I'm a writer, photographer and mental health advocate from San Francisco.
I enjoy good conversation, history, technology and learning new skills.
I have strong political views, a lifelong interest in literature, poetry, and social justice.
Over the past several days, we’ve been hearing calls for reopening the government.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said, “There are more important things than living.” when asked about the dangers of reopening the state too early. Indiana Representative Trey Hollingsworth said about the potential loss of life that “it is the lesser of these two evils” in calling for reopening the economy.
In a 25-minute interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called for opening the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, without offering any plan for social distancing or other safety measures. Instead, she said she offered to use the crowded casinos as a “control group” to test what going back to normal conditions would do to the local coronavirus infection and death rates. When Cooper asked her if she would be on the casino floors each night, showing the world that it was safe, she deflected the question. Once again, as has happened over and over again in history, the rich and powerful are ready to sacrifice other people’s children, parents, siblings, relatives, and friends to protect their fortunes and power.
Click the link below to read the rest of her post on #DemCast,
Yet, large numbers of Americans believe the Coronavirus Pandemic is a hoax, and they are aggressively breaking the rules designed to protect us from the spread of the virus.
Why is this happening?
Information warfare became a hot topic in the United States shortly after Trump took office, but as a concept, it is hard to understand.
How can people in Moscow or Vietnam use bots to convince people in the United States to make decisions that destroy their lives?
It seems outlandish.
But it’s not new.
Everything I know about espionage I learned from Mission Impossible, which means I know almost nothing.
But the premise of a team of covert operatives who use disinformation, deception, and staged scenarios to achieve military goals suggests a general public awareness of ‘Perception Management’ or ‘Reflexive Control’ in Cold War America.
Most of the public information regarding Information Warfare uses the dense academic language of specialists.
In writing this, I simplified the language and paraphrased quotes, I strive for accuracy, but translations are rarely perfect; the reference material is available for download at the end of the post.
What is Information Warfare, as defined by Russia?
To paraphrase the Russian Ministry of Defense: “Information War is the confrontation between two or more states to damage institutions and resources by undermining political, economic and social systems with a psychological attack so massive it destabilizes a nation and its government.” Russia’s Information Warfare, Exploring the Cognitive Dimension.
A massive psychological attack.
Americans who think the Russian attack on the 2016 election was mere ‘meddling’ to sow chaos are wrong.
Putin spent years preparing to ‘meddle,’ and the Russian attack continues into 2020, with co-ordinated attempts to sabotage our Coronavirus Pandemic response.
These are explicit acts of ongoing aggression.
What is Reflexive Control?
The concept of ‘Reflexive Control’ emerged in the 1950s when Soviet Scientists searched for ways to optimize the use of computer technology and cybernetics for the military.
In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev reportedly said the Soviet Union would destroy the United States from within. He clearly had ‘reflexive control’ in mind.
Russia studied the United States and continued to analyze our strengths, weaknesses, and divisions after the end of the Cold War.
As an observer, Russia can potentially know Americans better than we know ourselves.
According to the New York Times, “… “Reflexive Control” is a military tactic to control the enemy’s perceptions, to convince him to ‘reflexively’ act against his interests.
To achieve Reflexive Control, you must study the enemy, know how the enemy thinks.
Russia uses ‘insight’ into our intellectual and regional differences to model our decision-making process to target specific groups with the half-truths and lies most likely to provoke a ‘reflexive’ decision that benefits Russia at our expense.
A Personal Experience:
In 1986 Right-wing activist Lyndon LaRouche Jr. successfully launched Proposition 64:
Prop 64 “Declares that AIDS is an infectious, contagious and communicable disease and that the condition of being a carrier of the HTLV-III virus is an infectious, contagious and communicable condition. Requires both be placed on the list of reportable diseases and conditions maintained by the director of the Department of Health Services. Provides that both are subject to quarantine and isolation statutes and regulations. Provides that the Department of Health Services personnel and all health officers shall fulfill the duties and obligations set forth in specified statutory provisions to preserve the public health from AIDS.”
The men of the Castro thought the State of California was ready to round us up and send us to camps.
That year I heard a rumor, later confirmed by Dan Rather: the U.S. government – specifically the Pentagon – created the AIDS virus to kill blacks and gays.
