Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Russia has been engaging in information warfare for a very long time. The recent U.S. Justice Department indictment of three Russian organizations and 13 Russian agents for meddling in the 2016 presidential election is a clear explanation of the destructive intentions of fake news.

Russia’s goals: Hurt the Clinton campaign; promote the Trump campaign ; divide and inflame voters on issues such as race, healthcare, police, climate change, etc.; and undermine general voter confidence in American democracy.

Let me first unpack what this indictment is and is not. It is only about social media attacks. It is not about the impact of computer hacking and WikiLeaks on the election. It does not address the potential “obstruction of justice’ issue. And it does not address “witting” campaign”collusion” with Russians, or potential blackmail situations. Each of these are separate investigations, and will be addressed by special counsel later.

The thirty-seven page indictment does, however, describe how “fake news” is generated and where it is placed in social media platforms:

  • Positive and negative advertising, as well as divisive messages (often made-up lies), were placed inside Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other social media platforms. Some platforms have added news features which have been compromised.
  • “Theme pages” were created to distribute misinformation to special interest groups, i.e. Islam, Healthcare, Pro-life, etc.
  • Individual U.S. citizen identities were stolen with thousands of divisive and anger-producing messages sent from them, using an automated feature called “bots.” Fictitious identities were also created and used in the same way.
  • Russians also collaborated on campaign initiatives with “unwitting” Trump campaign people, who were apparently unaware they were working with Russians.
  • Russian agents also came to the U.S. and staged separate campaigns, heckled rallies, and sought out unknowing but sympathetic American collaborators.
  • And of course many of these ads, messages and staged events were picked up and reported as real news by the mainstream and 24/7 cable media.
  • It is reported that Russian information warfare in ongoing, and following the recent school shooting is now focused on support for gun rights.

This indictment provides solid information to help us understand social media warfare no matter what country it emanates from. Russia has been perfecting their techniques for years in Europe, and is highly experienced at infiltrating political systems long before political campaigns begin. They offer politicians and government officials  real estate deals in Russia, buy property in their target countries, and watch for opportunities to set up individual blackmail traps.

A report titled “The Kremlin Playbook” is available at The Center for Strategic and International Studies (csis.org) in Washington. It is an eye-opening read and provides more details on how Russians wage information warfare.

When nations, institutions, and their leaders use social media platforms such as twitter to spread disinformation, and then spread more confusion by attacking otherwise trustworthy journalists as fake news, civil society will simply cease to exist.






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The simple laptop accelerated the development of global markets and enabled those who knew how to use technology to become competitive from any place in the world. As a result, globalization has become an established fact, and political ideologues have had little to do with it. It’s mostly about technology and economics.

  1. The digital technology revolution changed the speed and direction of the international economy which rapidly changed the dynamics, relationships and opportunities of businesses, institutions and nations.
  2. Even the smallest businesses and institutions now could easily find foreign customers and clients… and thereby become global enterprises that are not limited by borders.
  3. Admittedly many companies that move operations and plants to other countries are seeking cheaper labor. But many are also becoming global businesses, ones that operate beyond the boundaries of their countries.
  4. As a consequence most of these companies will not return. And those that do will automate rather than replace lost jobs.
  5. Like it or not, governments and institutions are already operating in a global economy. Their futures will be shaped more by unavoidable economic forces than by the whims of individual autocrats. Professional diplomacy between governments and public diplomacy between citizens and organizations are absolutely essential in such a world.
  6. It is true that President Trump’s base has not benefited enough from this global economy, and this has been ignored by the majority of a polarized and politicized Washington.
  7. But more focus on community college education and better training programs for a technology driven world are the only viable solutions. Therefore, supporting training and education budgets with adequate resources is the most productive thing Washington can do now.
  8. As higher education becomes a global industry, international leadership development, better cross-cultural understanding, and the soft-power of citizen diplomacy will gradually produce a wiser world. Many institutions will also find themselves focusing more of their research and consulting talent on solving global problems… big problems such as poverty, disease, climate change, clean energy, water shortage, space exploration, nation rebuilding, and many more.

Reopening old coal mines, bringing back assembly lines, expanding offshore oil and gas exploration, eliminating clean air and water regulations, closing borders, selling off national parks, and restricting trade… none of these are viable solutions in a technology driven world. Rather the future will be in preparing, educating, and training American citizens for a completely new and digitally transforming world economy.

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Imagine a bold and inspiring political entrepreneur rising up in reaction to the current mess and expanding political swamp in Washington. Imagine a whole new breed of leader with visionary ideas for bringing the best talent in the country to the task of solving domestic problems. Imagine an articulate leader fully committed to restoring global leadership by championing the traditional American values of individual freedom, justice, and human rights.

