Detecting Spies and Traitors Amongst Us

Using history, weaponized autism, and ultimately artificial intelligence to detect threats

A friend asked me the other day why I am writing a substack in addition to my regular daily duties as an investor and startup officer. I am a workaholic and I suspect it’ll put me in the grave earlier than most. C’est la vie. We’ve got a job to do. 

“Isn’t it, you know, difficult?” “No, not terribly,” I responded politely but noncommittally — with the typical shrug emoji. 

There is an intelligence war going on and I am looking for soldiers and, more importantly, to deprive the enemies of potential recruits by helping you, dear reader, build up those mental reserves and armaments necessary for a successful defense of your mind. We don’t have a draft, no, not exactly, but we are all being requisitioned into a serious fight, whether we know it or not. There are few things as terrifying as this and we must win it. 

We live in an age of increasingly cheap psychological operations, from Q Anon to #BlackLivesMatter. Our adversaries use crowdfunding websites and troll farms artificially weaponizing the information environment around us. Misinformation, disinformation, all that information all the time. It is maddening, addictive, enraging, and engaging.

There’s weaponized mental illness, delivered right to your door. Of course you need facial recognition — who is this cray cray on my Ring Camera — and a gun to defend yourself. Who else would? And who would even bother to find your killer should the worse come to pass? 

I know what you’re thinking because I once thought it too. I’m a very sane, rational person. This stuff doesn’t work on me, you say. You’re wrong. 

“But advertising matters because it works. It works on nerds, and it works on you. You may think that you’re an exception; that your preferences are authentic, and advertising only works on other people.” (Masters and Thiel, Zero to One) 

What is propaganda but the advertising of the state to its friends or foe? 

You don’t believe in conspiracy theories, you say, well, what is an intelligence operation but a state-sanctioned conspiracy? What is an influence campaign by a really slick marketing job? You think it’s an accident that all the best PR people went to work for OSS during World War II?   No, there aren’t too few conspiracies running around; they’ve just got better at hiding in plain sight. These modern-day wizards write books and novels and tweets and are on Insta and addicted to Twitter — they are addicted to weaponized narcissism and they’l push it to you too, if you’re not careful. 

And these conspiracy practitioners can get you to believe anything, especially if they get you young, as they did me. The only thing that ultimately saved me was the moral lessons of science fiction, pluck, and the wisdom of my betters. Thank you. You know who you are. Thank you for knowing who I might become. I won’t let you down. It is for you that I write.

“What I have been trying so hard to tell you all along is simply that my father, without the slightest doubt, was the most marvelous and exciting father any boy ever had.” So did I. 

I read recently that Netflix acquired the rights to Roald Dahl’s works. This is the big money — $686 million — and I, for one, am looking forward to feasting on the scrumdiddlyumptious series. I’m not alone in my love, with the Dahl corpus selling some 250 million plus books. 

You see I am a student of Dahl’s oeuvre and I am an obsessive insomniac. I have read all of his work, fiction, nonfiction, young and adult content — all of it. I even casually drop some of the Dahl language in every day speech. I’m bopmuggered, I’d say when I’m in a bind. Which, in my view, is far better that than being biffsquiggled, or confused. It’s impossible to speak Dahlian without smiling, at least a little bit. I think that’s as he intended.

Dahl knew the pain and difficulty of childhood. “If you want to remember what it's like to live in a child's world, you've got to get down on your hands and knees and live like that for a week,” he once said. “You find you have to look up at all these bloody giants around you who are always telling you what to do and what not to do.” The giants are always lumbering about… 

Some of my fondest memories are reading The Witches with my mother. It did freak me out ever slightly when it was revealed that the witches are bald — just as mum was when she went through cancer.  I’ll never forget laughing with her after she had gone through chemo. Thanks, Roald. 

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One of the more interesting developments in my life has been realizing the extent to which the intelligence services are directly involved in what might be called “cultural matters.” Faiths come and go but the truth remains eternal. 

To see this development in action it helps to go back in time where hindsight illuminates what’s going on. 

Only when you look to history and know that human nature does not change might you realize the obvious: that there are spies among us at all of our leading institutions. I myself have detected them in media, government, and of course technology. 

Such a thing might make you despair until you realize that their behavior generates data and that that data can be analyzed by humans, machines, and humans and machines working together.

Take, for example, the role of Roald Dahl, author of such children’s books as Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, among many others.

Dahl was tasked with spying on America during the World War II and even meeting President Roosevelt. Watch him here describe spying on American elites and to lure them into the war against the Third Reich.

Notwithstanding Dahl calling spying a “dirty word” it seems rather obvious he was doing just that in telling jokes with FDR and the rest of the gang at Hyde Park. He clearly venerates that other great spy novelist, Graham Greene who Dahl, speaking in 1984, regarded as the “greatest living novelist.”

Jennet Conant’s 2008 book, The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington, describes Dahl’s use of sexpionage to get willing Georgetown wives to take the debonair Englishman around the cocktail circuit. Does this sort of thing still happen? You bet it does! 

Dahl developed propaganda alongside Bond author Ian Fleming during the war working in Hollywood and with no less a figure than Walt Disney. Dahl was spotted by author C. S. Forster and developed into both a spy and a writer.