I believed the story and hated my government for the suffering it caused.
But the story was a Soviet fabrication, a lie, disinformation designed to incite paranoia and mistrust among Americans who had reason to believe the worst.
I was a gay activest because I had faith in my government’s committment to reason and justice.
I beleived my government was courageous enough to one day admit the mistake of discrimminating against me and correct it.
As a ‘reflexive’ reaction to Russia’s lie, I lost faith in my government and viewed everything it did with suspicion, and for a short time, stopped voting.
Read the story of how Russia made this and other lies go viral before social media.
Prop 64 lost, btw.
Insight is called ‘reflex.’
The side with the most ‘reflex’ wins.
The Russian Federation
The Russian Federation is described in most of the journals I read as a corrupt capitalist country controlled by oligarchs, the Russian Mob, and remnants of the Soviet Union’s KGB.
President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, trained in Psychological Warfare states, “Russia’s approaches to conflict between nations “are to be based on intellectual superiority. They will be asymmetrical and less costly.”
Intellectual superiority = ‘reflex’.
Setting the stage.
Russia used several methods to profile Americans. This 2018 video published by the Wall Street Journal describes the profiling of African Americans in 2014.
“Intelligence services are interested in personal information because they’re trying to find a weak point, and trying to find ways of making this person do what they need done. If you can insert false or misleading information into a government agency’s decision-making process, or into a policy maker’s decision-making process or even a voter’s decision-making process, you can have an impact on how the United States reacts to Russia or to other powers around the world.” Former Special Agent Leo Taddeo
Cambridge Analytica spent $1m, harvesting millions of Facebook profiles in early 2014 to build a system to profile individual U.S. voters to target them with personalized political advertisements.
In this 2018 video, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie describes how Cambridge Analytica turned Facebook likes into a political tool.
Reflexive Control is most effective when targets are unaware of it. Even when lies are exposed, the effects linger, fueling division, and conspiracy theories. If a nation’s people are extremely divided, Russia’s lies are used by the opposing sides to intensify political conflicts.
Example: 49% of voters polled by Gallup approve of Trump’s performance as President despite his mishandling of a pandemic that has killed over a hundred thousand Americans.
The simplest way to understand reflexive control is to think of it as non -stop marketing campaign on speed designed to convince people to self destruct.
Russia views civilians as legitimate targets, so we are suffering the effects of an ongoing psychological attack, all of us.
The most effective way to protect yourself is to be aware that you are a target.
Take a close look at the tweet that pisses you off? Is it divisive? Does it use loaded language?
When you read a story, notice the language, verify the source, mistrust ‘breaking stories’ without links to credible sources.
The New York Times and MSNBC are credible sources. Art by Rob Goldstein isn’t, at least, for verifying a news story.
Again, know you are a target, and that all of your vulnerabilities will be exploited.
Russian operatives are working to subvert Joe Biden. They will post smears and racially charged content designed to go viral.
Question content that causes a ‘reflexive’ or emotional reaction.
Update: May 28, 2020
EuroMaidan Press is an online English-language independent newspaper launched in 2014 by Ukrainian volunteers.
Part of Russia’s hybrid war, which is based on a Soviet secret technique of reflexive control. The virtual reality Russia creates has the aim of altering its victims’ vision of reality. Wearing Russian-made glasses, they make the political decisions Russia wants without suspecting a thing.
(c) Rob Goldstein 2020
All images used in this post found and twitter and Google and are used for educational purposes.
‘One Nation, Under Attack” by Rob Goldstein (c) 2020
Below is the downloadable source material for this post.
In late November, I planned a short break from my blog to focus on Trump’s Impeachment.
I listened in shock as witnesses like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified to crimes that included threats on her life.
After the House impeached Trump for extortion, I watched in horror as elected Republican officials used their positions and media access to spread the smear Trump demanded of the President of Ukraine.
I felt personally betrayed when the Republican Senate voted to acquit Trump without hearing witnesses.
I went numb with fear and shut down.
When faced with life-threatening circumstances, most mammals shut down and play dead and hope the predator will go away.
I felt like a five-year-old trapped in a community of violent and corrupt adults. I switched to an abusive ‘protector’ alternate that silences me by telling me I am a nothing, doing nothing, and hopelessly bad at it.
