Mistaking Noise for Signal

worries that information overload leads many to miss broader issues. His point of departure is a recent Time magazine cover image of a young Afghan woman mutilated by the Taliban. After being put off by the editorial decision to use such a grim photo, he pinged some colleagues to see what they though of it and was appalled to learn that no one else had seen it. His remarks:

This is in part a statement on the significance (or lack thereof) of magazine covers in today’s media.

I could imagine folks missing even an image this arresting in the past. But who would’ve thought we could collectively avert our eyes in an age when random videos can get millions of views and we all know about a Jet Blue flight attendant’s creative slide to retirement within a few hours of it happening.

But that these folks — all of them heavily plugged-in — missed this portrait of Aisha is also a statement on how we can collectively repress data that we don’t want to think about. Even though we are immersed in shared words and images, it’s still pretty easy to miss the big picture.

I’m not convinced the lack of public attention is a function of blinkered viewing habits. Yes, we no longer live in a world of only three networks and only two newsweeklies that counted. In the 1960s, whatever was on the cover of Time or Newsweek would not not be noticed.

But the photo is peculiar. Aisha is clearly badly mutilated, yet the effort to dignify her by shooting her to make her look as pretty as possible perversely undermines the intent of putting her on the cover. The photo somehow has robbed her of the horror of what was done to her.

Contrast her image with this iconic photo from the Vietnam War. The village has just been attacked with napalm, and the naked girl in the center, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, suffered severe burns to her back:

Perhaps we are all too jaded now, and have seen too many realistic-looking torture scenes in movies, but that Pulitzer Prize winning photo was part of the process of bringing the war into America’s living rooms and cementing opinion against it (but let us not forget that the combination of a draft and a conflict that increasingly looked unwinnable was part of the equation too).

I’m not sure I agree with the second part of his argument either:

Google’s Eric Schmidt recently stated that every two days we create as much information as we did from the beginning of civilization through 2003. Perhaps the sheer bulk of data makes it easier to suppress that information which we find overly unpleasant. Who’s got time for a victim in Afghanistan or end-of-life issues with all these Tweets coming in?

Between reality TV, 24-hour news, and the constant hammering of the stream, I am less likely to tackle seriously uncomfortable topics. I can bury myself in a mountain of incoming information. And if my stream is any indication, I’m not alone. For me, repression used to be a one man show. Now I am part of a broader movement — mass avoidance through social media.

Yves here. Ahem, how much of this increase of “information” is merely “information” by virtue of it taking up bandwidth? 60-70% of human conversation is gossip, which often means the same bit of information is traded among various people. Trading it five or fifty times means it takes up that much more space in a bitstream, but does that make it “more” information? Put it another way: when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, it was conveyed by TV (the three major networks), radio, and newspapers, many fewer outlets, hence fewer individual messages were conveyed. The way people discussed it in face to face (as they did, the country virtually came to a halt) doesn’t fit the Schmidt/Pell definition of information. When Michael Jackson died, this perverse notion of “messaging = information” means his death, by virtue of the vast Internet/SMS chatter about it, would count as vastly more “information.” Message transmission is increasingly mistake for information content. As a society, we are clearly generating more meta information, more chatter about underlying events (witness this blog!), but how much of that is really just noise?

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82 comments

  1. yoganmahew

    Absolutely.

    “Google’s Eric Schmidt recently stated that every two days we create as much information as we did from the beginning of civilization through 2003.”

    Mr. Schmidt is incorrect, I believe. What we do now is store, not create, in digital form, ephemera. Sometimes many copies of the same bit of inconsequence.

  2. Eric Schmidt is confusing data with information. We may be creating data, but not information. Even if it where information, it would hardly be the amount that counted but the quality that would be of concern.
    In that respect, the ancients may have produced less information, but certainly it was all the important one. We, on the other hand? Not that much of lasting importance.

    1. sgt_doom

      Even worse, Schmidt is confusing propaganda with content.

      Now this picture demonstrates why Newsweek was sold for one dollar ($1.00USD), which was still way overselling it. With all those newsy clowns on the Pentagon’s payroll, one expects such routine drivel.

      Now, coincidentally, the recent SIGIR report (Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction) had a list of some of the numerous convictions for conspiracy, embezzlement, wire fraud, thievery, ad infinitum, among the officers and private contractors during the ongoing Iraq War and one of the very first names:

      Capt. Eric Schmidt, USMC (convicted of wire fraud, filing a false federal tax form).

      This is simply a segue into why that Newsweek photo propaganda was pure crap, suggesting the USA, which brought on so much of the pain over the last three decades for the Afghanistani people, cares about its women.

      The Afghanistani constitution, the same as the Iraqi constitution, now has Sharia law written in as the dominant law of the land.

      This is solely due to the imperialism of the United States of America (admittedly, the corrupted corporate fascist state).

      For a recent brief on the history of Afghanistan, check out this blog I came across when I was just Googling it

      Please pay close attention to the timeline on it (oddly labeled, but still accurate). Note that the USA, under the Carter and Reagan administrations, did fund the Mujahadeen, which before even engaging the Soviets, did summarily murder all those secular types still in the country who hadn’t fled when the Sovs invaded: the academics, professionals, artists, intellectuals, and so on.

      The USA financed the worst criminal elements there, the normal procedure when trying to destablize a foreign government — not unlike what the Chinese were starting to do late in the Clinton administration when they began smuggling in weaponry to the street gangs of Los Angeles (I believe they halted it when Clinton or Bush gave them their port at Long Beach, CA.)

      Please don’t hesitate in reading that SIGIR report (they links at at the web site above — that’s where I found it) — makes great reading.

      And remember, that’s just the tip of the iceberg as 96 percent, or $8.7 billion, went unaccounted!!!!!!!

