Monthly Archives: April 2021

Opinion: For those in favor of saving the Republic, here are some ideas

In my Social Engineering class we have been studying Russian and other foreign cyber attacks on the USA, Germany, France, Great Britain, Ukraine, and elsewhere. One of our recent assignments was to read the following reports:

The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012-2018

The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate on Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election: Volume 2: Russia’s Use of Social Media, with Additional Views

After reading these reports, we were to consider the tactics in “On War” by Carl von Clausewitz and then answer the following question:

“So, what should the United States do about it? Think about the political, economic, and military weapons of war (Clausewitz) and share your thoughts about how to combat the Russian SE attacks.”

“I considered Clausewitz’s lessons of war (summarized by Pietersen) to see how they could help me create a strategy that makes sense.

Just the first step, Identify, I see as a huge challenge. I’m under the impression that most people who are angry about attempted Russian interference in recent elections are angry because their preferred candidate didn’t win, not because our Constitution and the Republic are under attack and hanging by a thread. A lot of people accept the premise that unethical and illegal acts are permissible if it helps your side. They may not be informed about the seriousness of the threat, or are informed and are rooting for the Constitution and the Republic to fall. This would be a good way for intelligence to precede operations. Do enough people even want the Republic saved to make it worth the effort to fight for it? The goal will have to be changed if there aren’t enough people on board. I’m going to write the rest of this assuming that there is enough support.

The decisive point: “Save the Constitution” would be my mission statement, at least internally. I’m not sure how to frame the campaign to get the support of enough of the public for success. It used to be considered self-evident in our culture that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were good things, but there are a lot of people who have been conditioned and trained to deny those rights to others that they think are beneath them and sometimes even to themselves – they don’t think they deserve it.

Concentrate: This includes physical resources as well as hearts and minds. I understand that the reports we read were based on a subset of all the existing information. The tech companies didn’t give everything they had to the Senate, and we don’t know if the Senate gave all of what they had to the analysts who wrote the reports. Nevertheless, the reports do contain enough information to have some idea of what might help on the technology side.

I would like consumers to have more choices of viable communications platforms so that they freely choose the ones they feel protect their rights and reflect their values the best. That probably means breaking up monopolies and holding corporations accountable for tortious business practices or unfair competition practices such as collusion or violations of the immunity clause in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. As others have pointed out in our discussion, communications companies sometimes have an incentive to allow content that harms their users but helps them financially. They’d be able to get away with this less if there were more choices.

I advocate re-instating the media based consumer protections that have been removed from our body of law such as the Fairness Doctrine, the personal attack rule and the political editorial rule, and I’d like to see them extended to online publishing and social media companies as well as broadcast and print. As I’ve stated before, I think it’s a human rights abuse to restrict information from people in order to control them. Can a “Right to Information” be added to our Constitution? I don’t know but that’s how important I think it is.

I would like to see all media companies compelled to run media literacy education content as a consumer protection measure.

I advocate media literacy training as a vital life skill in all levels of education.

Devote as least as many resources to the promotion of the Constitution and Democratic self-rule as the enemies do to undermining it.

US Consumers should have the choice to purchase physical products, software, and have access to technology platforms that are manufactured in the US and accountable to US consumers.

Resources that are vital to the security of the United States, such as medical supplies and media companies, should not be owned or controlled by foreigners.

Hold all levels of government to high standards of transparency and accountability to their constituents.

Remove: I would not want to see a repeat of excesses from the past such as McCarthy-style witch hunts or loyalty tests. I believe the most rational ideas will prevail if people are allowed to hear them and exercise their constitutional rights to assembly, free speech, freedom of the press and others. I also think internment camps for re-education or any other purpose should be off the table.

Ignore: I believe it’s important not to over-react to all the distractions that will be tried.”

I don’t consider my above suggestions as complete or comprehensive, but I think they’d be a good start. I welcome comments on this blog, pro and con, I think this is a discussion we need to have, openly and rationally, because, after all, this is war.

Works Cited

DiResta, Renee, Kris Shaffer, Becky Ruppel, David Sullivan, Robert Matney, Ryan Fox, Jonathan Albright, Ben Johnson. “The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency”, New Knowledge, 2019, digitalcommons.unl.edu/senatedocs/2/. Accessed 11 April 2021.

Howard, Phillip N., Bharath Ganesh, Dimitria Liotsiou, John Kelly, Camille Fran├žois. “The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012-2018”, Computational Propaganda Research Project, University of Oxford, 2019, digitalcommons.unl.edu/senatedocs/1/. Accessed 11 April 2021.

Pietersen, Willie. “Von Clausewitz on War: Six Lessons for the Modern Strategist.” Columbia University, www8.gsb.columbia.edu/articles/ideas-work/von-clausewitz-war-six-lessons-modern-strategist. Accessed 12 April 2021.

Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate. “Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate on Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election: Volume 2: Russia’s Use of Social Media, with Additional Views”, 2019, digitalcommons.unl.edu/senatedocs/4/. Accessed 11 April 2021.

Low tech transitional collage from the ’90s

Collage made from computer printouts and clip art.
Collage homage to the Beatles Anthology, from Lime Green News #16.

My current class in graduate school and other projects are pretty demanding right now, so I don’t have a lot of time to make new art. I do still enjoy looking at some of my old art from time to time. Here is a collage I made for my old ‘zine the Lime Green News #16, circa 1996-1997. It’s a tribute to the Beatles Anthology album covers, designed by Klaus Voorman. I was inspired by the use of torn images and how they can strategically reveal what’s underneath. On the Anthology 1 album cover, Voorman ripped out the head of Pete Best to reveal Ringo’s face underneath to “replace” him. This was a mean but clever technique so I did the same thing in my collage in approximately the same spot to enhance my “homage”, only I replaced John with John. If you want to see the Anthology 1 cover and the clever use of the torn out part on a Pete Best album cover, here is a link to an analysis – “The Beatles Anthology 1 Album Cover Cropped Out Original Drummer Pete Best”.

I made the above collage in the year between getting a computer with a black and white laser printer that would print up to 300 ppi, and taking my first class in Adobe Photoshop. At the time I was enjoying the novelty of being able to print out pictures to use in collages instead of just finding images. I printed out pictures of the Beatles that I found online, and printed out a bunch of clip art that I liked, and used those printouts to build the collage. A lot of the clip art came from my Corel Draw clip art library. How I used to love to pore over the printed book that came with it to get ideas!

The covers of Lime Green News 16, 17 and 18. I think those are the last three I published. The middle cover is an altered piece of art by Bill Whorrall. I don’t remember if I asked permission from him or not to do that. I might have, even though it’s very common in Mail Art and ‘zine culture to “remix” other people’s art work. I tried to get something lime green on each cover, so I used to carve a rubber stamp and hand-print it in lime green in a designated spot.

The black and white laser printer was a major step forward in the production quality of my ‘zine, even though by today’s standards it was still very primitive. It wasn’t until much later than I learned software like Publisher and InDesign to help me produce professional quality booklets. At the time of this image I was still following my old practice of printing out text on a printer and cutting and pasting the text among collaged elements. With the text coming from a laser printer instead of a Commodore 64 with a dot-matrix printer, it looked better and was a lot easier to read.

With access to what seemed like unlimited clip art and display fonts, I had tons of fun transitioning from low to high tech. For my ‘zine and collages, I printed elements for headers and body text along with images. Then in 1997, I learned Photoshop and how to make web pages, and that changed everything! But I still enjoy the old methods too and I like to make collages out of whatever is there, whenever I get a chance.