Category Archives: Poetry

It’s Time To Get History Accurate About Power in Silicon Valley

In a new article called “It’s Time To Get Real About Power in Silicon Valley“, I noticed much of the history is very wrong.

For example, this is false history:

Travis Kalanick who saw taxicab drivers not as solid middle class citizens, like many of us mistakenly did, but as a cabal of overpaid, rent-seeking obstacles.

Kalanick himself said he was standing in line in Las Vegas and wondering why he didn’t have an inexpensive driver that would shuttle him from his cheap hotel so he could drink excessively on the strip and at parties he was crashing. His whole fratbro vision was how to recreate his mom driving him everywhere forever. None of that had anything to do with taxis really, which he didn’t think about or understand at all except to complain about waiting for them and compare it to his bowel movements.

And this is false history too:

…skinny nerdy guy who just wanted to sell us books over the computer…

That is not how to describe Bezos who himself said he wanted to corner book markets using unregulated tech because he was losing in a competition with Bernie Madoff to be the worst human.

But perhaps worst of all, the article willingly weaves an Emerson quote into a profile without any context. Thiel quotes Emerson deliberately and for a reason, not as some random thing.

Emerson is well known among white nationalists as their guy. You want to get real about Thiel, admit his thirst for power ties directly to history of white nationalist aspirations.

These men are privileged white men who enter tech to maintain and expand their privilege. This has nothing to do with Silicon Valley (Bezos isn’t even in Califorina, duh) and everything to do with history of colonization.

I like this 2017 article much better:

The men of Silicon Valley like to pose as more empathetic, philosophical and righteous than their brothers on Wall Street. But society will no doubt look back on the ascendancy of fratbro tech and see the same arrogance, perversion and disregard for human life.

And here’s another good one:

Is there a difference in suicides and workers conditions at Foxconn and Uber drivers complaining they can’t make a living wage? It’s hard to argue on a human level.

Once we get the history right, such as Stanford’s legacy being genocide, stories like this one become easy to predict:

Verkada isn’t the only Silicon Valley startup in which employees — often young, single and flush with cash — have engaged in questionable behavior, including sexual misconduct and substance abuse. But Verkada sells security cameras that peer into offices, factory floors, intensive care units and other sensitive areas — the kind of product that demands professionalism and discretion.

Based in San Mateo, Verkada was founded in 2016 by three computer science graduates from Stanford University…

Homeland isn’t an American Word

The British Government has announced their Home Office will have a Director General for Homeland Security. Some in the UK reacted by saying it sounds American.

Nice try.

I thought everyone knows that America most definitely gets most of its English terminology for security from… wait for it… England.

I mean who has a Home Department, or a Home Secretary for the Home Office? Not America.

The VOA explained this exact problem years ago

Historically, the Old English word hamland meant “enclosed pasture” — a protected field for animals. The word homeland first appeared in Modern English in the 1660s. It combined the nouns “home” and “land.”​

But a deeper look at how the word homeland was used outside of the U.S. shows why some people are not comfortable with it. The government of South Africa used the word homeland for areas it created for only African peoples during the period of apartheid. These “homelands” separated the Africans from white citizens.​

Friederike Eigler is a professor of German at Georgetown University. She said that in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people used a similar word to homeland – heimat – to express intense national pride.

“It became more and more a political term because it was sort of meshed up with ideas of the nation and nationalism. And then that kind of came to a head during World War II. It became very much tied up very much with notions of the German race, and the nation, nationality or national socialism, and so in that sense it got very discredited as a result in the postwar period.”

In the early 2000s, when the U.S. government created the Department of Homeland Security, some objected to the name. Peggy Noonan writes for the Wall Street Journal. She thought the Bush administration should change the name. She said homeland “isn’t really an American word.”​

James A. Bartlett blogs for The Ethical Spectacle. He thinks the problem is that the word homeland has to do with the idea of being a native. He quotes the second Merriam Webster definition of homeland: “a state or area set aside to be a state for a people of a particular national, cultural, or racial origin.”

Mr. Bartlett believes the word homeland does not describe the United States well. The U.S. is a diverse country of immigrants. Are those immigrants also able to call the U.S. their homeland?​

Speaking of people being confused about where words come from, machines are also pretty terrible at this.

A simple query for the word “homeland” using Google’s algorithm on British government archives brings up this hilarious example: “Home Secretary” [many paragraphs later] “Auckland”

Source: Google query of Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates

Decoding “The Big Revival” — Nazi Themes in Country Music

Have you seen this comedy video about hidden meanings in country music?

It’s pretty funny but also sad how true this is.

For example while I was relaxing on an airplane trying to sleep with the country channel on, a song called “The Big Revival” woke me straight up. It almost immediately reminded me of the kind of racial trigger words I used to hear in rural Kansas.

A quick check of its history revealed its author was a reclusive Dennis Linde, originally from Texas.

He was the quintessential mystery man of Nashville because he didn’t go to all the functions,” Scott Siman, an artist manager who had known Linde since the 1970s, told The Tennessean newspaper. “If you ever saw Dennis Linde it was amazing, because you didn’t get that opportunity very often.

A mystery man. Interesting. You may have read some of my earlier posts on encoding messages in songs (e.g. Kumbaya and Atilla).

