Joseph Nathan Cohen

Department of Sociology, CUNY Queens College, New York, NY

Techniques Used to Radicalize Groups Online

Original Video Description

This is a retransmission of Queens College Sociology’s Research Workshop. It features a discussion by Profs. Dana Weinberg (Queens College) and Jessica Dawson (Westpont) about the techniques used by foreign adversaries to radicalize Americans through social media. The views expressed here represent researchers’ personal views, and do not reflect the views of the government, military, or Prof Weinberg and Dawson’s universities.

Transcription (Auto-Generated)

stream to begin all right it looks like we are live hello everybody and welcome to the queen’s college sociology department uh research workshop i’m joseph cohen and i’m here with uh the committee uh hongwei shu and uh charles gomez hi everyone and today we are uh very very lucky we have an outstanding uh speaker for you today our very own professor dana weinberg who is author of the acclaimed code green with cornell university press in more recent years professor weinberg has focused on digital sociology culture industries and the production of culture where she became a presence in the world of fiction authors she did some amazing work that was uh very inspirational to me and uh ever the renaissance woman uh professor weinberg was writing about the russian mafia on the side and those two passions i guess have come together in uh in in in several ways in this research on cultural production russia and security and it’s my understanding that uh through writing professor uh weinberg met uh her colleague major jessica dawson she is an active duty uh army officer a duke ph.d and the lead research scientist at the army cyber institution for information warfare team did i do that right uh major uh yep okay i did i did it uh wow the i the things that i’m sure you could tell us it’s a shame that we only have a limited amount of time i i i hope that we can find time to tap into more of what’s going on what sounds like a very very interesting uh project and today they’re here to talk about uh online radicalization information warfare uh and uh maybe uh professors uh weinberg uh and dawson can uh take it away from here so thank you for coming thanks joe i’m going to now share the screen so that we get our slide presentation out i’m very excited to be here with professor jessica dawson as you said she’s also a fellow sociologist who happens to be the lead information warfare researcher for the army cyber institute and this is a very interesting joint project that we have going what we’re going to be presenting today is part of a much much larger research agenda we’re going to be talking about our current work as well as a previous paper to kind of give you the aha moment taste of what we’ve been going through understanding how we think narratives are working and influence operations and um this is a the the larger project is go well the talk today is going to go through this overview of the background on influence operations and cultural sociology research on narratives so we’ll bring you all up to speed with where we are we’re then going to bring you through the discovery experience that we had working on our paper on sacrifice narratives which just came out last month in the american journal of cultural so sociology with the title these honored dead and then we’re going to talk about a reference-based approach to studying narrative content in social media messages which is one that we have not pioneered but one that we very much advocate and have uh formalized for our own work and then we’re going to give you um a framework that we did develop that we’re using for understanding weaponized narrative that’s called the warp framework which stands for weaponize activate radicalize and persuade so we’ll be going through all of those things i won’t be talking the whole time we’re going to be hearing from professor dawson first but before we do that i just want to give you a little bit of background on the project itself as i said this is a collaborative research project between queens college cuny and the army cyber institute which is located at the u.s military academy at west point so we also have some colleagues there who are working with us and we also have colleagues at the u.s naval academy and just the disclaimer nothing in this presentation reflects the views of our institutions or the department of defense or west point or the army where here is uh free agents and academics so i’m now going to turn this over to professor dawson to talk to us about the background on influence operations hi um so thanks for for um having us today i think it’s it’s always fun to get back into the practice of doing of doing academic talks and and and thinking about this stuff in terms of really grounding it inside of our discipline um as as dana pointed out we we we came together on this largely or not largely but because of her background on like studying russia with her her russian um her mafia novels because we we have really we in in the dod and and and writ large kind of took our eye off the ball when it came to foreign influence operations we used to have lots of experts in the field when it came to russia and we really pivoted after 911 into looking more at as a as a at middle east and islamic terror um and so we really took our eye off the ball so we really have had a dearth of of expertise on russia um and the 2016 election was really kind of a big wake-up call um to the the american community writ large about what was going on and what russia was doing inside of inside of our our geographic boundaries in a lot of ways um what they were really doing was getting at um they were taking already existing narratives so this is one thing that there’s a lot of conversation about what the russians are doing to us but what we’ve discovered over time is that they haven’t actually done anything they’ve taken already our existing social divisions and they’ve just kind of turned them up to 11. um so they they know they know us really well they’ve been studying us for for decades and decades like and a lot of their techniques stem from um the old old soviet kgb techniques um so they’re very very good at understanding us in a lot of ways um and one of the things that that they know and this stems from our sacrifice paper is that you know we really have a very central role and view of our military in american in the american civil religious tradition and so we were curious the the the kind of the one of the leading questions for this was how were they talking about veterans and using veteran narratives inside of the social media space um and so that was really kind of what led us to this um in a lot of different ways i was i was just taking over the information warfare team dana had this background and we started kind of talking about it and this is how it’s developed um next slide so when we really think about the influence operations one of the things that this is writing over that is not being well researched inside of of of some spaces is really the the advertising technology and the underlying makeup of the social media spaces um the the the following around of all of us on the internet gathering up everything that they were doing aggregating it with um you know consumer data voting habits um tv viewing and all of that really creates a a target rich environment to to offer up a cheesy top gun quote um that we’re not paying attention to in terms of how this can be weaponized um and our adversaries have figured this out quite quickly that all of the information that we have all willingly given facebook all of the information that you know apps like spotify and the free calculators and all of that are gathering from our phones really present a unique opportunity for us to be um you know exposed and have intelligence gathered on us and it’s all perfectly legal and it’s all for sale um and so that’s really when we start thinking about the targeting behavior that’s going on it’s really overriding a lot of the the advertising technology that’s that’s under under underlying the the current information environment when we think about the social media stuff specifically next slide yeah before we move on i’m just going to add a trigger warning as we go through the different examples and things in this talk some of them are very political that’s not to say that we have a political view one way or the other on them they may be views that you have they may be things that you’ve seen they may be upsetting to you our take on it may be upsetting to you so just to be a little bit prepared for that and one of the reasons is that when you think about the social economy of attention and what’s going on on these platforms they get paid when we pay attention to them because they have advertising that that is looking for our eyeballs and so the more that the things hook us emotionally the more time we spend and so that’s part of all of this this is why there needs to be a trigger warning and that’s why a lot of this is very very emotional yeah that’s an excellent excellent point um and and some of the stuff that we’ve been been researching on this is is even worse than some of the social media stuff so i think that that’s that’s an absolutely relevant piece that that you know we’re not we are not sticking a claim on this one way or another we’re pointing out these existing narratives and how they’re being weaponized um so as with everything we have to define our terms um what we have discovered in multiple meetings is that everybody has a different version of what narratives are um so the way that we are defining narratives is that these are a way for people to make meaning out of things right they are um they they like we think about a regular narrative we think about a story that has a beginning a middle and an end um there is a sequence of events that makes a point usually a moralized point um in some cases um and it pres and it helps us understand the world it helps us understand scripts of self but also in relationship to the culture that that we are a part of so we are focusing primarily on narratives um based on uh con francis paletta’s work really thinking about this as stories that give us a cultural sociology perspective on this slide and we’re also talking about the rhetorical piece as we start to talk about the way that the stories are shared one of the biggest things that we’ve discovered as we’ve been going through the narrative stuff is the way that these things are