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'a morally ambiguous case like the Israel-Gaza War'

There is no moral equivalence between Hamas and the state of Israel in this war. Their fundamental aims are completely different. Hamas' stated goal -- stated again and again -- is to wipe Israel and the Jews out of existence. Isarael's goal is to live peacefully. Hamas brags about brutalizing and killing babies, children and women. Israel goes to tremendous effort to avoid killing civilians even as Hamas pushes their own civilian people into the front lines by hiding behind them or preventing them from leaving. One is pure evil; the other is not.

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That was a disgusting statement. Netanyahu may be at most on the level of evil of Trump, but in his war cabinet sits also a respectable man like Benny Gantz today. But Hamas is something between Hitler and ISIS.

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Whatever the case is, people are using the evil acts of some to justify evil against the many that includes the mass murder of innocents, even the possible extermination of an entire group of people, whatever group it might be. In that, I see no difference from either group. Palestinian or Israeli, Hamas or the IDF.

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I care more about actual outcomes than stated goals. Both sides hate eachother; it's not hard to find hair-raising rhetoric without even looking hard.

But one side kills between 10 and 100 times as many innocent people as the other.

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The United States has liberal norms and liberal institutions. But we don’t have a firm liberal consensus and the polls currently suggest that an illiberal candidate might win the next presidential election.

What’s the version of this proposal that is still a good idea if Donald Trump is president and the whole apparatus of government funded media is run by Steve Bannon?

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Fox news already exists though? The most watched TV channel out there. There's room for the gov to make a difference by publishing liberal arguments because there isn't a dominant private sector entity already doing it.

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I agree these are separate fights and both are good ones. But they are in tension. One of the important principles for liberal democracy is that we limit the extent to which state power is used to protect incumbents and weaken the political opposition. Having opinionated state media is an obvious risk here. It’s not an insurmountable risk. But I think people are right to be cautious and that the original post here does not work through the details.

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Nov 8, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

More broadly, trusting markets to get it right is idealistic. Marketing bends preferences. Mispricing (lack of a carbon tax) makes price signals wrong. I like the idea of promoting basic American values, but we don't have consensus on those anymore. Maybe we need a much larger non-profit media sector. The control of so much media (especially talk radio) by the Right has "pulled the invisible wires that control the public mind." (Bernays 1928 book on Propaganda)

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This is exactly right. The market place of ideas only works well when we have well educated and informed consumers. But that is lacking due to an education system that teaches to a test and not honing skills such as synthesis, analysis, and evaluation and to ask questions and not take things at face value. Instead we are fed propaganda not just from Russia and China, but Fox News, OAN, etc. The media engage in “both sides arguments” rather than reporting the facts and calling bullshit when one side is lying or distorting the data and facts.

This is the dangerous cocktail in front of us today, it has been built over decades and will not go away anytime soon.

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This seems to be denying the agency of too many Americans. If you are going to believe that American minds are so susceptible to propaganda and too ignorant and undereducated to sort through competing narratives, you may as well give up on the whole project of liberal democracy. How can such a people have the capacity to vote if they don't even have the capacity to think?

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Nov 8, 2023·edited Nov 9, 2023

If you follow George Lakoff and other scholars of what's known as cognitive politics, they'll pretty much tell you that if you try to get voters to think, you have already lost the battle.

Why? Most cognition is subconscious -- 90% though modern researchers are arguing it's even as high as 95%. The subconscious is the impressive (the senses) and the emotive (emotions and moods). In humans, most decision-making occurs at the sensory and emotional levels, well before the thinking and contemplation levels.

Advertisers know this. Con artists know this. Political strategists like the late Lee Atwater and Frank Luntz know this. Steve Bannon knows this. He studied the modern Russian propaganda techniques Noah mentioned, and he was an early observer of Gamergate and figured out how to scale it to American culture.

Qanon knows this, and something that didn't even exist until after Trump was president is now one of America's top five religions.

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I think you vastly overestimate you own 'capacity to think'. No one exists outside of the flow of competing narratives: if you can think then they can think, it's not like any of us are less influenced by propaganda than others.

