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An election year PSA

We start elections 24 months in advance in this country but I’d like to reiterate some things I’ve said before about the way these cycles have gone since the advent of social media. Specifically, I’m going to talk about how to protect yourself from undue influence.

Before we start, I highly recommend reviewing Stephen Hassan’s BITE model. This is how high control groups operate. A high control group exerts undue influence by controlling a target’s Behavior, Information, Thought and Emotions. Any group can use elements of these along a spectrum of influence. Just because it doesn’t look like a cult doesn’t mean you’re free from influence.

Additionally, here are some things I learned from DailyKos in 2007-2008 when the Obama campaign took over and flipped the site.

  1. Beware of sites where the comments are liked or scored. If your comments are liked or scored, that element can be used to influence your behavior. Why does this work? It works because people like to be liked. It’s positive reinforcement. So if your site has been infiltrated by people who want to turn sentiment a certain way, a good way to do it is to reward commenters who write things that are close to that sentiment. Unliking is also feedback. No one likes to be unliked. Gradually, a commenter can be nudged to parrot the party line or the candidate’s line. Similarly, if you get enough mojo to become a super user, you become an enforcer with status. If you buck the party line, loss of mojo means loss of status. In general, just stay away from rated comment sites.
  2. Beware of conversion stories. There’s nothing so heart warming as a voter who has seen the light after resisting for so long. They have an emotional “road to Damascus” moment and suddenly Bernie Sanders is the most reasonable, effective and hot 77 year old they’ve ever seen. Conversion stories are incredibly effective because they appeal to our emotions and bypass the rational parts of our brains.
  3. Beware of love bombing. Love bombing is similar to a rated comment system. The unsuspecting is showered with praise. All of the sudden, you are the sexiest, most intelligent person alive and you are part of the family. You might indeed be all of those things. You might also be susceptible to the attention and sense of belonging. Test your environment: disagree about something. If your new family still loves you, great! If you find that the love is conditioned on you not questioning, then you might be dealing with a high control group.
  4. Beware of swarming. I don’t think the media has adequately acknowledged or has planned to deal with swarming. I first noticed swarming on DailyKos among John Edwards’ supporters. How it works: an operative writes a diary. As soon as the diary is posted, it’s recommended by dozens, sometimes hundreds of people. It happens very quickly. Usually, the same recommenders are listed. The result is that the diary rockets to the top of the recommended diaries list. Lather, rinse, repeat. The reader gets the impression that there’s a huge wave of support behind a certain candidate. In 2007, after Edwards was found to be tainted, the phenomenon was repeated by the Obama fans. Obama diaries took over the recommended list in the exact same way. I’ve seen this repeated in online newspaper comment sections. As soon as an article was posted in 2016, hundreds of anti-Hillary commenters would flock to the comments and a particular talking point would be repeated and recommended until it looked like the entire Democratic voter coalition thought she was a corrupt, untrustworthy, unlikeable, calculating, inauthentic hack. I call it swarming because it’s like a hive of bees with the same motivation highjacking a public comment system. It’s very easy to see once you look for it. For all I know there are people at the NYTimes who shaped those swarms. It sure seemed that way. But I have no way to prove they were in on it. I only know that the technique exists.

More thoughts:

Any time you are on a site, like this one, remember that you are part of a unpaid focus group. We used to get a lot of operatives here in the 2008 campaign season. It was through a lot of vigilance by myself, Katiebird and a few others that we managed to keep this site free for the most part from provocative memes and psychological warfare. I used to think I was just being paranoid about these things but ever 2016’s Russian campaign, I’ve learned that I wasn’t paranoid enough.

There are reasons why your comment may end up in the moderation queue. It’s a holdover from 2008 when we had to carefully test certain words to make sure we weren’t being swarmed or converted. I think for the most part that it worked even if it is a bit annoying to those of you whose comments need to be vetted before they are approved.

