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Is Stratfor a "Joke"? 211

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the wikileaks-releases-back-issues-of-the-economist dept.
daveschroeder writes with an opinion piece that seems to differ from the usual thinking on the Wikileaks release of Stratfor emails: "Max Fisher writes in The Atlantic: 'The corporate research firm has branded itself as a CIA-like "global intelligence" firm, but only Julian Assange and some over-paying clients are fooled. [...] The group's reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor; they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight. [...] So why do Wikileaks and their hacker source Anonymous seem to consider Stratfor, which appears to do little more than combine banal corporate research with media-style freelance researcher arrangements, to be a cross between CIA and Illuminati? The answer is probably a combination of naivete and desperation.'"
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Is Stratfor a "Joke"?

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  • From my research: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sixtyeight (844265) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @05:06PM (#39214099)

    I was going through the Stratfor leak to assist in crowdsourcing research on the material. I found predominantly old news, employees sending each other e-mail links of dated internet articles, and dingbattily off-base novice assessments of geopolitical maneuverings and trends. The rest was industry-specific minutae ("How does [situation] affect the [goods] market in [country]?") and a few Excel spreadsheets of personally-identifiable employee and contact data. Stratfor appears to be what happens when someone with more money than brains gets an inflated sense of self-importance and decides it would be cool to run a corporate cloak-and-dagger firm.

    Yes Stratfor is a joke. But like most jokes, the problem was that people were willing to take it seriously. Worse, Stratfor's intelligence and comprehension of geopolitics was still light-years ahead of the average U.S. citizen's.

    A much better source of intel - though hardly ideal - for the curious would be at Benjamin Fulford's leak site [benjaminfulford.net]. Each Monday morning new updates arrive that are behind a paywall. They are then repeated for free on various blogs within hours.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @05:33PM (#39214415) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps the incompetence is a carefully engineered image to make people think there's nothing insidious to be concerned about?

    they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight.

    Doesn't the public largely have that perception of government already? That would seem to make them fit right in.

    unlikely, the insidious thing is just their incompetence on multiple levels.

    Stratfors main business was implying to people that they're in the know and that they sell information to cia/others- that was their main advertisement point, that the other clients are People Who Matter(tm). yet the information they could provide was always known to be the same quality a normal journalist could whip up. their one on one counsel was probably just pure bullshit too, my bet is that the head honcho acted like he knew more than he was saying all the time like a fucking cult leader he was trying to be - easier that way, no need to be precise. "oh great counter intelligence god will there be turmoil in middle-east?" "yes, we have information that the area is going to be under lots of political movement in the near future, that much is certain"(from even watching the fox news for past 10 years).

    that's not to say that much of their intelligence shouldn't be taken seriously, I'm just implying that paying for it and a mouth that is there just to please you as a client is fucking stupid.

    that business is crushed. that's the point of the leaks in this case, destroying a bullshit business selling snakeoil "intelligence". previously the way to know that they were a joke were to subscribe to them and read al jazeera and public forums - and who would fess up publicly that they paid for crap level intelligence? perhaps there were some people who thought stratfor would have had some inside information about obama being secretly part of KKK along with osama, but that's just stupid, as stupid as looking for proof of ET's in their material(which no doubt many people have done..).

  • by medv4380 (1604309) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @05:35PM (#39214441)
    Way back the kind of service Stratfor provides was valuable. Having someone in a foreign country pickup a local paper compile the relevant information then send them out to clients was valuable. The Internet has made this service worthless, but they are probably still used just because ripping them out of the burocracy is difficult. The CIA also got slapped around a bit when it was found out that they had ditched a large portion of "human" intelligence gathering in favor of electronic gathering after 9/11. So, they are probably a bit against just stripping out something worthless that allows them to claim "human" intelligence gathering. WikiLeaks and Anonymous just got tricked by Stratfor's internal Koolaid and Marketing trying to convince their clients that they are valuable. The value Stratfor really has is when a country shuts-down the internet internally, but at that point you really need a real spy since they probably stop the newspapers and other service that Stratfor uses too.
  • Re:From my research: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sixtyeight (844265) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @06:00PM (#39214737)

    I've noticed a similar tendency. It's true of Anonymous, of Wikileaks, and of the American People in general.

    If any or all of these groups were better-informed, so would their results be. That they're not has been the result of consolidated media and a systematized effort to make uninformed peasants and dullards of them. That effort is coming to a close.