Let’s postulate that Dahl stayed a spy throughout his writing career. This is not, of course, the sort of thing you quit. Once you’re in, you’re in. And sometimes this sort of thing goes on intergenerationally. 

The book, Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl (2011) by Donald Sturrock, points to some of the more interesting aspects of Dahl’s career. Try as I might I could find no instance of Dahl out of step with what passed for British deep state interests. He, too, seems to have come under some disrepute for opposing the excesses of the Israeli state of his day

What role did the British state play in propping up his career? His estate was massive. Did the British government buy a few more copies? Book publishing is a rather great way of laundering money, especially self-published books. Who’s to say what any of that stuff is really worth? 

Perhaps, so too, is Substack where there are hardly any checks on the identities of the persons subscribing and sending money. Might the proliferation of political books that few read also be an exercise in money laundering and/or peddling influence? Why wouldn’t a foreign government want to buy influence this way? Makes you wonder… 

Are his books a sort of British psyop propagandizing a generation of young children? Or simply good stories? Or both? Or something else? 

The children felled in turn by the seven deadly sins in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory are in a certain sense deeply compromised, and compromise is the C in MICE (Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego) that all spies use to recruit people. There’s even a soupçon of (industrial) espionage in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Dahl undoubtedly knew what Charles means — a “free man” in the Old English — but he did not hesitant to have Charlie also get compromised. Charlie may be our hero but he is human. What separates Charlie, though, is that he ultimately does the right thing. Dahl understood that we are all human and have our temptations but it’s how we stand up to them that make us noble. 

Science fiction writer (and CIA advisor) David Brin understood that it’s our last act — our redemptive act — that ultimately defines us. His masterly essay on political blackmail is worth reading in full. It explains so much of the 20th century. 

The trends Brin describes have only gotten worse in recent years, especially when the rival government is under mobbish control.

Just ask Congressman Matt Gaetz, who is being targeted by foreign intelligence for his vote against going to war with Iran.  Why exactly did Lin Wood, who was formerly Steve Wynn’s lawyer and has all kinds of money troubles, donate to a Super PAC against Thomas Massie? 

Could this be the reason? 

So do you think Matt’s the only person they tried to compromise in politics? I know! Let’s ask these guys. I wish we could ask Walter Jones but the late great congressman passed away. We were friends. Maybe we could ask former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers instead? 

Remember this: It is never too late to do the right thing though it is often painful. 

As each of the children sketched out in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory falls victim to his or her vices in turn we might consider another figure — Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn.

Once upon a time Hoffman aspired to running a sort of low budget Charlie Rose public access TV show with his friend Peter Thiel. But that was before he got rich. 

Way back in 2011, Hoffman encouraged people to invest in businesses that were the seven deadly sins so as to addict them. It turns out it’s pretty good business if you addict someone. If you have zero marginal cost distribution of addictive products becomes easier still. If you can SPAC your company — that is merge with a special purpose acquisition company — you can be good to go. 

Did Epstein, who Hoffman was palling around with at the time, encourage Hoffman to blitzscale these highly addictive businesses?  Why did Epstein have advanced knowledge of the purchasing of LinkedIn by Microsoft? What should we make of the curious trades of LinkedIn stock by Epstein’s charity?  

And to what extent do spies compromise the owners of mega corporations? How many transactions happen because the key man in the trade is owned by a spy? 

We might ask: WhatsApp with that? No, this isn't virtual reality but real life. Some people will do it all for the Gram— or the term sheet, won’t they, Mark… 

This is ultimately why we need antitrust legislation: to protect the vulnerable from being compromised. Some of the most vulnerable people in the world are billionaires who aren’t crewed up with a nation state.

Controlling the “Commanding Heights” With Spies; Counterinsurgency With Autist Army 

It’s imperative for a nation to place spies or assets in the commanding heights of a rival’s economy. 

I know of foreign spies who serve in venture funds, direct films, found and fund tech companies, and work for nearly all of our major media companies.  You know them too. I know more than a few who write for Substack and who even work for Substack. 

If autists are, as researcher Simon Baron-Cohen suggests in his 2020 book The Pattern Seekers responsible for human invention than they might also be pressed into service in that mother of all invention — war.

Weaponized autism indeed. One wonders if other countries will follow Israel’s lead of pressing their autists into the service of the state, as recounted in the Atlantic.

Are autistic teens taken advantage of by foreign powers to do real damage in other countries? One wonders, given the fate of the Israeli-American who called in bomb threats to Jewish Americans.

Also does Simon Baron-Cohen have the intelligence connections that his cousin Sacha Baron-Cohen has? 

Ultimately autism isn’t enough. Indeed anything a person can detect, even a special autistic person, a machine can detect better. We are pattern recognition machines — just not as good as actual pattern recognition machines as actual machines. 

We need to be constructive not nihilistic in how we deploy our autist army. 

Here’s the frame: 

It’s We are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People by Elliott Higgins vs. Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium by Martin Gurri.

Weaponized autism has to fight for a nation, not seek its unraveling. The extent to which the law enforcement and intelligence infrastructure serves the neurotypical is a mistake, of course. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

It has never been easier to detect spies who leave behind a trail of data.

Welcome to the Great Spy Hunt! 

It started on January 6th. May it be as it was always — the Day of Epiphany, about how the world really works.