Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hybrid War and Weaponizing of Information: The Empire's Deep Self-Reflection, which Isn't

I decided to return to a propagandist article that, using the mechanism of projection (“my enemy is what I see in the mirror and that’s how I know that he is awful”), to comb through it and learn (or save) what lies beneath it surface. The article is entitled “The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money ( and was written by Michael Wiss and Peter Pomerantsev, who judging from his book, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: the Surreal Heart of the New Russia, sees today’s Russia as thoroughly nihilistic (even though nihilism is another Western ideology par excellence).

According to Pomerantsev, one of the many fashionable renegades, and Weiss, the threat posed to the West by Russia is one of “unreality.” This is very ironic for the current US political model has been built on constructivism (there is no truth and/or man has no organ for the truth) and on its postmodern derivatives, which negate reality. As Ron Suskind famously quoted Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s key strategist, people who are not initiated into the ways of this new Empire belong to

what we call the reality-based community … who believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do. ( Suskind, Ron (2004-10-17). "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush". The New York Times Magazine)

As I said, the Empire tries hard to see the enemy as its own true self.  This approach saves lots of work and thinking.  And, literally, it also brings it all closer home so that a denizen of the empire can relate and also better understand what to hate and why.

Pomerantsev and Weiss use a very interesting notion or neologism—that of “weaponization” of information. It seems that by weaponization of information they mean disinformation and lies “used to confuse, blackmail, demoralize, subvert and paralyze;” moreover, disinformation and lies that are part of war, i.e., hybrid war. And hybrid war is a war that includes nearly all what is available or it is war, which includes war, but, at the same, from other angles it might look as something other than war. And Russia is accused of waging such war against the West.

Pomerantsev and Weiss are sure that thinkers in the Kremlin are “not thinking in familiar terms.” As P. and W. are concerned, these Russian thinkers may be aliens. Perhaps even demons. In contrast, P. and W. call themselves “journalists,” really almost priests for they “consider freedom of speech and freedom of information to be sacred,” and hence their job, for which they are well paid, is serving this God—information, which will “will eventually lead to new ideas and generate progress.” And the more we will have of what P. and W. are doing, the “the more harmony we will have.” I would almost call this (false) promise “progressive angelism,” if it were not that ridiculous or absurd to think that the corporate media really care about reality, dialogue, freedom, or the truth.

But let’s get to work. It means, once we are mindful of the projection mechanism at work in what P. and W. are saying when he start putting together the image which they and the Empire reflect and which they try to paint over the face of Russia, without bothering much what Russia is really about.

Thus, if we translate their categorical statements back to their source, we do obtain something very good insights into the nature of the Empire itself, which is a valuable and laudable enterprise.

1.      “the Kremlin sees it as a mechanism for enabling aggression and an opportunity to divide and rule.”
Does the Kremlin really want to conquer the world? Not really. But does the Empire? Yes. Self-evidently, so. Thus what we learn? That globalization is really a mechanism for enabling aggression by divide and conquer.
2.      “Whether out of wishful thinking, naiveté, or cynicism, a useful myth was cultivated over the last fourteen years: namely, that the United States and Europe had an honest partner or ally in the Kremlin, no matter how often the latter behaved as if the opposite were true.”
What does it take for anyone to believe even today that the US or Europe are “honest partners”? Is Obama, Clinton or Bush honesty incarnate? And when was it the case?

3.       “And in spite of rather naked periods of disruption—the pro-democracy “color revolutions” in Europe and the Caucasus in 2004–2005, the gas wars with Ukraine in 2005–2006, the Russian-Georgian War in 2008—the myth endured and was actually expanded upon with the advent of the US-Russian “reset” in 2009.”

Good to see P. and W. inadvertently putting “color revolutions” into the same category of “naked disruptions” of the Western “myth” (lies) together with the war of 2008, etc.

3. “Now the United States and Europe have been forced to face the reality of a revanchist and militarily revitalized Russia with imperial ambitions.”
I think the key here is “Russia revitalized.” That is the real meaning of “reality” which P. and W. as well as the US and the West find so threatening. A dying and moribund Russia (of the 1990s) was much more cheerful and reassuring.

4.      “A former KGB lieutenant-colonel, rumored to be the wealthiest man in Europe …” See they proudly call themselves “journalists” for whom information is “sacred.” It turns out, they mean by information a rumor—as long as the rumor fits what they are trying to sell, which is not exactly objective information. They are priests of financial capital. They live by circulating such rumors in the place of thoughts, not to mention “new ideas,” which, they assured us, will eventually arrive as long as we take what they say on face value.

5.      “Russia has hybridized not only its actual warfare but also its informational warfare. Much of the epistemology democratic nations thought they had permanently retired after the Cold War needs to be re-learned and adapted to even cleverer forms of propaganda and disinformation.”