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The BBC has been an incredible public service and vehicle for British soft power post-WWII that we should replicate.

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I'm British. I *love* the BBC for both its factual and entertainment output. But I have to concede that if it didn't exist, nobody would be rushing to invent it - its operating model just doesn't make sense in 2023. I still happily pay the licence fee, but many people don't, reasoning that they can get similar content elsewhere without having to pay. It has lost bipartisan political support; the government is inherently suspicious (with good reason) that it's filled with people who hate it; and even progressives who should be its natural allies are constantly accusing it of becoming enfeebled and doffing its cap to government lest they refuse to renew its licence (there is some merit to this claim, too, with BBC employees even outside of news reporting being constrained in what they can say as private citizens).

In my country, there is regular hand-wringing among the centrist/centre-left commentariat about how it's possible to safeguard the BBC's long-term future. For such a venerable institution to be in crisis in one country, it would make it seem like building foreign imitators from scratch would be a total nonstarter.

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That's kind of the whole problem, right? Before and after World War II liberals built all these great institutions to promote and protect liberalism like the BBC, NHS, PBS, Social Security, and so on and we've been resting on our laurels ever since. We figured that liberalism was just naturally where the world would converge and didn't think we really needed to keep these institutions up. Turns out they're pretty important.

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Nov 8, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

You haven't even mentioned Telegram. Some of the most powerful pro-Hamas content (or propaganda, if you would prefer to call it that) is spreading via Telegram and WhatsApp channels, and literally no-one has any idea what to do about it.

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The US government is involved . The problem is they spend too much time censoring Twitter, Facebook , and people like Matt Taibbi for political reasons . They need to go after the Russian and Chinese illiberal propaganda . But they don’t want to offend the foreigners as in COVID and the lab leak . Who controls the propaganda machine and for what reasons and the benefit of whom ?

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The government isn't censoring anyone though?

And given how rabidly angry people get over stuff it doesn't even do, I can't even imagine the shit show that would happen if the gov started actively producing and promoting non-conservative stuff.

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“Fast forward eight decades, and government messaging efforts like FDR’s are basically nonexistent.”

Have you read the lawsuit against the Biden administration for its various nefarious efforts to coerce social media companies to censor speech? Under the guise of “misinformation”?

See https://ago.mo.gov/missouri-attorney-general-andrew-bailey-asks-court-to-block-biden-from-violating-americans-1st-amendment-rights-citing-1400-facts/

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For some of us, Frank Capra is still a famous movie director. He is director of such favorite films as, " It's a Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

BUT I am very dubious of the government getting into the propaganda business. It was justifiable during WW II, because Congress had voted to declare war and committed the whole country up to its neck. There were a lot of people who needed to be caught up on basic facts. The "Why We Fight" series was made first and foremost for draftees. A similar situation is when the government was handing out information on COVID.

However, not everyone accepts the idea that we are living in a crisis of illiberalism and demagoguery. Today, Government warnings about demagoguery would just come across as governmental weaponization of the information space. The people who most need the message are those who trust the government least.

This reminds me of a discussion several decades ago, when people were asking, “Why is there no good liberal talk radio?" Rush Limbaugh and his unwashed buddies were busy preparing the path for Trump, and there was no one making the case for the other side.

Well, we need to find someone who can make that case.

The path forward is to find talented people who can talk to ordinary people. That's why I lamented the fall of Al Franken because I saw that kind of talent in him. Then, then some anti-trumper with deep pockets needs to get this person on the air. Hopefully, it would soon be commercially successful.

In terms of visuals, the Lincoln Project is good at making things that irritate the MAGA world. But not at saying that Communicate with the average human being. Again, we need a privately funded operation that can get make such visuals and get them out to the various types of media.

Finally, BTW, the Axis powers of Germany and Japan simply did not have the capacity to conquer the world. No country ever has had that capacity. There was a great book out, some years back that showed that every single empire in world history has fallen because it has tried to do too much. The overreach is the death of empires.