elusive um and and what we mean by that is uh so if we start talking about you know this is a real you know david and goliath scenario right everyone recognizes that reference that grew up kind of in the west right this idea of the underdog taking care of you know are of of beating like this insurmountable odds um in in christian jewish faith traditions it it is more of of having faith in god to um to to to help carry you through um so these narratives is they reference other narratives um there we go sorry um they’re they’re pointing towards stories that the audience knows um and so if we use for example a david and goliath narrative right it’s going to mean something very different to a secular audience per se than to a religious audience and the the religious tradition is going to have sort of a different take on it as well so we can see these these kind of these key words pointing to these larger stories it’s not just the the thing that’s being encompassed isn’t just in the meaning of the word itself um narratives also very much gather their power from their ability to point to these these other narratives these other deeper stories that that as um arleigh hoshide talks about they feel true right they don’t have to be like literally true but they feel true they resonate in a lot of ways um and sometimes just invoking like a protagonist or a villain is enough right so one of the things that we’ve uh we’ve you know consistently come across in a lot of this is this idea of of corrupt elites um and these elites have have betrayed the nation or they have betrayed main street or they have betrayed the soldiers like there’s all of this this kind of long-running story in american history about corrupt elites um and so you can say you know elites and that is going to have an influence on whoever you’re talking to the question is is what is that influence right and that’s why knowing the stereo stories and knowing what these stories are referencing is an important additional layer to um to understanding what it is that we’re seeing so it’s not just you know the key word elites it’s what are those stories underlying that that that is pointing to um and these core stories really kind of wrap into like any any nations like kind of or groups kind of core stories what are those core stories that are central to their sense of self and and relation to the world um and and it really encapsulates ideologies and values you can think about these narratives kind of loading together so we have a lot of different stories about something that point to a larger underlying story uh for those of you who are more quantitative you can think about it almost like a latent factor uh underlying what’s going on um so these really when we think about the role that stories have right these are very much social like human beings are like i don’t think there is any society that exists that doesn’t tell stories in some way shape or form we know that stories are fundamentally a social activity they’re not just individualistic um and so if something resonates with you um online or in real life it’s it’s tying to how you see yourself it’s time to how you see yourself in relation to a group um and it’s a lot of times we think that what’s happening here is it’s less about persuading potentially and with this is a this is an unknown it’s less about persuading people to like change sides more so it’s about invoking these these boundaries to remind folks of quote what side they’re on um especially we started thinking about kind of the the sort of the binary nature of like the american civil discourse right now next slide so when we think about what how these things work together right so we we really kind of have have mapped this into sort of this this process that we think right so something is going to resonate with you you’re gonna you’re gonna you’re gonna like if we if something resonates we we think that it’s going to have some sort of an impact you’re either gonna like something you’re gonna share something or even if it really resonates it’s gonna move you into real world behavior um but backing up from that if it’s gonna resonate it you know it it has to give you something it has to wreck it has to bounce off of something you’re not going to hear it and just go like oh i never heard that before let me move on and let me like let me immediately change my behavior it has to bump up against something and we think that these references will bounce off of these kind of these core stories and then this then they will resonate out from there so it’s not that um we think that these things are our separate processes but these these references that are pointing to these core stories then give us this this resonance that helps us solve an identity problem or solve some sort of of challenge that’s out there related to our you know our our in-group perception and then it will lead into some sort of behavior um online or again offline so one of the keys to the work that we’re doing and it’ll become even clearer when we talk about the warp framework is that very much we’re thinking not just in terms of individuals responses to the things that they’re exposed to but about that in the context of the groups to which they belong so when we’re interpreting these things you know because the stories are elusive and because they’re playing on these emotions we’re interpreting them not just as single individuals but in terms of the of the memberships or the ways that we think about our identity in relation to other people so it’s not just this this uh atomized kind of individual out there thinking about morality kind of of thing we’re really playing on group dynamics as we think about these influence operations are you ready for the next slide yeah please so this gives you sort of the background framework um of of what we’re like building on with this um next slide so when we think about sacrifice narratives one of the things that that i’m sure all of you have noticed in the political environment like if we think about the colin kaepernick protests right how like this reference to how dare you kneel for the flag you’re disrespecting our veterans like this sort of reflexive reaction there and a lot of us in the veteran community were like wait this doesn’t have anything to do with us um and so it really took kind of some some like really digging into like what’s going on here um and so when we think about what that’s invoking right that’s invoking a sacrifice narrative um and and this is something that that is very deeply embedded in american society um where veterans literally offer up their lives you know soldiers and veterans often i use soldiers here broadly to cover all aspects of the military not just the army so my fellow marines and air force folks please don’t think i’m leaving you out um i just used that term all encompassing um but when we think about this sacrifice narrative there is something in the american civil religious tradition that gets at this kind of deeper idea that that we do have some sort of special relationship with the creator um and that that our sacrifice our blood sacrifice really does have an effect on the nation like we we sacrifice and so that the nation can be reborn the aren’t typical reference to this really is the the gettysburg address in sort of the modern era right and when and i i don’t want to um like dive into like too deep into this but when we think about what he’s saying here what lincoln is saying here um it’s very much it’s very much consecrating the the battleground at gettysburg and he is offering up a story of a promise of a new nation from the sacrifice there um he says you know four score and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth to this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal um he says now we are engaged in this great civil war testing that nation and any nation so conceived so dedicated can long endure we are met on a great battlefield we have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those here who gave their lives that a nation might live that is a very strong allusion to like the christian sacrifice narrative surrounding jesus right but like this is very much using soldier sacrifice to consecrate this nation it is altogether fitting and proper that we do this but in a larger sense we cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot hallow this ground right so he’s saying that this is not something that we as mere mortals can do the brave men living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our power to add or subtract or detract the world will little no nor long remember what we say here but it will never forget what we did what they did here it is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to this unfinished work for which they who fought here have thus far nobly advanced it is rather for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining that from these honored dead we take increased devotion for that cause to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation under god shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth i as i as i get older i find this more and more compelling um entire in terms of of service and what it is that that this nation represents but when you look at what lincoln said here it’s very much arguing that this nation rises from the dead right it rises from the blood sacrifice of the soldiers well that’s blood sacrifice we see rolling through civic society in in several different ways um next slide well before we go on just to give this a little more context what we’re bringing you through is our discovery process and looking at how the nra use these sacrifice narratives to peddle a counter-cultural message around new warrior culture we’re not going to go into the details of the of that paper here but we want to show you the narrative moves so this particular narrative this this gettysburg address is the sort of prototypical american cultural narrative around soldier sacrifice for the nation and what you’re going to see in the next few slides is the way that this story about soldiers sacrifice is used in a variety of different ways through these keyword references and so there’s changes in them that start to change their meaning and then when they’re combined with other stories it also points to new meanings and this is again that idea that the the narratives are elusive so we just want you to kind of get a feel for that through a couple of these examples as we move through the the changes and then also for some of these core