Netwar

•October 24, 2019 • 1 Comment

INTRODUCTION

In 1994, an indigenous movement emerged that would forever change the face and the language of resistance. The Zapatista were arguably the first grassroots movement to utilize the full potential of a decentralized communications structure known as “netwar”, which is shorthand for networked psychological warfare.

Effective netwar as demonstrated by the Zapatista relies on the strategic use of all available forms of communication–including street art, public gestures, signage, text and audio/visual expressions, all of which relate to an overall theme that is apparent and memorable. Such communications must also stand in sharp contrast to those of the opposition, in order to clearly distinguish your values from theirs.

Mobilization of netwar is more complex. It relies on time and place, the kinds of resources you have, and the challenges in front of you. Through their own mobilization, the Zapatista were able to maintain a discourse that would not be replaced by the opposition.

The most profound outcome of the 1999 WTO protests is the appearance of the netwar construct in American politics. The “Battle in Seattle” was fought not only in the streets, but also in the infosphere. The WTO protests were the first to take full advantage of the extremely dense and wide-reaching alternative media network which uses the internet. The use of “media special forces” is one of the hallmarks of netwar and informational conflicts.

The WTO protests were the Chiapas insurrection come to America. Like the Zapatista netwar, the conflict was one of networks versus markets. 

The flexible and improvised communications infrastructure used by the Direct Action Network was a significant feature in the protests. One of the dictums of netwar is that netwar actors have a much greater interest in keeping communications working, rather than shutting them down. The dense and diversified communications used by the Direct Action Network could not have been significantly harmed by any action less than a total media and communications blackout in Seattle. Not only is such an action impossible for the economic and social costs which would result, but a blackout of the required magnitude would be the informational equivalent of unconditional surrender by the establishment. Future protests will be even more information intensive. Both protesters and their opponents will have to come to terms with the implications of netwar and the struggle for information, understanding and “topsight.” Because the ultimate prize in a netwar conflict is understanding, not opinion, it is the quality of information, not the quantity, which determines the final outcome.

The essential conditions for victory in a netwar conflict are also the conditions which make waging netwar possible: the shared understanding of a situation which demands direct action. In many ways, the victory of the Direct Action Network was implicit in the fact that so many people understood the conflict and were willing to act on that understanding.

The streets of Seattle showed what democracy looks like.

 

NETWORKS

In 2001, RAND analysts David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla wrote in their seminal paper Networks and Netwars and the Fight for the Future, that the deep dynamic guiding their analysis is that the information revolution favors the rise of network forms of organization–the next major form of organization to come into its own to redefine societies–and in so doing, the nature of conflict and cooperation. The rise of networks, they argued, means that power is migrating to nonstate actors, and that whoever masters the network form stands to gain the advantage.

In 2003, their colleague Paul de Armond, research director for the Public Good network, observed,

“We are on the cusp of the biggest movement of social transformation that has hit this country in a generation. Among other things, that means the number of potential recruits is more than we’ve seen since the 1960s.”

Building on the work of Ronfeldt, de Armond, and Arquilla, I remarked in my 2005 book War of Ideas, “The challenge for those devoted to training and nurturing agents for social change is in providing programs that focus on the specific tools these agents will need–to develop research and analysis capacity in a manner similar to intelligence and security capabilities conducted during military warfare.”

With the hostile takeover of all mainstream media by private equity investors early in the 21st Century, investigative journalism died in mainstream newsrooms. This void in mass communication has since been supplanted with propaganda created by public relations (PR) firms hired by transnational corporations.

To counter this demise of reporting on vital issues, volunteer citizen journalists and a handful of independent reporters have taken up this essential task. Simultaneously, activist scholars turned to blogging about social conflict online. The challenge for these volunteers and independents is learning the principles of communications in conflict, which is not taught in journalism school, nor commonly understood.

As an example, citizen journalists, reporters and bloggers routinely violate the core principle of social conflict, which is to never repeat the talking points of your opposition. For some reason, they almost always begin their articles by stating their opposition’s talking points, and then refute them. Unfortunately, this means that everyone is discussing their opponents’ position—not theirs. Long story short, repetition sinks in.

 

NETWAR

  • Storytelling is of special significance to network organizations because it is the means by which they encourage members to identify with and act on behalf of the network.
  • When network organizations compete in storytelling with other organizations, they engage in narrative netwar.
  • In traditional wars, if one disables the leadership or normal channels of communication, the war is won. In netwar, the network adjusts quickly, continuing on the offensive on some fronts, and establishing alternative channels of communication.

The central feature of informational conflicts is the struggle for understanding and knowledge, as opposed to more traditional conflicts which focus on controlling territories or resources. Netwar conflicts are struggles for understanding and information. The more inaccurate the assessment of opposing forces, the greater the advantage to the side which possesses “top-view”—comprehensive and realistic understanding.

