politics

Progressives and SJW-critics alike should be aware of Russian efforts to amplify extreme voices on the left.

As a starting point – check out the Wikipedia page for Foundations of Geopolitics .

The book is used in many Russian institutions and proposes various Russian geopolitical strategies.

Relating to the United States, there is this paragraph:

Russia should use its special services within the borders of the United States to fuel instability and separatism, for instance, provoke “Afro-American racists”. Russia should “introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics.”[1]

It is generally accepted by the media and political establishments that Russia did indeed play a role in the 2016 US Election – with reports of paid trolls and bots.

For a progressive then – it is easy to dismiss or be wary online that some pro-Trump twitter person may infact be a bot or paid troll.

And pro-Trump talking points is part of the strategy – normalising an opinion by making it seem like many others hold it.

But the other side of the coin – that I think many progressives have a blindspot to – is the liberal agitation from Russia.

Reports are coming out that Russia paid for ads supporting Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders as well as Donald Trump. There are reports that Russia paid for geographically targeted ads supporting Black Lives Matter. There’s also the now suspended @bostonantifa Twitter account that recently posted a tweet geotagged in Russia, whatever that means:

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This image shouldn’t be taken seriously. This Buzzfeed article has a pretty good summary. 

This highlights the need for two things:

  • Progressives need to apply critical reasoning to all political actions, and not blindly go along with, or tolerate any political activity just because it’s anti-Trump. For example, in the wake of Charlottesville there was a wave of doxxing coordinated by the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist,    that did end up doxxing someone innocent. 
  • There’s a brand of ideology I’ll call SJW-critical Trump apologism. While not explicitly #MAGA Trump supporters – these people tend to be critical of progressives (and often with well founded criticisms), but also turning a blind eye to Trumpism, or selectively applying different standards of proof or reasoning as needed.
    This ideology often points at anti-free speech or fascist tendencies among the left, with the unsaid

Now to be clear – this isn’t to say that every example of extreme behaviour on the left is the work of Russian agents. I don’t think that Zara Joshi of Hugh Mungus fame is a Russian agent, nor do I think the 2016 Dallas cop shooter  was. Similarly – I don’t think all the people who marched in Charlottesville were Russian agents.

But – we should all be aware that while some people genuinely do hold extreme views – often the prevalence of those views are being amplified by the internet, to make them seem like they are more prevalent than they really are. (I think too the media plays a role – as controversy sells while more moderate, and likely more common views do not).

In short:

  • Progressives shouldn’t be tempted to adopt anti-liberal tendencies, because the extreme political climate warrants it. They should be aware that a lot of the extremism is manufactured.
  • SJW-critical Trump apologists should be similarly aware that a lot of the liberal extremism is manufactured, and also that – just as Trump supporters can be duped – so can liberals.

 

 

 

 

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observation · politics

Why didn’t Obama tell everyone about the Russians before the election?

It’s become clear recently that the FBI was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s emails and Russian attempts to interfere with the US election.

Comey has faced criticism – why did he come out about additional Hillary emails ten days before the election, but didn’t mention the Russian interference?

Surely Obama would have been briefed about this.

Why didn’t Obama hold a press conference and tell everyone what was going on?

Is it really that the extent of it hasn’t come to light until recently?

It feels like the Obama establishment really fucked up on this one – instead of fighting like the Russians are – by exposing information, they’re opted for a strategy of secrecy. Hardly does wonders for their credibility.

 

politics

Who’s to blame? Russian paid trolls.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

That Russia interfered with the US election is not an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.

The current understanding is that:

  • It was Russian hackers who hacked and released Hillary Clintons email server
  • Russian paid shills and bots congregated social media like Twitter and /r/the_donald to post and promote pro-Donald / anti-Hillary content.

