Ever heard of election interference? Think that’s all they do? Why on Earth isn’t anyone talking about it?
If you believe the Russian government meddled in the U.S. 2016 presidential election- and they did- here’s a quick question, call it a thought experiment: Did Russia stop after that?
If you believe Iran’s rogue government attempted to meddle in the U.S. 2020 presidential election- and they did- here’s another question: Was Iran alone?
The answer to the two above questions is so obvious as to be rhetorical: No.
Of course Russia didn’t stop meddling in foreign elections- including ours- post-2016. Obviously Iran wasn’t the only foreign power to meddle in the 2020 U.S. election.
There is a vast new frontier of warfare in 2022, it’s invisible to the human eye. No one is talking about it, or warning against it. Aside from a scant few niche military publications, Information Warfare is going almost entirely unremarked upon for some reason.
It’s almost as if it isn’t happening.
Except when we stop to consider it, we know Information Warfare is going on across the globe, that it must be going on. We’ve even caught glimpses here and there.
For instance, Russia has been engaging in heavy Information Warfare against the Ukraine for over a decade. Now, we know why.
Would Russian military officials including Vladimir Putin really use tanks, guns, and bombs against Ukraine but draw the line at undermining from within using Information Warfare?
Of course not.
Russia has been hacking into Ukrainian government servers, shutting down vital areas and posting threatening messages. Attacks on infrastructure, cyber warfare, election interference and sabotage; it’s all in the IW playbook. The evidence is there for anyone who cares to look.
Even the fact Ukraine was kept out of global security collectives can be attributed to Russian IW tactics and propaganda. Yes, Ukraine grappled with official corruption…just like all the other former USSR states after the Iron Curtain fell. Ukraine being singled out, ostensibly for “corruption,” was all part of Russia’s plan.
Putin didn’t just decide to invade Ukraine yesterday on a whim; he decided 10 years ago, probably before, and has been laying the groundwork ever since. Keeping Ukraine out of NATO was almost certainly his most important strategic military preparation prior to the actual invasion.
Russia’s troll factories and content farms have nothing on those of the Chinese Communist Party, however. The CCP has elevated Information Warfare to a fine art. China calls its IW strategy the, “Three Warfares,” and has been caught employing it against Taiwan, Hong Kong and India, among others.
The CCP definitely uses the Three Warfares against the United States, too; unless you believe the fairy tale that China would use IW against India but never us.
Content farmers, hackers, leakers and data manipulators from every continent on earth, operating independently and in tandem, are even now conducting a variety of misanthropic, ill-intentioned and manipulative activities from election tampering to suppressing scientific study into the origins of a global pandemic.
The basic, publicly-stated purpose of known information warfare strategies like the Chinese Communist Party’s Three Warfares is to undermine an opponent or enemy’s willingness and ability to fight. One of the ways in which the strategy aims to accomplish that is by undermining faith in institutions.
Perhaps its only a coincidence that Americans’ distrust in U.S. institutions recently reached an all-time high.
“Will Americans Ever Trust The Media Again?” asked Issues & Insights plaintively. “This poll explains why we are a nation in crisis,” lamented CNN.
“Of the 16 major institutions Gallup tested, 11 of them saw significant declines in support over the past year alone,” wrote CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza, without saying one word about Information Warfare. “Not one of those 16 posted an increase in trust between 2021 and today. Trust in the presidency fell off of a cliff — from 38% in 2021 to 23% this year. Trust in the Supreme Court dropped 11 percentage points, and that was BEFORE the court issued its rulings overturning Roe v. Wade and loosening gun restrictions.”
Election interference is merely a sub-heading of Information Warfare, a jumping off point. It’s the underhanded, dirty-trick tactic most difficult to hide completely, the one we happen to know the most about as a result.
But Information Warfare goes far beyond election interference. It’s social engineering, idealogical capture, psychological operations; it’s pushing some narratives while quashing others, sowing mistrust in public institutions, fake news stories, propaganda, leaks, hacks, infrastructure attacks. IW is the many-headed hydra stalking us at every turn.
Indeed, it is probably the single biggest reason for the current state of bitter political enmity and heightened level of social unrest we are all experiencing to one degree or another.
Things have certainly taken a turn for the worse in the U.S. over the past few years. Social problems (present in any society) we’ve long lived with have suddenly and inexplicably become significantly more enflamed, entrenched, and intractable. Groups that have gotten along together in relative harmony until recently are now ratcheting up the violent rhetoric on a daily basis.
The media, with its new tabloid-centered clickbait business plan, is an easy tool to manipulate to this end. The salacious, incendiary and sensational always makes the front page.
Retractions, as ever, are printed on page 137. If they are printed at all.
Information Warfare is hard to prove because it’s everywhere and nowhere. The weapons of this new warfare are mostly invisible, too; ghosts in the machine, impossible to pin down. There are no battle lines, either; the battlefield is everywhere and nowhere, but most of all, in your mind.
We are all soldiers, knights and pawns in this battle, whether we know it or not-especially if we don’t know it. Information warfare is the new mafia, a modern-day offshoot of organized crime, an unholy union between the arms race, advertising, and human frailty. Anyone can be working for it, and not even know it, sharing a “news” story cooked-up by a propaganda manager with an agenda.
While no one in the media is investigating or reporting on Information Warfare and the role it might be playing in all this extra divisiveness, social strife and collective malaise, America’s enemies go right on manipulating at least some of the things we see and hear.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)