I recently read this tweet, from @XA_Alexander:
The “Information Wars” have been an interest of mine for a while, and it’s a great topic for discussion, relevant to everyone’s lives at this moment and going forward, and later in this article, we’ll consider some practical defensive and then proactive strategies for going forward.
Defining The Information War: Pre-History
Murky things occurred in World War II and in the post-war period, there were a lot of huge technological leaps in terms of psychology, propaganda and the like. Under the guise and rhetoric of the Cold War fever-pitches, a lot of inroads were made into how humans think at an individual level and at scale; with operations that apparently never happened but clearly did; MK-Ultra; where unsuspecting people were not laced with psychoactive drugs and subjecting to reality-bending treatments at an individual level, and Operation Mockingbird, where the CIA was found to not have been deliberately manipulating the news for its intended aims.
This, coincidentally, has likely nothing to do with the burgeoning new science of advertising, marketing and consumer psychology, despite many of those earlier involved figures being “former” agents of the various intelligence agencies across the West.
With a light sprinkling of conspiracy-whackjob; not enough for you to think I’m a lunatic, but enough to frame the conversation correctly, it’s worth stating that the various technologies created and discovered through the latter half of the twentieth century are still being released into the mainstream via technology companies.
This leads us to the present day.
Defining The Information War: Current Waves
Actual, physical warfare is incredibly inefficient and expensive. There are pundits on television (and we now have televisions across multiple devices that are all within arms’ reach or closer) who’ll tell you that war is imminent because it will be used to revive the economy.
Those pundits are idiots; mostly useful ones.
War is expensive when you can effect a population through subtler means. In the past few years, we’ve had multi-billion dollar currency scams and political parties engaging in full-scale astroturf campaigns at an international, national and local level.
The above is all important framing for defining an information war; effectively, there’s no need to bomb a population when they have a device that will give them news that a bomb is on its way. They will stay inside.
In fact, the technology we have now as such is that the unwitting participant will, by virtue of reading that first mind-bomb, be subjected to more; and thus digital cluster-bombs rain down upon their heads forever.
To speak literally as opposed to figuratively, the free internet is a mirage because the technology to render a personalised experience that maximises your engagement is so sophisticated, that you have no idea the extent to which you are getting a tailored experience, and thus no need to fight it.
The information war is between multiple factions who are all vying for your attention at various stages of the funnel. That’s right now.
It’s going to get rockier.
Defining The Information War: Future Tides
A little nugget of the practical material before we move on: the technology to control mass opinion exists and is being actively deployed by multiple sides. If you’re under the impression that there’s a Good vs. Evil struggle and your side isn’t doing it but the other side is (which is absolutely the most common take; at a political level in every country, there are those on either side who will say the opposition “controls the media”) then you are sadly mistaken.
A common trend in political marketing efforts is in making you believe that there’s a victory in near-sight; that might be, for one side, “Biden will have U.S. politics back to normal,” or, another side, “The swamp is going to be cleared soon, big time.”
The faux-pas that most post-apocalyptic dystopia fictions make is that the goal of any survivors wouldn’t be to get back to normal as soon as possible. The technology and all the materials would be there even in the wake of huge cataclysm. We’re not going back to bows and arrows traipsing through the wilderness until we’ve used up the billions of bullets in circulation.
The same is true for the mind-tech. It’s not going anywhere and regardless of “your side” or “their side,” the technology will be used.
Living in a “Post Truth” age isn’t about having a media monopoly that decides the truth or a decentralised alternative that runs what’s effectively an outlaw media — it’s that there’s no way to tell the difference.
Today, for instance, there’s a video making the rounds of someone getting a Covid vaccine and fainting. This is framed, down the funnel I happen to find myself in when I log into Twitter, as a way to show that the vaccine is some sort of weapon and that the nebulous “they” are using it for some nebulous goal (usually de-population, eugenics or, in weirder funnels than I’m in, it contains a means of monitoring everyone’s movements forever.)
However, this same funnel has videos of fake administrations and so we’d have to believe that, amongst the fake vaccines, one slipped in and undermined the whole project of whoever was hiding it in the first place.
Now… we bring this example up because as there’s a nebulous “they” who are trying to convince you to take the vaccine via engineered videos, there’s also a potential nebulous “they” that could in fact, have engineered videos to ensure you’re not taking the vaccine.
And realistically, you cannot tell, when you view the video, the intent nor the desired outcome, and certainly not the operators behind it.
Such is the technology.
We know for a fact that everything from YouTube videos by suspiciously well-funded Arab militia men up through publicly funded studies are manipulated by various organisations; thus the declarations of a post-truth world.
Ergo, we know we’re being lied to about everything that has any sort of significance; our diets, the impact of technology, currency, and so on… they are all subject to manipulation. However, the power of the tech involved makes it nigh-on impossible to determine the who, what or why of any given piece of information.
The first question posed in the introduction’s quote; “What effect does it have on us?” is answered above.
Let’s now answer what to do about it.
Practical Brain Warfare: Defensive Edition
The first, imperative thing you must do is understand that this technology is analogous to Tolkien’s Ring of Power and you are a hobbit. Everyone who reads this will know someone who thinks they’re “more informed” because they’ve fallen down the funnel-web so far they’re actively crawling further into it.
- “I’ve seen the evidence!”
- “Check out this YouTube video”
- “Bro, don’t you see this counter-evidence is because they’re lying to us?”
This, to complete the analogy, is Boromir thinking he’ll use the Ring of Power to defeat Sauron.
The first line of defence is thus in realising that you aren’t going to win the information war on your brain by consuming more information in the same way you don’t stop a gunman by absorbing all the bullets.
The practical advice is to reframe from, “I need to know the truth of what’s going/gone on,” to, “this is the situation. How do I move forward?”
The parties, motives and most of the weapons in this current war are obscure, and they will be debated and unpacked for decades to come, always subject to controversy. Every year, documents become declassified regarding events from decades ago. Many events are still classified information even though everyone who would have cared is long gone.
The mysteries of current battles are not going to be revealed in their entirety soon or ever; in fifty years, assuming any of us are left, there’ll still be debate about what exactly happened in 2020, whether Coronavirus was a black-op, or whether the next few elections were stolen, subject to manipulation or just plain unfair.
In terms of a cost-benefit ratio, you’ll gain far more from refraining from taking part in the earliest arguments regarding what’ll be drawn out for decades and instead, taking stock of what you do from here.
And the future isn’t all bad once you commit to the reframe.
We are ultimately operating in an environment with two conditions:
- Huge information asymmetry
- Technology operating on the masses in order to distract, pacify and nullify
The former is where the opportunity lies, and the latter is why the reframe is the most important aspect of recognising yourself as humble hobbit in the war between various competing forces you can’t see or appreciate the scale of: it creates the front in which you can push back and win.
Namely, you recognise that engaging in the discourse for reasons other than assuming your own strategic vision and taking a tactical position makes you the pawn and receptacle. There’s a time for activism or mass protest and it’s practically never.
The front then, is “I’m only engaging in this strange, reality-tunnel funnelling system to the extent it’s of tactical relevance to what I need to achieve,” and from there, the tools are that you realise that everyone else is plugged in for the sake of it, and the opportunity thus arises to profit (monetarily or otherwise) not from engaging in the manipulation but from effectively acting while they are glued to the screen.
Find the treasure while the guards are arguing with the rabble, fill your sack with loot and make off like a thief in the night.