Posted: November 28, 2017 Filed under: China, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Global, Russia, Self Defense, Think Tank | Tags: Data for Democracy, Disinformation, media, propaganda, Psychology
Authoritarian regimes like Russia and China are outspending the United States in the realm of soft power, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the National Democratic Institute’s annual Democracy Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C. last night.
“Our budget is $650 million—a fraction of what our adversaries spend,” he said “Today, Russia is spending over a billion dollars on covert propaganda operations,” he added. “Russian TV, radio, and internet bots continue to push misinformation without almost no pushback from the US.”
The authoritarian threat required greater investment in non-kinetic resources for exerting influence abroad, Murphy added.
“We have more people working at military grocery stores than diplomats deployed abroad,” he said.
Facebook estimates that 10 million people saw the [Kremlin’s] paid ads and up to 150 million people saw other content from the fake accounts, which Facebook has traced to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed troll farm, WIRED reports:
Psychologists and students of advertising say the ads were cleverly designed to look like other internet memes, and to appeal to readers’ emotions. Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor of psychology at NYU, says he was surprised at the sophistication of the campaign. “It wasn’t transparent lies. It was just pushing our buttons,” says Van Bavel. “To me, this is more pernicious. It’s not a matter of fiction that we can root out with fact-checking. It’s more about turning Americans against each other.”
“The IRA are not amateurs, they’re clearly familiarizing themselves with the kind of content that resonates with the target audiences,” says Renee DiResta, researcher with Data for Democracy, a nonprofit group that has been digging into the data on Russian-linked accounts.
The threat of disinformation and other active measures employed by the Kremlin requires adaptation and innovation from the advanced democracies, according to NATO’s Secretary General.
“Defense is no longer about just looking at a map and deciding where to place armies,” Jens Stoltenberg said this week. “It’s also about countering misinformation. Protecting infrastructure. Making our societies resilient to attack.”
“The geography of danger has shifted,” he added.
The NDI dinner honored three civil society groups on the front lines of confronting disinformation and false news – . Rappler from the Philippines, the Ukraine-based StopFake and the Oxford Internet Institute.
“When a lie is repeated 1 million times it becomes truth, especially when it’s state-sponsored hate,” said Rapplerdotcom‘s Maria Ressa. “A sock puppet network of 26 fake accounts can reach 3 million.”
Disinformation “exploits the fracture lines of society,” she said, adding that she received an average of 90 hate messages per hour.” Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 19, 2017 Filed under: Crime & Corruption, Guns and Gadgets, Mediasphere, Terrorism, U.S. News | Tags: Gabriel Tarde, journalism, Mass Shootings, media, Psychology, The Press
Illustration: Doug Chayka
The often sensationalistic media attention given to perpetrators is central to why massacres are happening more.
N. Schulman reports: It isn’t your imagination: Mass shootings are getting deadlier and more frequent. A recent FBI report on “active shooters” from 2000 to 2015 found that the number of incidents more than doubled from the first to the second half of the period. Four of the five deadliest shootings in American history happened in the past five years, and 2017 already far exceeds any previous year for the number of casualties.
Though we seem to be plunging ever deeper into a dark night, researchers now have a far clearer view of a key factor in the violence. A long-standing theory has matured into a body of evidence that can no longer be dismissed: The level of attention paid to mass shootings is central to why they keep happening.
The idea that some crimes might be self-spreading, like a disease, was proposed as early as 1890, when the French sociologist Gabriel Tarde labeled murders copying Jack the Ripper “suggesto-imitative assaults.” For mass shootings, the effect was well known among researchers by the early 2000s, when a wealth of information allowed forensic psychiatrist Paul E. Mullen to conclude, “These massacres are acts of mimesis, and their perpetrators are imitators.”
But the research has solidified in just the last few years. In 2015, a pair of studies analyzed databases cataloging nearly all U.S. mass shootings. They produced the first comprehensive statistical evidence that shootings occur in clusters rather than randomly across time.
[Read the full story here, at WSJ.com]
One of the studies, led by mathematician Sherry Towers of Arizona State University, used a contagion model previously applied to analyze viral videos and terrorist attacks. It found that the likelihood of a mass shooting is significantly higher when another mass shooting has recently occurred. The period of increased probability lasts, on average, for 13 days, the study found. (Notably, Dr. Towers did not find a contagion effect for shootings in which three or fewer people were killed.) The other study, conducted by Fresno State criminologist Jason Kissner, employed a different statistical modeling technique but also found an increased likelihood lasting for a similar period.
These findings are not yet conclusive. A study published in July by criminologist Adam Lankford and psychologist Sara Tomek, both of the University of Alabama, claimed that the clustering effects were not significantly different from random variation. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: January 8, 2014 Filed under: Art & Culture, Mediasphere, Reading Room | Tags: Dean Hamer, Evolutionary psychology, Jesse Bering, John Horgan, Marquis de Sade, Psychology, Scientific American, Sigmund Freud
John Horgan writes: “What does woman want?” Freud once whined. Turns out quite a few women want fantasy sex with T. rex, Sasquatch or a boar-headed god. That, at any rate, is the implication of “monster porn,” which serves up X-rated versions of such demure classics as Leda and the Swan, King Kong or Beauty and the Beast.
Evolutionary psychology and other gene-oriented modern paradigms cannot explain why many women enjoy reading “monster porn.”
Also known as “cryptozoological erotica” or “erotic horror,” monster porn has flourished in the Internet era, which offers abundant platforms for self-publication. According to a report in Business Insider, some authors—most apparently female–are making serious moola peddling tales of humans—most apparently female—coupling with “creatures of every possible variety, from minotaurs to mermen, cthulhus to leprechauns, extraterrestrials to cyclops.”
Prudes have attacked monster porn for promoting sexual violence and bestiality. In response, Amazon and other purveyors have at least temporarily blocked access to some e-books, like a popular series featuring Bigfoot. Defenders of monster porn accuse Amazon of inconsistency, noting that the company still offers works of the Marquis de Sade, who extolled the joys of sexual torture and murder.
Trying to explain monster porn’s appeal, freelance writer Bonny Burton, host of the “Vaginal Fantasy Book Club,” writes: “Regular male characters in romance books tend to be over-the-top perfect glistening warriors and knights, but I want an imperfect monster who needs love to show that he can be just as sweet as his human competition… Why deprive the imagination of a great romance just because the protagonist happens to live for 600 years or has the occasional bout with fleas?”
Read the rest of this entry »