This song seems like another case of encoding, but it’s very vague and I don’t know if I can achieve the comedy genius of Key & Peele in explaining what I hear.

Get ready for the big revival
Get ready for the big revival

Get ready for the big revival
Everybody get in the van
There’s a little church on Eagle Mountain
It’s called The Blood of the Blessed Land
If your faith ain’t strong enough, child, you might wind up dead
Praise the Lord and pass me a Copperhead

Now Reverend Jones, he struts and dances
While the guitar plays Amazing Grace
He testifies in tongues of fire
With tears of joy running down his face
He ain’t sure and we ain’t sure exactly what he said
But praise the Lord and pass me a Copperhead

You won’t find many hypocrites that’ll take the chance on getting bit
But a true believer can survive rattlesnakes and cyanide

Now when you hold that deadly viper
Keep the holy spirit in your mind
Do not lose your concentration
That serpent’s surely bound to strike
Either way you won’t forget the first time that you said
Praise the Lord and pass me a Copperhead
Praise the Lord and pass me a Copperhead

Here are the clues I started picking at, which as I said reminded me of triggers I heard in rural Kansas:

  • little church on Eagle Mountain
  • It’s called The Blood of the Blessed Land
  • faith ain’t strong enough, child, you might wind up dead
  • pass me a Copperhead
  • testifies in tongues of fire
  • ain’t sure exactly what he said
  • hypocrites that’ll take the chance on getting bit
  • But a true believer can survive rattlesnakes and cyanide
  • hold that deadly viper

“little church on Eagle Mountain”

There’s really no reference or context for an eagle in this song perhaps other than to evoke patriotism and pride. Unfortunately mountain, as the modifier, doesn’t seem like it would come from some innocent place like a bald eagle on purple mountain (far better phrasing if you ask me). The next line talking about blood really cements it for me as German and therefore classic encoding. Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest) is the house on top of a mountain in Bavaria where Hitler entertained guests.

“It’s called The Blood of the Blessed Land”

Blut and boden (blood and soil) is how white supremacists make claim to be more connected to the land than any other races. So an eagle mountain church called blood of the blessed land is quite literally the very common symbolism invoked by white supremacists based on Nazi history.

“faith ain’t strong enough, child, you might wind up dead”

The penalty for being unfaithful to the cause is execution. Capitol punishment has and continues to be very clearly racist.

“pass me a Copperhead”

My first thought here was the old copperhead balls that we used to shoot, yet that seemed too obscure while also maybe from the same deeper reference.

Digging around in history I quickly realized pro-slavery Democrats in the 1860s who opposed American Civil War and wanted immediate truce with a Confederate South, were called a Copperhead.

Copperhead, also called Peace Democrat, during the American Civil War, pejoratively, any citizen in the North who opposed the war policy and advocated restoration of the Union through a negotiated settlement with the South. The word Copperhead was first so used by the New York Tribune on July 20, 1861, in reference to the snake that sneaks and strikes without warning.

That sounds a lot like Americans who sided with Nazi Germany in WWII and demanded peace be negotiated as quickly as possible with Hitler (calling themselves “America First“), or a lot like the Americans who sided with Germany in WWI and demanded non-intervention (calling themselves “America First”). In case that isn’t obvious, “America First” meant KKK before 1929 and Nazism/KKK after — Copperhead predates them all.

The key here is that the Copperhead platform opposed Republican president Lincoln because of what they termed “an unconstitutional war against slavery”. Moreover, Lincoln called Copperheads a grave threat.

In January 1863, Abraham Lincoln made a remarkable confession. He was, he told a senator, more worried about “the fire in the rear” than he was about the Confederates to his front.

Remember tongues of fire (it’s coming next)?! Fire in the rear were Copperheads.

It turns out a Democratic Congressman of Ohio named Clement L. Vallandigham became known for his anti-federal Copperhead speeches of 1863 where he falsely alleged Republicans had gone to war to enslave the whites. Sounds crazy, right?

Commander of the Ohio military, General Ambrose Burnside, arrested Vallandigham on fairly obvious grounds of treasonous behavior (“declaring sympathies for the enemy”).

This might be a good moment to also point out Vallandigham accidentally shot himself while trying to prove that someone could not accidentally shoot themselves. He was… an idiot.

If that vignette doesn’t explain how crazy a Copperhead was with their tongues of fire, and how it ended up so connected in this song with wackos who obsess about the eagle mountain blood and soil, I’m not sure what does.

Moreover white supremacists today refer to themselves as “Constitutionalists” or similar to Copperheads, so this period in history could come to mind. The Copperheads argued the South could never be conquered and ran slogans like “The Union as it was, Constitution as it is”.

Here are the exact words from a 1863 Copperhead speech by the Hon. C.L. Vallandigham where you can see him tell the absurd lie that America would enslave whites if they didn’t enslave blacks.

vallandigham-speech

“Pass me a Copperhead” is surely the flag of white insecurity.

“testifies in tongues of fire”

As I said above, this seems to be validation it’s about Valladigham attacking President Lincoln. Just before the fire comes Amazing Grace, an historic “revival” song used for background and a setup to the fire. These combinations of phrases and words have powerful association to tragedy in the 1800s.

‘Amazing Grace’ would have spoken to [slave] desire for an experience of freedom, of one day seeing God face-to-face, of one day being with him for all of eternity, and no longer subjected to the type of cruel treatment they experienced during slavery.

