This is the latest in a series of essays concerning a concept known as History in 4D. History in 4D on one hand is an assessment of the modern information space as being overwhelmingly influenced by political, corporate and military intelligence actors who through guarded communications with the public craft a version of reality using narrative structures embedded in mass media communications. On the other hand, History in 4D is a set of heuristics for use by students, teachers, analysts and information seeking citizens as they attempt to make meaning out of the endless waves of narratives thrown at them. In total, History in 4D is a method of viewing history and current events in an effort to improve media literacy and one’s general awareness about history and how the world operates. If 2016-2018 has proven anything they have proved that the Information Age has given birth to the Age of Information Warfare and our minds are all in the crossfire.
Keywords: Media studies, Narrative history, Politics, Content Analysis, Mass media, self education, History, Journalism
“There is a war going on outside no one is safe from, you can run but you can’t hide, forever, from these streets that we done took, you’re walking with your head down scared to look…” -Prodigy, Shook Ones
As we experience a world of ever increasing complexity, predominantly through the lens of mass media news reports the requirements upon individuals to parse information becomes enormous. Whether you are a student, teacher, analyst, researcher or a citizen trying to stay informed on the issues, you’re currently awash in a sea of data and opinions. Seeing as most of the events we discuss don’t take place down the street from where we live we have to use analytical tools to grasp the bigger picture. Those who ruminate on “simpler times,” are merely expressing a form of uninformed nostalgia. The world has never been simple. We’ve only had simple images of it presented to us.
An affect of the information age has been the ability to see that the worldview we’ve held to be true for the past seventy years was only a shade of reality. The mass media has given humans the ability to “see” the totality of the world better than literature was ever capable of. Leaving the “two-dimensional” reality of the solely written word, the 20th century has seen us move into a “three-dimensional cube” of reality. Naturally we are unable to simultaneously view it from all sides. Unfortunately, this three dimensional view of the world has always been in the image of a small group of content producers. Those content producers, the e-State, have been invested in promoting a certain view of events ever since they had the ability to digitally project them into our homes.
The influence of political, corporate and the Military industrial complex’s interests upon the news media, and even concerning which books and films are released, must be reckoned with. Whether they claim to be protecting means and methods, trade secrets, or dodging criticism from ideological or financial backers, the mass media and many history books have engaged in obfuscation of certain facts.
“Imagining the concept of 4D space, only from a visual perspective, as a metaphor for the totality of the historical grand narrative the public is aware of, forces us to acknowledge that there is an extra dimension to history in the 20th century. It is an invisible level that occasionally is apparent to us through its shadow. That shadow is made of new research into old materials, declassified government documents, leaked corporate and political memos, and the admissions of various actors and agents over the years.
The shadow is acknowledged via limited hangouts, purposeful leaks, and ironic admissions in the press about past wrongdoings, conflicts of interest or pertinent connections to characters in a narrative they neglect to mention… The public is treated to a version of narrative history that we will call 3D. History in 4D is the acknowledgement of the reality that, namely in the post WWII era, the e-State has an unmatched ability in crafting and presenting narrative history, in near real time, to the world.”
WHAT IS INFORMATION WARFARE?
In his 1997 paper, “A Theory of Information Warfare – Preparing For 2020” Colonel Richard Szafranski, USAF writes,
“Information as used here means the “content or meaning of a message.” An aim of warfare always has been to affect the enemy’s information systems. In the broadest sense, information systems encompass every means by which an adversary arrives at knowledge or beliefs… Taken together, information systems are a comprehensive set of the knowledge, beliefs, and the decision making processes and systems of the adversary. The outcome sought by information attacks at every level is for the enemy to receive sufficient messages that convince him to stop fighting.”
Matt Sienkiewicz, a professor of communication and international studies at Boston College and author of “The Other Air Force: U.S. Efforts to Reshape Middle Eastern Media Since 9/11,” was quoted in a 2017 Intercept article , “The New Information Warfare,” as saying,
“Everyone focuses on the producers of media in shaping public opinion, but it’s really at the distribution level of information where the bottleneck has traditionally been… This is what social media has fundamentally changed. There is a lot of focus on the ugly side, with respect to viral conspiracies and misinformation — but there is also reason to be optimistic, because many stories that would’ve been ignored before are now being heard.”
