International Conflict Observatory

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This article invites readers to join an effort to improve international understanding among competing groups in conflict by helping document the common beliefs and misunderstandings that drive conflict, thereby making it easier for (a) supporters of all sides to understand their opposition, and (b) leaders to resolve conflicts at minimum cost while maximizing the quality of life for most parties long term.

Critical questions for conflict management:

  1. To what extent does the outcome of any conflict, especially armed conflict, rely on the actions of people not initially involved?
  2. How much do changes in the level of commitment, desertions and defections contribute to the outcome?
  3. How much do tactics used, especially collateral damage, impact recruitment from the sidelines and changes in level of commitment and through those the official outcome as well as the evolution of the level of democratization and economic development after the official end of a struggle?
  4. How does the structure of the media (military intelligence, PsyOps, censorship, and ownership and management) impact the evolution of conflict and its long-term impact?[1]

One answer to the post-conflict question was provided by the analysis of all the major governmental change efforts of the twentieth century conducted by Chenoweth and Stephan: Among the over 300 major governmental change efforts they identified, on average violence promoted tyranny, while nonviolence helped build democracy.[2]

More research is needed to understand the evolution of group identity in conflict[3] and how that and the structure and management of the media contribute to the prospects for peace, prosperity and democracy beyond the official end of a conflict.

This discussion says very little about the political leadership of any party to conflict, because leaders are rarely effective in asking people to support actions contrary to the belief systems of the followers. If the information available to the public changes, the leaders will either change or be replaced.[4]

Under what circumstances would you do what you see your opposition doing?[edit | edit source]

This may be the single most important question in almost any conflict:

If you cannot see circumstances under which you might do what you see your opposition doing, you probably don't understand what drives your opponents. Worse, what you do in “self defense” may be counterproductive because of that misunderstanding.

Sun Tzu: If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

Examples[edit | edit source]

US War in Vietnam[edit | edit source]

Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who left office in 1961, said in his 1963 autobiography that he had never communicated with anyone knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs [including Vietnam], who did not agree that the Communist Ho Chi Minh might have gotten 80 percent of the vote if elections had been held there at the time of the fighting [leading to the defeat of the French in 1954].[5]

This was the universal expert consensus.

It was rarely if ever reported in the mainstream US media of that day, presumably because it would have offended the people who controlled media funding and governance.[6]

H. R. McMaster said in (1997) Dereliction of Duty:

The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of The New York Times, or on the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C. ... [It was] a uniquely human failure, the responsibility for which was shared by President Johnson and his principal military and civilian advisors.[7]

An alternative view is that the power of confirmation bias is so strong that the mainstream media in effect create the stage upon which politicians read their lines. If this is accurate, it suggests that US presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson may have believed that they had few options to do much that was dramatically different from what they did in Vietnam.

For example, US Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican, captured the nation's attention in 1950 with unsubstantiated claims of Communists working for the US State Department under President Harry Truman, a Democrat. McCarthy accused the Democrats of "20 years of treason" for having (a) lost China to Communism and (b) been excessively friendly toward the Soviet Union during the previous 20 years. Before the end of 1953, after Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, had been President less a year, McCarthy complained that Eisenhower had not been sufficiently aggressive in eliminating the Communists from the US government, still without evidence, complaining of "21 years of treason".[8] President Eisenhower presumably noticed the absence of media coverage of what he regarded as the universal expert consensus on Vietnam. In that environment, one can imagine that Eisenhower knew he might have difficulty getting reelected in November 1956 if a Communist had won an election in Vietnam earlier that year. If that's accurate, it could explain why Eisenhower may have taken steps to ensure that no such election was held, effectively blocking the implementation of that part of the Geneva Accords of 1954.

A decade later, only two members of the US Congress (Senators Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening) voted against the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Johnson a blank check to escalate the war in 1965. Both Senators were defeated when they next ran for reelection; Gruening was defeated in the primary. In Dereliction of Duty, McMaster acknowledges that President Johnson was worried that if he appeared too soft on Communism, he could lose the 1964 presidential election. He therefore pushed the US military in Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin to support raids from South Vietnam against the North, hoping to provoke an attack, which he could then denounce as "unprovoked". There had apparently been an actual confrontation on August 2, which Johnson chose to ignore. That was followed on August 4 by an incident that involve the US Navy firing ordinance at false radar images without an attack. Johnson denounced the August 4 incident as an "unprovoked attack", which was followed by the almost unanimous approval by the US Congress of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.[9]

To restate, to what extent was the US War in Vietnam due to (a) a "dereliction of duty", as McMaster claimed, or (b) the political environment created by the media, or (c) something else?

The War on Terror[edit | edit source]

In summarizing "What We Have Learned about Terrorism since 9/11", Gaibulloev and Sandler (2019) said, "we find that many counterterrorism policies have unintended negative consequences owing to attack transference and terrorist backlash. This suggests the need for novel policies such as service provision to counter some terrorist groups’ efforts to provide such services."[10]

The justification for the War on Terror seems much flimsier than the rationale behind the Vietnam War. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the People's Republic of China were (and have continued to be) large and powerful countries, though perhaps not as powerful as the mainstream media in the US have made them out to be.

