There is a quiet war being waged against the perception, consciousness, and inner values of each person. Its weapons are a range of deceptive tactics, fueled by big data and surveillance that can categorize people for targeted manipulation.
At work among the cogs of this machine are government groups both foreign and domestic, special interest groups, big businesses, and subversive movements. Their goals differ, but the tactics and technologies are largely the same.
Like a magic trick, however, the illusion only works so long as the audience is distracted and deceived. After the sleight of hand at work is revealed, the trick loses its hold on the audience.
To break the illusion, it’s important to understand what disinformation really is; how social issues are manufactured and used to drive political goals; why traditional morals are being attacked, and the methods used in doing so; and the fact that many conflicts that seem to envelop society may be little more than a conjured picture designed to deceive.
“The narrative illusion, it fogs the truth,” said James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, which researches information warfare operations through its Center for Cyber-Influence Operations Studies.
According to Scott, some of the deceptive tricks can be traced to Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, who was known as “the father of public relations” and the author of the 1928 book “Propaganda,” which acted as a guide for manipulative public relations.
In his book, Bernays pointed to the habits and opinions of a society, and stated, “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”
Big businesses took a special liking to the concepts Bernays introduced, and his concepts of manipulation began spreading more heavily from the sphere of public relations to the sphere of advertising.
“When companies saw this new propaganda that we now call public relations, they said, ‘We need some of that,'” Scott said.
He said that Bernays “weaponized people’s emotions against them, and the vectors he used at the time to manipulate them were radio and the newspapers.” After television was introduced to the public in 1939, it deepened the impact of Bernays’s theories and broadened their reach.
As these concepts continued to spread and develop, so did the companies that used them. Major businesses began buying out news outlets to more directly promote their manipulative messages. Scott said, “Over time, the megacorporations that make billions of dollars said, ‘Let’s just buy the newspapers and make their messages cohesive with our visions.'”
At the same time, various other powers that emerged in the 20th century also got in the game and brought other tools of deception and manipulation into the mix.
Communist movements began using subversive tactics to infiltrate and attack the moral foundations of societies; governments used various movements for social control or propaganda; and special interest groups manipulated psychology to create support for or opposition to political issues they aimed to promote, in order to gain power.
All of these methods were levied against the common person, whose psychology and inner system of values were attacked—often without his or her knowledge—by various powers vying for influence.
In the sphere of social movements, a key tactic at work behind the perceived struggles of today is the Marxist concept of dialectical materialism. It works by inverting the concepts, morals, and values of a society in order to manufacture social issues. The manufactured social issues are then used as tools to create struggle in the society and to gradually destroy the concepts, morals, and values that once existed.
In the sphere of perception came psychological warfare, intended to alter the way people interpret information. Alongside this were many other tactics of mental deception, including conventional propaganda, ideas of politically based morals under “political correctness,” and methods to introduce new ideas into society to disrupt the culture under “memetic warfare.”
In the arena of how people see the world directly, Soviet tactics for disinformation were used to create false events, manipulate otherwise credible news reporting, censor opposing views, and warp technically true information to create false conclusions.
According to Scott, after decades of use, these tools of manipulation and deception are reaching a breaking point. “The game has changed,” he said. “The traditional vectors are no longer effective.”
The hold on information has been upset by the emergence of social media, where people still have some degree of direct communication, yet where every nation-state and every major business is trying to exert control. With it, they can censor viewpoints, promote political goals, push down revolt, and make it appear that desired social issues have more support than they actually do.
Scott described the current state of information as “a hallucination perpetuated by the kings of the censorship collective.”
The only way out of this, he said, is through each person educating himself or herself on the tools at play, and thereby “inoculating” the mind against the effects of the game.
“It’s important to educate oneself,” Scott said. In this new world where “the truth is stranger than the conspiracy,” information warfare is seen as more effective than conventional warfare, and the tools at play are only growing more sophisticated.