I’ve always said that this site is where you can be free to be unpopular and to not get rolled by the great mass of Democrats who want an instant consensus for good or ill. In fact, we try to resist consensus reality. Reality is reality. It’s not what the popular group says it is. You should test your reality periodically. That’s why you might see a pain in the ass Republican here occasionally. Get to know what they are thinking. I hate to say “know your enemy” because not all Republicans are enemies but you can be sure that all Trumpers are. They were influenced at some point. We can learn from them, how they were compromised and how to defend ourselves. So, gird your loins and sharpen your snark. They cannot hurt you. They’re just little black pixels on a screen.

Right now, the bigger threat is coming from what appears to be our own side. There seems to be a concerted effort to get many Democrats to make a hard commitment to support one candidate. Yesterday, the pressure was intense to jump on the Biden bandwagon. I recognized the guilt tripping and conversion stories. Here’s the problem with that. We haven’t had even one single primary yet. No one has cast an official vote and we are already being stampeded into voting for a man who has run for president THREE times and has failed to secure the nomination all three times. He’s targeting a very narrow base, ignoring almost every other member of the vast Democratic coalition, especially women. That last bit of info should set off alarm bells. If there is going to be a brokered convention, you can bet that California is going to have a huge influence and that’s Kamala Harris territory. Does anyone here think Harris is going to take second place to Joe Biden? Didn’t think so. But you can see where this would get very dicey, very quickly.

So that’s one possible scenario. But there are many others that we can’t know until they actually happen.

What I don’t want to see happen is for Democrats to take a pledge today to support one particular candidate and then be held to that pledge on pain of social ostracism. That’s what I see happening here. If you’re going to take a pledge, pledge to vote for whoever the nominee is. Don’t pledge a particular candidate until he/she has shown they can compete.

One last thing, stay off of Facebook. Most of you know I have never been a Facebook fan and I’m less so now. To paraphrase JK Rowling, never trust anything where you can’t see it’s brain. We frequently don’t know where our friends and relatives are getting the news they are sending us. In 2016, I sat next to a woman at my nephew’s wedding. She told me that Hillary Clinton and her droogs we’re responsible for the deaths of dozens of political opponents. Imagine a sort of Westchester Ton Ton Macoute. The scary thing was this woman wasn’t kidding. She really believed it. Read it on Facebook.

That’s how we lost central PA. Lots of very vulnerable people who didn’t keep their guard up.

Don’t let it happen to you.

Always let your conscience be your guide. Your values may evolve over time but if you find yourself straying too far from your core beliefs, pull back and test your reality.

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19 Responses

  1. RD,

    Excellent article in educating folks on how to protect themselves from the onslaught of a misinformation campaign we know will come as we get closer to the election cycle being in full swing.

    I am greatly alarmed (but not surprised) by the media’s overwhelming love fest for Joe Biden. No policy of any substance from the guy just a whole lot of talk. Joe is appealing to our “emotions” and policy be damned. Unfortunately, the male run media is frothing at the mouth for another white guy in the WH (despite all of these talented women running) and Joe is their best bet. So, the latest meme from the media is that ONLY Joe can defeat trump. Bullshit!

    I don’t know if you are aware of this new political organization just launched yesterday, SuperMajority. It was founded by 3 amazing women activists: Cecile Richards, Alica Garza and Ai-Jen Poo. Just go to supermajority.com and learn more about what this organization’s mission is. Primarily, the 3 women want to train and bring women of all colors, backgrounds, political affiliation together and get them involved, particularly in the upcoming election. They intend to bring those issues that specifically affect women’s lives front and center and to level the playing field by consolidating our voting power to bring about “real” change.

    It’s brilliant to give women a place to interact and learn from each other and to build on the goal of our finally being taken seriously by using the power we’ve always had but were too afraid to use.

    I hope everybody will check it out.

  2. Very good information. I don’t post often but I read this site everyday.

  3. Following is a link to a recent New York Magazine article. It’s an excellent analysis of who Joe Biden is and how much the media has given him a pass and hopes we forget who this guy really is: http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/03/joe-biden-isnt-the-answer-for-president-in-2020.html

    It puts the reality vs. illusion in perspective re Joe’s supposed invincability against trump.