US government documents declassified 2016-07-15 establish that US government officials knew as early as 1999 that members of the Saudi royal family and employees of the Saudi embassy and consulates in the US were involved in preparations for a major terrorist attack. This documentation included an America West flight that made an emergency landing in Ohio in 1999 when two Saudis tried to break into the cockpit.[11]

Why did the US not declare war on Saudi Arabia?[12]
Alternatively, why didn't the US treat the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001, as a major crime? The government of Afghanistan offered to consider extraditing bin Laden but wanted evidence.[13]

Osama bin Laden did not get a fair trial: He was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, where the rules of evidence are whatever will maximize the power of those who control the money for the media. People in the US think that the execution of Osama bin Laden was a great success for SEAL Team Six. And it was a technical success for the soldiers involved in that operation. However, it deeply offended the people of Pakistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world. In the final analysis, it may have been a strategic blunder on the part of the US.

If the US government documents declassified 2016-07-15 mentioned above are accurate, evidence of bin Laden's culpability in the September 11 attacks would likely also have implicated members of the Saudi royal family and other Saudi government employees. Exposing that likely would have offended major US international business interests, thereby also threatening the profitability of major commercial media in the US.

Beyond that, Jones and Libicki (2008) studied "How Terrorist Groups End". They identified 268 terrorist groups that ended between 1968 and 2006 and categorized how they ended: political settlement (43%), law enforcement (40%), winning (10%) vs. military defeat (7%). This analysis leaves out a key piece of information: How many of those 268 terrorist groups had been confronted by military force. We know that this number is between 7 and 100 percent, but we can infer more than that. For example, the Jones and Libicki (2008) database includes several groups operating in Northern Ireland. Some were ended by law enforcement. Some converted to nonviolent political actors following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Some continued after 2006. But the British military operated in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2007. If military forces had been used against all the terrorist groups that ended during that period, then the military was by far the least effective response to terrorism, with the terrorist being more likely to win than be defeated militarily.[14]

Terrorism deaths in the United States 1970-2015. The spike in 2001 is labeled, not plotted, because it is almost 20 times the death toll from the second largest terrorist attack in US history, the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people in 1995.

Proportionality[edit | edit source]

Fernandez-Morera reported that, "Someone drowns in a tub [bathtub, hot tub or spa] nearly every day in America".[15] That's over 10 times the median number of people in the US succumbing to terrorism between 1975 and 2015, and is only exceeded by the terrorist deaths in the US in 2001; see the accompanying plot of terrorism deaths in the US.[16] Similarly, the average number of fatalities on US highways per month in 2001 was 3,516.[17] A cynic might argue that we would not want a silly thing like one month's road kill on US highways to disrupt the flow of international business. If accurate, this could explain why Saudi support for Islamic terrorism has rarely been mentioned in the mainstream US media, in spite of the information in "The 28 pages" and an August 2018 Associated Press report that Saudi Arabia was paying al Qaeda to help fight Yemeni rebels.[18]

How do perceptions in conflict get so distorted?[edit | edit source]

The Wikiversity discussion of "confirmation bias and conflict" explains how perceptions in conflict get so distorted:

  1. Everyone prefers information and sources consistent with preconceptions.
  2. The mainstream media everywhere profit from this to benefit those who control the money for the media.

That Wikiversity article suggests that individuals can overcome these and similar problems by (1) resetting our preconceptions to believe that our opponents in almost any conflict know things we don't, and (2) looking for media that will help us understand those differences and creating such alternative media when we can't find information that makes our opponents seem rational.

Developing the needed alternative information[edit | edit source]

The present analysis suggests five reforms that could improve the prospects for the future for all parties in conflict and for people on the sidelines, whose future might otherwise be threatened by an expansion of the death and destruction:

  1. Use artificial intelligence (AI) and text processing / content analysis to identify how different parties to conflict describe the same events in different terms and documenting that in ways that allow others to develop interventions that may help bridge the divide. During the COVID-19 pandemic, O'Leary and Storey predicted "the number of people in the USA who will become infected and die from the coronavirus" using "the number of Google searches, Twitter tweets, and Wikipedia page views".[19] Crudely similar techniques could be used to document and understand conflict the world over.
  2. Encourage honest research and advocacy organizations to hire Wikimedians in residence to help improve (a) the coverage in Wikipedia of conflicts while also possibly crowdsourcing additional research using Wikiversity and using Wikidata to help connect both while facilitating data analysis and (b) the use of that information to counter the tendency of media organizations to amplify polarization and conflict.
  3. Change internet law to reduce or reverse the financial incentives that currently reward internet companies for clicks that amplify disinformation and polarization.
  4. Develop a new "Organization for Discreet International Negotiations", that would serve as a neutral observer and discreet intermediary to make it easier for parties in conflict to negotiate cease fires and rules of engagement that could limit the escalation and improve the chances for deescalation of a conflict.[20]
  5. Question censorship and propaganda in psychological warfare: They may help the people in power on one side or the other retain their positions of privilege. However, limiting their use could improve the chances for an early settlement and improved prospects for peace, democracy, and broadly shared economic development long term. They do this in two ways. First, classified information can be too easily distorted and misjudged. Tetlock and Gardner claimed that their "superforcasters" using unclassified sources produced on average better forecasts than security analysts working for government security services with access to classified information.[21] Second, censorship enables political corruption. McChesney and Nichols insisted that the US has had three positive experiences in nation building: Its own and Germany and Japan after World War II. All three had substantive subsidies for journalism with firewalls to minimize political interference in what is reported. After World War II, General Eisenhower "called in German reporters and told them he wanted a free press. If they disagreed with decisions he made, he wanted them to say so in print." By contrast, Paul Bremer, who was in charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq following US President George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech, May 1, 2003, compared his task with that of the US occupations of Japan and Germany after World War II but imposed strict censorship, under which political corruption flourished while democracy and prospects for peace foundered.[22][23]

