Skilluminati Research

A Toast to Clare Petty

Posted Jan 01, 2013 5 comments

image

"It was not a clear cut case." Clare Edward Petty would emphasize that sentence repeatedly during his interviews with author David Martin; he wanted to establish his doubts for the written record. It was the bloody end of the 1970's and Martin was gathering material for his book, Wilderness of Mirrors, a critical assessment of James Jesus Angleton. Petty's legacy today is basically a single paragraph twist in Angleton's obituary, an ambiguous note too sweet for any author to resist recounting. Yet Petty's story took decades to unfold, and represents the life of a remarkable man who could easily be a patron saint for the parapolitical research caste.

So consider the career arc of Clare Petty, a compulsively thorough counterintelligence analyst held in great regard by Langley's leadership class. He was recruited by Angleton for a mission critical project: a fresh investigation into the entire Central Intelligence Agency, especially the Soviet desk, to locate KGB moles. He was groomed to be a front line vanguard against infiltration and deception.

Instead, he found himself indulging the literary imagination of his boss, at one point trying to crack a Canadian KGB spy ring that relied upon carrier pigeons. After destroying a few lives and wasting many thousands of pre-Nixon dollars, he concluded that no such plot existed. He would continue to harbor that same suspicion about many of the missions he executed at SIG. Petty would spend the last two years of his CIA employment covertly building a case to implicate Angleton himself as the primary KGB mole.

It should not go unremarked that Clare Petty made his case and resigned from the CIA in 1974, the same year that John Le Carre published Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a novel advancing the premise that British intelligence had been similarly compromised on the highest level for much of the cold war. If Petty has ever been asked about this fictional synchronicity, the results remain unpublished. Strange resonance aside, his report was instrumental in giving William Colby the leverage to get Angleton out of power and radically remake the Agency.

Speaking to David Martin several baffling years later, Petty claimed that his brief was based on 25 points of evidence and he spent a week being interviewed on tape about his research. (It could also be remarked that David Blee was in the room for much of this testimony. David should not be confused with his equally ubiquitous son, Richard Blee, who figures prominently in the history of the CIA's later relationship with Bin Laden.)

Despite Petty's doubts, all of his 25 points were discarded almost immediately as a rationale to end Mother's reign. James Angleton has been cleared, at least in terms of history and the CIA's public documentation, of being the most audaciously successful KGB agent known to man. Although Petty's actions are usually described today as a cautionary tale about paranoia, I consider him to be an inspirational character, an admirably pure product of his training.

"To this day, there are people who don't want to hear Ed Petty's name." - Mary Ellen Reese

5 comments

Filed in: Political Science

5GWTF: Calculation and Control

Posted Dec 15, 2012 4 comments

image

Politics is mostly marketing, and power is mostly pursued by those who would abuse it. After centuries of highly consistent behavior patterns among elected officials, there is little point in getting angry about politicians, lying. This is a basic matter of tradecraft and daily routine, part of the job description, no different than stage makeup or ghostwritten speeches.

So it makes sense for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to claim that the NYPD had stopped 14 terrorist attacks -- it’s just plain good copy, a reliable, strong finisher for an otherwise pointless press conference. It’s also not true. The specifics are mundane and matter very little, because the most remarkable part of the story was Bloomberg’s response when some reporters later questioned the veracity of his sales pitch. Faced with a fact-by-fact rundown, and the unspoken implication that he had been caught lying, he was not concerned in the least.

Bloomberg put it simply: “We’ll never know.”

That’s not a very satisfying answer, but it is a strikingly pure statement of where the American social contract is at in 2012. How can you evaluate the track record of a global ecosystem that consumes billions of dollars in almost total secrecy? Where are the solid data points in a history that’s mostly planted evidence, product placements and calculated lies?

”Security” is a benign and ubiqiutous word these days, elevated to a fundamental social good, taken to be synonymous with safety. Viewed operationally, though, the end goal of most security spending is insulating powerful decision makers from the consequences of their own actions. Total executive privilege is a matter of bipartisan consensus today, with each successive presidency further insulating their office from liability for their legacies. Given the real world track record of the past dozen administrations, this was a prescient move.

Bob Woodward is CIA

Double Binds: If it was not for the all-consuming professional paranoia of Richard Helms, researchers today would know very little about the domestic nightmares he oversaw. His zeal to lock down the coverup yielded a wealth of internal documentation. Then again, if Helms were alive today, he would want me to pause and consider: perhaps that was all part of the plan. John Marks was one of the first authors to tackle the MK material, and any sane reader would question if Marks himself were on the payroll. That's not paranoia, that's just how these things are done. It would all vanish into post-modern smoke, if not for the physical weight of survivor testimony.

