What is Propaganda…is it different from Fake News?…and when is it good?

World War I Posters That Reveal The Roots Of Modern Propaganda
By All That’s Interesting
Published December 26, 2016
Updated July 10, 2019
These World War 1 propaganda posters courtesy of the U.S. government provide a fascinating look at the America of a century ago in the midst of the Great War.

Propaganda is the more or less systematic effort to manipulate other people’s beliefs, attitudes, or actions by means of symbols (words, gestures, banners, monuments, music, clothing, insignia, hairstyles, designs on coins and postage stamps, and so forth). Deliberateness and a relatively heavy emphasis on manipulation distinguish propaganda from casual conversation or the free and easy exchange of ideas. Propagandists have a specified goal or set of goals. To achieve these, they deliberately select facts, arguments, and displays of symbols and present them in ways they think will have the most effect. To maximize effect, they may omit or distort pertinent facts or simply lie, and they may try to divert the attention of the reactors (the people they are trying to sway) from everything but their own propaganda

Britannica.Com on propoganda

If you spend a little time absorbing this definition, which I have no quarrels with, you realize that what has been called Fake News IS largely propaganda. And it IS what the US main ‘news’ channels have been practicing either somewhat accidentally or wholly on purpose for the last four + years. They have been sliding this way for decades, but it has slid down the slippery slope to this end state quickly over the last few. (Read my post on the Slippery Slope…Looking at this topic I realize this fits into that type of situation where the Slippery Slope IS real, all of the actors are in the game and the rational observers have no impact on the discussion AT ALL.)

Is propaganda ever appropriate? I can’t tell. I want to say NO not just ‘no’ but HELL NO. But I also see how difficult it is to get everyone on the same page and can see that in general if there is a societal good that can be defined as good then making sure everyone is on board is also Good.

But….a big one.

I think that with the internet and the explosion of ‘near news’ outlets propaganda and its bastard child fake news, become a very bad thing, an evil. Everyone learns about propaganda and they get a sense that in the right hands it is good, in the wrong hands evil. So it becomes something of a standard tool, because most of us sees ourselves as ‘one of the goodies.’

The problem is that all sides of an argument get a say. And the general populace do not have any deep sense of the reality of the situation, the nuances etc. If you are generally democrat you see mostly democratic outlets. If Republican, only that line. While some resources have centrist voices, they always shade one way or the other, and many outlets are purposefully hard over. One sides group gets propagandized into believing their trope. The other side…the other trope.

So as Scott Adams points out you get two radically different views of the same events. To the point that the objective reality is not even in view of those Propagandized. Take the Capital Intrusion, one side, clearly nonviolent non threatening, good people protesting an at least murky election. Other side clearly violent, threatening, evil people trying to overturn a fair election.

In this war of propaganda the sides are purposefully pushed apart because the two sides cannot allow ‘their’ segment to wander. They rationalize deleting and spinning evidence because it is not important and muddles the message.

But…but…but…Journalism!

Journalism has always had an element of propaganda. Yes there was a period when it was portrayed as noble to present just the facts but the reality was this was at best a hope and and worst cover. The same schools essentially TEACH propaganda methodology as part of the general curriculum. Again in one view to inoculate the innocent learner against it, in the alternate view because there are a lot of jobs in public relations and advertising (commercial propaganda) as well as in government (propaganda straight up though usually for neutral topics.)

And….”If it bleeds it leads”…news of any kind is a business. Yes you can point to billionaire liberals propping up various operations. But at the end of the day news is a good way of turning a billionaire into a millionaire over time. The operation has to support itself or it cannot last long. What Fox showed was that you could get an audience by bending the news in a certain way and feeding them ‘red meat.’ They tried (mostly succeeded) in a combination of pretty clearly factual reporting and pretty clearly politicized editorial content though you were left to guess which was which. What a lot of the other operations couldn’t really afford to do was the factual reporting. Editorializing everything with a left bend…but left the audience to believe they were giving ‘just the facts.’ And probably excusing themselves by closing their senses to the much more complex nuanced reality…Though it is not clear most of those smiles even have a clue that such a thing exists.

