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Astroturf and self-censorship

Tweet of the Week:

AstroTurf- Manufactured grassroots activism and commentary.

That’s what happened when the Russian troll farm, Internet Research Agency LLC (the LLC is a nice American touch), spewed thousands and thousands of messages every day on social media about what an old, sick, unexciting, criminal Hillary Clinton was and how Trump was so inspiring, forceful and displayed leadership abilities.

That’s how it works. The public got a constant, steady message about how unappealing Hillary was. Even today, 14 months after she lost, you will still get this reaction from your otherwise nice and lucid relatives who watch Fox News:

It’s awesome to watch. One minute they’re talking about some football game all nice and calm. Then all you have to say is “Hillary”, and they explode into fits of rage that she’s not behind bars for what she did with her email server. Literally nothing Trump has ever done is equal to it. No matter how much you point out that nothing she did was illegal, that the handful of classified materials were classified *after* she sent them and that we are talking about her personal emails, not her work emails, they still think she’s hiding something. And you know what? It will be almost impossible to convince them otherwise because you can’t prove you didn’t do something if there’s no evidence. Short of following her into the bathroom where she should have some privacy, she has revealed more about herself than any presidential candidate or American citizen in HISTORY. And it still won’t be enough.

The name for this phenomenon is “reflexive control”. It might be helpful at this point to reread Steve Hassan’s BITE model. And the way people make decisions as elaborated by Amos Tversky (False equivalence is close but doesn’t completely explain how it works)

I have friends who are now a little embarrassed that they voted for a loser in spite of the fact that she won 3.5 MILLION more votes after all that negativity. They tell me she would have won if she’d just kissed white working class asses a little more. They do not realize how they too have become unwitting repeaters of very sophisticated propaganda.

That’s how effective AstroTurf is. It didn’t help that virtually every news person repeated these lies and narratives until they started to sound true. The question I have is how many of them knew what they were doing and how many were unwitting?

It hasn’t ended. The narrative that stuck after the election is that if she hadn’t blown off Michigan and Wisconsin, she might have won. This completely distorts the reality of the electoral college. Neither state’s electoral votes combined could make up for losing PA. I had some indignant tweeter insist to me the other day that Hillary blew off Pennsylvania and then I knew it had gone too far because I campaigned for her in PA and she was in this state constantly.

We keep coming back to Pennsylvania. I’m waiting for Robert Mueller to drop more shoes. He’s got to tell this story slowly, let the American people ingest it and understand each chapter a little at a time because rolling it out all at once will seem too unbelievable and outrageous to be true. Pulling people out of the jaws of deception and undue influence is a very tricky and delicate operation. Some individuals will never be free. Their susceptibility to reflexive control is hardwired. Others just had to have the right incentives pitched to them, the monsters in the dark corners of their minds unleashed. Insecurity, fear, resentment, racism, sexism, selfishness. The Russians knew exactly which buttons to push.

I can’t wait until it is revealed how Cambridge Analytica data mined the Trump campaign’s marks, their church habits, what kind of clothes they wore, where they lived, how they spent their money, how much they watch reality TV, all plopped into some clever model that predicted just how labile their personal values were. Does the car they drive indicate a desire to impress? An Audi says one thing, a Lexus something different. Are they pre-occupied with the image they show to the world? How many times a year do they have pedicures? Oh, the things we will learn about ourselves.

Slowly, slowly.

“Let all the worms that lie in the mud hatch out”


Prediction: there will be renewed calls for crackdowns on social media, maybe even a measure of censorship. Because how else will we be able to protect ourselves from this happening again?? We have an election this fall. We need to do something NOW, NOW, NOW!

And that’s when the Russians will have truly won. The minute we self censor to protect ourselves from others is the minute we give up our ability to protest our grievances. Then the dark era really sets in. Game, set, match.

What we need to do is educate ourselves to what is going on and recognize it when we see it so we can blow it away from us. It can be done. Just ask any kid brought up in a high control group religion who didn’t become a member as adults. We have radar for this kind of stuff. I can feel it when someone is trying to manipulate me to think things that don’t match my personal value system. It’s like someone hurling photon torpedoes at my brain. I have to deploy my deflector shields. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t listen to NPR anymore or watch cable news or network news on TV. It’s especially important to not WATCH the news. These days, I read multiple domestic and foreign news sources and listen to podcasts. So far, so good.

Also, we need Net Neutrality rules back in place ASAP. I don’t want the telecoms or cable companies owing any favors to this president this fall.