Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #127 - The Scourge of Self-Righteous Saviors!

Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #127 - The Scourge of Self-Righteous Saviors!

(Syntuksiar, Jowai, Meghalaya, India\Photo by Nvr Endng Anupam on Unsplash)

“You say you love rain, but you use an umbrella to walk under it. You say you love sun, but you seek shelter when it is shining. You say you love wind, but when it comes you close your windows. So that's why I'm scared when you say you love me.” ― Bob Marley

In 1945, Albert Einstein wrote in one of his letters on quantum physics that "God does not play dice with the universe."

What he meant was that things in this Universe cannot be random.  But as it turned out, in many experiments, the quantum world was indeed random.

There were two assumptions that Einstein made.  (1) There is a God, (2) That God “Acts” - or in other words, He/She/It is an interventionist.

If these are correct, only then his characterization of the entity’s behavior would make sense.

In the Hindu / Dharmic scheme of things, the universal consciousness, while being omniscient is absolutely non-interventionist.  Why?  Because it is that which is the object and source of intervention.  How does one intervene in one’s own self?  In other words - can an Ocean dictate the wave?  Does that even make any sense?

Morality is a man-made construct.  It has no existential reality.

However, those who gain a lot of power also get misplaced confidence that they need to set the “moral compass” for everyone.  For theirs is a cosmic purpose to serve in this life.

When another species, say a rat, doesn’t give, well a rat’s arse about my sense of morality, do you think those proverbial green little creatures on Mars care about that?

Power is one thing, real good is another.

In human history, anyone who went about trying to “do good” has done the most harm.  And, actually killed innumerable people.

That is why I am very wary of someone who takes upon her or himself to be a judge of “good.”  Worse go about “doing good.”

When Einstein’s god has no relevance and science shows that such an assumed god does indeed throw dice, then why can’t we let the fetish orchestrating things aside?

How Facebook impacts political power in Democracies without oversight!

In some rather startling revelations, a Facebook employee - a data scientist - shared some anecdotes from her experience which are very interesting.  Sophie Zhang worked as the data scientist for the Facebook Site Integrity fake engagement team” and dealt with “bots influencing elections and the like.”

In a 6,600 word memo, Sophie shared many things, the most significant of which are listed below.  Parts of the memo have been accessed and published by Buzzfeed - linked as the source - (Source)

  • It took Facebook’s leaders nine months to act on a coordinated campaign “that used thousands of inauthentic assets to boost President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras on a massive scale to mislead the Honduran people.” Two weeks after Facebook took action against the perpetrators in July, they returned, leading to a game of “whack-a-mole” between Zhang and the operatives behind the fake accounts, which are still active.
  • In Azerbaijan, Zhang discovered the ruling political party “utilized thousands of inauthentic assets... to harass the opposition en masse.” Facebook began looking into the issue a year after Zhang reported it. The investigation is ongoing.
  • Zhang and her colleagues removed “10.5 million fake reactions and fans from high-profile politicians in Brazil and the US in the 2018 elections.”
  • In February 2019, a NATO researcher informed Facebook that "he’d obtained Russian inauthentic activity on a high-profile U.S. political figure that we didn’t catch." Zhang removed the activity, “dousing the immediate fire,” she wrote.
  • In Ukraine, Zhang “found inauthentic scripted activity” supporting both former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a pro–European Union politician and former presidential candidate, as well as Volodymyr Groysman, a former prime minister and ally of former president Petro Poroshenko. “Volodymyr Zelensky and his faction was the only major group not affected,” Zhang said of the current Ukrainian president.
  • Zhang discovered inauthentic activity — a Facebook term for engagement from bot accounts and coordinated manual accounts— in Bolivia and Ecuador but chose “not to prioritize it,” due to her workload. The amount of power she had as a mid-level employee to make decisions about a country’s political outcomes took a toll on her health.
  • After becoming aware of coordinated manipulation on the Spanish Health Ministry’s Facebook page during the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhang helped find and remove 672,000 fake accounts “acting on similar targets globally” including in the US.
  • In India, she worked to remove “a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence" the local elections taking place in Delhi in February. Facebook never publicly disclosed this network or that it had taken it down.

