175 Easter 7: Murder Your Dreams
"Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered; Let those also who hate Him flee before Him." - Psalm 68:1
Murder Your Dreams
“Murder your dreams,” he said.
I wasn’t listening.
I was drunk. (Seven straight hours of watching TV is drunk: it doesn’t make you smarter, give you more energy or equip you to do any of the many things it entices you to spend your priceless time watching. It just makes you slightly unresponsive to your immediate surrounding and somewhat more impulsive when you finally take a break from all that pseudo-adrenaline in the kitchen.)
It wasn’t until many years later that I learned the exceeding value of the phrase: there are so many stories sweeping about and vying for our attention, the overwhelming majority of which amount to flights of fantasy, the great task of virtue now consists of distinguishing that which is real possibility from that which is a dream you were sold. The discipline of wisdom in any moment is to tell the difference between what is realistic and what is vain hope. Are all those lists you make in your head real things you are actually going to do, or just dreams designed by the devil to make you feel guilty and discontent for not living them?
What are you really going to do? Not, “what do you want?” Not, “what can you imagine?” Not, “what do you evision?” But “what will you do?”
Write that thing down, keep it in the headlights, and put everything else in a shoe box.
The future is just the past with more today still in it.
Till angel cry and trumpet sound,
The Mad Christian
Before we get into it..
We at Mad Mondays want to acknowledge the excellent effort of our dear Shadowbroker, who has finished her work with us to focus on being a mom and wife. Each week, she has kept her eye on links and subscriptions and been a level head during late night deadlines. So thank you and God bless you too!
From The Mad Christian, Frisby and Mrs T.
In this edition of Mad Mondays:
Propaganda to psy-op: weapons of mass distraction
The Durham report drops
Food and music
Although there's a lot of attention on America's intelligence apparatus this week, we did manage to find some other headlines too!
State of fear
The pandemic really was a weird time. Do you remember "Scary Poppins," the all-singing, all-dancing head of the proposed disinformation department? Her mission was to stop people saying wrong things about covid-19 and replace that with government-approved messaging. Well, after a whole lot of backlash, the plan was shelved. (Sort of..) But the fact that the US government wanted to set up a Ministry of Truth revealed that even states in the democratic West are happy to go out of their way to control the flow of information.
The opening of the newly formed Foreign Malign Influence Center however, has largely escaped public notice. Housed in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, it aims to shield the American public from misinformation beaming from overseas. Its fact sheet claims that the threat to "democratic processes and institutions from foreign malign influence is persistent and dynamic" and requires "constant attention, a whole-of-government approach, support from the private sector, and engagement from the public." Consider yourself recruited.
Ostensibly, State information filtering is justified as being necessary during times of uncertainty, to mitigate against plague or terrorism or natural disaster. But independent journalist Matt Taibbi, who unpicked the Twitter Files, recognizes a pattern here: "It's the basic rhetorical trick of the censorship age: raise a fuss about a foreign threat, using it as a battering ram to get everyone from Congress to the tech companies to submit to increased regulation and surveillance, then, slowly, adjust your aim to domestic targets."
This formula – amending the target after the launch – seems to be too tempting a tool when it comes to government-sponsored propaganda. During the World Wars of the 20th century, the American government joined British and Allied forces in the production of propaganda, spawning Voice of America to counteract enemy messaging abroad. Hollywood was also co-opted for the fight through the government-directed Bureau of Motion Pictures. But as the War ended and the Cold War dawned, lawmakers wanted to ensure that the government could not use propaganda on its own people, passing laws like the Smith-Mundt Act. Yet, the tweaking of that Act in 2012 and projects like Operation Mockingbird provided ways for the US government to skirt around the restrictions, by planting their narrative in overseas channels first for American journalists to conveniently discover. Today, it is easier to set up your own fact checkers.
The wash-up from the pandemic years has revealed that not only were governments willing to weaponize just about anything to take control of public opinion and behavior, but co-operative corporations, Silicon Valley and compliant media created something akin to "fifth generation" warfare. Simple propaganda is out and the psychological-operation is in. Dropping leaflets over enemy territory has morphed into sophisticated campaigns of influence and manipulation. (Indeed, the psychological warfare division of the US military might be the last one with rigorous entry requirements!)