Sigh…and so it goes…have not watched TV/Video news in years, probably never will again, despise its superficiality and bias. Even the talk shows are uselessly one sided these days, making the whole realm a danger to the Republic rather than the safety valve it was supposed to be.

Russian Naval Renaissance

Russian Navy Commissions 1st Project 20385 Corvette ‘Gremyashchy’
From NavalNews.Com

The Russian Navy has a peculiarly multi faced history and reputation. As a land power with huge boarders and vast empty sectors it would seem more than a little excess to needs. In imperial splendor it has burgeoned into one of the greatest navies in history, in troubled times it has rotted or rusted away. It has lost a whole fleet in battle at the far end of the world after a voyage that would have been hailed as incredible except for the ending. It has built ships, particularly submarines second to none in technological innovation, then had to let them rot. Always a technological arm the Navy has often attracted the best and the brightest and being world spanning it has attracted funding to grow hugely when the money was available….

So today Russia is as troubled as ever, but it does sit astride Eurasia and if you consider the polar region is near the Americas. It has intimate contact with the sea and it needs a Navy for reasons both local and global.

The cycles of growth and rot have shown that one should never count the Russian Navy out. While the end Soviet Era strategic Navy is rotting away the latest revival appears to be underway. The article above and others, point to the fact that after a period of grim news about over runs, decades long builds, etc the lates Corvette program and its predecessor appear successful even given quite sever supply chain issues of geopolitical nature.

While one can poo poo a Corvette as a ‘little ship’ the reality is that this firecracker could conceivably sink a fleet of ships boasting the best of 1980’s technology without a scratch. The US navy and others are rapidly rethinking the efficacy and rational for cruiser sized destroyers in this modern age of omnipresent satellite reconnaissance and hypersonic smart munitions.

But beyond this ship the Russians are once again showing their intellectual metal with A New “Universal Sea Complex” ‘Varan.’

Russia Designs A New Class Of Ship: Universal Sea Complex ‘Varan’

“It is a new approach in domestic and global shipbuilding. The project will represent a new class of naval hardware — universal sea complexes (UMK),”

Nevskoe Bureau (a major Russian designer of ships and the sole designer of aircraft carriers and simulators.). NavalNews.com
Nevskoe Bureau (a major Russian designer of ships and the sole designer of aircraft carriers and simulators.). NavalNews.com
Nevskoe Bureau (a major Russian designer of ships and the sole designer of aircraft carriers and simulators.). NavalNews.com

The approach appears well suited to modern ship building practices. At modestly sized commercial yards. It is very much in line with the skeptics view of aircraft carriers as a modestly sized vessels with a reasonable strike force. It is not at all a competitor to a US Nuclear Super Carrier in itself but is well suited for power projection and strike warfare in a fleet setting.

Noting the sea gate at the stern you could see this ship as having a significant landing force either standard or optionally providing a strong ‘swing’ capacity. This might be an ideal Marine Amphibious warfare ship.

Looking at it one can see that it is unlikely to be able to support even the noted 24 aircraft wing for long periods at sea. But is that really necessary if you have enough ships so that in peace time they only spend a couple of months at sea at a time?

You can also see that it is unlikely to be able to support a fleet commanders facilities and staff. Again that makes sense, with high bandwidth covert data links the fleet commander can and ought to be separated from the strike asset.

If there was a significant Marine contingent the air arm would have to shrink. But once more you need to think of distributed capability and building your fleet from blocks of assets rather than one Super Duper anything.

So once more the Russians have set the fox among the hens, at least in an intellectual sense. They are always listening and watching the rest of the world and trying to conceive of a ‘system’ that gives them an advantage versus the rest. It’s always a good idea to understand what they are thinking…as in chess and mathematics they are often leaders in the intellectual sphere.

Aliens? The Science Says no….but does it?

Artist’s concept of interstellar object1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. Image Credit: European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser
From NASA Article

The first known interstellar object to visit our solar system, 1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua, was discovered Oct. 19, 2017 by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope, funded by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) Program, which finds and tracks asteroids and comets in Earth’s neighborhood. While originally classified as a comet, observations revealed no signs of cometary activity after it slingshotted past the Sun on Sept. 9, 2017 at a blistering speed of 196,000 miles per hour (87.3 kilometers per second). It was briefly classified as an asteroid until new measurements found it was accelerating slightly, a sign it behaves more like a comet.