“ain’t sure exactly what he said”

Oath of silence and vagueness to the fiery events. No one can testify to what happened. This even gets to the point of “Know Nothings” (before 1855 calling themselves the Native American Party, American Party after) — an extremist “nativism” political party by white immigrants that used secret society (e.g. KKK “hidden empire”) to oppose immigration of other races.

“hypocrites that’ll take the chance on getting bit”

Again emphasizing you’re either in the group, a follower, or you are dead.

“But a true believer can survive rattlesnakes and cyanide”

This line really cements the Nazism. While an eagle mountain of blood and soil may seem the most obvious call-outs to Nazism, cyanide is really over the top. Why cyanide? Of all the things to put into a song about revival… in the 1920s cyanide was used to kill Americans using gas chamber.

Washington, Arizona, and Oregon in 1919-20 reinstated the death penalty. In 1924, the first execution by cyanide gas took place in Nevada… a special “gas chamber” was hastily built.

Those three states in 1919 saw a HUGE rise in KKK activity. It was not a coincidence, as I said above about the racism of capitol punishment, that KKK were taking control of a state and using cyanide gas chambers to kill non-whites.

Most people however, if they study history at all, probably recognize a “gas chamber” of cyanide more in terms of who copied the KKK — Nazis in 1940s used cyanide to murder 1 million people (Zyklon B).

Again, we have a song here saying eagle mountain, blood and soil, and believers survive cyanide. It’s a trifecta of Nazism on top of the odious Copperhead background. How is this song not titled get ready for the Fourth Reich?

“hold that deadly viper”

This reinforces for me that the danger of a copperhead is being used in the context of a particular purpose, leveraged even, as a necessary evil to test true faith. As hard as I tried to flip the whole story and see some kind of positive story of surviving against threats of generic danger, the words just don’t add up that way for me and instead sound like a celebration of Nazism (which, let’s be honest, was ideologically similar to Copperheads).

Maybe you’ll have more luck and can decode it further or more accurately. To me, we have a popular song in America basically trying to invoke white nationalism.

To test my theory I listened to many versions of this song. Here’s a 2008 release:

On the airline radio I first heard it played by Kenny Chesney:

That’s an awfully strange looking bus in the image for a white nationalist tune.

Suddenly I felt like maybe I had the song wrong. Peace symbols? This guy looks like he’s into love and happiness (to be fair that’s exactly the disinformation Nazis broadcast on radio telling their targets to drop their arms… right before invasion).

So I went and found the video featuring that bus. It’s in a song called American Kids… that talks about America coast to coast etc as if representing all the kids while having only whites in the video.

Only whites.

You can’t make this stuff up. The cast is so white, so painfully not like America, I had to watch it twice just to be sure there was absolutely no other race but whites represented in a video claiming to be for all the “American Kids”.

It’s actually creepy how the video also seems to suggest American Kids worship that singer.

And just by way of comparison, I have to throw out a positive example of a “snake” video that shows what something purporting to represent “American Kids” could have done; a bus can be so much more with crowds dancing and singing around each other in a distributed manner (note this internationally diverse video is the 20th most watched on YouTube with over 3 billion views).

As I said at the start Key & Peele do a far better job at laying out the obvious racism in country music than I have done here.

But I can tell you as someone who has spent a lot of time studying triggers and encoding, as well as KKK history, when I was half-asleep listening to the radio these rather peculiar song lyrics woke me straight up.

“The Big Revival” had me immediately wondering who would write out such known white supremacist imagery under a title invoking things like rise of the KKK and rebellion against the United States. And on that note, the most curious part might be that it was written by a guy who wrote what other people wanted, remaining hidden and reclusive.

Descartes on AI: I Think, Therefore I Am… Not a Machine

Keith Gunderson, a pioneering philosopher of robotics, in his 1964 paper called “Descartes, La Mettrie, Language and Machines” captured this Robert Stoothoff translation of the 1637 Discourse:

If there were machines which bore a resemblance to our bodies and imitated our actions as closely as possible for all practical purposes, we should still have two very certain means of recognizing that they were not real men. The first is that they could never use words, or put together signs, as we do in order to declare our thoughts to others. For we can certainly conceive of a machine so constructed that it utters words, and even utters words that correspond to bodily actions causing a change in its organs… but it is not conceivable that such a machine should produce different arrangements of words so as to give an appropriately meaningful answer to whatever is said in its presence, as the dullest of men can do. Secondly, even though some machines might do some things as well as we do them, or perhaps even better, they would inevitably fail in others, which would reveal that they are acting not from understanding, but only from the disposition of their organs. For whereas reason is a universal instrument, which can be used in all kinds of situations, these organs need some particular action; hence it is for all practical purposes impossible for a machine to have enough different organs to make it act in all the contingencies of life in the way in which our reason makes us act.