I write from the perspective of a communicator, not a political ideologue. I am a pragmatic, problem-solving oriented centrist. Sadly, both parties have become hopelessly polarized. One is desperate for legislative success at any cost. The other can’t seem to find a unified set of policies and vision for the future. And the administration is well on its way to building an autocracy by ending past global commitments and dismantling core government and social institutions.

Consider this: Can an American version of what happened in France happen here? Can a smart, visionary, nonpartisan, and articulate new leader with a forward-thinking and pragmatic set of fresh ideas find the support of enough disillusioned citizens and forward thinking donors to win the presidency?

My suggested talking points?

  1. I imagine a federal government with a bottom-up approach to problem-solving. I want to bring a core of proven and experienced experts into communities to research and find real solutions to real problems,
  2. By doing this we will bring back as many businesses and lost jobs as possible. But we will also study what “start-ups” are feasible and find the right people to develop them. These could be sustainable energy groups, modern thinking retailers, infrastructure construction projects, and other new ventures that can grow out of local human resources and talent.
  3. We will also help fund nearby schools and colleges to provide the necessary training for all these ventures.
  4. We will also use this same experienced expert consultant model to help public schools understand local neighborhood needs and design customized curricula that lead to realistic student successes.
  5. This change in approach to problem-solving will also gradually enable reducing the size of the federal government without hurting the delivery of essential public services or gutting vital institutions.
  6. That said, we simply must restore American global leadership by rebuilding the state department, bringing back highly experienced diplomats, and re-energizing citizen diplomacy initiatives.

The bottom line: A pathway to an effective smaller and leaner federal government, as well as the restoration of a values and equal justice based approach to world leadership, just might be possible with a whole new breed of nonpartisan and fresh thinking American leadership. Write your own suggested talking points, and let’s get started.

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Autocracies happen gradually. The first indication is that a significant number of citizens are feeling ignored by the current political system, are gradually becoming angry, and will soon be ready to respond to a new and out-of-the box leader.

  1. The first step is that someone outside the political establishment with at least a modicum of performance ability and an abundance of political ambition begins to promise “I know how to make your life better, and only I can make it happen!” This becomes a theme, and is endlessly repeated at every opportunity.
  2. Next, many people in society’s mainstream begin to notice some signs of an emerging autocrat, but chose to think that “it can’t happen here.” (Consider Germany during the 1930’s)
  3. The “only me” message is reinforced by attacks on the free press. This tactic first creates a cloud of uncertainty about finding truth in a cluttered and confusing news environment, but soon morphs into charges that the press generates “fake news” simply to make trouble and advance itself.
  4. Next, the court system is attacked as ineffective and too political. The purpose is to warn the public that some exceptions to normal legal processes might be necessary in order to get essential changes made quickly.
  5. The competence of current agencies and departments long-established to investigate internal and external wrong-doing will also be challenged. This is a move made to eventually gain control of what and who these units will investigate.
  6. Key experts and top positions in other important government departments and institutions will also be eliminated. The justification for this is that the new leader has plans to solve the major domestic and world problems, and so these positions are wasteful and no longer needed. (In the US this has included the state department, homeland security, consumer protection, environmental protection, and more.)
  7. The way has now been cleared to bring people into the government based completely on their personal loyalty and wealth. These oligarchs have no expertise for their assigned positions, but it no longer matters because one person will be making all important decisions.
  8. The new leader’s family will also enter government. They, along with the other oligarchs, will use their new-found celebrity to further enrich themselves. And it won’t seem to matter that their inexperience often leads to inept and often embarrassing behavior.
  9. Eventually every important social institution will be systematically weakened, either through cuts in funding or executive orders. This will include public education, universities, charities, the arts, and much more. A nation is only as strong as its institutions. But an autocracy can only survive if it weakens them.
  10. After a few months, important allies around the world will begin to ignore all the “me first” initiatives and start to make other commitments. New partnerships, trade arrangements,  environmental agreements, and defense treaties will replace old ones… and a whole new generation of world leaders will begin to take center stage.

The big lesson for us is that a nation is only as strong as its most effective and active institutions. To seize control autocrats must weaken them. But as a consequence, they will eventually find themselves isolated… and their countries in deep decline. And, yes, all this is already happening here.

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There are many ways to express the founders’ “idea of America.” But its clear from reading the constitution that human rights are at the core. Also basic is a measure of compassion, a non-negotiable commitment to individual freedom and justice, and a shared belief that peaceful communities based on mutual respect are fundamental. It seems elementary that anyone elected to lead this great nation would be a champion of these underlying values.

