If cyberwar is about hacking networks, ‘Lie War’ is about hacking the people on the networks. In recent years, social media has become a platform where military units, using the techniques of information warfare, change the discourse and set the agenda
Recently a new form of warfare — Like War – has been identified by two American experts as the new form of warfare far more dangerous than any other ways in the Internet and Social Media Age – Facebook, Twitter and so on.
Rahul Gandhi- If you repeat a lie many times, people are bound to start believing it!
Most apt, perhaps, the word “Lie War” may replace “LikeWar” to represent the reality of Indian politics today. Oft repeating lies to obfuscate truth is the option exercised by all political parties to confuse voters’ minds and hearts. Hardly, political discourse is based on a comparative review of the performance of political parties during their respective rules.
Former Congress’s social media head Divya Spandana was caught sharing a photoshopped picture targeting the BJP and PM Modi
Awareness of social media and its fallout is least understood by the majority. “Social media remains difficult to understand even for many policymakers today” stated Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s during congressional testimony. Facebook and Twitter can make or break political parties and change the course of national and international politics by controlling their networks.
Social Media and Lies
Stating the obvious, the rise of social media over the last decade, due to the Internet, has allowed everyone to become individual collector and sharer of information. As a result, information has been weaponised in the battlefield of “Ballot Boxes” far more destructive and devastating than nuclear bombs. Those political leaders and parties will win an election, who can exploit information or disinformation usage to advantage — out think and outfox rivals.
Prashant Bhushan and Divya Spandana were caught sharing fake news on Rafale deal
All political leaders and parties without exception are playing dirty politics — some more naive; others more sophisticated. Although the truth is more widely available than ever before, it can be buried in a sea or litany of oft-repeated lies.
The main thrust of information warriors is to spin the message to go viral: narrative, emotion, authenticity, community, inundation and experimentation In particular, Rahul Gandhi (RG) and his coterie have been replicating Donald Trump’s “Tweet offensive” on a daily basis. Goebbels, Hitler’s master propagandist who excelled in stirring up hatred and repeating lies, pales into insignificance before RG and his coterie heading the Congress Party social media cell. And, they are ardent followers of the propaganda tool “Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth.” And, RGs “campaign themes” are based on half-truth, fake and fraud news to defeat Modi.
Rahul Gandhi and his coterie are employing social media as a weapon alongside numerous partisan media outlets to win the forthcoming “Battles of Ballot Boxes”None can blame RG and the Congress Party to indulge in Goebbelsian lies to reclaim power. Let me reiterate, that “Politics is power; power is politics.” Let none suffer from illusions on such a count. It is a vicious game played by contestants in ruthless pursuit of power. No rules. No place for weak-kneed. “Politics and ideas and morals do not go together”. Lenin stated, “There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience.” Indian politicians are wily practitioners of Lenin’s prescriptions.
“Like War/ Lie War”
Remarkable and explicit is American expert’s views on “LikeWar/LieWar”: “Propagandists can identify a few dozen sympathisers out of a faraway population of millions and then groom them to attack their fellow citizens. Voices from around the globe can stir the pot of hatred and resentment between rival peoples, sparking a war or genocide. They can even divide and conquer a country’s politics from afar, realising the political objective of a war without firing a shot. None of these scenarios is hypothetical. Each of them has already happened.”
Let me highlight critical aspects of the nature of “LieWar”. The terrain of LieWar is the societal environment. In particular, the target is “Voters’ Mind”. Voters’ attention is like a piece of contested territory. Due to the spread of the internet and smartphones, everyone is part of the fighting. Everything “Voter” watches, like, or share makes a tiny ripple on the information battlefield, offering a little advantage to one side or another. The system rewards clicks, interactions, engagement, and immersion times. Figure out how to make something go viral, and you can overwhelm even the truth itself.
If cyber war is about hacking networks, LieWar is about hacking the people on the networks. It’s a place where military units, using the techniques of information warfare, change elections and where teenage digital marketers, wielding selfie-taking smartphones, change the course of military battles.
The main thrust of information warriors is to spin the message to go viral: narrative, emotion, authenticity, community, inundation and experimentation. They build and shape the storylines based on public expectations and aspirations thereby provoke the responses that impel people to action, to connect with a plurality of followers at the most personal level, to build a sense of fellowship, and to do it all on societal scale, again and again, but using individual reaction to each attack as a moment for mass refinement.
Run-by profit-making companies, the platforms are designed to reward not morality or veracity; but virality. They can ferment violence, stoke hate, spread lies, spark wars, and even erode democracy itself. Which side succeeds will depend above all on how much the rest of us learn to recognise this Lie War for what it is.
Today’s fighters have turned social media into a weapon. They are all trying to bend the local and national information environment to their will. In this way, LieWar is just the latest iteration of centuries of warfare. But, in other ways, LieWar marks an abrupt and momentous development in war and international politics.
LieWar has transformed how fast information spreads, how far it travels, and how easy it is to access it. In the space of a decade, social media has turned almost everyone into a collector and distributor of information. Attacking as adversary’s COG – the minds and spirits of its people – no longer requires massive bombing runs or reams of ineffective propaganda. All it takes is a smartphone and a few idle seconds. Anyone can do it.
Today, it is possible to communicate directly with someone you are ostensibly at war with – to send them “friend” requests, debate them or silently stalk their digital lives. Opposing soldiers on a battlefield might find and then troll each other online. Social networks also create new ways to reach out and attack, even thousands of miles away.
To grab attention and remain in limelight in people’s eyes, minds and hearts, control the flow of ideas and influence, attract, build, consolidate and advance followership, RG, the dynasty, and his coterie are employing social media as a weapon alongside numerous partisan media outlets to win the forthcoming “Battles of Ballot Boxes”.
Congress’ Propaganda Ministry
Perhaps, the Congress Party led by RG and his clique have a legacy inherited from the past: the concept of disinformation – Gharibi Hatao the worst fraud. Today, RG is playing the game of “Soft Hindutva” using its online strength to substitute for declining or reclaiming vote banks.
Quite appropriately, the two American experts have extrapolated the “LikeWar” developments to Clausewitz, Prussian emeritus on Military Affairs, who viewed “War as a continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means. War and politics are intertwined. The war in itself does not suspend political intercourse or change it into something entirely different. In essentials that intercourse continues, irrespective of the means it employs.”
Most important, the new tools of communication — the first long-distance telegraph wires, radio and then television – have also been used in the past to wage information wars alongside the physical fighting. Propaganda was almost universally ineffective. Hitler’s Nazis failed because the British loved to laugh at it. In the 1960s and 1970s, alongside 6.5 millions of tons of bombs US forces dropped on North Vietnamese, there were tens of millions of leaflets, which the North Vietnamese promptly used as toilet paper. On the other hand, the Vietnam War, popularly known as “TV” war, was decided in the drawing rooms of USA.
But, Clausewitz theory on War – CoG — needs to be viewed in its enlarged perspective: “The moral elements are among the most important in war. They constitute the spirit that permeates war as a whole…They establish a close affinity with the will that moves and leads the whole mass of force.”
In retrospect, RG’s central focus on “Rafale Scam” bigger than “Bofors Scam”, HAL and his sudden “Temple Yatras sporting Tilaks on his forehead” — Soft Hindutva credentials — reshape the core Hindutva spirit or have a backlash on his credentials as worthy dynast leader to steer the course of the nation is at stake.
(The writer is defence and strategic affairs expert)