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1/8/20: WWW.III – #BIG BAD WAR

Clyde Lewis | January 8, 2020
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As I was processing the effect of last night’s program on the use of what I called metal rats; namely, robots and drones in warfare, I remember speaking with a caller about social media and the cell phone and how we really have not seen social media in action during a major war and how it would affect the outcome.

The past couple of nights I believe we have had a taste of what would happen if a major war broke out and all of the juicy information about who started it and who was winning it would be found on Facebook and Twitter.

After the 2016 US presidential election, social media came under scrutiny like never before, and what’s since come to light hasn’t been pretty: the widespread consensus that foreign government-backed groups used platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to spread discord and division among the American public.

We had speculated about this before but of course, the mainstream media got a hold of this possibility and used it to not only vilify social media but to pressure them into filtering what they called “Fake News.”

While misinformation, satire and tabloid news has often been with us the media decided that fake news was news that did not necessarily match the framed narrative and so in the desperation of losing their monopoly on political affairs, they went out of their way to remind us that they were factual and thorough, unlike the internet which of course is the digital version of the people’s press.

If you want to do research there are many intelligence papers that have been written about how revolutions and civil wars can be started using social media.

Arab Spring and other riotous gatherings like what happened in Charlottesville Virginia are said to have been encouraged by social media. Hashtag activism has also been a byproduct of social media as well although much of it is seen as virtue signaling rather than having any real impact.

The telegraph and then the telephone allowed us to connect personally from a distance at a speed not previously possible. Radio and then TV allowed one to broadcast out to many.

What social media has done is to combine the two, allowing simultaneous personal connection as never before, but also the ability to reach out to the entire world.

The challenge is that this connection has been both liberating and disruptive. It has freed communication, but it has also been co-opted to aid the vile parts of it as well. The speed and scale have allowed these vile parts to escape many of the firebreaks that society had built up to protect itself. 

 There is a lot of peer-reviewed literature on the potential for new technologies to create a Revolution in Military Affairs or “networked warfare,” that can be organized by civilians but that is a discussion of the impact of military technology on the way the force itself can be used.

Today, there is a question regarding the impact of new communication and information technologies in the hands of civilians—some of whom are combatants.

In fact, some may say that social media may fuel slow-moving shadow wars, adding to the divisiveness of the times.

Technology and the rapidly improving ways to distribute and disseminate content that technology makes possible is nothing without the content itself. It is nothing without the right framing and while many worry about hackers and meddlers online feeding propaganda – the extreme liberal hijacking of content in the mainstream news is just as divisive if not biased.

Social media and the algorithms that mysteriously control the internet narrative are certainly influencing  the real world and in the middle of war or even at the beginning of war, we may see it influence it in ways that can be seen as paranormal;,

Then of course there is meme magic – where we see the paranormal theories of how President Trump won the election because of a magical frog named Pepe and that children were killing themselves because of a ghoulish character named Momo.

The internet meme of “Epstein didn’t kill himself’ even made it to the Golden Globe awards where host Ricky Gervais roasted the Hollywood elite in the fires of their hypocrisy.

If you do not believe in meme magic or the power of the Twitter tweet in wartime, you may want to pay attention to how crazy it is getting and how social media has more control over outcomes than we realize.

As the American people were reeling from the reported death of Iranian general Qasem Soleiman Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei sparked fears of war after he promised ‘harsh vengeance’. Many of those tweeting about the airstrike used memes to bring light to the situation, joking about fears it could spark ‘World War III.’

The phrase World War III trended on Twitter.

Searches for ‘World War III’ also spiked on Google within hours of the airstrike in Iraq overnight. Google Trends recorded ‘Iran’ as the second most searched term in the United States, with more than 500,000 searches for the topic.

Though much of the comments online mocked the hysteria surrounding a ‘world war’, there were and still are real fears of repercussions following Soleimani’s death still being tweeted and googled on the internet.

In fact, Ayatollah Khomeinei actually took to Twitter and said the ‘criminals’ responsible had ‘Soleimani and other martyrs’ blood on their evil hands’. He added: ‘God willing, his work and his path will not be stopped.’ I just can’t picture a Mullah on the toilet with his cell phone tweeting death to America – it just does not seem right but in times like these, anything can happen.

World War III is not actually upon us, of course, but just #WWIII was a perfect container for content. In that role, these memes fulfill the internet’s ability to fashion endless branches of content about anything.

