The current “hybrid war” being waged by Russia is of great concern to many people. Russia has almost total control of domestic news consumption, and uses ethnic Russian speaking minorities in other countries to weaponize the news delivered to those populations.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels
The internal control of news is troubling, because it represents the worst of fascist or totalitarian regimes of the last (and current) century. Countries without a robust freedom of the press are often very difficult to deal with in international business, and are very difficult to assist towards finding common goals and compromise positions.
The other part of Goebbels observation is the telling of the lie, and in Russia’s case to a Russian speaking external audience. And this is important because it allows a measure of control.
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” Soren Kierkegaard
Ever wonder how you get a crowd of people to riot?
Give them a boogeyman. The Russians did it to the Germans by planting a false story about a 13 year old Russian girl being raped by immigrants in Germany. The crowds opposing Trump have no need for a false boogeyman considering Trump’s own statements.
When people are united against a boogeyman, they can be scared or outraged into action.
“People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”
― Terry Goodkind, Wizard’s First Rule
And that is information warfare in a nutshell. Give them a boogeyman to be afraid of, give them a hopeful lie to believe in. Hitler built his empire on a convenient lie about the loss of World War One, and gave the people a convenient scapegoat for that. But Hitler also gave them hope, a vision of greatness, something to aspire to. Even better, give them rewards, tangible or intangible that others can respect. Hitler was a piker compared to Napoleon when it came to inspiring.
“I could conquer the world if only I had enough ribbon.” Napoleon
And there you have it, give people hope, give them fear, and they will give you power over them. That is what information warfare is all about. This is why the terms “Russophobe” are being tossed about by Russian news outlets, it is like the Liberal who claims anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a “racist” or “sexist” to deflect any criticism of a poor position in a rational argument. Yes it is an “ad hominem” but when you care about maintaining the lie, you don’t care about the rules of logic.
So the next time that you read news that angers you, or scares you, or that you immediately agree with, be suspicious. Odds are they are trying to manipulate you.