I was inspired by and learned so much from Star Trek when I was a kid. Most importantly, I believed in the future (Star Trek was Utopian vs. most science fiction at the time which was Dystopian). And one of the episodes, “Day of the Dove” (picture above) taught me one of the most invaluable lessons that is SO VITALLY important to understand today:
Watch out for others who thrive off us fighting amongst ourselves
In “Day of the Dove”, the Klingons and Earthlings were fighting each other with swords provided out of nowhere. And Mr. Spock (the logical one) figured out that there was an alien entity feeding off the fighting. This picture shows the moment when Kirk and the Klingon commander both realized this and saw it together.
In our world today that evil entity is Social Media Platforms thriving off our conflict driven engagement / addiction. Plus, those that use this for their own means, including:
- Countries who want to weaken us by dividing us. Some of them have VERY sophisticated Information and Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS) organizations. And some will even incite well timed wars / invasions, or use ones that come up, and wait for us to self-destruct over our disagreements on what to do about it.
- Tactics used by the Red and Blue sides (This has been going on for decades, but now it’s high octane)
- The 1% who want their policies in place
- Any many more
Just about everything these days is politicized — ranging from abortion to wars and genocide. And we need to be extremely careful as we are entering a multi-polar world, where inexpensive high-tech soft and hard technologies (e.g. bots, AI, troll farms, PSYOPS, plus many small drones & weapons driven linked by AI) are available to enemies. This is especially important during an election year, where they seek to do the following:
- Impact the election
- Weaken us, which reduces our ability to ensure stability and security and work with our allies
- Incite, and possibly even cause a civil war (partial or full)
And they will use any and all tools to do this. Social Media is at the center of it, but it’s exacerbated now by Deep Fakes (video and audio) and AI (which can generate details to look credible and morph to avoid detection and be tailored to individuals or groups).
The tactics they use include the following:
- Pick a sensitive topic and pray on our emotions to stifle investigation, logic, and collaboration (e.g. abortion, war, genocide)
- If we question anything to get clarity, we are immediately branded as an evil person who doesn’t care about the issue.
- Pray on our desire to not feel powerless, when the path to taking action is not clear (e.g. having 2 lousy choices for President, when there are so many other things we can do aside from just voting for President or a party).
- Pray on the human tendency to enjoy how stupid somebody else is and gossip about it to get attention and feel good. And this creates an US vs. THEM mentality which falls right into the hands of the manipulators. The vast majority of other people are not that stupid or evil.
- Pray on the human tendency to not separate issues into its components to prevent manipulation by our enemies (e.g. the complexities in the Middle East vs. the serious problems we have at home).
- Posts made completely out of context, often completely changing the perceived narrative
- Creating narratives (powered by bots and AI) to simplify an issue and sway public opinion
- Pray on the fact that many people come into a conversation with preconceived notions and will die on that hill.
- Many others
We are ALL guilty of making these kind of mistakes along the way, and our enemies are very well aware of these extremely effective tactics and use them against us. (See below for a more comprehensive list of common propaganda tactics)
An obvious example is the Israel / Palestinian conflict. It’s a really horrible situation, the genocide that is happening, and we do have blood on our hands. This is a complex situation that has been stewing and brewing for decades. But it’s being politicized by both our enemies and good people who aren’t aware of the disgraceful, nefarious machinations going on by countries and people who are politicizing it to weaken or destroy our country by impacting the election and fomenting splitting us apart, and maybe into some form of civil war.
Yes, we should demand a stop to this as a high priority. Yes, it’s a disgrace. But we cannot allow this to affect the election or divide us or weaken us — given the above. We have SO many life threatening problems at home, we won’t be able to help anybody (ourselves or anybody else) if we don’t make sure our house is solid. When the oxygen masks drop in a plane, you need to put yours on before the baby. It might be counterintuitive, but you cannot help the baby if you pass out.
Logic Based Social Media Apps
The problems with social media apps today are numerous, and everybody has an opinion on what the issues are and/or what to do about it. Here are some of the highlights regarding why it’s pretty much impossible to have any dialog / collaboration on social media (except in small groups) and why it’s subject to manipulation by our enemies
- Many of the platforms have very restricted limits on comment length (e.g. TikTok is 150 characters and it’s only available on mobile which makes it harder to type details for many people). There is no opportunity for nuance, exploration, discuss different priorities and values, or search for common ground and respect and explore differences.
- It’s a public forum where your comments are there forever. Thus, the culture has evolved so that all of us have a tendency to not want to admit if we misunderstood something, got angry about something that wasn’t clear, need to compromise because we learned something new, got duped by a conspiracy / movement, etc. It’s almost impossible to disagree with somebody you don’t know, because they and their group friends will attack you like you invaded the hive (In my experience, this happens 99% of the time)
- It’s not a dialog as much as us all fighting for attention.
- Polarization and Group Think: The platforms encourage groups of people to maintain their own ideas, and cherry pick only the content which boosts their narrative (ejecting anybody who questions something) without mixing of other ideas. For example when I looked at comments about Elon’s F-you tirade in December 2023, the comments for the various posts demonstrated that each post was almost entirely either pro-Elon or anti-Elon. There was little discussion of the complexity of the issue. I wrote a blog about it: https://medium.com/@mariakonner/a-reminder-about-how-polarized-we-are-on-social-media-look-at-the-latest-elon-musk-f-you-8f82eedc65de
You might think there isn’t anything we can do about. But if we don’t try, we’re screwed BIG TIME, and nothing else will matter.
