Letter to My Representatives on Gaslighting and Source Burning: Post-truth is Pre-fascism

Senator Cornyn, Senator Cruz, Representative Williams,

Respected and sober voices in the diplomatic and natsec communities are sounding the alarm and even using the words treason and traitor. Such words are merited when a request to turn over private citizens, including ethical patriots like Bill Browder, is greeted as an “incredible offer”.

For the last ten years, I’ve been trying to avoid getting killed by Putin’s regime, and there already exists a trail of dead bodies connected to its desire to see me dead. Amazingly, Trump stood next to him, appearing to nod approvingly. He even later said that he considered it “an incredible offer.”

Source: I’m Bill Browder. Putin Made a Mistake When Talking About Me | Time

This moment is striking in both its ineptitude and its thoughtless treachery.

It should be noted that not only did Trump fail to recognize the request to interrogate Browder & Amb. McFaul as outrageous, it seems not to have occurred to him that a president has no power to order a private citizen to submit to interrogation by foreign agents.

So basically: Putin makes a completely disingenuous proposal to “trade” interrogations, knowing the U.S. won’t & probably can’t meet his conditions. Trump cluelessly takes the bait & fawns all over the “incredible offer” Putin has made.

Note this is a direct result of Trump’s bizarre insistence on meeting with Putin alone. Any minimally competent diplomat would have recognized the “offer” as bogus and prevented Trump from embarrassing himself. Or tried to, anyway.

Source: Julian Sanchez on Twitter

From the start, Trump has muddied a clear message: Putin interfered.” “In January 2017, Donald Trump was shown evidence that Vladimir Putin personally ordered pre-election hacking. He has since publicly questioned it.” Natsec folks are discussing how many sources POTUS possibly has burned. “Trump, who was briefed in Jan 2017, burned the source to Russia just like he burned Israeli intelligence.” “Did Trump tell Putin the name of CIA source close to Putin?” “I’d speculate the intel sources here reasonably concluded that Trump has already burned their sources and methods to Putin.” “This sensitive intelligence didn’t leak in this kind of detail through all the sturm and drang of the last year and a half. Trump’s fawning behavior in Helsinki shook this loose and into public view.

How many of the “trail of dead bodies” were burned by the Trump administration? The operational reality we live and work in is that we must assume POTUS has burned sources and methods. The EU is now treating the US as an adversary. So too are the many professionals tasked with protecting our systems.

The sitting President and the party in the power are gaslighting us, telling us that what we witness every day isn’t true. Jeff Flake spoke to this today in a speech I’m glad he delivered. I have no faith he will vote in accordance with his words, but hearing a Republican MoC acknowledge the mentally abusive mass gaslighting of a nation going on right now was a needed affirmation of objective reality.

Mr. President, in his dystopian novel ‘1984,’ George Orwell wrote, ‘A party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.’ Well, we saw earlier this week in Helsinki what was truly an Orwellian moment. What we saw earlier this week in Helsinki is what happens when you wage war on objective reality for nearly two solid years, calling real things fake and fake things real, as if conditioning others to embrace the same confusion. Ultimately you’re rendered unable to tell the difference between the two and are at critical times seemingly rendered incapable of thinking clearly. Your mind, a hash of conspiracy theory and fragments of old talking points, deployed in response to a question no one even asked. Ultimately you fail to summon reality in the face of a despot in defense of your country. It wasn’t a hard question, Mr. President.

Source: Jeff Flake: We Saw Earlier This Week in Helsinki What Was a Truly an Orwellian Moment :: Grabien – The Multimedia Marketplace

In Chapter 10, “Believe In Truth”, of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century”, historian Timothy Snyder writes:

To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case. This renunciation of reality can feel natural and pleasant, but the result is your demise as an individual—and thus the collapse of any political system that depends upon individualism. As observers of totalitarianism such as Victor Klemperer noticed, truth dies in four modes, all of which we have just witnessed.

Fascists despised the small truths of daily existence, loved slogans that resonated like a new religion, and preferred creative myths to history or journalism. They used new media, which at the time was radio, to create a drumbeat of propaganda that aroused feelings before people had time to ascertain facts. And now, as then, many people confused faith in a hugely flawed leader with the truth about the world we all share.

Post-truth is pre-fascism.