Still, even the most thorough critiques of the Central Intelligence Agency are drawn almost entirely from CIA sources. If there is anything solid to take from studying the wilderness of mirrors, its that history is a cheap, plastic thing -- easily fabricated and even more easily replaced. Concerted smear campaigns become the foundation of encyclopedia articles decades later. Men like Patrice Lumumba were assassinated multiple times by multiple teams, having both their lives and their legacies terminated with extreme prejudice. Frank Olsen still jumped out a window as far as most historical sources are concerned. The fingerprints are easy to see. They turn up just about everywhere.

As Michael Bloomberg put it later in the same press conference: “They can study anything they want. I don’t know how you prove it one way or another.”

image

While the cold war was ostensibly waged in the name of the American citzen, the facts of the matter remain largely unknown to us today. This isn’t about us, though. It’s about them. It's about the extremely high demands that maintaining secrecy places on executive resources and time. It’s about the very real probability that the men and women working behind the firewall of compartmentalized power are every bit as deluded and fundamentally incorrect as the average American citizens they are charged with the management and protection of. This is about decision-making in a completely corrupted economy of information, and this is about inevitable mistakes.

As the tapes of cabinet level meetings in the LBJ White House were released, it turned out the bulk of their conversations were not about strategy or even combat objectives -- their primary concern was domestic politics and media coverage. Worse, the conversation itself was torturously circular, comprehensively pointless. The level of indecision in the transcripts is pathological.

image

Years before he found himself accepting the job of Secretary of Defense on the back lawn of the White House, a young Robert McNamara was evaluating the performance of Air Force bombing campaigns and tactical missions for a unit called the Office of Statistical Control. He was tasked with constructing and monitoring the feedback loop that would guide the final acts of the second world war, with bombardment followed closely by reconnaissance, and success evaluated in stark terms of square feet and total acreage of firebombed destruction.

The result of this increased efficiency was civilian casualties on a massive scale, something that McNamara was forthcoming about in his old age, stating “we burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo. Men, women and children." In 2003, he made the stunning decision to sit down in front of the Interrotron and talk to Errol Morris for hours on end about his entire career. The resulting film, “Fog of War,” is essential viewing for anyone with an interest in power and force. It’s also basically a horror movie.

It’s important to remember that as far as military history is concerned, no matter how badly McNamara miscalculated Vietnam, he was fundamentally correct about World War Two. His careful and thoughtful application of pure Operations Research to the chaos of an Air Force full theater war campaign resulted in huge gains in net efficiency. That translates into millions of innocent human beings, extinguished, whole lives ground into dust and blood. None of these casualties have names, either -- they only exist today as aggregate figures, mere statistics.

image

At the age of 85, McNamara was talkative and transparent but fervently denied any real culpability for his actions. In retrospect, the brilliant strategist protested, ”it is beyond the human mind to comprehend all the variables.” Encouraging words from a man who made his name running the show. Perhaps former Secretary Rumsfeld is sitting at a bar somewhere in DC right now, voicing similar laments about the fundamental unknowability of it all.

Perhaps McNamara was admitting more than he knew by claiming that mistakes and mass murder were simply part of the job description. It’s not the most inspiring statement a grown man could make, but there is at least something to it. As his chief critic David Halberstam noted in his introduction to The Best and the Brightest:

"The other thing I learned about the Kennedy-Johnson team was that for all their considerable reputations as brilliant, rational managers they were in fact very poor managers. They thought they were very good, and they were always talking about keeping their options open, even as, day by day and week by week, events closed off those options. The truth was that history -- and in Indochina we were on the wrong side of it -- was a hard taskmaster and from the early to middle sixties, when we were making those fateful decisions, we had almost no choices left."

A worthy statement for any tombstone: "We had almost no choices left." That line of thought never ends well -- in fact, it generally never ends at all.

Computational Intractability & Infinite Regression

image

"I learned at JSOC that any complex task is best approached by flattening hierarchies." - Stanley McChrystal

From RAND to PNAC to Obamacare, the Operations Research mentality lends itself to predictable problems. First and foremost is the institutional bias whereby anything that gets measured is presumed to be important. Close behind is the academic hubris whereby any subsequent “improvement” in the measurements get attributed to the sage decisions of the Operations Research department. Between that single closed loop exists far, far too much of recent US policy & history.

Real world problems are seldom a cause for concern in this vacuum, and are all too often attributed to implementation errors further down the chain of command. While that’s usually just a convenient excuse, it’s worth noting that it’s also sometimes true. Still, this is the filter bubble that degrades a goal-oriented organization into another self-perpetuating mere bureaucracy. Classically known as Anacyclosis, more recently known as the Iron Law of Oligarchy, this institutional entropy has been diagnosed by many over the centuries but it has yet to be effectively dealt with.

Robert McNamara had no idea, either. Faced with the gordian knot of bureaucratic turf warfare, forced to question the quality of the intelligence he was relying upon, McNamara made the first of many Horrible Decisions in 1961, when he created the Defense Intelligence Agency, yet another central agency for intelligence. It was a maneuver he'd learned from more adventurous colleagues at General Motors: you deal with institutional inertia by installing a parallel power structure and making decisive cultural changes. Bold men of action making cold, rational decisions...delusions that never fail to inspire. It's worth noting that this approach also failed for General Motors, but McNamara had moved on before that could become obvious to both Detroit and Wall Street.