Here is another translation:

…if there were machines which had the organs and the external shape of a monkey or of some other animal without reason, we would have no way of recognizing that they were not exactly the same nature as the animals… The first of these is that they would never be able to use words or other signs to make words as we do to declare our thoughts to others. For one can easily imagine a machine made in such a way that it expresses words, even that it expresses some words relevant to some physical actions which bring about some change in its organs … but one cannot imagine a machine that arranges words in various ways to reply to the sense of everything said in its presence, as the most stupid human beings are capable of doing. The second test is that, although these machines might do several things as well or perhaps better than we do, they are inevitably lacking in some other, through which we discover that they act, not by knowledge, but only by the arrangement of their organs. For, whereas reason is a universal instrument which can serve in all sorts of encounters, these organs need some particular arrangement for each particular action. As a result of that, it is morally impossible that there is in a machine’s organs sufficient variety to act in all the events of our lives in the same way that our reason empowers us to act.

And another one:

Big Tech Admits Security Teams Politically Directed and Intentionally Blind to Hate Groups

My head hurt when I read a new “insider” article on detecting and preventing hate on big data platforms. It’s awful on many, many levels.

It’s like seeing a story on airplane safety in hostile territory where former staff reveal they couldn’t agree politically on how to measure gravity in a way that appeased a government telling them that up is down. Or hearing that a crash in 2018 made safety staff aware of flying risks — as if nothing ever crashed before a year or two ago.

Really? You just figured out domestic terrorism is a huge problem? That says a lot, a LOT. A Civil War was fought after decades of terrorism and it continued again after the war ended, and there’s a long rich history of multi-faceted orgs conspiring and collaborating to undermine democracy. And that’s just in America, with its documented history of violent transfer of power.

Quick chart by me of where and when fascism took hold in Europe.

I’m not going to give away any insider secrets when I say this new article provides some shockingly awful admissions of guilt from tech companies that facilitated mass harms from hate groups and allowed the problem to get far worse (while claiming success in making it better).

Here’s a quick sample:

…companies defined hate in limited ways. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all introduced hate speech policies that generally prohibit direct attacks on the basis of specific categories like race or sexual orientation. But what to do with a new conspiracy theory like QAnon that hinges on some imagined belief in a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democratic pedophiles? Or a group of self-proclaimed “Western chauvinists” like the Proud Boys cloaking themselves in the illusion that white pride doesn’t necessarily require racial animus? Or the #StoptheSteal groups, which were based on a lie, propagated by the former president of the United States, that the election had been stolen? These movements were shot through with hate and violence, but initially, they didn’t fit neatly into any of the companies’ definitions. And those companies, operating in a fraught political environment, were in turn slow to admit, at least publicly, that their definitions needed to change.

“Proud Boys cloaking themselves” is about as sensible a phrase as loud boys silencing themselves. Everyone knows “proud boys”, like other hate groups, very purposefully use signaling to identify themselves, right? (Hint: “men who refuse to apologize” with frequent use of prominent Proud Boy logos and the colors black and yellow)

Both the ADL and SPLC have databases easily referenced for the latest on signal decoding, not to mention the many posts I’ve written here

Limited ways used to define hate (reduced monitoring) were meant to benefit who, exactly, and why was that the starting point anyway? Did any utility ever start with “defined pollutants in limited ways” for the benefit of people drinking water? Here’s a hint from Michigan and a very good way to look at the benefit from an appropriately wide definition of harms:

This case has nothing whatsoever to do with partisanship. It has to do with human decency, resurrecting the complete abandonment of the people of Flint and finally, finally holding people accountable for their alleged unspeakable atrocities…

It should not be seen as a political act to stop extremist groups (despite them falsely claiming to be political actors — in reality they aim to destroy politics).

Who really advocated starting with the most limited definition of hate, a definition ostensibly ignorant of basic science and history of harm prevention (ounce of prevention, pound of cure, etc)?

In other words “movements were shot through with hate and violence” yet companies say they were stuck in a worry mode about “what to do” with rising hate and violence on their watch — as if shutting it down wasn’t an obvious answer. They saw advantages to themselves of not doing anything about harms done to others… as proof of what moral principles, exactly?

Should be obvious without a history degree why it’s a dangerous disconnect to say you observe imminent, immediate, potential for harms yet stand idly by asking yourself whether it would be bad to help the people you “serve” avoid being harmed. Is a bully harmed if they can’t bully? No.

The article indeed brings up an inversion of care, where shutting down hate groups risked tech workers facing threats of attack. It seems to suggest it made them want to give into the bully tactics and preserve their own safety at the cost of others being hurt; instead it should have confirmed that they were on the right path and in a better position to be shutting bullies down so that others wouldn’t suffer the same threats (service to others instead of just self).

Indeed, what good is it to say hate speech policies prohibit direct attacks if movements full of hate and violence haven’t “direct attacked” someone yet? You’re not really prohibiting, are you? It’s like saying you prohibit plane crashes but the plane hasn’t crashed yet so you can’t stop a plane from crashing. A report from Mozilla Foundation confirms this problem:

While we may never know if this disinformation campaign would have been successful if Facebook and other platforms had acted earlier, there were clearly measures the platforms could have taken sooner to limit the reach and growth of election disinformation. Platforms were generally reactive rather than proactive.

Seriously. That’s not prohibiting attacks, that barely rises to even detecting them.

Kind of like asking what if you hear a pilot in the air say “gravity is a lie, a Democratic conspiracy…” instead of hearing the pilot say “I hate the people in America so this plane is going to crash into a building and kill people”.

Is it really a big puzzle whether to intervene in both scenarios as early as possible?