The Rise and Fall of the Great Empires by Andrew Taylor

If you want to see more on this bit of geopolitical wisdom, here's a link.

https://kathleenweber.substack.com/p/its-hostile-its-real-but-dont-call

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"We are all somehow expected to sacrifice hours of day to do thankless, unpaid work pushing back against illiberal narratives spread relentlessly by people for whom spreading those narratives is a full-time salaried job."

This seems like one of the most damning indictment of the current state of free speech law I've ever read. When legacy media outlets dominated it simply wasn't logistically possible for foreign powers to have outsized influence on the information received by the American public, so it made sense for our laws to take a hands off approach: technology didn't provide one side an inherent advantage. But now technology has changed and provides illiberal actors an inherent advantage, and our laws need to change to reflect this new equilibrium.

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Scary. I mean your ideas are scary (and a slippery slope). Not the foreign actors. The Russian troll farm BS in 2016 (where Russia spent tens of thousands of dollars to reach practically nobody in an election where billions was spent) was used as an excuse to create CISA and the public/private censorship complex which has almost entirely focused on censoring and deplatforming Americans, not foreigners. The pols don’t fear the troll farms, they fear their inability to control the narrative domestically. That Noah seems blissfully unaware of government censorship and propaganda efforts (calling for these to be established without realizing they already exist and they pay much larger salaries than the troll farms do- with taxpayer funds- in addition to exercising indirect control over the operations of the largest social media companies) is simply a sign of how well “liberalism” (or at least a perverted form of liberalism) is doing in the media (traditional, digital, social).

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"The pols don’t fear the troll farms, they fear their inability to control the narrative domestically."

When foreign governments are spending millions of dollars to control the narrative *in our country*, that is absolutely a legitimate government interest.

"they already"

You actually believe that?

DHS's disinformation board was shut down after opposition from ̶f̶i̶f̶t̶h̶ ̶c̶o̶l̶u̶m̶n̶i̶s̶t̶s̶ the GOP and after its head, Nina Jancowicz, received numerous death threats from rightists.

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Nov 8, 2023·edited Nov 8, 2023

You are terribly misinformed

about government censorship and deplatforming of Americans. Must be the Russian trolls at work! Like Dr Evil, they spend millions! 😊

By the way, I am all for the government spending its own money to make the case for Bidenomomics or democracy or anti-littering campaigns (I loved the crying Native American ad back in the day) or whatever. That is up to Congress. And the administration can call all the press outlets and influencers it likes to push narratives or critique coverage (and they do). They also have a microphone and 100 media lackeys right in the White House every day. Propaganda and politicking is safer than censorship.

We’ve already seen that censorship can go off the rails. They used the troll farm bogeyman excuse to censor Americans and block them from communicating. They didn’t seem particularly concerned about the Russkies- just domestic opponents. Funny that. Who would have guessed?

Any guesses on how often propaganda about “democracy” would become barely disguised campaign spending and also push false narratives (see Covid), undermining the entire project?

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For a place that didn't exist, they sure pumped out a ton of tweets and face book groups.

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Well, there obviously is a lot of brainwashing going on! Glad someone is focused on Russkies under the bed whilst China is raking in scores of billions from the IRA. China knows how to get value for money. Russia not so much.

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I mean, the way you keep reaching for hyperbole like "brainwashing" and doubling down on the whole idea that foreign propaganda is completely made up doesn't say a lot for you alignment with reality.

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Also a big indictment of the naive and economically illiterate idea of "citizen journalists" that internet utopians used to promote.

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This film has not aged well.

Most of Europe today is struggling to control antisemitism in their streets, having embraced diversity over nationalism for decades. It turns out that inviting large numbers of Middle-Eastern Muslims into their continent has a few downsides.

Hungary (the example used in the movie) is the safest place in Europe for Jews today. I have friends in Budapest and they report that Jews go to synagogue without fear, Catholics go to mass without fear, and gay men walk down the street holding hands without fear. You can't say that about Paris or London today, and If that's not the essence of pluralistic liberalism, I'm not sure what is.

