It is often said that the internet is the last defender for exchange of free thought and information. This is for good reason, because (at least for now) the content found on the internet is not controlled by those who run the governments of the world. Inside the United States, trying to dictate what information a website is or is not allowed to publish, would violate two rights protected by the Constitution: the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech. Overtly doing such a thing would cause a big uproar, so they have come up with a covert way to try to control information online… The paid propaganda agent, commonly known as a Shill.
The main objective of these individuals is to disrupt conversations and influence opinions of people in comment sections of articles that have a narrative that is not inline with the government’s or big business’ stance on a subject. This is not just a theory without evidence. The first piece of evidence I will show is from a Canadian television news segment that talks about the Canadian government paying these “Shills” to go online and “correct information”.
Unfortunately, the Canadian Government is not the only government doing this. In fact, it seems the United States Government wants to perfect this practice and take it to new levels. The governmental job listing (the pdf is linked in last sentence) was looking to give contracts to private intelligence companies to create a software where one person can operate many “fake people” accounts, with the goal of creating the appearance of consensus on controversial topics. In other words, they were creating fake accounts and using them to spread propaganda against those who disagreed with the official government or big business stance on the subject. All the while, making it seem like only a few believe these alternative theories and the vast majority do not.
This work order or job listing is not an isolated instance, the government has requested assistance from computer programmers to create similar software to data mine online conversations on social media, chat rooms, forums, or comment sections under the premise to be able to detect such things as “social pollution” or “Ability to detect sarcasm and false positives”.
Then there is the case of Cass Sunstein. A man who, while teaching at Harvard in 2007, wrote a paper on conspiracy theorist, whom he defined as people who “believe that powerful people have worked together in order to withhold the truth about some important practice or some terrible event.” He goes on to state that these theories are a result of “cognitive blunders” or a flaw in logic or thinking. He states that most conspiracy theorist have a self sealing quality that makes them refuse to listen to those trying to dispel the theories. He states they will often use this attempt of swaying their views, as proof the conspiracy exist. How does he conclude the best way to combat these paranoid, unintelligent, narcissistic conspiracy theorist, that he claims are a threat who cause violence and challenge policy and laws? He suggests “cognitively infiltrate” their groups by embedding people (propaganda agent or Shills) into their “chat rooms, online social networks or even real-space groups” and influencing the conversation! You know, the very thing he used to illustrate how crazy conspiracy theorist are.. Later on, he admits some of these theories are factual, but assures that groups talking about factual conspiracies will not be infiltrated and they will only infiltrate the groups spreading “false” conspiracy theories that are “harmful to society and the government.”
That paper would not be of any significance if it were not for the fact that shortly after it was published, Sunstein became the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the agency that oversees the implementation of government-wide policies on how federal agencies can collect information from the public. He was also appointed to the panel who looked into the NSA spying programs after whistleblower Edward Snowden brought the program to light.
So lets review the facts presented.
- The Canadian Government was caught using propaganda agents to influence public opinion.
- The U.S. Government has repeatedly made requests in the form of work orders and job listings, to make software allowing them to make “fake people” to influence pubic opinion and create data mining programs to track groups that question the government. In other words, they want to do what the Canadians are doing.
- A man who wrote a paper advocating for infiltration of “conspiracy theory” groups, with the designed purpose of controlling the direction of the narrative of said groups, became head of the governmental organization that decides how the government can collect information on the public.
- When the NSA was caught using these data mining programs, the same man became part the panel that gave the NSA a slap on the wrist.
All these things, individually, may not be convincing proof for some people; but once you look at all the information collectively, anyone that comes to the conclusion that the U.S. government is not deploying this propaganda campaign is truly committing “cognitive blunders”. Almost as big a blunder as those that believe the idea that the government would only infiltrate the groups of “conspiracy theorist” that are spreading “false” theories. Firstly, if a theory is wrong then you don’t need to insert propaganda agents into the group to influence the narrative because it is already wrong, you just show how it is wrong. Secondly, if the government is currently committing one of the factual conspiracies that Sunstein admitted to, it is not logical to think they wouldn’t use the propaganda agents to do exactly what they are designed to do- create propaganda to convince the people that there is nothing funny going on.