This very deep combined image shows the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua at the center of the image. It is surrounded by the trails of faint stars that are smeared as the telescopes tracked the moving comet. Credit: ESO/K. Meech et al.
From NASA Article

The second image is to make you think. Given one of our very powerful telescopes that faint dot circled in the center is all we ever saw of Oumuamua. With our computational tools we could detect that it was accelerating and get an idea of the surface composition but the data we collected was negligible (though also amazing given the distance and velocity of this objectively tiny object.)

Image credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard file photo.
From Extraterrestrial, Oumamua as Artifiact

Extraterrestrial: On ‘Oumuamua as Artifact

by PAUL GILSTER on FEBRUARY 23, 2021

The reaction to Avi Loeb’s new book Extraterrestrial (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021) has been quick in coming and dual in nature. I’m seeing a certain animus being directed at the author in social media venues frequented by scientists, not so much for suggesting the possibility that ‘Oumuamua is an extraterrestrial technological artifact, but for triggering a wave of misleading articles in the press. The latter, that second half of the dual reaction, has certainly been widespread and, I have to agree with the critics, often uninformed.

The article in CentauriDreams, as always excellent, discusses the reaction to the book which is very much in line with the arguments of the book itself.

The author of the Book a Harvard Astronomer of high repute, says that the data actually points to Oumuamua being an artifact and that since that theory best fits the data…then it is/was an extraterrestrial visitor. He then goes on review other theories and the way that the science community came together to present a ‘consensus’ that was more about PR and making the life of the average person in the broad community of sky explorers easier rather than doing the hard work of explaining multiple theories and sets of data that left the question very open and leaving a starkly amazing option in play.

Essentially this is about the science and the science community but also about Journalism in its debauched epoch. Many of us grew up with science being pushed as a noble, maybe the last noble, adventure. With heroes and a few villains. Heroes of the mind and of letters and video who didn’t get shot at or mugged or even have to live rough. Carl Sagan, Attenborough, many other names come to mind.

The problem is that these men and women were scientists, academics, with deep knowledge, if often deeply attached to one trope, and great communicators. Far too many of those who followed were/are attached to a trope and its alignment with their desired outcome. Without the background/willingness to understand that even the most beautiful theory may be utterly wrong and always HAS to be able to stand up to any counter evidence presented.

Also the scientific community, once quite a small community is now huge, with all the pressures of a large bureaucratic endeavor to go along to get along; careerism; group think; cliques; etc. And especially in ‘charismatic’ endeavors like space the pressure is to be ‘in the consensus’ and ‘never be caught wrong footed in the lime light.’

Cheers….

Oh, oh oh, oh oh oh oh, I saw this coming !

Last Cassette Player Standing, in American Conservative
From the article: Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Money Quote:

There are several lessons here. The most politically salient is that in manufacturing, as in cooking, it is possible to “lose the recipe.” And with an accelerating pace of technological progress, it is possible to lose it in an alarmingly short span of time. This is perhaps the strongest argument for some form of industrial policy or trade protection: the recognition that the national value of manufacturing often lies not so much in the end product itself, but in the accumulated knowledge that goes into it, and the possibility of old processes and knowledge sparking new innovation. Of course, innovation is itself what killed the high-end cassette player. But many otherwise viable industries have struggled under the free-trade regime.

The fact is that technology is not embodied in a drawing or set of drawings or any set of instructions. It is embodied in human knowledge. One of the key problems in the industry is the loss of control a customer or prime has when they let a contractor develop the ‘data package’ and ‘product’ with no significant oversight. While the customer or prime may ‘own’ the IP because they paid for it, the fact is that the majority of the capability is embodied in the people and culture of the contractor not in any set of information.

The Hellenic world had machines as complex as early clocks and steam engines of a sort but lost the recipe in a few generations or less. Various complex building skills and wooden machines, metalworking and early chemistry were discovered then lost again and again because the data package was in human brains and examples. This is why the printing press and its ilk were so incredibly important to technological lift off. Along with a culture of progress and invention.