"It should be obvious that this is a recipe for liberalism’s utter defeat."

This ship has sailed, Noah. Locke's core, Enlightenment liberal claim of a value-neutral state is dead. You and Bari Weiss and Andrew Sullivan are playing Weekend at Bernie's with its corpse. Meanwhile, the Left and the Democratic Party have moved on to wokeness (a distinctly value-laden proposition) and the Right is still trying to pull its head out of its butt. The current GOP warfare is mostly between those who realize that value neutrality is gone vs. those who still cling to it.

"The U.S. government needs to get back into the information warfare game."

Isn't that with the "misinformation bureaus" of the various federal agencies are about? And look what happened. For the federal government to do this requires deep trust and some kind of broadly shared ideological (or theocratic) core among the populace. We lack both of those today.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but doubling down on Enlightenment liberalism (via federal information warfare) isn't going to work. It was Enlightenment liberalism (Locke and especially Mill) that got us here.

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Brian, the antisemitism in Europe is as old as Judaism itself. Antisemitism is also multifarious because it is casualized, in that Jews know that they are never truly safe because they are scapegoated by the left and the right for whenever bad things happen.

The rightwing tropes are of the "outsider plotter" variety. The leftwing tropes couch antisemitism in economic manipulation: bankers, merchants, globalists, etc. Nazi Germany, the most recent and most horrifying example, trafficked in both. And as Daniel Jonah Goldhagen wrote in his provocative "Hitler's Willing Executioners," he said that what Hitler and the Nazis did was not especially novel but was effectively a weaponization of the antisemitism that German culture incubated.

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European antisemitism right now is not coming from either of the sources you identified though. It has in the past, but major European cities today are not awash with Nazis or communist Jew hatred. The marchers screaming "kill the Jews" and "from the river to the sea" and "death to Israel" are Muslim. There are some mostly young, uber-mis-educated student leftists (useful idiots) thrown in as well, but just look at the people who dominate the protests in London and Paris the last few weeks, if you can even find pictures of them, since most of the Euro-press is going out of the way to ignore them.

The protests and vandalism in America looks more like typical Leftists to me. America doesn't have nearly as high a percentage of Muslim "refugees" as Western Europe does, so it makes sense that the protests would be whiter and more ideological than religious. I haven't seen much out of Spencer and Fuentes and their ilk, but for at least a decade or more, the racist Right has far less power and influence than the racist Left.

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Brian, I used Google and used the term London protests and Paris protests.

For London, I got results of the protests you mentioned from The Times (Rupert Murdoch owned), BBC, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Independent, Sky News, the Evening Standard, Reuters, CNN International and even American media with reporters on the ground for the New York Times, Associated Press, NBC News and CBS News.

For Paris, I saw that the French government has banned pro-Palestinian protests on Oct. 12 but YouTube videos suggest they are still ongoing since I am seeing videos dated 3-4 days ago, though this could be when they were uploaded and not necessarily uploaded in the moment. For the protests from the Oct. 7 onslaught to the ban order, my query turns up France 24 (state-owned media), Le Monde, and a lot of Euro media like Euronews (Belgium), DW (Germany), Politico Europe, Al Jazeera, CNN International, Sky and a lot of U.S. media -- New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, AP, NBC, CBS and Voice of America.

And Brian, the hate incidents in Europe are a lot more complicated in the U.S. So they cannot be easily mapped along a left-right axis, nor do they necessarily have any parallels to U.S. politics. In France, literal Communists are a fringe party but have actually held political offices, whereas in the U.S. they are usually cranks who alienate even their fellow leftists. Socialists are mainstream parties, even though the European Union pre-empts them from being literally socialist and nationalizing the means of production.