    Getting people more aware - and aware of what's actually meaningful and how to discern the difference - would appear to be the next part of the process. Fortunately the information technology is already present, and mechanisms like Slashdot's moderation system will serve the People well. Valid stuff gets promoted into public awareness better, and that's just what we need. The combination of unemployed bloggers, information technology, social networking and an increasingly motivated public will enable us to form solutions and information distribution channels and get them noticed. It's less about diagnosing the problem, and getting to the business of forming solutions. Together. Not to mention getting onto the process of exposure and accountability for wrongdoers.

    A lot of the stumbling blocks for people at the moment seem to be that they're predominantly unknowledgeable, they don't yet have sufficient discernment to know what to toss out let alone solutions to contribute or even participate in, and as a result they're pretty reactive to what passes before them, complaining about it or offering uneducated opinions and interpretations. Forming solutions, rather than complaining about the silliness we encounter, is The Next Thing. To stay ahead of the trends, work out what The Next Thing is, and then implement it.

    For instance, how about a hybrid Wiki / Kickstarter specifically for corruption? Crowds can compile research - with citations - on the wrongdoings of corporations, politicians, CEOs and public notables. Each entry could have a fund, with people throwing in $50 or $100 to hire an attorney. When the fund fills up, you take them to court. You then return any damages awarded back to the users who invested in that specific fund, in whatever percentage they invested. Result: Crowd-based accountability to law. A new way to glean money for taking care of the rampant corruption. So instead of complaining about politicians, the public can finally do something about it. It wouldn't matter so much who got into office, provided they were accountable to the law and their sworn duties. And we could stop approaching elections like they were some giant slot machine, not to ineffectually telling each other to "Impeach [politician]" to no avail. With Drupal and BitCoin, it wouldn't take that much for a bunch of geeks to get started.

    Anyone interested? Message me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @06:00PM (#39214747)

    and one who had their information released I feel I can make some credible comments on the quality of Stratfor.

    The primary use of Stratfor was background, especially in regions I was not familar or required too much attention to stay on top of. Second was the channelling of event and other information from various open source media, including local/domestic. Third was their analysis. Whether done by themself, others, or some combination, they usually got the broad picture correct and were good at breaking down economic data. However, Stratfor was poor when it came to near and medium term predictions on both economic and political events. Marginally better on military stuff.

    I was a general subscriber, nothing 'special' ever requested. For the price, they were worth it. If you timed things properly you could have it annually for less than a sub to the WSJ and again, from an informational gathering standpoint they did a decent job. Perhaps a lot was open source and/or available if you really wanted to look, etc but that is exactly why you are paying a firm like stratfor - to do the searching and collating for you and give some kind of summary. They save time and effort.

    posted anonymously for obvious reasons

  • by camperslo (704715) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @07:20PM (#39215525)

    The Atlantic article seems way off in dismissing the implications of leaks.

    Wikileaks chief Julian Assange, after all, felt comfortable taking credit for the Egyptian revolution; how good can his understanding of world events, and the actors shaping them, really be?

    The leaked assessment that the military would side with the people of Egypt instead of murdering them was a critical one.

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @07:35PM (#39215655) Journal

    I've been observing Stratfor - plus several other similar operations - since the late 1990's

    I've subscribed (paid subscriptions) to many of them

    I do so to gauge the correctness of their so-called "intel reports" as well as learn new and interesting "stuffs" that I'm not aware of

    For Startfor, for the subjects that I'm very familiar with, I would say that they are correct about 20-23% of the time

    For the subjects that I'm not familiar with, however, I won't be able to comment

  • by KingAlanI (1270538) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @07:55PM (#39215805) Homepage Journal

    Conspiracy Theories 101 - any information that conflicts with the conspiracy theory must be ignored and classified as disinformation propagated by the conspirators.

    That's exactly the main problem with conspiracy theories, which makes them unfalsifiable and thus unscientific.
    (basically, if there's no way to prove it wrong, there's no way to prove it right either)

    Also, enough exposure might make you think _you're_ the crazy one for not wanting to believe their odd ideas.

  • by Requiem18th (742389) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @08:17PM (#39215985)

    I don't know if this is trolling, sarcasm but there is a grain of truth in this.

    Slashdot is populated predominantly by engineer types. Engineers believe in processes and systems, engineers believe in the objective world and the scientific method.

