Russian Hacking Story is Manipulation of the American Public
By: Todd Smekens
The case of Russians hacking the Democratic National Committee, along with Julian Assange and his website, Wikileaks, has some incredible teaching points about social engineering for Americans. Especially, Americans who suffer from amnesia, or those who mostly follow their favorite nightly news anchor on television. However, if you’re one of those people, chances are you are not reading this article. I’m no fan of Fox News and have been one of its greatest critics because of Roger Ailes’s role, but Sean Hannity recently interviewed Julian Assange over this whole Russian hacking business and our intelligence community. It was a great interview and I hope Fox viewers watched it carefully. Let’s take a look at a few salient points and put this whole “influence campaign” into perspective.
First off, our Intelligence Community (IC) is all about social engineering. I’ve extracted a paragraph from Wikipedia about “social engineering” for political science purposes. Read it very closely. For emphasis, I’ve used italics and bold:
Social engineering can be used as a means to achieve a wide variety of different results, as illustrated by the different governments and other organizations that have employed it. Discussion of the possibilities for such manipulation became especially active following World War II, with the advent of mass television, and continuing discussion of techniques of social engineering, particularly in advertising, and bias-based journalism, remains quite pertinent in the western model of consumer capitalism.
Journalism, when the intent is not to report objectively, but to report with an intent to sway popular attitudes and social behaviors or to “shape public opinion”, comes under the scope of social engineering.This also applies when information that would bring into question the viewpoints and social goals of a journalistic establishment is withheld in favor of other information.
Within ethical journalism the knowledge of both personal and establishment/producer bias allows the journalist to avoid social engineering by correcting it and by reporting factual evidence in a way which does not promote or oppose attitudes and social behaviors, and thereby portray or deny them as the “popular” attitude and preferable social behavior by virtue of the establishment’s authority or possession of a national or international platform.
As a result of my research as a media critic, I discovered that propaganda was widely used in the 1920s and ’30s by our press. Back then, and even today, it is called “yellow journalism”. The American working class was being exploited by Robber Barons who owned industry, universities, and the press. Instead of the press holding the powerful accountable, the press was used by the powerful to manipulate the people.
The unknowing public was being manipulated against their own self-interests. This is also called oppression. Back in the ’30s, workers were about 80% unionized, which also served as the backbone of our democracy. It was through local union membership that we socialized and had a voice. We also recognized oppression by Robber Barons through the workplace. We were revolting when Franklin Delano Roosevelt became POTUS in 1933. FDR’s, “New Deal”, was struck to keep us happy and worker rights were installed to keep the country from shutting down in one large strike. The white industrialists would have lost everything, so they struck a deal with our president.
Modern Day Gilded Age
The time period in the ’20s-’30s was referred to as the Gilded Age. We are experiencing the same thing in 2017…actually it’s been going on for over forty years through neoliberal policies adopted by our modern-day Oligarchs. It was implemented by Ronald Reagan in the U.S. and Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. However, the major difference is unions now represent less than 20% of the workforce. This was done by design.
As citizens of representative democracy, we need two things to make sure we aren’t oppressed by people in power: 1) a strong central government; and, 2) a free and independent press. These two institutions are essential to establish checks and balances of powerful people within our private and public sectors. The government holds the private sector accountable through regulation, and an independent press holds our public servants accountable. Our founders insisted both the government and the free press serve us – “we the people”.
Holding the Powerful Accountable
In the interview with Julian Assange, Sean Hannity asks him about Wikileaks, “What is the purpose of this whistleblower website.” Here is Julian’s response:
“We’re in the business of publishing information about power,” Assange said. “Why are we in the business of publishing information about power? Because people can do things with power, they can do very bad things with power. If they’re incompetent, they can do dangerous things. If they’re evil, they can do wicked things.”
Americans have suffered from social engineering by our media for so long, we’ve forgotten that our press is supposed to hold the powerful accountable. To get your mind engaged, we must ask ourselves why is:
- Government attacking Wikileaks and whistleblowers
- Intelligence community trying to discredit Wikileaks
- Establishment media attacking Wikileaks and Julian Assange
- Everyone wanting to blame Russia for the election outcome
- Media focused on the actual content of the emails obtained
Here is a little perspective, the United States ranks 45th in press freedom compared to other countries. Our war against whistleblowers is the primary reason given for such a low ranking. Some of those whistleblowers have used Wikileaks and other sites to share their documents. Edward Snowden went to Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian U.K. because he trusted him over all the American media companies, including Washington Post and New York Times. Glenn was attacked by journalists in both the U.S. and U.K. for publishing the stolen documents which embarrassed both countries. Glenn and his colleagues were harassed by both governments.