Use of volunteers[edit | edit source]

This can start with volunteers improving or producing documentation of “Why they hate us” in appropriate articles on Wikipedia or Wikiversity to help each side understand their opposition in the world's major conflicts.

Volunteers can help with the following:

  • Identifying major conflicts.
  • Finding good documentation of the positions of each major party to conflict and posting summaries those positions to Wikipedia and Wikiversity to help each party understand their opposition better. This can make it harder for xenophobes be successful and can make it easier for more sensible leaders to pursue more useful and less counterproductive approaches to conflict.
  • Identifying major research organizations that produce good quality documentation useful for such analyses.
  • Identifying major advocates for better policies among the different major parties in conflict and helping those nonviolent advocacy groups promote more effective (and less lethal) approaches to conflict. [NOTE: In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2010) the US Supreme Court ruled that the Humanitarian Law Project violated the Patriot Act's prohibition on providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations by teaching nonviolence to the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Turkey and Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to help them resolve conflicts nonviolently. If the findings of Chenoweth and Stephan cited above apply to these cases, it says that the Patriot Act and similar legislation are obstacles to the long term prospects for peace, democracy, and broadly shared economic growth.]
  • Helping the most valuable research organizations and advocacy groups obtain increased funding for their efforts.

If you think you can help with this, first look for Wikipedia article(s) relating to the conflict that concerns you and try to improve those. If you think another article is warranted, make sure you have enough credible references to confirm that the topic of your proposed article is sufficiently notable to justify its own Wikipedia article. If you have that, you can create a Wikipedia article. However, it's wise if you create the entire article in your "sandbox" with a copy of the complete article with its companion MediaWiki markup code. If it is deleted from Wikipedia, you can transfer it to Wikiversity as a {{Research project}}, where you can work to try to crowdsource further improvements.

It would be good to have a category that we could use to tag all articles pertaining to substantive conflicts with something like [[Category:Conflict observatory]]. Alternatively or in addition to this, you can add comments, questions and / or suggestions to the “Discuss” page associated with this or other articles.

Wikimedia Foundation and managing conflict[edit | edit source]

The section on "Articles on contentious issues" in the Wikipedia article on "Reliability of Wikipedia" cites research documenting the effectiveness of Wikipedia in getting people with very different perspectives to collaborate in producing a narrative of a physical reality they share for which their constructed realities are very different and a source of conflict.[24]

Discussions of well documented aspects of a particular conflict could be handled on Wikipedia. Other aspects might be rejected on Wikipedia as violating their rule against original research. Such discussions could be hosted on Wikiversity, at least initially. If the volume of this type of work became sufficiently large, it might be spun off into a separate project.[25]

Wikimedians in residence[edit | edit source]

One option might be to encourage honest research or peace advocacy organizations concerned with different conflicts to hire Wikimedian(s) in residence to try to recruit people concerned about particular conflicts to improve the documentation and seek ways of describing the concerns of different parties to the conflict in ways that all sides can more or less live with. A 2006 article noted that Wikipedia was in this way an exception to the general rule that most people live in their own echo chambers.[26] Shi et al. (2017) conduced a more rigorous content analysis of all edits to English Wikipedia articles relating to politics, social issues and science from its start to December 1, 2016. Their report, "The wisdom of polarized crowds", concluded that the best articles tended to involve many editors with very different views on the topic. They said that 95 percent of articles could benefit from more diverse editors; only 5 percent of articles suffered from excessive conflict.[27]

What can be done to recruit more diverse editors to collaborate in documenting alternative perspectives on the worlds most contentious conflicts? Might Wikimedian(s) in residence with some of the world's most respected organizations studying conflict be able to help those organizations improve the use of their research and the research of others with perhaps contrary perspectives? Might some of those Wikimedian(s) in residence similarly be able to recruit, train and manage supporters of different parties to major conflicts to produce quality articles on Wikipedia and perhaps original research that could grow on Wikiversity before being submitted to refereed academic journal(s), similar to the process described in WikiJournal of Science or Wikipedia:Wiki to journal publication?

Unreasonable editors[edit | edit source]

Some potential contributors may be incapable of writing from a neutral point of view and treating with respect people with whom they disagree, especially if they are paid to represent that perspective. For example, after the November 2020 US Presidential election, Sidney Powell, an attorney for then-President Trump, made numerous allegations that the election technology companies Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic had engaged in a conspiracy to rig the election against Trump. When Dominion sued for $1.3 billion, Powell's attorney argued that "no reasonable person would conclude that [Powell's statements] were truly statements of fact",[28] but that Powell did not act with "actual malice", because "she believed the allegations then and she believes them now".[29] Evidently, Powell's attorney was saying she was unreasonable.

