The War of Information

By Alexander Greco

April 15, 2019

Humanity has entered a new era, the Age of Information. With this new age, many believe we are facing new kind of war. Some say we’ve entered a Culture War, or a War of Ideologies. Others say we’ve entered a War of Information. I’m inclined to believe we’ve entered both wars, and that these wars are actually interwoven with each other.

 “Us vs. Them” mentality of war is becoming less and less about regional or national sets of individuals—the French vs. the Spanish, or British vs. Americans—and more about conflicts between Ideologies throughout the world. Instead of our “tribes” being determined by region or nationality, they are determined by shared personal beliefs, moral foundations, and social norms.

The current culture “battles” are being fought over what a person should think, how a person should think, and how we should behave. Orwell and Huxley may not have gotten the precise details of our present struggles right (though some details are alarmingly pre-cognizant), but the core conflict of 1984 and Brave New World are almost spot-on:

Psycho-Social Conflict, and Control of Ideas and Behaviors.

These battles are being waged all over the place, in a variety of social, institutional and industrial sectors. However, the frontlines of these wars appear to form on the Internet.

The Internet is where the majority of people receive most of their news, entertainment, and other media. The Internet also acts as a cultural and political hub for millions of people on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Google and Twitter. Online, we are exposed to more information, more personal beliefs, and more cultures than any human ever has been before.

Many thought that with this sort of cultural diffusion, we would see less global tribalism. This has been true in some ways. Musicians from Japan can connect with musicians from France. Sports fans in Brazil can talk shit with sports fans from Spain. Bloggers from America can converse with artists from Serbia. In many ways, the Internet has brought people together.

However, the Internet has also fractionated into innumerable echo chambers. Democrats typically socialize with other Democrats online, and Republicans with other Republicans—both camps are usually disparaging the other. Anarcho-Communists and Neo-Marxists join the same chat groups, where they discuss how terrible Capitalism is. Open-border and closed-border supporters only interact with each other when they’re looking to trade blows.

While this has remained relatively innocuous for quite some time, there have been growing tensions between these Internet tribes (yes, I think “tribes” is the best word for this).  These ideological tensions have been growing in the time leading up to the 2016 presidential elections, and has been growing ever since.

While much of the conflict has been right vs. left, there’s also been conflicts between:

  • Religion vs. Atheism/Agnosticism
  • Western Values vs. Radical/Fundamentalist Islamic Values
  • Classical Liberals and Progressives vs. Neo-Liberals and Neo-Progressives

In addition, over the last couple decades we’ve seen the emergence or re-emergence of politico-cultural groups such as:

  • Antifa
  • ISIS
  • The Alt-Right (strictly referring to groups such as Neo-Nazis and White Nationalists)
  • LGBT Rights Movements
  • The New Atheists
  • The Skeptics
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Anonymous
  • Neo or Lite Conservatism
  • The Muslim Brotherhood
  • Fourth-Wave Feminism
  • Proud Boys
  • The “Red-Pillers”
  • The “Woke”
  • The Intellectual Dark Web
  • Intersectional Postmodernists
  • Neo-Marxism

Some of these groups have pretty reputable motivations and members. Some of these groups are a mixed or neutral batch. Some of these groups flirt with dangerous Ideologies and motivations.

And many of these groups, including the traditional political and cultural groups, are at odds with each other. Some of them have already physically harassed people, committed acts of vandalism, or have committed violent assaults on others. Some politico-cultural groups across the world, such as ISIS, have committed horrific acts of violence against fellow humans.

And, to further complicate the matter, this has all also become wrapped up in government regulations and Social Media policies. To further complicate the matter, this has all become wrapped up in a conversation about Freedom of Speech, Public Goods vs. Private Companies, and government intervention or the lack thereof. To further complicate this, we have to deal with bad actors, fake accounts, bots, and biased (left and right) news outlets.

This is what forms the War of Information—the censorship, demonetization and regulation of speech, expression, and personal belief.

The War of Ideologies, or the Culture War, and the War of Information are two sides of the same coin. One is the tension between various political or cultural factions, and the other is the censorship or promotion of different political or cultural beliefs.

To explain this all better, I want to explain these two “Wars”—these two social battlegrounds—separately.

The War of Ideologies

There are many types of Ideologies, many spectrums across each Ideology, and many intersections of Ideologies:

  • Political
    • Democratic
    • Republican
    • Libertarian
    • Progressive
    • Centrist
    • Classic Liberal
    • Traditional Conservative
    • Neo-Liberalism
    • Neo-Conservatism
    • Marxist
    • Identitarian
  • Cultural
    • Family Heritage
    • Regional
    • National
    • Global
    • Cosmopolitan
    • Traditional
    • Religious
    • Ethnic
    • Art/Media
    • Pop Culture
    • Counter Culture
  • Economic
    • Laissez-Faire
    • Libertarian
    • Conservative
    • Liberal
    • Social Free Market
    • Socialism
    • Communism

And then, everyone has their own, personal ideology, which is an intersection of various Ideologies, mixed with their own personal beliefs and morals.

