Several operations have been uncovered that were launched by Russia during the 2016 elections. While there is still no evidence that Russia affected the outcome of the election, the targets and nature of its operations tie into some of the deeper forms of ideological subversion at play in the United States.
Groups that the Russian government were promoting in the United States were on both the “far-left” and the “far-right,” with the deeper intention of driving a wedge through American society and to further expand the perceptions of racism and conflict.
Yet, Russia is just one of many players in this field. Several other groups, including special interests, political activists, and even major news outlets have also fed the machine of false perceptions that create a constant picture of chaos and instability in society.
The goal of chaos is to tear society down, to break social harmony, and to drive people against each other. From the state of chaos, new policies can be created, power can shift hands, and various groups with extreme agendas are using these tools to advance their ambitions.
To understand this concept, I’ve continued my discussion with James Scott from the June 26 story on the nature of influence operations and psychological warfare. Scott is a senior fellow of the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology and the Center for Cyber Influence Operations Studies.
According to Scott, with current operations being run in the United States, “chaos is the op.”
The Russian influence operations that were uncovered are merely the continuation of similar programs going back to Russia’s Soviet era, when the Soviet Union was trying to spread the “communist revolution.”
During the Cold War and the nuclear standoff, the Soviets understood that direct warfare was not feasible, and so they turned to ideological subversion; tactics meant to demoralize a society, lead it into instability, then to open conflict, then to “normalization” of invasion or civil war.
According to Scott, this is the “Russian maskirovka”—military deception—and in its current form, the tactics being used by Russia and other groups have outgrown even what existed in the days of the Soviet Union.
“They’ve learned a lot from us as far as the color revolution component of a coup d ‘ état. So we have a problem here of Russia trying to do this, [and] China, [and the] Muslim Brotherhood as part of their cyber-caliphate, and then we have malicious insider threats in the form of special interest groups who have an interest in stirring chaos,” he said.
The “color revolution” model ties to the tactics of billionaire and Democrat financier George Soros. The model uses an “above” strategy and a “below” strategy. On the “below” part, financial support is given to radical organizations that protest and advocate for change, and on the “above” part, politicians linked to the system use the manufactured dissent to propose new policies.
“The interesting thing, you talk about the color revolution, if you look for the color purple and you see who’s wearing it, what’s being announced, what’s the venue you’ll see that there truly is an attempt at a purple revolution in this country,” Scott said.
This also pulls from communist “united front” tactics, designed to unite advocacy movements, student organizations, front companies, and controlled politicians under a single banner. Oftentimes, only the leaders of the organizations need to be aware of the broader strategy, while the rest are what Lenin described as “useful idiots” who unknowingly assist in the greater objectives.
Of course, the current problems in society cannot be viewed by conventional perceptions of “right” and “left,” or of Democrat and Republican. On the other side are manufactured inflation and debt economies, foreign subversion, and Edward Bernays’s propaganda tactics to feed what Scott described as “consumer fetishism.”
On top of this, Scott noted that in the digital age, “we have a problem now with dragnet surveillance capitalists.” Online companies that can curate which information we are shown and collect data on our online activities have themselves begun engaging in various forms of propaganda and censorship, forming what Scott called “a corporate nation-state censorship collective.”
Many of these movements work independently, but have also learned from methods and tactics of each other. Many activists and “community organizers” pull their methods from “Rules for Radicals” by Saul Alinsky, which likewise mirror subversion and deception tactics of communist systems.
Others pull from the cultural Marxist tactics of the Frankfurt School, which introduced subversive concepts such as “critical theory” that redefines history through the lens of Marxism, and which has become the basis of many radical social movements.
Some tactics are also being operated on a nation-state level. Russia is among the better known, but Iran and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are also extremely active on this front.
The CCP’s People’s Liberation Army, for example, has its “Three Warfares” doctrine based on the strategies of psychological warfare to alter how information is perceived, media warfare to control media narratives, and legal warfare to manipulate the international legal systems. Two Chinese colonels published the book, “Unrestricted Warfare,” which outlines a system of war without morals, and which uses many non-military tactics, including “culture warfare,” “drug warfare,” “economic aid warfare,” and many others.
According to Scott, one of the deeper propaganda tactics at play is using “memetics.” The concept of memetics looks at how ideas are introduced into a society, how these ideas develop over time, and how they eventually impact a culture. Various groups are looking to weaponize memetics.
“Anything that is meaningful can also be weaponized,” Scott said, and added that “The ‘meme’ is the most embryo stage of information. So it’s a micro-packet of information that’s distributed. And this is weaponized. It’s a potent ingredient in influence operations, information warfare, digitized psychological warfare, and we’re seeing a lot of potency in this space.”
Scott noted that in his own work at the Center for Cyber Influence Operations Studies, “we teach the Intelligence Community how to use it to spread democracy, how to use it to gain influence abroad without having to lift a gun.”
As things are developing he said, and in the greater picture of the state of today’s world, “I think the mind is the new warspace.”