underlying narratives so that the soldiers sacrifice narrative is a very patriotic narrative that holds you know a lot of cultural weight not just for people who are in service or veterans but for for all of us these are the these are the notes that are played when we’re feeling patriotic um and you’ll see this played on over and over again in the russian influence operations but also in other kinds of things so this is the the nra’s take in their mainstream magazine the american rifleman so when we when we look at how the nra has used these sacrifice narratives right it really evolves over time it’s not something that occurs um right at once so this is a quote from general westmoreland who was a commander of troops in vietnam and he this is part of a speech that he gives in in 1985 kind of calling the nation to task for for not respecting and honoring the veterans sacrifice the vietnam veterans sacrifice he says have you ever paused to consider that during the vietnam war there are more americans here at home cheering on the communist waving his flag then there can you imagine putting your life on the line in the combat zone while the boy who lived next door may have been visibly supporting your armed enemy from some chosen campus security remote from the field can you imagine living through that ordeal only to come home to silence or even hostility today let us pause to remember to pay tribute to the americans who gave their lives in the preservation of freedom throughout our nation’s history and we add to that honored assemblage the equally deserving vietnam veteran so what we see with this really is is this idea that you know vietnam was was a massive scar on our on our nation right we had this was the first time we were really not successful in war um and then when we start to think about the the the the the the kind of the the social reorganizing the new stories that are needed to to kind of reconcile that like if we are a nation that is chosen by god how do we explain how we lost and one of the narratives that that comes out of this that arises out of this is this narrative of government betrayal that that we could have won in vietnam had the government not tied one hand behind our back and this is not just an nra script but this is a very large cultural script across the board we see it rising up in what james william gibson’s calls the new warrior culture um which we’re not going to go into much today but we really start to see this narrative of government betrayal um especially of the troops starting to stick in the late 70s and early 80s and it’s something that’s been carrying on and we see this playing out in a lot of the russian influence operations right and as we go to answer the central question of today’s talk about how did anti-vaxxer moms end up at protests with these militiamen this is one of the narratives that plays a key role in it this this narrative of government betrayal the other thing i just want to point out before we move on to the next slide is that you can see that we have a couple of terms here in bold these are the ones that refer back to the sacrifice narrative they’re they’re words that would also have been used in the gettysburg narrative right so they they tell you that we’re invoking this idea of people of of american soldiers who are giving their lives to preserve freedom for the nation next slide so when we think about how the nra has shifted this narrative right so one of the things that they did was they expanded this sacrifice narrative to encompass other other actors in society other members in society so this is a quote from wayne lapierre who has been in various leadership positions in the nra since i think 1992 is when he finally stepped in uh to the leadership role so year by year sacrificed by sacrifice linked by link lives of men and women in deeds of honor that precious chain binds us to the founders of this great country whose vision gave us the second amendment to the constitution of the united states and all of the freedoms that it stands for so even though he’s using the word sacrifice here right he doesn’t explicitly invoke soldiers right it’s implied it’s definitely alluded to right like when we hear the sacrifice we think about soldiers we think about the military and we think about this deeds of honor as as relating to military but it’s a it’s implied right because it’s not explicit it opens the aperture in a lot of ways to bringing in other folks that may have sacrificed and also you’ll notice that he mentions the country but the emphasis here is very much on the second amendment as the the core value of america yep next slide so when we think about the the way that they’re changing this again so we’re using this idea of sacrifice right as something that restores the nation and we’re watching this narrative shift over time um and one of the things that they started to do was to start to bring in this sort of anti-government patriotism um we know in the 90s we started to see the rise of the militia movement and a lot of the militias tend to to position themselves as constitutionalists as as folks that are defending the you know the real freedoms of the constitution um and so this is this is a quote from from wayne lapierre and um uh chris cox who was uh one of the leader of the nra’s institute for legislative action um and you can see that we’re kind of moving through time right so we start in 1985 we have another quote from from 1995 and now we’re at 2009 right so to win the battles that are surely headed our way we are counting on your strength and your courage every bit as much as our nation has counted on the service of our brain men and women in uniform who have pledged their lives in battle more than ever before in your life or in the life of our nation you need to send a message to every member of the u.s house and senate every federal judge and every entrenched gun-hating bureaucrat every legislator in your home state and every enemy of freedom that you’re standing tall with the nra for the next four years as charlton heston said it is we the people who rule this country not the politicians and not the media and we will protect our cherished freedoms standing together we will prevail it’s very interesting moves that happen in this right now so again we see the invocation of the sacrifice narrative right of the service and the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform right who’ve pledged their lives but then the next list is of a list of folks that work in government that are elected officials and it’s very much standing against them so he’s done this invocation of the veterans who have you know pledged their life for the nation and then they have positioned these members of the government as not of the nation well as enemies of freedom jam they’re enemies of freedom right so we see that they’ve they’ve managed to shift this story they invoke the sacrifice narrative but then they lay out folks that are actually perceived as enemies of freedom um and they’re positioning themselves in the nra as the defenders of this freedom right so again we can see how the like the same narrative sacrifice narrative can now be pointing to very different stories also just to point out and this is a move that you’ll see i don’t know that we’re going to talk about it too much here but in some of our work on the the russian influence operations and how they’re using military narratives one of the things that happens is that they take these these sacrifice narratives and it’s almost like putting a halo on one side so that you can smear the other and that’s exactly what you see here in the nra’s move that we the we the people who are for guns in this particular case right we’re the ones who are honoring that sacrifice of the soldiers we’re the true patriots and these government politicians and others who are gonna hating bureaucrats are enemies and the narrative is used to show that to point to those relationships so again coming at this from a group point of view if you’re speaking to an audience that is you know pro-gun rights now you’re telling them this is these are the sides that people are on this is the reminder of what side you’re on the side of soldier sacrifice and patriotism and we’re going to draw a line between us and these politicians who don’t agree with our ideas and we also see the delineation and i don’t think we’re going to go into it too much here but we see this this changing usage of freedom right so there’s this idea that freedom comes with like a civic republicanism small r um and this idea of civic obligation right so that your freedom comes from being a member of the community versus this individualized conception of freedom this hyper-individualized conception of freedom so we’re using the same word to talk about two very different relationships with the community um either being bound to the community or free from the community in some ways and that reference that that word reference to freedom and what it stands for changes depending on which stories are also alluded to or referenced in the in the message here we’ll see an example of that so we think about this in terms of of signposts um it it really helps us understand where they’re positioning themselves so these are these cultural markers that they’re pointing to um so this is why as americans united in patriotism national pride and freedom we stand to honor our flag and our national anthem we stand to honor the principles of liberty and justice for all we stand with pride of our individual freedoms and the opportunity that freedom offers for all of our citizens we stand for the more than one million americans who have lost their lives of war on behalf of us and our liberty we stand and honor the flag draped across coffins respectfully folded and honorably presented to the grieving families of the brave men and women who’ve paid the ultimate price for freedom with pride and strength we rise to our flag and sing our national anthem resolved to never be forced to take a knee when it comes to honoring and defending our uniquely american liberty stand for all who have sacrificed to save our freedom there is no greater sense of patriotism and duty than that which rests in the hearts and minds of nri members we stand out from the crowd we stand well what’s he talking about here right so again he’s invoking the soldiers but this reference to standing is absolutely referencing kaepernick and the protests of kneeling before the national anthem right he doesn’t have to say a word about about the the football