  3. craazyman

    It’s much more complex than that. The phenomenon is only one minor facet of a multi-million-year process of ascension of consciousness through bacteria, plant and animal flesh. When awareness of self and other has reached a level of universal empathetic totality, then the DNA will alter at a fundamental energetic level and human perception of the universe will change and it will be seen in a much richer and multi-dimensional form. This is what St. Paul was saying about now looking through the glass darkly and then face to face, it’s what the apocalypse is all about. But it will still be a while yet. Not 2012 in my view. All these pictures and gossips are just the ephemeral noise from the current in the big river. And we are all just molecules of water. What else can you possibly construe from the stupidity that inundates you daily? And that Time Magazine cover. It could have been from 1000 years ago and it would be the same, or 4000 years ago in Mesopotamia or in Ur. But now we see it and then we did not. Are you your brothers or sister’s keeper? Apparently so. -DT Tremens, Esquire and GED

  4. andrew

    All this hand-wringing about Internet-age information overload is, to use President Rahm’s expression, “f*cking retarded.” Perception and intellection are throttled on the subjective, not the objective, end. People’s appetite for and consumption of information is more or less what it is. The places to get it and the forms in which it comes, those change. So Time Magazine wasn’t an institution 100 years ago, and again today it’s no longer an institution. I don’t feel the earthquake.

    Tentative analogy: People moved from English country villages to London once. If “information load” is measured in terms of the aperture of collective available news , they must have had it just as “bad” or “worse” than us Internet-Agers. And in retrospect that looks how cataclysmic…?

  5. Schmidt’s concept of “information” is just like an economist’s concept of “growth”, “value”, “wealth.

    It makes me think of absurd numbers for derivatives like “$600 trillion” or “$1 quadrillion”.

    I wonder if Schmidt’s just talking his book or if he’s crazy.

    On the other hand, I’m heartened to hear that jingo Time is so irrelevant that even this shameless, disgraceful, lying piece of inflammatory jingo “journalism” was so ignored.

    But I’m not surprised that the jingo NPR is upset about that.

    1. BTW, would the NPR call this Taliban atrocity “torture”?

      They would refuse to call it torture if an American cadre did it.

    2. Richard Kline

      Eric Schmidt put the Evil in Google. I’m not inclined to take anything he says, at face value or at all. With the way he’s running Google—and make no mistake, HE is running google—he might be the most dangerous man in tech, and that’s saying something when Bill Gates has not yet been reduced to a digitized overlay.

      1. In one of my recent net neutrality posts which fewer people than normal read, I called the Google-Verizon deal Google’s official coming-out as a racket, though of course that’s how they’ve been behaving for a while now.

      2. charcad

        Richard,

        What in particular has Eric Schmidt done that is so bad? So far I really like the Google Books project. This seems to me to be the most significant step since Gutenberg was busy.

        I notice the Government, the “non-profit” librarians and the academics just sat on their fat smug asses for 15 years past the point the technology to do this was clearly available. Meanwhile this entity;

        continues to apply $20-$40 charges for public domain items that are already in form.

        I’m willing to be persuaded Eric Schmidt’s acting evilly, or perhaps more evilly than the above so-called “public servants”. Specifics will be appreciated.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Says a lot that you are in favor of a project that steals the intellectual property of authors. I was simply stunned when I did research for my book to see how often books that were in print had been stolen and posted on Google Books, with only a few pages omitted out of hundreds, I suppose to give them some sort of legal cover. These people are thieves pure and simple.

          The only reason they have cleaned up their act is they’ve been sued in the US and abroad…and as an author, I’m concerned the deal is not even remotely fair. Why should I lose control of the distribution of my copyrighted work?

          1. charcad

            Yves,

            Having put some time into this I’d appreciate the courtesy of a reply.

            Why should I lose control of the distribution of my copyrighted work?

            Did you not surrender control of that when you contracted with Palgrave MacMillan to print and distribute your book for you? Self-publishing was always an option.

            I did some actual research on this today, starting at Google Books and extending to a physical visit to the local Books-A-Million in Venice.

            Your book on Google Books has the following pages viewable for me: Front Cover, ii, iii, v, vi, 1, 295-296, 299 – 301, 304-306, 309, 311-314, 316, 320-323, 325, 328-329, 330-333, 335-337 and a few others after that.

            Nearly all of these pages are end notes and index as you know.

            At Books-A-Million in Venice you command about 4 linear inches (2 books) out of 160 linear feet of shelf space dedicated to “Business”, “Management”, “Personal Investment” and “Motivational” topics. That’s one side of one aisle. There’s easily 1,500 linear feet of shelf space in that store. Now add the numerous bargain bins with books enroute to their final fate of being re-pulped.

            At B-A-M I can take your book to a comfy arm chair and read for several hours, all without paying and with the encouragement of the staff. (B-A-M believes I might buy a latte or a piece of pie during that time). Some publishers don’t want this sort of extended browsing so they shrink-wrap their products. Your book isn’t shrink-wrapped.

            The entire store looks like a book version of Soylent Green. Lonely printed books are overflowing everything.

            In my view this is far worse than the few largely unreadable pages Google Books has put up. The Amazon “Look Inside” feature for eCONNED actually provides more than Google Books does. Or is Schmidt now acting evilly because he didn’t give you enough promotion?

            Your blog and Google Books both link to sellers. Google lists your publisher Palgrave MacMillan first, then Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and Books-A-Million.

            Your page here links Amazon first, Borders, Powells and Indie. For some reason your page doesn’t link to your own publisher although Google Books does. Is there some reason for that?

            I don’t see how Eric Schmidt and Google Books has hurt you as an author in the slightest way. That is, other than by reducing all demand for all printed matter. If anything they’ve enhanced your exposure.

            Jeff Bezos at Amazon has done infinitely more damage to the old authors’ royalty model than Schmidt has. We can see the effects on your Amazon page. B-A-M in Venice offers “eConned” at a cover price of $30. But on Amazon the “new” price must inexorably track the “slightly used” reseller price. This is $16.77 today. What Bezos did was organize the entire second-hand book market into hyper efficiency.

            Your new sales this week are competing with resales of your new sales from four weeks ago. The royalty model here becomes a converging series with a very small limit.

            There is of course a Kindle e-version. $15+ per e-book that I can’t subsequently resell or trade is a little pricey. And on this score I can provide countervailing publisher opinions that Google is being more generous on the eBook front than Amazon is.

            Baen Books has been telling its authors, including writers with multiple NYT Best Seller titles, that in future they can expect to earn most of their paper royalties in the first six weeks of hardback sales. And also that most of them can forget about paperback sales.

            The biggest single problem is the fissioning of the audience. This is reducing market share for everyone and ruthlessly squeezing margins. It happened to factory workers earlier and its happening to knowledge workers now. Welcome to the Third Millenium.

          2. hibikir

            You take intellectual property a whole lot more seriously than some do. I for one work making IP, and yet I think we’d be better off with far weaker, if not just completely non-existent, copyright and patent protections.

