The announced hybrid war

Image: Jonathan Meyer
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By SANDRA BITENCOURT*

Are we already at war? What will our weapons be?

With only three days of government, the newspaper The globe announces in an editorial that the honeymoon with the Lula government is coming to an end, due to the impatience of the population and the distrust of the market. There are scarcely 72 hours to enact the record erosion of political capital coming out of the polls. We are, therefore, already in a window position and with all kinds of slingshots aimed at a new popular government. The scrutiny of each gesture, each statement, each movement has already started, seeking to identify sources of wear and tear and symbols of leftist vices. What will be our weapons in this already announced hybrid war?

The concept of “hybrid warfare” is slippery yet widely used. From a military perspective, according to Frank G. Hoffman, these types of conflicts "incorporate a range of different forms of warfare, including conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, terrorist acts involving coercion and indiscriminate violence, and criminal disorder." This approach encompasses two trends: “convergence” and “blending”, which include criminal structures and terrorist organizations with organizational ties and common strategies.

In addition to the military theory of hybrid warfare, I would like to focus on the most widespread and broad strategy, which involves mass collective communication. It is an international phenomenon, politically aligned with the agendas, institutions and hegemonic projects that support a new extreme right and able to play the dirty role in capturing nations by financial/rentier systems that intend to accumulate more and more in scenarios of devastated rights.

The technology available and already appropriated by this digital native right maximizes the effect of information conflict and network disorder, with the logic of confrontation. It is not limited to the production of fake news, rather it is linked to the creation and dissemination of influencers who sell a way of life, some libertarian values ​​and provide a symbolic link with the extreme right view, capturing above all those who live on the margins of citizenship and social protection.

Through technology, an industrial imperative for remodeling the world is produced. But this metamorphosis has not been producing the democratization of information, but a global information society that leads to the concentration of the means of communication and the rise of market power over life.

How to respond to this? How to prepare for these movements and tactics that recruit significant fractions of a society degraded by inequality and impoverishment?

The first answer, in my understanding, is that the field of communication should not be understood by the new government as something merely instrumental, a tool for the visibility of power. And yes adopted as medium complex of civic aspirations, which needs to be coordinated with diagnoses and monitoring to interfere and compete in the most diverse areas of public policies that are so urgent. This vision, for example, needs to recognize that we are not going to work better with new technologies. They are not new, they have already been appropriated, used widely and their effects have already been felt.

It is not about introducing social networks into government communication. What exactly does the new government intend in terms of democratic digital transformation? We need understanding and responses capable of dealing with expressive segments that act with belief and a sense of community, not necessarily with reason and common sense. And what to expect from the relationship with a media system in transformation, with means of reference that had to decapitate the criminal leader tolerated by market interests, but who now do not want to give the impression of being on their knees to the country's new communist order?

Technological, economic and military primacy is established from the domain of information and communication networks. We need to add to this the role of the media and the State as a promoter of regulation and credibility in these environments. It is also the time for academia to meet the nation's major strategic issues.

From this academic and activist point of view of public communication, it would be important to observe three inescapable axes: (i) strengthen the academic community that constitutes and builds the field. There is an accumulation of knowledge that needs to be accessed; (ii) bring together the conceptual horizons of what Social Communication is in contemporary conflicts and geopolitics; (iii) to develop research that allows enriching the existing theoretical-methodological heritage and from there to design actions, measures, pacts and regulations.

It is a difficult task, but urgent and with construction underway. They are our weapons of defense. By the looks of it, we won't have time to breathe a sigh of relief.

* Sandra Bitencourt is a journalist, PhD in communication and information from UFRGS, director of communication at Instituto Novos Paradigmas (INP).

 

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