    • Kathleen, there is clearly a lot of anxiety among Democrats who are terrified that Trump would be re-elected, which could effectively end American democracy. So, many are looking for the person who seems to have the best chance of beating Trump. Many have decided, or are being told, that this is Biden, who obviously has the greater name recognition, and ostensibly offers a return to the Obama era. You are right that apart from his good or bad qualities, his ability to beat Trump may be overrated. There seems to be some kind of “rush to comfort” here. And certain members of the media, basically the ones who disparaged Hillary, seem anxious to get good old boy Joe Biden out there this time.

      It’s going to take a lot for someone to overcome Biden in the primary race, because there are so many candidates to split the lower tier vote. He could sort of grind it out, just keep picking up 30% of delegates from state to state, and then more, as some of them drop out. Someone is going to have to catch fire, and actually win major primaries, and not just one or two of them. Otherwise, it’s just an inevitable numbers game This is not the era of the power broker, when there were very few actual primaries, and one of the brokers had the ability to move many votes to a particular candidate. To beat Biden, the aura of inevitability he is trying to create, must be dissipated early on. I am no particular fan of Biden, but I do realize that any other candidate offers risks of whether they could navigate the shoals of a long campaign. Biden could only be defeated in the primary campaign by a long and grueling fight. Would this be worth it? I vacillate on that. But Biden is not one of my top three favorite candidates. Still, if I could figure out which of them (not Sanders or Gabbard under any circumstances) had the best chance to beat Trump, I would probably go with that one, despite my personal preferences as to who would be the best President.

      • The problems with Biden are legion and they will begin to show once he starts campaigning. He is going to be on a debate stage with women and he never can seem to stop the misogyny. He routinely shoots off his mouth which leads to him shooting himself in the foot. He has a four decade long voting record even siding up with the likes of Strom Thurmond. There is a reason why he has lost 3 times before and now he’s going to have all the slings and arrows aimed his way. Just watch him explode under all that. He’s also even older than Trump which is going to be yet another problem.

      • William,

        I am simply holding Biden to the same standard the media and the public held Hillary.

        He has a ton of baggage that cannot be ignored. I am not so certain that Biden would win. Don’t you think it odd and unlikely that trump would openly express concern over Biden being the democratic nominee if he was REALLY concerned that Biden could beat him? I don’t think so, knowing trump as we do.

        Do not underestimate that a large majority of women are mad as hell at trump and even at Biden for past wrongs, not to mention his writing and supporting of legislation that puts him on the wrong side of history more than once and the fact that he lost the last 2 primaries he ran in that will surely be brought up if he wins the nomination. More importantly, do not underestimate the talented women who are running. The only way you can do so would be to give Biden a pass on far more than he deserves.

        I refuse to acquiesce to the mantra that only a white man can beat a white man. Obama blew that theory out of the water. Women are being pushed aside AGAIN before we even have the first debate! Sounds misogynistic to me.

  4. Brava, RD.

  5. I concur that this is an excellent essay, and should get major coverage as a very insightful warning about how our political discourse can be shaped and controlled by various propaganda techniques used by a small group of people, in this country, or outside it. In fact, you could likely write a best-selling book about it!

    In 2016, we went through an awful experience, seeing how certain segments of the media, through their own bias and incompetence; and the entire social network, through massively targeted Russian and corporate Reactionary interference, misled tens of millions of voters, and controlled the narratives. Sadly enough, I think that every single technological “advance” contains within it the means to be perverted and dominated by people who want to control everyone else. Remember when Facebook tried that experiment to see if changing the news stories would affect the emotions of their readers? Right then, I knew that we were heading for the kind of totalitarian dystopia of science fiction novels.