Netwar refers to social conflict in which the protagonists use network forms of organization and related doctrines, strategies, and sometimes technologies. Netwar players are likely to consist of dispersed organizations, small groups, and individuals who communicate, coordinate, and conduct their campaigns in a consultative and collaborative manner without a central command.

Netwar is inherently less violent than other forms of conflict, particularly when it involves non-governmental organizations dedicated to human rights and peace causes. One of the first full-blown manifestations of netwar was the Zapatista conflict in Chiapas. The networked intervention of international groups placed very real limits on the use of violence by the Mexican government in suppressing the insurrection.

Research separates facts from misinformation by finding the evidence that enables judgment. Information is the facts that matter; knowledge is information in a framework. Research and analysis is using what you do know to find out what you don’t.

The use of political diplomacy for purposes of constraining political violence is not only ineffective; it is inappropriate and signals those who use violence that their opponents lack the moral disposition to counter aggressiveness.

Misguided or cowardly reformers who engage them thus, do so at grave risk to a community.

 

PUBLIC HEALTH MODEL

In the body politic, social pathogens of aggression that surface in the form of such things as racism, fascism, homophobia, and xenophobia can be viewed and approached in a manner similar to public health.

Each of these ideological diseases have origins, histories, distinct characteristics, and can be studied, monitored, and analyzed asking the same basic questions used by the Centers for Disease Control and the Institutes for Public Health:

  • Where does it come from?
  • What conditions allow it to prosper?
  • How is it transmitted?
  • What is its life cycle?
  • What causes it to become dormant?
  • Can it be eradicated?

To make room for democracy, it is first necessary to circumscribe political violence. The Public Health Model of community organizing defines political violence as the suppression of free and open inquiry. The remedy of rendering ineffective the agents who practice political violence requires both training and structured reflection.

 

INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY & TACTICS

Concerned citizens and good government groups are frequently blind-sided by an opposition playing by a different set of rules. Part of this is put down to the fact that the models they bring to these situations don’t work. Often, their response to a problem is in a complete vacuum of information. While it’s real easy to get a lot of people involved in a community response, it’ll usually be ineffective because they don’t know what they’re up against.

Research provides the facts and builds a knowledge base. That knowledge is filtered through analysis to determine strategy. Operational research guides the tactics used to accomplish the strategy. In netwar, multiple groups adopt their understanding of the situation to develop the strategy and tactics most favorable to their situation.

The creation of discursive monoculture—intended to dominate all discussion of vital issues—is the result of a strategy by the power elite to prevent counter-power narratives from entering mainstream consciousness. Through hostile takeovers of government, media, and the non-profit industrial complex, the financial sector in the last decade has accomplished what official censorship and political repression could not: the mobilization of progressives in support of neoliberal fascism.

The financial sector capture of media, academia, and civil society indicates a future of diminishing consciousness—a future where fantasies about political power enable the murder of indigenous activists and unembedded journalists with impunity. In A World of Make Believe, I elaborated on the fact that privatized mass communication now dominates public opinion to such a degree that all public discussion of vital issues is choreographed by PR firms.

In Controlling Consciousness, I observed that the donor elites that set the civil society agenda benefit from Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness, allowing them to fabricate news, as well as to integrate advertising with government propaganda. In order to maintain credibility, the non-profit PR firms subservient to the power elite, i.e. Avaaz, need to first establish a noble reputation, often using the tried-and-true method of poverty pimping—an effective and largely undetected tool in the art of social engineering.

As I remarked in R2P: The Theatre of Catastrophe, under the neoliberal model of global conquest, social media marketing agencies like Avaaz, Purpose, and Amnesty International function as stage managers for the power elite in choreographed productions where neoliberal heroism can be enacted. These constructed events–that urge neoliberal military interventions in countries like Mali and Burundi—then draw in civil society as participants of moral catastrophe, where they actually become complicit in crimes against humanity.

The ulterior strategy of Avaaz as the ‘Great White Hope’ in other venues, subsequently allowed this social media marketing agency to easily herd so-called progressives to line up behind the neoliberal imperial campaigns in Libya and Syria–where Avaaz literally designed and managed the PR campaign for NATO and the US–in order to present the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra as the good guys in ‘white helmets’. Networked psychological warfare (Netwar) is not hard to grasp; it just isn’t discussed anywhere, making communication the invisible environment.

 

CONCLUSION

In 1991, Amnesty International eagerly acquiesced to the $11 million Wag the Dog public relations campaign–devised for the Pentagon by the Hill & Knowlton PR firm–to generate support for the US invasion of Iraq, and in 2012, AI was an enthusiastic cheerleader in support of the escalated bombing of Afghanistan by NATO.

In 2015, Amnesty International–in one of the most egregious examples of the nihilism that now characterizes the human rights industry–endorsed the organized crime initiative to freely engage in human trafficking of women and children for sex slavery through the decriminalization of the prostitution industry–rather than choosing to support the Nordic model of decriminalizing the victims, but not the perpetrators.

