The Tyranny of the Computer, Revisited
By Janet Phelan
One of my first journalistic efforts was published in an inflight magazine in the late seventies and was entitled The Tyranny of the Computer. In the article, I suggested that a future in which decisions were made by machines might not be such a good thing. I did not foresee such things as autonomous drones or robot assassins. I did not foresee other perilous consequences, such as 5G or remote controlled water valves. Nor did I foresee the development of the internet into the free-for-all it has become. I only knew that giving over control of human activities to non-human machines was opening up a virtual Pandora’s box.
In fact, web technology has turned out to be a double edged blade. The technology enables instantaneous communications across the globe while it also enables the tracking of every single action and communication we take where an electronic device may be within range. Your phones and iPads not only know who you are talking to, they know what you are saying and also where you are when you are saying it and who is physically present during the conversation. Phones can also record ambient conversations even when they are turned off. Electronics connect us, trap us in a global net in which our every act is contained, surveilled and potentially analyzed.
Along with the communications capabilities, certain legalistic requirements have been relaxed in the Internet Age. While the web has been lauded by some First Amendment proponents as providing a platform for free speech for everyone, accountability has been a casualty. Libel laws and reputations have also been casualties. Years ago, a virulent anti-Semite decided to try to make the web “Judenfrei,” or at the very least to disable the reputations of every person of Jewish genealogy he could locate. On his virtually fact free website, he set up a page declaring me, personally, to be an escaped felon, who was defrauding the IRS for payments I allegedly demanded for visiting my website. My website was open and free of charge but facts did not faze him. He also declared that my father killed Kennedy. No, my father wasn’t Jewish. However, my mother was, which apparently gave this individual license to swipe at my family with virtual impunity.
The internet overflows with such examples of brazen disregard for the truth and attempts at character assassination. According to a 2013 Huffington Post article, “The development of the internet and subsequent exponential growth of social media platforms has in many ways now made this (privacy) a ‘moot point’ (as we like to say in the law) – any artificial distinction between what we hold private and what we share publicly is now irrelevant, everything is now shared, everything is now public.” The article goes on to detail attempts to destroy the reputation of a football star named Azeem Azam.
Internet libel is global, instant and forever. A 2011 book, Digital Assassination: How to defend yourself against online smear, has coined the term “digital assassins” to describe individuals who, for revenge, prank or a mere abundance of malice, choose to attack the reputation of a person or business through online defamation. In a recent interview, one of the authors, Mark Davis, discussed the difficulty for individuals to respond to these sorts of attacks. After delineating the exemplary response by Domino’s Pizza to an online prank involving suggestions that the pizzas were being deliberately fouled, Davis went on to admit that individuals facing a digital assassin were in for a rougher road.
NSA whistleblower Karen Melton Stewart recently incurred such an assault by a disreputable website. In a questionable NY Times article, which was augmented and added on to by the libel site, Stewart was called “a grifter” who “cashes in on ‘Targeted Individual’ grifting scam.”
Stewart, who was fired from the NSA after stumbling upon an illegal blackmail cell operating within NSA Security, has become a lightening rod for people being victimized by the US government. She has incurred considerable retaliation. Attempts were made by the NSA to rob her of her pension following 28 years of service with that agency. She was also set up on false charges after being assaulted by a neighbor, and in front of witnesses. She has also fallen victim to non consensual weapons testing, as have others in former govt employ, such as Geral Sosbee and Julianne McKinney, as have many ordinary American citizens.
In another part of the addended NY Times article, Stewart was called “mentally deranged and attention seeking.”
In fact, Stewart may be one of the most heavily psychologically scrutinized and vetted individuals in current public life. Her employment at the NSA was contingent upon her passing psychiatric evaluations on a regular basis. When the NSA fired her for reporting the blackmail cell to the Inspector General, Stewart voluntarily underwent further private psychological evaluations in her efforts to buttress her lawsuit against the NSA for illegal and abusive termination. She cleared these with flying colors.
Stewart has emerged as a leader in the targeted individual community. She regularly writes letters on behalf of those who are being decimated by attacks, either through bogus legalistic maneuvers or through unconventional weaponry. Her Facebook page, posting articles, prayer requests and more, is updated daily. She regularly appears as a guest on numerous radio shows, attempting to get the word out how the US government is attacking its own citizens. Stewart does not charge for her assistance.