Think about this slowly, the major press outlets in both Western powers, attacked the journalist who exposed that our government was illegally spying on us. You would think they would be applauding such efforts. Instead, they defended our governments and attacked those exposing criminal behavior. In fact, the Snowden documents revealed that James Clapper, head of our national intelligence lied under oath to congress. Was he fired by our democratic president? Nope.
Open democracies welcome the press to ask questions and verify answers. Open democracies rely on whistleblowers to make sure the government acts responsibly and serves its people. I would call those healthy democracies. We don’t have anything resembling an open democracy, and our press has partnered with this government-owned and operated by Plutocrats.
Quite frankly, this journalist could care less where hacks or leaks are coming from because if you were being honest and conducting ethical business for the state as elected representatives, you’d be hiding nothing. However, if you’re not ethical or honest, you’d have plenty to hide from the public, and would attack whistleblowers and journalistic truth seekers.
Our Society is Closed & Manipulated
I’ll close with one more thought to test your memory and break through the years of manipulation or social engineering done against us. Remember after the 9/11 travesty, our government quickly put together the Office of Homeland Security under the Patriot Act. Our government wanted to violate any of our rights to privacy in order to protect us. Americans were so conditioned and became so frightened of “evil-doers”, they eagerly said yes. We wanted our government to protect us from “terrorists”. Not only that, the media convinced us, it was a good idea by basically saying, “If you don’t have anything to hide, what’s the big deal if the government spies on you, or reads your email, or listens to your phone calls?” I had friends and family say the same thing to me. We don’t have anything to hide, so let the government eavesdrop on all they want.
Number one, as a journalist who uses anonymous sources (some of who are whistleblowers), I don’t want the government spying on me. Plus, I don’t trust the people in the government. History has shown us countless times, if we give power to states, they’ll abuse it. If our government prosecutes whistleblowers, guess how many government employees become whistleblowers by going to the press? Zero, because nobody wants to risk retaliation.
I doubt seriously if Sean Hannity from Fox News fully understands who pulls the strings in Washington, but read Julian Assange’s words carefully:
If you don’t know what’s happening in the world with powerful individuals, corporations and governments … immoral actors within the state or within those big corporations prosper,” Assange said at the conclusion of the interview.
“[But] if you have true information coming out about how people actually behave, what’s the result? The rest of the society goes ‘You know what? I don’t want to deal with you.’
Now, I’ll leave you with this thought…my evidence points to a closed government that we all know is controlled by the Plutocracy. The IC works for them, not for us. Our government has been overthrowing elected presidents and dictators alike for decades. We’ve assassinated leaders and installed governments who support our beliefs. Our government and press work for these Plutocrats. In order to avoid scrutiny, the Oligarchs use lots of propaganda and whitewashing of facts and circumstances to keep people in line. Who are the masters of manipulating data and information? Who are the experts of social engineering?
If you want to believe Russian hackers wanted to make former Secretary Clinton look bad, by all means, go for it. I’m sure Vladimir Putin preferred Trump over Clinton because Trump has publicly said we should work with Russia. Meanwhile, Clinton was ready to go to war with Russia because they made us look foolish in Syria. However, the folks in Europe aren’t being manipulated by Putin. Russia didn’t convince Brits to leave the European Union? What about the cynicism of the French people toward their Oligarchs? The European people are responding to the effect of four decades of neoliberal policies – austerity, globalization, and oppression by the Elites/Plutocracy.
While all governments wish to be looked upon favorably, the role of journalists is truth-seeking. Many times those motives clash. In fact, at most times they should be at odds with each other. When our press is all too willing to promote fallacies to the people who they serve, ignoring the wrongdoing of our own actors, it should be a red flag. When our country ranks 45th internationally for press freedom while we claim to be an open democracy, it should be a red flag. I don’t know about anybody else, but there are way too many red flags waving in the United States.