I guess some people think you have to wait for the crash and then react by saying your policy was to prohibit the crash. Those people shouldn’t be in charge of other people’s safety. Nobody should sit comfortably if they say “hey, we could and should have stopped all that harm, but oops let’s react now!”

How does the old saying go…”never again, unless a definition is hard”? Sounds about right for these tech companies.

What they really seem to be revealing is an attitude of “please don’t hold me responsible for wanting to be liked by everyone, or for wanting an easier job” and then leaving the harms to grow.

You can’t make this stuff up.

And we know what happens when tech staff are so cozy and lazy that they refuse to stop harms, obsessing about keeping themselves liked and avoiding hard work of finding flaws early and working to fix them.

The problem grows dramatically, getting significantly harder. It’s the most basic history lesson of all in security.

FBI director says domestic terrorism ‘metastasizing’ throughout U.S. as cases soar

Perhaps most telling of all is that people comforted themselves with fallacies as a reason for inaction. If they did something, they reasoned falsely, it could turn into anything. Therefore they chose to do nothing for a long while, which facilitated atrocities, until they couldn’t ignore it any longer.

Here’s another excerpt from the article:

Inside YouTube, one former employee who has worked on policy issues for a number of tech giants said people were beginning to discuss doing just that. But questions about the slippery slope slowed them down. “You start doing it for this, then everybody’s going to ask you to do it for everything else. Where do you draw the line there? What is OK and what’s not?” the former employee said, recalling those discussions.

Slippery slope is a fallacy. You’re supposed to say “hey, that’s a fallacy, and illogical so we can quickly move on” as opposed to sitting on your hands. It would be like someone saying “here’s a strawman” and then YouTube staff disclose how their highly-paid long-term discussions stayed centered on how they must defeat a strawman and ignored an actual issue.

That is not how fallacies are to be handled. Dare I say, “where do you draw the line” is evidence the people meant to deal with an issue are completely off-base if they can’t handle a simple fallacy straight away and say “HERE, RIGHT HERE. THIS IS WHERE WE DRAW THE LINE” because slippery slope is a fallacy!

After all, if the slippery slope were a real thing instead of a fallacy we should turn off YouTube entirely right now, SHUT IT DOWN, because if you watch one video on fluffy kittens next thing you know you’re eyeballs deep into KKK training videos. See what I mean? The fallacy is not even worth another minute to consider, yet somehow “tech giant” policy person is stuck charging high rates to think about it for a long while.

If slippery slope were an actual logical concern, YouTube would have to cease to exist immediately. It couldn’t show any video ever.

And the following excerpt from the same article pretty much sums up how Facebook is full of intentional hot air — they’re asking for money as ad targeting geniuses yet somehow go completely blind (irresponsible) when the targeting topic includes hate and violence:

“Why are they so good at targeting you with content that’s consistent with your prior engagement, but somehow when it comes to harm, they become bumbling idiots?” asked Farid, who remains dubious of Big Tech’s efforts to control violent extremists. “You can’t have it both ways.” Facebook, for one, recently said it would stop recommending political and civic groups to its users, after reportedly finding that the vast majority of them included hate, misinformation or calls to violence leading up to the 2020 election.

Vast majority of Facebook “civic groups” included hate, misinformation or calls to violence. That was no accident. The Mozilla Foundation report, while pointing out deepfakes were a non-threat, frames willful inaction of Facebook staff like this:

Despite Facebook’s awareness of the fact that its group recommendations feature was a significant factor in growing extremist groups on its platform, it did little to address the problem.

Maybe I can go out on a limb here and give a simple explanation, borrowed from psychologists who research how people respond to uncomfortable truths:

In seeking resolution, our primary goal is to preserve our sense of self-value. …dissonance-primed subjects looked surprised, even incredulous [and] discounted what they could see right in front of them, in order to remain in conformity with the group…

Facebook staff may just be such white American elitists, that they’re in full self-value preservation mode and discount the hate they see right in front of them to remain in conformity with… hate groups.

So let me end on a rather chillingly accurate essay from a philosopher in 1963, Hannah Arendt, explaining why it is the banality of evil that makes it so dangerous to humanity.

[Evil] possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension yet–and this is its horror–it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world. Evil comes from a failure to think.

Now compare that to a quote in the article from someone “surprised” to find out the KKK are nice people. If anything, history tells us exactly this point over and over and over again, yet somehow it was news to the big tech expert on hate groups. Again from the article:

In late 2019, Green traveled to Tennessee and Alabama to meet with people who believe in a range of conspiracy theories, from flat earthers to Sandy Hook deniers. “I went into the field with a strong hypothesis that I know which conspiracy theories are violent and which aren’t,” Green said. But the research surprised her, as some conspiracy theorists she believed to be innocuous, like flat earthers, were far more militant followers than the ones she considered violent, like people who believed in white genocide. “We spoke to flat earthers who could tell you which NASA scientists are propagating a world view and what they would do to them if they could,” Green said. Even more challenging: Of the 77 conspiracy theorists Green’s team interviewed, there wasn’t a single person who believed in only one conspiracy. That makes mapping out the scope of the threat much more complex than fixating on a single group.

For me this is like reading Green discovered water is wet. No, really, water turned out to be wet but Green didn’t know it until went to Tennessee and Alabama and put a finger in the water there. Spent a lot of money on travel. Discovered water is wet, also that white genocide is a deeply embedded systemic silent killer in America rather than an unpolished and loud one… and people with a cognitive vulnerability and easily manipulated are… wait for it… very vulnerable and easily manipulated. What a 2019 revelation!