The failures of Robert McNamara are probably not an indictment of Robert McNamara, however. He has distinguished company, a pantheon of "whiz kids" and "management gurus" and "warrior scholars" who have undertaken audacious structural reforms to huge media fanfare and failed more or less completely. It raises a question: why do we keep building institutions that are too complex for human beings to manage?

image

People love to talk about Leadership, to analyze the mostly fictional hagiographies of Great Men, to rhapsodize about Courage, Conviction and Compassion, yet despite all this joyful noise, in the realm of institutions and power the only operational principle in effect is Cover Your Ass At All Costs. The Boy Scouts of America spent decades covering up sexual abuse and child rape in their ranks, not because they have an agenda to enable pedophiles, but because they were desperate to protect their brand, their reputation. Thus does simple cowardice metastasize into actual evil.

Like most any books in the Business section, the Arbinger Institute's Leadership and Self-Deception is a "teaching story" that drives home less than 5 actual concepts at a less than 8th grade reading level. The real crime here, however, is the wasted title, because history has a lot to teach about the self-deception that passes for leadership. Not enough, clearly, because our current civic dilemmas are little different than what Athenians and Spartans grappled with. Norman Dixon, a historian of vast patience and wry humor, does great justice to the title of his 1976 book, On the Psychology of Military Incompetence. Dixon speaks volumes on the inherent, structural origin of executive delusions, and slyly acknowledges that managing an army of officers means accepting a certain amount of incompetence in exchange for the obedience it ensures. Soldiers can’t all be Pattons of Destiny; most of them simply need to follow orders efficiently.

Citizens are no different. It's important to remember that much of the secrecy behind what the National Security state does is intended to hide their activities from the American public, not some competing intelligence agencies or rival governments. That is an action movie fairy tale, and in the real world our military industrial power base is infiltrated by dozens of competing conspiracies with conflicting goals. Recent embarrassments like the damage Ahmed Chalabi was able to inflict with a small, well-connected team are proof that documentable 5GW success stories exist IRL. Consider the FBI's ongoing losing battle with Israeli, Saudi and Chinese espionage rings, consider the CIA's transition from covert HUMINT to death squads with embedded journalists, consider the NSA going open source to cope with the fact they've been drowning in the sheer volume of their Full Spectrum success, and consider the Obama State Department and their ongoing orgy of total blowback failure that's still being called the Arab Spring because branding has to be simple in order to stick.

image

"There was a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak." - Alan Greenspan

Faced with this whole horrible landscape of executive failure, I hope that I have left you in a more optimistic and empowered place. After all, the worst you can do is fail and failure is, historically at least, definitely the status quo outcome for any and all human endeavor. Your leaders are every bit as ignorant and confused as you or me, and I would suggest that's a good thing, at least in terms of your next ten years on this planet. Global problems that appear to be computationally intractable to the Bilderberg set might turn out to have remarkably simple solutions.

The tools of the trade are out in the open. Even the un-classified manuals are excellent reading. Build your own data, run your own numbers, share what you see.

4 comments

Filed in: 5GW Project

5GWTF: The Post-Everything Future of War

Posted Jul 22, 2012 5 comments

image

On the auspicious date of August 17th, 2011, Barack Obama was looking ahead. Faced with the recent actions of Anders Brievik and contemplating the immanent 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, he stated: “The biggest concern we have right now is not the launching of a major terror operation, although that risk is always there. The risk we are especially worried about right now is the lone wolf terrorist. Somebody with a single weapon being able to carry out wide scale massacres of the sort we saw in Norway.” The fact he was in a television studio speaking those lines to a man named Wolf Blitzer is just one of those coincidences that permeate our associative universe.

image

"Fifth Generation Warfare" is not catchy. Consumers need something relatable, something visual and visceral. That's why “5GW” has devolved from the critical theory of the warrior class into the crude shock and awe of "Lone Wolf" domestic terrorism. The dumbing down process is irreversible and immune to reason, so this isn’t written as a defense of the concept so much as a post-mortem for the field.

