That is a serious question. Let me start by asking readers to think about whether, number one, government-corporate propaganda operatives may be in fact acting as "sock puppets" (more about that below) in order to disrupt discussion about important issues (that may challenge their narrative), and number two, if it s possible, how do we go about spotting them and neutralizing them?
I have some ideas which I will share below, but in the meantime, let me address the "sock puppet" reference. On May 18th, 2012, BuzzFeed published the following article by the late Michael Hastings: "Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban." The article is truly an eye-opener and I encourage people to read it. Here's the reference to the "sock puppet" concept:
The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.The emphasis is mine
In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.
Also, it is well-known that Daily Kos has attracted the attention of the Department of Homeland Security, especially during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, as he reported in a RollingStones article on February 28th, 2012: "Exclusive: Homeland Security Kept Tabs on Occupy Wall Street."
But the DHS also appears to have scoured OWS-related Twitter feeds for much of their information. The report includes a special feature on what it calls Occupy's "social media and IT usage," and provides an interactive map of protests and gatherings nationwide – borrowed, improbably enough, from the lefty blog Daily Kos. "Social media and the organic emergence of online communities," the report notes, "have driven the rapid expansion of the OWS movement."In that article, Hastings goes on to mention COINTELPRO, and so I'm adding the Wikipedia description below to add additional context:
COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.
The FBI has used covert operations against domestic political groups since its inception; however, covert operations under the official COINTELPRO label took place between 1956 and 1971. COINTELPRO tactics have been alleged to include discrediting targets through psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups using forged documents and by planting false reports in the media; harassment; wrongful imprisonment; and illegal violence, including assassination. The FBI's stated motivation was "protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order."
The emphasis is mine
It's interesting that those illegal (criminal) activities by COINTELPRO were justified as necessary to protect national security, given that in the DHS leaked report, the government makes the same argument justifying the surveillance (and crackdown) of the Occupy Movement:
"The growing support for the OWS movement has expanded the protests’ impact and increased the potential for violence. While the peaceful nature of the protests has served so far to mitigate their impact, larger numbers and support from groups such as Anonymous substantially increase the risk for potential incidents and enhance the potential security risk to critical infrastructure (CI). The continued expansion of these protests also places an increasingly heavy burden on law enforcement and movement organizers to control protesters. As the primary target of the demonstrations, financial services stands the sector most impacted by the OWS protests. Due to the location of the protests in major metropolitan areas, heightened and continuous situational awareness for security personnel across all CI sectors is encouraged."The emphasis is mine
So there is a well-documented history of government partnering with private corporations to not only spread propaganda and misinformation, but to suppress constitutionally-protected rights, such as the right of freedom of assembly, and of course, the Fourth Amendment right, among many others.
I've been blogging for years now, in many different environments. In the late 1990's early 2000's I used to hang out at the old Wall Street Journal forum, but I've participated in many different blogs... Here's my take about what's going on, hoping to get some feedback/input from readers:
Because of the effectiveness of the type of propaganda that permeates our entire society, there are certain narratives, memes, that are internalized by a very large number people. Those narratives manipulate people into conforming, into not questioning authority, into accepting the worldview of the ruling class.
My contention is that if people argue from a perspective that has been inculcated into them through propaganda, then they're kind of indirect "sock puppets," or perhaps, second layer? They don't know what they're doing, and therefore are not culpable, or malicious.
However, there are those who do know full well what they're doing. Their main motivation is to disrupt, confuse, and derail any discussion on themes that question the ruling class narrative or worldview.
In that category, there could be opportunists, profiteers, or people who greatly benefit from maintaining the status quo.
Finally, I think there is enough evidence to conclude that that are indeed agents tasked with creating havoc and confusion in discussion threads related to articles or blogs that could be seen as threatening to the (corrupt) power structure.
If this is true, then they are hampering the ability of people to freely exchange ideas about important issues in a respectful and civil manner, and thus decreasing the value of blogs dedicated to this type of discussion.
My question to readers is: Is there a way to accurately identify those who's sole purpose is to derail discussions in order to mute the potential impact of the content of those discussions? And if so, if there a way to neutralize their effect?
I'm going to attempt some things in my diaries and see if they work... I asked for suggestions, and I got some.
From now on when I write a diary, if I notice that there is reply that immediately uses the tactic of character assassination, I will ignore those replies, and I will politely ask those interested in robust and intelligent debate to do the same.
I don't mind people taking me on head, on anything I write; that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about people who engage in personal insults or (first person) demeaning language right off the bat.
And so from now on, I'll add a little P.S. at the end of my diaries asking people to try to follow this approach, and then see if there is an improvement in the discussion threads.
If others have different ideas or suggestions about how to improve the level of discussions overall, it would be great to learn about them.
UPDATE: MON AUG 12, 2013 AT 11:25 AM PDT - I'd like to thank surfbird007 for calling attention to a great resource about this topic: The 15 Rules of Web Disruption. In that site, I also saw three additional resources I'll be researching: David Martin’s Thirteen Rules for Truth Suppression, H. Michael Sweeney’s 25 Rules of Disinformation, and Brandon Smith’s Disinformation: How It Works.
UPDATE: MON AUG 12, 2013 AT 8:39 PM PDT - Thanks to hairylarry for providing a link to this article: "LEAKED: Intelligence Agencies Running Mass Number of Propaganda Accounts on Social Media"
In their recently piece entitled “The Real War on Reality,” detail information uncovered from hacked data regarding the military operation to stage ‘grassroots’ responses and organizations in order to deceive the masses.