Here’s Republican Paul Ryan agreeing that Russia interfered with the US election:

Here’s Mitch McConnell condemning the Russian interference:

What’s still in question is whether Donald Trump and his campaign were directly working on orders from Russia – there’s currently no concrete evidence for that. With every link between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia that comes out, it looks worse and worse.

politics · wellbeing

Is ignoring politics a reasonable course of action?

I’m sure I’m not alone in being in a fairly perpetual state of anxiety about incoming Trump presidency.

Take a look at this Google trends chart:

trump 1.png

However, for balance – the search volume for anxiety doesn’t appear to have particularly spiked, it just has a continuing steady upward trend.

t2.png

I find myself spending a lot of time thinking, and watching news commentary about whether this means Russia is going to invade its neighbours, what’s going to happen to the economy in the light of Trump protectionism, etc.

Thing is – there have been plenty of political crises in my lifetime, and even before I was born. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Thatcher government, the collapse of the Soviet Union, September 11.

While all of these events have clearly shaped the world we live in, it’s reasonable to say that my paying attention to them or not hasn’t had any effect on how they’ve played out.

If paying attention to and engaging with the current climate of politics is causing me anxiety and is disrupting my life, then perhaps the best individual course of action is for me to quit engaging.

But: Lack of voter engagement and uninformed voters seems to be precisely one of the things that got us into this mess in the first place.

While the Trump phenomena can’t be explained by any single dynamic – I think that out of touch politicians doing what they want to do without regard for their voter base, and disenfranchised voters is one of the key contributing factors that elected Trump.

It would seem that me dropping my engagement would indicate a further exasperation of this dynamic. That’s concerning.

One positive is that this does increase my empathy for low-engagement voters. When potential voters say ‘I don’t really pay attention to politics’ or vote along the lines of a single buzzword, or say ‘voting doesn’t change anything’ – I’m a lot more sympathetic – because it seems true – whatever happens is going to happen anyway – I might as well spend my effort worrying about something I can change.

 

 

 

observation · politics · wellbeing

Dealing with Trump president related anxiety.

I’m generally optimistic about the future of the world – and I disagree with arguments that ‘the world is getting worse’. People are more literate than ever, health care is improving around the world, people are more free to choose there career and so on. The 2014 Annual Letter from Bill and Melinda Gates reflects this sentiment.

However, like many people I was surprised by the result of the US 2016 Presidential Election, and experienced a range of anxiety, cynicism and worry about both the future of the world and the current state of society.

What’s to worry about?

I’d divide this in to two categories:

Worry for the future.

  • Causing a global war.
  • Causing an economic recession.
  • Increasing risk of terrorism.

Cynicism about society now.

It’s a little disturbing that so many people weren’t put off by some of Trump’s more awful remarks (‘We should bomb the terrorists familys’, ‘I’d bring back waterboarding and worse’).

The election result demonstrates that there’s more deep rooted hate than we’d perhaps anticipated.

A case against optimism.

It’s tempting to say ‘She’ll be right, things always work out in the end, look at the world now’.

I think we should be a bit careful here. Life isn’t a movie that always has a happy ending. And while our society right now is pretty good, there have been periods of turmoil in the past.

For example,  let’s take the the election of Adolf Hitler to power in 1933. Although 80 years later things have turned out OK for us now, things were not OK for the people living in Europe at the time, and saying ‘she’ll be right’ in that context, seems misguided.

So that’s my first warning – it’s not a foregone conclusion that everything will be alright – though of course that wouldn’t be the case had Hillary been elected either.

With that said – it’s valuable to make the most of your life, regardless of what the election results are. Generally stress and anxiety are disruptive or distracting (though presumably someone could use them as a positive to launch their political career or similar), so it’s good to be in a frame of mind where one proceeds with their life.

Empathising with Trump voters.

Empathising is the act of imaging yourself in the shoes of someone else – understanding what their thought processes are and what they’re feeling.

Empathising humanises a person, makes them more familiar, and thus less scary. I think it’s often the not understanding why someone acts a certain way, that we find frightening.