Part of what has happened in the Age of Information is a Crisis of Identity. People are struggling to be an individual in this strange new world, and, at the same time, are struggling to feel as though they’re part of a group.

When people come in contact with each other, and they identify with different and conflicting Ideological groups—or different Ideological Tribes—they attack each other. This can be as innocuous as members of one Facebook group going after another, but it can escalate to protests and riots between two Ideological Tribes.

While I could write pages and pages about the debates and social wars happening online, the point is that there are large numbers of different Ideologies that are currently conflicting with each other online, in college campuses, and in mainstream media.

I’ve compiled a short list of various debates and commentaries on these social tensions here. So as not to be politically biased, I listed individuals with beliefs that range from hard left, to centrist, to hard right. The point is not to highlight any particular political views, but illustrate that a wide variety of political voices are concerned with censorship.

While most of these conflicts occur in debates, commentary and online discourse, the conflict extends outside online media into legislation. This is where the War of Ideologies connects back to the War of Information.

Why?

Because Ideologies are how we process and express information. Ideologies are a set of beliefs, morals and perspectives we use to get by in life and make decisions, and many fear that politically-based censorship can silence people with dissenting beliefs.

With platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Patreon or Paypal having the ability to demonetize, suspend or ban accounts for expressing certain views, many people have begun to worry that political lobbying could result in people being censored from public discourse because of their personal beliefs.

This is only made worse by the sheer amount of content that is put out on the internet, the sheer amount of different opinions and beliefs on the internet, and the sheer amount of misinformation and bad actors.

At the same time that companies and political groups might be censoring and suppressing speech, it is becoming more and more difficult to trust information from media outlets—even large, mainstream outlets. The result is a frantic, chaotic marsh of clashing beliefs and muddied facts.

The foundation of this “War” comes down to:

  • Freedom of Speech vs. Censorship

And

  • The Deterioration of Society’s “Sense-Making Apparatus”

Freedom of Speech vs. Censorship

This debate comes down to a conversation about what can and cannot be said on Social Media and on Mass/Mainstream Media. It’s a conversation over political correctness and free, open discourse. It’s also a conversation over who is allowed to talk.

For example, who is allowed to have a voice on Twitter? Should someone be banned for life if they have a political opinion that isn’t PC? Should Neo-Nazi’s be allowed on Twitter? Should ISIS and other Muslim Fundamentalists be allowed on Twitter? How about this, should someone who questions the motivations of Muslim Fundamentalists be allowed on Twitter? Or, should someone who questions the actions and motivations of Black Lives Matters be allowed a Social Media platform?

A current controversy on Twitter revolves around people being banned for “dead-naming” and “mis-gendering” trans individuals.[1]

One example of this controversy is a woman named Megan Murphy, a lesbian and a Feminist activist, was banned for saying, “men aren’t women” on Twitter.[2] Personal beliefs aside, this shouldn’t be such a controversial statement that someone could be permanently banned from Twitter, a massively popular platform for public discourse.

Who is allowed to speak?

Who is allowed to voice their opinion?

And what opinions should be allowed on Social Media, versus what opinions should be censored on Social Media?

In addition, online mobs (left and right) have called for the de-platforming or de-monetization of individuals, and online mobs (left and right) have also harassed individuals through emails, through social media, or through published content.[3]

Many liberals and conservatives alike—from Progressive college professors[4], to Independent/Neutral investigative journalists[5], to Fox News Reporters[6]—have pushed back against this. Not only have they pushed back against the Social Media companies, but they‘ve pushed back against the media outlets who support this censorial action, as well as political figures and activist movements who call for censorship.

And this doesn’t even go into things like Russian Troll Farms[7], or Wiki-Leaks and the recent arrest of Julian Assange[8], or the fact that Facebook is selling its users’ meta-data to large corporations.[9]

While these things are all a part of the problem, the biggest problem is that it’s hard to know what the hell is going on right now. The biggest problem is that we can’t agree on our problems, we can’t agree on facts, and we can’t agree on where to even begin solving our problems.

Amidst all this online chaos—amidst this strange new world we’ve entered—we’re in a period of time where so much is happening across the world that it’s difficult to know what we should do about anything.

We’ve become a disassociated people, with widely varying personal narratives that help us get through our days, and we’ve entered one of the most chaotic points in human history.

No one can even seem to agree on basic facts regarding global and national events. We hardly trust our governments. We hardly agree on who is an enemy and who is not. We hardly agree on what our problems are, or how we can solve these problems.

If no one can agree on what is happening, then that means no one can agree on what we should do to fix our problems. This is the dissolution of our Sense-Making Apparatus.

Our collective Sense-Making no longer works. We have too much going on, we have too many competing narratives, and we have too many competing sources of information.

There is a spectrum of people in the 9-11 conversation, ranging from people who outright dismiss the idea, to people convinced the government staged 9-11.

We can’t seem to decide what should be done about the violence and instability in the Middle-East, or what the true cause of the violence and instability even is.

