One Nation, Under Attack

Over 100,000 Americans died in a pandemic our President chose to ignore.

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.

Mass Media as an Arm of the Armed Forces
Russia Views Mass Media as an Arm of the Armed Forces

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.

A collage of Russian Facebook ads found online
A grouping of Russian Facebook ads

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 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.

Screenshot of a 1983 disinformation campaugn that falsely claims the U.S. Invented the Aids virus
How Do Russia’s Lies Distort Your Perceptions of Reality

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.

As a youth, I became a gay activist because I had faith in my government’s commitment to reason and justice and was courageous enough to one day admit the mistake of discriminating against me.

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.

The government restored myfaith on June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court approved same-sex marriage.”

Read the story of how Russia made this and other lies go viral before social media.

Prop 64 lost, btw.

During the Cold War, hundreds of salacious and bogus headlines around the world appeared, part of a covert playbook of Russian disinformation used to undermine America.- NBC News

Insight is called ‘reflex.’

A Russian Facebook page called 'Woke Blacks"
A Russian Facebook Page for ‘Woke Blacks’
A Russian Facebook ad for Southern Heritage
A Russian Facebook ad for Southern Heritage

The side with the most ‘reflex’ wins.

The Russian Federation

Most of the journals I read describe the Russian Federation 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 beleives, “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.

Screenshot of antisemitic propaganda produced by the Russian Internet Research Agenc
Antisemitic propaganda produced by Russia’s Internet Research Agency
A Russian Facebook ad that blames Black Lives Matter for Policeman's death
Anti Black Lives Matter propaganda produced by Russia’s Internet Research Agency.

In this 2018 video, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie describes how Cambridge Analytica turned Facebook likes into a political tool.

Screenshot of a russian facebook ad blaiming immigrants for American poverty
LIKE if you agree

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, Information Warfare exploits your vulnerabilities.

A russian facebook ad that depicts Bernie Sanders as a gay superhero
A Pro-Bernie appeal to the LGBTQ community from Russia’s Internet Research Agency

Russian operatives are working to subvert Joe Biden. They will post smears and racially charged content designed to go viral.

Question content about Biden that causes a ‘reflexive’ or intensely negative 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.


You can also find ‘One Nation, Under Attack‘ on #DemCast

Vote D for Democracy
#DemCast Graphic

(c) Rob Goldstein 2020

All images used in this post found and twitter and Google. I use them for educational purposes.

‘One Nation, Under Attack” by Rob Goldstein (c) 2020

Below is the downloadable source material for this post.

Reflexive Control Thomas_2004

Cognitive Bias and Reflexive Control

The NATO Handbook of Information Warfare

 

 

Does Trump Treat Putin Like a Confidant?

Logged into Bing this morning and saw this odd little snippet:

Screenshot of Trump and Putin with the caption Trump treats Putin like a Confidant
Trump Treats Putin Like a Confidant

Does Trump ‘reportedly’ treat Putin like a ‘confidant’?

I can believe it, but is it true?

I looked for the source, Business Insider.

Who owns Business Insider?

A screenshot of the search result for who owns Business Insider, it reads Business Insider was launched in February 2009 and is based in New York City. Founded by DoubleClick's former CEO Kevin P. Ryan, Dwight Merriman, and Henry Blodget
Business Insider was launched in February 2009 and is based in New York City. Founded by DoubleClick’s former CEO Kevin P. Ryan, Dwight Merriman, and Henry Blodget

Ok.

Business Insider is nine years old, possibly center-left and uses a
cickbait style.

You can tell it’s click-bait because…

Screenshot of Business Insider headline claiming that Trump treats Putin like a confidant
Click bait…

Are other media outlets reporting this story?

I ran a search for Trump treats Putin like a confidant:

Screenshot of Google Search Results
Google Search Results #!

The top five results are Business Insider, Reddet, YouTube and a December
2016 piece on Kissinger by Politico.

The YouTube video is of an unnamed ex-intelligence chief who says the U.S.
needs to treat Vladimir Putin as an equal.

It looks like pro-Putin propaganda.

The YouTube video is from Sky News.

Rupert Murdoch founded Sky News in 1989.

screenshot of SkyNews was founded in 1989 by Rupert Murdoch
SkyNews was founded in 1989 by Rupert Murdoch

What if I Google Trump ‘reportedly’ treats Putin like a confidant?

Screenshot of search results for Trump Reportedly Treats Putin like a Confidant
Google Search Trump reportedly treats Putin like a confidant

The top five search results are Business Insider and MSN (Bing)
and that December 2016 piece on Kissinger by Politico.

Does Trump treat Putin Like a Confidant?

Perhaps.

I think it’s true.

But that doesn’t make it true.

Based on my research the Business Insider headline is nothing but clickbait
and has no value as news.

So, Business Insider:

Judging you animated gif from GIPHY
Judging you

Rob Goldstein 2018

Screenshots are for educational purposes only.

