Fake News and Fake Intelligence
Fact and truth are often very different things. With fact, a thing is, or it is not – a fairly simple binary calculation. An assertion might be a fact and at the same time not necessarily true. Truth is an amphibian, a sinister specter, often festooned with weeds and barnacles. Indeed, truths are scientific, seasonal, ethnic, sexual, political, theological, philosophical, and historical, just to name a few of the veritable infinity of adjectival consorts.
Truth and Time: Pietro
Truth is, as artists well know, part tart and part goddess, ephemera often bought and sold if the price is right. Indeed, she's more than a bit of an oxymoron, too – emphasis on the last two syllables.
The gap between fact and fiction might be narrowed by time, but history and conventional wisdom are selective, too, frequently a world apart from reality. The conventional wisdom is often neither true nor wise.
Most arbiters of truth are self-anointed.
Mark Zuckerberg is a modern example, the poster child for Millennial vacuity and the nerd generation. The CEO of Facebook, enfant terrible of herd exploitation, is about to appoint a posse of thought police to monitor and censor "fake news" on the internet.
If you are devotee of Facebook news, you might have the civic awareness and attention span of a gerbil. Still, Zuckerberg is a good modern example of how digital wealth gets confused with maturity or wisdom.
Having Zuckerberg, or any cyber-cohort, as a digital news cop is a little like appointing Bill Clinton as scoutmaster for a Girl Scout troop. Clinton and Zuckerberg are indeed soulmates. Just as Clinton uses political position for personal gain and exploitative sex, Zuckerberg exploits and monetizes personal data – and in turn uses gullible adolescents of all ages.
In this respect, Facebook is not at all different from Nielsen, the National Security Agency, or the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). All three are accomplished data miners, albeit for different ends. Truth or verifiable fact in those venues, if anything, is probably an afterthought.
Nielsen Creates Truth
Nielsen Holdings PLC is a global data mining corporation that has been in business since 1923. Its signature survey is in-home monitoring of television viewing habits. TV content, programming, and advertising dollars are a of function of Nielsen ratings and statistics.
Well north of eighty percent all of domestic purchasing decisions are made by American women who watch television or use TV as a surrogate for child care.
Nielsen is in the business of both monitoring and creating truth in the American marketplace. All so-called "Nielsen families" are aggressively recruited "volunteers," a demographic that has been led to believe that their household habits and tastes might be typical – or trend-setters.
The Nielsen monitoring pitch appeals to a passive, vain feminine demographic, all of whom volunteer, with incentives, to provide Luxemburg corporate snoops with a veritable gold mine of personal and family behavioral data. Nielsen data is ubiquitous in entertainment, politics, marketing, advertising, retail, and manufacturing.
How volunteer victims, monitored electronically, became a "typical" demographic is a question seldom asked or answered by statisticians. More to the point, the personal is not just political, as Ms. Hamish likes to say, but monitoring female behavior in American homes and numb-nut behavior on the internet is also lucrative for admen and madmen alike. The emphasis here again is on the second syllable. Hype is still a boys' club.
Think of all the fake news embedded in daily the drumbeat of advertising and the daily orgy of vacuous TV news and amusements. Calling TV content "art" is a little like calling hip-hop and rap music art.
You can hardly scratch the surface of the daytime digital wasteland. Fake news and vulgar memes are created daily on an industrial scale with the assistance of data conglomerates like Nielsen and now internet social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Data isn't truth, either. Most truth is too painful. The data mining and communication industries cook the books and clueless demographics every day of the week. Fake news today is just another part of the mindless media mix.
The Intelligence Community and "Meta Data"
The federal government and the intelligence community are Johnny-come-latelies to data mining on an industrial scale. You would have thought that someone in those 16 federal intelligence agencies would have noticed those Nielsen families, those Orwellian patriots who volunteer year after year to have their homes and habits monitored.
Wiretap warrants are not required for passive volunteers.
Nielsen and the NSA are similar to the extent that they both monitor behavior to recognize and exploit patterns. Industry does it for profit, while government does it in the name of security. Both offer no assurances for privacy other than "trust us."
Nielsen is different from the NSA to the extent that commercially profiled demographics get feedback in the form of advertisements and content.
If you believe in permanent erections, believe that face cream will make you beautiful, believe that a diet will make you a size 2, and believe that Bart Simpson or the Kardashians are solid role models for your kids, then you should thank every Nielsen family you know.