Epistemology (knowing how we know what know) “permanently retired”? Who retired it? And from whom? So now we “need to re-learn to be even cleverer” than before. But, according to P. and W., we have become stupid for, as they say or rumor, we no longer really know. But they do. Somehow.  We are asked to know better by merely trusting them to make us cleverer than how we are. And they think that we are—after the Cold War—quite stupid now.
6.      “Russia combines Soviet-era “whataboutism” and Chekist “active measures” with a wised-up, post-modern smirk that says that everything is a sham.”

Isn’t postmodernism one of the latest words and inventions of the West or capitalism itself? Well, yes, it is. “Post-modern smirk: everything is a sham.” Oh, let’s blame Russia for one’s own pride (or sin)!

7.       “Where the Soviets once co-opted and repurposed concepts such as “democracy,” “human rights” and “sovereignty” to mask their opposites, the Putinists use them playfully to suggest that not even the West really believes in them. Gitmo, Iraq, Ferguson, BP, Jobbik, Schröder — all liberalism is cant, and anyone can be bought.”

Do the powers that be, i.e. our corporate masters, believe what they want the masses to believe? Some basic, simple questions yield self-evident answers. One just needs to have the courage to ask them (out loud).

8.      “A mafia state as conceived by an advertising executive is arguably more dangerous than a communist superpower because ideology is no longer the wardrobe of politics but rather an interchangeable and contradictory set of accessories. “Let your words speak not through their meanings,” wrote Czeslaw Milosz in his poem “Child of Europe”, “But through them against whom they are used.”
So what is the state we are living in? It is a state where the age of ideology is in the past for the system has now a better system—words separated from their meanings and the words are used against those (of us) who assume that the words are meant by the powers that be in the same way in which we take them and understand them. Big mistake. (A while ago I wrote a dissertation just on this very thing).
9.      “The Kremlin exploits the idea of freedom of information to inject disinformation into society.”
Translation: “freedom of information” means and meant the freedom to inject disinformation. Provided that one can have a more or less secure monopoly on such displacement.

10.   “The West’s acquiescence to sheltering corrupt Russian money demoralizes the Russian opposition while making the West more dependent on the Kremlin.”

Actually, P. and W. are saying not more than this confession: “The West is and has been sheltering corrupt Russian money [and their holders] …” But whether this deliberate sheltering of Russian corrupt money makes “the West more dependent on the Kremlin” or the Russian (corrupt) elite on the West is a question, which needs to raised and heard in order to understand what the policy is and whose is this policy.

11.  “a fluid approach to ideology now allows the Kremlin to simultaneously back far-left and far-right movements, greens, anti-globalists and financial elites.”

Is the Kremlin backing the world’s financial elites? Or who is whom the world’s financial elites are backing in Russia? Oh, we know. P. and W. told us just above—they are backing (sheltering) “Russian corrupt money.” If one cannot read a text as a poet, reading it as an average political theorist might still take us somewhere.

12.  “There is an attempt to co-opt parts of the expert community in the West via such bodies as the Valdai Forum, which critics accuse of swapping access for acquiescence. Other senior Western experts are given positions in Russian companies and become de facto communications representatives of the Kremlin.”

According to P. and W., Russia is successfully developing a fifth column in the West by providing employment to Westerners in Russia. That’s also why it might be good to remain a junior expert or young (regardless of the age) so that Russia would never hire you. For, evidently, employment corrupts.

13.  “But whereas the liberal idea of globalization sees money as politically neutral, with global commerce leading to peace and interdependence, the Kremlin uses the openness of global markets as an opportunity to employ money, commerce and energy as foreign policy weapons.”

Translation: liberalism preaches that money is politically neutral, but the West has always used money as its almost most effective political weapon. Oh, but we are not supposed to know that … unless you are an enemy of liberalism or a Russian.

14.  “The Kremlin exploits systemic weak spots in the Western system, providing a sort of X-ray of the underbelly of liberal democracy.”

The idea that someone can see through the lies and hypocrisy of such corporate propaganda, which cheers the fascists in Ukraine on, must be clearly maddening.

Russia does not have normal zombified eyes. The eyes of the Russians are “a sort of X-ray [applied] to the underbelly of liberal democracy.” The metaphor suggests pregnancy and a doctor (here representing Russia). One has to wonder what “child” is our late capitalism bearing. Oh, we already know that! Rosemary has a baby! And it looks like Nazism reborn and reloaded.

15.  “The West has no institutional or analytical tools to deal with [this hybrid war and weaponization of information.”

P. and W. conclude by indicating that, in the end and after all what they said, we are not supposed to know what they were talking about anyway. Peace.
 So what to do?
P. and W. recommend “enlisting experienced bloggers … [who would adhere to the same standards  … to generate headlines.”
Bloggers then shall be enlisted!@

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