Please excuse the frustration. Those who study history are condemned to watch people repeat it. In military history terms, here’s what we know is happening today in information warfare just like it has many times before:

For Russia, a core tenet of successful information operations is to be at war with the United States, without Americans even knowing it (and the Kremlin can and does persistently deny it).

Seemingly good folks, even those lacking urgency, can quickly do horrible things by failing to take a stand against wrongs. We know this, right? It is the seemingly “nice” people who can be the most dangerous because they normalize hate and allow it to be integrated into daily routines, systemically delivering evil as though it is anything but that (requiring a science of ethics to detect and prevent it).

From the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, who reinvigorated white supremacy in the 1920s… Genocide is women’s business.

Can physics detect up versus down? Yes. Can ethics detect right versus wrong? Yes. Science.

White supremacy is a blatant lie, yet big tech allows it to spread as a silent killer in America.

When those of us building AI systems continue to allow the blatant lie of white supremacy to be embedded in everything from how we collect data to how we define data sets and how we choose to use them, it signifies a disturbing tolerance…. Data sets so specifically built in and for white spaces represent the constructed reality, not the natural one.

Putting Woodrow Wilson in the White House (an historic white space, literally named to keep black Americans out of it) was a far worse step than any amateur hate group flailing loudly about their immediate and angry plans. In fact the latter is often used by the former as a reason for them to be put in power yet they can just normalize the hate and violence (e.g. Woodrow Wilson claimed to be defending the country while he in fact was idly allowing domestic terrorism and “wholesale murder” of Americans under the “America First” platform).

Wilson’s 1915 launch of America First to restart the KKK always has been a very clear hate signal, an extremist group, and yet even today we see it flourish on big tech as if something is blinding their counter-terrorism experts from a simple take-down.

Interesting tangent from history: the January 1917 telegram intercepted and decoded by British warning the Americans of a German plot to invade via Mexico…was actually over American communication lines. The Americans claimed to not care what messages were on their lines, so the British delicately had to intercept and expose impending enemy threats to America that were transiting on American lines yet ignored by Americans. History repeats, amiright?

Thus if big tech can say the know how to ban the KKK when they see it, why aren’t they banning America First? The two are literally the same ffffffing thing and it always been that way! How many times do historians have to say this for someone in a tech policy job to get it?

Hello Twitter can you see the tweets on Twitter about this… from years ago?

Is this thing on?

Here’s a new chart of violent white nationalist content (America First) continuing to spread on Twitter as a perfect very recent example.

Meltwater social media analytics for text mentions of “AFPAC” and “America First Political Action Conference” across the web from January 26 to February 26 found that discussion of the event primarily took place on Twitter and on forums like 4chan. This data does not differentiate between positive, neutral, and negative discussions. (Source: @jaredlholt/DFRLab via Meltwater Explore)

Big tech staff are very clearly exhibiting a failure to think (to put it in terms of Arendt’s clear 1963 warning).

Never mind all the self-congratulatory “we’re making progress” marketing. Flint Michigan didn’t get to say “hey, where’s our credit for other stuff we filtered out” when people reviewed fatalities from lead poisoning. Flint Michigan also doesn’t get to say “we were going to remove poison but then we got stuck on a slippery slope topic and decided to let the poison flow as we got paid the same to do nothing about harms.”

Big Tech shouldn’t get a pass here on very well documented harms and obviously bad response. Let’s be honest, criminal charges shouldn’t be out of the question.

X-Rays Defeat LetterLocking: Secrets Exposed of Ancient Folded Papers

A new paper in Nature says they have an algorithm that can read tightly folded letters without opening them physically.

The challenge tackled here is to reconstruct the intricate folds, tucks, and slits of unopened letters secured shut with “letterlocking,” a practice—systematized in this paper—which underpinned global communications security for centuries before modern envelopes.

It makes the bold case that these tight folds from letters 300 years ago should be considered an historic link to modern cryptography.

Source: Nature, letterlocking examples from the Brienne Collection.
From: Unlocking history through automated virtual unfolding of sealed documents imaged by X-ray microtomography

Letterlocking was an everyday activity for centuries, across cultures, borders, and social classes, and plays an integral role in the history of secrecy systems as the missing link between physical communications security techniques from the ancient world and modern digital cryptography.

I have to say I disagree with this “missing link” comment. Cryptography doesn’t seem to come into it, as there is no decipher key to unlock them unless you stretch a definition to include unfolding.

A more obvious link from these letterlock examples to modern methods would be… the modern letterlock.

Letterlocking: Aerogramme, United States Postal Service (1995) from letterlocking on Vimeo.

I suppose it’s important to say envelopes were an 1800s innovation in secrecy by providing an, ahem, envelope. Aerogrammes are ostensibly less safe than putting one in an envelope, even though an attacks on either one are basically the same — unlock, unfold, read.

That is why I say a “locking” fold of paper without an envelope doesn’t make a direct link to modern encryption. I mean encryption also existed in letters for many centuries (as I’ve written here before), separate from how the letters were folded.

For example, here is a German message intercepted in 1918 by British operator in Basra after liberating Iraq.

