By now I am sure most people have heard about the Forbes article regarding the Department of Homeland Security and it’s bid for a contractor who will build a database for compiling information on journalists, bloggers, and other “media influencers”. According to Snopes, the report is true; DHS has 7 bids so far.

Everyone loves memes; they are quick, simple, and just about impossible to credit. But you have to be careful of deception with memes; some are accurate, some are not.

Before we go any further let me just clarify something. I don’t collect a paycheck from the Department of Homeland Security. I have studied DHS in an academic context, but I am way too poor, and my credit is so bad I will never likely be able to work for DHS because someone somewhere decided people like me would be a security threat.

Because apparently, people like me would commit crimes and sell out our country for enough money to pay our monthly bills. I don’t have any hope of getting a top security clearance. HLS has no leverage on me; and I gain nothing by writing favorably about them; or unfavorably as the case may be. There are some things I don’t agree with.

That said, I was trained to think critically, do some research, recognize text that is designed to play on a reader’s emotions, especially a reader’s fears, and to ask questions. Like, is it really  necessary to jump to the worst possible conclusions and speculate negatively whenever it comes to the DHS? Are there other explanations?

Some excellent advice on how to spot fake news. If you are looking for a good place to check up on a source, try this site:

Right! The article writer is earning her paycheck and part of what Forbes pays her for, is to bring people running to read her article on their site. If it didn’t have all the fear-mongering in it, nobody would go running to read the article, or share it all over social media. Forbes wouldn’t make a profit, Michelle might not be able to pay her utility bills.

I could criticize Michelle for wanting to earn a living. I could criticize Forbes for paying Michelle for the most sensationalized piece she could possibly write, where DHS looks like it couldn’t possibly be up to any good. But a woman’s got to eat and a media publishing company has to stay in business and contribute to the economy.

That my friends, is reality. And Michelle Fabio is not wrong, in many other countries journalists and bloggers are intimidated, imprisoned, killed, or just disappeared to never be heard from again. Even in this country, intimidation of the news media is not new or unheard of, and it ought to certainly be resisted. The best resistance? Keep writing.

A meme that neatly breaks down the right, left, and minimal partisan biases. This is useful for determining which way a real news sources will slant the tone of their work to get you to view an event in a way that is good for them. But you should also fact check the claims or look at multiple sources; and ultimately do some  thinking about what you are reading. Ask yourself questions about the content.

There are other explanations for what DHS is up to with this database. I mentioned in my previous post that we have a real problem with Truth Decay and Fake News; and we do. These are elements that make democracies particularly susceptible to internal destabilization, terrorism, insurrection, social breakdown, and civil war.

Truth decay and fake news start the process that can turn a democracy into a failed state.  So, what is fake news exactly (I’m going to write a separate post on truth decay)? According to Homeland Security Newswire, Fake news is propaganda that is being packaged to look like it comes from legitimate, trusted, and real news sources.

When you know you have a problem with a foreign government inserting propaganda disguised as American news media sources, American bloggers, and American media influencers, and it is your job to protect America from threats, foreign and domestic, guess what? You are going to need a means of telling the difference, am I right?

We want to know that Michelle Fabio is a real person; a real American journalist or blogger, and that her article is really written by her, and that Forbes really did publish it. We want to know for sure that what we think is a Forbes website is not some impostor website in Russia pretending to be Forbes to fool people like you and me.

We would want to know, or we should want to know, and so does the Department of Homeland Security. They want to know what is normal for Michelle in terms of what she writes about, who she publishes with, so that if something pops up that isn’t actually her work, making claims that are lies; they can contact her and find out happened.

It might be a little intimidating, but it is not necessarily intended to be intimidating. Is it intimidating to you when you go out-of-town on vacation, buy a souvenir and then your bank calls you to verify the purchaser is really you, and not an identity thief? No? Are you relieved and glad they called, because what if it wasn’t you?

What if someone pretended to be Michelle Fabio and wrote something completely opposite to what she normally writes about, and posts it on RT? What if it is was blatantly false and affected Michelle’s credibility and integrity in a negative way? If something like that happened to me, I would want to know about it; so would you.

I did not fact check this meme; did Carlin really say this? Given the nature of his work as a comic it is entirely likely that he did. Does this mean I should believe this meme? No, question it by all means! Go watch Carlin videos to see if you can find where he said it. But even if he didn’t say it, does it look like good advice to you? It looks like good advice to me.

Most organizations track mentions in news and social media; they pay people to monitor an organization’s image, brand, and reputation. This is not new, this is not sinister. I once saw a thread where someone on the internet asked a bunch of Google volunteers about my Alma mater; and an admissions counselor popped up to answer the questions.

Why? Because that is what they are paid to do. Monitor; be there in case people have questions. Keep the organization from being sabotaged by ignorant internet trolls. DHS does the same though not to protect profit margins, image, brand, or reputation. DHS does it to keep us from becoming Syria, circa 2011 to the present.

Next up, Truth decay.

Thanks for reading and Cheers!

Further Reading: