All week I’ve felt myself getting stirred up into a frenzy, slowly, gradually. As the social media algorithms pick up on your likes and dislikes and begin to reinforce our positions we become more and more manipulated into reaffirming our current positions. However there’s one thing we need to keep in mind. Propaganda is not intelligence.
The freedom of the press is one of the rights guaranteed by the first amendment. Because our founding fathers designed our system of government to be of the people there would need to be a method of accountability for informing the legal authority (the people) of what was happening in their areas, their government and abroad. The press would then become the intelligence mechanism by which the people of the nation would make decisions and govern those they had appointed to represent them. In order for this to work it would need to be codified into an unchanging document (the constitution) that the government could not suppress the press or else the people’s method of oversight would be unreliable and susceptible to censorship and manipulation.
In intelligence one must separate fact from fiction, emotions from evidence. There is a real danger in being led off course by an enemy’s counterintelligence efforts and making yourself a useful idiot to facilitate his goals. Such efforts include both active and passive measures such as feeding false information to your intelligence network, discrediting or undermining confidence in valid intelligence, or even super saturating intelligence networks with information such that it becomes impossible to discern real actionable intelligence from false leads.
These false leads can be particularly dangerous because many are designed to appeal to certain emotional positions we have that we’re subconsciously seeking confirmation of. We call this confirmation bias. As such, oftentimes analytical models are used to evaluate and analyze intelligence to help reveal some of these emotional biases we have. Analytical models don’t tell us what is true or false but they do tell us whether statistically we are following evidence or emotions. One such model is called the analysis of competing hypotheses. It’s not really the focus of my writing here but it is interesting and relatively simple to use.
Back to the point... emotions are based on our likes and dislikes, preferences and fears, personality and experiences. An optimist might interpret information as if all things are working toward an ultimate good. A pessimist the opposite. Some people want to have their fears confirmed, others want them to be disproven. Regardless of the truth. This is where the real danger lies and where we have a real problem with our, the people’s, intelligence apparatus.
Our intelligence apparatus is entirely dependent on the moral and political objectivity of the journalists gathering the intelligence. By taking positions on political matters they have surrendered their objectivity and opened themselves up to shaping intelligence vs gathering intelligence. Thus you end up with a right wing news network and left wing news network. They are no longer in the business of gathering intelligence to be disseminated to the people where our system of governments power is supposed to reside. instead they are corrupted by the power that they can shape opinion, based on their opinions and political stances. Once this happens intelligence is no longer intelligence, it is now propaganda, advertising for a particular side.
We watch Fox News for confirmation on the right and CNN for confirmation on the left. We tell people to do their research to discern fact from fiction but that research usually comes back to google, Facebook or some other social media or mass corporate agenda driven source. False data is created on both sides as false leads to supersaturate the reader such that the haystack becomes larger and larger and the needle of truth one is seeking becomes imperceptible. In addition to this algorithms designed to cater to your emotional preferences are constantly at working providing you with substantiated evidence of your own biases. These are not conspiracies, these are truths that we all know, all to well.
So what are we to do? We must separate what is from what we think it is. A friend and mentor asked me years ago, “do you think or do you know?”. What is it we actually know, personally, experientially? How much have we personally verified with our own eyes, our own trusted connections?
In the lead up to the Great Depression it is rumored that the Rockefeller’s leaked rumors of banking instability. Before long long people reacted by removing their money from banks. Shortly after the banks were unstable. Thus a collapse in the banking system. By not discerning fact from fiction the people’s emotional reactions actually aided to bring about the demise they feared.
Rumors of wars, rumors of injustice, rumors of racism. What do you actually know?
Media has become an utterly unreliable source of intelligence for the American people. Social media is not the answer either. The only solution is to not play the game. To not react to the emotional stimulus by not subjecting yourself to it. Turn it off, at least the news feed side of things... The more shares, likes, tags we create, the more we feed the bad intel machine. We need boots on the ground. Personal interaction with that nurse at the hospital which is said to be overrun. Verify. We need personal interaction within our community leadership determining what decisions are being made, by who, and for what reason. Intelligence drives the mission. So before we people, as the governing arm of our representatives can decide on a course of action we need actionable intelligence.
The one truth that we can derive from the emotionally driven, tainted propaganda were being fed by social media and other media sources is that they have surrendered integrity and patriotism in favor of either money or an alternate ideology. But this in and of itself is still intelligence we can use. It simply means that nothing that everything that comes from them is propaganda and thus is not intelligence.