Tag: Communication

Military Psy-ops, this time illegally directed at Congress

February 24, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
Military Psy-ops, this time illegally directed at Congress

Keep President Eisenhower’s warning in mind as you read this post (see video below).

The U.S. Department of Defense defines “Psychological Operations” or “Psy-Ops” as “Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign government, organizations, groups, and individuals.”

Such operations may be based upon truth or based upon deception, but the goal is the same: to alter perceptions and “ultimately the behavior” of others. As a matter of law, such actions are supposed to be directed against the “foreign hostile groups”, or at least not against Americans. Unfortunately, this law is routinely ignored:

  • In 2009, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) awarded a multi-million dollar contract to General Dynamics to wage a psy-ops campaign aimed at France and Britain. The goal of the campaign was to create “influence websites” to build support for the Global War on Terror.
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Bankster agitprop

February 21, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Bankster agitprop

ZeroHedge has earned a spot in my RSS feed. A diverse group of mostly pseudonymous bloggers who consistently produce excellent financial reporting, many times breaking scandals and should-be scandals before the mainstream media. They focus on the themes of intrigue in the world of high finance, corruption, politics, and the nexus where those areas intersect.

Over the past month or so, I’ve noticed an increasing amount of visual propaganda coming from ZeroHedge, and some of it is quite amusing. For the latest entry, they lampoon the news that Angelo Mozilo (the bankster behind the collapse of Countrywide financial) is going scott-free. Here’s some background on Mozilo, from the New York Times:

The conclusion by prosecutors that Mr. Mozilo, 72, did not engage in criminal conduct while directing Countrywide will likely fuel broad concerns that few high-level executives of financial companies are being held accountable for the actions that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

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Andy Goodman’s story: The importance of communicating through storytelling

February 17, 2010 | By | 4 Replies More
Andy Goodman’s story: The importance of communicating through storytelling

A few weeks ago, I attended the True Spin Conference in Denver. There were plenty of thoughtful presenters, but my favorite was Andy Goodman, author of a blog called Free Range Journal. Andy has latched onto an extraordinarily powerful theme: Telling stories is the most powerful communication tool there is. Andy earns his living by teaching people how to convey the purposes and functions of their organizations by telling stories. Over the years, he has assembled an impressive repertoire of ideas all based on the power of story telling.

To be sure, the importance of telling stories has been recognized by numerous other people, including several other speakers at True Spin. It is often claimed that through story-telling, one frames one’s message in a way that makes it memorable. It is also widely recognized that communicating through story-telling allows one to package arguments in such a way that they look like mere information rather than lecturing. How powerful is story telling? Consider this quote:

“If you can control a nation’s stories, you need not worry about who writes the nation’s laws.”

The author of this intriguing idea was Adolf Hitler.

Building upon an entertaining blend of common sense and cognitive science, Andy Goodman takes story-telling to new heights. He has worked hard to become quite a storyteller about storytelling. In this post, I will recap some of the ideas he presented during his keynote talk.

According to Andy, we all want to tell the truth, but in order to do this, we first need an operative definition for “truth” in order to give ourselves focus. “The truth isn’t just what happened, but how we felt about it when it happened and how we feel about it now.” As you might imagine, Andy has little patience for the dry presentations of facts that we often find on the websites of do-gooder organizations. For an example, take a look at this jargon-laden blurb offered by the American Cancer Society:

The American Cancer Society’s international mission concentrates on capacity building in developing cancer societies and on collaboration with other cancer-related organizations throughout the world in carrying out shared strategic directions.

This is not an unusual example. As part of his presentation, Goodman displayed the websites of several of the organizations in attendance at True Spin, pointing out the bureaucratese. This tactic drew a mixture of embarrassed groans (by those belonging to the organizations responsible for the websites) and nervous chuckles (by those who worried that their own websites would be featured next). He warned that those who run organizations must be careful to not allow “mission-speak get in the way of your mission.”

What is the alternative to presenting dry “factual” information? As you might expect, the solution involves a conscious and careful use of narrative–storytelling. Narrative is so incredibly powerful because it sets forth our history, our identity, how are remember, why we give, and to whom we give. These emotionally charged ideas don’t readily sink in without the use of stories. In fact, without the power to tell its own stories, a culture has no opportunity to “grow up.” Goodman made reference to the children’s classic, Peter Pan, asking the audience why Peter didn’t grow up. According to the story, Peter’s answer was, “I don’t know any stories.”

As we grow up to become adults, most of us stop telling stories. Becoming a grown-up in modern culture too often means that we are taught to communicate with technical jargon in order to be “serious.” It is a travesty that so many of us get caught up like this. We are told to be more like “adults” and this is a shame because our stories effectively tell others (and ourselves) who we actually are.