Protests and vandalism are markers of rage, not an political program or an ideology. There were much larger and much more violent protests in Paris over the summer, but what those had in common with unrest you see in the U.S. was that it was a reaction to a police killing. And France has its own share of internet-famous provocateur equivalents of Spencer and Fuentes on the far left and far right, but they are so close to each other in style and rhetoric that as an American you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

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I'm glad you were able to find that. I watch France 24 and NHK every night on PBS in America. France 24's broadcast news has not covered the Paris protests since their first day marching in defiance of French authorities. They have covered the London protests a little but not much. To put that into perspective, France 24 covered the Yellow Vests for weeks on end. They covered the Dutch farmers for weeks on end. On Muslims chanting "death to the Jews" in Paris every Saturday... crickets. I suspect that is because France 24 is state-owned and demonstrating the impotence of the French state against the residents of the Paris banlieues is dangerous. The potential for civil war along this axis in France is quite real. The other alternative is straight out of Michael Houellebecq's Submission (which if you haven't read, you should, as it's excellent), but I don't think the French Left is that desperate yet.

I'm really not sure what you're arguing with me about. We both seem to agree that there are no Nazis or Socialists or Commies involved. I reject your notion that European hate incidents are "more complex". Again, maybe they used to be, but not right now. The Muslim religion (as practiced in the Middle East) is expressly and violently hostile to the Jews. The European ruling class allowed huge numbers of middle-Eastern Muslims to resettle in Europe. Those Muslims are now protesting in the streets, attacking Jews. That's pretty straightforward.

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I'm amused that you think enlightenment liberalism is value neutral but wokeness is value laden- with the implication that the values are different now. I think the language and the affinities have changed, but the philosophy remains the same between the two.

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You misunderstand. I don't think it's value neutral at all. That was Locke's claim -- essentially, "let's stop trying to kill each other over rival interpretations of God so we can all get on with making money". And it worked shockingly well for a while, but it was an illusion. It ran down 17 centuries of shared Christian cultural heritage in less than 200 years. We were draining our cultural bank account without even realizing it.

There can not be a value-neutral state. Patrick Deneen summarized this problem well in Why Liberalism Failed. Locke was simply placing one value (religious tolerance) above all the others. There's a reason freedom of religion is first in the Bill of Rights. It is the illusion that has finally died.

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Could you comment on the way fratricidal wars between Catholics and protestants drove the understanding of religious tolerance as a value, and why it is an illusion?

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It's an illusion because compared to a Buddhist or an atheist or even a Muslim, Catholics and Protestants are almost indistinguishable. In reality, both groups derive from a shared 1500 year cultural heritage. It is that historical moral core that made Locke's tolerance and the illusion of "value-neutrality" possible.

It's easy to tolerate your neighbor when he agrees with you about the 10 commandments, Jesus' divinity, the resurrection, the virgin birth, and natural law. Sure, you argue about infant baptism, but Locke's point was that you have more in common than you realize, so stop fighting and learn to tolerate each other. Lockean tolerance becomes a lot harder when your neighbor is a secular atheist, or a progressive Buddhist, or a militant Hindu. Tolerance is harder when your neighbor thinks slicing the private parts off children is a positive good. Tolerance is harder when he flies a Palestinian flag in celebration of mass murder.

We thought we were diverse in 1789 (those darn Italians!), but we were far more culturally and ethically homogenous than we realized. That allowed the illusion to take root, and even when it became obvious (in the 60's) that it was an illusion, we were too wedded to it (and lacked any alternative) to do anything about it.

I would argue the alternatives to liberalism still look pretty bleak, but we're going to end up with one of them.

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Ok but Catholics and protestant spent 250 years or so murdering eachother despite being almost indistinguishable. So I am unsure where you get the conclusion that it's harder to tolerate more diversity rather than less: there does not appear to be any amount diversity small enough not to kill over. Conversely, we do not see raw diversity predicting civil conflict.

You appear to be running on personal bias rather than emperical observation.

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Sweden -- best most recent data point. Safe and trusting society for centuries. They let in a bunch of Muslim refugees (radically different culture) and now they are increasingly facing serious crime problems and social breakdown.

I don't think I really have to make a scientific case for the idea more diverse (and I don't mean skin color, I mean a lower coefficient of cultural commonality) societies are going to have greater social problems. That seems pretty self-evident. You seem to be saying that more cultural diversity = more social stability. can you make that case?