There have been a number of noble but aborted attempts in recent years to establish a center of gravity for this subject, the slickest and most recent being the 5GW Educational Institute, who have been pretty quiet since their initial PR campaign in 2010. They are patterned after the earnest template of the Project for a New American Century, an academic noise machine raising awareness about future threats to national security. Witness "Fifth Generation Warfare: A Growing Concept" by consultant Stephen "Awkward Titles" Bucci. It's mostly the kind of boilerplate copy that any IO intern could hand you before breakfast, but here's where things get downright quotable:

"...the United States is at a moment of transitioning from traditional and separated disciplines in the national security space to the world of highly integrated, multifaceted and sophisticated 5GW. Our enemies have figured this out already. They are agile, innovative and will try whatever works. We tend to still have an industrial-age methodology. We preach agility, net-centric operations and a legion of other buzz words, but then return to our comfortable traditional corners."

image

I think that "our enemies" are being given far too much credit, as usual. Besides, in the generational warfare model, "agile and innovative" is a 4GW fundamental already. Operationally, it's a euphemism for banal atrocities like "hiding behind Islamic clerics and charities to facilitate IED training networks" or "using drug money to finance the murder of political opponents and honest law enforcement" or "funding arms purchases by forcing women into prostitution." That's just run of mill, Carlos the Jackal, everyday terrorism, dumbass simple and lower case t. Sure, they have special ops training thanks to SOA legacy programs and they build their own parallel IT networks for secure communication, but so did the IRA. Ideally, words and concepts communicate a precise, repeatable meaning. 5GW is more subtle and sophisticated than 4GW, a perpetually embedded insider threat, and Zetas using GPS phone apps to kill a target in Texas doesn't qualify. That's organized crime and it's older than English.

In the real world of informed adults, nobody is touching the United States of America in terms of force projection. However, Full Spectrum Dominance is the most capital intensive activity on Earth and requires continuously escalated funding. So with “Cyberwar” getting a bored response from the body politic, we've got some product testing underway in 2012 and the “Lone Wolf” angle is a promising pitch.

Which is not to say the concept is something new: it predates Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray, tracing back to a mostly forgotten man named Andrew Kehoe. He was a Michigan native and local school board treasurer, a perfectly unremarkable man who killed 44 people on the morning of May 18th, 1927.

image

There is seldom much value in the details of crimes like these, but what Andrew Kehoe did deserves scrutiny just the same. Like many spree killing incidents, it began with a domestic homicide when Kehoe woke up, killed his wife, and set fire to every building on his failing farm. This was not a psychotic break, but the beginning of a meticulous plan that hinged upon predicting the response of authorities and maximizing damage and fear. When the fire department and police responded to the housefires, Kehoe was detonating over six hundred pounds of explosives somewhere else. He had spent months slowly wiring inside the walls of nearly every room in the Bath Township elementary school, which was just starting their first classes of the day.

Fortunately, Kehoe was not an meticulous enough and the majority of the charges never went off. Despite that, the explosion killed dozens of children and teachers. In the aftermath, Kehoe drove his truck back to the scene and detonated the entire vehicle, which he had built into a massive shrapnel bomb. The next day, investigators pulling unused explosives and dead animals from the wreckage of Kehoe’s farm found a stenciled message on the perimeter fence: “CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN.” All this ten years prior to television sets becoming commercially available in the United States.

After the fires of Andrew Kehoe were finally out, the town of Bath demanded a grand jury inquisition to determine who was at fault. They concluded that “Kehoe conducted himself sanely and so concealed his operations that there was no cause to suspect any of his actions.”

image

The man in the cage is Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated president William McKinley in 1901. He was a self-proclaimed Anarchist, as they often are. It was already the third time that America’s elected leader had been killed with a firearm, and Czolgosz himself was merely a copycat, imitating the world famous crime of Gaetano Bresci. In 1898, New Jersey activist Bresci vowed to kill the king of Italy in retaliation for the Bava-Beccaris Massacre, an Italian strike turned shooting gallery which killed over 100 civlians, mostly activists and union organizers.

Two years later, he looked directly into the mighty moustache of Umberto I and shot him 5 times in the chest, standing in the middle of a beautiful summer day in the Italian city of Monza. One year later, William McKinley was murdered in the Temple of Music by man he never knew. Leon Czolgosz was just another face in the crowd.

Nobody saw him coming. As usual.

image

As ad copy for enhanced security goes, the "Lone Wolf" argument is compelling and concise. “There’s no way you can prevent it. There’s absolutely no way. It was random. It happened. There was nothing that could have prevented that unless someone saw him loading his car with guns.” That's Peter Ahearn, retired FBI agent (and more), diagnosing the recent incident in Aurora.

Of course, "there's absolutely no way" is not an answer consumers want to hear. That void will be filled, in strange but predictable ways. Civil society is a very thin veneer, and although Bruce Schneier is factually right about the "Security Theater" of DHS checkpoint theory, those systems aren't exactly there because they work or something. It's what the consumers wanted. Impulse purchases can usually be returned, but impulse legislation is far harder to deal with.

image

"Lone Wolf" is something pundits can really tear into. It's already been through the online content cycle long enough to get critiqued by Stratfor: "Cutting Through the Lone Wolf Hype" takes two approaches, dismissing the perpetrators as "stray mutts" and insisting that truly dangerous individual operators are quite rare, in terms of the larger domesticated population. Both points are mostly true.

