And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
John 8:32 (KJV)
Some of the craziness is simply craziness, certainly. But even that craziness is part of a coordinated campaign of “gaslighting” – a barrage of nonsense designed to bring down not just the United States, but her great gift to the world. Make no mistake about it, western open societies themselves are under attack.
A report from the RAND Corporation outlines exactly how the “Firehose of Falsehood” is orchestrated by Russia to sow chaos and destroy their natural opposition. It is the best weapon we have to defend everything we cherish.
The report was written by Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews (in PDF) and intended for their primary audience, agencies of the US Government. It has also been issued to the general public in what can only be a call to arms for all freedom loving patriotic citizens of this and every other democratic republic.
It details the rise of disinformation and the unique methods used by the Russian propaganda machine. In a certain sense, there is nothing new to what is being done here – “The Big Lie” was first developed by Joseph Goebbels as a primary weapon of the Nazi regime. What is new, however, is the use of many different channels of the internet simultaneously and vigorously to shout down any attempt to counter them.
The installation of Trump as President is simply another channel for chaos and confusion.
The methods are described in great detail, with sources listed at the end. The summary is given very clearly and succinctly as “Distinctive Features of the Contemporary Model for Russian Propaganda:”
- High-volume and multichannel
- Rapid, continuous, and repetitive
- Lacks commitment to objective reality
- Lacks commitment to consistency
A summary of what this means in practice is given early in the report:
In some ways, the current Russian approach to propaganda builds on Soviet Cold War–era techniques, with an emphasis on obfuscation and on getting targets to act in the interests of the propagandist without realizing that they have done so. In other ways, it is completely new and driven by the characteristics of the contemporary information environment. Russia has taken advantage of technology and available media in ways that would have been inconceivable during the Cold War. Its tools and channels now include the Internet, social media, and the evolving landscape of professional and amateur journalism and media outlets.
We characterize the contemporary Russian model for propaganda as “the firehose of falsehood” because of two of its distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions. In the words of one observer, “[N]ew Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”
Please read this report in its entirety, as well as this summary interview. It is vital that everyone who participates in discussions or receives news from the internet be aware of what is happening. There is also some very useful discussion of what can be done to stop this.
It may be more productive to highlight the ways in which Russian propagandists attempt to manipulate audiences, rather than fighting the specific manipulations.
In practice, getting in front of misinformation and raising awareness of misinformation might involve more robust and more widely publicized efforts to “out” Russian propaganda sources and the nature of their efforts.
There are other potential methods listed, and again it is vital that everyone read this report. I have also found that when dealing with someone spreading the obvious lies of this propaganda machine, usually a hapless dupe who has chosen to believe something, it is very effective to simply say, “You are wrong” with great authority. Many of those who have taken up this propaganda have simply found a weapon that they consider useful for the purpose of bullying. The best way to remove this weapon is to simply stand up to it and refuse to engage it on equal footing.
The other concern here, naturally, is how this report itself will be refuted. RAND corporation is under contract with the US military and State Departments, so many will find anything which comes from them to be propaganda itself. In this particular case we can say with great certainty that this report stands on its own.
To anyone who wants to make this claim, I would point out that the father of modern business cycle analysis was Nikolai Kondratieff, a dedicated Bolshevik and co-author of Lenin’s first Five Year Plan. I would further point out that the father of income inequality analysis was Corrado Gini, for whom the Gini Index is named, a key aid to Mussolini. Seekers of truth will find it in many places and are willing to evaluate new ideas on the face of them.
It also goes without saying that small minds discuss people, not ideas. It is easy enough to go after people or institutions, given that they are inherently flawed and have key weaknesses. This is a common tactic of more traditional propaganda and easy enough to dismiss.
Please, everyone, read this report and seek the truth. Stand up for the truth. Our democratic republic is always flawed in many ways because it is an institution of people itself. Truth, however, remains the bedrock ideal of liberty which people all around the world strive for. There are many paths to freedom, for sure, but they all being with truth.
That is what is under assault now by a group of gangsters who want to profit from their confusion. It is long past time that we stand up for our most basic value of all – truth.