One of the realities of the internet is that it really is a battlefield for public opinion. Trying to identify truth is such a difficult thing. What I can absolutely guarantee you and what I think we all know to be true is that there are a lot of paid propagandists. These people provide talking points and lies and they’re paid to do so. People expect this during election season but the really nefarious groups do this regardless of the election calendar. In some cases – these trolls use multiple profiles at the same time i.e. sockpuppets to create the impression that there is a growing consensus. It’s human nature to swim where all the other fishes are swimming too. It is for this reason that critical thinking skills will be critical in a functioning 21st century society.
This happens on Facebook, popular websites, twitter and message boards.
I had an interesting conversation with someone that I know who works in the intelligence industry; I can’t really disclose more just due to the sensitivity of their job. And while that person would never disclose or talk about anything that was classified … I will always remember a conversation we had about information. I said to this person, “The challenge is really trying to find the truth while sifting through the misinformation and disinformation.” The response: “That’s the fun part.”
Trying to identify bullshit is tough sometimes. It could be something like Freedomworks paying Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich $1 million each to say nice things about their organizations (source) or it could be writers for the Wall Street Journal writing pro-Romney articles and failing to disclose they were on the Romney payroll at the time (source). It could be the Obama campaign paying blogs money to focus on stories consistent with the Obama administration’s goals (this happens). It could be Russia Today disseminating Russian propaganda interwoven through actual journalism not covered by the mainstream media.
It could be a journalist who is on the payroll of the CIA (yes this happens) or unknowingly provided misinformation that they share in their stories to further the aims of the federal government. It could be a popular FB page that operates via guerrilla marketing techniques but is paid good money or wholly owned by a Democrat aligned group to bash corporatism or some other target (this happens). It’s tough to know truth from fiction because the best fiction is the kind that is so thoroughly integrated into bits and piece of truth that it reads like The DaVinci Code.
But why would a supposed American ally – Israel – be paying bloggers to write pro-Israeli propaganda? It isn’t to help benefit an election and it isn’t because they want to block American hegemony. Israel or pro-Israeli groups pay people to give the perception that more people agree on supporting Israel than actually exist. The topic of Israel brings raw emotions into the ring of public discourse, but what I’ve found over the past year or so is that there are far fewer supporters of Israel than the media would have us believe.
Israel depends on America to continue to give her $3 billion a year and they depend on Republicans and Democrats alike to support them. 70% of Jews vote for Democrats but evangelical Christians want to see Israel in full control by the Jewish people because the bible says it should be so. And it is precisely because of these ideological and demographic realities that have allowed Israel to maintain strong support by both parties.
Let me say that I know from personal experience that Israel and pro-Israeli groups see this as war of information. We wrote about how Israeli groups took down our website via a DDOS attack HERE; we were told to either take down certain articles critical of Israel or else. We told them to go go fuck themselves.
But the tide may be turning. Instead of paying bloggers to combat hate and frustration in the Arab world; they’re focusing on drawing in Europeans and Americans. You REALLY should read this entire article “I was a paid internet shill: How shadowy groups manipulate internet opinion and debate“; an excerpt:
The rest of the day was taken up with training. Another staff member, a no-nonsense woman in her thirties, was to be my trainer, and training would only last two days. “You seem like a bright guy, you’ll get the hang of it pretty fast, I think,” she said. And indeed, the job was easier than I’d imagined. My task was simple: I would be assigned to four different websites, with the goal of entering certain discussions and promoting a certain view. I learned later that some of the personnel were assigned to internet message boards (like me), while others worked on Facebook or chatrooms. It seems these three types of media each have different strategy for shilling, and each shill concentrates on one of the three in particular.
My task? “To support Israel and counter anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic posters.” Fine with me. I had no opinions one way or another about Israel, and who likes anti-Semites and Nazis? Not me, anyway. But I didn’t know too much about the topic. “That’s OK,” she said. “You’ll pick it up as you go along. For the most part, at first, you will be doing what we call “meme-patrol.” This is pretty easy. Later if you show promise, we’ll train you for more complex arguments, where more in-depth knowledge is necessary.”
She handed me two binders with sheets enclosed in limp plastic. The first was labeled simply “Israel” in magic-marker on the cover, and it had two sections .The first section contained basic background info on the topic. I would have to read and memorize some of this, as time went on. It had internet links for further reading, essays and talking points, and excerpts from some history books. The second, and larger, section was called “Strat” (short for “strategy”) with long lists of “dialogue pairs.” These were specific responses to specific postings.
But this happens all the time with Israel. In Israel – students are given $2,000 a month to spread propaganda online HERE:
The National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) has become a full-time partner in the Israeli government’s efforts to spread its propaganda online and on college campuses around the world.
NUIS has launched a program to pay Israeli university students $2,000 to spread pro-Israel propaganda online for 5 hours per week from the “comfort of home.”
The union is also partnering with Israel’s Jewish Agency to send Israeli students as missionaries to spread propaganda in other countries, for which they will also receive a stipend.
This active recruitment of Israeli students is part of Israel’s orchestrated effort to suppress the Palestinian solidarity movement under the guise of combating “delegitimization” of Israel and anti-Semitism.
AIPAC does this HERE:
AIPAC teaches students the benefits of the relationship to the United States and shows them how to pass that message along to campus leaders. ”I knew why to advocate for Israel, but it was AIPAC that taught me how,” said Jesse Gabriel, 21. His cufflinks shining, the suave Gabriel, Berkeley’s student body president, explained that AIPAC showed him how to engage the “important people on campus,” including student leaders. At its first such conference this summer — the Saban National Political Leadership Training Seminar — AIPAC stressed three objectives for student activists: circulating pro-Israel petitions, bringing a member of Congress to campus and holding Israel forums. At the second Saban conference this weekend, AIPAC added three more objectives: having campus activists visit Congressional district offices, convincing campus newspapers to write pro-Israel editorials and getting faith-based groups on campus to issue statements of solidarity with Israel.
DeadlineLive pulls all these resources HERE:
Israeli students and demobilized soldiers get paid to pretend they are just regular folks and leave pro-Israel comments online. Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Elan Shturman is quoted from the Israeli Occupation Magazine saying:
“Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the hasbara department of the Israeli foreign ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis,” he said. “They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the foreign ministry developed.”
Counterpunch’s Jonathan Cooke in “Israel’s Internet Wars” describes:
a special undercover team of paid workers whose job it will be to surf the internet 24 hours a day spreading positive news about Israel. Internet-savvy Israeli youngsters, mainly recent graduates and demobilised soldiers with language skills, are being recruited to pose as ordinary surfers while they provide the government’s line on the Middle East conflict…About $150,000 has been set aside for the first stage of development, with increased funding expected next year.
“paid Internet talkbackers are being mobilized in the service of the State. The Foreign Ministry is in the process of setting up a team of students and demobilized soldiers who will work around the clock writing pro-Israeli responses on Internet websites all over the world,”
So – one thing you should ask yourself. Why would Israel be trying to manipulate public opinion with Americans? We certainly aren’t enemies but that isn’t the behavior of allies. Reality on the ground is very hard to fake now. The world knows what happens across the world in moments; we are all interconnected via the internet and it is very difficult to control the flow of information. And it is precisely this challenge of trying to control information that is proving to be too much for Israel to handle. This is no different for China who censor political speech and have to spend a tremendous amount of resources controlling what their citizens say or do. It’s not a sustainable model, and one day soon the camel’s back will break.
Israel isn’t the only one doing this, but they seem to be the only allied country of America doing this. That should concern all Americans.
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