Belmont Club

A Holodeck as Big As Washington

“Simulated reality,” according to Wikipedia, “is the hypothesis that reality could be simulated—for example by computer simulation—to a degree indistinguishable from ‘true’ reality.”  What motivated Hillary Clinton to create a private email system, argues James Taranto, is that it gave her the means to simulate her own reality, or as Bloomberg’s journalists put it  “a high level of control over communications, including the ability to erase messages completely, according to security experts who have examined Internet records.”

“You erase it and everything’s gone,” Matt Devost, a security expert who has had his own private e-mail for years. Commercial services like those from Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. retain copies even after users erase them from their in-box.

Like many simulations, the illusion was complete only when viewed from within. When seen from outside the system, the simulation artifacts could be readily detected. But that kind of insecurity is acceptable because the system is designed to fool the American public, not the Russian or Chinese intelligence services.  In The World of Lawfare, if the legal system can’t officially see it that is good enough. Gawker notes that legal considerations were exactly what motivated Clinton. “An old ABC 20/20 report from 2001 that’s been on YouTube since 2007 shows Clinton might have avoided email entirely later in her term as first lady because of all investigations the Clinton White House was under.”

Senator CLINTON: (From home video) As much as I’ve been investigated and all of that, you know, why would I—I don’t even want—why would I ever want to do e-mail?

“Why would I ever want to do e-mail?” Indeed.  When you write your own record you can never be guilty of anything.  One newspaper editorial argued that politicians know perfectly well what is legally visible (and therefore acted upon by law enforcement) and what is not; and have created a huge infrastructure of alternative message handlers to circumvent the system. The Washington Examiner notes that while the argument that ‘everybody does it’ is not a legitimate defense, everybody in fact does it.  It cites similar but less extensive circumventions by Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, etc.

Enough people do it to employ an army of political operatives like Hillary’s mysterious Eric Hotham (or Hothem as it sometimes appears in the ghostly records which captures the trace of his existence) at enormous cost to create false trails, brush away tracks and throw everyone off the scent. These operatives are paid to create layers of complexity to obfuscate the facts, construct entire alternative channels of communication and sometimes manufacture a complete fictional record to present for inspection. Sealing records, classifying information, intimdating leakers — it’s all in a day’s work.

And it’s not just exalted personages like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama who are protected by this system.  Democratic inquisitor Lois Lerner’s hard disk was searched by a blind person before being physically destroyed. Not surprisingly, nothing irregular was found on Lerner’s drive that might aid in the investigation against her.  You know you’ve arrived when a cleanup team is assigned to look after you.

Someone like Hillary Clinton has more layers of defense than carrier battle group. David Brock, who heads the Soros-funded Media Matters for America, was out doing the talk show circuit telling anyone who would listen that the Hillary Clinton email scandal was entirely imaginary. You can listen to him in the video below. Not to be outdone, the honorable Representative Elijah Cummings (D) of Maryland’s Seventh District praised Clinton for setting a new standard for transparency — with a straight face.  That’s the truth and nothing but the truth.

“As far as I am aware, no other Cabinet secretary in history has ever called for the release of his or her emails — in their entirety and throughout his or her tenure,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement on Thursday. “I commend Secretary Clinton’s decision.”

Even if you get past Brock and Cummings, speed past the minders in the mainstream media, find Hotham (or Hothem) if you can,  somehow subpoena the servers you are only past the outer ring of defenses. You still have to run the gauntlet of close-in protection provided by the best lawyers money can buy who  will fight tenaciously, falling back from venue to venue, like a die-hard rear guard filing motion after motion, until you give up.

Those who live inside a simulated reality have no cheap way to objectively prove it because the construct is designed to evade falsification from within. Thus a Quinnipiac poll shows Hillary ahead of everyone, including all the possible Republican candidates because she’s such a towering and distinguished figure. As Breitbart already noted, foreign intelligence agencies unburdened by legal restrictions can potentially know far more than Americans can. Wired writes that Clinton’s private system was not particularly impressive. It would not have posed a self-evidently insurmountable barrier to enemy hackers.  The article goes on to list some of the more obvious defects.

Unlike the State Department’s State.gov domain, Clinton’s Clintonemail.com is currently registered with a private domain registrar, Network Solutions, as a simple Whois search reveals. The domain Clintonemail.com (and thus its registrar) was certainly known to at least one hacker: The notorious celebrity hacker Guccifer first revealed it in 2013 when he spilled the emails of Clinton associate Sydney Blumenthal….