he doesn’t say a word about police brutality what he’s done here with this constant refrain of stand right is tying the standing to the sacrifice what that flag represents the sacrifice that the flag represents and basically drawing a very clear delineation of this is what we do and this is who we are we’re not this other side he doesn’t even have to reference the other side in many ways he can just invoke who we are on this side if that makes sense so hopefully so far you kind of got this idea we’ve got these terms that are moving us through different you know different things and you can see how the same keyword references are leading us to invoke these certain stories in our minds whether the story is told in full or not and so that’s sort of the starting point and then also just this idea of how you stack the references in your messages point you in one direction or another so we want to look very closely at what’s in company when we’re starting to look at the narratives and if you understand that then everything else that comes after is just based on that that simple intuition so here we have a depiction of what we mean by moving from keywords to these larger narrative references to these core stories and this is just a more formalized way of thinking about it the examples that we’ve pulled out here there are so many others as well but we’re just going to keep playing with these as we start to try to understand the reopen protests which were the topic of our paper that we circulated and how it attracted very very different groups these anti-vaxxer moms who are very concerned about the safety of vaccines for their children together with these armed militias that that are ready to um in this particular case as we’ve later learned try to kidnap a governor and and you know uh take her to to court basically for her crimes her perceived crimes against the state so what you see is that there are and these are just a couple of examples for these larger narratives you probably can even think of more off the top of your head and they’re just you know here to give you a sense of things that you’ve probably been seeing on twitter or facebook these words that have a lot of power and when they come they’re not just keywords they’re actually references to stories that you know or that other people know that then start priming us to start thinking about our group membership so you know you can think about this coveted conspiracy whether you know whether you talk about it as a pandemic a plandemic or a china flu or all kinds of things that point to where which side you’re on on certain issues there’s ideas about bill gates being behind having the world health organization call it a pandemic so that he can then um be involved with the vaccines and you know inject all of us with 5g and microchips so there’s all of these conspiracy theories which are also narratives that come along with these things you know burn your mask is a very powerful set of keywords around you know whether you really need to worry about these health issues or not about what happens if you don’t wear a mask about standing up against mask wearing and you know expressing your own freedom and so there may even be more than one story that’s attached to these different phrases and that’s part of what we’re working through also but what you also see is that they roll up into stories about larger things and so if we come back to our military narratives and thinking about that quote from westmoreland about the poor soldiers who came back from vietnam and were dishonored both by the government and by the college students with their cushy existence what you see is that we have a very deep powerful narrative growing since the 1970s the late 1960s about betrayed the betrayed military um and you see this playing out you know even when trump took office and was taking aim at the khan family and um you know even at um john mccain right that you know there was this question about who was being honored and dishonored um and you know even the stuff about benghazi and hillary clinton so these these narratives play on both sides of the political divide and sometimes different groups might even invoke the same narrative but for very different purposes so you know as you move through this though and you think about these stories about the betrayed military and the forgotten majority and even these these stories of immigrant threat they all kind of roll into this core narrative of betrayal in a much larger scale by the government and on the other side of the slide we have some narratives that roll up into this betrayal by elites and these are actually in many ways at the core of our understanding of what’s been happening with these reopen protests and how they’ve appealed to so many different kinds of people and and what’s important to understand here is like some of the stuff veers into sort of the conspiracy ne theory narratives and some of it is grounded in actual historical events but what’s important to kind of to recognize is that all of these things are these narratives are pointing to like actual things that that may or may not be you know what they’re portrayed to be right so when we think about um benghazi right like benghazi is something that is absolutely hammered home on right-leaning media right like fox news has like this was a central narrative on fox news for years under the obama administration because they were strategically focusing on hillary clinton as the next you know the front runner for the camp for for the presidential candidacy um but when we think about you know some of these these these issues like the forgotten majority right like coal miners are struggling when we look at transitioning the economy they are going to lose their their jobs right like so when we think about like it’s not just stories that we think are just there they’re overriding like other other social concerns and with conspiracy theories there’s usually an historical prior or something else that you can kind of point to that gives it a little bit more credence except is it the feeling of truth even if it’s not true and again when we’re thinking about these narratives it’s about the feeling more than it is about the information that they’re providing um here’s just an example for you to see these same narratives played out so we’ve got these ones on betrayal by elites here these are pulling up on the hillary clinton stories related to the basket of deplorables comment that she made about trump’s followers which was uh which often also gets referenced together with a comment that obama made regarding uh americans with their bibles and guns and so what you see here is just a playing out in visual ways where the terms are used as well and so we have the memes also invoking the stories so in that first one we’ve got our forgotten majority coal miners together with hillary clinton i’m so i’m so above those deplorables and so here’s the betrayal by the elites of the forgotten majority and when we think about like the meme like the hold the line patriots right when we look at the founding narratives about this country right it was this ragtag group of of of of you know you know to quote hamilton this ragtag group of volunteer soldiers in need of a shower right like but there was this idea of standing up to a corrupt government to standing up to you know a corrupt elite so they’re building on long-running narratives these things resonate it just they resonate with different audiences in different ways okay so now what we have here is our sort of narrative network in a lot of ways and what you can see is the how the edges kind of line up around these different kinds of things so if you start with the the um basket of deplorables and you’re you’re thinking about the different words associated with that it’s a very quick jump from there you know if you’re hating on hillary clinton for example to them thinking about benghazi and the betrayed military um if you’re thinking about the betrayed military and the the poorer people who feel that they need to go into the military which is one of the narratives that we have about who goes into it it’s it’s only suckers and losers right which is a you know one of the one of the narratives that’s attached to this that makes people very very upset you have your forgotten majority and it plays on that same set of feelings those same underlying narratives and as you think about forgotten majority often times when we’re thinking about the treatment for example of veterans or of working-class whites then oftentimes we start to reference the immigrant threat and how they’re taking jobs or they’re getting all kinds of assistance and so it’s just a quick jump from any of these different things back to um back to something else and somehow this is the wrong slide whoops that we men we’ve managed to put the wrong slide in here um instead of the one with the covet examples so i apologize for that i found this and siri is talking to me at the same time trying to give me influence i guess but anyway what i want you to see here is just that that we have this sort of networked approach where you can move from one thing to another very quickly um and here are some q anon and boogaloo memes from twitter and you can see how these even play together on a lot of the same kinds of things so you know boogaloo is this idea that you’re going to go after these politicians that politicians work for the people and are answerable to the people um and some of their memes actually call for lynching of politicians um and you can see that they have this this um you also see the q army here playing on these military references as well so we’ve already told you about these sacrifice narratives these military pieces as kind of having a sort of halo of invoking this sort of patriotism and now we see them playing into these armed militia kinds of things the boogaloo and also you know you see these big q here is the q army that’s the the q anon pieces and so what you see is how they’re pulling on these different narratives and if you’re a person who has at least one of these that is resonating with you and you start to see these other things this might be the pathway that you follow um as each of these different narratives starts to to play on your emotions or on your sense of which groups you belong to and so as we expand if we’re really concerned about betrayal by the government or betrayal by elites and we feel that very deeply we start to see a sympathy with other stories about those things they also play on