The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by John Robb. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today, we have our returning guest, who has been on the show a few times, John Robb, who’s got a long history as a intel guy, and a researcher and as a writer. John, where can readers find your current writings, which are very interesting?
John: Well, I’m on Twitter @Johnrobb. And I have a Patreon on I write a monthly report called the Global Guerrillas Report. It’s been going since 2007.
Jim: Yeah. And I’m a subscriber to it. I’d encourage people who want to follow John, to pay your $5 bucks a month, or whatever the hell it is. I don’t even remember and get his really good flow of information about what’s going on.
John: Oh, thanks. And I try to build frameworks that help people makes sense of rapidly evolving situations. It seems to work.
Jim: And you do this kind of whiteboard where you’re rough thinking, you make it available as well, which I find very interesting.
John: Oh, cool. Yeah and we also have a discord and probably one of the few places you could actually discuss a lot of these topics and abstract without everyone calling each other names or nasty stuff.
John: So it’s a good place to think through a lot of this.
Jim: Great. Well, today we’re going to talk about January 6th. The insurrection, the semi-coup or whatever the fuck it was. And get John’s thoughts on this, just the kind of thing John likes to think about and has written about already a fair amount. But let’s get him here on live.
Jim: I sit back and look at this and analyze it, strikes me that why it went wild and turned into a successful breach of the capitol, rather than being just another demonstration/shitshow was a combination of two things: one was an intel failure, as I’ve dug into it and talked to law enforcement people et cetera. It’s clear that either something happened on the intel side.
Jim: One, the data wasn’t properly analyzed and the conclusion brought from it, or there was such a data analysis and conclusion generated somewhere in the intel stack, but then there was an alerting failure. That information wasn’t gotten to the sergeant at arms or the chief of police at the capitol, or to the mayor, et cetera.
Jim: And of course, the third alternative is that the alerts were given, but they were ignored for whatever reason, and there may be some evidence that that could’ve been the issue. And then, there was an Ops failure, even within the context of say a failure of the FBI to draw the correct conclusions from what was clearly floating around in the information’s sphere.
Jim: Even for a normal demonstration, there were a long list of Ops failures, again, which I’ve been digging into with people and going to probably, if I’m successful to book them, have a senior law enforcement come on person later in the week, talk about that.
Jim: But let’s talk first about intel failure. What’s your thoughts on how could it have been that clearly the mayor, the chief of the capitol police, the sergeant of arms of the Senate and the House, the Chairman of the House Administration Committee, none of them appear to have received, or if they did receive, acted upon intel about the nature of this event.
John: It seems that they did get some warnings. And those warnings are being talked about right now in the press and they’re bringing up these warnings as an explanation for their actions. But I don’t they fully understood what they meant. And I don’t think the intel folks who were doing the analysis really truly understood what they were looking at.
John: I think the problem is, is that there were… It’s a split between what was going on at the small group level, and what could go on at the large group level. You want all these small groups come together. People saw, and intel people saw the threat develop at the small group level, but that’s handled within the context of standard security operations.
John: What they didn’t quite understand is that when you have all these little different groups all plotting on their own with their own motivations for actually thinking about violence all coming together at the same time, could they actually mobilize something large enough to sweep aside defenses of the capitol? And based on previous experience, I don’t think anyone was really of the opinion that this would actually happened.
John: Based on previous experience with right wing protests, that they didn’t think that they would be a large protest that would be violent enough to take overt the capitol and beat down the police to get there.
Jim: Yeah. It’s interesting you note that. I’ve talked to folks, again, in law enforcement. They admit there was probably an implicit bias in the thinking that a basically white conservative police friendly crowd is less likely to resort to extreme violence against the police than are say other groups. So that certainly likely to have been part of it.
Jim: But the other one’s, one I think that you alluded to indirectly, I’d love to dig into more detail, which I highlighted, which is by intel, or Ops, or some combination the two. A failure to understand the real nature of a nation wide, self-organizing network tribe.
John: Right. Yeah, if you listen to or read any description of the crowd that had assembled on that day, it’s a classic description of an open source system, open source insurgency, open source protest. And they are groups from every different nook and cranny of our politicos here. And they all came together. And they all had the same anger and same desire to march on the capital and try to reverse this election.