Similarly, in Fish v. Kobach, Hans von Spakovsky, the manager of the Heritage Foundation's Election Law Reform Initiative, testified that a U.S. GAO study reported that up to 3 percent of the 30,000 individuals called for jury duty from voter registration roles over a two-year period in just one U.S. district court were not U.S. citizens, implying that the percentage of non-citizens on voter rolls in other jurisdictions may also be that high. On cross-examination, however, he acknowledged that he had failed to mention that the GAO study he cited contained information on a total of 8 district courts; 4 of the 8 reported that no non-citizen had been called for jury duty; and the 3 remaining district courts had reported that less than 1% of those called for jury duty from voter rolls were noncitizens.[30] In that same trial, Chris Kobach established that 39 non-citizens were registered to vote in Kansas. He claimed those cases were just the tip of an iceberg. Judge Julie Robinson, who had been appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, a Republican, noted that Kobach's Election Voter Information System (ELVIS) contained records of 400 people whose registration date was before their date of birth; if correct, they had registered to vote before they were born. Robinson concluded that Kobach's evidence was easily explained as administrative errors and was an icicle, not an iceberg.[31]

People who make money from promoting the positions of one side or another are often unreasonable, reflecting their conflicts of interest. This probably includes the mainstream media everywhere, at least to the extent that the people who control the money for the media have more financial and emotional ties with one of the parties than others in a particular conflict.[32]

[edit | edit source]

Google searches for things like "Help editing Wikipedia", "Help with Wikipedia", "paid editing Wikipedia", and "Wikipedia:paid editing" returned different "Ads" at different times.

On 2021-04-01 the top result from a Google search for "gimp software wikipedia" was an "Ad" for:

  • Wiki Creatives, Wikidata Q106528169, which advertises, "Professional Wikipedia Page Creation Services".

On 2021-04-16 the top three results from a Google search for "wikipedia:paid editing" were "Ads" for:

On 2021-04-17, the top result from Google searches for "Help editing Wikipedia", "Help with Wikipedia", and "paid editing Wikipedia" was an "Ad" for:

On 2021-04-23, the first result from Google searches for "Wikipedia:Edit war" was an "Ad" for:

Wikipedia has a policy that generally discourages but not preclude paid editing. If you do it, you must disclose it.

However, it's often difficult to detect paid editing, and it is sometimes done in violation of Wikipedia's policy on this.[33] Some IP addresses associated with the United States Congress have been blocked for disruptive editing, e.g., burnishing the images of members of congress or tarnishing the images of their political opponents.

Especially in armed conflict, military psychological warfare units work to disseminate claims of evil doings of designated enemies while suppressing and distorting information describing their own "collateral damage".

This analysis suggests there may be an important role for Wikimedian(s) in residence working for honest research organizations to identify deceptive and inappropriate editing, and block violators when that seems appropriate, as well as trying to recruit and train others to help with documenting and disseminating honest information about issues that concern them.

The current legal environment for Internet and other media companies amplifies political polarization and conflict[edit | edit source]

Harvard social psychology professor emeritus Shoshana Zuboff is concerned about The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. This includes the following:

  1. Zuboff says that "surveillance capitalism" began in 2000 during the Dot-com bust when Google figured out how to sell ad clicks -- changes in audience behaviors -- to advertisers.[34] This requires learning each individual's hot buttons, issues that motivate them to click. Those are often provocative, near the limits of what that person finds credible. This has two important implications for this discussion: (a) Reality is rarely that provocative, but for-profit Internet algorithms are not good at ascertaining truth, and truth doesn't make money, so they'd lose money worrying about it. (b) People who clicks often believe the provocative message. Consequently, Google makes money by increasing political polarization.
  2. Surveillance capitalism got a huge boost in 2007 when Sheryl Sandberg left Google to become Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook: Users voluntarily have given Facebook a lot of information about themselves that Google could only infer. In 2018, media studies professor Siva Vaidhyanathan warned that companies such as Facebook are "undermining democracy everywhere," because they make it profitable to target groups as small as twenty with ephemeral advertisements which usually disappear after a brief presence. Therefore the existence and content of those ads cannot be documented unless captured by a viewer as they are being presented. "Facebook is working directly with campaigns — many of which support authoritarian and nationalist candidates. ... For the 2016 United States presidential election, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google all embedded staff in the digital headquarters of major presidential candidates ... as de facto unpaid consultants ... . Facebook, with its superior penetration ... and its powerful advertising targeting services, became the most important and powerful ally in that election.[35] President Trump's second National Security Advisor, retired Lt. General H.R. McMaster said this has provided the Russian military "with a low-cost, easy way to divide and weaken America [and other targeted countries, especially U.S. allies] from within," substantively degrading their national security.[36]
  3. Modern automobiles, smart TVs, smart speakers, and other "smart" devices, are watching you. Your insurance company may harvest your driving record and use that to set your rates and decide whether to pay a claim. If you are late making a payment on an automobile loan, the lender can tell the car not to start for you while the car reports its location, so they can easily repossess it.[37] Google (or its parent, Alphabet Inc.) knows where every Android device is every second that it connects with a cell tower or Wi-Fi and sells that information to the highest bidder.[38] Security agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA) or even big businesses who feel threatened by certain political activists could arrange unfortunate "accidents". Journalist Michael Hastings died in an automobile crash 2013-06-18 after the throttle stuck wide open on the late-model Mercedes he was driving. The Los Angeles Police Department reported no signs of foul play,[39] and a brother said that Michael was "having a manic episode" with possible drug abuse.[40] However, it was also reported that he was preparing new reports on the CIA at the time of his death,[41] and a counter-terrorism expert reported, "There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers—including the United States—know how to remotely seize control of a car."[42] The CIA may not have been involved, but they reportedly had motive, means and opportunity. More importantly, any government employee, who suggests to their manager(s) that they should not lie to Congress could be fired and persecuted like Richard Barlow. Anyone who provides a media outlet with documentation of criminal behavior by US government officials could serve time in prison like Bradley / Chelsea Manning, Reality Winner, or Jeff Sterling or be otherwise persecuted like Sibel Edmonds or Ed Snowden.