            You call it thievery, but I’d say the person trying to claim that an idea is his alone and cannot be used or reproduced by anyone else is the one stealing from the rest of us.

            Trying to slow the spread of information so that you can take a piece of it at every turn is like building a sand castle in the wet sand of an ocean beach: You can try all you want, but you will lose the battle.

        2. Here’s a few links on the attempted murder of net neutrality. The top one is about yesterday’s protest at their HQ:

          Here’s two of my contributions:

          Here’s one on their general campaign toward vertical monopoly.

  6. Eric Schmidt, like Bill Gates, reveals what happens when a wealthy person successful in one field thinks of themselves as wise in all others. And their wealth means there is a large entourage to clap them on.

      1. anonny

        Not being an obsessive Soros watcher, I can’t recall him making public remarks outside his area of expertise. And economists treat his reflexivity idea as trivial, so tell me how much fawning his funding some institutes has gotten him, exactly?

        1. LeeAnne

          George Soros’s name is dropped as you see above when his political enemies think they see an opportunity to slime him by innuendo.

          He became an ‘enemy’ rather than someone who simply put his money in support of a controversial issue when he backed a drug reform candidate for office. After GW, whom Soros had opposed, was reelected, the knives really came out.

          Soros must have believed at one time that, since he wasn’t in politics, he could safely and openly support whatever cause he saw as legitimate. This is the U.S. after all, isn’t it?

  7. JMG

    The vast bulk of the “information” cited by Schmidt is bandwidth used to transmit and store digital photographic and video images — that is, the stuff folks used to send to Photomart to be developed or show at home to bored guests. So it’s not new information at all.

  8. Richard Kline

    This woman was NOT mutilated by the Taliban. The entire times cover and story is a deliberate and most disgusting piece of propaganda meant to whip up support for a failed war. This woman has been discussed by Ann Jones in a post at the Nation, who met her before the creeps at Time got their mitts on her story:

    She was attacked by her father-in-law. There was no Taliban angle. And Ann Jones makes the point that this woman had no protection from anything the US has done in its occupation of Aghanistan, nor any recourse in the courts of that country which are dominated by religous law. Her plight is real, and the social issues behind it relevant for others. The US occupation, the Taliban, or any of the _politics_ grafted to this story have NOTHING to do with her or her social context.

    I put this article right on par with the infamous ‘pulling newborns from incubators’ propaganda plant after the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, an none and despicable lie. If it has escaped anyone’s notice, the propaganda shop ops in Aghanistan have been cranked up by an order of magnitude since David Petraeus took over there. —But then, lie-by-media is signature of his career, and was the essential tarmac-laying to his successful campaign to restore domestic support for the American occupation of Iraq. Of course he’s trying it again. This plant in Time, a captive balloon for American imperialist journagandism, is right on schedule. Just had another ‘interesting’ news release yesterday blaming ‘the Talian’ for three-quarters of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan, a number I do not in any way believe but more importantly a media salvo designed to shift blame for civilian casualties from the occupiers to the occupied.

    Reader beware: anything you read from any MSM source and many others on Afghanistan from this point is tainted when not wholly false.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Thank you, Richard Kline, for providing the ‘facts behind the lie.’

      What a guttersnipe P.O.S. Slime magazine has become.

      1. Dick Hertz

        A little research would reveal that Time has always been a propaganda organ first. A conservative version of the old Soviet Life magazine.

    2. KFritz

      In the old Afghanistan, before the Russian Empire toppled the apple cart, before the United States abandoned Afghanistan to the maelstrom after the Russian withdrawal, and before the Taliban unleashed their maniacal version of “Islam,” this girl’s mutilation would have been far less likely than it is today. All of the above, and today especially the Taliban, are responsible for the nation’s plight. So while the Taliban may not be directly responsible, they’re enablers @ least.

      At the risk of being ad-hominem, I find your analysis to be hair-splitting.

      1. sgt_doom

        You are a bit confused on the facts, KFritz, not unusual given the lack of any media in the US today.

        The US began its intervention in the internal affairs of Afghanistan long before the Soviet invasion — in fact — one might even suggest that internal interference led to the Soviet invasion (although still the Sovs were at horrific fault).

        Carter (then president) signed a presidential directive for intervening in the affairs of Afghanistan on 7/30/79, and the Soviets invaded on 11/24/79.

        And what did the US do, under the direction of Zbigniew Brzezinski and the CIA? They relocated, with the help of their Saudi Arabian buddies, the most extremist of Islamic fundamentalist extremists, the Wahabist bunch, to Afghanistan’s northern border with the Soviet Union (then, the primary Islamic religious group were the Sufis).

        For your edification and historical veracity:

        1. KFritz

          Brzezinski gives US efforts too much credit for Russian intervention. The Russians were responding to the chaos caused by feuding factions of Afghan communists.


          With all due respect, if you believed Brzezinski’s posturing, no kudos.

    3. KFritz

      First reply was incomplete and lacked nuance.

      Your post seems to imply that the best Afghan policy is withdrawal. I understand that aside fr/ this young woman’s plight, the TIME article is an emotion based appeal to ‘stay the course.’ That’s bad, but assuming that Afghanistan is a carbon copy of Vietnam is also a bad idea.

      The Bush Admin’s foreign policy is the worst policy blunder in the history of the US. It was so bad, and its consequences so bad, that without huge national sacrifice and loads of good luck, any good outcome is impossible. Worse yet, because of the Obama Admin’s aversion to confrontation, the US lost a decent opportunity to improve the overall situation in Afghanistan when didn’t use its leverage to finesse Karzai and include Abdullah Abdullah in the real power structure of the Afghan government.

      As I see it, the US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan needs to based on, “How do we withdraw as quickly as human decency allows and leave behind the least horrible mess possible.” Nothing about it is going to satisfactory, pleasant, or good for US standing in the world.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Thanks for the link, Richard. Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater”, writes that Time’s piece is a calculated counterpunch to WikiLeaks’ expose of war crimes:

        It follows the CIA’s ‘”Red Cell Special Memorandum” … for a propaganda war to influence public opinion in allied nations. The CIA report describes a crisis in European support for the Afghanistan war, noting that 80 percent of German and French citizens are against increasing their countries’ military involvement. The report suggests that “Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the [International Security Assistance Force] role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory.”

        It’s astonishing that the American public falls for these fabricated war pretexts time after time after time.