    Facebook has since gotten a lot of negative press, which is good, but the evildoers are now all over Twitter. I don’t have an account, but I do read some of the political feeds, and it is both upsetting and dispiriting to see the swarm of bots or operatives who fill it up with hatred of Hillary Clinton, or adoration of Bernie Sanders. All this, “the Democrats are not doing their job to stop Trump, so I am going to switch parties, and never vote for them again.” This is obviously idiotic, but it is just contrived propaganda intended to peel off the Democratic vote, just like was done last time. And it never stops; to the point that one almost doesn’t want to read any of it, because so much of it is not people discussing, or respectfully analyzing issues, it is pure propaganda directed by people who want nothing more or less than to absolutely determine the outcome. Jennifer Miro of the Nuns once wrote the lyric, “We play the game/but someone else is in control.”

  6. It vastly improves your SNR if you’ve never had a FaceBorg account.

    ” [I]t is both upsetting and dispiriting to see the swarm of bots or operatives who fill it up with hatred of Hillary Clinton, or adoration of Bernie Sanders.”

    Or vice-versa, I might add. The circular firing squad comes in many flavors – all of them bad.

    FaceBorg and the ever-so-appropriately named Twitter are vast pits of deception and disinformation. Good mental hygiene demands that one avoid both as much as possible.

    • I have a Facebook account. Set it up prolly around 2006 and never updated it. I Never go there. Don’t use it for any purpose whatsoever. It’s more than a little irritating when some apps I use demand that I have one. I usually go with my google account where possible. Also, if I’m going to a website that has only a presence on Facebook, sayonara! I hate the interface. It’s a kludge and I have no intention of being trapped in it.

  7. Very good post to make us aware of the social media and other interference’s on our elections.

    But what is driving me batty, is the parade of candidates for the presidency and none fighting and/or aligning for the Senate; which is just as critical to regain control and sanity to the government process.

    It sadden me that Stacy Abrams decided not to run for the Senate.

    • Maybe Biden promised her the VP slot? Even if he didn’t, the story helps him.

      You are right, the Senate is crucial. McConnell is perfectly capable of shutting down every single bill that the House passes, even if the President is a Democrat. He could block all the judges the President appoints. Republicans left with only one of the three lawmaking branches, would have no compunction about using it to stop the other two. That is how evil they are. We had 55 Senate seats in 2008, and now we have 47. And it will be very difficult to get the majority back, almost impossible to do it next year. And it does indeed seem that the party is not gearing up for this. Losing that Florida race because of vote suppression and probably cheating, was a real blow. I don’t even know if we have a good candidate to run against Collins in Maine, a seat we have to win, since we rarely win in a Red state.

  8. Intelligent and bracing, RD. Great post!

  9. AWESOME post, RD! Did any

  10. Did anyone see the new Sanders app? https://theintercept.com/2019/04/29/bern-bernie-sanders-organizing-kickoff-bern-app/. “…[Sanders campaign] kicked off its massive volunteer program this weekend by holding nearly 5,000 house parties across the country and unveiling a new organizing app that gives campaign supporters a way to share political information on friends, family, and neighbors. The campaign’s new organizing tool, called BERN, helps volunteers track potential supporters and voters, allowing them to log the name and background of anyone they talk to, from friends and family members to a stranger on the street. The app will also help volunteers know how to participate in the Democratic primary or caucus in their state and register voters. On friend-to-friend mode, supporters are asked to add the name, city, and state of everyone they know, information that is then matched to their voter record. The app also asks about the person’s level of support, union membership, and other candidates they might vote for. Some critics have called the app invasive, arguing that the database of personal information could open non-supporters up to harassment.” Uh….you think? They collect drivers’ license numbers, too. Everything.

    • This just increases my suspicion that Bernie is the Trump of the Left. 👿

  11. They say they have 1 million volunteers, all of whom have access to this “data” other supporters collect. And there is no way to opt out.

  12. One minor nit:

    I hate to say “know your enemy” because not all Republicans are enemies

    I don’t disagree entirely with this statement but I am of the opinion that in these times all ELECTED Republicans are the enemy. At least at the National level, and here in PA… I am unable to find one with whom I can agree.

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