The Improvised Explosive Devices of the Information Warfare Age: Memetics

The Improvised Explosive Devices of the Information Warfare Age: Memetics

A few decades ago, the nature and theatre of war nation states are fighting today, was familiar to everyone. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the types of wars we witnessed within the sci-fi movie genre would constitute our reality in such a short space of time! We are now well-within the Information Warfare Age, and instead of focusing too much on describing it and trying to convince readers that we are within this era, I think the most beneficial direction to take with this piece, and within the series of posts I will have on the different improvised explosive devices (IEDs) of this era, would be to familiarise the reader with the commonly used weapons, the IEDs constructed and deployed in the Information Warfare Age.

As previously stated, the objective of this series of posts is not to dwell too much on defining this era or proving that we are well within it, but to ensure we are on the same page, it is necessary to ensure everyone understands the broader context of all such IEDs. Dan Kuehl, of America’s National Defence University, defined Information Warfare as, “the conflict or struggle between two or more groups in the information environment.” Hacking is one of the first things that come to mind this topic is raise; it does constitute an element of the Information Warfare but it does not completely describe it. Perhaps, a clearer definition would be that information warfare is “the combining of electronic warfare, cyberwarfare, psy-ops (psychological operations) into a single offensive or defensive operation.”

The IEDs worth mentioning in this post many seem on first brush as innocent and harmless but there are growing incidents in the world demonstrating that this weapon in fact, possesses the power to manipulate reality in the minds of many.

To understand how these can and are used in warfare, a definition of a meme needs to be established. Due to their popular use on the Internet, many would define a meme as an illustration with a catchy tag line. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but we need to assess them in the context of a war. In his 2006 essay, “Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War”, transhumanist writer Keith Henson defined the meme as “the replicating of information patterns, ways to do things, learned elements of culture, beliefs or ideas.” Memetics is the study of meme theory and application and it is derived from a number of different concepts and disciplines such as neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, propaganda and marketing. Currently Memetics is a field that currently falls somewhere between science, science fiction and social science, but fans of the discipline believe in its ability to act as a hidden code which can be used to not only reprogram the behaviour of individuals, but that of entire societies. I will leave it to the discretion of the reader to evaluate the type of power credited to this discipline, but something worth noting is that it has been seen that several memes during some of the most recent election campaigns all over the world were funded by politically motivated millionaires and foreign governments.

Irrespective of which genre one chooses to classify this phenomenon under, which is understandable as extensive research into their ability to alter the mindsets of entire societies continues to be topic of research, it is necessary to recognize the possibility that they can and probably are. Michael B Prosser, (in 2005) then a Major and now a Lieutenant Colonel in the USA Marine Corps, published a paper titled “Memetics: A Growth Industry in US Operations” in which he laid down a vision for both weaponising and diffusing memes. He further went on to propose the development of a Meme Warfare Centre. The paper was published with a disclaimer stating that all views expressed in it were his own and not those of the US Military, but one must wonder. Before classifying Memetics as an example of Science Fiction, it is worth thinking about this type of war strategy and if it warrants being ignored by the world.

What is evident is that these IEDs used in the Information Warfare age are effective in shifting public sentiment and as a social engineering tool. This is probably one of the most fascinating weapons of this era as the speed at which information is spread through them is just incredible!



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