Truth Justice and the American Way..slip..slip..SLIPPING AWAY
And yet, will we ever come to an end of discussion and talk if we think we must always reply to replies? For replies come from those who either cannot understand what is said to them, or are so stubborn and contentious that they refuse to give in even if they do understand. --St. Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Around 400 AD
Trolling has been around for centuries. But it was different back in the 400’s as St. Augustine observes in the quote above. People spoke face-to-face. But being stubborn and contentious was a fact of life and probably always has been as long as the human race has been running around on this blue marble. But in 2017, the Russians have taken this “trolling thing” to an entirely new level in their quest for world domination.
So how has trolling evolved over the years? An internet troll is a person or a bot who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people. Trolls post inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online communities with the intent of provoking readers. The goal? They see to evoke an emotional response by disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll's amusement.
Whitney Phillips (2012) sums it up nicely, “Internet trolling which can be traced back to the early or mid ’90s, perhaps even earlier—a lifetime in Internet years. Back then, the term “trolling” first referred to disruptive or otherwise annoying speech and behavior online. These trollers, as they were then called, would clog a particular discussion with non-sequiturs, engage in so-called identity deception, and/or commit various crimes against language and logic.” Further Phillips posits that trolls actions are driven by culturally sanctioned impulses and thus mirror the culture out of which they emerge. We have come a long way, baby. Trolls are are busy leveraging their impulsive and divisive barbs at the highest level in the United States government.
To offer some perspective, I have been working in digital media the last 25 years. I have kind of seen it all. I was there for Internet Relay Chat (IRC), when Prodigy was born. I was there when AOL when faced that fork in the road---build their content business on wholesome family content, or go down an uglier road. Wholesome won...... and we were then carpet-bombed with AOL CD’s.
Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends report says by the end of 2014 there were 2.8 billion internet users on devices of all kinds; 39% penetration of the world’s population. The world is now a much smaller place thanks to the internet,. People no longer have to travel long distances to get an accurate reflection of how people half-way across the world live. Everybody is just a few clicks away from everybody else. In 2017 Nielsen pegs those numbers at 3.7 billion or close to 50% of the worlds population.
The world of digital innovation was supposed to make our lives easier. Turbo-powered phones. The internet of things. Lightning fast communication. Streaming video on-demand. Efficiency and ease of life was the dream years ago that we imagined, and has indeed become reality in many quarters. But being imperfect and human, nothing ever goes as planned. There is always a downside that we have to contend with no matter how noble the invention. The future of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics is something we have to come to grips with now. Technology will continue to disrupt our society and that needs to be addressed and planned for.
Today we are subject to heinous crimes on Facebook Live. Data manipulation by companies so that our every move is tracked and predicted. Trolling on steroids also known as “fake news” has become “normalized”. Hacking and privacy invasion are everywhere. All of us are drowning in information overload, and on and on. Internet dreams of creating a world wide network to serve humanity across the globe still burn brightly, but the ugly underbelly of this noble invention is gaining ground worldwide.
Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be people possessing infinite amounts of free time......or are paid to troll. - Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
Geo-political intrigue and countries vying for power and control on the internet has become especially evident in the last 18 months. National security operations and espionage across the board are upping their games in a big way when it comes to digital communication. Most of the internal machinations of this we will never see. But, same as it as it has ever been in politics, hearts and minds hang in the balance, as others vie for control. And the golden egg, when it comes to geopolitics, is the USA.
So where are we now? The United States has always been a beacon of light and hope for the rest of the world. The American Dream still rules the dreams of many. But, power and control corrupt absolutely.
Terrorists use bombs and mayhem to try to bring our unique experiment down. Others use bluster and propaganda (North Korea), others (anonymous hackers) look to destroy our digital communication infrastructure as a way of bankrupting our way of life. We are on perpetual defense.
The Russian digital class has become exceptionally adept at trying to disrupt communication channels around the world to serve their own political ends. The Russians have been doing this for years. But over the last two or three years they have really upped their game to try to create mayhem and shift political thinking. So imagine you take the Russian industrial trolling complex and couple that with a sympathetic group inside our borders helping to exacerbate and influence a certain way of thinking. A strategic re-alignment is born. Welcome to 2017 American style.
James Clapper, a former lieutenant general in the US Air Force and former Director of National Intelligence does not mince words in his assessment of the current situation, “Russian Ambassador to the USA Sergey Kislyak is overseeing espionage here overtly and covertly. It’s standard practice for them to disseminate fake news and fabricate information. Russia is in it to do us in. They are continually emboldened to interfere with our political process.”
As the mainstream media works to play by the rules set-up for themselves, the Russians have imposed an end run around fair play in America. Add to that a co-opted political party in America, and they (the Russians and this new political class--I cannot call them Republicans) are now the ruling class. It’s the new war front, and we are all soldiers in this battle. The Russian industrial trolling complex is winning the war of American hearts and minds in some quarters. It became an Electoral College majority last November. General Michael Flynn was the ultimate troll at the Republican convention last summer….live and in the flesh as he ranted and coached his people to rant with him.
The Russian trolls with the coaching of the new political class geo-targeted their trolling to certain areas successfully where people were and are the most vulnerable.
The way of the troll: beat them into submission with smear, fear and innuendo.
And this new ruling class is looking to destroy all of good-mined work of legislators in American government over the last 150 years.
And now in power they will look to stay there at all costs and take America apart, piece by piece as we know it. War rooms, secret communication back channels to Russia, dissing of our NATO allies and a coarsening of our culture with racism, sexism, phobias of all kinds. Hate rules the day. Burn the house down with no concern for the fallout or future of the citizenry or the world for that matter. Every person for himself or herself. The common good does not exist in their minds. It's all about profiteering and lining the pockets of the new political class. They call this “freedom”.
And this person in the White House is the ultimate troll—entrenched in the Russian industrial rolling complex and sitting squarely in the oval office. It’s tough to dignify him with any analysis or copy here. He lied, cheated and stole his way to the White House with his Russian pals and now they are working to destroy America as we have known it with all the ugliness you could ever imagine or dream of.
It’s a war for hearts and minds. Can we get folks in this country to open their minds and think independently or keep them cowering in fear and hate? I could have called this essay The Duping of America. The most vulnerable in our society took a chance, are now are being taken to the cleaners. The new political class plans for the most vulnerable in our society, across all strata, to be put in the cross-hairs.
That is not my America. But if they have their way, they will turn this country inside out. It’s what I call the new Neanderthal mindset. Enough is enough.
John Lennon once said, “The war is over……..if you want it.” If he were here today I think he would agree: 'The trolling is over……..if you want it.’