        IMO, apart from token ‘redeployments’, there’s no-way, no-how we will ever leave either Afghanistan or Iraq, where we have massive ongoing investments in permanent military bases. The geography is obvious. These countries are the perfect jaws of a vise to grip Iran at Israel’s bidding.

        See also: Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran. Part I: Global Warfare by Michel Chossudovsky


      2. citizendave

        KFritz, I am in line with your observations. I had Vietnamese friends in Vietnam, and I love the people of Vietnam, north and south. It was an awful dilemma to want to get out that mess, while at the same time not wanting to simply abandon my friends to whatever fate awaited them. Your comment “How do we withdraw as quickly as human decency allows and leave behind the least horrible mess possible?” is almost exactly what I’ve been saying. I want us to get out, but I don’t want to simply abandon them.

    4. sgt_doom

      Great comments and input, Richard Kline, and please allow me to repeat that the Sharia law is written as the dominant and prevailing law in the constitutions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, thanks to the actions of the US government (operated by all those contractors and Wall Street, of course).

      Before, both countries were SECULAR countries, even if the government of Iraq was originally installed, or partially helped in its creation, by the US.

    5. Valissa

      Your highlighting of this renewed propaganda push reminds of this fascinating article I came across last month… straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak… PSYOPS is changing it’s name, going to a more underground acronym that sounds harmless… very creepy stuff…

      PSYOPs to… MISO: Is it soup yet?

      With lightning and a clap of thunder from the Pentagon, PSYOP is to be stricken from the Defense system just as the name Moses was removed from the legacy of Egypt. The Secretary of Defense has approved the recommendation to change PSYOP to Military Information Support and/to Operations (MISO). The Army Chief of Staff, General George W. Casey, Jr. has directed his staff to develop and orchestrate a plan designed to replace “PSYOP” with MISO in the Army (and presumably DOD) lexicon and branches. …

      It is past time for the influence aspect of military operations to assume its rightful role as a leading element in today’s force. This implies strong senior leadership support in terms of resourcing and fast tracking the policy and doctrinal changes that are needed in today’s world.

      The name change is a perfect reason for renewed efforts to ‘educate’ Congress on what we do why MISO is an important instrument of government power. As a non-lethal battlefield multiplier MISO can more positively impact world opinion of US efforts than kinetic operations.

  9. i on the ball patriot

    ‘Mockingbird’ — still singing …

    Excerpt;

    “In 1948 Frank Wisner was appointed director of the Office of Special Projects. Soon afterwards it was renamed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). This became the espionage and counter-intelligence branch of the Central Intelligence Agency. Wisner was told to create an organization that concentrated on “propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.”

    Later that year Wisner established Mockingbird, a program to influence the domestic American media. Wisner recruited Philip Graham (Washington Post) to run the project within the industry. Graham himself recruited others who had worked for military intelligence during the war. This included James Truitt, Russell Wiggins, Phil Geyelin, John Hayes and Alan Barth. Others like Stewart Alsop, Joseph Alsop and James Reston, were recruited from within the Georgetown Set. According to Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great): “By the early 1950s, Wisner ‘owned’ respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles.”’

    More here …

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. sgt_doom

      And Frank Wisner shared a house for the longest time over in Germany with a couple of like-minded guys named Richard Helms and Allen Dulles.

      1. sgt_doom

        Trivia question?

        Sorry, forgot to mention that Richard Helms (former CIA director) grandfather was a director of what bank during the ’20s and early ’30s?

        The Bank for International Settlements, or the BIS in Basel, Switzerland.

        Surprise!

  10. Jim Haygood

    This photo, together with its caption ‘What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan,’ is pure propaganda.

    Where are the photos of women and children blown
    to shreds by Barack O’Bomber’s grisly, cowardly drone strikes — the analogues to the iconic Kim Phuc photo from Vietnam?

    NATO butchery is something else that will stop when the foreign occupiers are evicted from Vietghanistan. But Time magazine’s compliant stenographers and amenuenses aren’t go to show us the other side of the story.

    Old Media is dying because of its habitual lying. Here’s to Time’s early demise!

  11. Neil D

    It is all just noise, provocation, posing, and posturing. AKA – gossip. If you are plugged in, you are expected to have an opinion on every manufactured outrage of the day. No need to investigate.

    I also read the article in the Nation that claims the Taliban had nothing to do with this mutilation. Was it just another run of the mill male bully doing what bullies do all over the world?

    The propaganda is so deep and widespread that I don’t believe anyone about anything anymore.

  12. anonymous

    Another excellent post, Yves. Right on the mark and timely, too. I try to isolate myself from ‘information’ type noise for at least two hours a day, preferably going for walks along a nearby river, or by reading books printed in a different language one or two centuries ago.

    At a subconscious level, we absorb everything, but that doesn’t mean all input is coded and indexed in the same way, much of the data is indeed ‘noise’.

    I write fewer letters and actually send fewer family email than I did five years ago, despite the fact that we’re more connected than ever.

    As for the images, historians have learned to distrust images because even fifty years ago attribution, accuracy, and dating presented huge problems.

    The iconic photo you offer is an iconic image that captures a particular moment in history. The context is clear and we were all exposed to it in roughly the same way. Ditto the Abu Ghuraib shots.

    Your pictorial analysis is correct, in IMHO. There’s something obscene, frankly, about the use of portraiture to frame an atrocity. The rank treatment of women in Afghanistan, the fact that westerners are already on the ground, and the fact that the Taliban played host to Bin Laden all justify seizing a chunk of Afghanistan and holding it as a safe haven for Afghans seeking to live in the 21st century, not the 7th.

    We’ll do worse and for worse reasons.

    1. aet

      That makes a virtue of necessity: there’s no hope that NATO could ever “control” the Afghan hinterland and countryside: no-body ever has, except those who actually live there.

      Holding towns, roads and pipelines, eh?
      And perhaps some productive mines too?

      Leave Afghanistan to the Afghans.

      1. anonymous

        You elect to place words in mouth, rather than respond to my actual claim. There’s an immense physical, geographic, political, social, and economic difference between holding part of Afghanistan and ‘Afghanistan’.

        I’ll take your need to misrepresent my own words as a defacto concession that we could indeed occupy part of Afghanistan and transform it into a modern nation state similar to Israel, or Japan.