Half the nation is split on the legitimacy of our current president. Some people absolutely love Trump (like, love the guy). Some people are neutral. Others hate Trump (really, really hate him).

And, to top it all off, there are people right now who think the Earth is flat.

People are going crazy. People cannot agree on a common narrative, on common problems, or on common goals. People can’t even agree on basic facts.

And it’s not just the United States. This is happening throughout the world. There’s social and national instability in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle-East. Practically everywhere, we’re destabilizing everywhere, and so much of it has to do with our Sense-Making Apparatus—our common agreement on facts, on problems and on goals.

And this failure of our collective Sense-Making Apparatus only makes the War of Ideologies, or the Culture War, worse, because it’s a war of competing ideas, competing goals and competing perceptions.

So, what is the result of this?

There is a huge divide now between the left and the right, but there are also divides within the left and the right, and there are fringe, radical groups who have begun to rise in power.

We see movements and organizations such as Antifa, or the Anti-Fascism group, which took violent action against Free-Speech activists at UC Berkley. Antifa, categorized as a far-left activism group, has also clashed with the Proud Boys, categorized as a far-right activism group.

In Charlottesville, we saw a clash between white-supremacy advocates and civil rights protestors, which escalated into a car being rammed into the protestors.

Identitarian-Leftist movements across school campuses have led to massive protests, campus violence, and the targeted harassment of professors and speakers.

Ben Shapiro, a moderate Conservative journalist, faced massive and relatively violent protests when he spoke at UC Berkley.[10] Despite being Jewish, Shapiro has been called a Nazi and White Supremacist by his left-wing adversaries.

Evergreen State professor, Bret Weinstein (pronounced like Einstein) was protested, harassed and forced to leave the University after questioning Identitarian policies on his campus.[11]

Jordan Peterson, a professor from the University of Toronto, has been widely criticized and harassed for protesting similar Identitarian policies at his campus, arguing that they infringed on Free Speech.[12] Jordan Peterson, despite being a highly knowledgeable and outspoken critic of fascism and communism in the 20th Century, has been labelled an “Alt-Right Fascist” by far-left radical groups.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are fragmenting societies and governments throughout Europe, and certainly throughout the Middle-East. There are escalating political movements on the right and on the left throughout the world, much like the ones we’re seeing in America. There’s still corruption in our governments, dictatorships oppressing their people, and wars being fought. We still don’t know what to do about the Middle-East. We still don’t know what to do about North Korea. We still don’t know what to do about Russia, or China, or AI, or Global Warming, or poverty, or anything.

It’s all insanity right now, and I’m not sure where any of this is going.

There’s talk about Civil Wars in the US right now—and there’s actual Civil Wars going on in other parts of the world—and people have been talking about World War 3 since 9-11 happened. If things continue spiraling out of control, something will eventually snap.

If we want to avoid that, we have to come to some sort of understanding with each other, and we have to fix our Sense-Making Apparatus.

We have to shift into rational discussions about our problems.

We have to find common ground, isolate our most prevalent problems, and search for common goals.

And we have to end this War of Information. We have to create institutions we can trust. We have to find sources of news and information we can rely upon, and safeguard them from misinformation. We have to form a government that has the nation’s interests in mind.

But.

If we can’t trust our institutions, then we’ll have to start taking our own lives into our hands. If there aren’t any reliable media outlets, then we’ll have to start searching for the truth ourselves. If we can’t elect officials who have our best interests in mind, then we have to elect ourselves, as citizens of our cities, states and nations, to help bring changes we need to society.

We have to step out of this frenzy of opinions, information, and misinformation we’ve become accustomed to, and figure out what actually matters. We have to see eye-to-eye with people we might not agree with, so we can work to solve our biggest problems. And we have to put everything back into a more common, rational perspective, so we can work towards a better future.


[1] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2018/11/27/18113344/twitter-trans-user-hateful-content-misgendering-deadnaming-ban

[2] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.wsj.com/amp/articles/writer-sues-twitter-over-ban-for-mocking-transgender-people-11549946725

[3] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nationalreview.com/2018/11/social-media-elitists-mobs-killed-dream-of-digital-egalitarianism/amp/

[4] https://www.campusreform.org/?ID-11020

[5] https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-03-5/twitter-baised-against-conservatives-thats-fact-tim-pool-destroys-twitter-ceo

[6] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.foxnews.com/opinion/facebook-doesnt-really-believe-in-free-speech-what-they-believe-in-and-actively-practice-is-censorship.amp

[7] https://www.vox.com/2018/10/19/17990946/twitter-russian-bots-election-tampering

[8] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2019/04/11/world/europe/julian-assange-wikileaks-ecuador-embassy.amp.html

[9] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.techrepublic.com/google-amp/article/facebook-data-privacy-scandal-a-cheat-sheet/

[10] https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/09/14/us/berkely-ben-shapiro-speech/index.html

[11] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bret_Weinstein

[12] https://www.chronicle.com/article/What-s-So-Dangerous-About/242256

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