Let’s try an empathising exercise now. All this involves is engaging our imagination. Ask yourself, what is it like First, let’s acknowledge that Trump voters aren’t a monolith – people have voted for Trump for a variety of reasons.

  • Disenfranchised and relatively less privileged whites. Working class whites who relatively speaking have fallen behind in society. For example less educated people in manufacturing jobs, who have been laid off or their wages haven’t kept up with more modern occupations like IT. Combine this with increasing ethnic diversity and the awareness that they’re not being paid much more than a social group (people of colour) they’ve typically seen themselves as significantly higher than, and you see how someone would want someone to take action to give them their social status back.
  • Children of hateful parents. Imagine if you’ve grown up surrounded with racist and sexist rhetoric, and then more recently there’s been more attention to people calling this out as hate speech. Your very way of life is under attack! When a candidate appears that opposes these now long present forces, you like the guy who is batting for you team!
  • Bored people. Your life is unsatisfying and a bit overwhelming. You expect Donald Trump to cause trouble, and that’s going to stir things up.
  • Protest voters. I imagine that lot of people who voted for Trump, never expected him to win. People who were frustrated at the lack of options in the election – not trusting that Hillary Clinton had their interests at heart, and voted for Trump more to make a point, rather than genuinely preferring him as president.

When you think about things this way – how Trump came about is a lot more understandable – and for me, the feeling changes more from anxiety to sadness. It’s sad that so many people have lives like this that voting for Trump seems like a good move.

Accepting that we live in a world of assholes.

One of the disheartening things about the election result, is that it appears that a lot of people are gleeful, bitter, hateful or ignorant.

This may feel depressing, as the world isn’t full of the happy, loving, intelligent people we’d like a utopia to be.

But – instead of feeling like you’ve lost something, just accept that that’s actually how it is. Imagine you are a buffalo on the African Savannah. There really are lions out there want to eat you. Being depressed about this isn’t going to help – what’s going to help is being aware of it, and being strong in the face of it.

Or similarly – imagine that it’s discovered that in the forest near your park resides real genuine monsters, who’ll pop out at night and eat people. Instead of being terrified, or despairing that the world is worse than you thought it was,  accept it and change your lifestyle to suit. Start carrying a weapon, and avoiding the forest at night.

What this attitude means practically, is in your day to day interactions, perhaps being a bit more emotionally standoffish with people you don’t know – after all – they could be bitter or selfish. It also means looking out for the people who are intelligent, loving and full of life and actively seeking them out and appreciating them!

Life does go on.

Even if something bad happens, it may have long term consequences, but we still deal with it, and still move on. For example 9/11 really did happen, and it end up causing chaos in the middle east, and there was a global economic recession – yet we’re still here, things are still alright.

Now of course – for people who did die as the result of a terrorist attack or in one of the wars – things weren’t alright – so we should quite rightly be concerned about personally becoming a victim. But that said – every time you drive in a car, you also risk dying in a car crash. Personally – I don’t like driving for this reason, but in the wider context of things – and depending where you live, on the balance of probability, you can probably keep doing what you’re doing.

But if, in your assessment, you do need to take action – then take action! Become a doomsday prepper, or move to a safer neighborhood or whatever.

Blame social media/the media.

I think a large part of Trump’s success was that he sold headlines with the outrageous things he said. The media would report those things, knowing that people would click the headline to indulge their desire to be outraged. Whether it’s the responsibility of the media for producing the headlines, or the consumers for reading them, is a discussion for another time.

I think it’s a philosophy that’s worth considering – the reason that someone so outrageous has risen to power, is partly because we’re addicted to outrage and we feed it. Perhaps it time we get more choosey about the media we consume.

Conclusion.

Ultimately, I think the right response is a mix of optimism and agitation. Keep feeling positive and enjoying your life (we do live in a pretty golden age, after all), but also use this as an opportunity to be more inspired and motivated, and do your part to improve our culture.