        There is no inherent need for Afghan women to be deprived of the right to live normal 21st century lives, Foreign powers invade and occupy territory all the time. The current Afghan rulers absolutely displaced those who ruled the same region and did so using force.

        I see no reason to allow theocratic misogynists to go wild on the female half of the Afghan population, down to every last woman and girl, but that’s just me.

        1. Rudyard Kipling

          Bold words. So how many tours patrolling for IED’s can we put you, personally, down for? I think three 13 month tours are the very least you’ll want to do. We have to think about the inspiring lead-by-example needed to recruit more for the long haul. If you survive -in one piece- you’ll be a first class recruiting symbol.

          “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
          And the women come out to cut up what remains,
          Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
          An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
          Go, go, go like a soldier,
          Go, go, go like a soldier,
          Go, go, go like a soldier,
          So-oldier of the Queen!”

          Go do it soon.

          1. anonymous

            I did one stint, long ago, as a volunteer, not in Afghanistan. My family has a long history of serving, so you’re quite right to suggest advocates should be among the first to step-up.

            Service is, of course, contingent. I’m not sure I’d recommend my own children volunteer when there seems so much confusion about the ‘mission.’ Propping-up corrupt dictators seems a complete waste of lives.

            America was founded as a group of colonies ruled more or less effectively by the Brits for two hundred years and the US has turned out so badly, has it? Most of the Greek and Roman colonies in North Africa, Sicily, Spain, and modern day Turkey did very well.

            In any case, the process of conquest and colonization is an ongoing one. The westward expansion of the United States across the continent and then across the Pacific resulted in many positives, as unhappy as that fact may make the anti-colonialists.

            The fantasy of Rousseau’s idyllic perfect savage has taken strong root. Maori society, for example, relied on slavery, as did most societies across the globe. Local populations are, in many cases, every bit as barbaric as we, and in some cases are much worse.

            Blowing up Buddhist monuments, terrorizing villages to kept the poor, the powerless, and all women in thrall is not the same, IMHO, as advocating prayer in school, or an end to sex education in public schools. There’s a world of difference, in fact.

            Yves Smith could never develop in Afghanistan, could never earn her own wealth, and certainly not provide excellent commentary of the sort we’ve come to rely on.

            Planting western values: music, art, film, literature, and rights for women, is exactly what we should be doing in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

        2. Doug Terpstra

          “I see no reason to allow theocratic misogynists to go wild on the female half of the…[insert war target here]… population … but that’s just me.”

          Do you really think these warmongers give a damn about women? “Theocratic misogynists” gone wild are everywhere, even here, but they are certainly not a clear and present danger to national security (unlike DC and Vriginia), and that’s most assuredly not why we’re in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and who knows where else. Following WikiLeaks revelation of war crimes and mission meltdown, this new-found concern for the plight of women is transparent desperation. But of course we whould never ‘misunderestimate’ the gullibility of the tribal American public.

          This follows the shifting war justification pattern we saw in Iraq, which started as “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (OIL) and came full circle. Afghanistan started (in Bush’s exact words) as a “crusade” and “Operation Infinite Justice”. It is now in its tenth year with no end in sight.

          Fighting (and policing) for justice is good; wars that kill thousands of American kids and hundreds of thousands of innocents, all on the basis of anecdotal domestic violence are patently ridiculous. What should have been a coordinated international police-enforcement operation was perverted into manifestly counter-intuitive, eternal war on terror—criminal profiteering at its core…(imho).

  13. Jim the Skeptic

    So now we have two explanations for what happened to this women. There are undoubtedly more out there.

    One of these is true, the others are outright lies, or a misunderstanding of the facts which are repeated as though it was fact. How are we to know which is the truth?

    At one time we could depend on unbiased MSM. They worked hard to protect their reputation.

    Then Walter Cronkite went to Viet Nam. Based on his many years of news gathering he gave us his considered OPINION that Viet Nam was no longer worth the effort. The future of the South Vietnamese was sealed. And so was the future credibility of the MSM.

    It’s a pity because today we need unbiased reporting to check the disinformation spread by politicians seeking election and businessmen seeking to further their financial interest at the expense of the public.

    We are awash in financial information. There is no single trustworthy source. We are forced to look for the facts in a sea of opinion. Listen to the economic experts and you get a variety of explanations for the facts. Who to trust?

    In the end you can only drill down to the simplest explanation which seems to explain most of what you find. Only drill down to find the weakness in the experts’ opinions. Only drill down to interpret government statistics which don’t mean what they seem to mean.

    Turning away is a defense mechanism to the cacophony.

    1. At one time we could depend on unbiased MSM.

      We thought it was unbiased. Now we know it never was so. Who owns the TradMed? Corporations!! Who started Time? 99% of the TradMed is propaganda for the government intended to keep the masses “fat and happy” so to speak.

      1. charcad

        Bingo! These were government protected cartels of privately owned, for-profit media.

        And who were these pompous gas bags, these smug, jowly (especially the women) arbiters of the public discourse? They were a bunch of employee scribblers.

        Arrogant, mendacious pretension was their only real quality. “Presstitutes” is a good generic catchall for this fast-disappearing group. “All the news that fits” was and is their motto

        And of course it never once occurred to the owners of this oligarchy to exert the slightest bit of editorial control in favor of their own interests.

        1. Jim the Skeptic

          I would trade what we have now for the MSM before the 1960s. No doubt in my mind what so ever!

          I never voted for George W Bush and I never would but he was elected President. He and his administration had tough decisions to make and a tough job doing what he thought best as the President. It made me sick to see the MSM’s constant carping. I got the point that they didn’t like him or his methods. They should run for office if they are so sure of themselves.

          At some point in our history we lost the sense of loyal opposition. The day after the President is sworn into office the MSM goes into criticism mode and the opposition brings out the knives.

          President Obama has been treated to the same nonsense.

          We don’t have government by referendum. We elect the best people we can and if they fail then we vote them out of office during the next election. MSM makes it much more difficult for the voters to accept that.

          There is a place for MSM, that is to report what the elected officials say and what they do in the performance of their duty.

          A thousand points of noise!

    2. sgt_doom

      If you want the Afghanistani woman’s point of view, I would adamantly suggest reading Sonali Kolhatkar’s outstanding book, Bleeding Afghanistant,

  14. Jim Haygood

    From a WaPo article this morning:

    U.S. and NATO officials have used the figures [of 1,271 Afghan civilian deaths in the first half of 2010] to denounce the Taliban to win popular support for an increased presence that aims to clear out Taliban strongholds this fall. But ordinary Afghans have largely rejected this good guy-bad guy narrative and continue blaming the civilian deaths on the international forces, said experts who have studied the issue.