These passages separated by twenty years give us a glimpse of how information warfare is viewed by establishment figures and the natural evolution of the tactic moving into cyberspace. The 24-hour availability of news media, influential political and corporate media producers and the expansive reach provided by social media have coalesced to create the combative media landscape of the 21st century. A century that has taken the historical battle for hearts and minds directly into our visual cortexes. The average person is no longer an innocent bystander.
HISTORY IN 4D: THE PROCESS OF NARRATIVE DISCOVERY
“The ultimate goal in any scholarly exercise is to link the past with the present and future.” – Glenn P. Hastedt
After attaining a degree in Communications with a focus on advertising and psychology I spent time working as an analyst for a financial firm with a large global footprint. Job duties included not only research and reporting on various topics but the ability to discuss current events and their possible impacts upon account balances of our global clientele. My love for the study of history and my background in liberal arts ran headlong into statistics, geopolitics, economics and corporate business cycles. Through the economic history and geopolitics a new picture of the world began to emerge from beneath the art and culture I had viewed it through prior. After writing my master’s thesis on the promotion of anti-intellectualism in the cable news media I focused my attention on the origins of the mass media news environment.
This led me back to the 1930-1950s, namely the interwar through Cold War periods. The coercive force of the moneyed political aristocracies and their generals far outweigh the effects of the masses and social popular culture. While it may seem counterintuitive to dismiss the power of culture so easily it must be reckoned with that the 20th century (especially since the second world war) was a century of intense concentration upon the manipulation of our social culture and the weaponization of ideas. Radio and television rode this wave of cultural manipulation as much as they were the reason for it.
TOOLS OF DISCOVERY
First we’ll begin with a set of intellectual tools for use in improving narrative discovery and media literacy which will be expanded to a set of heuristics for use in detailed analysis by the end of the essay.
Words have three meanings: The book definition, a generally used colloquial definition, and the meaning of the word in the context of professionals, intelligentsia, politicians and the media.
The potential for guilefulness in communications increases in proportion to the involvement of military, corporate and political actors.
- The 5W’s always matter but what really matters is the H
- The time-dilation effect of the 24-hour news cycle
- Narrative Context
I. The 5W’s always matter but what really matters is the H
“Coherence and unity in claims aren’t necessary; contradictions work just as well. And the more the better: more contradictions, more consistency, more complementarity — just make it more. The system demands more. The informed citizen craves more; craves it faster and faster as the data become dada, an absurdist joke on logical thinking.”
– Jacques Ellul, “Propaganda”
Be sure that you can explain to yourself the 5W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why. This simple rubric has stood the test of time for journalists and historians. Yet, times have changed, and what is crucial to examine in our era is the ‘How?’ Is the narrative you’re reading feasible? Does it have precedence? Is it an extraordinary claim that’s supported by extraordinary evidence? Could the event have physically taken place as described? Are there contradictions in the narrative? Importantly, does the news story even attempt to describe, in detail, how the event in question took place? These are all crucial questions to consider because a narrative is a collection of points that form a larger idea. All news stories fit into burgeoning narratives, long running narratives, or counter-narratives. Stories on the race of a criminal play into the long -term narratives of race and crime in America. Stories about the malfeasance of a foreign government or corporation play into narratives about America’s supposed moral position as a defender of democracy.
If there ever was a time when a story wasn’t situated in a historical arc that certainly is not now. Due to the Internet narratives can be refreshed and expanded by using hyperlinks to repost old information. The closeness of the past is only one click away. Don’t forget to take advantage of this yourself and occasionally check and see what was being said about an issue in the past using custom search settings in your engine of choice.
“News is what someone wants suppressed. Everything else is advertising. The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don’t print matter a lot.”
-Katherine Graham, former owner of the Washington Post
Katherine Graham was the wife and successor of William Graham as head of the Washington Post. Tightly connected to the interlocking family of elites in the U.S. her career saw her intersecting with members of military and corporate intelligence. A visible yet hidden participant of the Cold War her quote gives us some color, about the public’s right to know and the power of news narratives as viewed from the class of “elites.” Lying by omission and obfuscation by presentation are two tools of the newsmakers and their e-State counterparts. Many stories throughout history have been broken using bits of truthful information buried in news stories and by connecting dots.
Being aware that both the state and the heads of corporate news outlets are not concerned with you actually knowing what’s going on is something that needs to be internalized. Does the story promote an idea, person or group by how it paints the subject of the story? Who gains or loses by the story? Can you determine for yourself (possibly by the thought exercise of putting yourself in the position of an opponent) how or why a story could hurt or help one side or the other? What must be said is that our current media landscape is run by six mega-corporations and that suppressed news is more of a norm than an exception. Differentiating between stories that are presented as the release of suppressed information vs. when it actually is something damaging to the establishment is therefore more pertinent.