In a Substack post, writer Theophilus Chilton explains that while the aim of propaganda is to embellish the truth, the goal of a "psy-op" is to mask it. Propaganda can get people to conform from fear of being the odd one out, but the aim of a psy-op is to create true believers. Havel's famous green grocer puts the regime's signage in his window because he doesn't want to be punished, how much better for his manipulators if he truly believes the lie?
Governments wanting to nudge their citizens towards a certain viewpoint or behavior is nothing new – maintaining order is the job of good rulers. But if a government feels the need to feed the people propaganda, are citizens considered enemies of the State? At a recent college graduation ceremony, President Biden said that home-grown white supremacy is the "greatest terrorist threat" to America. So for his part, it would seem at least some citizens are fair game.
During the excellent Brief History of Power series on the Cold War (here, here and here), Dr. Koontz noted that governments have a vested interest in keeping a nation on a "permanent war footing." Fear is very good for ensuring a population is un-moored and pliable. So, it helps those who wish to retain power and control that the covid epidemic is giving way to an epidemic of loneliness or racism or crime. The drug crisis is followed by the border crisis, the climate crisis, the housing crisis and on it goes. You might call it "permacrisis". Not that these things aren't real or alarming, but piping it into homes 24/7 results in learned helplessness.
Yes, our government lies to us. But we don't need to be fearful consumers of messages in the white noise. Author Stella Morabito says that understanding what is going on is half way out of the problem. Refusing to be isolated and striving not to self-censor are weapons against false and destructive messages. Speaking with neighbors, conversations at BBQs, and discussion at bookclub, might be all that is needed to break the spell of the psy-op.
For Christians, time spent in the Bible creates white space between the world's rhetoric and the truth. Renewing our minds with God's words is our first defense against lies, whether they come from the government or elsewhere. Feasting on Christ's supper and communing with the saints is the shelter in the storm. We are sure, as the prophet says, that no weapon formed against Christ's people can prosper. "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord.
So, "be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4: 6-7).
Weaving a tangled web
Last week saw the long-awaited publishing of a report from Special Counsel John Durham. The document concludes a three year investigation into "matters related to intelligence activities and investigations arising out of the 2016 presidential campaigns" of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The report focused on the FBI bias in its treatment of the two candidate's races.
The report has proved to be a strange Rorschach test for our media and political punditry. The bulk of corporate news and left-wing commentary insisted the report was all old news and achieved nothing except to advise the FBI to lift its game. The right-wing saw in the report proof that intelligence agencies are dangerously political and that SC Durham has uncovered something more shocking than Watergate.
Here's some reporting by journalists who we believe have proven to be measured in their writing on this subject:
- Eli Lake says the FBI gave preferential treatment to Hillary Clinton's campaign, even as they knew she was the originator of the Russia collusion narrative.
- Margot Cleveland wrote that the FBI's investigation into Donald Trump was unjustified, as was the use of FISA warrants. Both were based on false or flimsy information, stove-piped straight to the White House and the Clinton campaign.
- And somewhat surprisingly, The Washington Post ran an opinion piece which blasts the media for being complicit. "Durham’s report outlines stunning abuses of power. That so many journalists don’t get it underscores why public trust in the media is at an all-time low."
- Just the News ran a list of important takeaways.
While the top brass at the FBI insist that they've already made changes for the better since 2016, SC Durham wrote that his recommendations would be fruitless unless the Bureau recruits agents who are of high moral character and dedicated to protecting Americans.
From Ruby Ridge to Watergate and Waco, the targeting of pro-life citizens and Catholics, to that time when they blew up a city block in Philadelphia, it is understandable why Americans are suspicious of the intelligence apparatus. Perhaps it is time to defund the FBI and start over.
Proverbs 12 says that truthful lips shall be established forever, but lying tongues are but for a moment. While we should always pray for just leaders and men of integrity to be raised up to positions of power, there is no guarantee that every liar will face justice in this life. However a day is coming when every tongue will confess Christ is Lord. And that is enough.
Can music the way food and drink tastes? According to new data, the answer is Yes! Airlines were the first to recognize that "air pressure, humidity levels, and cabin noise" have an effect on our sense of taste." But leaders in the field of "sonic studies" found that "certain sounds are implicitly associated with particular food tastes: low-pitched sounds align with bitter and salty flavours, while high-pitched sounds are linked to sweet and sour tastes." Brands and restaurants are looking to hire musicians to "enhance" flavors of their food and beverages.