For example, let’s say on Instagram someone claims they got a draft notice and then  he tells people on video that he is about to illegally burn it. The person holds up what looks like an official notice from the U.S. Government.

He ads back up music to the video like Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” song, which winds up on a music site, then YouTube which then winds up being meta content on Buzz Feed – it then winds up on Facebook, goes viral and then a whole slew of people are buzzing about how they are worried that they will be drafted and urge everyone to burn their draft notices when they get them.

It is a World War III meme but guess what? 

There is no draft but millions of young men are already making plans to flee to Canada.

Sounds farfetched?

After the attacks in the Middle East the U.S, Army issued a warning that a wave of “fraudulent text messages” were falsely telling Americans they have been drafted into military service.

The fake texts instructed the recipient to report to the nearest Army recruiting branch “for immediate departure to Iran,” and warned about multiple attempts to contact recipients, in at least one case the text stated, “you’ll be fined and sent to jail for minimum 6 years if no reply.”

Screenshots of the texts provided by US Army Recruiting Command showed spelling and grammatical errors, indicating they were not official correspondence. Some of the fake texts used real names of Army recruiting commanders while others used fictitious names, lending the false appearance of authenticity.

It is unclear how many of these fake recruiting texts may have been sent, and Army security officials are still investigating the source.

So far there have been no reports of Americans showing up to recruiting branches as a result of the texts.

The Selective Service website crashed amid heightened searches, which the agency attributed to “the spread of misinformation” about the potential for a draft following the US strike.

US military conscription was suspended in the 1970s. To resume the draft, Congress would need to enact legislation, according to the Selective Service System, the independent agency that would manage the draft in an emergency.

If the texts are coming from a spoofed phone number — meaning the sender is impersonating somebody else – the texts may violate the Truth in Caller ID Act.

Last week, President Trump signed into law the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act. Now, government regulators can go after robo-texters and seek fines of up to $10,000 per violation.

The law was passed in order to stop spam calls, robo calls and texts.

Even though laws are being past to cut down on those who wish to exploit fears over war through bogus texts – that does not stop the mocking and teasing about those who fear that war will escalate to the point of World War.

World war has gone from a hashtag to a symbol overnight in social media circles.

It’s notable that young people are mustering that old emblem to express their unconscious fears about the present. In doing this, they are reviving a received notion of “world war,” one mostly expended by the generations that precede them.

Even though the draft notices were hoaxes, they were very powerful hoaxes and were a trick of the meme magicians to raise awareness in the young about their mortality and what may be at stake if we are ever in a world conflict.

For three decades or more, World War III has been an anxious fantasy. During the Cold War, it became shorthand for a very specific kind of doom: global nuclear destruction. After the blasts comes the fallout, the depthless smoke of nuclear winter, the ensuing end of the crops that sustain our mortal bodies, and the certain starvation of those too unlucky to have survived the war.

That has been a powerful meme that has been shared by older generations without the internet to keep it alive– now the younger generations are getting a taste of cold war paranoia through social media and meme magic.

The fantasy of World War III helped hide the reality of what war had become: a tangled mess of statecraft, profiteering, and politicking. It was the threat of scorched earth policy and mutually assured destruction that has allegedly fueled the need to make more weapons, including the metal rat weapons we spoke of in our last show.

In the face of the recent chaos in the Middle East, is it any wonder that young people might see the relatively conventional act of killing an Iranian military commander as a refuge of political clarity? 

 The 18-to-24 set might have no idea what they are thinking or feeling when they create or share these posts. They could have had a moment of hopelessness especially in the midst of all of the doom-mongering that has come from the likes of Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, Greta Thunberg, and other climate change fanatics that have been touting since 2004 that climate doomsday would happen in 2020 –and now the line has been moved to 2030.

No matter how badly the Climate doom-mongers look the memes have control of the minds of the young which is, in fact, fueling political movements to include the all-out dissolving of the constitutional republic for a spot in the global plantation.

 This is probably the case for people of all ages, thanks in part to the frenetic pace at which everyone produces and consumes information online. 

Instinct and habit rule online, and online life is now the norm for the young and for some of the middle-agers who were exposed to the internet at the right time in their lives.

The instincts and habits everyone has developed over the past 20 years of a slow-moving shadow war involve reacting first and thinking later if at all.

The news is so ubiquitous that its coverage, from Soleimani’s death to all these memes supposedly scaring or comforting people in its aftermath evades more meaning than it reveals.

