Trolling In Cyberwarfare?

Check out this Wired article about trolling online extremist forums in the counterrorism battle. Thanks to Yingnan for sending me this.

While this isn’t cyberwarfare in the traditional sense—they are not trying to shut down or crash the target sites—it is a creative new ploy using the Internet. It verbally attacks the people who use the software, instead of attacking the software itself. In my opinion this is brilliant.

It’s brilliant because it’s facing people on their own grounds, fighting fire with fire, so to speak. Only the fire in question is not physical fire but Internet fire. Heck, the term for a fierce argument on forums is called a flame war.

It has the potential to work because trolling targets emotion rather than reason. People who are highly indoctrinated and who are of devout fundamentalism cannot be reasoned with, but they can be made fun of, belittled, slandered, etc.

However I will give a warning to those attempting it. Just from a sociological standpoint, you aren’t going to be able to effectively troll unless you are on a large enough forum with a large enough troll base. For example, you can’t troll a 50-member board because the administrators or moderators will catch it right away. If you want to effectively troll, you must do it on a massive scale, such as on the current Diablo 3 forums, where 9 in 10 arguments are supported by zero facts or evidence, and things like name-calling, insulting, and baseless accusations are standard. Other than that, this seems like a brilliant plan.

Utopia vs Dystopia: A Matter of Semantics?

After witnessing the dystopian societies of 1984, Brave New World, and The Hunger Games, I wondered to myself, what would a Utopia really be? What differentiates a Utopia from a Dystopia? Is there always a fine line?

If you have learned of a Utopia as a perfect society, you might naively think that a Dystopia would be the opposite, or a failed society.

Yet this could not be further from the truth. The societies of 1984, Brave New World, and The Hunger Games are stable, successful, self-sustaining worlds, yet they are considered to be Dystopias. None of the three societies are failures. They merely contain different moral systems and social classes than what we are used to today. Yet they are considered repulsive and to be avoided at all costs.

1984

In 1984, the world is run by three superpowers locked in constant warfare. This way, since each individual power is always at war, each government can maintain permanent martial law and rule with an iron fist. Any dissent is dealt with ruthlessly, as seen in the plot. The system works. It is, I daresay, perfect.

In Brave New World, the government does not rule with an iron fist, but rather, by providing so many distractions and recreations to the common people (analogous to TV or drugs in our world) that the average person is too amused to worry about any oppression by the government. There is a propagandized doctrine of happiness, that there are no problems as long as everyone is happy. The work is done by genetically engineered stupid people (the Epsilons) that serve as slaves to the other castes. Indeed, the way it runs, this society can be thought of as perfect as well.

The only major difference about the presentation of the Dystopia in The Hunger Games is that it presents an overly dramatic story of a rebel going through an elaborate system (the game itself) to rebel. It is also the only one so far that presents any hope to the rebels. In 1984 and Brave New World, by contrast, the government wins at the end.

In this respect, the government in The Hunger Games is nowhere near as successful as those in 1984 and Brave New World. Despite its running the games for 74 years, the government faces decadence and imperfection, which didn’t seem to affect the other two Dystopias. So in a way, the government in The Hunger Games is not a true Dystopia—it does not have lasting power, so it is not perfect. In 1984, the government could turn people against each other, and in Brave New World, everyone is happy so no one has reason to rebel. In The Hunger Games, however, people are unhappy, and these unhappy people unite together, posing a real threat to the government.

So the society in The Hunger Games is more akin to a short-lived Middle Eastern or South American state undergoing rapid regime changes, as a large amount of discontent exists and is significant. By contrast, the societies in 1984 and Brave New World are more like the former Soviet Union/the current United States. The people are either squashed in rebellion or are too mesmerized to rebel.

Where does a Utopia fit in all of this? A Utopia is supposed to be perfect, but how are the societies of 1984 and Brave New World not perfect? Sure, in 1984, the main character is tortured, but you could make the argument that if he had just listened to the government and did what it asked for, he would not have been hurt at all. Indeed, when he is brainwashed at the end, the society seems perfect to him.

And if you are a thinking human being in Brave New World, there is little reason you would want anything else from society. You are provided with all the joy you could possibly want. Sure, the lower class Epsilons are treated unfairly, but they are made dumb biologically. They might not have a consciousness as we have. They are basically machines.

You could say that in a true Utopia, everyone would be treated fairly. But how can a society actually function if this were the case? There has to be someone or a group of people in charge. Even in Plato’s Republic, containing the first proposal of a utopian society, there are social classes with clearly defined rulers.

And even with powerful and rational people at the top, this does not create a Utopia. In Watchmen, set in the Cold War, the titled superheroes try to save humanity, but the smartest and most rational of them finds, to most people’s shock, that the only way to save humanity from nuclear destruction is to initiate a massive attack on the whole world, in order to unify the United States and the USSR. While this character is considered to be the main antagonist as he killed millions of people, he is, if viewed from a purely rational perspective, the hero of humanity. And from this perspective, he took steps in creating a Utopia, not a Dystopia.

Since these moral issues are so subjective, the line between a Utopia and a Dystopia and the definition of perfect are subjective as well, as shown in all of the examples above. Then is the distinction between a Utopia and a Dystopia any more than a matter a semantics? What are your thoughts?

Rob Ager’s Film Analysis Page

I somehow stumbled upon an analysis of The Shining (yes, the 1980 Kubrick version) that somehow made me feel as if I never saw the film, and as such, I was very impressed. The exterior vs interior hotel layout, the impossible corridors and rooms, the nonsensical locations of windows and doors, and the changing maze—none of these stood out or were let alone apparent in the first viewing.

Rob Ager’s analysis is professional, intellectual, and thought provoking. It is especially impressive that he can do so for a film like The Shining, which does not seem at first to contain any deep or hidden themes.

 

He has also posted analyses of The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey, which are already deep movies in the first place. In 2001, he argues a fascinating symbolism of the black monolith, which is, according to him, a blank TV screen. The way he presents it, it seems there is overwhelming evidence for this theory, and it is indeed an interesting one. The analysis of the Matrix is just as fascinating.

Among the other film analyses I enjoyed were those for The Thing (1982 version), Alien, Aliens, Starship Troopers, A Clockwork Orange, and Pulp Fiction. One of the major criticisms that he has received is that he may have overanalyzed the intentions or details of various films. However, in the Starship Troopers analysis, he specifically quotes the film directors several years after the film was made, in which the director admitted to hiding certain messages in the film. For some of the Kubrick films, it would be pretty naive not to assume that Kubrick hid meanings everywhere.

If you have watched any of these movies and want to learn some of their truer meanings, or just are a movie fanatic, I strongly recommend his YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/robag88.

5 Logical Fallacies That Everyone Should Avoid

I was pretty annoyed recently at how people can’t make simple logical arguments. Granted, this was on the Internet, so I didn’t have high expectations. I made a diagram about the five most common logical fallacies I see in forums, explaining what they are.

Couldn’t get the image into a high resolution version despite numerous attempts, so sorry for the low quality. Or maybe it’s just the Arial font that doesn’t size well. The SMBC comic in the middle looks pretty good.