Some critics have pointed out in recent days that Clintonemail.com currently uses an invalid TLS certificate, another method that a man-in-the-middle might use to intercept or spoof emails from the server; but Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer points out to WIRED that the State Department’s own TLS certificate is currently invalid, too. Mayer believes that Clinton’s bad certificate is a result of a misconfiguration that occurred when the email service was transferred in 2013 to the McAfee-owned company MX Logic. The State Department, Mayer says, uses a “self-signed certificate,” a less-than-sterling security practice. “Against man-in-the middle attacks, both are currently insecure,” he says.

But Russians are less of a threat to Hillary than American voters. That raises the tantalizing question: what would the public see if it could look past the simulation?  What lies outside the Dome?  Who are Hillary, Obama, Abedin or Mitt Romney in actuality?  Perhaps even more interesting is the question of whether these exalted personages, or indeed anyone,  can detect the truth.  While it is tempting to think that David Brock or “Eric Hotham” know the truth, they in all probability know only another version of the lie.

To see why this is so, consider this thought experiment.  Imagine a database application whose users are all trying to corrupt the underlying information store.  Inevitably they begin to rely on information that others, or even themselves have previously debased.  You debase the debased. The system inexorably reaches the point where it is merely a database of lies. People actually do this all the time as Eli Lake points out in his article, Petraeus, Justice and Washington’s Culture of Leaks.  A leaker comes forward with the ‘truth’, but is he a Nosenko come to tell you the KGB didn’t shoot JFK? Who can say in that “wilderness of mirrors”, that mutant funhouse? To use another example, we are told that Obama Hid 100,000 Amnesty Approvals From Texas Judge.  With termites gnawing at the structure 24×7 what can you really rely on?

The whole point of official spin is to create a fiction in order to avoid the inconvenience posed by reality. Of course this creates problems of its own because soon everyone is bathing in his own sewage. Recently Google announced an initiative to replace or supplement its ranking algorithm with a judgment based on the “truth” — the truth of course, being determined by Google itself.

The internet is stuffed with garbage. Anti-vaccination websites make the front page of Google, and fact-free “news” stories spread like wildfire. Google has devised a fix – rank websites according to their truthfulness.

Google’s search engine currently uses the number of incoming links to a web page as a proxy for quality, determining where it appears in search results. So pages that many other sites link to are ranked higher. This system has brought us the search engine as we know it today, but the downside is that websites full of misinformation can rise up the rankings, if enough people link to them.

A Google research team is adapting that model to measure the trustworthiness of a page, rather than its reputation across the web. Instead of counting incoming links, the system – which is not yet live – counts the number of incorrect facts within a page. “A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy,” says the team. The score they compute for each page is its Knowledge-Based Trust score.

Will this fix it? No. The obvious defect of this approach is that it uses simulated reality to judge its own realism. But truth is undecidable inside a database of lies. Once Clinton corrupts a fact, Google’s algorithm simply spreads the poison. The only way back to reality is to go straight to it by direct verification outside the system. The propositions “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam” and “Isis wages war Twitter: Militants target co-founder Jack Dorsey and threaten to behead employees for deleting accounts” are both to be found on the Internet. Which is the simulated reality and which the truth? To find out, go to Syria and see for yourself. The result may not be what you expect, but what you find is more probably true than what the Marie Harf says.

The unintended consequences of living in a narrative crop up everywhere. Justin McBrayer at the New York Times wonders why modern children have become convinced that there are no “moral facts”. He writes:

What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?

I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture. …

In summary, our public schools teach students that all claims are either facts or opinions and that all value and moral claims fall into the latter camp. The punchline: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.

No moral facts, because there is no external basis to judge whether murder is “good” or “bad”.  It’s just an opinion.  But it is probably worse than that. Not only are there no moral facts, there are increasingly no facts of any other sort either. When National Security consultant Stephen Coughlin says U.S. Foreign Policy Leaders ‘Have Lost The Ability To Think’, I think he is asserting essentially asserting our inability to distinguish between simulated reality and real reality.

From his time briefing generals in the Pentagon, Stephen Coughlin — a leading expert on national security and author of the soon-to-be-published book, “Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad” — has always feared for our nation’s safety and thinks it’s time for the government to stop lying….

He contends that government bureaucrats have become so focused on fighting “narratives” consistent with a post-modern, politically correct worldview, rather than the facts on the ground, that America’s war on terrorism has become a catastrophic failure.

We are fighting ISIS and Putin inside the video game while our opponents are fighting us in the real world by strangling us in the physical chair we sit in. We’ve lost the ability to tell the difference and wondering, why if we are winning in the game inside the computer there is a razor slashing across our cheek.  And if you want to know why, look no further than Hillary Clinton. She has spent millions of dollars to adjust perception. Just tons of money to create or potentially create a false record. But in the end she too will be a victim of her own deception. The real danger of the lie is that the liar inevitably comes to believe it himself.

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