John: And it’s a hard thing for a lot of intel folks to get their heads around. I had a lot of success getting people to think open source terms, factor in the Iraqi insurgency and later during the hunt for ISIS and Al Qaeda. But I think a lot of those skillsets have been lost in the interim. So it’s really hard for the intel folks and the police and others to really understand how a lot of really, really small groups and individuals can come together and operate as a group.
Jim: Yeah. The thing that really struck me about that was the information and the signaling, a significant amount of it was in the clear. It was on the Donald. It was on Parler. It was intermittently on Twitter and Facebook. And that even a fairly rudimentary capture of messages and analysis ought to have showed that something was up, that there was a residence that these messages were self-reinforcing. That if you follow the paths of them, they should’ve been showing the signal of not a hierarchy, but a loosely coupled set of small groups that were intercommunicating between the small groups and were resonating around a series of messages.
Jim: How could we be spending whatever the number is, 50, $80 billion dollars year on intel and not be able to detect what I believe I could’ve detected with 15 hours worth of programming?
John: Oh, no. It was definitely there in the open. But most of the people that were there, even during the riot, didn’t think that they actually would take the capitol. I mean, this is a complete surprise. If you look at the faces of the people when they got in to the capitol, it was like, “What the hell? How did we do this?” They didn’t expect to actually achieve it.
John: You have a small handful of guys that were highly motivated, they anticipated getting in. But even then, they didn’t really have much of a plan. I mean, it goes all the way back to why this whole thing started in the first place? I mean, I can understand Trump’s motivation for pushing this direction. He was faced with legal cases and de-Trumpification of people coming after him.
John: And his only real protection was to keep this thing going, keep the insurgency going. And keep on fighting against the system, and it allowed him to raise hundreds of millions of dollars that he could put into a pack. It allowed him to stay in the news. It allowed him to get some protection in numbers against this de-Trumpificaiton pressure.
John: But it came down to actually the day and perhaps he was thinking that and everyone around him who was on the same page was thinking that they would love to have some noise outside the capitol during the vote. That they wanted some counter, some protest out there putting a pressure on the senators voting. And they never really anticipated actually having them come in. I mean, they’re a small group of people, maybe.
John: And then the operational failures ended up causing the whole thing to occur where they actually did break in, contrary to expectations.
Jim: I think one of the interesting takeaways of a whole concept of a self-organizing network tribe because it’s self-organizing and there isn’t any strong coherence. One has to assume that the sub components have a fair degree of heterogony to them. There was probably a vast majority of people who were there essentially larping revolution as B.J. Campbell likes to call it where they were there to make a grand gesture than go home.
Jim: But because of the heterogony of the sub cells of the self-organizing cluster, there were definitely people there who were prepared. I mean, they had zip ties. They had scaling ropes. They had crow bars. I mean, there as a percentage and of course in a percentage in a crowd that large, if the percentage is 2, or 3, or 4% who are actually prepared, that’s enough to catalyze actions. And it seems to me when we’re dealing with self-organizing network tribes, a key lens to consider, the components of a tribe are likely to be heterogonous with respect to motivations, skill, coherence within their cell, et cetera.
Jim: And that’s going to be something that we should keep in mind as other self-organizing network tribes emerge. Of course, this is not the first. I like to think that in some sense Occupy, Occupy Wall Street was the first of the modern network self-organizing tribes.
John: Oh yeah. Oh, that was a essence of my book, Brave New War, it goes all the way back to Iraq with the open sourced warfare, open sourced insurgency, fighting the US forces there where you had 70 different groups, each with their own motivation all coming together to fight the US. And then you the protests, open source protests where… I’m using different language, but that was back then the open source protests which started in Egypt and we had Occupy later, and we had the Tea Party to a certain extent very early on.
John: And even those protests came up in to just a couple years ago, I mean, where they took out the mayor of Puerto Rico and the like. And now we see it in US politics as a feature of US politics where I mean, Trump’s support is an open source political system. There are lots of little groups. Everybody how has any kind of grudge against the system, or any disaffection with the system, any dissent against what the main stream consensus is, is drawn to Trump.
John: I mean, he is the lightening rod for it. And my take is that Trump was put into office to keep things disrupted. And as long as he kept things disrupted, prevented these main stream consensus from operating as usual, operating business as usual, he was supported. And so this is what an open source insurgency looks like when it hits the political spectrum.