Nielsen creates statistical truth, and television remixes those numbers into American culture, such as it is.
Ironically, while consumers seem to trust Nielsen implicitly, citizens have a very different take on Big Brother and the federal intelligence community. Trust in God is a much better bet these days than trust in Charlie Rose, Martin Baron, Arthur Sulzberger, or James Clapper.
DCI Clapper likes to call terrorists "nefarious characters." Household snooping is "meta-data," an attempt to put lipstick on the state surveillance pig.
Peeping Toms and fake news makers are brothers by the same mother.
The 2016 primaries, the election, and the run-up to the Electoral College are all examples of fake news gone awry, all characterized by near universal media and intelligence ridicule and contempt for the Republican candidate. Pundits and polls were unanimous in predicting that Donald Trump should lose by a landslide. The vast majority of the gainsaying and polling "data" turned out to be wrong.
Hard to believe that what passed for reporting and analysis in 2016 wasn't a political flash mob, wasn't engineered "fake news" on an epic scale.
For American journalists, 1984 seems to be the future.
Adding insult to injury, Clinton Inc., the American media, the intelligence community, and team Obama now double down, claiming that Russian meddling was the reason for the Clinton defeat. Adolescent pique and lame excuses seem to be the exit strategy for James Clapper and a flailing, if not failing, Barack Obama.
Former director of the CIA Michael Morell, Hillary Clinton's Benghazi cut-out, appeared on public television no fewer than ten times to vilify the Republican candidate. The former director of NSA and DCI, James Clapper, played similar roles in the campaign season. Clapper resigned after Trump won, but the demonization of Trump and the Russians continues unabated.
The Russians Are Not Coming
Russians are now sucked into the tawdry post-election recriminations inside the Beltway. Washington political, academic, and media elites, right and left, bereft of any adult capability for reflection, are desperately seeking excuses for failure. Russians in general and Vladimir Putin in particular are convenient scapegoats.
Fake news threads associated with the DNC email leak are probably designed to do three things: divert attention from the Hillary nomination fixers, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Trump win, and queer the prospects of improving relations with Russia.
Putin's mortal sin seems to be that he thinks Trump will be a better commander-in-chief than Obama or Clinton. Such a claim is not much of a stretch, yet still it is heresy to the American left and social globalists everywhere.
Putin's venial sins are legend also. Two stand out.
After the Beslan massacre, the Russian 9/11, the FSB went after Chechen terrorists with a vengeance. In less than two years, Shamil Baseyev was cornered and executed on the crapper – literally in a porta-potty. Only one of Basayev's colleagues lived long enough to get life in prison. Nobody calls Chechen Islamists "freedom fighters" anymore.
Osama bin Laden was at large for ten years before Uncle Sam brought him to justice. Al-qaeda and ISIS are still in business.
Another Putin sin is Syria. NATO has been mucking in the Levant for decades now, five times as long as it took to win WWII on two fronts. In the last couple of years, Russia did more to defeat terror in the Levant than Brussels and Washington have done in 30 years.
Aleppo and Syria are not Benghazi and Libya redux – thanks to the Kremlin.
The fake news campaign against Russia and Trump persists nevertheless, a tactic pregnant with domestic and foreign policy blowback. Fake news and fake intelligence are now fast friends. If 16 intelligence agencies cannot deny hackers or interference, what does that say about the competence, or impartiality, of Clapper's legions?
Partisans at the NSA and CIA might be the best things to happen to Chekist spies since fur hats and vodka.
Withal, Russia is a better ally to Syria than the U.S. ever will be to the Kurds. For good or ill, the Russian president can make a decision, act, and stand by allies long enough to succeed.
Putin seems to be an effective action hero who swings a big stick, while critics like Barack Obama, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the Clintons seem to be a cabal of vindictive losers, fey wannabees who suffer from terminal political penis envy.
The real threat to the integrity of the American political system is a mirror. Sadly, political reflection, right and left, apparently died with Pat Moynihan.
Media hostility to a reform-minded presidential candidate is predictable, given the social globalist cast of American journalism. However, the open hostility of intelligence community leaders to an incoming president is unprecedented and seditious in ways that should be obvious by now. American intelligence is too big and, arguably, now out of control.
If America continues to tolerate partisans on the taxpayer dime, especially in the intelligence community, "crooked" Washington will surely breed more of them.
G. Murphy Donovan is a former intelligence officer who writes about the politics of national security.