The idea of a limited hangout is, “… according to former special assistant to the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Victor Marchetti,“spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting—sometimes even volunteering—some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.”
What we learn from this quote is that news stories, leaks and “exposés,” are often not what they seem. We may be given a slice of the truth in order to lead us away from deeper hidden truths.
In any curriculum concerning literacy you will find that sourcing and corroboration are fundamental principles of instruction. The issue I find in conversations with many adults is the idea that one outlet consistently tells “the truth” over another. The truth is not a singular object. Truth is in fact like a Faberge egg. It is multifaceted; and can offer differing views of its surface depending upon one’s perspective. Due to the façade of authority and popular opinion used by many news makers the idea that if a story isn’t carried by a major outlet means it is not worthy of informing the public. This idea is damaging to those hoping to establish a reasonable picture of events. If FOX news is deemed unlikely to report on stories deleterious to Republicans why are channels like CNN or MSNBC conversely assumed to be telling the truth about Democrats or Progressives? The truth lies in the middle.
Important to note is that truth seekers exist all across the Overton window. Each cohort will investigate and promote stories that align with their interests and agendas. This does not preclude them from being true, however, in fact one often finds deeper reporting on bad actors in their group of choice by tenacious opposition researchers. The information is what we’re looking for. We, not them, will make the decision on its validity. Don’t allow the source of information to color your opinion either way as to its absolute truth or fallacy. Only time can judge that. Improving your understanding of sourcing and timing is key to improving your overall media literacy in the 21st century.
III. The time-dilation effect of the 24-hour news cycle
The 24-hr news cycle is more akin to the warping of space-time as described by Einstein than it is to a non-stop version of radio broadcasts. News stories sit within the existing space-time fabric (i.e. meta-narratives) of the time. Their gravity pushes or pulls the fabric depending on their timing. Also, the timing of news stories becomes important as we all follow various online news sources that publish and re-publish stories depending on the climate. Stories from four years ago that support an ongoing narrative will be published without making specific mention of the date. Driven by headlines and social media traffic the stories make the rounds, often becoming “fake news,” as friends, family and professionals share the stories and add commentary based on the present time in order to support a point they are making.
While working for a financial advisor I was told about how unflattering announcements are purposely made on Friday’s after the market close. Corporations and governments both do this. The simple idea being that people are less likely to notice the story on a Friday afternoon and following a weekend of recreation they’ll probably forget by Monday that they should be outraged. Timing is everything.
In today’s climate stories such as the Facebook illegal data extraction by Cambridge Analytica, which took place in 2015, are rolled out two to three years late and result in Congressional hearings. The time dilation effect of the 24-hour news cycle has real effects on what we consider reality. Project censored is a website that produces reports on stories such as these. Peruse the list from last year and see how many you heard about or are aware of.
“In my line of work you have to keep saying the same thing over and over again to catapult the propaganda.”
-George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States
George W. Bush will go down in history as the president in office during 9/11. While a wide range of views on the event persist, one thing we do know now for certain that many of the assertions made by the State through the media were false. As a heuristic the quote prods us to ask, “Have we heard this (type of) narrative before?” If so, what were the circumstances involved? Who were the alleged antagonists and protagonists at the time of the analog story? How did that turn out? These questions will help to check your own reality by either forcing you to access your memory or looking up the answers.
Most mass media communication techniques are research based. Communications made on behalf of the e-State are tuned to play into cognitive biases, dissonance, and common logical fallacies. The same carrot and stick slightly disguised will be used time and again. Repetition “improves” long-term memory and internalization. This level of carpet coverage was not possible before the past twenty years of advancement in global communications. Now, as Bush said, we hear the same things over and over again. Setting our mental stages for the next wave of propaganda to catapult over the edge. The edge may be a new war, some upcoming legal decision, or an argument over one of the many social issues at play in American society.
Challenge your brain’s natural proclivity for patterns. Question the patterns. Anything blared from the bullhorns of media outlets repeatedly is, somewhat paradoxically, something you need to figure out if it is true or not, rather than accepting it as true because you see it everywhere. We’ve experienced numerous calls to actions through repetitive media coverage in the past twenty years alone that have in the end turned out to either be false, or not at all what they were portended to be.