Jim: Yep. Indeed. And again, a real takeaway here is people should just assume that these self-organizing network tribes are going to be a feature of our political system. I mean, obviously Black Lives Matters protests this summer had very similar signature. It had a number of self-organizing cells. And they were quite heterogonous. You had people who were dedicated to absolute peace. And you had other cells who were dedicated to absolute violence.
Jim: And if you make the mistake of thinking the behavior is the mean of the whole tribe, you’re going to have a classic intel failure, such as happened on January 6th.
John: Yeah. I tend to draw a line of distinction between these self-organizing, open source protests, And something that I would term a tribe. I mean, the big problem, a central problem with open source frameworks is that they have an impermanence. And they tend to dissolve once they achieve their objective.
John: And one thing I saw with a lot of the tribes on, or what I call now the tribes on the left, is that they’ve figured out a way to keep this open source framework in tact over time to keep cohesive. And they did it through pattern matching and creating a pattern of behaviors and words and other things that they oppose. And that oppositional pattern was what allowed them to form a tribe that persisted over time.
John: So what we’re seeing on the right, though, and this is one of my reports just from last month was that it didn’t have the same kind of oppositional pattern that we saw on the left in the last year. The anti-racist, the anti-fascist, et cetera. On the right, what ended up becoming the pattern that it was opposing was this pattern of conspiracy.
Jim: Yeah. And also anti-Marxist. Right?
Jim: The argument and this goes to my… I’m going to skip over a question about the info-sphere, which I’ll come back to. But I do believe that they are developing a signature organizing resonance. And that gets to why go to insurrection? We’ve had contested elections before. Kennedy, Nixon. There’s in the historical records, a lot of evidence that the Dems stole that election in Illinois and Texas, which was enough to have tipped the electoral college.
Jim: Bush, Gore, the people can argue endlessly about that one. And yet, neither side even came close to going to insurrection. What is it in the air that led the self-organizing network tribe of Trumpists to feel like the need to go to insurrection?
John: Oh, what gave them the cohesion? Yeah, sure. It was the conspiracy. I mean, that the conspiracy framework had always been out there. It was really firmly established in the Q sphere. And Trump mainstreamed it with the election conspiracy. And we got incredible amounts of effort trying to show, do the statistical analysis and trying to dig up information on this or that, problem with the election system.
John: And granted, it was a fertile system to look for flaw because it is a highly flawed system. Just the way it’s developed, it’s 50 different systems cobbled together. There’s different requirements for the voting. And the records are pretty poor on the whole… Particularly since they don’t do a lot of the signature checking and there isn’t a valid ID that’s required in a lot of places.
John: So he was able to build this idea that the election was stolen and that there was a group that had conspired to do that. And that served as a glue to put these despaired groups together and that they were coming together to end that conspiracy. To put an end to it. And it wasn’t a huge group. I mean, we’re not talking armies of hundred of thousands of people. I mean, there was couple thousand really truly core supporters who were intent on ending this.
Jim: On the other hand, I will say that I know lots of Trump voters. I live in a place where our electoral precincts at least 75% of the people voted for Trump. And I’d say half or so of the Trump voters continue to believe this conspiracy election stolen thing. Or at least they did up ’till January 6th. Though, yes, there’s the point of the spear, but there’s a long shaft behind that point of the spear in terms of people who were sucked into this info-sphere of conspiracy.
Jim: But I would also add, and conspiracy is a big motivator, but also this heightened sense that it’s now or never. This is the, if we don’t stop it now, we’ll have Maoist running our country is what getting at. Why insurrection now? Elections have probably been stolen in the past. And say, including Kennedy, Nixon, and arguably Bush, Gore.
Jim: And neither time did that lead to insurrection. So the conspiracy theory is one piece. But then why is worth fighting? Is there some sense that if you don’t fight and if you lose, something really dire is about to happen. I think that’s in the air as well.
John: Yeah. I think that fight now fort was a fork of this kind of conspiracy glue. So you had this conspiracy glue that this pattern that brought everyone together, brought half the Republican party, maybe 70% of the Republican party into believing that the election was stolen. But Trump forked it and by saying it has to end now. This is the last moment.
John: And it was part of that, maybe the whole pitch for money. It was part of his trying to get the support up, get the coverage, get the reTweets, all that other stuff that he needs, he thought he needed to defend himself against a de-Trumpification that all the legal cases that are being mounted against him. All the efforts to go after him, his family, everybody who’s supported him in the past or in his administration.
