Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for February 15th, 2022

Droplets do more than make fog

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On February 1st at the pond along Kulmbacher Drive in far north Austin I wandered around taking pictures of the foggy landscape. I also got close to some of the things that the fog droplets had settled on, most prominently spiderwebs. In the top picture I went for a soft approach at a relatively wide aperture of f/6.3. The result is pleasant, though things in the background still distract somewhat from the spiderweb. To get around that, for some of my photographs I used flash, which also let me stop down to small apertures like f/22 in the picture below to keep as many of the droplets in focus as possible.


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MDM: a dangerous new initialism

MGM is an initialism for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a Hollywood movie studio known especially for its many musicals from the 1930s through the 1950s. Now in the 2020s an agency of the American government that goes by the acronym CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) has created the initialism MDM, standing for “misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.” Bet you didn’t know the American government thinks there are so many kinds of wrong information. Here’s how CISA sizes up the three “information activities” (oh, that bureaucratic jargon):

  • Misinformation is false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm.
  • Disinformation is deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country.
  • Malinformation is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.

On February 7th the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) issued a warning bulletin:

The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors. These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence. Mass casualty attacks and other acts of targeted violence conducted by lone offenders and small groups acting in furtherance of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances pose an ongoing threat to the nation. While the conditions underlying the heightened threat landscape have not significantly changed over the last year, the convergence of the following factors has increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity of the threat environment: (1) the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions; (2) continued calls for violence directed at U.S. critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; racial and religious minorities; government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement and the military; the media; and perceived ideological opponents; and (3) calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks on the United States based on recent events.

Now, it’s true that foreign governments and non-governmental groups are working to gin up dissent in the United States. It’s hardly a new thing: Russia, a.k.a. the Soviet Union, has been doing that for a century already, and radical Islamic groups have been doing it for decades. It’s also true that we’ve had domestic terror groups, including the Weather Underground* that blew up buildings and killed people when I was in my 20s, and Antifa now.

What’s new and truly dangerous about the bulletin is that it aims to put American citizens who speak out against any of the government’s policies in the same category as terrorists. Take almost anything an American citizen says that differs from the official line, and the government will contort itself in finding some way to fit it into the triple Procrustian bed of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. The bulletin is indeed a warning to Americans, but not the warning the issuers of the bulletin intended. It’s a warning that our own government is increasingly cracking down on free speech and our rights as citizens. As I said: this is dangerous.

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* The Mark Rudd mentioned in the Britannica article about the Weather Underground was a fellow student of mine at Columbia University; I remember him from a class we both took but I didn’t really know him. Terrorist Bernardine Dohrn ended up on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. Northwestern University School of Law(!) later rewarded her by making her a professor. She and her terrorist husband Bill Ayers,** who likewise got rewarded with a professorship at a different university, adopted the child of two other imprisoned terrorists. That child is Chesa Boudin, the current District Attorney in San Francisco who has refused and keeps refusing to prosecute many criminals. He has seen to it that many have been released on little or no bail, and some of those criminals have not surprisingly gone on to commit more crimes, including murder. A fine bunch of outstanding citizens we’ve got here, folks.

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** As an indication of the increased ideological slanting in Wikipedia articles, the one about Bill Ayers says that the Weather Underground was described by the FBI as a terrorist group, as if that might be an unfair characterization of a radical communist group that blew up buildings. And though the article confirms that Ayers participated in the bombings of New York City Police Department headquarters in 1970, the United States Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972, the article had earlier made sure to tell us that no one was killed in those bombings. I guess it’s okay with Wikipedia to blow up buildings as long as you don’t kill anyone. (Actually that’s not even true: as the article admits, several Weather Underground members ended up killing themselves when a bomb they were assembling accidentally went off.)

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 15, 2022 at 4:34 AM

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