Suggested responses to these concerns[edit | edit source]

Suggested responses to these concerns include the following:

  • Replacing advertising as the source of funding for social media with subscriptions.[43]
  • Make internet companies liable for defamation in advertisements, similar to print media and broadcasting. Per New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), print and broadcast media can be sued for the content of ads they disseminate. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 exempts internet companies from this liability. Dean Baker recommended changing Section 230 to remove this exclusion. Defamation in content that is not differentially promoted by the internet company should be treated the same as copyright violations: An offended party could notify the internet company of the alleged violation. If the violation persists after a certain number of days, the internet company could be sued.[44]
  • Tax advertising revenue received by large internet companies and use that to fund more local media. US newspapers have lost 70 percent of their advertising revenue since 2004. As a result, they now employ 50 percent fewer journalists. A quarter of the nation's newspapers have ceased publication. Most of the ones that remain publish less, and many publish less often.[45] Karr and Aaron (2019) recommended taxing "targeted advertising" sold by major internet companies like Facebook and using that money "to fund a public-interest media system that places civic engagement and truth-seeking over alienation and propaganda. They said, for example, that "a tax of 2 percent on targeted ads could produce approximately $2 billion per year in revenue for a Public Interest Media Endowment to support independent, community-based and investigative journalism, among other innovations."[46]
  • McChesney and Nichols (2016) recommended $100 per year per person in citizen-directed subsidies for journalism, funds whose disbursement would be controlled by the audience for news, not by government officials nor advertisers. This $100 was roughly 0.2 percent of national income, Gross Domestic Product, which is the subsidy for newspapers provided by the US Postal Service Act of 1792: Under that act, newspapers were delivered up to 100 miles for a penny, when first class postage was between 6 and 25 cents.[47] By contrast, Rolnick et al. (2019) suggests that $50 per person per adult might be adequate.
  • However, between 1919 and 2007, advertising averaged roughly 2 percent of GDP in the US.[48] This raises the question of whether $50 or $100 per person per year, 0.1 or 0.2 percent of GDP, would be enough, especially with the current concentration of ownership of the media.
  • We could also require that all companies, whose income depends on promoting or "boosting" content, whether in advertisements or "underwriting spots" or clickbait, should provide copies of the ads, underwriting spots and clickbait to a central repository like the Internet Archive with sufficient information to make the content easily searchable -- AND to make it easy to document any defamation for legal action.
  • Any media or journalism organization that receives public funds, e.g., from citizen-directed subsidies for journalism, as mentioned above, should be required to live by a fairness doctrine, stronger that the FCC fairness doctrine, in place in the US between 1949 and 1987. Opponents say a fairness doctrine is an attack on First Amendment and property rights and would target conservative media.[49][50] That's misleading: A Fairness Doctrine would target unfair media, whether liberal, conservative or something else. The 1915 film The Birth of a Nation was a great financial success for its producer and inspired the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan, which had been suppressed by law enforcement during Reconstruction over 40 years earlier and which subsequently produced a massive wave of racist violence and voter suppression. Defamation law should be strengthened to make it harder for people to profit from producing media that incite violence without substantive evidence to support their claims. Today, Facebook and for-profit Conservative media are being accused of profiting financially from disseminating unsubstantiated claims that the November 2020 election was stolen from then-President Trump. A Reuters / Ipsos poll in May 2021, over 5 months after the election, found that, "A majority of Republicans still believe Donald Trump won the 2020 U.S. presidential election and blame his loss to Joe Biden on illegal voting".[51] It doesn't have to be this way. In 1927 a lawsuit by Jews forced Henry Ford to cease publication of his anti-Semitic newspaper, Dearborn Independent, and book, The International Jew, but this did not prevent the book being translated into German and being used as a recruiting tool for the Nazis. If the radio companies that carried the anti-Semitic rants of Father Coughlin in the 1930s had been forced to provide balanced analyses backed by evidence of contentious issues raised in their broadcasts, the US would likely not have been nearly as anti-Semitic at that time and might have admitted more Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. If that had happened, it might have made it more difficult for Hitler to justify building the death camps.
  • Concentration of ownership of media organizations threaten democracy by limiting the range of acceptable political discourse. Rolnik et al. (2019) recommend holding proposed mergers of media companies to a higher standard than other potential mergers. We may also modify the tax structure to eliminate loopholes used by large media companies and require large media companies to pay higher tax rates.