Stories allow us to remember who we are.

[more . . . ]

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Man in coma for 23 years now fully conscious?

November 23, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More
Man in coma for 23 years now fully conscious?

You’ve heard stories of people waking up from comas, but how often is it claimed that a person in a vegetative state for 23 years wakes up and can suddenly communicate with his family in sophisticated ways? That is the claim in this story, but not so fast! If you read the entire story, you’ll see that family members are taking the man’s fingers and pointing at a special keyboard. He’s not able to move his hand himself. He’s not able to speak. Does this sound suspicious? Check out this quote:

The therapist, Linda Wouters, told APTN that she can feel Houben guiding her hand with gentle pressure from his fingers, and that she feels him objecting when she moves his hand toward an incorrect letter.

Arthur Caplan, a bioethics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said he is skeptical of Houben’s ability to communicate after seeing video of his hand being moved along the keyboard.

“That’s called ‘facilitated communication,'” Caplan said. “That is ouija board stuff. It’s been discredited time and time again. When people look at it, it’s usually the person doing the pointing who’s doing the messages, not the person they claim they are helping.”

So there it is: Yet another case of hope prevailing over the evidence. This same issue of “facilitated communication” once swept the United States among people with severely autistic children. Many parents who desperately wanted to believe that their severely autistic children were suddenly writing sophisticated phrases have been devastated to learn that it was actually a case of “automatic writing,” displaying the thoughts and the attitudes of the facilitators rather than the patients.

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An army of 50,000 highly motivated citizens condemning health care reform

August 24, 2009 | By | 8 Replies More
An army of 50,000 highly motivated citizens condemning health care reform

Who are all of those outspoken citizens attending the town hall meetings where health care reform is ostensibly being discussed? The Raw Story reports that 50,000 of them are not simply concerned citizens:

A spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s trade group, admitted in an article published Monday that as many as 50,000 industry employees are involved in an effort to fight back against aggressive healthcare reform . . .

“The health-insurance industry is sending thousands of its employees to town-hall meetings and other forums during Congress’s August recess to try to counter a tide of criticism directed at the insurers . . . Employees of the health insurers have also been given talking points . . .

Question: Who is more motivated to show up and speak up at public meetings concerning health care? A) Ordinary citizens or B) Employees of health care insurers who are being PAID to show up and who are being provided talking points? The obvious answer is B), and they are contaminating discussions from coast to coast.

The bottom line is that what is going on is not honest spirited debate out at town halls. Rather, what we are being subjected to is corrupted debate, to match the corrupted debate inside of Congress, where six highly paid health care lobbyists are assigned to each member of Congress, as reported by the LA Times:

Every one of those 534 members of Congress now has six (6!) lobbyists working on them — and that’s just for healthcare. A total of 3,300 lobbyists have registered to drive the sizzling healthcare issue in Washington — three times the brigade of lobbyists representing the entire defense industry.

It makes you want to throw up your hands (and sometimes, just throw up), thinking that we are sending sheep to the wolves whenever we hope that regular folks would be able to make as much focused noise on the topic of health care reform (and especially health care insurance reform) against financially motivated and highly-trained armies who are not attending these meetings to do anything other than advocate the pre-determined positions of their employer corporations and to prevent any meaningful discussion. Based on what I am reading and hearing, the presence of these highly vocal and highly biased participants is all the worse because they aren’t identifying themselves as such at public hearings.

In most things, we ask people of bias to identify themselves, because we should downplay the positions of biased people, because they are less trustworthy. They should be impeached for their positions of biased, the way we impeach biased witnesses in courtrooms. But there is no practical way to identify these financially motivated people at town hall meetings. They are presenting themselves are neutral ordinary citizens when they are anything but.

For me, this “health care” debate is increasingly turning into a question of how (or whether) we are able to have any meaningful national discussion where one of the sides is financially powerful. This is especially a concern where investigative reporting is disappearing (but thank you, LA Times).

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Why you shouldn’t read important speeches

June 1, 2009 | By | 9 Replies More
Why you shouldn’t read important speeches

Liz Coleman, the President of Bennington College, has some terrific ideas about reforming liberal arts education. She presented them at TED in February 2009.

Many people will never appreciate Coleman’s ideas, however, because she presented them in a long paper filled with redundant and sesquipedalian (!*) terms. To top it off, she chose to read her speech in monotone rather than speaking from her heart. Coleman’s decision to read her speech rather than presenting it with spontaneous enthusiasm undercuts the very message of her paper. She violated a basic rule of speech-making: Don’t bore your audience with good content deficiently presented.