Source: Snyder, Timothy. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (pp. 65-69, 71). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

You, Senator Cornyn, ”blocked the passage of a resolution from Flake and Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) that would have given Senate support to the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election”. You blocked acknowledgment of an obvious and true thing. You have abandoned facts and freedom. “Accepting untruth of this radical kind requires a blatant abandonment of reason.” The endless repetition that Russia did not interfere in the election despite all evidence to the otherwise is “shamanistic incantation”. “The fascist style depends upon “endless repetition,” designed to make the fictional plausible and the criminal desirable.

Meanwhile, you, Representative Williams, and the rest of the Republican House voted down election security spending.

And voted down a motion to subpoena the interpreter for the Trump-Russia summit.

A summit that the DNI hasn’t been briefed on.

You too have abandoned facts and freedom.

Election and information security professionals have been calling for an overhaul of our election security and voting machines for years. Our infrastructure is a shambles. Our machines are trivially compromised and untrustable. When we don’t spend on security, we get hacked.

In New York, the city BOE spends nearly $1M on Mandiant. Didn’t get hacked. Schuyler county was massively hacked by Russia. Not just the poll books. Even the sheriff’s office.

The same Russian intelligence agency charged with hacking Democrats’ emails in 2016 has targeted at least three candidates running for election in 2018, a Microsoft executive said

You, my reps, are denying Russia interfered in our elections and refusing to invest in badly needed election security. What would you call Democrats who did this given all else going on? Would you hesitate to call them traitors? I don’t think you would.

School Board Election Transparency and Flow

My family didn’t realize an election for Dripping Springs ISD was happening until my mom received an early voting ballot in the mail. After too much digging, we found this page on the pretty awful district website.

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The bios there are a handful of paragraphs that do not communicate vision or provide much of a writing sample. I need writing samples to elect someone to a school board. School systems demand much of our kids, and school representatives should put at least as much effort into their campaign writing as a student does on a writing prompt on a standardized test.

Finding the election information page took some doing. The district website is a tough one to navigate and follow. The main sections of the site are District News and Calendar. I can find no mention of the election in either section. To find the election page, you must search for “election”.

How easy is the election to find from social media?  A search for “election” on the district’s Facebook page has no results since 2013.

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Twitter fares no better. A search for “election” there likewise doesn’t turn up anything since 2013.

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How about on independent websites? Searching the local watering hole blog turns up nothing about the election. How about the city’s website? Neither “election” or “trustees” turns up election information.

How about the candidates, how visible are they? I found Facebook groups for the two incumbents. One is closed to comments without joining the group and the other is closed completely without joining the group and has only 12 members.

This is not transparent.

What to do about it? Well, I recently met Austin Kids First at a do_action event. They are working on transparency and candidate cultivation in Austin ISD. Sounds like AISD was in a similar situation a few years ago. I get the feeling this is typical of most districts. Now, thankfully, these questionnaires offer a sense of the vision, policy and writing of AISD board candidates.

I’d like DSISD candidates to answer the questions in those questionnaires as well as these:

  • Are you on board with Most Likely to Succeed and project-based learning?
  • Where can I go online to find out about you and your vision for Dripping Springs education?
  • What is the board’s role in modernizing the tools and workflow of DSISD to accommodate project-based learning and transparency?
  • What is the board’s role in ensuring that the digital, physical, and cultural infrastructure of DSISD accommodates all people, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, neurodivergence, personal appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or nationality.
  • Should creationism be taught in school?

I think those give a feel for a candidate’s grasp of modernity. The first question is particularly important given that DSISD is becoming a district of innovation so it can embrace the Most Likely to Succeed narrative and project-based learning. This is a big deal, yet I know nothing about the candidates’ positions on MLTS and project-based learning. The district’s social media and website have said nothing about it since announcing some screenings of the film back in January.

We need an Austin Kids First style effort for DSISD, and the district needs some publishing and social media flow. I happen to know some people who can help with publishing, for free, including freedom zero. Involve students in the project of bringing modern, open source publishing flow to the district with the help of volunteers from the communities and companies that will be in some of their futures. Start project-based learning by involving them in publishing and technology. Allow them advocacy and agency by letting them participate in building the digital infrastructure of a modern, project-based, transparent district in touch with the creative commons and the future of work.