A plutocrat is someone who thinks that the rich can rule society better than government. After all, most would agree that Bill and Melinda Gates can fix many public health and education problems more efficiently than government. The Clinton Foundation has addressed many international development problems that government finds too expensive, or not appropriate for taxpayer support. The Carter Foundation also has addressed may issues around the world that could benefit more from private wealth than public funds. Possibly even former Mayor Bloomberg of New York City demonstrated that he could separate governing in the public interest from directly enriching himself. So maybe it should not be surprising that Mr Trump convinced people who were being ignored by “Washington” that a rich man was in a better position than government to help them.

The plutocrat advantage argument might have been more convincing if that plutocrat also shared the founding father’s “idea of America.” But Mr. Trump’s consistent record of lying, bullying, forgetting promises, disruptive tweeting, mistreating staff, and enriching himself first, in no way adds up to a benevolent autocrat. “Making America Great Again” should mean doing a better job of advancing the founders’ core values as the way to provide leadership to the free world.

Make no mistake, our belief in capitalism derives from our belief in individual freedom. But the idea of America does not also condone self-serving greed or personal meanness. Nor does it condone using the public trust and treasure to continue enriching oneself. Getting rich in America should be celebrated, but only when it includes a bit of humility… along with feeling a strong need to pay back the very society that made personal success possible.

The question for American’s now is: Will enough people see the significant difference between Bill Gates and Donald Trump? And will we take the necessary steps to fix it?  None of this has anything to do with party politics. Rather it’s all about analyzing leadership communication and behavior, and the horrible psychic and social consequences of extreme personal greed.

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Last week I attended a week of lectures and discussions at Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York presented by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. CSIS is a nonpartisan think tank that focuses almost exclusively on national security issues.

Major topics throughout the week included national security strategy, geopolitics, surprising changes in China, endless turmoil in the Middle East, the changing energy landscape, the future of cyber warfare, and much more.

At week’s end, the always engaged Chautauqua audience came away understanding that there are some very smart people in Washington, that many of them reside in think-tanks, that they are generating very detailed information about global trends every hour of every day, and that CSIS houses one of the best and most nonpartisan group of experts specializing in national security in the world.

But they also came away hearing that there are very few if any firm solutions when it comes to the big issues we are all concerned about: What to do about North Korea? Russian political interfering? Chinese uncertainty? Individual privacy? Globalization consequences? The impact of Trump’s constant rants? Poverty? Energy? Public Health? Global Warming?

In the final analysis, think tank research results in presenting informed action alternatives and expert opinions to government officials for their consideration. But when pressed, most experts admit that the world keeps changing, issues keep getting more complex, and there never is only one right way forward.

But it’s also important to mention here that there are lessons from communication and media research that provide some promise. While it is true that research shows communication always breaks down, that true success requires time and interaction, that media revolutions always change how society works, and that 24/7 digital news is resulting in information clutter and confusion, it can also be said that scoundrels will likely be revealed and defeated, and that with persistence, productive action steps can gradually emerge.

So keep your practical problem-solving hat on, make your expectations for leaders shaped by traditional American values known, and keep your fingers crossed!  Oh, and also make sure you have read the preceding two posts.

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Three people with three knives and a van are able to able to achieve 24/7 nonstop visibility. Are cable channels just handing terrorist organizations the publicity they seek, or is all this coverage essential information that the public needs to have? This is one of the dilemmas of the “reality television” world we now inhabit.

Cable news has the technology to provide immediate and ongoing coverage, and along with that comes a business model that requires them to use it. So here is the way such coverage unfolds:

Getting there first with the most technical and human resources is an important competitive advantage. Keeping the audience engaged becomes critical. Losing viewers is counterproductive to their purpose. Witnesses in the street are the first available interviews. So early death and causality numbers will come from their speculation and hearsay. These numbers are always wrong, but are reported anyway. Ongoing casualty reports now become an unmentioned “keeping the audience engaged” factor. It will take a while for investigating and political officials to make more accurate statements.

Soon retired FBI and other experts are brought in to review once again the steps that investigators follow to identify potential accomplices. They tell us that investigators go to where the terrorists live, find their family members, locate their friends, identify previous travel and possible training, etc. The audience will likely hear this process described over again by several different retired experts.

Reporters also will describe once again where victims are taken, explaining that several hospitals are always used. As witnesses who were inside the event (or are now in the hospital) can be found, they are also asked to tell their stories in as much emotional detail as they are willing. These tragic human interest stories become the final step in continuous coverage, and potential followup stories later.

Both recent London bridge events are examples of how these events unfold for long periods of time with very little new information reported along the way. Cable channels cover it because they can, and it simply is what they do. It is good reality television. But how much of it is news? And how damaging is it to be giving terrorists the publicity they so desperately crave?

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