John: And that that immediacy led to this, this fork that ended up causing all the problems. So it reminds me of the fork that occurred in Iraq when Al Qaeda and Iraq went after the Golden Mosque. And it forked the insurgency. [inaudible 00:20:42] who wanted to move it into a full scale religious war with the Shia, rather than just focusing on fighting US and Iraqi military forces.
John: And when they did blow up the Golden Mosque, that solidified the opposition in the Shia and that these massive militias came and did ethnic cleansing throughout Baghdad. And put the Sunni insurgency into a horrible situation. They were fighting these massive militias that were cleaning out every single neighborhood and killing people with alacrity. And then if they ever tried to put enough people together to fight them, that they were getting slammed by the US military or the Iraqi military.
John: And so it ended up causing the peace deal that we ended up seeing which allowed us to draw down the whole insurgency. So that fork destroyed the Iraqi insurgency. So is this the same thing that, in practice? Did it fork in a way that caused the whole thing to collapse?
Jim: Yeah. Then of course, there’s conspiracy theories that say yeah, this was all intentionally set up by the left to cause the right to collapse. And it might’ve happened. But I want to point out that this sense of direness about politics goes back, it’s not just now. May well remember the highly circulated article from 2016 that referred to the 2016 election as the Flight 93 Election.
Jim: Flight 93 being the 9/11 hijacked airplane that was where the passengers revolted against the hijackers and crashed the plane in Pennsylvania. And the argument is far back as 2016 is we have to rush the cockpit and elect Trump or we will lose our democracy. So extreme ideas like this have been in the info-sphere for quite some time.
John: Yeah. I mean, there’s a growing sense of dread that we’re headed in towards a dictatorship, sort of authoritarian system.
Jim: Yeah. Both sides seem to believe it. The left were personifying Trump as a Hitler wannabe from the beginning. And the right has been, at least parts of the extreme right, have been profiling amazingly, and my old very slightly left of center guy like Joe Biden as the second coming of Mao. So it’s-
John: That’s a byproduct of the tribalization process. When you start to tribalize, you have selective empathy and you give complete empathy to your comrades and people who you have this affective kinship with. And you give no empathy to anyone else who’s outside of that. And all those people out there are enemies. They’re not just people you disagree with, they are people who are afforded nothing.
John: And you could even see it in the coverage of the death of that one woman in the capitol when she got shot by the capitol police. And no one really wants to address it. They didn’t even treat her as a human being.
Jim: … Yeah. It was an interesting signal. In these tribes, they self-organize seemingly around almost disjoint information spheres. For instance, one of the things I would scratch my head about with respect to the January 6th crew, is how did they become so sure that the election was stolen, despite a lot of objective evidence that points the other way? Now, not conclusive, but as you point out, our system of election is noisy and murky, et cetera.
Jim: But some of the ones that come to my mind, there as a Georgia hand recount under Republican supervision, which showed yes, there was a small amount of noise, but the results were 95% confirmed. It wasn’t even close. 60 plus judges, many of them Trump appointees, many of them Republicans, many of them panels of judges with Republican majorities rejected all the court cases, every single one.
John: Was that actually because of the evidence, or was it because of just circling the wagons of maintaining the trust in the system?
Jim: Hard to say. But again, if there really had been stinky shit, I suspect at least one judge would’ve raised his hand and say-
John: Oh yeah.
Jim: … So again, I’m not saying these are conclusive, but I’m saying these are strong signals. And the third one, [crosstalk 00:25:24] the third one I think that’s the strongest of all in some sense is that eight Trump appointed US attorneys, at the direction of Bill Barr investigated the election and what happened. And of course, they have access to the FBI to do this. And concluded, which Barr pulled together and reported that yes, while there is noise, there is absolutely no sign of large scale voter fraud, nor any conspiracy to do so.
Jim: So here in the objective information sphere, while not conclusion, are at least pretty strong signals that to believe the election was stolen to the degree, to put your life on the line to assault the capitol seems somewhat out phase with the objective evidence. So that leads one to believe that the information sphere that is forming the insurrectionist network tribe at least is somehow very significantly disjoint from these objective signals. Or has means to down regulate these objective signals. Can you maybe talk a little bit about the disjoint information spheres that were developing these days and what the insurrectionists sphere might look like?