Throughout the strange history of single perpetrator mass killings, one pattern that emerges is how often their simple mistakes can save lives at every turn. Nearly a century after the incident at Bath School, potential Lone Wolf types have a new asset: a media driven learning environment. Monsters or not, these murderers are celebrities now and their actions are analyzed in careful infographic detail.

As Peter Drucker teaches: ”What gets measured gets done.”

image

If an angry young man with an AR-15 and a tactical vest qualifies as a “Super-Empowered Individual,” then the phrase means nothing at all. Mass shootings are horrifying precisely because they are so easy, basically only requiring a functional credit card and an empty soul. The perpetrators themselves are bland emotional cripples, yet their poodle complaints are elevated to the status of breaking news.

The Terrorism Research Initiative did a recent essay on “Preventing Lone Wolf Terrorism” and part of their conclusion is worth quoting here:

”...exactly because lone wolves – although operating alone – draw inspiration from other extremists or ideologues, disseminating counter narratives ought to be an important element of an effective CT strategy. A crucial ingredient of counter narratives is the de-legitimisation of perpetrators and their acts and the falsification of their ideologies...it is important to refrain from handing them the public theatre they strive for. ”

image

Park Dietz: “We’ve had twenty years of mass murders throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media: If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can to not make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. Do localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.”

image

What makes 5GW interesting isn’t the democratization of violence and spectacle, because again, that’s just basic terrorism. There’s not much to analyze in terms of a gas-powered automatic weapon in a crowded room full of unarmed people. 5GW is not about the ability of individual actors to kill civilians or even hit hardened targets, it’s about the ability of individual actors to challenge institutions and nations.

The growing asymmetry of power that converging technologies provide is what distinguishes the open horizons of 5GW from the closed abbatoir loops of 4GW. When Liang & Xiangsui wrote about “Unrestricted Warfare,” they didn’t have a bunch of Woo Bum-Kon impersonators in mind, they were outlining a method of leveraging systems and processes against themselves, a means of enacting sabotage invisibly and continuously.

image

What about the real deal SEIs? They're mostly the subject of internet conspiracy theories, appropriately enough. George Soros, John Rockefeller, Jr. and the Brothers Koch are all boogeymen to someone, but the bigger picture is a global ecosystem of billionaire operatives pursuing both overlapping and contradictory goals. There are thousands and thousands of them. Most of them are completely gone on some terminal ego trip and barely in touch with the world they want to remake in their image.

Focusing on individual perpetrators can only become overwhelming, so take some advice from Barbara Bush and don't trouble your beautiful mind about The 1%. Instead, take the John Nash approach -- the real John Nash, pathologically obsessed with game theory and iterations of the Prisoner's Dilemma. This "Lone Wolf" stuff might be watered down, but it's still bitter and strong. There are no deliverable solutions and no technological fixes.

That bleak conclusion is exactly where 5GW should logically begin.

5 comments

Filed in: 5GW Project

Neal Koblitz: “Mathematics as Propaganda”

Posted Apr 27, 2012

This is an excerpt from Volume III of Mathematics: People, Problems, Results that had to be shared.

image

One night several years ago while watching TV, I was surprised to see a mathematical equation make an appearance on the "Tonight Show." The occasion was an interview with Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb and popularizer of population control as a solution to the world's problems. At that time the ecology movement had just started to capture the attention of the public, and Mr. Ehrlich was arguing that the solution, as always, was in population control.

Johnny Carson was in top form, but the show could have bogged down if his guest had delved into subtleties or overly serious discussion. However, Ehrlich had the perfect solution. He took a piece of posterboard and wrote in large letters for the TV audience:

D = N * I

"In this equation," he explained, "D stands for damage to the environment, N stands for the number of people, and I stands for the impact of each person on the environment. This equation shows that the more people, the more pollution. We cannot control pollution without controlling the number of people."

Johnny Carson looked at the equation, scratched his head, made a remark about never having been good at math, and commented that it all looked quite impressive.

Who can argue with an equation? An equation is always exact, indisputable. Challenging someone who can support his claims with an equation is as pointless as arguing with your high school math teacher. How many of Johnny Carson's viewers had the sophistication necessary to question Ehrlich's equation? Is Ehrlich saying that the "I" for the president of Hooker Chemicals is the same as the "I" for you and me? Preposterous, isn't it? But what if the viewer is too intimidated by a mathematical equation to apply some common sense? Ehrlich knew how to use his time on the show well.

Political Theory

Of course, it will surprise no one to find low standards of intellectual honesty on the "Tonight Show."

Samuel Huntington | Skilluminati Research

But we find a less trivial example if we enter the hallowed halls of Harvard University, where Professor Samuel Huntington lectures on the problems of developing countries. His definitive book on the subject is Political Order in Changing Societies (1968), in which he suggests various relationships between certain political and sociological concepts: (a) "social mobilization," (b) "economic development," (c) "social frustration," (d) "mobility opportunities," (e) "political participation," (f) "political institutionalization," (g) "political instability." He expresses these relationships in a series of equations (p. 55):

social mobilization / economic development = social frustration (a / b = c);

social frustration / mobility opportunities = political participation (c / d = e);

political participation / political institutionalization = political instability (e / f = g).