    “What we found was that regardless of the region, province, education level or political views, in many cases Afghans blamed international forces as much as the insurgents for the increase,” said Erica Gaston, a human rights lawyer focusing on civilian casualties for the Open Society Institute who recently interviewed 250 Afghans.

    So much for the risible lies of Slime magazine — Afghans just want the crusader invaders to get the hell out of their country.

  15. Neil D

    One wonders at what point the cynicism destroys the information business model. If no one believes the content put out by bloggers, journalists, hacks, and propagandists, why come online at all? And to think some of them want us to pay to be lied to! Well, I guess we pay for fiction all the time in literature and movies.

  16. CathyG

    OK. But do you remember in complete technicolor detail what you were doing when you heard that Michael Jackson had died?

  17. charcad

    And your point is what? It was so much better in the old days when a tiny unaccountable elite centered in NYC set the entire agenda? Three networks, two wire services and two news magazines. Oh yes, I almost forgot. That was “democracy” and “public opinion”.

    “Charge up the flux capacitor Marty! Back to good old 1955!”

    I love the current trends. The volume knobs for both NYC and DC are being tuned down to a deserved level: this is below a pip squeak. Next comes – Click! – and they’re off.

    1. anonny

      Revisionist history, big time.

      Local papers were FAR more important in the old days. You had less central control of the message, not more. Talk to any journalist now (the kind that actually care about reporting the news, contrary to your prejudice, they do exist). They’ll tell you gov’t and big business have won the arms race. Compressed news cycles (thanks to 24/7 reporting) and great message discipline by the propagandists means it’s virtually impossible for a journalist to get to the bottom of a story in a normal news cycle, while in the past, the press could and did push back harder (particularly when classified ads and local retailers were the bulk of their ad revenues, another factor you forget about).

      1. sgt_doom

        In the ’50s and ’60s, there was something of the order of over 1,000 companies which owned the newspapers.

        In the early ’80s that had shrunk to the hundreds.

        In the beginning of the 21st century, there were five major corporations which owned the majority of US newspapers, with the Macquarie Group having bought up the small one in the central part of America.

        Today, just about three corps. control the majority of the papers.

        Noting a pattern, perhaps? (Next lesson will be on the consoldiation of the super-banks!)

  18. jb.mcmunn

    I must spend 2 hours/day reading the news but if not for this blog I wouldn’t have seen this picture either because Time is not on my reading list. It has nothing to do with being inured to such pictures or deeds.

    As for the picture itself, I think it’s a work of genius. We tend to look at someone’s eyes first, so in this photo we initially see – for just a moment – a beautiful young woman. Then the eye scans the rest of the face and – whoa! – WTF is that hole?

    That sets up a cognitive dissonance as the brain tries to reconcile the two inputs. I couldn’t stop looking at the picture and it hammered home the tragedy. Instead of minimizing what happened it highlighted her loss. It simultaneously makes you think of what the incident did to her as well as how she might look if it had never happened.

    Absolutely brilliant use of cognitive dissonance to send a message.

  19. akikana

    Upon seeing the cover it immediately reminded me of this cover:

    I’m sure it was the intention and as a result loses all impact for me.

  20. DionAlex

    Please. WhatEVVVVVER.

    TIME Afghansploitation magazine cover: fixed it for you.

    With Its Horrifying Cover Story, Time Gave the War a Boost. Did Its Reporter Profit?

    … a stunningly blunt coverline conspicuously missing a question mark — “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan” — and accompanying story by Aryn Baker, the magazine’s Afghan/Pakistan bureau chief, gave a boost to supporters of America’s continued military involvement in the country.

    But there was more than a question mark missing from the Time story, which stressed potentially disastrous consequences if the U.S. pursues negotiations with the Taliban. The piece lacked a crucial personal disclosure on Baker’s part: Her husband, Tamim Samee, an Afghan-American IT entrepreneur, is a board member of an Afghan government minister’s $100 million project advocating foreign investment in Afghanistan, and has run two companies, Digistan and Ora-Tech, that have solicited and won development contracts with the assistance of the international military, including private sector infrastructure projects favored by U.S.-backed leader Hamid Karzai.

    In other words, the Time reporter who wrote a story bolstering the case for war appears to have benefited materially from the NATO invasion. Reached by The Observer, a Time spokesperson revealed that the magazine has just reassigned Baker to a new country as part of a normal rotation, though he declined to say where.

    While Baker, traveling in Italy, did not respond to Observer.com’s request for comment, Time defended its cover story as “neither in support of, nor in opposition to, the U.S. war effort” but rather a “straightforward reported piece.” Time added that “Aryn Baker’s husband has no connection to the U.S. military, has never solicited business from them and has no financial stake in the U.S. presence in Afghanistan whatsoever.”

    But two years before his wedding to the Time bureau chief, Samee told Radio Free Europe in 2006 that Digistan — apparently the local arm of an international IT operation, run from a villa in Kabul — was …

    +++

    so once again, RK is right. and also JH

    +++

    banter on DU:

    – The title that accompanies the pic leans toward Propaganda: “This is What Happens if We Leave”
    – Didn’t this happen while we were there?
    – It probably did – considering we have been there for 9 years.

    – Agreed. The picture could be the start of an open, honest debate about whether or not the US should be the world’s policeman, but with that caption? Fuggedaboutit.

    – Sounds suspiciously like nation building, as well.
    And as Time and so many other media outlets solemnly informed us on orders from their Republican masters, “nation building” was a hippy-dippy exercise in futility and rainbow chasing.

    – All those billions, who knows where it’s going and meanwhile they tell us we’re there to save that woman with no nose on Time Magazine.

    – Maybe we DUers should start a thread with our own
    TAME magazine headline showing women we should be saving in America.

  21. LeeAnne

    I quickly turned away from that photo the first time it was so rudely presented to me; probably on the Internet.

    The glamour pose alone could not be more obscene; its creators pornographic criminals of the worst kind; another projection of today’s BANKSTER power structure.

    So thank you for the discussion and the many well informed, articulate, often witty and poetic comments. I haven’t read that magazine in decades, long before the Internet. A lot of popular news MSM was obviously sham a long time before the Internet.