Parenthetically, the author of the NY Times article, Mike McPhate, was given a considerable amount of evidence as to the reality of electronic assault and targeting. In the process of researching this article, I was forwarded some of the information turned over to McPhate by one of the people he interviewed. McPhate chose to ignore the information, going with the “nutcase” angle. This was the official line on microwave and electronic weaponry victims, until, that is, it was reported globally that US diplomats had suffered similar types of attacks in Cuba and China.
Character assassination has done more than ruin reputations, however. When former NSA analyst Ken Ford was found to be producing reports counter to the official line on Iraq, he ended up being criminally charged with storing classified documents in his home and served six years in federal prison. Karen Stewart, who knew Ford, denies that he committed this crime, stating that he was set up by NSA Security. States Stewart, “Ken Ford was an intelligence analyst on Iraqi matters. He was producing reports stating that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, essentially stating that the President lied. He was set up by a woman who was planted on him, whom he was dating, and she put the incriminating documents in his home.” Stewart went on to say, “The security at NSA is daunting. If you try to leave work with so much as a piece of paper in your possession, Security is going to want to know what that paper is and will look it over before letting you out the door. The very idea that Ford left the campus with these documents is laughable.”
Not only prisons have housed the politically inconvenient. Spreading rumors about a political figure’s mental health is another tactic to destroy an individual. One need only revisit the psychiatric defamation of former Attorney General John Mitchell’s wife, Martha Mitchell, to realize that efforts to defame an individual through false mental health claims has been a political tool used not only by the former Soviet Union but also by the US of A.
The use of psychiatric misdiagnosis to take down a politico or whistleblower even has its own designation. The term “Martha Mitchell Effect” came into use following the attempts to impugn her sanity, at the time that her public statements became highly inconvenient to the Nixon administration.
Martha Mitchell had been calling reporters, spilling alarming facts about Watergate and was summarily declared alcoholic and crazy. Wikipedia breezes through the history of political abuse of psychiatry in the US here. In fact, the threat to freedom posed by psychiatric detention has become a common weapon against US dissidents.
DON’T WORRY, THE GOVERNMENT PLANS TO FIX ALL THIS
The internet facilitates the spread of defamatory rumors, as well as the spread of hardcore and inconvenient truth. The latter is under attack by NewsGuard and other programs, which are resulting in alternative news sites being given a negative rating. The plans by NewsGuard to insert its app into every device and social media network would make the resultant censorship automatic.
Recently, governments have been responding to the “fake news” concerns with attempts to set up legal safeguards. The Russian Parliament is considering two “anti-fake news” laws, which intend to punish those who post articles or announcements which are determined to be false and could be seen to be detrimental to the State. Malaysia was not successful in repealing its controversial Anti-Fake News law and other countries have passed or are considering similar pieces of legislation, including France, Egypt and Kenya.
President Donald Trump has made a point of elevating the criticism of media bias to a global “fake news” mantra. In doing so, he has broadened the dialogue within the US and elsewhere as to the devastating effects of inaccurate and biased reporting. The results of expanding the dialogue about the media may have the effect, however, of engaging more efforts at censorship, more government legislation which may eventuate in the squelching of dissent. A Ministry of Truth, which Orwell foresaw as not only vetting which stories can be promulgated but also in manipulating and removing past articles, is something that the internet would be well positioned to enable. A recent email from Trump Headquarters suggested that plans may be in development to provide “accountability” for fake news. This may simply be a thinly disguised effort to put the lid on dissenting voices.
It has been said that everything man touches he poisons. Poison takes many forms, and the introduction of the frankly revolutionary prospect of an open and free internet has also fallen prey to politically motivated spin doctors, control and subjugation. The discernment demanded to weed out the fake from the true, the poisoned from the pure, is something that is now incumbent upon every internet user. One can only hope that government is not successful in stepping into the fray and deciding for us.
(*) Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking , EXILE. Her articles previously appeared in such mainstream venues as the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, Long Beach Press Telegram, etc. In 2004, Janet “jumped ship” and now exclusively writes for independent media. She is also the author of two collections of poetry—The Hitler Poems and Held Captive. She resides abroad. You can follow her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012703457651