Friday, June 19, 2020

Take This Statue Down!

by G. Jack Urso
 
Statue of General Philip Sheridan on the grounds of the New York State Capitol, Albany, NY.
 
On the grounds of the State Capitol building in Albany, NY, resides a statue of city native General Philip Sheridan. Erected in 1914 while many Civil War veterans were still alive, the memorial honors Sheridan who played an important role the defeat of the Confederacy. After the war, Sheridan was put in command of the Department of the Missouri to fight the various Native American tribes and bring them into submission.

As widely reported in various sources, including writers/historians Dee Brown in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Evan S. McConnell in his exhausted biography of George Armstrong Custer Son of the Morning Star, Sheridan is also rather infamously noted as saying, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” While Sheridan himself reportedly denied saying this (though his actual denial seems undocumented), his denial alone is not credible given that his actions certainly reflected the spirit of the saying. The wars, lies, and betrayals that nearly destroyed the Plains Indian culture were committed under his command.

There are few phrases that more embody the offensively racist and genocidal attitude of a nation against an ethnic group, and we have a statue of the person to whom it is attributed to, and who led the campaign to take their lands, on the grounds of the New York State Capitol.

Dedication plaque at the base of the Sheridan statue.
In the past, when I served as a reporter, whenever I interviewed a state or local representative I invariably would ask them about the statue of Sheridan and what he reportedly said. I never met one who was even aware this heinous comment is credited to him. Not one.

New York State still has reservations for Mohawk and Seneca Indians and their populations are greatly reduced from the many thousands who once possessed the land the state now claims for its own. How do you think they feel when visiting the State Capitol and see this statue? If you can’t imagine that, then consider what if there was a statue of someone who said the only good White people he ever saw were dead? Get it now?

Across from the statue of Philip Sheridan in front of Albany City Hall stands the statue of Revolutionary War Hero Philip Schuyler which is scheduled to be removed due to his own history with slavery. Schuyler was a mediocre general whose plan for the invasion of Canada was a failure and was court martialed, but acquitted, for his role in the loss of Fort Ticonderoga. He is perhaps and more famous for hosting some of the most notable people of the times at his home in Albany (which still stands), including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. His daughter Elizabeth married Alexander Hamilton.

According to a Jun. 18, 2016, article in The Guardian, forensic examination of the bodies of 14 slaves (one man, six women, five children, and two infants) owned by Schuyler showed the adults were worked hard and, despite being well-muscled, had severe arthritis and some broken bones, typical of the treatment of people in bondage sentenced to a life of hard labor. It is notable that half of the dead found where children.

By a large margin, the only people demanding these statues remain are of European heritage whose ancestors felt no impact from the institution of slavery in the United States.

I am not ignorant of history. My master’s degree is in both history and literature, so I understand the contributions of both Sheridan and Schuyler to the nation. However, ancient Greece and Rome, on whose foundations our Western culture was built, erected statues in public places of those individuals who represented their heroic ideals. When those individuals fell from grace it was common for those statues to be removed, and the Romans simply swapped out the head with that of someone else. In fact, the statues of emperors, senators, and generals were often made with replaceable heads with just that purpose in mind.

By removing those statues and putting them in museums where they belong we are not forgetting or rewriting the past. Rather, we are finally listening to the voices we have ignored for far too long.
 
                         
 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Facts in Doubt: Fake News and the Manipulation of the Masses

by G. Jack Urso 


As a freelance editor/writer and reporter with over two decades of experience, including in fact-checking and corporate intelligence, I have developed something of a sixth sense for spotting sources of questionable validity, or, to put it more plainly, “fake news.”

The “fake news” I refer to does not regard different political interpretations of an event based on a person’s party loyalties, but rather direct attempts from an unidentified source to surreptitiously spread disinformation.

A Facebook discussion group I belong to named “Liberal Christians” started to get articles submitted by a new member, who I will identify later, that were from a news site that has a lot of left-oriented “news” that made assertions with any evidence or more typically commentary posing as news.  All this struck me as curious, so I dug a little deeper.

One article this new user posted that caught my attention reported that Antifa was named as the group responsible for the damage and arson in the riots. This struck me as odd for a several reasons. First, the article presents no evidence that Antifa was responsible for any of the violence (subsequent reports indicate White Supremacists have been posing as Antifa on social media). Second, the article is asserting a Begging the Question logical fallacy: The rioting is what Antifa would do, therefore Antifa is responsible. Third, the article overlooks the fact that neo-Nazis were arrested during the riots and caught posing as Antifa on social media. Fourth, people often mix up anarchists with Antifa, and while there may be some crossover the two are really separate movements. I found it odd that the author of the article would identify one group as the instigator and not the other two.  