Odds and ends
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden say they are at a bit of a standstill in negotiations over the national debt ceiling. The President cancelled his planned trip to Papua New Guinea and Australia to join the debt negotiations. PNG must be especially disappointed having declared a holiday for the President's historic visit. Chinese investment in Papua has been on the rise. (NPR, Guardian, PNG Facts, Financial Review)
NYC Mayor Eric Adams says he was "dropped from Biden's 2024 campaign advisory board before it was announced last week." Mayor Adams has been tussling with the administration over crime and immigration. New York has been overwhelmed with migrants transported from border states, with Mayor Adams considering allowing migrants to stay in school gyms and hotels. They are also being shipped to counties outside the city. (Axios, Gothamist, Axios)
Kari Lake's bid to overturn election results in Arizona is continuing, with new concerns raised about signature verification on ballots. (Just the News)
Security and intelligence
Air Force memos show that accused leaker Jack Teixeira was previously warned not to view or copy classified information but was kept in his position anyway. (CNN)
National Archive officials say all presidents since Reagan have mishandled classified memos. (Just the News)
Whistleblowers who questioned the FBI's January 6th investigations have been suspended with their security clearances revoked. One agent said since he came forward with concerns, his family had been left "homeless". (The Blaze, The Blaze)
Food and farming
CRISPR greens? Pairwise, a tech agriculture company has edited mustard greens to take out bitter flavours. (Food Dive)
California's ruling on sow-stall pork will impact pig farming all over the US (Agriculture)
New agricultural agreement in Netherlands will force farmers to keep no more than 2 cows per field. (NL Times)
Justice Neil Gorsuch has written a scathing statement slamming the US government's pandemic response. "Fear and the desire for safety are powerful forces. They can lead to a clamor for action — almost any action — as long as someone does something to address a perceived threat...But it does not tend toward sound government." (New York Post)
After three years wearing masks, folks in Japan are turning to "specialist smile tutors" to remember how to "grin and bare it". In a recent survey, a quarter of the Japanese population said they would continue to wear masks "unconditionally". (The Guardian)
A fourth death has been attributed to contaminated eye drops. (USA Today)
"Estrogen - a more powerful breast cancer culprit than we realized." (Harvard Gazette)
Scientists used magnetic pulses to reverse the direction of brain signals, which they say helps severe depression. (Stanford News Center)
The first in-utero brain surgery has been performed in Boston. Expectant parents Kenyatta and Derek Coleman had canceled the baby shower for their daughter. Since her birth in March, the baby is reportedly doing very well. (FreeThink)
Religion and the Church
Influential Presbyterian pastor, Tim Keller, has passed away after a battle with cancer. (Not the Bee)
Dormitory directors at a small Christian college in New York have been fired for including gender pronouns in their email. The pair claim they used the pronouns because they have unusual names, but refused to stop using the identifiers when asked to. (AP)
A new survey says heaps of Americans are switching religious affiliation. The main reason cited seems to be disagreeing with church doctrines, specifically teaching on sexuality. One commentator said people "seek a faith that aligns better with their beliefs". That probably won't be a religion that can save your soul, though! (Axios, NewsBreak)
The Supreme Court has denied an emergency injunction against Illinois' gun and magazine ban. (Bearing Arms)
Parents of children killed in the Covenant school shootings have filed a motion to keep shooter's manifesto from being published. (The Hill)
60000lb of explosive chemical ammonium nitrate have disappeared from a train during its two week journey from Wyoming to California. Authorities think the chemical may have leaked out of the carriage as it was in pellet form. Yikes! (New York Post)
Money, markets and jobs
Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay $75m to settle a class action lawsuit brought by victims of Jeffrey Epstein. The claimants say, "The bank was aware of his sex trafficking activity and still continued to do business with him, which facilitated their abuse." The case could have an impact on JP Morgan Chase which "faces similar but larger lawsuits against it." JP Morgan Chase is also being accused of religious discrimination by nineteen GOP Attorneys General, who say the bank is biased in its treatment of politically or religiously conservative groups. (DW, Banking Dive)
Elon Musk says he wants to understand the Tesla hiring process better by approving every new hire at the company. Musk has also indicated his willingness to address the terrible conditions of cobalt miners in the Congo. Cobalt is essential in the production of many high-tech devices and electric vehicles. (Electrek, Twitter, Independent)
Media, arts and sport
We forgot to run this one last week, but better late than never!