Bottom line: We need something to reduce the increasing polarization of the international body politic, including a central database on ads and xenophobic rhetoric to facilitation research and experiments in how to reduce these threats to world peace and democracy.

Action plan[edit | edit source]

This discussion suggests multiple needs summarized in the accompanying table. This suggests a need first to contact others with the Wikimedia Foundation to get their help in refining how to propose something of this nature to potential collaborators in research and advocacy organizations.

Needed How
1.  More detail on conflicts & how to manage More & better editors for Wikipedia, Wikiversity, Wikidata (+ text processing / AI?).
2.  Minimize collateral damage and encourage deescalation Change rules of engagement and choice of tactics & strategy.
3. Discreet intermediary to handle peace feelers Organization for Discreet International Negotiations (proposed).
4.  Change incentives for internet and other media companies to amplify conflict. (a) Citizen-directed subsidies for journalism. (b) Make internet companies liable for defamation in ads and clickbait. (c) Central searchable database of all ads and clickbait. (d) Noncommercial social media. (e) Reduce the illegitimate economies of scale of large media companies.
5. Encourage teaching nonviolence Overturn Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2010).
6. Limit the use of classified information Overturn United States v. Reynolds (1953).[23][21]
7. Better dissemination (a) Connect conflict NGOs with Wikipedia & Wikiversity. (b) Change internet law to make it harder for foreign (e.g., Russia) and domestic big money interests to polarize the international body politic.

See also[edit | edit source]