our same kind of emotion and identity basis and q anon is really co-opting a lot of military symbolism and a lot of military terminology and narratives um it started with this idea that the original q was a military insider a high-ranking military insider um that was working with the president to to take down this this ring of global satanic pedophiles it has since evolved but a lot of the ways that they they point back to the military core stories um one of the things that was going around a couple of weeks ago was hashtag take the oath and they were literally reading they were filming people were filming themselves reading off the oath of commissioning that every officer takes when they commission into the military and at the end they were adding where we go one we go all so they were taking something that is you know that is this sacred induction into this military you know this military body and now now they’re co-opting it right so they’re basically co-they’re using it as an induction for these ordinary people to gain access to sort of this this sacred you know group in many ways and i have to say you know um being in the military i think that when we started this this project jessica was very um aware of the different kinds of military narratives and you know as they would as they would come up she would have a certain sensitivity to them and through working on this project i am constantly amazed at how frequently now i see all of this stuff invoked and all of these different examples so it may have seemed strange to you in the beginning that we started with this sacrifice narrative you might have thought well i don’t really come across it that often but as you start to think about this and and to look at the pictures you’re going to realize um and even when you get on twitter this evening that these issues around patriotism and freedom and democracy which is the big one now as we worry about what’s happening with the vote and what will happen with the election next week that we actually are invoking these narratives all the time um and probably some of them the ones that are most frequently invoked and certainly in our in our study of the russian influence operations of their million-something tweets that were in english over the time period that twitter was tracking them more than 16 percent were about these military narratives so this is definitely something that’s really um precious to us and to our understanding of our own identities and it’s right there for for being utilized to influence us so as we think about these narratives one of the things that we’ve been thinking about is what drives people to action why is it that when we’re in you know we have these messages on social media we’re in our sort of little echo chambers where we keep getting more information about the things that are like us we get connected to other people who are like us and what takes us from pointing and clicking and maybe even commenting on our computers to going out to vote or joining a protest or even to kidnapping a governor what is that pathway where these stories or these messages are influencing us so we’ve already given away part of our punchline which is that we think that the narrative content of these which you see through the references even in the 140 characters of a tweet is part of what’s making them so emotionally powerful but then there’s even more to what’s going on so we’ve already talked a little bit about group identity now we’re going to move to talking about narrative weaponization so there’s a lot of different ways the group’s news narratives and in the sociological literature there’s a lot of conversation about how social movements will use them to engage people and activate them and so not everything about how we use these narratives to influence or persuade is bad but when you look at it going to the extreme that’s where you start to see how these things can be weaponized and so um what we’ve been seeing just you know in the country at large since we’ve all been home on with the pandemic and we’re engaging more than ever i think on social media and we’re looking at these different stories you can see the evidence of polarization you can see the undermining of our democracy you see many individuals becoming radicalized and we also see an increase in violence um and so we believe that this has to do not just with the messages themselves but with the narrative content of them and we’ve developed this framework which we call the warp framework which looks at how narratives are kind of sent out what is the purpose when somebody is using a narrative why are they deploying it we look at the group identity building projects that are behind that action you know are they are these groups recruiting people are they trying to just get a message out so someone will follow them so later they’ll have another chance to recruit them are they trying to shape their identities redirecting the things that they care about are they reinforcing the boundaries between this group and another group maybe they’re trying to tell them about how another group is their enemy and threatening to annihilate them and ultimately they may be trying to radicalize individuals to get them to act on behalf of the group we also see that there’s in the lower left-hand corner there the activation the individual response a lot of the research that we’ve looked at has either looked at how the narratives are are being used or it’s looked at how individuals respond to narratives but we actually believe that both of those things are important to look at a group may have a desire to recruit and radicalize but not everybody is going to to pick up what they’re putting down so to speak and so why is it that some people are more sensitive to these things what is it that makes somebody move into this space there’s a lot of individual factors that may be involved in this interaction with these social groups but we’re looking at these different kinds of responses that individuals have and so if you think about your own experience on social media it starts with following certain kinds of news or certain people maybe to liking the different things that they’re saying in a public kind of way with your emojis you may find that you’re agreeing with them in comments if you go even further down this road you might be arguing in favor of this you know we’ve got thanksgiving coming up this is where family dinners can become very interesting as people take not only i agree with this but now i’m going to defend it and even preach it to others which is part of the amplification it’s sharing those messages and ultimately acting on the information so there’s a lot of different steps that people can take and you’ll find yourself you know in various steps along the way if you think about your own engagement with these things and then we have the rhetorical strategies of persuasion so in the sacrifice example that we were showing you we showed you how they load up sometimes the same narratives you know narratives about similar things where they’re sort of building a pyramid or a stack of them in the kaepernick example they’re taking narratives about one thing and combining them with something that’s very different to them act as a signpost or give a different kind of message and you’ll see that there’s a whole host of these different rhetorical maneuvers this is just the list that we have so far and we got very cutesy with the um you know the letters here uh partly because we wanted to be in conversation with another framework that’s used called the bend framework which looks at message content and how it’s being pushed by different different actors as well as the community maneuvers that are being used to go after adversaries and to amplify certain kinds of messages so this one fits right in with that except here we’re looking at the narratives and how they’re being deployed and so what we’re looking at is the role of narrative and radicalization and polarization and it allows us to look at the way that narratives are strategically being used for different ends and what we’re doing that’s a little bit different here than than what we’ve seen so far is that we’re treating the narrative references which we’ve talked about in those you know the way that they’re building up to these stories um we’re using them to also look at these networks of narratives and we’re looking at the linguistic maneuvers themselves as part of the method of persuasion along with content and style of delivery so we’re really getting into the rhetorical aspects of the narratives at the same time that we’re engaging with these ideas of narratives as speaking to cultural pieces as cultural narratives and also to these individual pieces as scripts of self itself and we’re looking at the both the collective identity building projects of the groups as i said before and also at the individual responses and finally it’s very it’s very tempting to think about this as a linear as a as a linear process um many of these groups when they’re trying to get new members talk about slipping red pills to normies that’s a that’s a reference to the matrix movies where neo takes the red pill and his perception of reality is forever changed um and so these groups talk you know very openly um about this and explicitly about trying to induct new members um and and um sensitize them to the truth and so it’s very tempting to think that you know you take your little step and you go down the rabbit hole and you go deeper and deeper and deeper but it turns out that it may not actually work that way and that’s one of the things that we’re looking at and part of the reason for this is when you sign on to social media it’s not that the information is being fed out to you in a trail of breadcrumbs you come onto twitter and the whole buffet is available to you you know any of these different kinds of narratives deployed for different purposes if you start following the timelines or if you’re on facebook and you get into one of the groups you may see all of the information there um all of these different messages and which ones you engage with and how and at what point has a lot of other things that go into it so we’re not trying to say that this is a linear process yeah but you can see the deepening in each of these different things except for the persuasion category of how they become more and more um more more and more intense and there’s there’s a network effect to this too like if you have never created a facebook account right and you suddenly log in they’re