Threatened children must not be seen or heard.
CPTSD and Institutional Betrayal
C-PTSD is a cluster of symptoms caused by chronic childhood trauma such as physical assault, sexual assault, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, and threats of violence and death. People with C-PTSD often suffer from feelings of betrayal, defeat, and shame.
“Instead of a single traumatic event leading to mental and emotional symptoms, complex PTSD is believed to be caused by chronic or prolonged exposure to traumatic experiences. “It’s the concentration camp, the person in a bomb shelter in Syria, the soldier in war or child suffering sexual or physical abuse. It’s happening to you, or you’re witnessing it,” says Dr. Robert Shulman, associate chair of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center.” US News and World Report
As a child, I felt hopeless as the neighbors and social services that should have stopped my Mother’s abuse did nothing or became part of it.
‘Betrayal Trauma’ is the systematic abuse by a parent, a trusted leader, or an institutional authority figure, like the President and his government.
Institutional betrayal is potent because it represents a profound and fundamental violation of trust in a necessary dependency relationship. In that sense, it is similar to abuse in close relationships – it can be more harmful than abuse by a stranger. The breach of trust, unreciprocated loyalty, and exposure to retaliation are like a knife in the back. The Wiley Online Library
Recovery is finding the will to believe that life is more than a savage facade of well-mannered hypocrisy and hate.
I was in the aftermath of lingering flu when the pandemic and shutdowns began; my partner was away, taking care of his Mother.
I’ve spent the shutdown in isolation, triggered, and regressed to the darkest years of my childhood.
I’ve watched the President of the United States murder his citizens and gaslight us into accepting it.
A week in late November became an agony of months.
He writes about a world of people who are afraid to touch each other and how it feels to lose the lives we took for granted: life before the trauma of betrayal:
“Do you remember who you used to be? Before you were told that anyone could kill you? Before you were conditioned to avoid people the way you might avoid malignant obstacles in a video game? Before your brain rewired itself toward a continual search for the proper angle of evasion, the likely field of airborne dispersion, the space least contaminated by human touch?”
All this fear will have lasting consequences. We cannot know what they will be. Last Sunday, we had a visitor, a friend I’d known since childhood. Jessica knew and loved all our children, especially the youngest. Jessica got out of the car and sat on our front steps. We walked outside and stood at a safe distance. The 2-year-old ran toward her. Jessica told her to stay back.
“And she looked at me with the saddest eyes ever,” Jessica told me later. “And that broke my heart.”
There isn’t a rape victim, an abused child, an unjustly imprisoned migrant, a hungry vet, or a homeless schizophrenic who doesn’t know how it hurts to be treated like a monster.
There isn’t an LGBTQ person on this planet who doesn’t know how badly it hurts.
There isn’t a parent who loses a child in a school shooting who doesn’t know
how badly it hurts.
We are a nation of traumatized survivors.
Can we stop the abuse, accept that it happened, and heal?
As I emerge from the ‘freeze,’ I can return to the blog.
For my next post, I am compiling a list of online resources for people who want to learn more about Information and Psychological Warfare.
Loyal Americans placed their lives and reputations on the line to warn us that we are under attack and on our own; we don’t have to be Agents of Shield to learn a few basic principles of psychological warfare.
Step one is to let yourself see it.
People are hurting in different ways, we’ve had a rough five months.
I hope everyone is coping and staying as healthy as possible.
I look forward to catching up with your blogs.
I also look forward to hearing about how you’re coping.
Update May 23: The focus of Art by Rob Goldstein for the next 164 days is pro-democracy essays and art and articles from advocacy groups like #DemCast.
The Disinformation Warfare Resource List will become a series of posts in a separate category.
A note about comments:
I am not OK with over a hundred thousand dead Americans.
If you are a trump supporter, don’t follow or comment on my blog.
(c) Rob Goldstein, May 21, 2020
This post is dedicated to my friend, Scott Baser, who reminded me of why I write. Thanks, Scott
For folks who doubt the seriousness of Russia’s 2016 attack on our elections, this is a screenshot I took on August 29, 2016, of the top headlines on BING. If you examine it, you’ll see a search string that includes the Anthony Weiner scandal. I did not run that search. My browser was hijacked.