We can each do little things like don’t directly challenge somebody, and make sure you are very precise in your wording to ensure that something isn’t misunderstood — very often some people (or bots or troll farms) will ignore what you’re trying to say and nit pick at some little thing to attack you to avoid discussing the topic and “win points” for themselves. It’s almost impossible to correct a minor misunderstanding or mistake, because first impressions on social media drive the conversation…and attacks. (And furthermore, as indicated above, once somebody attacks, they will almost NEVER apologize and clarify). But it shouldn’t be this difficult, if people don’t respect each other, we’re all stuck on somebody else’s hamster wheel. And our enemies LOVE this. Productive conversations don’t work this way. The vast majority of us are good people, all trying to navigate in an extremely complex world.
But, one thing we MUST look at very carefully is the possibility of using, promoting, and/or developing social media apps that allow better conversations — based on LOGIC and COLLABORATION. I know this is a VERY TALL order and not nearly as fun for many people, but if we don’t do this, we are seriously screwed. These would be addition to the existing (unstructured) apps. Those who want to engage in more logical and collaboration, can do so. This would include:
- Some politicians during their campaigns and while in office will chose to engage with people using these tools(once again, this is a tall order, but we must consider this)
- Organizations whose purpose it is to solve problems (e.g. NGOs, professional organizations, interactive market research)
- Businesses for a variety of purposes
This is so important, I’m giving this a name — Project Vulcan.
Manipulation by unscrupulous entities and people has been around since we developed large brains. Human’s vast intelligence is eclipsed by one thing: Our ability to manipulate and delude ourselves when it comes to being at the center of attention and power. Various nefarious tactics have been used over the centuries, many justified under the philosophy of Machiavelli. These include:
- Giving money or resources to both sides in a conflict, let them destroy each other, and then when the war is over, come in and take the place over. Often a useful idiot leader is recommended (e.g. through back channels) to help catalyze the process.
- Get a country or organization into debt with misleading information, and then take the place over when they can’t pay it back.
- Increasingly sophisticated propaganda. Edward Bernays was a pioneer in the US: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays. (Not to mention Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany)
It’s not clear if the various tactics (US vs. THEM, appealing to emotions over logic and collaboration) are orchestrated by evil geniuses or happens naturally when things are unstructured and propagandists take advantage of this, but probably a combination of both.
As an ex-lobbyist (green energy, cybersecurity and liability), I can assert that many of us think that democracy works when politicians “do the right thing”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Politicians are like lawyers, they do what their clients ask them to do. They are driven by 2 things:
- Those who pay them
- Citizens who are highly organized (often via NGOs) and constantly bug them and provide possible solutions, or even threaten them with bad PR. This take A LOT of effort and coordination. Something most of us don’t understand and aren’t very good at. Not surprisingly, this isn’t taught in school. Why would the government teach us how to manage the government? More on education at another time.
I know this is a lot to take in, but our future, and the future of our children, and probably most of the other life on this planet depends upon it.
I still believe in the future promised by Star Trek. It’s going to be a long path, as we must adjust to the digital future and a multi-polar world — Most people grew up in a bi-polar world (US vs. Soviet Union) or a single-polar world (US dominated), and none of us has ever experienced a multi-polar, globalized, high tech world and knows how to keep it stable and prosperous for as many as possible. But, it’s up to us. Our children and future generations need us. If we appreciate each other, enjoy the process, and remember to avoid and distrust people who are toxic assholes, we’ll get there.
And think of this, a lot of us have enjoyed the latest bunch of Science Fiction movies/series, Game of Thrones. We are capable of understanding these kind of complexities. I know people who understood the movie and book Dune…if we can do that, we can manage our world! But, unlike Sci Fi, this time it’s real and takes a lot of work. But, think of who you will meet and what fascinating things you will discover and fun stories you’ll have along the way. as we build a New America (I have a song for that..) That’s a great way to live.
Thanks for reading.
More at: https://www.mariakonner.com/mk4prez
Common Propaganda Tactics
I admit, I pulled this from ChatGPT, but I read it, and it all is consistent with what I’ve read about propaganda from many sources over the years
- Simplification: Propaganda often simplifies complex issues into easily digestible messages, appealing to emotions rather than intellect.
- Repetition: Messages are repeated frequently to increase their impact and create familiarity, making them more likely to be accepted.
- Emotional appeal: Propaganda often targets emotions such as fear, patriotism, or desire, evoking strong reactions to sway opinions.
- Demonization: Propaganda may portray opponents or scapegoats as evil, dangerous, or responsible for societal problems, fostering hatred or distrust.
- Testimonials and endorsements: Positive testimonials or endorsements from trusted figures are used to lend credibility to the message.
- Selective presentation of information: Propaganda selectively presents facts and evidence to support its narrative while ignoring or distorting opposing viewpoints.
- Use of symbols and imagery: Symbols, slogans, and visual imagery are employed to create strong associations and evoke specific emotions or ideas.
- Bandwagon effect: Propaganda often suggests that everyone else is adopting a certain belief or behavior, creating a sense of social pressure to conform.
- Control of media and information: Propagandists seek to control the flow of information, censoring dissenting voices and manipulating public perception through media manipulation and censorship.
- Appeals to authority: Propaganda often relies on the authority of leaders, experts, or institutions to legitimize its message and discourage questioning or skepticism.