going to have people that you’re going to like to recommend that you know because you are probably in someone else’s contacts right which means that the stores because of of of homophily right we tend to be similar to the people that are around us so if your friends have stuff out there on you and you log in they’re gonna start feeding you stuff that’s going to look like things that your friends have liked um as as dana pointed so we i have two separate facebook accounts one for author me and one for regular me and facebook thinks i’m very different people like the two the two personas are very very different in what it tries to send me on each one so um there’s very much a network effect associated with this as well and the the algorithms picking up on these different keywords or this sort of interest that you have in one thing or another can start pushing you down these narrative pathways so when we were looking at this these reopened protests for example and how different people ended up there there was a reporter for the atlantic who wrote about her experience where she started following some of these different groups to understand what was going on and within 12 hours of that facebook started suggesting things about anti-vaxxers and white supremacy and other kinds of topics even though she’d been a user for many many years and this stuff was was completely new so you know part of what’s going on is also these algorithms linked to these economics of attention that we talked about earlier that is making it possible for many of these narratives to start getting even more attention than they might have otherwise to connect people who might not have been connected before and so we see that these these identity building things go beyond our local our local places they go beyond the network of people that you actually know and there there’s a possibility to be exposed to this whole range of stories and again coming back to this network of stories if you have we all have these stories that are deep within us that are part of our own scripts of ourselves and when you start to then connect to groups whose stories resonate with that you open up to start um to to start identifying with these other pieces as well and and one of the things that we think that when we think about how these things work right and why like why you would get you select on one thing but then you start seeing this other thing is the algorithms don’t distinguish between flavors of freedom the algorithms don’t know how to distinguish between you know sacrifice narratives that are for the nation versus that are invoking some of the the dude bro vet you know grunt style vet stuff right like it doesn’t know how to distinguish between the two so like i always get ads for for for some of these you know these vet merchandising things and it’s not my thing at all right but because i’m a veteran right they think they can’t distinguish between the different flavors of veterans they just see veteran and and they they push you know they try to push content that way so the algorithms don’t have this deeper understanding of the content they’re really just looking for like kind of the keyword similarities and the people that are that are related to these things um and not really able to understand the stories um and meanwhile we have these very polarizing stories that are driving us into you know if you believe this framework that we’ve presented that are driving us deeper and deeper into our groups and dividing us from others so i wanted to just run through some of the the different positions here the wooing waking winning worrying wedding and weaponizing of narrative deployment and i’m going to give you an example that comes from the russian tweets so these are not all related to one group or one narrative the russians were pretending to be americans and they were pretending to be members of these different groups so they were actually very involved in the black lives matters conversation on the one hand and then also in the opposing conversations about blue lives matters they were just trying to foment a lot of discord and so kate starbird actually has a wonderful visualization of their um involvement in these things where they’re at the nexus of each of these network conversations about these different things so they’ve been kind of just trying to stir the pot they’ve done a really good job of it and so what you see though here is how they’re using different different pieces of narrative to to get us there so you know when they’re trying to um to woo people you know we’re proud and no one will tell us what to do especially ignorant stupid ignorant politician in stotus patriots patriot again here’s those military references retweeting at health ranger this one was the one about vaccines vaccine pushers challenged to drink mercury if it’s so safe trying to wake people up to the issue that the the vaccines are dangerous we have them trying to win people over to the militias militias built this country and militias will win it back trying to instill worry in people through narratives deploying those narratives to create worry so here’s one about a terrorist cell in america trained a man who killed 17 children yesterday we don’t have an immigrant problem we have a white supremacy problem and you see they play on both sides of the political divide in this next one they they wedded different interests so they’ve got every politicians who supported trump and every politician who was funded by nra not surprising these two categories of politicians are mostly the same people hashtag things i’d like to see impeached so here they’re connecting trump and the nra through their narrative references and then the the examples for weaponizing were a little bit less strong in the twitter data than for example in the telegram data that we also are using for another project because it is public kinds of things and because twitter does shut down things that go a little bit over the line but here’s one where they said antifa website caught selling ultra concealable knives for slicing up trump supporters at rallies and tifa come to texas knifed to a gunfight so here they are trying to get people ready to fight antifa with guns and be worried about the threat of them coming to their communities to to cut them up you can also think about these collective identity building um strategies or or projects that groups have and i already kind of went through these but i’ll show you the twitter examples of them the first one again playing on our sacrifice narratives pulls up memorial day and says it isn’t about alcohol and barbecue it’s about the soldiers that died to protect our freedoms so if you’re patriotic if you’re a member of the military if you’re against uh rash consumerism all of those things this this is meant to play on those emotions and make you start to be interested in the things that this this storyteller or that this group are involved in um here’s one where they’re recruiting people i would rather take care of 10 homeless universe veterans than 50 000 migrants illegal aliens how about you so trying to get you to respond to this with this with this narrative and then here’s a reward for people who support our troops who love this country and appreciate the sacrifice of our vets thank you so there’s a thanks sometimes you’ll see it’s other kinds of encouragement or it might be a shout out or something then you have the redirect so this is what we care about kind of move so this one is obama spends 65 000 on each each illegal alien who hates us and nothing on vets who fought for america so if you’re a good american you’re going to care about the vets and you’re going to be angry at obama for giving our money away to the illegal aliens who are trying to hurt us reinforcing is when you really draw that line between your group and another group this is very much in that boundary marking tradition so here’s one this is why so many are taking the knee cops are not thinking about our country or the national anthem when they are abusing their power so here’s a another take on that kind of thing about this betrayal by people working for the government in this case it’s the cops um and so this is this is in favor of taking the knee but also using the national anthem and patriotism as as part of that defense so using you can see how the narratives are starting to play out in all of this then there is the risk this is the risk of annihilation from the other group the way that they want to come after you so in today’s news neo-nazis win illinois gop primary a white supremacist murders black folks in austin with mail bombs an unarmed black man is shot and killed by police in his own backyard this is trump’s america so if your black lives matter’s um sympathizer or activist this is meant to show you how you know these these groups are going to come after you and if you don’t do it something or you you don’t worry about this it can it can threaten the entire group that you care about and finally radicalization is engaging people enough that they’re willing to take action to defend the group um and so this one is a q anon quote you can see the hashtag there and it says never give up your guns fight fight fight because once we lose them we’re just the walking dead so here’s a gun rights piece and yet the hashtag links it to qanon which is also you know this whole set of narrative references and i’m not going to go through the different um persuasive rhetorical strategies but if you guys are interested all of this is laid out in the paper that we circulated i know that we’re starting to run short on time so i just want to get you through to the the last part of this where um this is where we’re headed with our research we’ve put in a four million dollar grant to the department of defense to look at these um networks to track to look at the narrative networks to collect these catalogs of narratives that are being used so persuasively to track them across platforms and to really understand who is responding to them and why and so you can see that for each of these different parts the weaponization the radicalization the activation and persuasion there’s different sets of questions that we want to understand about about how they’re landing and really we want to do this to be able to break the cycle of influence we’re all susceptible to influence again some of us more so perhaps than others and understanding why that is is part of this defensive strategy but then also how do we get around these narratives that are