Magnitsky (the accountant) later died in jail (medical neglect), Browder flees Russia and is then instrumental in getting those sanctions in place.

              Along comes a film maker friend of Alexander (polonium poisoning) Litvinenko and Putin critic Andrei Nekrasov, who talks to Browder about doing a documentary on the whole thing. Short version. It doesn’t end well for Browder who has had enough heft to see the film banned everywhere.

              I have a copy and am hoping/ waiting for translation. It could well give a bit of a “twist” to Simpsons testimony that you kept linking to and Veselnitskaya’s testimony (she who met with Trump jr)

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                The phrase in question (that I speculated may not have been perfectly translated) is “Information warfare against the USA”. The indictment quotes it as the organisation’s own words (see page 6). I’ve no idea what you thought I was talking about.

                The US sanctions that were in place against Russian kleptocrats before Trump got elected are still in place. So not looking good in terms of realistic motive.

                Trump administration holds off on new Russia sanctions, despite law.

                Trump Jr. suggested review of sanctions law.

                There they are, looking good as a realistic motive.

                • Bill

                  Sure. So you’re back to the Russians gamed an election in Trump’s favour. (shrug)

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Where I’ve been all along, having made it crystal clear over and over again in the face of repeated misrepresentation, is that there’s evidence they made the attempt.

                    Do I have to also point out that evidence is not proof again too?

                    • Bill

                      So that’s good to know.

                      You hold fast to the notion that very rich people (not the Russian government) gave money to a money generating operation that was putting out clickbait, because they thought clickbait could influence an election result.

                      The fact the IRA made money (lots of it) kinda dents the notion they were in need of sponsors. And the fact that clickbait is neither targeted nor very effective at shifting opinions makes it a very curious route for these rich dudes to have taken.

                      I suppose you’ll have a ready answer as to why they didn’t just throw their money at Cambridge Analytica, who the Trump campaign were working with, who they would absolutely know about, and who generally (it seems) represent the interests of kleptocrats and plutocrats?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      No, not that either. I said “kleptocrats” not “very rich people”.

                      kleptocrat
                      ˈklɛptə(ʊ)krat
                      noun
                      a ruler who uses their power to steal their country’s resources.

                      Since when does acknowledging evidence equal “holding fast to the notion”?

                      If there’s anyone holding fast to a notion, Bill, it’s you. If you want to be certain about things, that’s up to you, You’re clearly certain that you know what the IRA does, and why, to the extent that you dismiss all alternatives. Don’t project your behaviour onto me, please.

              • francesca

                Inessa Sinchougova is the main Youtube translator for Russian in to English
                Grew up in NZ(in fact has a real charming Kiwi accent,) but was horrified at the terrible translations of Putin’s and Lavrov’s speeches…Moved back to Russia to take up the work of providing good translations.
                How did you get a copy of Nekrasov’s doco
                So was that doco made for a Russian audience?
                “Putin’s Russia “was obviously made for a western audience with Nekrasov speaking very good English
                Browder has moved heaven and earth to prevent viewings of The Magnitsky Act Behind the scenes

                The whole thing is fascinating

                https://100r.org/2017/10/magnitsky/…a lengthy and extensive article by Lucy Komisar

                https://thenakedhedgie.com/2017/09/22/amazon-com-burns-my-book-and-you-need-to-know-about-this/..
                .This is about Amazon shutting down Alex Krainer’s book The Killing of William Browder

                http://mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.co.nz/2018/02/alex-krainer-killing-of-william-browder.html

                • Bill

                  The Russian bits are subtitled in English. The English narration is dubbed over in Russian. (Two audio on one track) So not really watchable.

                • D'Esterre

                  Francesca: “Inessa Sinchougova is the main Youtube translator for Russian in to English…..was horrified at the terrible translations of Putin’s and Lavrov’s speeches…Moved back to Russia to take up the work of providing good translations.”

                  Yes, I’d read that somewhere else. She does provide very good translations: I’m guessing that she’s a native speaker of Russian, and acquired good English skills growing up here.

                  “Browder has moved heaven and earth to prevent viewings of The Magnitsky Act Behind the scenes”

                  Yup. Consortiumnews has done several pieces on that story; see below:

                  https://consortiumnews.com/2016/04/29/no-dissent-from-anti-russian-propaganda/
                  and:
                  https://consortiumnews.com/2017/10/28/guardians-of-the-magnitsky-myth/
                  along with quite a number of others. They’re searchable.

                  God, I miss Robert Parry! Such a loss…

                  • francesca

                    God, I miss Robert Parry! Such a loss…

                    Me too, we just don’t have that many journalists of his calibre left

                    The Magnitsky act and Bill Browder are so pivotal to US/Russian relations,I’d love to see some more light shone
                    Would very much like to see the Nekrasov doco

                • spikeyboy

                  Thanks for those links Francesca

                • Bill

                  A link to Veselnitskaya’s written testimony if you haven’t read it already – includes a lot to do with Browder and that meeting with Trump Jr.

                  https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000161-0605-da22-ad65-67efbb000001

                  If you give me permission to email you from the back end, I’ll send some info on that “behind the scenes” doco that’s not appropriate for a public forum.

                  • francesca

                    Thanks Bill
                    Yes, I give permission

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    If Steele’s word is suspect because he worked for the FBI, Veselnitskaya’s word is suspect because she worked for the FSB.

                    Those are the rules of the game, eh? They’re all Deep State actors.

                    Or is her word more reliable because she says things you already believe?

                    Just trying to establish some basic credibility metrics.

      • tom 9.1.2

        i agree with you bill,
        but do not minimise the effect of confusion for intelligence agencies, one of the main documents i took out of Wikileaks was that the western intelligence agencies were creating a cacophony around any issues it wanted to keep on the down low, so if say a conspiracy was bought into the public domain they would create wall to wall theories around it to make it a lot harder to get back to the truth of the matter, you now had a wall of shit and the original nugget of actual information was lost like a fly spot behind that wall of shit, with the advent of the information age, it was a scary proposition to intelligence agencies that info is now freely available, so they created the ‘disinformation age’ and that is where we are at now
        so like she says ‘creating a cacophony, creating confusion, creating the sense that nothing means anything anymore is definitely important is an important tool for any intelligence community’

        But of course we all know cash is king

        • Bill 9.1.2.1

          Character assassination, conspiracy theory and the general ploy of positioning those used underpants front stage and centre as something new to be focused on – all have a part to play in the grand theatre of meaninglessness.

          I get quite amazed by the sheer number of people who say they have no idea about issue x, y, or z – not because they have no interest, but because their possible understanding seems to have been buried under so much bullshit that the clear light of day’s a fair amount of tunneling away.

  10. R.P. Mcmurphy 10

    it is the age of yelp.

  11. Incognito 11

    Once upon a time ads were to draw attention to a product for sale. Nowadays the ads are the product together with the people that click on them. We now have the FAIRE (or A-FIRE) economy in which the “A” stands for advertising.

    I think it is almost impossible to distinguish between those who just want make money online and those who want to push a political agenda (so that a few can make and keep shed loads of money, largely un- or under-taxed and/or hidden, at the expense of many others).

    What would happen if we were all to click like mad on all those ads? Surely, the ‘business model’ would collapse? Although the actual real advertising costs might be so negligible that this would never happen.

    The more we click, the more we feed the beast …

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