Evolution of conflict

References[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. This problem is not new. Lippmann (1922) said that during the Great War, German media reported that Catholic priests in Belgium (enemies of German protestants) had encouraged their parishioners to torture "wounded and defenseless German soldiers, tearing out their eyes and cutting off fingers, nose or ears". "[S]ince the legend came from their [German] heroes, they [Germans] were not only entitled to believe it, they were unpatriotic if they did not." Belgians who resisted the German military invasion of their country were described as "sub-human" (Ch. 7, pp. 100-103). Ch. 9 includes, "Out of the opposition we make villains and conspiracies. If prices go up unmercifully the profiteers have conspired; if the newspapers misrepresent the news, there is a capitalist plot; if the rich are too rich, they have been stealing; ... [I]f you go stark, staring mad looking for plots, you see all strikes, ... the League of Nations, ... short skirts, ... Negro self-assertion, as sub-plots under some grandiose plot engineered either by Moscow, Rome, the Free Masons, the Japanese, or the Elders of Zion (p. 129). In ch. 11 he discusses "the war propagandists". Lippmann wrote, "there was not a bestial quality in human nature they did not find everywhere east of the Rhine, or west of it if they were Germans." (p. 169)
  2. Erica Chenoweth; Maria J. Stephan (2011), Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0-231-15683-7, OL 26095255M, Wikidata Q88725216. Their database has been expanded and now includes over 600 major violent and nonviolent governmental change efforts between 1900 and 2019. For a summary of that and other relevant research, see Erica Chenoweth (2021), Civil Resistance: What everyone needs to know, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-024442-2, Wikidata Q106634117.
  3. Spencer Graves (26 February 2005), The Impact of Violent and Nonviolent Action on Constructed Realities and Conflict (PDF), Wikidata Q58635572.
  4. Replacing leaders is easier in democracies, but many autocrats have been overthrown when they've lost touch with their populace.
  5. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1963), Mandate for Change: The White House Years 1953-1956: A Personal Account, Doubleday, Wikidata Q61945939, p. 372.
  6. It may also have offended the audience for the media, but that's only because any such claims were totally inconsistent with most of the other information that the audience was getting. See Confirmation bias and conflict.
  7. Paul F. Braim (1997), "Book review: Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam", US Army War College Quarterly: Parameters, 27 (3): 162–81, ISSN 0031-1723, Wikidata Q104828616.
  8. On 2021-04-30 The Wikipedia article on w:Joseph McCarthy noted that he was elected to the US Senate in 1946. 'Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in the United States in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread communist subversion. ... McCarthy characterized Truman and the Democratic Party as soft on, or even in league with, Communists, and spoke of the Democrats' "twenty years of treason". ... By the end of 1953, McCarthy had altered the "twenty years of treason" catchphrase he had coined for the preceding Democratic administrations and began referring to "twenty-one years of treason" to include Eisenhower's first year in office.' This is documented in Albert Fried (1997), McCarthyism: the great American Red scare: a documentary history, Oxford University Press, Wikidata Q106659308, pp. 5, 179.
  9. H. R. McMaster (2 September 1997), Dereliction of Duty, Harper Perennial, p. 352, Wikidata Q5262519, esp. p. 124.
  10. Khusrav Gaibulloev; Todd Sandler (June 2019), "What We Have Learned about Terrorism since 9/11", Journal of Economic Literature, 57 (2): 275–328, ISSN 0022-0515, Wikidata Q106939022.
  11. For a summary, see The 28 pages. For the document declassified on 2017-07-15, see Wikisource:Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001/Part 4 (Declassified).
  12. Evidence regarding why the US didn't declare war on Saudi Arabia might be found in the history of foreign interventions by the United States: US international business interests seem to prefer authoritarian regimes to democracies, and these international business interests control major advertising budgets. This gives the mainstream media in the US a conflict of interest in honestly reporting on anything that might offend key decision makers in these major advertisers, as suggested in the Wikiversity article on "Confirmation bias and conflict".
  13. Chomsky noted that the Afghan government may not have been serious in offering to consider extraditing bin Laden, but that offer was not even considered in Washington. For more on the effectiveness of law enforcement, note that Tyler published path-breaking research on "Why people obey the law." Tyler and Huo concluded that African Americans and Latinos had the same concept as majority Whites in the US but different experiences. Mann, a retired Special Forces Lt. Col., claims to have made great progress against the Taliban in Afghanistan essentially through community policing. See Tom R. Tyler (1990), Why People Obey the Law, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-04403-8, OL 2197015M, Wikidata Q106943199, Tom R. Tyler; Yuen J. Huo (2002), Trust in the Law: Encouraging Public Cooperation with the Police and Courts, Russell Sage Foundation, ISBN 0-87154-889-5, OL 8348396M, Wikidata Q106943244, D. Scott Mann (2015), Game Changers: Going local to defeat violent extremists, Tribal Analysis Center, Wikidata Q83934350, and Noam Chomsky (2001), 9-11, OL 71728W, Wikidata Q4645527.
  14. Several other papers have considered how terrorist groups end. The ones reviewed by this author have combined (a) military with law enforcement and (b) outright victory by the terrorists with a negotiated settlement. For a list of recent papers on this issue, see Dongfang Hou; Khusrav Gaibulloev; Todd Sandler (2020), "Introducing Extended Data on Terrorist Groups (EDTG), 1970 to 2016", Journal of Conflict Resolution, 64 (1): 199–225, ISSN 0022-0027, Wikidata Q106942066.
  15. Alejandra Fernandez-Morera (26 February 2018), "Someone drowns in a tub nearly every day in America. Experts blame alcohol; others suspect homicide", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, ISSN 0745-970X, Wikidata Q60226981.
  16. The accompanying plot uses data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), summarized in the "Terrorism" dataset in Yves Croissant; Spencer Graves (20 March 2020), Ecdat: Data Sets for Econometrics, Wikidata Q56452356
  17. List of motor vehicle deaths in U.S. by year, wikipedia, retrieved 2017-03-07
  18. Maggie Michael; Trish Wilson; Lee Keath (6 August 2018), "AP Investigation: US allies, al-Qaida battle rebels in Yemen", Associated Press, Wikidata Q61890713
  19. Daniel E. O'Leary; Veda C. Storey (28 September 2020), "A Google–Wikipedia–Twitter Model as a Leading Indicator of the Numbers of Coronavirus Deaths", Intelligent Systems in Accounting, Finance and Management, 27 (3): 151–158, ISSN 1550-1949CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link), Wikidata Q107006170.