When he is called upon to summarize his book (e.g., in Theories of Social Change, Daniel Bell, ed.), he emphasizes these equations.

Huntington never bothers to inform the reader in what sense these are equations. It is doubtful that any of the terms (a) - (g) can be measured and assigned a single numerical value. What are the units of measurement? Will Huntington allow us to operate with these equations using the well-known techniques of ninth grad algebra? If so, we could infer, for instance, that

a = b * c = b * d * e = b * d * f * g

i.e., that "social mobilization is equal to economic development times mobility opportunities times political institutionalization times political instability!"

A woman I know was assigned an article by Huntington for her graduate seminar on historial methodology. The article summarized his work on modernization and cited these equations. When she criticized the use of the equations, pointing out the absurdities that follow if one takes them seriously, both the professors and the other graduate students demurred. For one, they had some difficulty following her application of ninth grade algebra. Moreover, they were not used to questioning an eminent authority figure who could argue using equations.

Huntington's use of equations produced effects - mystification, intimidation, an impression of precision and profundity - which were similar to those produced by Paul Ehrlich's use of an equation on the "Tonight Show." But Huntington operates on a more serious level. He is no mere talk-show social scientist. When he is not teaching at Harvard, he is likely to be advising the National Security Council or writing reports for the Trilateral Commission or the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ehrlich's Magic Bullet

For further reading: running notes on The Paradigm Crisis

Filed in: Social Control

Notes on the #Occupy Media Teams

Posted Nov 12, 2011 9 comments

image

So far, Occupy has thrived as a prototype rather than a program: an open-source laboratory for activism. What follows is a collection of research notes on how #Occupy collectives have evolved media teams, with a special focus on the original group in Zuccotti Park, NYC. Apologies to the authors pilfered here, but no repentance...after all, this is for Science.

image

Columbia Journalism Review: I sat down with Brian Phillips, a former Marine, who quit his job in Washington and hitchhiked to Manhattan to participate. He was wearing a press pass, saying he was a field journalist for a company out of Washington state called Cast Media. He described himself as the communications director and head of security within the media team, and said security is there to keep watch on the stacks of donated computers and other equipment that’s sitting out in the open October air.

The media team supplies content to post on Occupywallst.org, which Phillips describes as their "frontline for media." This site contains videos, pictures, and short posts, but remains unofficial, as all things here do, to retain its horizontal hierarchy.

Next stop, the internet table, where Drew Hornbein is sitting in front of a sign-up sheet for volunteers. He explains that the internet group is like the media team and press team, a semi-autonomous section of the General Assembly, and their objective "is not the conversation itself, but facilitating it." Horbein says his team runs the New York City general assembly (NYCGA) webpage.

The big project they are working on now is getting Internet to the park as a whole, which Hornbein says will help, "eliminate the information hierarchy." He explains that right now, the media area has the computers and the connection, but because "they have a job to do," it is cut off from everyone else. "We’re trying to create this model society but at the same time we’re recreating some of the bad things," he says. "Our big concern is to get Internet to the rest of the park."

The Internet table is in its first day, but Hornbein has been working as part of this committee since July, when the call to Occupy Wall Street first went out from AdBusters. He says he used to work as a freelance graphic designer, but quit as soon as he heard about this protest, "I was working on this dinky little e-commerce site that gets 500 hits a day," he said. "Now I am working on a site that is getting 50,000 to 100,000."

Occupy Wall Street | Bring Tent

History News Network: How did the press tables get started/organized?

Mark Bray: Although there was a press working group before I really got involved, it was only shortly after I got involved in the press group that having a specific site started. At first we made a sign to have by a table, but now with the re-organization of the park we have a table next to the legal, info, and outreach tables. At first press didn’t know we existed, but now we are a regular fixture for them and when someone isn’t at the table for a moment they really freak out. They have become so reliant on us that they often don’t put in any effort themselves to walk around and speak with people but instead ask us for two nurses and a teacher or whatever they want.

Colin Laws Occupy Media Team

Turnstyle: In midst of the frenzy at Zuccotti Park, under a giant pink umbrella, a small group of Occupy Wall Street protesters hover over laptops surrounded by mounds of equipment covered in blue tarps. A beaten up cardboard sign rests at their feet, the word “media” written in Magic Marker. This is the Occupy Wall Street media headquarters.

Colin Laws is a 19-year-old here from Connecticut who came to OWS to help the media team. “We got people that monitor social media such as Twitter and Facebook, people that monitor the news, people that Livestream,” he said. “That’s a huge thing, actually, because that’s how get a lot of our news out to our followers.”