Edmund Burke was never sold on the value-neutral state either. the idea that it was an illusion has a long intellectual pedigree.

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Information warfare has been part of warfare pretty much as long as there’s been war. You mention these instances of films, but popular war slogans, posters, “Buy War Bonds!”, etc. was everywhere during that time period. And it didn’t really seem weird.

And even during the Iraq War, there was a much more concerted effort (not “propaganda”) to message the war and why it was being pursued. That case was one where the power was abused, but it was still done and is part of government’s job to explain itself to its citizenry.

It’s very weird right now why the US is so allergic to this. Europe doesn’t have the same level of allergic reaction (though it’s always cared less about free speech—both on a law level and societal level). Definitely do agree that left completely unchecked, we’re going to see US citizens start to just get unfiltered talking points from authoritarian regimes.

I actually had a conversation recently with some friends who became alarmed about tankies, and the general disconnection of the Democratic Party from real minority and working class voters (vs. caricatures put out by usually white progressive elites). The conversation was about both things, which, in this context, are distinct (one is US government vs external, the other is a party’s messaging). However, in both cases, they kind of wondered what forces were pushing back.

My answer? Largely Noah Smith and Matt Yglesias. A bit tongue-in-cheek, but also not actually that wrong in my estimation... It’s a solemn duty you bear, Noah, in my narrative of this...

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"And even during the Iraq War, there was a much more concerted effort (not “propaganda”) to message the war and why it was being pursued. That case was one where the power was abused, but it was still done and is part of government’s job to explain itself to its citizenry."

I liked your comment a lot! I think the cynicism of growing up with the blatant dishonesty of the above explains a lot about why we are reluctant to trust the government to create media comes from.

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Nov 8, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Twas ever thus

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The Obama administration, and Obama himself, seemed to understand this and did a fairly good job of reminding us of our values and tying it’s policies to them. The Biden administration (and Biden) has done a terrible job of this, and has its head in the sand in regard to social media, traditional media, and the role of the President as our “Influencer in Chief.” They just don’t think it’s important. It is. Obama would have been all over Tik-Tok.

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"Totalitarian powers are on the march, and social media gives them the opportunity to reach American hearts and minds more directly than ever before. One of our government’s essential functions is to guard us against such powers."

Guarding our homes and lives from those powers is the essential function. Not trying to guard our hearts and minds! I see no reason to stop believing the case for liberalism is self-evident.

Russian and Chinese propaganda - so convincing it has to be a monopoly (paired with mandatory "Xi Jinping thought" study sessions in China's case)..

The only reason the propagandists of Russia and China have succeeded within their countries is because they've silenced any dissenting voices. As long as we keep our marketplaces of information free, we have nothing to fear from their propaganda efforts.

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I think we do have something to fear.

We only think in a dualism of free information or censorship, in that those are the only possibilities. And that reasonably we think that censorship is a clue to other nefarious actions.

And humans are inveterate pattern recognizers. We look for censorship as the only possible threat to information.

Modern society has a new problem that we thought was impossible: What happens when information itself becomes a source of tyranny. Inundate people with falsehoods, fraction-truths, conspiracy fantasy, lurid audiovisuals and text stripped of context, cover it all in a wrapping of humor or entertainment ... and the key to make it all work is to give people a false sense of empowerment that ordinary people are the final arbiters of truth.

Propaganda and information warfare have different aims in the 21st century. With the internet and smartphones all over the world, censorship is archaic and impractical. Modern tyranny involves giving us so much information to be unable to make sense of any of it.

Steve Bannon is not a government official, but his raison d'etre is to flood the zone with shit. He doesn't need to be in the White House again because he can do enough damage as a member of the public. In Putin's Russia, the psyops strategy is not total control of information, but what author Peter Pomerantsev described as the principle of "Nothing is True and Everything is Possible."