We are far ahead of that world but as above, not above losing the recipe of a complex technology. This is one of the drivers behind Computer Aided Design, Analysis, Documentation, Fabrication. Our cybernetic tools have the ability to record the data package in detail at least for certain classes of things so that we should be able to maintain the ability to replicate things. Making special, small run, even one off technological objects rational rather than nutty.

But at the same time I think that it is likely that the artisanal ethos and products will remain relevant and even increase in value as people shift away from a mind/economy/culture of scarcity to at least sufficiency and if we survive and expand into the universe eventually richness. These transitions will be extremely difficult because they are at odds with many tens of thousands of years of genetic/mimetic coding of our behaviors based on small group hunter gatherers and kin group bonding. Those transition will be enabled by machines that fabricate, even machines that invent. What will happen when humans loose the recipe for technological advancement, because too few engage in the complex enterprise of development??? Is that the point of the Rise of the Machine???

Let space bring us together

One of the things that stabilizes a civilization (IMO) is the ability to expand. Like an imaginary pressure vessel with a self replicating gas one can see that at the beginning the gas molecules bouncing around have plenty of space, the ‘pressure’ on the cylinder is negligible and the molecules don’t collide that often. As the molecules become more abundant the pressure and the collisions build. If there is some external source of ‘heat’ say the energy of invention etc, the pressure builds even more and the ‘collisions’ are more violent. Eventually the pressure vessel gives way along fracture lines and explodes releasing the gas into the void….

Carry that image a bit longer, this almost mimics what happened to a lot of the early civilizations. They blew up and dissipated into the wilds leaving almost nothing behind except wreckage.

America (and other civilizational islands let’s call them) had an immense (to them) hinterland. The pressure vessel had something like a sealed bellows (or say a metal balloon) that was stiff, wouldn’t expand easily but could expand. The particles would ‘explore’ this even early on. The cold walls ‘cooled / calmed’ the average energy and allowed the particles to rub along with each other better. As the particles multiply the bellows/balloon expands releasing the pressure on the parent pressure vessel, and providing more wall to absorb energy at the same time.

The human ‘particles’ in our pressure vessel continue to multiply, thankfully, hopefully, at an increasingly slower rate. But the ‘energy’ of invention and desire for ‘happiness’ continues to flow and be amplified by those people/particles. Rearranging the particles…partially solidifying them?…in urban masses lowers the pressure in some ways but does not eliminate it. It provides pseudo new space for the really energetic particles say. But in reality do what we can on this world the pressure will grow too great unless we expand into, we need newSpace.

Even the space (volume) of our solar system is almost infinite from the perspective of the human particles today. And the boundaries of ‘our system’ are only imaginary. The universe is here there and everywhere and there is no reason not to make it ours except fear, mostly fear of ourselves.

We need frontiers, we need places where we can be with ourselves, we need challenge but also calm centers. While the homes we create away from our birthplace will be nothing like what we see today, our descendants will love and hold them just as close to their heart as we hold our home and our memories.

Expect more of ‘this.’

Xu Xianqin, Vice-Minister of Rites, overseeing the imperial civil service exam circa 1587, during the Ming Dynasty. Credit: Public domain.

Like it or not, history shows that taxes and bureaucracy are cornerstones of democracy

Article In Phys.Org by Field Museum of Natural History.

It is actually a reasonable article about a study that on its face makes sense though I believe it to be one that could be easily spun. It is a quantitative analysis of essentially qualitative factors, this is done by assigning numerical scores to identifiable attributes for multiple, ancient civilizations. You can then run analysis from simple to complex and use the scoring to make a point. Having done this sort of thing the problem is that it is very easy to bias the output especially when the results (as they all too often do) come out showing no clear message.

But as I said the basic discussion is not bad and appears balanced but the top level spin put on it by the articles title is spin. And then using images of Imperial Chinese Bureacracy and Festivals seems extremely Propagandistic. While the ancient Chinese Imperial Dynasties varied in many ways and had some good in them more by accident than intent, they were autocratic and ruthless to a one and to a fault.