So, who were these actors?

Let us go back to that time.  Wall Street Journal reported this:

Facebook Inc. said it has taken down hundreds of pages and accounts that it said were working together to spread misleading content or spam ahead of elections in India set to begin April 11.  The company said those it had removed included accounts it traced to employees of the Pakistani military’s public-relations wing and others linked to the opposition Indian National Congress party. (Source)

These were thousands of accounts created by Pakistan’s ISPR and Congress Party’s IT cell.  CNN also reported on this piece of information on its site:

With the campaign in full swing, the company removed 687 pages and accounts linked to the country's main opposition party — the Indian National Congress (INC) — for "coordinated inauthentic behavior," it said in a statement Monday.  "The individuals behind this activity used fake accounts," said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy. "While the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that it was connected to individuals associated with an INC IT cell," he added. (Source)

So, how about BJP?  Well, that side was quite lame.  All that Facebook took down was a few pages of a diehard fanboy who was gushing over Modi.  One wonders if that can really be counted as malafide or an “attempt to influence elections.”  If talking up about your candidate is the measure of “influencing elections”, then we can dispense with every campaign strategy in democracies around the globe!

Here is what CNN had to say about Facebook’s action on BJP’s pages that it deleted.

Facebook said it had also removed 15 pages, groups, and accounts that frequently posted content supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and criticized his political opponents including the Indian National Congress.  (Source)

Go figure.

The main takeaway - thousands of well-coordinated accounts linked back to Pakistan’s ISPR and Indian National Congress (INC) were deleted.  These were the “actors” that Sophie Zhang referred to in her 6,600-word memo.

Now, her colleagues thought highly of her skills at unearthing fake accounts.

A former Facebook engineer who knew her told BuzzFeed News that Zhang was skilled at discovering fake account networks on the platform.

So, she was good at what she did.  Maybe the best in her business.  And, also with a lot of decency and ethics coupled with a sense of responsibility.

But still, the fact that one person (or a small team, at best) was making decisions for global political occurrences is quite shocking.  It should shock all of us that democracies are now in the hands of a few young people who are armed with a lot of idealistic, and even ideological, sense (and baggage) of how the world should be.  Their decisions can impact millions, if not billions.

This exchange she shares in her memo underscores the power that people like Sophie have at their disposal.

“With no oversight whatsoever, I was left in a situation where I was trusted with immense influence in my spare time,” she wrote. “A manager on Strategic Response mused to myself that most of the world outside the West was effectively the Wild West with myself as the part-time dictator – he meant the statement as a compliment, but it illustrated the immense pressures upon me.”

The comment was facetious in that it rates the democratic systems in the West, specifically the US, as better managed as opposed to democracies outside of the Western hemisphere.  Given how the last elections happened and the coming one promises to shape up, I wouldn’t go with that high an opinion of the Western democracies really.

But the point about the immense power that Zhang carried in her hands is profound!

Was it tough for arguably one of the most powerful persons in the world - unknown and unheard albeit - to make her voice heard at Facebook?  Well, this is what she says.

“In the office, I realized that my viewpoints weren’t respected unless I acted like an arrogant asshole,” Zhang said.  When she asked the company to do more in terms of finding and stopping malicious activity related to elections and political activity, she said she was told that “human resources are limited.” And when she was ordered to stop focusing on civic work, “I was told that Facebook would no longer have further need for my services if I refused.”

Which betrays a few things:

  1. Few people, however idealistic and honest, had almost unlimited power to monitor, track and most importantly ACT upon political processes in democracies around the world
  2. This team (even though Sophie does not mention others) acted on their own for the most part based on no guidelines or manual
  3. There was zero oversight on this team.  Heck, even if she wanted to discuss her issues, it was not heard

How’s that for a global disaster?

One important thing though - Zhang was not an individual performer in her group.  She was part of a team.  Maybe she was one of the better ones, but that team is the all-powerful group that decides a lot of things.