The bottom note says “2 letters missed thro machine gun jam”, which I suppose would be comparable to the “wormholes” in lockletter unfolding. But unlike lockletters, which can be read once unfolded, this text still lacks a key.

For another example here’s an old slide I made to show how the key in a 16th century “cardan grille system” (early steganography) was used during the American Revolution:

Tom Cruise is a Fake. For Real This Time.

Why are some fakes seen as ok and others are “scary”? Hint: agency and power in voice.

How a movie character is written or portrayed influences a viewer’s impression, which can in turn influence people’s stereotypes on gender norms.

More to the point:

White men tend to only listen to other white men. They will occasionally listen to a white woman.

Something I’ve always known about Tom Cruise is that he is a very popular fake. Literally. He is a paid actor, who makes a living from being paid to be a fake so it should be fair to say that’s what he is.

He is so highly paid because his fakes apparently are so good people find them believable. People even think he’s tall and well dressed (neither are true — sophisticated teams give him that appearance).

Now comes an article with a stark warning that evidence has been found of Tom Cruise, the fake, being faked.

Deepfake videos of Tom Cruise show the technology’s threat to society is very real: We’re entering scary times.

Scary? Entering scary times? Have you seen this from 1986, the true hey-day of cyber hacking?

WARNING: DESPITE THIS CONVINCING VIDEO IN CIRCULATION, TOM CRUISE WAS NOT IN THE NAVY, DID NOT FLY JETS …ETC ETC

Videos of Tom Cruise have showed since at least the 1980s technology’s threat to society by allowing Tom Cruise to be a fake.

Everyone needs to ask themselves whether Tom Cruise is a threat to society since he is an actor, makes a living being a fake? Think about it. How often have you really seen a real Tom Cruise? Ever?

Incidentally, here was my take several years ago on that movie poster of Tom Cruise showing that anyone these days can make a fake of anything using technology. Admittedly it DID NOT age well.

Original artwork by me.

And if you are wondering how you can reliably detect that my image is a fake, unlike the original image of Tom Cruise (also a fake), then just look very, very closely at the eyes.

In a real photo or video, the reflections on the eyes would generally appear to be the same shape and color. However, most images generated by artificial intelligence — including generative adversary network (GAN) images — fail to accurately or consistently do this, possibly due to many photos combined to generate the fake image.

I mean how to tell aside from the fact that RMS is the known founder of Free Software Foundation (FSF) and GNU is Not Unix (GNU) and obviously would never fit into a flight suit.

We dispense shame and hate on all the “paparazzi” who violate his privacy and dare to expose a real Tom Cruise (e.g. how short and badly dressed he is), yet laud all his fakery that he thrives from.

The alarmist article doesn’t bother to address such a very important and simple problem with its analysis.

It all begs the question of why should we be comfortable and trust a fake like Tom Cruise up until now, but then worry about someone else making a fake of his fakes?

In other words, why should we trust Tom Cruise being the only responsible fake, more than someone who is faking Tom Cruise being a fake?

If we could achieve trust of one fake (a Scientologist of all things, who peddles in fake beliefs), why not achieve trust in the fake of that fake? Or maybe another way of asking it is who really is scared by a world where a Tom Cruise fakes being tall, or fakes being a Navy pilot?

Some may claim to be “scared” by the idea of agency and voice being held by those not in power. That is what this really is about.

Someone who doesn’t appear physically to be Tom Cruise (a non-white, non-male) now may be able to attain the same power of influence that used to be reserved only for Tom Cruise (thanks to technology, just like the technology Tom Cruise used to appear taller than he is).

Imagine a black woman putting her words into the mouth of Tom Cruise and nobody detecting that it really is a black woman’s ideas. SO SCARY!

It’s about power. Why is power scary?

In reality, this kind of fear mongering with technology goes back to the turn of the century when machines put human faces on and people started experimenting with the idea of robots and inauthentic presence enabled by machines.

And even more importantly it takes us back to the first publication by Wollstonecraft (1790 Vindication of the Rights of Men) being extremely popular while she remained anonymous, yet her second publication under her real name was shunned because… the author admitted to being a woman. If only she could have published her brilliant works as a Tom Cruise video, right?

Also, to be fair, Tom Cruise is someone who battled with perception his whole life and made a career out of presenting a different vision than others were assigning to him.

He overcame obstacles and transformed his own physical appearance from something that he was ashamed of into an unbelievable physical representation, thus mastering the art of a fake.

People celebrate his achievement of fake Tom Cruise, so perhaps we should do the same celebrations for achievement of fake fake Tom Cruise.

I’ve written about all this security theater before, with regard to people faking the Queen of England. I write about it because I continue to find it amusing how it is a security topic that is literally about theater, yet nobody seems to admit the huge irony.

Additional food for thought: Americans have been spreading loads of fake traitor General Lee art after the Civil War (back to my point about industrialization-era fakes), not to mention American image manipulation going back to President Lincoln’s time (his portrait was a politicized fake — his head mounted on the body of someone opposed to freedom).

Putting up a statue of Lee is about the same thing as if Americans went about erecting monuments to Osama bin Laden after 9/11. Show me the outrage about statues of Lee before we think someone faking the fake Tom Cruise is a top concern. In fact, for all the deepfake art being generated using old photographs, it’s about time someone animated Lee’s statues with his own authentic words asking his followers to never put up statues of him.