This is the sort of soft propaganda one gets with things like the Confucius institute A CCP run propaganda arm, the Biden administration is giving free reign in academia to put their thumb on the scales with this sort of authorship, along with the woke fellow travelers who seem to feel that this sort of spin is necessary.

I would not protest this article, even its title so much if I felt that there was a reasonable, rational, balanced, look at the path from the past to now in modern academia especially in the west. The problem is that there are only so many minutes in a day so many moments of attention that can be paid to anything. If this sort of soft propaganda and equivalent takes up mind space, and is not counter balanced by a strong base of what current civilization owes to the West and to Industrial Anglo Sphere then the intent is to create a totally false impression of reality.

The rest of the world was not an empty bowl waiting to be filled from the west, representatives of the west did bad things. But the Christian West was always on an upward path. None of the eastern empires had advanced in any consistent and appreciable way for centuries or millennia and that had nothing to do with resources, everything to do with culture, religion, conquest and autocratic rule, none of that the peoples fault, all geography and circumstance. But pulling down the smallish bit of humanity that managed to break free and start the ball rolling uphill is chillingly evil.

Of ratchets and slopes, slippery or otherwise

Crossbow and the crank/ratchet for cocking it medieval period, WikiCommons

As commented on before I pay attention to Scott Adams of Dilbert fame as an interesting thinker with a fairly well defined but undefinable political gestalt. Uber liberal realist Trump supporter is maybe the best description.

One of his mantra’s is that Slippery Slopes are Not a Thing.

The following is my interpretation of his position.

A point of view/policy item with a broad ‘option space’ and supporters on both ends, say like gun control, will slide in a direction that is acceptable to the general polity (something like the Overton Window) until some point it will no longer be acceptable. Those who wish to push the policy towards one end or the other will eventually meet resistance and be unable to move the policy further ‘their way’ until some change occurs. That change may move the policy ‘back’ or ‘forward’ but it is acceptability that controls. This says that the idea of a ‘slippery slope ‘with its imagery of reaching a point where you lose control and slide to some end point it false on its face.

Having thought about this I agree with the premise in a general sense.

Two, I think important, quibbles:

1) That in a highly emotional and very dynamic situation such as one might have in the ancient Demos of Greece, or say a Constitutional Congress, a French State Committee…, the slippery slope appears to me to be a real threat. The whole of the polity is in the fight as it were and there is no stable base of opinion to dampen high flights of rhetoric and emotion. In such situations you have a tendency to move to the end state without the intermediary and if this is then enforced on the outside world the results are likely to be calamitous if the topic is one with a high degree of emotional attachment with the broader public. The Demos were tiny isolated city states and they killed a few important people and destroyed themselves but it was in the end fairly evolutionary. The US constitution was very conservative in its basis and while the result was ‘liberal’ it was not that crazy and was in line with most of the populous, plus it was a huge area with a tiny population, where malcontents could often go west if they wanted. The French Revolution was a bloody multi decadal disaster because it didn’t have any other damper than time and blood….To a large degree I don’t see this as that active other than in a Social Network Today…to some degree it explains some of the crap that goes on in odd corners of the web.

2) More important than 1) is the fact that the ratchet is IMO real. That once a law or regulation is in place it tends to create a new baseline and constituency. If the issue is fairly hot there will be pushback but in general people are for stability and a law or regulation will become entrenched. It only takes time for that to then be the jumping off point for a new effort to extend whatever policy. This may not be very logical on its face but it is a reality and is one of the reasons that any human system tends to atrophy with time. So the party who tends to desire more law and regulation have a tendency to have the edge here and they will turn the crank on the ratchet whenever they get the chance.

While England is not the US in any sense one should look at it as a bit of a case study, though the lack of the 2nd Amendment is a huge factor. A century ago guns were rare more because of their cost than anything else. Then regulation started to build up. Because of no 2A and it was very gradual there was not much push back. Today not only is any kind of firearm in private possession effectively illegal so are any edged/pointed device inclusive of scissors. The ratchet is real…the slippery slope is a thing only in very constrained cases.