After BuzzFeed’s story ran, some people who work on the company’s integrity team — and there are more than 200 of them — were frustrated at the implication that they are sitting on their hands all day, or otherwise bad at their jobs. (I don’t think Zhang meant to imply this, but that was certainly the tenor of the discussion about BuzzFeed’s story on Twitter.) Many of them had worked with Zhang on the takedown efforts she described, and felt undermined by her memo, I’m told. Sometimes team leaders set priorities differently than their own employees would, and Facebook’s efforts — which focus on the largest and most active networks, particularly during elections — sometimes set aside other legitimate threats, like the ones Zhang had found.  (Source)

Should there be hate speech monitoring at all?

So this brings us to an important question:

Should there be any - and really - ANY censorship or oversight?  The platform can simply be there and anyone - including the demons, devils, and the terrorists - use them as they want.  Let the law enforcement mechanisms deal with the fallout.

Remember, this idea or evaluation of who is a terrorist and who is not, specifically in the Western countries has been completely messed up.

For the last 40 years - Khalistani and Islamist terrorists have been allowed to spew venom and carry out their propaganda and even terror planning and execution activities with complete impunity.  Whether it was Canada, UK, countries in the EU or the US - the terrorists who would kill outside have shared their hate speech openly until now.  It was not even a concern until 9/11 for anyone.  In fact, it was vehemently backed by these governments.  That became hate speech when the same thing, which was directed against India (and Hindus) was suddenly targeted against the hosts.

So, there is no equal and just way to apply these policies in the real world.  And, that is a problem.  So, one can argue that just as Khalistanis and Jihadis were allowed to use the state mechanisms and even machinery apart from the asylum laws to go against the Indian state, and Hindus while US, Canada, and UK establishments stood as mere witnesses and no human rights or international decency suffered, let Facebook be mere witnesses as opposed to playing a policeman anyway!

Because it makes sense for India to provide a home to Snowden if US provides refuge to the Khalistanis.  Let the refuge for ALL terrorists and anarchists be an equal protection opportunity.

The world is being subjected to hate speech for the last 2000 years of belief systems that advocate hell and death for non-believers.  People have handled that - even while so many have perished.  Let the world find the mechanism to handle it.  As opposed to taking the entire spectrum of hate speech under monitoring and letting go only specific kind of hate speech, because it aligns with your own ideological hateful mind!

Either all hate speech ends*.  Or none at all.

(* including those that advocate hell and death for me just because I don’t give a rat’s arse for their beliefs even when their books keep proclaiming them as god-ordained.)

It is facetious to have someone monitor all hate speech to only let the one he wants to promote anyway to weaponize his own deep hate and privilege!

the fightback

When you have all that you have worked for all your life on the line and you still go  for that fight then one has to applaud such courage.

Vivek Agnihotri and Kangana Ranaut are two people who are putting their everything on the line.  While Kangana is a successful, yet a single woman; Vivek has charted a solitary path of an independent film-maker and writer and has a family with kids who need to be taken care of.

Yet, both have spoken against what happened in the Sushant Singh case and the fascism of the Uddhav Thackeray government.

One can find many youtube “channels” who are cashing in on this whole thing, but there are two issues - (1) Most of the speakers do not live in Maharashtra or Mumbai, (2) Most of them are not in the movie industry, and (3) They are in it only for themselves and their social media growth.

When you look at the serious discussion, that is done by very few people.

So watch these two videos - one an interview by Vivek and the second by Kangana.

This interview of Kangana will rank as another one that ended up pushing one of the final nails in the coffin of erstwhile corrupt Bollywood.

Is war coming?

Will there be an Indo-China war in the coming days?

I am not sure about war, but a number of battles are sure to happen.  And, soon.

Here is an interesting piece of news that shows the “tongue-in-cheek” ways of the Indian Army.

The Indian Army is fully prepared to fight a full-fledged war even in winters in eastern Ladakh and if China created conditions for war, they will face a better trained, better prepared, fully rested and psychologically hardened Indian troops, says Brig (retd) Hemant Mahajan.  The assessment of the retired army officer titled ‘Operational logistic readiness of the Indian Army' was contained in a statement circulated to the media by the Army's Northern Command PRO in Udhampur earlier in the day.  In email messages to the media in the evening, the Public Relations Officer(PRO) said the statement “doesn't represent the views of either Northern Command or Indian Army” and that it may be treated as “cancelled”.  In separate Whatsapp messages, the PRO further stated that the statement was the view of Brig (retd) Hemant Mahajan and it was "wrongly conveyed" as a statement of the Northern Command.