John: So in general, just a big picture, the networks, the social network in particular is a new decision making system we’re adding to our system. We have markets, we have bureaucracy, et cetera. This new decision making system has two elements in it. There’s a consensus and there’s a dissent. The consensus can mobilize vasts numbers of people to do something all at once. And the dissent is constantly there trying to find any flaw in the argument.
John: We saw that at work with the COVID. The same kind of thing that went on with the election is going on with COVID is the calling into question everything. Right? And if the consensus can’t get something done in time, the dissent will chew it up. And then we have this tribalization dynamic which takes the dissent and it magnifies it.
John: Because if you don’t have this fictive kinship between people, you don’t trust any of the information they provide you. Every bit of information they provide you is considered a lie, something to do you harm. And so when anyone in the courts, and anyone in the mainstream media had said the elections are rigged, don’t worry. Whatever, people immediately said that’s not something I can trust.
John: What they did trust is the dissent basically somebody saying, “Oh, here’s a statistical analysis of the returns and it shows this anomaly.” Or, “Here is a flaw in the system that they don’t check signatures on these mail-in ballots, and therefore this stuff is invalid.” And so those little bits of dissent were enough for people to do the pattern matching and say this is an overarching conspiracy and that would overwhelm any sense of any calming influence, or any kind of sense that there is some kind of objective reality out there.
John: And when you have elections this tight, it doesn’t take a vast conspiracy, it just takes a little bit of crud in the system to flip states. So yeah, you got the tribalization dynamic, you got the dissent dynamic, and that all comes together in creating this distrust of what the mainstream would consider a consensus reality.
Jim: Yeah. Then I’ve pointed out before that to get this thing to really cohere quickly, it requires a strong re broadcaster, rebroadcasts some subset of the message out to the tribe who then processes it, analysis it and then brings it back for rebroadcast. And the re broadcaster in chief, since 2015 has been Trump.
Jim: So his adamant claim that the election was stolen, not only was it stolen, but the election was a landslide. Right? Really hard to find any objective evidence for that. But he just repeats it endlessly and with great vehemence. I went through the speech he gave at the Ellipse on the 6th. And he just rattled off dozens of these examples, and claims, et cetera. Most of which have no support.
Jim: Lindsay Graham on the floor of the House in the late evening of the 6th said, “They said 60,000 people under age voted in Georgia. Where are 10 or them? Where are one of them?” There’s no evidence for any, for a lot. There is evidence for some of it, like the changes of the rules about signature verification. But most of the claims in his list are just no evidential support of any significance. Not enough to get a single judge to even be willing to hold a hearing.
Jim: So one wonders is Trump Goebbels, or is he insane? Is he just a conscious practitioner of the theory of the big lie? Which he knows this is mostly wrong. But if he repeats it endlessly, and I strongly advice people to read or listen to that speech he gave. We’ll put the link to the written version of his speech on the episode page [inaudible 00:31:10] episode.
Jim: The guy is just relentlessly repeating all of these charges and is it because he believes like Goebbels that if you tell a lie emphatically enough, enough times, people will believe it. Or is he basically insane? Does he actually believe it himself? Now I think that’s actually interesting and important distinction to dig into.
John: Okay. How do you sell a swampland in Florida to pensioneers in New York?
John: You got to believe it. You got to believe it’s great. I mean, you have to repeat it.
Jim: Well, no. Well, there’s two kinds of con men. There’s the ones who believe it and then there’s those who are just cynical sociopaths. I mean, I know. I was a salesman for quite a while, early day in my career. I know a bunch of sales people. I’ve hired a bunch of sales people. And there are clearly two kinds of sales people: those who are the true believers and those who are sociopaths and will just say anything to get the deal done. And Trump could be either. I’m not sure.
John: Yeah. You could convince yourself to be a true believer in order to make it easier for you to make the sale. I mean, Trump’s nature, or Trump’s role in this election and Trump’s role as a president was as a disrupter and chief. He took every bit of dissent in the system and ran with it. And he changed, it was like fast transients moving from one thread of dissent to the next, to the next, to the next, to the next. Constantly causing disruption, and that’s why he continually got the support he did.
Jim: Yeah. That’s where Jeb Bush, of all people, was so pretient when he tried to point out, said it again and again that Trump is basically the chaos candidate. And that was what Trump did. Right? He’d say A on Monday, B on Tuesday, C on Wednesday all about the same issue. Then he’d be back to A again on Thursday.