This isn’t new for those that have spent time in the comment sections of articles that question the government in any way. They will have undoubtedly run into these paid propaganda spreading Shills. They are easy to spot once you become familiar with their tactics and what to look for.
How to spot a Shill.
Before I go on, I think it is important to talk about the difference between a Shill and a Troll. A Troll also goes into comment sections, chat rooms and forums to disrupt the conversation, but they are not getting paid to so. Since the Shills are getting paid to spread disinformation and misinformation, they are more organized in what information they use to counter what an article or comment addressed. Shills have more of a “unified voice”, where as trolls will be less uniformed in the information they spew, making it seem like it is coming from every direction.
Remember the goal of the job listing was to create multiple “fake people” with a result of creating the illusion of “consensus” on a subject. From the perspective of someone who is on the fence about the subject, the comment section appears to be creating a consensus of why the author is wrong; when in reality, the comment section is just filled with people paid to regurgitate propaganda.
Most of my altercations with Shills have been with ones working for big business. So I will give an example of them using disinformation or misinformation to trick people, then address some of their other techniques.
When trying to counter an article talking about the dangers of all the toxic substances inside vaccines, a go-to argument for big pharma shills is: “the levels of these toxins are safe for infants and the baby will actually get more aluminum from breast milk (40 mcg) than most vaccines (most use 25 mcg for this argument even though some vaccines contain much more).” The first part is disinformation because every body is not the same, so making a blanket statement like this is not logical. For instance, if you have renal problems your body will struggle to filter out the aluminum properly, so there really is no “safe” amount of aluminum for these people. The second is very misleading and falls under misinformation. There is a huge difference between ingesting aluminum and injecting it directly into the muscle. When you ingest a toxin it has to make it past the bodies defense mechanisms- in this case the digestive tract. The digestive tract is very good at excreting aluminum via our stool. So much so, that only a mere one percent gets absorbed into the blood stream, which a healthy kidney can easily handle. When you inject aluminum, the kidneys have to excrete 100% of it. The injected aluminum is far more dangerous than when it’s ingested because aluminum starts causing problems when it makes it to the bloodstream. When it is injected, it bypasses the digestive system and has a direct pathway to the bloodstream.
A normal person who is shown their argument is wrong, would not keep repeating it over and over in future debate. However, with comment generating site like Disqus, you are able to follow commenters and will see Shills doing just that. No matter how many times they are called out on it, they will still be seen repeating this propaganda on other articles, like they are reading off a script and need to hit some sort of quota. If you were truly on the site because you wanted to help others find truth, there is no logical reason for someone to repeat this clearly misleading information. You only do this if you are trying to trick people into using a product and people only do that if they have an assertive to do so.
The Shill will also use all kinds of logical fallacies to get you to change the narrative of the conversation. The most prominent of these fallacies are the ad hominem attack, red herring and strawman. These logical fallacies are used to accomplish different things.
The ad hominem is when the debater will attack the person he is debating instead of attacking the opponents arguments. They also will ask for citations backing up your claims. When you show them a well researched and cited paper written by a doctor, they will use an ad hominem towards the doctor and use that to claim the paper or peer reviewed study is not a “legitimate citation”. This way they don’t actually have to ever address the evidence presented in an argument. Using this approach also allows the Shill to continue to act like there is no “legitimate evidence” for what you are claiming. The strawman is when you change what your opponent’s argument was and then use the changed version to show that they are wrong. Whereas, the red herring is when you bring something up with the expressed purpose of diverting the conversation away from a topic. These are just a few of these logical fallacies they use because of the fact that they are lying and need to cover it up.
With the amount of money and power involved, the online Shill is not going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. You can’t expect to get anywhere with reason or even proof that these people are wrong. They are being paid go to articles and spread lies. So never get to emotional and drop to their level by returning their childish insults. You have to realize that your objective is to counter the lies with facts, so that the people who are either new to the subject or are beginning to question it, will see that these people are lying repeatedly to trick them. I find that the approach of making others aware of this is the best approach.
We are in this together and need to wake as many people up as possible to the practice of deploying shills and expose their lies. Only then will man kind finally be free from all the horrible things that these shills cover up.