Another sign that this article was problematic is in the title: “White Activists need to be VERY FUCKING CAREFUL” [https://testset.io/2020/05/30/white-activists-need-to-be-very-fucking-careful/]. I found this an issue on two points: 1) “Fucking” is language that “Christians” (even the liberal ones) do not normally use and 2) A legitimate journalist/news source would not include such a vulgarity in a headline or an article unless it was a direct quote from another source, and even then it would likely  present it as “F______” or “F******” or refer to it obliquely as the F-word.

All this peaked my interest, so I did some research on the news site, the author of the article, and the member of the group who posted the article. Here is what I found:

First: The news site in question, Testset.io, has a .io suffix in its url. The .io suffix is assigned to Internet domain names registered the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Second: Right on Testset.io’s webpage at the bottom it says it is located in Beirut, Lebanon.

Third: Although the news site is using the .io suffix, according to information on Whois.com, an online domain search database, the domain was registered in the United States from a company located in Colorado on April, 9, 2019, and “updated” on April 12, 2020.

A legitimate news website has a single stream of registration and locality. The domain is invariably registered in the nation in which the company's headquarters resides and does not misdirect readers as to its location. It does not split it up between three nations and/or territories.

Fourth: I was unable to find anything about the author of the article, one David Icke Turner who shares part of his name with that of a British conspiracy theorist David Icke, an anti-Semite who believes in such things as an inter-dimensional race of reptilian beings who are controlling the Earth. I do not think David Icke Turner and David Icke are the same person, but integrating part of the name of a conspiracy theorist seems an almost obvious attempt to throw in a Red Herring and mislead people. 

Other Testset.io authors include an Anatole d’Ecotopia and Quiscalus Texicanus. These are obvious pseudonyms with an interesting entomology. d’Ecotopia appears the reference the 1975 novel Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston by Ernest Callenbach.  The story involves an ecological utopia and was very influential on the countercultural and ecological movement of the 1970s.  Quiscalus Texicanus is close to the Latin name Quiscalus Mexicanus, the scientific designation for the Great Tailed Gackle, a bird. Is this a reference to the fact Mexico once owned Texas or maybe the Southern border immigration crisis? The names seem too carefully constructed to be just random choices. 

Like the purported author of the article, David Icke Turner, Anatole d’Ecotopia and Quiscalus Texicanus, have absolutely no web presence except for the articles at Testset.io — no LinkedIn profiles, no social media presence, no articles on other websites — nothing. Additionally, there also seems to be a similarity in writing styles among the authors, so for all we know they may all be the same person.  

Fifth: The person who posted this article to the Liberal Christians group used the name Allison Mcdermot (original spelling). I found the spelling odd since Mcdermot is usually spelled McDermott. It could have been a misspelling, but I found it a curious detail.

Sixth: Mcdermot’s profile picture was a professional quality head shot of female model doing her best “sexy look” — a finger placed lightly on one lip while her hair hangs down loosely over her face. Something of an odd choice for someone posting to discussion board that usually parses scripture from the Bible. I did a reverse image search on Google for Mcdermot’s profile picture which I found attributed to the following individuals:

·         Cassandra********** on Facebook
            (*full name withheld as this person is a make-up artist
            with whom the picture may have originated).

·         hanalove at galaticlove

·         rachecd246 at galaticlove

·         monica150f3 at galaticlove

·         aliciael233 at devoted singles     

·         ᴀʟᴇx (@easy_brew) at pictame.com

·         Татьяна Новаковская at ВКонтактеvk.com (a Russian dating site)

Additionally, this person's profile lists as her occupation "Whore at Badvice" and that she previously studied pimpin hoes daily P.H.D at University of Houston.” As occupations, these seemed not quite representative of someone interested in discussing the finer points of Biblical scripture. This cast further doubt on the validity of the user profile.

Seventh: A search of Facebook showed that Mcdermot joined several FB political discussion groups in the 24 to 48 hours prior to joining and posting the article in question (and other Testset.io articles) to the “Liberal Christians” Facebook page. These groups include:

·         Christian Democrats of California

·         Christian Democrats of Texas

·         Christians Against Trump

·         Fort Bend Democrats

·         Harris County Young Democrats

·         Houston Democrats

·         Politics of the USA

·         Social Democrats USA-Socialist Party, USA

·         Social Justice in Early Childhood

The conclusion is that there is a concerted effort to spread disinformation among left-oriented political discussion groups on Facebook who would be largely sympathetic to the protestors of George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.

As the old Buffalo Springfield song, “For What it’s Worth,” goes, “Something’s happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.” One thing, however, is clear, the website is at the very least engaged in spreading disinformation and at worst hoping it will further enflame racial discontent.

America, we are being played.