In 2015-2016 Amnesty International supported–and continues to support—US and NATO military aggression in countries like Libya and Syria, which is bolstered by the public relations campaigns of Avaaz and Purpose–Wall Street-funded marketing agencies with deep ties to the very heart of the military industrial complex. By unthinkingly supporting AI, these ‘peace and justice’ centers become complicit in these war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Many so-called ‘peace and justice’ centers in the United States are still oblivious to the ongoing betrayal of human rights by Amnesty International (AI), which—like Human Rights Watch– has become increasingly corrupt over the past two decades. This brief overview is intended to help dispel the mistaken notion that AI is sacrosanct, and to prompt the pious poseurs–that comprise the purity networks in the US–to begin basing their policies, programs and associations on facts, rather than on outdated fantasies about the Human Rights Industrial Complex.

In order to transition from these preconceived fantasies to research-based reality regarding human rights, these ‘peace and justice’ centers will need to reorient themselves to doing research related to digital netwar, rather than reflexively responding to press releases by Amnesty International, or to the social media propaganda by AI public relations associates Avaaz and Purpose. Until these local nodes of ostensibly noble causes do research, they will remain a notably unconscious milieu—infantile consumers, rather than informed and engaged citizens.

 

Further reading:

Black Flag Over Seattle

The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico

 

Jay Thomas Taber is a retired journalist whose investigations exposed institutional corruption, organized crime, and media complicity. In 2000, he was presented the Defender of Democracy award for his work that led to the convictions of Christian Patriot militia members in Seattle for making bombs to murder human rights activists.

Jay received his MA in Humanities and Leadership at New College of California, where he designed the graduate program Activism and Social Change. He was a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal from 2005-2017, and communications director of the Public Good network (US and Canada) for 22 years.

Jay is the author of Communications in Conflict–published by IC magazine in 2013–and Anti-Indian Movement on the Salish Sea, a six-part special report published by the Center for World Indigenous Studies in 2018. Shining a Light, an interview with Jay for SHIFT magazine (Australia), was published in 2015. He is the creator of INSiGHT.

 

Welcome to the Third World

•October 23, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The Bush bank bailout plus the Obama bank bailout plus the Trump tax cut for the wealthy equals a century of poverty and homelessness. And now the Green New Deal (Boondoggles-R-Us) hoax promises to bankrupt us into the next millenium. Welcome to the Third World.

The Business of *GRETA*

•October 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This podcast on The Manufacturing of Greta reveals the marketing of We Don’t Have Time to be a global capitalist hoax involving her celebrity parents who are connected to the global elite of the non-profit industrial complex that is preying on the emotions of youth.

The book by Cory Morningstar, on which this podcast is based, is available on Amazon.

Podcasts of Act 2Act 3 and Act 4 are available at The Words of Others.

Update:  Act 5 and Act 6 finale are up.

 

Climate Hypocrisy

•September 29, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Patterns of conformity in the behavior of youth–misled by pied pipers of the non-profit industrial complex–are easy to see when one removes the blinders of bliss. We’ve now seen three rounds of mass outpourings of manipulated kids, in synchronized colors, on tour buses provided by oil industry sponsors. Without the spectacle, selfies and free pizza, you’d hardly know what this nonsense was about. I mean, it’s not like first world kids burning petroleum to attend climate change festivals is going to alleviate the utter misery of globalized poverty required to make their lives easy as texting.

The third and fourth world societies–plundered for their high-tech minerals devoured by the first and second world–are simply expendable.

Sinful Ways

•September 24, 2019 • Leave a Comment

When the European explorers first encountered the indigenous peoples of what would later be renamed the Americas, European society was still reeling from the trauma of the 14th Century plague. The impact of the plague–that killed one in three humans throughout Europe and the Middle East–was what is now called inter-generational trauma. Its result was economic panic and religious hysteria, which is abundantly evident in the proclamations of the church and state axis upon discovering (and laying claim to) the two continents inhabited by ‘non-believers’.

What the indigenous peoples of the Americas soon saw was a vast outpouring of humanity seeking a new beginning, far away from the source of their horrendous trauma—a mere century earlier—that drove many to the insane belief that the plague was the wrath of God as punishment for sinful ways. Thus were born the Puritans—religious fanatics par excellence.

Today, as they re-enact the purification of America, the still-damaged inheritors of the Puritan myth exhibit symptoms of unresolved inter-generational trauma that threatens us all.

Shadows Cast

•September 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

In Life of Poetry, Muriel Rukeyser wrote of the shadows cast by the fascist flames in 1930s Europe, as she and others fled by sea to a future no one could imagine. Today, the shadows cast on public opinion via the new private equity media forecast another era when the only way to stop fascists is to kill them. If we are lucky enough to avoid that fate, it would be the first time in history that cowardice led to victory.

Make an Effort

•September 14, 2019 • Leave a Comment

While American progressives listen to NPR to feel good about their intellectual superiority (which justifies their non-involvement in politics), American fascists are holding meetings, organizing political campaigns, and destroying democracy.