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Sunday, Dec 04, 2016 - 22:34 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

The Man Who Trolled The World
(Part II)

"Study one religion, and you'll study for a lifetime.
Study two, and you'll be done in an hour.

- r/atheism

Me: ...it was probably slightly unfair to pick near-exclusively on the Catholics, for my examples thus far. That said, reading through Case had me realise how many similarities even apparently unrelated creeds share. Just for example, the Flood and Armageddon: destruction of the world by water, and fire. Compare to the destruction by fire, water and wind at the conclusion of Buddhist kalpas. But I digress.

To continue on from Part I, my understanding is that the state of the world is increasingly centered around information flow: control of available information controls thought, and he who controls thought controls, well, everything.

The War Of Information

...and this is why they have to give it away for free, nowadays
[N.B. By the way, I'm very glad that some juniors from my high school are seeing the light, despite their relative youth. Keep up the good work!]
(Source: forums.hardwarezone.com.sg)

"Information Age" isn't merely a buzzword. As visited in Part I, command over information in the form of organized religion, has proven a reliable font of power for thousands of years. Now, to be clear, I'm not claiming this to be wholly negative. It is, as Marx famously recognized, a very useful tool for order, and some degree of societal order - however achieved - is often beneficial. But, as the leading quote suggests, it has its negatives too: go deep enough down the rabbit hole of any individual religion, and one can get violent fanatics, or to a lesser degree, disconnected communities.

Personally, religion balancing out state power can be positive, even if there have to be certain... compromises, such as with China's fostering of CCP-friendly versions of major faiths (of course, it's all about power and control, lah), and crackdowns on unsanctioned congregations. Now, if "harmony" is the goal, I have always thought it best for people to own multiple, weakly-correlated identities (George Yeo somehow managed to reference neural nets in his exposition) - if those of race A are almost all of religion B and working in industry C, for example, it becomes much harder to achieve integration, than if their other identities were more dispersed, which allows more natural linkages with other groups. This admittedly weakens intra-group cohesion, but tradeoffs...

...and, anyway, this "globalisation" ideal appears not to be in vogue for the time being, with masses of the disenfranchised in various countries starting to question - reasonably, as it turns out - as to what is in it for them. While recognized economic theory agrees that, in general, trade is good, it is far more shifty on good for whom. An NUS economics professor has recognized (as stated here long ago) that for all the New Paper-ish sensationalizing, it's not quite race, or gender, or tactical dissimulation (come on, as if Hillary's honest); it's the "predatory value extraction" by the "winners" of globalism: big capitalists, international financiers, the 1% at the top.

Or, to put example figures on it: what good is, say, a modest 0.7% increase in GDP thanks to NAFTA, if 90% is diverted to upper management and investors (and, before the objection that citizens are investors too, stock ownership is, as expected, highly unequal in distribution)? Even ignoring those who lost their jobs outright, assuming a modest gain in wages (say, 5%), it is not unlikely that proportionately larger gains for the upper crust would have driven prices of big-ticket items (e.g. homes) up by more than that.

You get a TRUMP deal, you get a TRUMP deal,
*everybody* gets the TRUMP deal!

(Source: salon.com)

But somehow, according to the guys up at the top - note, the American media has consolidated to the extent that over 90% of the mainstream press is owned by just six firms - this is the way it has to be, and that to object is racist. The establishment candidate exuded the air of nothing can be done, this is the global economy... which large chunks of the citizenry correctly interpreted as simply a lack of will. Therefore, they voted for the guy who promised to do something about it (and he did); I mean, isn't this what elections are for? For people to vote for their own interests? Isn't it just the free market working as intended? Why then is the media getting its knickers in a twist?

But it doesn't matter, because the mainstream media is dying.

The New York Times - that grand old dame of American letters - has belatedly pledged to reflect on its skewed coverage, after a collapse in advertising revenue, but it won't make a difference in the long run. The very nature of how information is disseminated has already changed irrevocably, and the power of the press - and of "official" sources - has peaked.

A brief examination of history here: after oral transmission, which was prone to errors in the retelling, we had labour-intensive hand-carved/written records - which encouraged only a select few "important" texts, to be preserved as the "truth". This was mitigated somewhat by Gutenberg, which sparked reformation enough on its own, but there were still considerable barriers to being a publisher of ideas: printing equipment remained bulky, expensive and largely immobile, making it all too easy for armed men to shut them down. Centralisation of "right opinion" - political, religious, social, whatever - reigned as a result.