Talk about scary fakes.

If anyone thinks it is “scary” now that Americans believe something is real that instead has been entirely faked… have I got some very real news about frightening times we’ve been in for over 100 years!

1860 Deepfake Machine

Update March 5: Vice has investigated the source of fakes of the fake Tom Cruise, and found it’s a sophisticated operation using professional actors!

The Tom Cruise TikTok videos required not only the expertise of Ume and his team but also the cooperation of Miles Fisher, a well-known Tom Cruise impersonator who was behind a viral video in 2019 that purported to show Cruise announcing his candidacy for the 2020 election. […] Ume has even detailed some of the highly complex and involved technical processes he had to go through to produce previous deepfakes. So, while the Tom Cruise TikTok videos that went viral last week may look like they were created in minutes, the reality is that they took a lot of time, technical expertise, and the skilled performance of a real actor.

If this is good news for anyone, that it takes a huge professional team including an actor to fake another actor, then the fears are being validated as about power and barrier of entry being lowered by technology.

And I would argue that the economics of a lower barrier to entry means regulation, let alone social norms of use, should kick in the same way as ever because artistic fakes are nothing new. Even the media hasn’t changed here so there’s literally nothing new except the idea that more people can do what already has been done for centuries if not longer.

Lattice of pseudonyms. Source: A terminology for talking about privacy by data minimization, 2010

The Give and Take of Cake

I’m curious about a theory posted in a rhyming-slang encoding guide meant to demystify some fun yet secretive communication:

…no cake can be eaten that has not been given (by a shopkeeper) and taken…

“Give and Take”, which rhymes with cake, is thus said to mean cake.

However, cake can be eaten alone. Cake also can be baked and not given away, only eaten. Does nobody in the rhyming slang context bake a cake and eat it themselves?

And that brings to mind something more like a “cake and eat it too” explanation:

…to have or do two good things at the same time that are impossible to have or do at the same time…

It looks like there are interesting cultural clues in a key to decoding signals, although the current reference may actually be incorrect or misleading.

Why is Wikepedia So Racist?

I recently had to explain that someone edited the Wikipedia entry on Woodrow Wilson to falsely claim that the very man who called for a return of the KKK, restarted the KKK as President, and led its rise to humanitarian disasters across America… was somehow “personally opposed to the KKK”.

Click image to enlarge:

Source: Wikipedia

That’s crazy talk.

It would be like saying General Grant was personally opposed to destroying the KKK. Wrong. Grant destroyed it. Wilson restarted it. Those are facts.

A totally false sentence about Woodrow Wilson entered into a Wikipedia post makes literally no sense, is obviously counter-factual, yet there it is… without any citation or reference at all.

It’s like someone from the KKK dropped in and thought it would be really funny for people to read “water in the ocean isn’t wet [citation needed]”.

The cost to disrupt and confuse with these attacks on weakly-anti-racist (also known as racist) systems is very low, the cost to defend (without proper anti-racist measures for prevention of racism) is high.

I presented something about this problem way back in 2016 at KiwiconX

I’m finding this class of attack all over Wikipedia. Here’s another example from the very racist history of voucher schools, fraudulently trying to minimize their impact and use by white insecurity hate groups in America.

Click image to enlarge and see the crazy counter-factual statement that “all modern voucher programs prohibit racial discrimination” with [citation needed] right next to it:

That is just so factually wrong it’s amazing. Anyone apparently can get garbage to stick immediately on Wikipedia with a very tedious and long process to get it removed or corrected.

Actual analysis of failure to prohibit discrimination in modern voucher programs would be more like the following:

  • 2016: “Dollars to Discriminate: The (Un)intended Consequences of School Vouchers… legislators appear to have neglected to construct policies that safeguard student access and ensure that public funds do not support discriminatory practices…”
  • 2017: The Racist Origins of Private School Vouchers
  • 2017: “Studies on charter schools in Indianapolis, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas, among other places, show that charter schools can lead to greater racial stratification.”
  • 2017: “…as private school voucher programs grow to scale – statewide and even nationally in other countries – they can actually increase segregation…”
  • 2020: “Century Foundation also proved that voucher programs across the country benefit the most advantaged students … continue the long-residual effects of racism.”
  • 2020: School Vouchers – An Enduring Racist Practice

Wikipedia clearly has widespread integrity issues, weak editing/deployment pipeline process and quality is very low.

Voucher systems not only perpetuate a history of racism, they were intentionally racist and continue to be a tool of racists. When desegregation was ordered, some racists thought the clever trick to continue racism would be to shut all the public schools down and hand out vouchers instead.

In 1958, courts mandated that white-only schools in nine Virginia areas — including the town of Charlottesville — admit black students. Rather than comply and allow the black students, the public schools in Charlottesville and elsewhere in Virginia closed. Some of these public schools in Virginia remained closed for five years, and when they reopened, they were nearly all black students. The white students had relocated to private schools with “segregation grants” to pay tuition.

It’s that simple. Anyone bringing up vouchers who doesn’t start from the position of explaining how racism will be prevented in a well-documented system of racism… is just being racist and perpetuating racism.

And it’s very much the same line of reasoning behind tipping culture — racism used for perpetuation of slavery.