Jim: It was like there was no coherence at all in his model of reality. It was just whatever came out of his mouth. And a very interesting and in some sense a very disturbing way of the president of the United States to act. But at some level, it was efficient. He got 75 million votes.
John: Yeah. But his support throughout the entire four years is 42%. At least according to the way they were polling. And it barely wavered. It barely wavered because every single day, he fulfilled the plausible promise of the political insurgency that put him into office that he disrupted. He kept that system that his supporters saw as an existential risk to them, that it was closing them down or hurting them, or doing them damage. And he kept that going.
John: And he did through those fast transients that mobile warfare of online warfare where you’re going from one topic to the next. And it made it impossible for the mainstream media and others to defend against.
Jim: Yeah. You get somebody to analyze some statement that’s obviously just crazy, but by the time that the proof package has been put forth that this statement is very, very untrue, the spotlight has moved on to something else. So it’s very rapid moving from topic, to topic, to topic. So at least within the network, self-organizing network tribe, the focused attention is not looking back to say, “Is what Trump saying true?” Because by the time someone could analysis whether it’s true or false, he’s moved on to some new line of argument.
John: Right. That goes back to my Weaponize Social Networks report, it was one of my second report I wrote for my Patreon, and that method of warfare, that maneuver warfare online was very, very effective. I mean, basically what you do by changing topics all the time, they make it impossible for the opposition to have coherent thought. Is that they are constantly caught in an in between space. They can’t complete a thought without moving on to the next one.
John: And by the time they start to assemble the facts and start to try to make sense of things, you’re on to the next one. So it creates this chaotic mindset. But he was elected for that, and that’s what he delivered. I think the two political polls here is not the classic socialist, left, what the government can control, verses the Republican conservative right of what government shouldn’t control. It’s consensus and dissent. It’s one poll being a Russia where everything goes, and the other poll being China where nothing goes. It’s only my or the highway.
John: It’s everybody in consensus alignment. And that if Jack [Mah 00:35:56] steps out of line, even a little bit by criticizing the government or saying that they’re not on the right path, he disappears. Right? So we have those political polls is that consensus and dissent. And there is no specific policy positions associated with those two polls.
John: It changes over time. So it makes it hard for people to get their heads around this. But it’s different than the old left and right.
Jim: Yeah. That’s for sure. I will maybe push back a little bit on the idea that the biggest effect of say Trumpian information warfare is to disorient the opposition. I’d say the opposition didn’t get whipsawed nearly as much as Trump’s followers did. They’re the ones that were able to be hypnotized and essentially insulated from objective reality by these fast transients.
Jim: From what I can see at least, over time, Trump’s opposition were able to derive a signal about what Trump was and what he was about that became more and more accurate over time as they did implicit signal analysis on his use of chaotic transience. So it didn’t work so much on the opposition as it did work on his own follower and allowed him to pull them out of the reality based world, essentially.
John: They got better at dissent. And we saw that with the COVID. More prone to dissent to centralized effort to a centralized consensus. Yeah. I think there was a mental training on both sides that occurred over time. We’ll see going foreword. The established mindset is pretty [inaudible 00:37:51] at this point.
John: There’s really not much left of the standard establishment. I mean, all the innovation seems to be occurring at the poles, at the far left, and the far right.
Jim: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Certainly things like the woke movement is also of this sort. It’s got its own bizarre information sphere, its own ideology and we’ll have a guy on next week talking about it. It’s formed itself up into essentially a neo-religion, and has similar attributes to the Trump self-organizing tribe. And is strongly in opposition to the central left status quo and a wokey thinks a liberal is about the worst thing around, maybe even worse than a Trumpster.
Jim: So it’s certainly not, this whole phenomena is not just a phenomena of Trumpism, as you say. It’s both the left and the right self-organizing using distorted info-spheres and quasi-religious ideologies to separate themselves from a consensus view of reality.
