Monthly Archives: April 2024

Some Thoughts on Disinformation

Print shops
Renaissance Print Shop

Mankind has had to deal with the use and uncontrolled spread of “misinformation” for a very long time. Before the invention of the printing press rumor (misinformation) was not easy to spread anonymously as it was mostly by word of mouth. But with the invention of the printing press it became quite easy to create pamphlets that were next to impossible to trace back to their originator.

The United States has had to deal with the issues of rapid change in speed and distance information travels almost since it founding. With the coming of the Electric Telegraph in the 1840’s the speed at which news (information) and rumors (disinformation) shank amazingly. It is hard for us who live in the 21st century to comprehend but once it could take days for news to travel from Boston to New York City and to reach New Orleans could take weeks or months. But once the Telegraph lines were in place it would only take hours, and most of that time was taken getting the message to and from the Telegraph office. Once we got the transatlantic cable (1865 for the first successful cable) time went from 2 weeks to 2 minutes (or so the cable company bragged).

Once the Telegraph was in use in towns of almost any size we see the local newspapers printing news from faraway places like the county seat, the state capital, or can you believe it, Washington DC. An it was only a couple of days old. What a marvel this modern age of 1870 is!

Things stayed fairly stable for a few decades but in the 1890’s with the successful development of the etheric Radio and it’s acceptance for ship to shore communications in the early 20th (1910’s) things were set for a big change. By the 1920’s we now had common radio telegraphy and commercial radio stations and even nightly news casts. But let us not forget the Telephone was also coming into everyday life, not only the very wealthy had them in there homes, people of moderate income had them. An even boarding houses had them in the hallways. At the same time as radio and Telephone were becoming common and changing things we got the new ‘entertainment’ the Motion Picture! At the movie theater you not only got a show but more often than not you got a “News Reel”. Now you could read about the news, hear the news and see the news.

Then, in the 1950’s we got Television and things both speeded up and got easier to get. This is where I come into the picture as I grew up with TV, and Transistor Radios. But still we had the same basic problem, all the communications was in one direction. To the consumer. The people who gathered the information and sent it out had very little, and most was of low quality, knowledge of what the audience was interested in. So then came the 1990’s and the arrival of the desktop computer and the internet. Who could have seen just what a big effect it was going to have back in the early 90’s. Not me, that is for certain.

And let us not over look the “Cell”/“Smart” phone. Nor should we over look the coming of the tablet computer (now simply called a tablet). At the same time as the coming of the tablet we also have the arrival of WiFi everywhere, even on city buses. Was it only 2012 when I was amazed at being able to get the internet out in the boonies of the Mohave in Antelope Valley (CA)? Well it was. So now we live in a world where most kids over the age of 8 (?) have both a phone and a tablet. A both devices have ten(s) if not hundred(s) of apps that connect to the internet almost anywhere we go. So just what does this mean to the growth of disinformation?

It means we need to develop tools and methods of identifying and filtering all of the information for its “validity”. By Validity I just mean the quality of the facts, if it reports to be facts, or the real person putting forth an opinion. We need a very reliable methods and tools to separate things, before we even look at them ourselves. We need a way to know if the originator of the information is someone we know and if we don’t know them, a way to find out just who they are. We need tools and methods to separate “real persons” from “bots”.

All of this is possible, trust me here, I’ve seen equally impossible things happen in the past 73 years. The kids can do it and all we have to do is point out the problem to them and say “Help”. We did it for our parents and grandparents and our kids and grand kids can do it for us. Not that it will be easy, it won’t. There are too many people with too much money, with too much at stake to let this happen. But once again we have been thru this before and succeeded. We have already started to make some changes, in the Law, in how we work, how we educate and we can find an do more. We just have to look for the answers, they are out there.

A Big Mistake By Conservatives

Pres. Trump on White House Portico

As the Sheldon Crisis continues I thought it was about time to point out one of the biggest mistakes made by Conservative Leaders of any country….They think they can control the person the put into a position of absolute, or unconstrained, power. The problem is caused by them believing that the tools and methods used to control, manipulate, restrain, or otherwise limit the actions of the autocrat will not work on him/her.

This known this from history and I’m not just talking about the 20th century. But since that is the time we have the most complete data lets just look at what happened when Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany. The leaders of the Conservative Party thought they could control him by using the President Hindenburg and packing the cabinet with “there” people. Turns out that Hindenburg was a very weak old man who only had just over a year to live after the “ Reichstag fire”. A while the cabinet did have more conservatives than NSDP party members the NSDP held all the critical offices. An finally they saw Hitler and his people as “fools” and “buffoons” an there for underestimated them.

We got a small sample of this thinking in the Trump Presidency where we were told there would be “adults” in the room to keep Trump from doing anything crazy. We saw just how well that worked, too. From the ‘little’ things like signing checks for false legal fees, to phone call to get election officials to break the law. To, finally wonderful “Stop the Steal” rally of Jan 6. An the only reason why Trumps efforts did not succeed was that Trump did not understand just how our complex Federal System of government is and where the choke points are. We are lucky that Trump’s experience is in the small (but wealthy) business world and that world does not work like politics at all. So he tried to act like he did in his business and it fell flat on it’s face.

But we need to remember that we are going into the next phase of this crisis and things are going to get much more complicated in the years to come. An I, for one, would like to wise up those conservatives who wrongly believe they, or any body, can “control” a would be autocrat (read dictator).