starting to pull us apart to turn us against each other to start to [Music] unify the country and have you know a greater sense of shared identity that way because we’ve become very very tribal in our time away from each other while we’re we’re at home during covid and perhaps even before that and so our takeaway points here are just that foreign and domestic groups are leveraging compelling narratives about salient social issues to influence us we’ve talked a lot about the russians but our homegrown groups are doing this very much as well and whether benign or malignant these operations work at the intersections of our cultural values our glu our group collective identities in our individual identities and we need to examine the compelling narratives that are drawing driving people to act to action and not just the network of interactions um you know when we look at network theory oftentimes we’re looking at where communication is flowing but we’re not looking at the content of that communication and so we’re very much arguing for you know really looking at the narrative content that’s going through these these messages and then also looking at the networks of narratives that help to understand why certain groups are attracted to different things and just as another for example we were very surprised to find in the yoga community that there’s a deep white supremacy link as well and it doesn’t necessarily make sense that you’ve got these yoga yoga enthusiasts and vegans and hippies who are also pushing these white supremacist ideas and it also when you start to look at the narrative network starts to make sense about these issues about um you know for example purity um that’s starting to to link these different things studying narrative adjacency helps us understand how people are lured down the rabbit hole and move from one interest group to another so you can see how if you’re concerned about your body and what’s going into it and your your body is a sanctuary it’s not so far then to start moving to these ideas about racial purity that might underlie some of that and then finally one of the things that we’re very much advocating which shouldn’t be news to this group but seems to be news to others is that sociology should have to have a place at the table when we’re looking at influence operations we’ve been continuously surprised as we go to different meetings where people are talking about influence or cyber social warfare or about narratives to be some of the only sociologists present and yet we think that this work about you know thinking about group identity is part of the key to really understanding how we’ve been played do you have anything to add jess no i think that this is really one of the the important pieces that the the broader intelligence community because because america tends to be so individualistic we tend to focus on psychological aspects of these things and we’re focusing on the nodes um as opposed to really looking at at the content and the stories and the group identity that’s there so um every time we’ve presented as dana said we’ve we’ve gotten lots of positive responses and dana and i are continually shocked that like we’re offering up novel things in these different forums all right oh first of all wow what a terrific uh presentation uh hold on uh dana can i get you to turn off your screen share yes if i can figure out how to do it hold on maybe i i can just uh maybe i can just uh there it is all right wonderful okay so first off wow what a terrific presentation i loved it and uh we’re gonna open up the there’s been some great uh exchanges in the chat window already and we’re going to open up the floor uh before we do i want to get a very an important question out of the way that i think some listeners will get hung up on even though the information was present just to foreground it can you please give us some example of a liberal cause that fits this mold or something just in case there’s somebody who’s partisan is like wow these are just academics bashing on trump again uh can you maybe just give us an example of a liberal cause just so we can get past that move on to something interesting yeah i mean so when we look at this there i mean some of the tweets that we put up there were absolutely geared towards liberal audiences and and the russians for example were exceptionally good at integrating themselves into black lives matter communities um as a matter of fact um it was it was several black women uh technologists who were sort of the canaries in the coal mine um pointing out that like there was this hashtag your slip is showing back around 2015 where these women were identifying folks that were pretending to be black because they were speaking you know they were attempting to use you know african-american vernacular and they were like uh-uh these these folks are not real um but we’ve absolutely seen them doing this on the left and on the right um and they very much are you know they have a longer history on the left especially in in in black nationalist communities i mean the black panthers were a communist you know kind of communist group so there is a longer history of russia being able to get into some of some of these groups so they understand the left a lot better in a lot of ways they’re still sort of learning their way through the language on the right um we just happened to pick the the the right-leaning ones right now because we’ve started to see a lot of the the the movement in covet is is really seeing this this coalescing of a lot of these ideas but like anti-vaxxers right like we know that there’s a strong population of antibacters that are highly educated that are typically more left-leaning and yet they’re still showing up at some of these movements with like some of the militia folks which tend to be more more right-leaning so it’s those joining narratives about individual freedom that are really sort of one of the linkages there all right i have a question from charmaine thornhill she wants to know what can people do to prevent themselves from getting pulled into these rabbit holes is there something that consumers of this stuff can do one of the things that you can do is watch your emotions so what happens is that you get these kinds of of information coming at you the narratives hit this emotional cord and you stop thinking logically according to the psychological research right and all of a sudden you’ve got this visceral response where it’s us against them and you’re thinking about your group and you know you can think about this whichever side of the news you’re on you know you’re watching it and it’s the republicans are trying to steal the the votes no the democrats are trying to steal the votes you know they’re packing the supreme court they’re trying to stop us from what we want to do whatever it is you start to get this emotion and then the worst thing that you can do at that point is start to engage so what i recommend coming back from that that yoga stuff that i’ve been pushing for a while um is really kind of taking a mindful approach and before you do anything just taking a deep breath and realizing that you know these things are meant to play on your emotions you know cnn and msnbc and the 20 and fox news and the 24-hour news cycle is also meant to elicit these emotional responses to keep us viewing right there used to not be i mean i’m old now but there used to not be a 24-hour news cycle right it came on at six it came on at 11 and after that you were done but here there’s this constant everything is breaking news everything is so serious it’s all meant to wind us up and as soon as you start to realize that right and you start to feel wound up that’s when you take the step back before you even engage it um and it could be that these narratives are going to be really really enticing to you and and persuasive in their way but you want to be able to think through it so that you’re acting on your own because this is what you want rather than because someone is pulling the levers and manipulating you and i always like to understand the the alternate argument right so um i have a lot of friends that i like truly enjoy like debating with and arguing with um and and so and i and they are genuine friends right um like we’re not talking about folks that are like actual nazis like that’s not what i’m going for but like you like i have friends that like well genuinely we will sit down and we will argue about these things from different perspectives um and i find that that helps me get a little bit less emotionally responded to some of some of these things and as dana pointed out like if you find something that immediately pushes your buttons back away because it’s genuine it’s probably been designed that way um there’s and a lot of times people will troll to try to get that stuff and and trolling comments are absolutely designed to get you to respond to help amplify and spread the message so it resonated maybe not how you thought but even if you’re responding it uh responding to it is it’s important to to to pay attention to that and just comment brings up another really important aspect of all of this which is that the at least from the russian perspective all of this is being done to polarize us to get us to turn against each other and so what’s happened is that we’ve stopped talking to each other the middle has kind of fallen out if you think about those network bridges that that would allow people to talk to each other or even if everything that you do i perceive as a threat to me i can’t then engage to see your side of things and so you know really trying to enact that empathy and try to understand where the other side is coming from is part of reversing this polarization and recreating those communal ties that it’s so easy to lose as we’re just sitting here staring at our computer screens and that’s a lot harder that’s a lot harder easier said than done in a lot of ways because our communities tend to be so homogeneous because our workplaces tend to be so homogeneous it’s actually difficult to find folks that that may disagree with you substantively um so it really takes a lot more work but i think it’s really valuable um and also another way to look at this is also slower media right like i make it a point to you know read the economist it tends to be a little bit center right and a little bit more free market but it’s slow media and it’s not as hyperbolic right i like to take take a breath on things and kind of think through before i kind of stake a position because every time