John: Yeah. It’s pretty funny that there is a little bit of a parallel there. I mean, the original Antifa was formed after the previous organization that defended all the left organizations in Germany in 1929, had been disbanded, made illegal because of a very violent protest. And when the NFI formed, it was just focused on protecting the communists and they did most of their fighting against the rest of the center left trying to force them into alignment with their ideology, rather than focusing on the right. So yeah, it’s a interesting little parallel there that…
Jim: Yeah. I suspect more action will swing back to the far left here soon when they become very disillusioned by the mild center leftism of Biden and the realities of what a very narrow Democratic majority can actually achieve in the House and the Senate. So this cycle of self-organizing network tribes and their development of meme plexus like the neo religion of woke is a thing we’re going to continue to see. I suspect we’ll probably see something at least analogist to the neo religion on the right. Be interesting to see what that is. The lost cause, or we almost did it, or something like that.
John: If you try to boil down what this all about, I mean, why is everybody fighting the way they are? And what are they fighting over? And my thinking is fighting for control of this network decision making system. And the way you control this decision making network system is you control the companies that run it and you also control the direction of the development of the AIs and everything else that will provide the underlying architecture.
John: Those algorithms and those AIs that sit between us that mitigate our interactions, that point us in certain directions. Doesn’t seem to be explicit acknowledgement that we’re fighting over it yet, but if you look out long term, that’s the thing that will define how we operate as a society is how this new network decision making system is actually constituted. How it is articulated, how is turned into a social artifact.
John: And a lot of people would like to reject it and say it’s not going to exist. But frankly, with everything, all these services and everything else going online, everything from your communications, to your dating, to your job searching, to your small business operation, to marketing and flow for that small business.
John: Everything is in this network space. And how that actually operates underneath the covers, and its biases and its direction is going to determine whether or not we’re a free society that’s dynamic or we are a locked down, authoritarian society that’s so scared of any kind of dissent that we prevent it. That it’s built in that every conversation that goes towards something that’s not pre approved is squashed.
Jim: And of course, there is two other poles. At least on other pole there. There’s one that is China. Any dissent will be squashed instantly. But the other is Trumpian squared where everything is chaos and there’s no coherence, and there’s no objective reality. That might even be worse. It’s the old argument what’s worse, totalitarianism or anarchy?
Jim: And we have a really interesting challenge here as a society to tune this new emergent social operating system that’s operating on these networks. Or I wouldn’t call them necessarily a full social operating system, but at least a social signaling system operating on these networks to provide an interesting balance where there’s opportunity for real pluralism, including real dissent.
Jim: And yet, there’s also as much as we can produce, a common ground of objective reality. That would seem to be the tuning that we want. But it’s not clear that either side wants that. One side wants chaos, and the other side wants top down tyranny essentially. At least the two far poles.
Jim: So perhaps the center can rise up and say no to both of them.
John: Yeah. Optimally we have a system that balances consensus formation and dissent. What we’re seeing in this network system, it’s easy to form a consensus on something and it can be overwhelming. Right? It can reach every nook and cranny, and it can mobilize things very, very quickly.
John: But you also have to have a dissent function to keep it in check, keep that consensus in check. And if you start to lock down all of these sources of dissent because they’re inconvenient or whatever, you’ll have consensuses that run forever, even long after they should’ve been destroyed. You need both in balance, and that the other thing is that we need a society that is more opted in on what consensus reality is.
John: So much of what we do right now is this is consensus reality. Boom. We’re telling you. The establishment tells you. Right? There were WMDs and there are also nobody blame for the financial crisis, so nobody goes to jail. Which, I mean, that kind of stuff is what is told to you, you know it’s wrong. Right? So it creates this vertigo.
John: What we need is something that it incentivizes you to opt in that it makes it worth your while to participate in. And if we can do that, then we can do really amazing things. Rather than being told these things that often devolve into stuff that’s just convenient for somebody, whoever is running the establishment.
Jim: Yeah. Or not just convenient, profitable. Again, and always look at the money on money return. That inner loop that really drives our society. Who benefits? Right? I always point people to the one philosophy book that I keep in my working office which is Karl Popper’s, The Open Society and Its Enemies. And he makes a very deep argument how over the long term this balance between coherence and dissent allows an open society to defeat both alternatives: anarchy on one side, and tyranny on the other.
Jim: But our tuning doesn’t seem right at the moment. For instance, this sudden snap to squash Parler disturbs me a lot. I would put my cards on the table. I am no fan of the people organizing on Parler. On the other hand, I am very disturbed by the three big, huge, transnational companies, all of whom are controlled by one or two somewhat strange individuals having the power to squash one of the relatively important players in this information system. That is not good at all.
