by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ December 20, 2019
Most everything that we see, hear, or read now is noise. That doesn’t describe the deeper levels of discourse, literature, or culture in all of its ever expanding forms. It does describe the cacophony that seems to overwhelm us in day to day life.
That noise is mistaken for information but is, now, usually the opposite of information. In electronic communication and communication in general the opposite of information is noise. We now need to understand and use this in daily life.
For people connected to the normal, uncensored, network flow we have come to live with this although we are increasingly troubled by confusion and noise being claimed as information. This is being illustrated for us by the Trump impeachment process and, I think, that realization is beginning to spread.
This process has come to mesmerize a major part of the connected human population over the last three years. The majority of the human population has chosen to ignore this and that includes a significant portion of the US population. But the great majority of people with an active interest in human society and its fate are struggling with the symptoms of social and political malignancy.
Our normal efforts in these situations is to try to figure the thing out. That has not gone well. The continued spread of lies, easily debunked conspiracy theories, and information distortion by mainstream media and high ranking political officials is a profoundly troubling and arcane mystery.
Many people, included in the category of those working to ignore what is happening, have just given up. This is most commonly articulated as “Their all lying!”. Ironically part of this process is an orchestrated and surprisingly effective, Russian intelligence agency campaign to foster this type of nihilism as a means of weakening Russia’s opponents.
The history of political misinformation and manipulation campaigns as a form of warfare evolved from the late 19th century spread of new ideologies. This was part of the rise of nationalism, and the new nation states of Europe, that was part of age old cultural conflicts and the integration of race and ethnicity into the new nationalism.
One branch of this, based in political and economic ideology was Marxist communism. The racist and ethnocentric versions were white supremacy and nationalism resulting in fascism and nazism in Central Europe. The importance of information warfare was subsumed to open military conquest but was an important area of development in Germany and the counter revolutionary movements in Russia after 1917.
These concepts ended up laying waste to much of Europe and portions of the planet in the early 20th century. With the rise of he Cold War replaced crude military expansion with full information warfare to weaken opposing nations and manipulate their populations remotely. Until the late 20th century and the rise of internet virtual societies this has to be done with conversion of citizens to a foreign state or the insertion of subversives acting as citizens. That was not very effective.
All of this evolved rapidly in the 21st century in the oil and resource wars of the Middle East and as the only tool within reach of Putin and Russian nationalists working from the ruins of the USSR. Putin, using the old information manipulation tools of the KGB and new internet social medias scored a major victory in assisting in electing a Russian recruited businessman with serious mental problems to the US presidency.
This was too big a victory for Russia in the 21st century and too fraught with risk to be used except very carefully. But Putin , following his early KGB training has worked to confuse and weaken the US to allow Russian expansion in the old USSR and the Middle East.
This is a major source of the noise creating extensive confusion in the US and, secondarily, in Great Britain. This noise is, as noted above, strongly nihilistic seeking to cast doubt on the honesty and motivation of any political figure in the target country. The stunning success of this strategy has played on the inherent confusion created by paradigmatic change driven by the very technology that has made planetary virtual societies possible.
The surprising success of this Russian strategy was tied to a range of events and social patterns specific to the decline of nation states, the US as the most radical, late stage capitalist nation, and erosion of social resilience by centuries of American racism and some forty years of asset theft, again, as a result of neoliberalism in late stage capitalism.
It was the best of times and the worst of times. It produced the perfect storm of confusion. And the desperate, daily struggle to buy more things and pay debt in a totally materialist culture with profit and greed as the only functioning virtues left no energy to do anything but tolerate the constant noise. The capture of valid information from that cacophony of noise became limited to those things most easily recognized and essential or most unthreatening and entertaining.
There are multiple levels of this noise and the reaction to that may be leading to major changes. Remember that noise is not information although it may contain information. The noise generated externally for the US, i.e. the Russian GRU programs of manipulation are linked to internal medai, Fox News, that follows the same playbook. This is supported by Trump as an active mouthpiece for Putin’s information weapons and has been adopted fully by the Republican Party.
None of this is happening for a single reason. Just as those who have given up in the search for information in all the noise fall easily into accepting a nihilistic explanation (they’re all lying) that does not mean they are all Russian trolls or agents. The internal contradictions of political operatives working for a self destructive program originating with an unfriendly foreign power is an entirely different level of problem.
My concern is understanding the problem, the process, and finding a route to a same society in the new planetary condition.
Much of the domestic noise is from the layers of mainstream media and linked social media.The capitalist profit requirements mean that all available channels must be filled even if they are filled with noise. Endless analysis and punditry should be eliminated. These are not paid correspondents at a remote location reporting back to those who cannot access that information. They are, usually, not even adding value.
What I am seeing in just the last week is that in times of historically significant change enough people are taking the time to wade through the noise to begin to adjust their positions to a clearer view of reality. Most of this is being hidden, both intentionally and inadvertently by media noise.
With effort and care it is impossible to avoid the reality that Donald Trump is incompetent and dangerously, mentally ill. He is also criminal in his goals and actions and, for possibly many reasons, is an active agent for Putin and the Russian state. His mental illness is worsening and has produced a widely shared psychosis. This is completely unacceptable as well as incredibly dangerous.
The continous revelations of evidence for Russian influence on Trump, self incrimination by Trump and his cohort, the public concern of professionals and mental health professionals at this situation and Trump’s decline is beginning to build. For millions of people to filter through massive amounts of noise and begin to express commitment to remove Trump and whatever else needs to be done, is amazing.
What is beginning to become clear is the distinction between information, facts, and noise intentionally generated to created confusion and maintain control through fear and confusion. The forces behind this, although delusional, are powerful and committed to their view of reality. They, themselves, are noise that must be constantly filtered out.
An underlying reality is that people operate on historical time, not a continuous news cycle. We are, as a society, reluctant to think ill of people and very slow to condemn known people and organizations but even in, new and confusing, high noise situations I think we are seeing human sense shining through. This is incredibly important for our species survival as we enter the age of climate crisis.
Perhaps we are learning the new rules of continuous information that is still also continuous noise. Once we begin to restore confidence in our ability to distinguish valid information from intentional noise we will be willing and able to create filters for the most common sources of that noise.
Perhaps this is a result of the careful presentation of evidence in the last few months of the Ukraine investigation. While individuals may lie the truth will be repeated from multiple sources and most people don’t lie. If they do it is usually done badly and reluctantly. Lies are very hard to maintain without actively suppressing reality.
Things may well go differently than all of the noisy pundits are saying. If it doesn’t there could be millions of angry people to pay.