i’ve reacted with with anger or something it’s then oh i didn’t think about this other thing right so it’s like always try to back away from it um and genuinely trying to understand where these other perspectives are coming from um and i know the current election cycle is incredibly polarizing um but there are legitimate perspectives that you know when we look at you know the way that the economy is being restructured they talk about oh the economy grew for who right because there were lots of folks in america that have been left behind by this um folks that have seen their parents being successful and seeing their chances eroding right so it’s really a case of trying to understand what these issues are and how do we develop a national rhetoric and a national story that pulls us all together as opposed to continually pushes us to the fringe all right hong wait did you have a question um yes actually i said professor dawson touched upon this so you referred to like you know the comments are slow media and earlier you mentioned about like you know facebook i was thinking well uh how does the you know social media the technology fixing this because if let’s say backing i don’t know 20 or 30 years ago right maybe we’re being polar polarized and then i would uh you know i um there’s no easy way for me to find another person in my in my in my tribe who lives like i don’t know on the west coast but now with all the modern social media technology i could easily you know just uh unsubscribe economists new york times or whatever and i just go to facebook looking for a group who like maybe there’s a bunch of militias living in i don’t know like somewhere like midwest well i mean we forget that it feels good to be validated right like that’s part of the reason why all of this works is because it feels good to be part of that tribe it feels good to be part of that that group and to have your opinions validated and held up as this moral example all right so we forget that it feels good so we’re actually asking you to like take a step away from something that feels really good right but like we we really do all need to step away from from the brink there um and really think about where are we getting our news how are we being informed about this because you’re right people have been able to be radicalized in the past right we absolutely had the white power movement before social media um we saw the the polarization in america really start kicking off in the early 90s right so there’s there’s definitely other ways to do this that’s not just on the social media space but in the current environment really paying attention to the manipulation into the attention economy um and and trying to back away um is is really really critical um and it’s funny i took facebook off my phone i’ve uninstalled instagram i’ve i’ve signed out of everything so it’s not even able to kind of follow me as well around on the internet and it is acting like a jilted lover in so many ways where it’s like hey this person posted you should check it out hey and it’s trying like everybody in my circle to try to get me to log back in and i’m like totally taking a break until at least after the election but it’s funny how they’re really trying to draw you back in um because it feels good it feels good to talk to people that agree with you it feels good to have your opinions validated so we’re actually you know some of the stuff that we’re we’re arguing for is to to to step away from something that feels really good another way to think about this though is when we think about the words that we’re using right if we’re going to start talking like patriotism narratives right we actually have to tell a story that ties patriotism to service to community we can’t tell a freedom story without being very explicit about the service that it’s tied to right because if we if we just use the word freedom other folks can hear it and think this radical or this atomized individual freedom as opposed to this freedom that comes from being a part of the group so we’ve got to really be careful of the stories that we’re telling um as we’re thinking about you know how do we how do we stop this awesome i can totally really do that because i turn off my some of my like facebook twitter but you know after not reading all the news articles on pr or new york times all day long at night when i’m alone i feel urgent to look at a youtube channel about like one talk show passion about the current election issues and then there’s a recommended like a video clip right it’s been just pushed to my to my browser automatically and it’s kind of like i’m addicted to it it’s a huge part of it so not only is there the the reward when somebody agrees with you or likes your post or whatever it is we get these little charges out of that but then also when you start engaging this stuff you feel like you’re part of a group your group might be under attack by another group but you have that sense of of belonging of um you know this this this sense of threat even right which is getting us into that state that aroused state of you know fight or flight we’re not relaxing at that point but we get addicted to the drama of it right yeah and so there’s there’s a whole cycle and if you’re finding that you’re having trouble sleeping with me which many many people are part of it is because we’re winding so much you know up at night in that quiet moment where we’re like oh let me just check my phone let me just look at what the news article of the day was yeah okay uh question from gary how is race woven into these narratives so i i think when we look at you know it’s focusing specifically on the the the russia stuff when we look at their influence ops they’re very much positioned um in racial narratives right this um you know part of the white power kind of narrative is that there are people who get their rights from god and then there are people who get their rights from the 14th amendment right and those two groups are not the same group of people um and so when we started talking about citizenship we can be using again the same words and if we’re talking to folks that think about citizens in terms of rights from god they’re going to hear and tell very different stories than if we were talking to folks who think that these people get their rights from the 14th amendment um so race is absolutely bound up in these stories um in a lot of ways race ends up being invisible in in some of them because of the way that the the white you know white supremacy power structures work to make whiteness invisible um but there’s very much tied to this when we look at like the immigrant threat and and some of the narratives around immigration that is very much centered on a narrative of to be american means to be white right and it ignores the historical reality of all of the immigrants that have come to this nation that have really helped contribute to the building of it right so it’s very much bound in it some are more explicitly you know overtly invoking race than others but it’s very much there all right i i have a question some of the techniques that you described they look a lot like you know classical strategic communications right you take a target audience’s core values and you sort of emote what they believe in and mix your brand up in there but it seems to me that the real difference here is the centrality of the enemy uh and i was wondering if you could comment like how central is the threat the the enemy the out group uh to this uh strategy i would i would actually just frame it the other way that what’s central is the group and what helps us understand us is that we’re in opposition to them that it’s one of the ways that we really highlight that boundary so the out group is very important not because the out group itself is important but because it helps us see ourselves as part of the in group and the other piece to that too is never before have we had the ability to do many-to-one broadcasting like this that is absolutely micro-targeted every one of us on this channel is a sociologist and an academic in some way shape or form and i guarantee that if we all go to youtube we’re going to all see very different messages so the ability to to gather information on all of us in public widely available publicly you know for sale data and target us individually is is really historically unprecedented so it’s very much tied to this idea about us um and all of the information that’s out there on us so we can it’s much easier to peel us off from the group individually and pull us into these other rabbit holes if as it were than it used to be in a lot of ways so a big part of this story is not just the narratives in the way that they influence us but the selling the selling down the river of our own privacy and how that’s really very much being used against us by these different groups and you know sometimes it’s an unintended consequence of something but other times it’s really being used in a very explicit and strategic way to you know get us to do things and you know sometimes we think about this it’s like oh well what’s the big deal it’s just a marketing campaign right and you know so they’re sending me a commercial well you can think about some of these narratives that are being thrown your way um also in terms of a marketing campaign and just like a marketing campaign that’s trying to get you to go out and you know buy a certain product it’s trying to move you to action and trying to identify with a particular brand so there is a lot to learn from you know the marketing literature about influence but then there’s also a lot that we should be aware about in terms of privacy policies and who has our information and who can pay to access it now we have to stop the live stream because we’re running out of time but before we end the stream if somebody is watching this and they’re interested in your project and they want to follow updates how do they keep tabs on you i guess there’s a loaded question in the context of this uh this uh what social media or or outlets uh can they look you up i’m i’m not on social media in a meaningful way with with this sort of stuff it’s probably smart well you can you can find us at the university and email us and they can also follow google scholar alerts related to this so that’s that’s another way to do it wonderful professor dana weinberg from queen’s college professor jessica dawson from west point thank you so much for uh joining us it was just a really amazing presentation thank you for having us very much thank you for