John: Right. That’s the, what I can describe as the long night option. Is that these big companies and the establishment decide that they don’t want any dissent, anything that’s dangerous out there and that they lock everything down and they build their AIs and they extend their services only to people who are in this consensus zone, as they define the consensus.
John: And that’s bad for all of us. I think that’s a civilization killer. It’s just this idea that we have this single orthodoxy, single way of looking at the world and that anybody who questions it is wrong. Is not only wrong, they’re disconnected. They’re from all of the services because I mean, that we rely on just to get through the day now a days.
John: And what happens is that once the big guys go and once the big guys disconnect you, everybody else seems to follow. It’s a disconnection cascade. It’s not just what happened to Parler, it wasn’t just the big guys, their lawyers left them. All the other services and everything else that they relied on all disappeared.
Jim: Yep. In the short term, this is truly problematic, but fortunately, so long as we don’t have a true police state, technologically there’s the ability to route around. Right? Why did Parler, were they able to be choked? Because they were on AWS and because they used apps. Right? If you don’t use apps and you’re not on AWS, there’s a lot less choke points.
Jim: Now there’s some other choke points like domain names systems. But again, you can even route around that. It’s hilarious. ISPs, there’s hosting companies in the Ukraine. Lots of ways to gradually route around there. You can even route around the internet itself through a grid based WiFi system.
Jim: And Peter Wang talks about that from time-to-time. And so in fact, I know already people are working on this. I had somebody who’s pretty deep in the right wing space reach out to me yesterday. And I talked to him three years ago, “Watch for this coming, that they’re going to try to choke all the choke points on the internet.” The really the right should be building alternative infrastructure. Not because I’m a fan of the right, but because I’m a fan of balanced conversation.
Jim: And he wrote, this is a pretty central dude. He said, “You are pretient. right? Have you done anything about it?” And I go, “No. I talked to some folks, but they weren’t very competent to execute.” “But you guys better be going on… Hopefully somebody on your side’s working on this because unfortunately one of the tools that’s being used right now is these technological choke points to attempt to stifle your side of the discussion. And I don’t necessarily agree with your side of the discussion, but I do believe you have the right to actively present that side of the discussion in to the public square. And that this is very disturbing to me that a tiny number of blue church, big companies controlled by idiosyncratic individuals have the ability to essentially stifle discussion very bad.”
John: Well, this alternative infrastructure, I mean, it’s great and I’ve been in and out of that space for what? A decade or so? Or participating, looking at it. It’s just the vast bulk of services, I mean, so much is in this mainstream space. Going off into the little corners and talking is not really a great alternative to this when you’ve lost a war and everything else.
Jim: It’ll be interesting to see because what will happen is raids will happen. Right? People will self-organize over in the disconnected nets and then they’ll come back and propagandize, and organize subtle war with just barely within the rules of the terms of service of the other platforms. And whisper to people, “This is where we’re organizing.” It’s not going to be quite the attempt to suppress dissent, at least in the United States is going to be very difficult, I will predict.
John: Yeah. Well, the thing is it becomes really, really difficult is they start ID-ing you as an individual and if you show up doing that, you lose all access to all services. And [inaudible 00:51:14] is fatal to your job, fatal to your ability to communicate, fatal to your ability get on any of these service to transact, run a small business, anything else. I mean, it’s just, the penalties are too great to even think about. It’s an open air prison, effectively.
John: You can go off and do this stuff, but if you do something that we can identify as you that violates any of the rules. If you are anti-vacs, or you’re anti-round world, you know what I mean? It’s like you’re gone. You’re disconnected from the world.
Jim: Very scary. If that happens, then at that point, I will go into the streets, Goddammit. That is worth fighting for because that’s not tolerable. And that is the slippery slope to maybe soft, maybe not so soft, in the long term, tyranny.
John: Right. It’s already happening to a lot of people. I mean, in bits and pieces. But I mean, there are people being disconnected right now. I mean, and losing their livelihood and constant streams of attacks on them and their families and everything else. Yeah. It’s happening. It’s not universal yet, but give it time.
Jim: Well, John, I think we’re going to wrap it up there. I’ve got another call here to get onto. This has been as always remarkably interesting. Check John out on his Patreon and what’s the name of it again?
John: Global Guerillas.
Jim: Yeah. Yeah. Very much worth reading. Thanks a lot, John.
John: Hey, thanks, Jim.
Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes Consulting. Music by Tom Muller at modernspacemusic.com.