    The criminals protecting the poppy fields of Afghanistan while corrupting our military and making them peons to mercenaries making obscene incomes while imprisoning the least advantaged at home by POLICE organized and trained for control of civilian populations all over the world by US/UN Drug Prohibition bureaucracies for that purpose need to be strangled in their American cradles.

    I have high hopes for the Pat Tillman movie coming out and every expectation that it will be honest and moving. It should counter some of the $Billions of US government-sponsored propaganda we are inundated with on a daily basis.

    This kind of populist authentic movie (presumably that’s what it will be since his parents have practiced such integrity in all their dealings with the military and the press on behalf of their son) has the potential to mobilize people’s best instincts and change public awareness in a meaningful way.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Excellent commentary, LeeAnne. The “…criminals protecting the poppy fields of Afghanistan…” don’t give a damn about Time’s poster-girl. That should now be obvious to everyone, after nearly a decade of this debacle, even Obama.

    2. sgt_doom

      Outstanding comments, LeeAnne, and just to add my humble one:

      During the Bush administration, and continuing on in the Obama administration (and beginning in the Carter and Reagan administrations, and enhanced during the Geo. H.W. Bush Desert Storm) there has been a dramatic increase in the practice of Sharia law, directly attributable to the actions of America.

      ‘Nuff said…..

  22. ken locke

    I didn’t read all the comments so maybe this point has been made already, but it needs to be reiterated. In the 80’s we armed and supported the fundamentallist groups who overthrow a secular regime in Afghanistan and greivously set back womens’ rights, health and education. In Iraq, too, we have overthrown a secular regime (albeit brutal and tyrranical) and the conditions of women have subsequently deteriorated.

  23. KFritz

    An alternative analysis of the photo

    There’s a wonderful, haunting juxtaposition between the mutilation inflicted on this young woman and her evident beauty, and her dignified demeanor and confidence. This may be more effective than unabated horror.

    1. LeeAnne

      It is not the photo that is being analyzed. It is its context. Photos require context. Without context photos can only be imagined as in a rochart test.

      The context of this photo; its purpose, is obscene.

  24. ron

    Getting American women to support the Afghan War continues to be a major element through various MSM channels. Central to this theme has been the traditional role Taliban positions women within society directly opposite the American modern working educated person. In reality nobody in Washington D.C. gives a shit about the Afghan women but it’s a sound bite that will get played again and again as the war grows more unpopular at home.

    1. sgt_doom

      ron, you are sooooo spot on.

      There is this ultimate slime from Hell, Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations, who goes around the country giving these completely INSANE speeches on the lack of women’s rights within those countries the US has invaded and destroyed women’s rights!!!!

      This slime-fem makes no sense, simply that the US should continue its imperialistic ways, supposedly it will save future women????????

      “Coleman was a partner in the New York office of McKinsey & Company ” (why is this soooo believable???)

  25. Armand Eddon

    Posts on strategic default, debt jubilee, etc should be accompanied by a personal DISCLOSURE – how far underwater is the opinionator?

    Disclosure: I bought what I could afford and believed to be reasonable in 1996, paid it off in 2001, then watched for another seven years, all the people making stupid [too much $] and greedy [‘equity’ extract] choices.

    Opinions: (1) There is far more moral hazard in the populace than in the financial system. (2) Make EVERYONE – individual and corporation – pay what they are legally obligated to pay.

  26. Ignim Brites

    There is really no consensus in the country about national purpose, internationally or domestically. In some sense, everything is up for grabs. In the 60’s there was a consensus. It was resistance to Communism. But even then there was considerable tactical dispute as the debacle of the Diem assassination illustrated. But the center held, albeit with major secessions from the left and the successful right through Bush 41. The election of Obama provided a brief flicker of hope that the US could be the beacon of a new multicultural politics. But that was just the narcissism of American progressivism. The Chinese, the Russians and the Islamic world reject that completely. And even domestically, the rejection of that aspiration is pretty strong. The Time magazine cover is a straight blade through the jugular of American progressivism. Today all that American progressivisim can offer is that the US will be a normal, essentially meaningless, nation. But there is always secession, the new name for revolution. That would be exciting and significant.

  27. charcad

    Yves here. Ahem, how much of this increase of “information” is merely “information” by virtue of it taking up bandwidth?

    Compared to what under the old top-down centralized system? “The Price Is Right”? “The Dating Game”? “Let’s Make A Deal”? The Gong Show? The many thousands of hours of ancient B grade movies replayed by local TV stations in the afternoons and late at night? Johnny Carson was already parodying that as “Art Fern and the Tea Time Movies” in the 1970s. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark?

    How much of that was “noise” instead of “signal” back in this presumed Golden Age of the peasants watching what their betters pre-approved for them?

    The question has no meaning unless a reliable baseline is established. Once we start looking into this issue a huge blast of the old static reappears. We see again the “vast wasteland” that was and is “TV”.

    As a society, we are clearly generating more meta information, more chatter about underlying events (witness this blog!), but how much of that is really just noise?

    And how much is substantive content? At the present time anyone with broadband access has a better science and engineering library at their fingertips than anyone outside the Library of Congress in 1990. And faster access and better search facilities than even those folks.

    This will make itself felt in short order. A great many value judgments passed by a self-selected academic-media-financial elite, and all purely on the basis of ‘what’s in it for me/us’, are now up for revisiting.

    I have great news for all the Peak Oilers, Global Warmers and other prophets of doomsday. The long awaited “Collapse” has already occurred. The centralized newspapers are going bankrupt and the centralized TV networks are following them in collapse, swishing merrily on their way down the toilet’s waste pipe. Good riddance.

    I suggest getting busy and learning something that is really productively useful to do for your family, friends and local neighbors.

    Personally I absolutely love the Year 2010 and the 21st Century in general. It hasn’t occurred to me once that any part of the late 20th Century from 1956 to 2000 was better in any aspect.

    1. anonny

      Hah, classic turkey pre Thanksgiving logic. As Taleb pointed out, a turkey being fattened for Thanksgiving has greatest confidence that all is going well the night before he is killed, since it’s then that he has accumulated the largest number of observations supporting his thesis that the farmer is a great buddy of his.

      1. charcad

        I’ll correct myself. I did find one aspect about the late 1990s better than now. The price of red caviar in Moscow was much lower.