So, Brigadier Mahajan’s report was “circulated” to the media by the Northern Command, yet the Army is taking pains to say it is not “our statement”!  They may not have written it.  But they sure seem to have endorsed it enough to circulate it.

Such statements are shared to create deterrence in the enemy camp.

Let us be clear - China has been painted in a corner now.  The status quo - with definitive and verifiable defeats by the Indian Army in Ladakh - is like writing “LOSER” on someone’s head in large capital letters with a big red Sharpie.  Specifically for an establishment like that of China.

To go around the world with the current state of affairs is to parade your blackened face.

This, for a country that makes sure that it doesn’t have a “loss of face” in any transaction.

And, here we are where the Indian Army left them with no face at all!  Their desperate propaganda notwithstanding.

That is why for them, the only way out is some kind of redemption via armed battle.  How and where it will be will have to be seen.  But it is coming.

nota bene

BDO road to allow tanks by October: Preparing for a long winter ahead facing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in East Ladakh, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has decided to allow the Srinagar-Zoji La-Kargil Leh axis to be closed only for 45 days from past average 95 days due to snow this year and will strengthen all the bridges on Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) road to bear a load of the tank plus truck trailer by next month. (Source)

WhatsApp Used for Delhi Riots: The Delhi Police special cell on Wednesday reached Karkardooma Court and filed a charge sheet in the Delhi violence case stating that anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) WhatsApp groups were used to fuel violence in North-East Delhi in February this year.  The charge sheet was filed under the sections of the UAPA/IPC/Arms Act in the Delhi violence case. The Delhi Police said that they are relying on digital evidence, WhatsApp chats, and call detail records (CDRs), and that it has also received sanction from the Centre and the state in this regard. (Source)

More Countries to join Arab/Israel peace: US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that "five or six" more Arab countries were poised to agree to normalize relations with Israel, in line with the landmark accords struck between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  "We're very far down the road with about five countries, five additional countries," Trump said as he hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office, ahead of a signing ceremony with both Arab states for the US-brokered peace deal. (Source)

Free COVID Vaccine to Americans: The federal government outlined a sweeping plan Wednesday to make vaccines for Covid-19 available for free to all Americans, even as polls show a strong undercurrent of skepticism rippling across the land.  In a report to Congress and an accompanying "playbook" for states and localities, federal health agencies and the Defense Department sketched out complex plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or possibly later this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a shot. The Pentagon is involved with the distribution of vaccines, but civilian health workers will be the ones giving shots.  The campaign is "much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses," said the playbook for states from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (Source)

to nature, our gratitude!

A lot of monotheistic belief systems ridicule the idea of someone holding nature, the planet, and other things central to our existence, in reverence.  And bowing to it.

But those who were enlightened knew that our existence was because of the Universe around us.  We, in ourselves, were incomplete and useless.  That is why bowing down to the sun, or wind, or fire or the earth is not out of ignorance.  But out of a tremendous sense of intelligence that sees the whole picture.

Sri Guru Nanak Dev describes that sense of gratitude very beautifully in this poem!  Another amazing rendition by Shivpreet.

Pavan guru paani pitaa, maataa dharat mahat.

Divas raat doe daai daaiaa, khelai sagal jagat.

Changiaaiaa buriaaiaa, vaachai dharam hadur.

Karmi aapo aapni, ke nerai ke dur.

Jini Naam dhiaaiaa, gae masakat ghaal.

Naanak te mukh ujle, keti chhuti naal.

The wind is Guru, Water is Father,  and Earth, the Great Mother. Day and night are the two caretakers In whose lap all the world is at play.  Good deeds and bad deeds  are spoken in presence of Dharma Through one’s action,  one can be near or far  Those who remember Satnaam through their hard work They have radiant faces  And spread their radiance to others

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