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Can “Woke” be Weaponized Against the US and US Dollar?
How social media, cancel culture and our desire to understand the suffering of others has made the US vulnerable to being hijacked by the political wills of other nations.
Propaganda machines have been an integral part of governments and conflicts since the first government existed, but the new mediums have truly changed the game. The effectiveness of these machines has to do with how easily our emotions can be hacked to override our ability to think through situations rationally, and these new mediums specialize in decreasing thought. They specifically take advantage of our evolutionary delays in brain development and how our ability to think is far more advanced than our ability to process those thoughts. The result is that skillful messaging targeted at our emotional processing centers can easily by-pass our abilities to consider other aspects of an issue. For all the good and awareness that social media has brought to us, foreign propaganda has also been given direct access to our feeds. If other countries can use it to influence US elections, can it be used as a weapon against the US government and the US dollar?
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Elephants in the Room
Here are the definitions that will be used for some of the more critical terms in this article.
Woke: An African American Vernacular English term for the awareness of racism, expanded in 2010 to include sexual and sexual preference discrimination, expanded in 2020 to include the awareness of all left leaning politics, expanded again in 2023 to reference anyone who has genuine awareness of any form of inequality.
Wokeism: The behavior and attitudes of people who are sensitive to social and political injustice.
Cancel Culture: The practice of withdrawing support from a public figure or brand after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.
The answer is, Yes, Wokeism is being weaponized against the dollar by other countries, but there is not a straight line to that answer.
The Beacon on The Hill
US society is built on the core principle that each human life is to be valued equally. This principle is why so many have flocked to the shores of the US and why it is so troublesome for people outside of the US when it falls short of this promise. Equal rights and equal treatment of people is a core part of what we are taught it means to be an American. The awareness of how various groups are being treated unequally is therefore a requirement for being a “Good American.” So how could wokeism be weaponized against the US if it is a core duty of its citizens.
An awareness of troubles is a requirement to understand the world, but using our desire for that awareness of troubles, is an exceptional way to control a human being. Part of the reason we are named The Sophisticated Chimp is that chimpanzees, like humans, are pre-wired to be interested in learning about threats before making their next decisions. This evolutionary bias towards being interested in troublesome events has taken care of us very well from the beginning of mankind, but in recent times its utility versus its harm has become debatable.
When a Little Becomes a Lot
There is a variation of an Oscar Wilde quote that says, “If you want to destroy a man, give him everything he ever wanted.” Too much of anything can be a bad thing and unfortunately our brains are still programmed to deliver dopamine rewards for many things that will kill us. Sugar, heroine, gossip, pornography and endless scroll social media exploration are all things that our brains reward with dopamine. They are also all things where the lethality is in the dose. Granted, a little heroine in modern times has never been considered ok unless you are a Sackler, but in pop culture a little of everything else on that list is acceptable, if not celebrated. The problem is when the dabbling becomes out of control and the dose is larger than we were designed for, even when it is just “a little” time on our phones.
The Social Dilemma
For those of you who have not seen the 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma, it is time to watch it. My poor wife was subjected to a normally soft-spoken version of me yelling at the screen in agreement the first time I saw this film. As a person that falls somewhere in the Neuro-atypical spectrum, I find myself more susceptible to social media addiction and this film did a beautiful job of connecting some of the dots of a puzzle I was chewing on. There was a single thought in the film that crystalized it all when it stated that artificial intelligence doesn’t have to figure out how to do profound tasks to be a threat, it just has to figure out something as simple as which videos to feed our profile to get us to watch an additional second of YouTube each day. This type of thing can be achieved with basic learning algorithms, but the outcomes are far from basic, as none of us would consider the possible loss of our democracy “basic.”
How Can Even the Simplest Selection Algorithm be Complicit in a War?
The documentary went on to suggest that since the widespread adoption of social media there was an absolute disappearance of middle-of-the-road politics. Let me repeat this again, since the introduction of basic unsophisticated selection algorithms designed to keep us on social media for additional seconds, the US and the rest of the world have taken off on a path towards extremist politics. Unfortunately, the answers that the algorithms came to, was that if you feed viewers polarizing information you will gain more than seconds, so that is what all of the selection algorithms went on to do. This wasn’t new information; this was just the first time that an individual could have this information almost personally cultivated for them. Years prior, this principle had been decisively confirmed by a legend in cable broadcasting.
24-hour News Will Never Work!
Ted Turner, the founder of a 24-hour news network named CNN, was right when he founded the news channel on the contrarian idea that viewers would watch news 24 hours a day. People told him that he would go broke because no one cared about the news that much, but Mr. Turner understood that humans are given dopamine rewards for studying threats or coming across polarizing information. So, as a great businessman, he gave us exactly what we “wanted.” From 1980 onward, he, and others, supplied multiple cable news channels designed to satisfy our addiction to threat identification while simultaneously outraging us and taking advantage of our heightened stress levels through advertising.
Social media took Mr. Turner’s discovery, put it in our pockets and personally tailored it to each and every one of us. Artificial intelligence never needed to be smarter than the smartest side of being a human to derail society, it just needed to stumble across the patterns of our extremely hackable limbic systems, figure out the buttons to push and then sit on them. The result has been that all of us now have an unlimited source of pain or outrage for humanity that we can tap into at a moment’s notice.
Just How Connected are We?