Animated gif found on GIPHY

Vladimir Putin’s Stepford Trolls

Intelligence chief Dan Coats says the United States is ‘under attack’  by Vladimir Putin who continues to use our media to spread lies and half-truths as a way to sow division between Americans.

What does this look like for everyday users of Twitter and Facebook?

Screenshot of one of thousands of Russia's Twitterbot

Yesterday I found a list of Russian twitter bots compiled by @slack2thefuture and @horridpoplyrics, two excellent sources of information for twitter users who want to screen out Russian Propaganda.

There are thousands of bots posing as Liberal/Resistance accounts on twitter simultaneously sending the same scripted tweets.

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot

On first glance the tweets look benign.

Are they?

The tweets are emotional, inflammatory, and divisive.

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot
They use Putin’s standard strategy of telling a half truth as in above tweet
about the death of Muhiydin Moye.

Yes, Muhiydin Moye was shot and killed in New Orléans, but there is no evidence the shooting was related to his activism as the tweet implies.

Here’s the full story on CNN:

“An adult black male, identified as Mr. Muhiydin Moye, sustained a gunshot wound to the thigh in a shooting incident that occurred shortly before 1:30 am on February 6th. He was transported to a hospital and subsequently died of his wounds,” NOPD spokesman Beau Tidwell said in an email.

An attorney for the police department said that the incident report citing aggravated battery was the only one available, and that “the signal was recently changed to a homicide.”

The suspect is an unknown stranger, according to the incident report.

Calling him “Moya,” Camille Weaver, Moye’s cousin, said on the GoFundMe page that the family received a call Tuesday morning “saying that he had died due to excessive blood loss. We don’t have many details, but will update as soon as we do.”

 

This tweet tells us that a White Christian Extremist was busted while planning a major terror attack:


Screenshot of Bot tweet White Christian Activist planned terror attack
If you want to know who the ‘extremist’ is you have to click to a site that will likely download malware to your computer.

I checked and found no story about the bust of a ‘Christian extremist’ dated February 10.

The bots never tweet about TrumpRussia.

I scrolled through at least 50 accounts and didn’t see a single tweet about Putin, the Russian attack on the US election or Mueller’s investigation.

The bots do tweet about Trump’s distractions:

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot tweet

They cite legitimate news outlets in these tweets but don’t link to the articles.

There are other ‘tells’ but none is as weird as seeing different accounts with profile pictures of the same woman shot from different angles.

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot

Cindy Rebala is Stacy Roland

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot

Stacy Roland is Kyle Rosemary

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot

Kyle Rosemary is Lizza Simmon

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot

It’s so weird and diabolical that it’s hard to believe this is happening in life.

Cincinnati political science professor, Dr. Richard Harknett said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee about Russian cyber operations, “…We are facing comprehensive  strategic campaigns to undermine our national sources of power.”

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot
Briteny Alonso is Sasha Mathew

Screenshot of a Russian Twitterbot

I look at these screen shots and feel like I’m looking at a nightmare mashup of Charlie’s Angels and The Stepford Wives:

‘Angel-bots, you’re going under cover; stupid cover, but this is Moscow.’

Rob Goldstein 2018 (all images are twitter screenshots and are presented here for educational purposes)

15 tip-offs that it’s Russian Propaganda

I posted this checklist as the close of,  ‘If you based your vote on Russian Facebook ads you were tricked‘ but decided to post it as an Info-graphic for
people to download and share.

This check-list comes from the Ukraine so the translation into English is a
little shaky. The point is Trump/Putin are pulling the same stunts in the
United States.

Screen shot of 15 points of Russian Propaganda from Euromaidan Press (EP)
15 points of Russian Propaganda from Euromaidan Press (EP)

The only way to stop Putin’s Cyber Attacks is to take his weapon away
from him. We can that, in part, by saying no to his racist appeals and
cynical distortions of the truth.

A russian facebook ad targeting immigrants
One of 470 sites set up by a Russian troll farm –Facebook ads from Russia

Russian information warfare is a psychological attack based on decades
of advanced Soviet Era research into human behavior. 

Peter Pomerantsev, the author of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia” says,Moscow’s propaganda works because it breaks down the distinctions between fact and fiction and provides emotionally satisfying narratives regardless of their truthfulness.”

Screenshot of a russian facebook ad blaiming immigrants for American poverty
Russia’s stories are more emotional and the stories are more exciting even if we know they’re not true.

“The Kremlin narrative,” says Pomerantsev, “is ‘there is no truth out there, and you’ll never find it; but go with us because our emotional content is more vital.”

That promotes cynicism and “cynicism breaks down critical thinking” because at its root is something quite medieval and emotional – a world of myths and storytelling.”

“When you don’t believe in facts,” Pomerantsev concludes, “you are just left with that.”

from Euromaidan Press (EP)

Russian Propaganda Works by confusing fact with fiction

Please download and share the graphic.

Thanks,

Rob Goldstein