What Tucker did next.. Tucker Carlson popped up recently to say he was going to continue making his show and post it to Twitter. Carlson has had a few offers from various media outlets, but is reportedly legally obliged to refrain from building any Fox competitors while his contract runs. It expires in 2025. A guest on NBC worried that now no one would be able to "police what Carlson says". (Twitter, Axios, The Blaze)
Johnny Cash lyrics to be printed in a book (The Guardian)
People noticed that WNBA player Brittany Griner stood for national anthem at a recent match. A stint in a Russia prison might give a new appreciation for America! (ZeroHedge)
Very hard to believe...It's Monday again.
The CEO of OpenAI says artificial intelligence technology such as his company's ChatGPT needs government oversight to prevent it from going "wrong". (BBC)
Montana has banned TikTok. People will be allowed to use it, but internet providers and companies cannot offer it for download. (Axios)
Fleeceware: Scam apps are bundling ChatGPT to swindle people into unwitting subscriptions (Wired)
Forbes reports that TikTok tracks "sensitive" words on its app, including mentions of Taiwan, Tibet, Wuhan and Uyghurs. (Forbes)
Google has announced it will delete Gmail and YouTube accounts which have been inactive for two years or more (Epoch Times)
Scientists develop way to 3-D print ceramic components in mid-air. (SCMP)
Scientists were able to sequence parts of people's genomes from footprints they left on a beach, which is a little unnerving. Researchers say the discovery is "both a scientific boon and an ethical dilemma." (Futurity)
Headlines from far away
Hun Sen, Cambodia's Prime Minister, has dissolved the last remaining opposition party. Ruling for three decades so far, Hun Sen has said his party will dominate the country for a century. Cambodians go to the polls in July. (BBC, Reuters)
Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso has dissolved the opposition-controlled parliament as he was put on trial for embezzlement. (BBC)
Argentina has raised interest rates to 97% as it struggles to rein in inflation. (CNN)
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is leading after initial round of elections. A second round of run offs will be held this week. (BBC)
An 88 year-old Australian doctor freed after years of captivity in Burkina Faso. (France 24)
Nigerian Christians continue to be killed by Fulani militants. (Persecution.org)
Warring factions in Sudan agree to temporary ceasefire. (CBS)
John Michael Jones Gets a Life is produced for Mad ⳩ Mondays by E. Darwin Hartshorn. Episodes can also be found on Tuesday, along with previous episodes, on Bunny Trail Junction at bunny-trail.com.
Quick Hits for the Eyebuds
😧 Chrysler recall: 2014-2016 Jeeps may catch on fire
🪖 Feeding armies throughout history
🎮 Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom sold 10m copies in three days
🥣 An AI recipe generator suggests recipes based on your ingredients
⏰ The wildest timepieces you'll see
🇲🇽 Soccer goalie keeper scores goal from his end of the pitch
👀 America's workforce if it were 100 people
😂 When different eras of Hollywood collide
🤯 Scallops use jet-propulsion clapping to zoom around
🐕 Brains of domestic dogs are getting bigger
🥸 This spider pretends to be an ant to avoid being eaten
🇩🇪 Sausage vending machines are all the rage in Germany
😍Inside the studio of which produces handcrafted globes
🔨 "I made a hand typing automaton"
A Good Word: Links from the Show Notes
In case you missed Saturday morning's Stop the White Noise, here's a list of resources mentioned in the show:
"From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology" by Andrew E. Steinmann
Kingstone Bible comic trilogy
Kingstone comics Voices of the Martyrs
"The Count of Monte Christo" by Alexandre Dumas
"The Fruit of Her Hands" by Nancy Wilson
Promo of Friends
The third annual conference of the Digital Catacombs will be held at Trinity Lutheran, Denver, Colorado, June 7–9, 2023. Dr Koontz and other guests will be speaking on digital persecution, privacy and the spread of the Gospel. Find out more here.
Sweetness You May Have Missed
Let us pray: O King of glory, Lord of hosts, uplifted in triumph far above all heavens, leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father; for You live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
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