A week ago, Laws was one of those Livestream followers, watching the streaming video of Zucotti park over the internet. And then after weeks of just watching the Global Revolution Livestream channel, he sold his TV and all of his video games and bought a bus ticket to New York.

Zuccotti Park Media Center

The Observer: Barbara Ross, the eloquent and crunchy-pretty spokeswoman for the environmental organization Time’s Up!, told The Observer that the profusion of citizen journalists among the protesters was a mixed blessing. They provided a lot of raw photo and video, which allowed her to be stationary and keep an eye on the equipment. Even in the calm before and after the arrests, security is dicey.

She had to remove one attendee she believed was covering the protest, she said, when she saw him zooming and focusing his lens on the screen of a team member’s laptop as they entered a password.

Occupy Wall Street’s media output is critical to keeping the demonstration inclusive, accessible, and democratic, but the content of the demonstration is a secondary concern for the live stream, according to Ms. Ross. (How many will tune in for another hour of drum circles and acoustic ballads?) The documentation doesn’t really become important until things go wrong.

Vlad Teichberg, a 38-year-old Russian émigré and self-described “media activist,” staged similar media operations at the Republican National Convention and G8 Summit. With Ms. Ross, he helped document the monthly cyclist demonstration Critical Mass. Video footage of the Friday night group rides was crucial in 2008, when it served as proof that the cyclist Christopher Long, who had been charged with assault, was in fact a victim of police brutality. NYPD later paid a $965,000 settlement to cyclists who were wrongly arrested.

With a viral video and a shamed cop, the obscure social event for environmentalists and DIY kids became front page local news. Now, it’s a launch pad for bigger targets.

“We’ve been using the monthly Critical Mass rides to train media warriors,” Mr. Teichberg said.

#OWS Media Team Zuccotti Park

Andrew Katz: At two o’clock in the morning on Thursday, Nov. 3, two members of the Occupy Wall Street media team, Justin Wedes and a woman named Victoria, who declines to give her last name, decide it is time to head to what Wedes calls the team’s “super-secret lair.” They hail a taxi. Wedes hands the cabbie a small paper with the address.

So few people, both in and outside the movement, appear to know about the off-site media operations center that when journalists are granted access, they are blindfolded with a maroon scarf and told the precise location is off the record.

Ten minutes later, the cab stops outside a rundown building in NoHo. Up the stairs and down a hallway, three men and a woman, all in their late twenties and thirties, are fixated on the monitors in front of them. They’re using, at turns, a third-party Twitter application or running a live feed from Oakland, Calif., that’s streaming a late-night clash between police and protestors.

The office serves as headquarters for globalrevolution.tv, a live video feed hosted on Livestream that’s become a go-to source for national Occupy Wall Street footage. It is a crowded space that looks as if it were thrown together by a bunch of college kids. There are a few desks littered with wires and food containers. Shelving units hold enough laptops and tech equipment to approximate a small newsroom. The room is long and narrow with paint-cracked walls and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the street.

Occupy Wall Street Media Team Justin Wedes

Brooklyn Ink AK: Describe your typical day, from dawn to dusk, with Occupy Wall Street.

Justin Wedes: Well, there’s no typical day. But I think if I had to summarize or kind of approximate what a typical day would be, I would say that around 9 a.m., my alarm goes off. I have some tea. I tweet a little bit. I check my email. I try to eat something. Then I usually meet up with the media team, either here on-site or at our off-site location; check in with people with the Livestream, with social media; check in with the PR team to see if they’ve got any press releases or things that they want me to help push online; and then come through the park; have lunch in the park and talk with people; interview people on Twitter—on the new occupier hashtag so that they get introduced to other occupiers online—and then usually in the afternoon we have working group meetings. For example, the media team will meet, or the Arts & Culture committee, or the Community Relations committee.

Later on, we’ll have General Assembly in the evening at seven and I try to tweet those, too, or at least help coordinate who’s live-tweeting each General Assembly so that people can stay informed. Also helping the media team and tech people put up new forms of interactive technology for the General Assembly, like projection screens and online polling and text responses and all of these things we’re trying to build to make it more interactive. And then in the evening if I’m lucky, I’ll get a chance to relax a little bit with folks here at camp, or maybe go meet up with some folks, or speak at a forum or a workshop in other places to do outreach, like at local colleges or local events and just kind of get the word out about what we’re doing. And then usually in the late-night, I’m back here at Zuccotti and doing like late-night media round-up: looking at the news of the day, doing question-answer sessions on the Livestream—people like to do that—and yeah, one or two or three in the morning, or maybe I just stay the whole night, I usually head back to Brooklyn and try to get some sleep.

Justin Wedes Getting Arrested

AK: How do you build engagement and which platform is producing the best result?

JW: You get engagement in a couple ways. One, by telling compelling stories and narratives. So, like the little short jokes that kind of reveal a small truth about the occupation, or about politics in our country, or about the state of our democracy, or whatever. People tend to retweet those and really dialogue with you on these.