IV. Narrative Context
“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”
-George Orwell, author of 1984
The following questions can help you to cement the place of the story under analysis within the continuing narration of history.
- What is the prevailing media narrative concerning the story?
- What are the “generally accepted” facts?
- Who are the actors involved?
- Are there any political overtones to the story?
- Does the story intersect with corporate, military or political intelligence?
- Are there analogs to the current narrative that can be used as a “control study” for your analysis?
Following up on the Katherine Graham quote we now must ask, “Is there a difference between advertising and public relations?” In the 1992 book, “Contemporary Advertising,” the authors state: “Advertising is the non personal communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature about products, services or ideas by identified sponsors through the various media”(Bovee, 1992). According to the Public Relations Society of America, public relations are: “The earliest definitions emphasized press agentry and publicity, while more modern definitions incorporate the concepts of “engagement” and “relationship building.” The PRSA National Assembly adopted the following definition in 1982: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” Based on the above we are dealing with the idea of persuasive presentation of vendible products (this includes people, such as politicians) and publicity or press agentry designed to help, “publics adapt mutually to each other.” Both deal with the art of persuasion. Both also imply a degree of narrative construction. Neither portends to be the truth. Those who employ advertising or public relations are in the business of reality construction through the narrative process they use. Even if they are sharing a details of an actual event it is not done so without a calculated style of presentation or spin.
“It is inconceivable that a secret intelligence arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government.”
-James Angleton, CIA Counterintelligence chief from 1954 to 1975.
Cold Warrior James Angleton was one of the most enigmatic and duplicitous CIA officers in history. His career spanned decades of U.S. covert action and geopolitical chess. I’ve spoken on Angleton and others like him in a prior essay. Angleton’s quote is found in a deposition related to Hearings before the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate, 94th Congress in 1975. This was a man who worked closely with Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner and William Graham (of the Washington Post) during the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, which was a domestic spying, and influence campaign reported on during the Church committee hearings. Mockingbird employed thousands of paid news reporters and academics to create, curate and bury news stories as per their discretion. In the aforementioned deposition Angleton remarked about the quote, “If it is accurate, it should not have been said…I had been imprudent in making those remarks…I withdraw that statement…the entire speculation should not have been engaged in.”
Viewing news stories not as true recollections of events (implying they are beyond reproach) but rather as informational constructs imbued with agendas, will assist you in making sense of them.
“Deception and disinformation, radio electronic combat, propaganda, and the whole gamut of “psychological warfare” or command and control warfare attacks against enemy combatants at the operational level cannot be said to be wrongful. – Szafranski
Waiting for analysis from others will put you dead center in the already established spin machine, and that is what we’re trying to avoid. George Orwell has written many prescient words on the state of mental attack that we now experience through the mass media. The creeping fascist militarism and corporate produced narratives follow us through our news, television programs and movies. The mass media, now more than ever, is the public relations arm for the elites who attempt to socially engineer consent. They want you to consume their products unquestioningly not because they want you informed. Rather because they want you in form.
HISTORY IN 4D AS A TOOL FOR ANALYSIS, LEARNING AND MEDIA LITERACY
The goal is to create a narrative based schema for ordering information, engaging in introspection and not falling victim to common logical fallacies and personal biases. The level of expertise in analysis by readers will naturally vary; some of you will already practice these techniques. This is as much an exercise in metacognition as it is an exercise in improving media literacy.
The variability of meaning within words does tend to settle into distinct categories. Awareness of this fact is one of the best ways to begin to deconstruct a piece of media for analysis. Life is not fair. Searching for personal corollaries in news events, especially those about geopolitical figures are moot. The fact is most of us inhabit a different world than those we read about. The rules we live by do not apply. However, the rules they live by (or seeming lack of rules) is visible and can be cataloged. Most ignore these rules because what they show us is that people escape criticism and punishment for their actions based upon class, wealth and position. Analyze the level you’re dealing with at the moment. Don’t get side tracked. People lie. CEOs lie. Presidents lie. News reporters lie. Police officers lie. You lie, I lie, and our children lie. This is not a pessimistic screed but the statement of a truth. Dealing with informational text, especially from certain sources at certain times, require that one keep themselves open to the possibility that they are being lied to. Don’t veer too far off into wild speculation before you have a hold on the story, but don’t engage in any act of media analysis with the idea that the source is incapable of false statements.
HISTORY IN 4D HEURISTICS
As a set of heuristics, History in 4D can be a valuable tool for any analyst, researcher or student. If one doesn’t have the affinity for keeping narratives in their head it can be used as a way to map out ideas and narrative progressions for further detailed analysis.
