2019-09-05: The Future of the Spectacle ... or How the West Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Reality Police, by C. J. Hopkins

The redoubtable satirist CJ Hopkins, author of the black-comic dystopian classic-to-be Zone 23, responds to the comforting news that the US military has opened a Semantic Forensics research program with the potential mission to detect malicious intent and prevent viral fake news. Hopkins glimpses the future:

If you want a vision of the future, don't imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever, as Orwell suggested in 1984. Instead, imagine that human face staring mesmerized into the screen of some kind of nifty futuristic device on which every word, sound, and image has been algorithmically approved for consumption by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and its innovation ecosystem of academic, corporate, and governmental partners. The screen of this futuristic device will offer a virtually unlimited range of non-divisive and hate-free content, none of which will falsify or distort the truth, or in any way deviate from reality. Western consumers will finally be free to enjoy an assortment of news, opinion, entertainment, and educational content (like this Guardian podcast about a man who gave birth, or MSNBC's latest bombshell about Donald Trump's secret Russian oligarch backers) without having their enjoyment totally ruined by discord-sowing alternative journalists like Aaron Mate' or satirists like myself.

Also notable is Caitlin Johnstone's take on DARPA's Semantic Forensics via a swipe at Bezos Shopper (Washington Post) editorialist David Ignatius:

Do you lay awake at night terrified that the Russians are able to control your mind with information warfare while the US government's slavish devotion to democratic values leaves it powerless to stop them? Me neither. But according to The Washington Post, whose sole owner is a CIA contractor and Pentagon board member bent on hijacking the underlying infrastructure of the economy, we should be.

Update 2019-09-06: Matt Taibbi also weighs in with The Pentagon Wants to Use DARPA to Police Internet News:

If there's a fake news story out there, it's the fake news panic itself. It has the hallmarks of an old-school, WMD-style propaganda campaign. It includes terrifying pronouncements by unnamed intelligence officials, unprovable, overblown, or outright fake statistical assertions about the threat (like the oft-cited claim that fake election news had more engagement than real news), open conflation of legitimate domestic dissent with foreign attack, and routine dismissal of experts downplaying the problem (here are two significant studies suggesting the fake news phenomenon is overstated). Of course, the final, omnipresent ingredient in most major propaganda campaigns is the authoritarian solution. Here, it's unelected, unsupervised algorithmic control over media. We've never had a true news regulator in this country, yet the public is being conditioned now to accept one, without thinking of the consequences.