We’ve had some really fun kind of dialogues going, like, for example: Michael Bloomberg won’t tweet about us, but he said multiple times in public that he’s having trouble finding people to negotiate with and talk with. And it’s so ironic because if he just tweeted at us, he’d probably get a lot of engagement. But he refuses to, and so we tweeted that because he refuses to acknowledge us on Twitter, we’re going to start negotiating with @ElBloombito, who is the Spanish parody of Michael Bloomberg. And we’ve had some interesting back-and-forth there.

I think the other point of engagement is when people really feel that rights are being violated. So when like police crack down on encampments—peaceful protestors—that becomes a flash point and a big issue and generates a lot of social media buzz, but also concrete action. People will call mayors’ offices, will call police departments, they’ll call the Real Estate Board of New York when they learn the Real Estate Board of New York is going to put pressure on the city to close privately owned public parks like this one from one to five in the morning because they see that as a direct attack on the openness of these spaces. Twitter has been instrumental. Early on, it was our best tool. Now, in combination with the Livestream and combination with traditional media, blogging, Tumblr, Facebook, it’s a very powerful tool that we have.

image

National Review: Even as Zuccotti Park has become a sea of troubles, it has been regarded as unsporting to bring up its obnoxious elements, as if to report on the dark side is to tar all associates unfairly with the same brush. But the unpleasant are demonstrably in attendance, and are no longer necessarily in the minority. I asked a “press representative,” named Justin, how many of those in the park he considered to be genuinely part of his movement, and was surprised to hear him say “less than 50 percent.”

Occupy Wall Street

Mother Jones: In San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza on Monday afternoon, a group of young, ragtag tech wizards sat among a tangle of electrical cords and surge protectors. This was the Occupy SF Media Team, which has been live-streaming video from the downtown location as much as possible in recent days. It has its own website and Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 in the coming week. While other protesters wandered around barefoot or strummed acoustic guitars waiting for the next general assembly meeting, the media team provides videos of the event and edited a radio story about Sunday night's police raid for the Berkeley station KPFA.

They work with everyone at the protest, but they aren't always in sync with other participants. At a Monday afternoon meeting of the general assembly, members of the media team were shooed away when they brought their recording equipment. "They booted me out of committee when they saw the microphone," said Kyle Lesley, 30, an audio engineer. "They said, 'We didn't vote on that.'"

Some members of the media team express qualms about the amorphous nature of the protest. "Roles are necessary because they create the movement, they are the movement," said Kames Geraghty, 20, a web developer. "Active participation is important. Talking alone is not participation." Beside him, a white Apple laptop boasted a message in black permanent marker, à la Woodie Guthrie: "This machine kills fascists."

Occupy Boston Media Tent

Inside the Occupy Boston Media Struggle: Without much infrastructure in place — its primary Web site, occupyboston.org, was still in early stages of development — the media team found itself the focus of national attention. Swooping in to help, veteran Web activists from groups like the Independent Media Center and Global Revolution, both of which had already helped power Occupy Wall Street's message, also put Boston on full blast.

Despite the viral myth that there was a media "blackout" at the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, there were in fact hundreds of stories posted during the first days that protesters took Zuccotti Park — including sympathetic coverage from such mainstream outlets as the Guardian and ABC. So by the time that Occupy hit Boston two weeks later, local, national, and even international media were poised to swarm like paparazzi.

Occupy Wall Street's media ops have come under scrutiny, with a widely syndicated Associated Press story from last week noting a "chaotic and complicated relationship with [outside] media." In their turn, Occupy Boston has tried to learn from New York's PR wins and errors. Gunner Scott, a seasoned activist and executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, has handled the bulk of the press releases. Recently, multiple Twitter jockeys were finally given access to all house accounts, so that they can crowd-source coverage and amplify concurrent happenings.

In the coming weeks, the media team plans to conduct internal demographic surveys in order to help outside outlets get their facts straight. Mazen also says they'll concentrate on disseminating more videos. All this while press inquiries haven't slowed down — they still get dozens of calls every day, and spend time correcting lazy journalists and deflecting slanderous conservative trolls.

...they are aware of their shortcomings, the most significant of which is a glaring digital divide among occupiers. Despite the Limbaugh line that they all pack iPhones, most Dewey Square campers lack Web access. Technological inequities have even caused breakdowns; just last week the media tent was occupied by members of the direct-action committee, who demanded more access to electricity.

"For a long time, we were saying that there weren't enough people of color, or enough LGBTQ people," says Mazen. "But overall we're also working with people who barely text, let alone vote on a Wiki. If we really want to represent the 99 percent, we have to think about how we can disseminate through low-tech means. It's like a lot of other things: we're working on it, but we just haven't gotten there yet."

9 comments

Filed in: Political Science

 1 2 3 >  Last »

Skilluminati Innovation Patterns