1.) Words have three meanings: The book definition, a generally used colloquial definition, and the meaning of the word in the context of professionals, intelligentsia, politicians and the media.
2.) The potential for guilefulness in communications increases in proportion to the involvement of military, corporate and political actors.
3.) There is no such thing as objective reporting or history, get over it. Your job is to navigate and corroborate information and to compare and contrast reality to what is being presented.
4.) What a news story does not tell you is often more important that what they do.
5.) Stories from major news outlets are either informing you of something they want you to know or promoting an idea or product they want you to consume.
6.) The ubiquity of an opinion does not directly correlate to its factual nature.
- The 5W’s always matter but what really matters is the H.
- The time-dilation effect of the 24-hour news cycle
- Narrative Context
PLATO’S CAVE OF CONFLICTING NARRATIVES
“Which are you drinking? The water or the wave?” – John Fowles
In the allegory, Plato’s Cave, the people inside of a cave believe that shadows cast on the wall are true representations of the size and shape of objects passing in front of a fire burning behind them. The point of the story is to illustrate how as humans we are at the whims of our sensory registers and personal biases. Sadly both of these tools can be deceived. In our lives the shadows on the walls have become a mixture of virtual reality images created by the twin fires burning behind us: the media and movie industries. Our perception of reality is influenced by cultural troupes transferred through images and visual storytelling devices.
The effect on us is both social and biological. The brain stores most of the information you encounter throughout your life, your ability to recall that data is called memory. However, studies have shown that we are still influenced by memories we don’t recall but that may have been used by our brain to create a schema for how we deal with the world. An example of this can be a bias towards a certain group of people that doesn’t arise from in person contact but because of an over concentration of certain types of images of those people experienced through media.
American born playwright David Mamet said something that serves as a concise and functional assumption when using these heuristics,
“People may or may not say what they mean… but they always say something designed to get what they want.”
Lies and the truth are closely related. For disinformation agents it is nearly impossible to completely avoid the truth hidden in a lie because of the fact that lies are intrinsically tied to the truth they are attempting to obfuscate. The duty of an analyst or researcher is to accumulate enough data and working knowledge of their field in order to be able to center lies close enough to a truth so that they are useful for effective analysis. No one is a prophet, and the people whose careers lead him or her into forecasting know this better than anyone. However, with a firm grasp on historical precedents, human nature and prevalence of guile in mass media communications, one can continually improve in their ability to have a better than average grasp on what is really going on.
Using Mamet’s quote as a basis we must accept that there is no objective narrative possible in the current media landscape. Narrative control by elements who fund a media outlet is a fact of life. Exactly how that narrative control is expressed varies from top-down direction, editor or reporter bias or outside influence on content from sponsors or funders. Due to compartmentalization of the corporate, political and intelligence worlds, many reporters (and even historians) can be unaware of the outside influencers of their content creation and misappropriation of their research. Narratives must be parsed and motives must be questioned. Truth can withstand any attack upon its validity. By continually checking our work and using our honed research weathervanes to divine which direction the wind blowing, over time, we will build a personal system of truth validation. However, this is only the beginning.
“The public is treated to a version of narrative history that we will call 3D. History in 4D is the acknowledgement of the reality that, namely in the post WWII era, the e-State has an unmatched ability in crafting and presenting narrative history, in near real time, to the world.” –History in 4D- Birth of the e-State
A personal system of truth validation lives right next door to confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Those are two things than an analyst or student needs to deal with on a personal and consistent basis. Passion is different than emotion. Have passion for studies, work and causes. Do not be emotional about them. Emotional investment in a search for truth will create intellectual hallucinations that one can’t resist, because we tell them to ourselves. Having passion for your research and your desire for truth will instead drive you through barriers too often placed in your path to distract you. Ideas are often presented alongside appeals to authority, logical fallacies, and sophistry. These techniques serve anyone who is a thought merchant and are not solely the domain of “your enemies.” Realizing when you may be susceptible to literary sleights of hand and oratory emotional manipulation is one point of focus for the heuristic of History in 4D. If your actions can be predicted and directed by an another person or group because they are aware of your emotional attachment to some predetermined outcome you’re no better off than if you were under some official form of mind control.
The complete truth is often impossible to discern, however, you don’t have to follow the pied piper and his band of self deluded followers simply because they refuse to move beyond their blinders.