Technology continued to improve, however, and the simple fact of matter is, almost anybody can be his own publisher today. A ten-buck smartphone potentially sends a message to anybody who cares to listen, all around the globe, as effectively as the entire multi-billion dollar news industry.

Mainstream media not playing ball?
Why, the GOD-EMPEROR goes direct to the people!

It is merely the same disruption as is happening in many other sectors - the cutting out of the middlemen. Why would one want to submit to a third party sitting across - and possibly distorting - his message, when one can just independently broadcast exactly what one wishes to? Save for reversing the invention of the Internet and related techs, there is no turning back from this, as the political class - many still wedded to ancient theories of control - are discovering to their dismay.

They're reacting, definitely. Given America's continued dominance in the online cultural space, it only follows that wannabe challengers will try and blunt their influence. The most prominent of these would have to be China's Great Firewall, and barely-disguised (and actually, quite understandable) drive to develop (i.e. pirate) their own alternative services. Russia seems in on the game too, recently blocking LinkedIn, and of course there are the various hermit states running their own tiny intranets (looking at you, North Korea), but nobody cares about them.

While economic globalism is in retreat, that of information is inexorable, and the powers that be are applying pressure. The new weapon of choice? "Fake news".

It's hard not to notice it, if you try to keep up with current affairs - the abovementioned New York Times, The New Yorker, USA Today, The Guardian, Salon and of course, our dear The State's Times (late to the party as usual)... the establishment media's latest hysterical manufactured talking point has suddenly been coordinated to be fake news. Which, unmistakably, has the underlying suggestion - tinged with desperation - that we are the arbiters of real news. Believe us.

Straight off, this is not very convincing.

Truer news hath no man than this; they locked him up anyway
[N.B. No confirmed sighting of Assange yet, after the Ecuadorian embassy cut off his Internet last month in suspicious circumstances (or maybe they just switched to Singtel?); some are investigating his possible insurance hidden in the Bitcoin blockchain, which, remember, is designed to be non-censorable]
(Source: abc.net.au)

It does all sound pretty ironclad on the surface, when the media giants splash about examples of egregious falsehoods spread (The State's Times has become especially good at this), but this obfuscates the actual point: what you don't see.

Simply put, alternative news falls into two broad categories:
  1. Really fake news: Fine, it happens. Like when the Washington Post irresponsibly insinuated that TRUMP would get 0% of the black vote in Pennsylvania and Ohio? Or when their polls all criminally understated TRUMP's support? Oops, wrong examples...

  2. Underreported news, other perspectives: happenings judged to be too mundane or low-interest (to whom? by whom?) to warrant space in the official news, but nonetheless true. Also commentary and opinion that would be judged too raw and biting by big outlets, but remain deserving of a hearing.

In their spluttering attack on "fake news", the mainstream media cartel has drawn all of their examples from the first category, while neglecting the other, likely far more common, use case (I mean, look at these candidate "fake news" examples; most of them are clearly satire, i.e. TOP KEK). With the mainstream media, what is not said, tends to be far more telling than what is. Embarrassments and inconveniences to those in charge tend to be given very short shrift (AIM...), as these media outlets shape public opinion for their masters.

Well, not any more.

Still, they're clamping down somewhat. Google, for example, is gearing up to ban fake news sites from its advertising network. Zuckerberg is, however, for once right in recognizing that one man's fake news is often just another man's Hard Truth - start out censoring dank Pepe memes, even with the best of intentions, and it's hard to see where to draw the line (and probably more importantly, it'll turn off customers)

[N.B. For all the smirking that this is easy with machine learning, I'd gather that getting an acceptably low rate of false positives is harder than it seems - a purported spiffy hackathon solution seems to be mostly hooking up to a third-party domain checker under the hood, and I'd gather users won't be amused when they try to post "Obama is dumb" (as is their right) to their feed, and get blocked out.]

This is not just empty theorizing - Twitter (with its largest individual shareholder representing a regime that executes gays, but TRUMP waves the LGBT flag and liberals hate him?!), for example, has purged dozens of high-profile "alt-right" accounts, exhibiting clear double standards. Even more pertinently, Reddit's CEO has admitted to silently editing the comments of users who criticized him, which goes to show just how unreliable these "gatekeepers" can be, without even going into the possible legal ramifications.

Yes, the War Of Information is very much on, and the ancien régimes are losing... and badly.

[To be continued again...]

It'll come before the fall...

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Next: The Man Who Trolled The World (Part III)

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