  28. eric anderson

    “Information” ain’t what it used to be. Gallup: Americans confidence in newspapers drops from 39% to 25% since 1991. Americans’ confidence in television news drops from 46% to 22% over roughly the same time span.

    Time = fish wrap. If Time said the sun was shining at high noon, I would look out the window to check. Good grief, why are we all reading Mish, NC, Denninger, Jesse’s Cafe, Calculated Risk, and watching Janet Tavakoli on YouTube? MSM reporters don’t even know the right questions to ask. Even if they do, they’ll only report the answers that fit their preconceived template. I avoid network TV news, but every time I watch Newshour, Nightline, or the Sunday interview shows, I end up literally screaming at the TV because of the follow-up questions that are put out on a platter, begging, pleading, to be asked by the moderator.

    I pray Aisha gets a new nose (and ears), and that our Washington press corps get new brains.

  29. Back in the old days of USENET in the 1990’s, there was a phenomenon known as “crapflooding”. This is when a USENET discussion newsgroup would get overrun with irrelevant or off-topic messages in hopes of rendering it useless for its chartered purpose.

    Today, it seems to me that our entire societal discourse has been “crapflooded” — we’re constantly being immersed in nonsense and lies (like “Social Security is bankrupt” — err, no) to the point where it’s hard to tell what’s true and what’s not without doing some heavy shoveling of flying monkey feces to find the granules of truth buried beneath the tons of utter crap spewed upon our heads day after day after day by the flying monkey nonsense brigade. We have fallen prey to an informatics version of Gresham’s Law, except in our case it’s debased information supplanting good information because good information doesn’t have enough upside for various power interests. And I haven’t the foggiest notion what to do about it, since anybody who tells the truth in today’s day and age is almost automatically considered “Not Serious” (because only people who agree on the particular set of lies and nonsense believed by “Serious People” are considered “serious”) and thus ignored…

    1. MichaelC

      And yet here we are (again and again), despite being crapflooded, participating in serious discussions with serious people.

      Seems to me the inundated with information argument is bunk if we’re all able to filter it enough to find each other discussing signal issues.

      Filtering is not that tough. If all you’re doing is watching tv/listening to the radio or reading msm, then you’re inundated with irrelevancies.

      But that’s no different than it ever was. If you were in the habit of picking up a book 0-1000 years ago, you were already trained to filter noise. Books, blogs, internet what’s the difference.

      One key (successful)argument the banksters/regulators/pols/your spouse/kids/pre-internet parents use to discredit transparency proposals is that people are already overwhelmed with data. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!

      Give me more information than I can handle any day. I’ll find someone who can handle it and he’ll be glad to explain it. He probably won’t be a columnist at the NYT but I can deal with that.

      What’s missing in the comparison of the TIME cover to Walter Cronkite and the iconic photo is the seriousness of the messenger in Cronkite’s/Time case and the visceral revulsion of that Vietnam image/vs the exploitive posing of the Afghan woman.

      This is not about missing noise for signal. The cover was ignored because it is revolting noise (propaganda), not because we heartlessly ignored a revolting signal because we’re overwhelmed with images. I don’t know anyone who isn’t horrified afresh at Holocaust photos, no matter how many times they’ve seen them.

      And I’m sure I’m not alone in being horrified and outraged all over again, 40 years later, witnessing that innocent girl’s agony.

      Pell’s clueless navel gazing seems to undermine his (and NPRs Editors) callow analysis, no doubt the result of exposure to too many consciously unfiltered images.

  30. K Ackermann

    I watched a very interesting video some time ago that showed a stark contrast in how reality is shaped. It was a split screen video of the same event.

    On the left was an Israeli newscaster talking about a military strike carried out in Gaza. It was mostly her talking but there was also some infrared, high-altitude footage of bomb blasts taking place on the ground – presumably footage of the air-strike.

    On the right was the scene on the ground as shown by Al Jazeera. There was no commentary at all – just a cameraman who obviously had rushed to the scene before even emergency workers had arrived. It was gruesome. A lady gathering up the pieces of a child. A man who was pleading for help and being ignored because the lower part of his body was gone – he didn’t know he was dead yet.

    Some people were getting sterile images and polished commentary, and others were getting reality.

  31. Matt Stiles

    Sounds like a pouty media exec struggling to come to terms with his newfound irrelevance.

    They should do a reality show about that!

  32. citizendave

    The most effective photo I saw, that accomplished for me what this Time cover was trying to accomplish, was of several women working together to piece together their new constitution. I hate that war, but I got a lump in my throat over that image. Imagine, if you will, what it’s like to be an educated woman in Afghanistan, with some hope of incorporating fairness and equality into the new law of the land! To be clear, I am not advocating that we should “stay the course” — quite the contrary. I want us to get out of there. The Time cover is a cynical way to make a point that could have been made far more elegantly. But at this point I see no way for this mess to end well.

    1. citizendave

      Or maybe the image of the women working on the new constitution was taken in Iraq. Sorry, now I’m not sure, it was years ago.

  33. citizendave

    Perhaps it is worth noting that this problem of signal-to-noise ratio is exactly analogous to the problem the National Security Agency has with interception, storage, and analysis of signals intelligence. The sheer amount of data they collect presents a huge logistical problem. They can only analyze a tiny fraction.

  34. Jim the Skeptic

    citizendave says: “Perhaps it is worth noting that this problem of signal-to-noise ratio is exactly analogous to the problem the National Security Agency has with interception,….”

    This noise may reassure those who fear the NSA. But the NSA will have to develop techniques to overcome the limitation. My guess is that they are already doing that.

    Personally I favor systems which allow them to target sources better but I can not imagine a system that would not capture some innocent US citizens’ information. Why should I care if they know my name and phone number? I trust them much more than the major credit bureaus and other businesses collecting and selling my personal information.

    We can accept some remote possibility of abuse or we can accept intelligence failures such as September 11 2001. In spite of what the MSM seems to believe, we can’t tie the hands of intelligence gathering agencies and expect better results.

    Let’s be honest, if you don’t want the NSA to collect any information for any US citizen then at the same time you should say that 3000 deaths out of a population of 300,000,000 is an acceptable price to pay for privacy. We are not children.

    Rail against the noise.

  35. bartkid

    >As a society, we are clearly generating more meta information, more chatter about underlying events (witness this blog!), but how much of that is really just noise?

    Theodore Sturgeon answered this question years ago,

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