On top of easy access to “bloody news” many of us have also developed a deep seeded fear of missing out that also contributes to the average American adult opening our smartphones 96 times a day. Even as early as 2013 in a study of heavy smartphone users, it was found that the loss of a smartphone was registered in the same part of the brain as the loss of a limb, which goes a long way to explain how deeply dependent our brains have become on the stimulus that these devices provide. When you combine our anxiety of the fear of missing out on information with a constant access to the pain that others are experiencing you have a recipe for intense stress disorders around the more woke oriented members of our population. This prolonged anxiety and stress is often handled by our most primitive of tools in our stress management arsenal, the equivalent of the “blunt force make-it-go-away” tool.
The Origins of Cancel Culture
Whenever additional lumps of stress are added to people in these heightened states of stress, there is no room for nuanced navigation, they simply must go away. In the wild, highly stressed animals attack, and even the most domesticated dog in a new environment can become aggressive. The reason for this is because there is a short circuit in our limbic system “lizard” part of the brain that only allows for critical thinking when stress levels are low. When the stress levels are well past the thresholds of the limbic system, the default becomes to fight, flight or freeze before the threat. One of the problems with this state of being, is that even if the person is ready to fight, they have often, ironically, become easy to manipulate, as they are now an individual who no longer has the capacity to make decisions rationally.
This exit from rational thinking cause decisions to weighed in over simplified ways against survival, which makes us very susceptible to simple messaging of good versus evil. What is being found is that our constant bombardment of anxiety and stress from our smartphones can artificially trigger these sustained high levels of stress. What is worse, is that is that besides stripping nuance out of discussions, we seem to register anyone that mentions sensitive topics as a threat to our survival, meaning that all political satire that has traditionally been used to open up dialogues becomes canceled. The way that this becomes dangerous for a society is that there are entire teams of people that are employed for conflict propaganda, that look for this level of stress malleability in populations, or try to create it, to manipulate it.
Do Propaganda Teams Really Exist?
The Internet Research Agency (IRA), National Internet Information Office (NIIO), Global Engagement Center (GEC) and The Ministry of Strategic Affairs (MOSA) are the respective names of Russia, China, The US and Israel’s social media propaganda arms. These teams are made up of their country’s best social scientists, advertising specialists and social media marketers. Each of these teams are in charge of delivering their government’s version of the truth. Some of their campaigns are continuations of messaging that has been cultivated over decades and some of their campaigns are designed to sway favor for immediate threats and conflicts. The crisis management arms of these teams are on stand bye in the same way that many doctors are on call. The stakes for the games they are involved in could not be higher, in that they shape the way a country’s people may be in support of a war effort or a candidate, or not. The thought that these teams do not exist is naive but the thought that the work of these teams is not reaching us is laughable. These teams are now the most economical way to fight a war or win an election and we are their targets.
The predecessors of these teams were used in Germany for WWII, India and Pakistan for the division of greater India and even the US versus the US in the Civil War. In each of these cases unheard of cruelties and crimes were fueled by the moral high ground provided by the propagandists. Later during the cold war era, the Soviet Union became talented in successfully stirring up trouble for the US and dragging it into external conflicts. Its sole purpose in these missions was to cause the US to engage in conflicts and slowly drain the US’s coffers as wars are expensive. Throughout history the best of these propaganda teams used highly emotional messages to target stressed population segments in a frenzied state. The primary objective was to always cause the “stressed” to stop thinking and to cause the thinkers to pause. With these simple directives acts were committed in wars that the history books dare not print the horrors of, and the fortunes of nations were turned.
How is Today Different?
In conflicts in the past, these teams have always had to “warm up” their audiences. They have had to write stirring speeches, host rallies and show countless images of horrible things to bring their target audience to a frenzy. However, in our modern-day social media hyper-aware reality, many of us live in a continuously primed and frenzied state. On top of an astronomical rise in anxiety disorders, this translates to a very malleable US population that is ready and more susceptible to skillful messaging from external or internal bad-actors around the clock, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed.
In the last 8-years, US intelligence sources have determined that Russia influenced the 2016 presidential elections, China spread false BLM and covid campaigns, and the Ukraine, Palestine and Israel all used A.I. generated images for the purpose of swaying favor. The bottom line is that the propaganda teams of other countries have one job, to make sure that their country’s message becomes a deeply emotionally rooted message for the purpose of their teams needs. The problem with this is that the US and much of the West are very poorly equipped to handle the delivery of highly skilled propaganda messaging into our social media feeds, as questioning mainstream narratives is repeatedly being framed as Evil in the Good-versus-Evil campaigns. This means that our trained compliance with our own government’s messaging is translating into compliance with subverted messaging as well. Not only is this dangerous for the future of the US, but halting the process of thinking for yourself is fundamentally Un-American.
Propaganda machines have been around since the first government
As humans we are predisposed to paying extra attention to anything that could be considered dangerous to us or polarizing
Social media and smartphones have been combined to make a lethal cocktail of continuous stress
People are easily manipulated when stressed
The US and Western populations are pre-stressed and extremely susceptible to skillful propaganda attacks from bad actors
Social media will play a larger role in conflicts than the actual bombs and bullets going forward
The US will lose its identity if the average social media consumer remains extra-ordinarily stressed
The US people and the US dollar will be skillfully pulled into conflicts that it will not be able to sustain
What Can We Do?
The answer to this problem is a very difficult one. On a personal level it requires booking large portions of time away from social media, installing applications that prevent different addictive behaviors on your phone and reaching out to friends to have in-person challenging multi-viewpoint conversations. On a government level it may require writing your representatives to state that you are in favor of bills that remove phones from schools and encourage mandatory breaks in continuous scroll. It also requires that we do our own research away from social media on the topics that matter to us.
The ultimate irony in all of this is that in our quest to become more aware of the harms to others, we have conditioned ourselves to be puppets of governments that might want to harm us!
How will this ever be written in a history book!
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