    So engineers have a tendency to support a political stance based around solving problems by engineered solutions, in other words, government programs. Tell an engineer that the government is broken and he'll try to fix it. Tell him that it is corrupt and he'll device decision making processes around human flaws.

    What are the alternative political postures? Conservatism and Libertarianism. For an engineer Conservatism is a joke, it is based around tradition and authority. Authority is not objective and definitively not scientific. Science is based on independent verification but authority means that the authority is right, not because of evidence or proofs but because it says so. Tradition is simply putting authority on past decisions.

    Fortunately only the most retarded conservatives would entrust this massive amount of faith to any single person. Unfortunately they have "God" an infallible (and unaccountable) authority figure who is then adopted by conservative leaders. Surprisingly they turn out to be quite balanced in their position about government power! If asked whether conservatives like the government or not, the answer is "both". They are against and in favor of government depending on who's in power, so they loved government when Bush was in in the White House and hate it now that Obama is. Sounds flip-floppy but is actually quite consistent.

    So we are left with Libertarianism. Libertarianism is internally inconsistent. It is based on the doctrine that nothing good could ever come out of Government, except enforcing of private property. The core assumption is unquestionable. They'll won't concede any example of positive government intervention. Any attempt to patching it or fixing it will be derided as "yet another government agency" and declared part of the problem.

    At this point it should be obvious why an engineer would have trouble with Libertarians, but they also adamantly support government enforcing of private property. Why is this acceptable? Why is this part of the government capable of helping? And why is the evils of corruption tolerable here?

    Well, they just are.

    It gets worse when you realize that their definition of private property and self determination are quite weird. They for instance have no concept of common land. They see absolutely nothing wrong with rich people monopolizing obscene amounts of resources. At the same time they see nothing wrong with creating areas of property where there was none. I'm talking about copyrights and patents. Things that nobody would conceive of "owning" are, for the Libertarians, not only appropriable, but MOST be so, the mere idea of anything being free is highly offensive to them, therefore their motto, "there's no such thing like a free lunch".

    Let's be honest. Libertarians are kind of a modern oddity. A civilization cannot grow in Libertarianism. Who owns the land? Who owns the mountains? Who owns the grass? Who owns wildlife? Who owns the earth bellow your house? Who owns the water underground? the rivers across it? The rain above it? Who owns the roads? Who owns the electromagnetic spectrum? Any growing civilization would have bumped into these questions and discover that we, for the most part, have only one world that we must share. Libertarians are simple people born into a world too big for them to understand and think that simple rules would work just fine.

    That's why few engineers adopt libertarianism. Except of course those who are so fed up with political corruption and idiotic electorate that have adopted Libertarianism out of despair. But honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if they just wanted to see the world burn.

  • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:16PM (#39216381)

    I subscribed during the middle of the Second Congo War. Stratfor was a much better source of info on what was happening then anything else. They weren't giving me rocket science -- it probably wasn't hard for them to figure out that a) the official Congolese Army was worthless, and b) the Rwandans were kicking their asses mostly by coordinating flanking attacks with satellite phones. CNN, the Atlantic, etc. all probably had guys who knew way more then that; but none of them would consistently be posted on their websites because thousands of black people getting shot in a major battle is not very "newsworthy."

    The BBC was a little better, because they have a whole section of their website dedicated to Africa, which mans that even if theirs a news-orgy because the President had a blow-job thousands of people getting killed will be posted somewhere. But they don't focus on the nuts and bolts of military operations the way Stratfor does, so the Congo war wasn't always the number one story on their site either.

  • by gadzook33 (740455) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:03AM (#39217487)
    Right, I understand your position but if I may excise the fluff, you're saying: many Slashdotters...are pro-wikileaks is because we think they are a net gain to society. And I just disagree with that (although nice job of portraying me as being outside of slashdot).

    I'm sure I'll go to hell for it, but I'm going to quote Newt Gingrich from a moment of unusual clarity: "People like conspiracies because it is easier than believing that the world is large, random, and uncaring."

    Now I personally think that's a little dark, but the sentiment is correct. It's much more comforting to blame someone for the crappy stuff that goes on. I also don't know why you're taking this quite so personally. I don't begrudge anyone this view of the world, I just think it's worth empathizing with opposing views. If you don't, there are some other countries that might suit you better.

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