Why can’t the highly educated C0leman see this conspicuous problem with her own delivery? Why can’t she understand that many people (even the smart sorts of people who attend TED lectures, have lots of trouble paying attention to liberal arts college presidents who read pedantic speeches? For starters, she needs to keep in mind that the Internet audience is not a captive audience motivated by the pursuit of grades.

Yes, ordinary Americans need to become more disciplined at being attentive audiences. They need to learn to persevere when difficult ideas are presented, even when those ideas aren’t sugar-coated. On the other hand, academics (Coleman is one example of many) really need to get out of their ivory towers and learn to talk to real people without sounding condescending.

One suggestion: Coleman should study Barack Obama, who often knows his material well enough to talk off-the-cuff. He has also learned to present pre-written presentations in a fresh, spontaneous-sounding way. I’m not suggesting that everyone can deliver ideas like Obama, but all us can take the time study the various techniques he often uses.

Before getting to work studying her new technique, Coleman should carefully watch her TED presentation and ask herself whether her delivery would even keep her own interest. She should ask what so many academics should ask: was her speech designed primarily to move her audience or was it (perhaps subconsciously) designed to show off her own vocabulary and intellectual superiority, amply laced with uppity intonation? If there is even an unintentional hint of these, she’s lost her audience.

*sesquipedalian
1. given to using long words.
2. (of a word) containing many syllables.

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Bush Administration destroyed cancer research center and scattered the researchers

May 13, 2009 | By | 6 Replies More
Bush Administration destroyed cancer research center and scattered the researchers

Affiliated Press – May 13, 2009

Recently discovered secret documents indicate that, in 2006, the Bush Administration ordered the destruction of a major cancer research center and banned the doctors and researchers from ever again communicating with each other.

Dr. Rod Nym, former Director of the center, recently agreed to discuss this disturbing incident with the Affiliated Press. Nym indicated that the towering brick and mortar research center had its genesis several years ago thanks to a large grant by the Marduk Foundation. The Center was built in the middle-east corridor of the tri-state region to bring together hundreds of cancer researchers from all corners of the globe.

Even though the researchers and doctors came from many different countries and spoke many different languages, they were able to communicate efficiently thanks to special software installed throughout the center. The software was similar to Babelfish, and it instantly translated any language into any other language, enabling the researchers to collaborate to an extent never before seen in an international research team.

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Bacteria that talk to each other

April 9, 2009 | By | 7 Replies More
Bacteria that talk to each other

Bonnie Bassler, who teaches molecular biology at Princeton, explains that bacteria don’t just grow and divide, grow and divide. They speak to each other and with other species of bacteria through their chemicals.

Bassler studies how bacteria use chemical signals to act as coordinated social units. In this delightful TED talk, Bassler discusses how her research group has studied the manner in which bacteria talk to each other. They make chemical “words” to enable group activities (such as triggering the timing for effective virulence attacks), sensing each other through their “quorum-sensing molecules.” They can also sense the difference between themselves and other bacteria.

Note that each of us is 99% bacterial. Our human body consists of about one trillion of “our own” cells, but ten trillion bacteria. We have about 30,000 of “our own” genes, but we carry about 100 times more bacterial DNA than human DNA. Bacteria live as “mutualists” with us. They help us digest our food, make our vitamins, protects us from other pathogens and help us survive in numerous other ways.

Rather than using antibiotics to kill bacteria (which inevitably selects for more virulent strains), Bassler suggests that a better understanding of the communications schemes used by bacteria is allowing scientists to develop potent new medicines.

This is an upbeat and informative talk regarding a most ancient form of life.

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Another well-deserved attack on rationality

February 18, 2009 | By | Reply More
Another well-deserved attack on rationality

Why do we do the things we do? Why did you propose that woman, for instance? Or why did you accept a job offer from that man? The January 29, 2009 edition of Nature (available online only to subscribers) takes a look at this question in an article by Mark Buchanan titled “Secret Signals: Are People’s Interactions Driven by a Primitive, Not Linguistic Type of Communication?”

Scientists have determined that there is a second channel of human communication that (often) acts in parallel with our rational thinking and verbal communication. It’s difficult to pin down power and scope of this non-linguistic ability, however. Recently, computer scientist Alex Pentland has started using wearable electronic devices in order to study our ability to communicate using non-linguistic behavior. It is Pentland’s aim to try to assist organizations to make better use of their personnel based upon this ubiquitous and powerful hidden communication.

Many people resist the idea that many of our choices are not determined by “conscious intentions and deliberate choices.” It’s time to stop resisting, however. For example, our behavior is highly determined by our social context rather than our innate “character.” On this topic I’ve often recommended an excellent book titled The Person and the Situation, by Lee Ross and Richard Nisbett. See also, this earlier DI post titled “Laughing at not funny things, and the limits of introspection.”

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