  20. John Dunster Kettelle, Jr. (1986), "A Computerized Third Party", Modelling and Analysis in Arms Control, ISBN 978-3-642-82943-7, Wikidata Q106775892, John Dunster Kettelle, Jr. (1 March 2007), Computerized Third Party Negotiations, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Wikidata Q106776015, and Gregory Kersten; Hsiangchu Lai (October 2007), "Negotiation Support and E-negotiation Systems: An Overview", Group Decision and Negotiation, ISSN 0926-2644, Wikidata Q106777453.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Philip E. Tetlock; Dan Gardner (2015), Superforecasting: The art and science of prediction, Crown Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-8041-3669-3, OL 26682260M, Wikidata Q21203378.
  22. Robert W. McChesney; John Nichols (2010), The Death and Life of American Journalism, Bold Type Books, ISBN 978-1-56858-605-2, OL 25286901M, Wikidata Q104888067, esp. pp. 121ff and Appendix 2. Ike, MacArthur and the Forging of a Free and Independent Press.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Spencer Graves (18 July 2014), Restrict secrecy more than data collection, San José Peace & Justice Center, Wikidata Q106512569.
  24. See also "confirmation bias and conflict".
  25. I would hope that it would remain a a Wikimedia Foundation project for several reasons. Most obviously, the success of such a project depend essentialy on Wikimedia rules of writing from a neutral point of view citing credible sources while treating others with respect. More subtly, the Wikimedia Foundation has earned a reputation and an aura for being relatively honest and safe. Parties that believe they benefit from conflict would almost certainly work in deceptive ways to destroy a project like this. Such efforts would likely be more easily managed as a Wikimedia Foundation project. The project could more easily be destroyed if it were separate.
  26. Peter Binkley (2006), "Wikipedia Grows Up", Feliciter (2): 59–61, Wikidata Q66411582.
  27. Feng Shi; Misha Teplitskiy; Eamon Duede; James A. Evans (29 November 2017), The Wisdom of Polarized Crowds (PDF), arXiv:1712.06414, Wikidata Q47248083.
  28. Jacqueline Thomsen (22 March 2021), "Facing Defamation, Sidney Powell Says 'No Reasonable Person' Thought Her Election Fraud Claims Were Fact", The National Law Journal, ISSN 0162-7325, Wikidata Q106933407.
  29. Tillman, Zoe (March 22, 2021). "Sidney Powell Now Argues "No Reasonable Person" Would Believe Her Voter Fraud Lies Were "Fact"". Buzzfeed News. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  30. The relevant passage in the GAO report can be found on pp. 42-43 (47-48 of 71 in the pdf) of William O. Jenkins, Jr. (June 2005), ELECTIONS: Additional Data Could Help State and Local Elections Officials Maintain Accurate Voter Registration Lists (PDF), Wikidata Q97581324.
  31. Julie A. Robinson (18 June 2018), Findings of fact and conclusions of law in Fish v. Kobach (PDF), Wikidata Q97940156, pp. 52-58.
  32. Rolnik et al. (2019, pp. 3, 14, 28, 36, 48).
  33. See, e.g., Joe Pinsker (11 August 2015), "The Covert World of People Trying to Edit Wikipedia—for Pay", The Atlantic, ISSN 1072-7825, Wikidata Q106528474.
  34. Zuboff (2019, esp. pp. 54-55)
  35. Siva Vaidhyanathan (12 June 2018), Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-084118-8, OL 29796727M, Wikidata Q56027099, esp. pp. 161 and 172 plus pp. 195-196 of 275 and chapter 6. "The Politics Machine" and its section on "The Damage" more generally.
  36. McMaster (2020, esp. p. 63).
  37. Zuboff (2019, esp. p. 139).
  38. Zuboff (2019, p. 92).
  39. Gorman, Steve (June 20, 2013). "Los Angeles police see no sign of foul play in journalist's death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  40. "Michael Hastings' life and death: A brother's reflections". November 5, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2018.
  41. "Michael Hastings Probed the CIA Before Fatal Hollywood Crash". LA Weekly. June 18, 2013. Archived from the original on January 2, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  42. Hogan, Mike (June 24, 2013). "Was Michael Hastings' Car Hacked? Richard Clarke Says It's Possible". Retrieved December 15, 2014.
  43. Cornell economics professor emeritus Robert H. Frank said this could be fixed by replacing the advertising model with subscriptions. Robert H. Frank acknowledged, "Rising concern about social media abuses", especially "their contribution to the spread of misinformation, hate speech and conspiracy theories." He noted that, "Because the economic incentives of companies in digital markets differ so sharply from those of other businesses, traditional antitrust measures won’t curb those abuses. ... [D]igital aggregators like Facebook ... make money not by charging for access to content but by displaying it with finely targeted ads based on the specific types of things people have already chosen to view. If the conscious intent were to undermine social and political stability, this business model could hardly be a more effective weapon." He suggests a subscription model. However, if the internet companies also make money from advertising, it's not clear if that would do more than just exclude the poor from social media. He concluded, "Proposals for regulating social media merit rigorous public scrutiny. But what recent events have demonstrated is that policymakers’ traditional hands-off posture is no longer defensible." Robert H. Frank (11 February 2021), "The economic case for regulating social media", The New York Times, ISSN 0362-4331, Wikidata Q105583420.
  44. See Dean Baker (18 December 2020), Getting Serious About Repealing Section 230, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Wikidata Q105418677 and Dean Baker on unrigging the media and the economy.
  45. Penny Abernathy (2020), News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will local news survive?, University of North Carolina Press, Wikidata Q100251717. Report for America said that the number of newspaper reporters in the US fell 60 percent from 455,000 in 1990 to 183,200 in 2016. See "About Us" at the website for Report for America, Wikidata Q76373709, accessed 2021-01-08.
  46. Timothy Karr; Craig Aaron (February 2019), Beyond Fixing Facebook (PDF), Free Press, Wikidata Q104624308.
  47. Robert W. McChesney; John Nichols (2016), People get ready: The fight against a jobless economy and a citizenless democracy, Bold Type Books, ISBN 978-1-56858-521-5, OL 27202166M, Wikidata Q87619174, p. 167. "In 1794 newspapers made up 70 percent of post office traffic; by 1832 the figure had risen to well over 90 percent." See also Robert W. McChesney (2004), The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century, Monthly Review Press, ISBN 1-58367-105-6, OL 24961510M, Wikidata Q7758439, p. 33, where McChesney and Nichols said that the US Postal Service Act of 1792 had a huge impact of the subsequent success of the US: It encouraged literacy and limited political corruption, both of which are known to contribute to economic growth. The comparison with contemporary New Spain, which became Mexico in 1821, is striking: The US prospered and grew while New Spain / Mexico fractured, shrank and stagnated economically. See "The Great American Paradox", accessed 2020-03-26. The $100 should be adjusted with changes in the economy. The US GDP per capita for 2021 is forecasted to be roughly $63,000. With that base, 0.2 percent would be $126 instead of $100.
  48. File:Advertising as a percent of Gross Domestic Product in the United States.svg.
  49. "Rush to Victory" (PDF). Wall Street Journal. April 4, 2005. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  50. "'Fairness' is Censorship". Washington Times. June 17, 2008. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  51. "53% of Republicans view Trump as true U.S. president -Reuters/Ipsos", Reuters, 24 May 2021, Wikidata Q107000553.