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If it were the case that the modern information warfare we see in China and Russia didn't involve any censorship, I might concede your point. But it's clear that those regimes see very strong elements of censorship as essential to their projects of social control. Instead of trying to figure out how we could be more like them and engage in our own projects of social control to protect the hearts and minds of Americans from malign foreign influences, the goal of any American propaganda program should be to go on the offensive and devise ways to pierce that censorship and feed the populations of those countries exactly the kind of information that their regimes fear so much. This probably starts with greatly increasing funding for things like TOR and then going much further.

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The bad news about that approach is, most Chinese and Russians themselves either are just fine with their oppressive leadership or have learned to disengage from politics to not draw attention to themselves.

Putin remains just as popular now as he did the day before he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, and this is after all of the hardships brought by sanctions and getting cut off from western economies. All of the Russian war dead are revered as heroes and martyrs. Same as it ever was.

George Kennan wrote this about Russia in 1946 in his Long Telegram: "It should not be thought from above that Soviet party line is necessarily disingenuous and insincere on part of all those who put it forward. Many of them are too ignorant of outside world and mentally too dependent to question [apparent omission] self-hypnotism, and who have no difficulty making themselves believe what they find it comforting and convenient to believe. Finally we have the unsolved mystery as to who, if anyone, in this great land actually receives accurate and unbiased information about outside world. In atmosphere of oriental secretiveness and conspiracy which pervades this Government, possibilities for distorting or poisoning sources and currents of information are infinite. The very disrespect of Russians for objective truth--indeed, their disbelief in its existence--leads them to view all stated facts as instruments for furtherance of one ulterior purpose or another."

The more things change ...

As for China, Dan Wang has been an incredible resource for an on-the-ground look at Chinese society outside of the watch of the Communist Party. For two generations who have known unimaginable prosperity and technological progress, they are not about to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. They are too busy building out and enjoying their new middle class, and are in no mood or place to assert their rights a la Enlightenment-era Europe.

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Once again, Russia and China clearly believe their practice of censorship is essential. Now maybe the regimes are simply confused; their heavy-handed censorship provides them with limited utility, and they would retain just as much control and authority if we endeavored to take their ability to keep their populations in the dark away from them, but I'm very skeptical of that notion.

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Nov 8, 2023·edited Nov 8, 2023

Russian troll farms - the greatest threat to democracy! Really the government has to get into the censorship and propaganda business asap (the Biden admin has been too passive!)- oh wait.

How about politicians getting paid by China? Should we ban them before we ban Tik Tok?

What about pols getting paid by China who get into office and then end the DOJ initiative that had been targeting Chinese espionage and influence buying at corporations and universities?

By the way, I am in favor of reciprocity when it comes to China and other trading partners. If US firms or products are banned then their related firms and products are banned. If US firms can’t acquire majority stakes in Chinese firms or any stakes in certain industries, then China cannot make similar acquisitions in the US. I think this solves the TikTok problem without censorship and without singling them out for a ban or a forced sale.

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A significant section of the Republican Party now talks openly about a Red Caesar heading an authoritarian government chosen by the elite.

Not so long ago, leading Republicans only whispered among themselves about how America was always meant to be a republic, never a democracy. But now the whisper has become a roar and authoritarian garbage, like the writings of the self-styled Bronze Age Pervert, have become part of the acceptable discourse among young republican hopefuls.

MAGA, Christian Nationalism, Putinism, Jihadism - we're in the fight of our lives!

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This is a little hyperbolic..we really aren’t in a fight for our lives. We are learning how to deal with new information technology. It s messy but as long as we don’t loose our minds or panic we will be fine.

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Loose minds are why we are in our predicament. :)

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I hope Noah continues to develop this idea into more specific policy proposals. The danger is that a Trumpian leader would use the government to promulgate their own propaganda and censor everything else. It seems to me that we need endowed media that is nonprofit. And we need better social media platforms. Are you (Noah) concerned that your reasonable discourse on X is giving its propaganda an air of respectability?

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Seeing what Republicans have done at the state level and the sub-Supreme Court level, they are weaponizing censorship not to silence information but to force people to pay attention to them.

You're losing your right to choose to not listen or engage with people, especially when you have a good reason to fear you'll be harassed, threatened and doxxed.

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