Things are different now and there are even some reports that meme magic struck again. Not only did the meme of World War III shock those who thrive on social media information – it may have deescalated the tension between Iran and the United States.

 It seems possible that the leaders of both Iran and the United States turned to twitter to help ensure that a tense night in the Middle East didn’t escalate into all-out war.

Tweets from US President Donald Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif Tuesday offered a fascinating glimpse at how world leaders can communicate more quickly and directly than ever in times of crisis.

Both President Trump and Iran’s English-speaking foreign minister tweeted out Tuesday night that neither wished to escalate tit-for-tat attacks into a true war.

Their exchange is what Middle East expert Ian Goldenberg called “real time de-escalatory twitter,” and it came in the hours after Iranian rockets targeted Iraqi bases that housed US and allied personnel, apparent retaliation for the US assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, in a Baghdad airstrike.

The tweets proved a remarkable modern-day answer to the long-running challenge world leaders have faced in struggling to communicate between nations during unfolding crises—communications necessary both to understand adversaries’ intentions and to telegraph their own.

At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, leaders sweated as communications moved slowly; ever so slowly between Washington and Moscow. It took the US Embassy in Moscow nearly 12 hours to encode one 2,750-word message from the Soviet Union, the equivalent of about five typed pages.

In turn, whenever the Soviet Embassy in Washington needed to send a message back to Moscow, they relied on a bicycle messenger from the local DC office of Western Union.

When Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev finally offered a deal to bring the crisis to a close, he was deeply worried about the speed of unfolding events. Instead of transmitting through normal channels, he had the letter read out loud over Radio Moscow to speed Washington’s receipt.

In the years following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US and Soviet Union looked for ways to improve their direct links of communication. They ultimately settled on teletype machines, installed in the Pentagon and the Kremlin, that came to be popularly known as the Hotline or “the red phone,” even though there never were, and still aren’t, actual phones involved. In fact, planners at the time realized, in a lesson that still applied Tuesday night with Iran, the importance of writing things down to avoid any mistranslation, garbled messages, or misunderstandings.

They understood that speaking precisely in a crisis was key, and it just seems appropriate that President Trump would tweet his concerns to the Iranian Prime Minister because we all know what happens when Trump allegedly makes an unscripted phone call to a world leader.

It becomes an impeachment issue.

Communicating quickly with world leaders other than Russia, though, has long proved challenging for US leaders, which is part of what made Tuesday night’s Twitter exchange so fascinating.

First came a 9:32 pm ET tweet by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif saying that Iran had “concluded” a proportionate response. Zarif, who speaks English fluently and was educated in the US, including a PhD in international law from the University of Denver, has long used his Twitter account with its 1.4 million followers as a means to communicate Tehran’s point of view directly with the West in its own language.

Just 12 minutes later, @realDonaldTrump tweeted to his 70 million followers a similarly sober and encouraging message, containing none of his normal “fire and fury” bluster, and began simply “All is well!” The subtext was clear: We’re not taking this any further, at least tonight. Everyone can go to bed.

Twitter was used to avert World War III and the nation could sleep.

Is this the future of social media?  Twitter diplomacy?  Can we say that this is a result of some shocking meme magic?

Neither Trump nor Zarif tweeted again all night. After weeks of frenetic activity on Twitter by the president, a hundred or more a day sometimes, Trump’s 13-hour silence on Twitter by the time he took the stage at the White House this morning marked one of his longest periods of online calm since the start of the Ukraine scandal in the fall.

In those remarks, Trump underscored the message of the previous night’s tweets: Tensions with Iran would remain high. Sanctions would increase. But for now, there will be no war.

 Without knowledge and intention, the best and most generous way to interpret World War III memes is to try to understand how they surface the ideology of contemporary life.

The memory of the experience of world war is disappearing, as the last of the generation who survived conventional global warfare die.

At the same time, conventional war itself became too constant to take notice of; today’s 18-year-olds have never taken a breath at a time when the United States wasn’t embroiled in combat in the Middle East.

 The fear of nuclear annihilation makes the end of the world a dark but deviously compelling topic.

It is natural for humankind to think about witnessing their collective end.

No matter your scientific suppositions or religious beliefs about life or the afterlife, the glory of human existence became even more bewitching in the event that total annihilation might ensure that you would not have missed out on its future, beyond the grasp of your own life span.

Meme magic and Twitter diplomacy have averted the war… for now.

Written by Clyde Lewis

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