The Cyber Bear 9 efforts as explored in this book have not simply been the product of a group of trolls, but have instead been amplified by other entities that serve to add both reach and the illusion of validity to information opera- tions artifacts. REFLEXIVE CONTROL AND SOCIAL MEDIA Traditionally, Soviet disinformation had often aimed not only to weaken the non-Communist parts of the world but also to facilitate the strength- ening of the Soviet bloc. Particularly with regard to military deception, but also frequently in other cases of disinformation in the Cold War era, Russian strategists aimed to achieve specific ends. The ideal would be “to interfere with the decision-making process of an enemy commander” through a combination of tools that included disinformation. The targeted “forces must view the deception activities as a logical course of events” so that the victim lacks an awareness or even serious suspicion of the cam- paign underway.29 This effect was referred to as “reflexive control,” with the information operations seeking to produce specific cognitive effects (and reactions) as reliably as if the victim were responding by reflex. One Russian colonel’s list of the elements of information warfare included distraction, information overload, paralysis through misdirection and reflexively controlled perceptions of danger, and exhaustion. Other elements were convincing coalition elements to abandon shared priori- ties and instead secure local goals, convincing an enemy to mistake mili- tary preparations as ordinary training, neutralizing an enemy by implying overwhelming power, or provoking an enemy into rash and counterpro- ductive actions.30 The underlying thread is that such operations seek to transform an enemy’s asset into becoming a liability and worse than non- existent from the perspective of the targeted society. It has been alleged that “by its very nature, the Internet is everything Putin dislikes” because “it is infinitely horizontal while he prefers the Ver- tical of Power. The Internet decentralizes, Putin recentralizes.”31 Technolo- gies, however, are artificial, and they can often be adapted. Chapter 3 will discuss some of the ways in which the connected world has been refash- ioned to serve the purposes of a leader ostensibly so inimical to the “very nature” of the internet. The dexterous qualities of the internet allow it to be used in many ways, and this (alongside the proliferation of internet-capable devices) helps explain the enormous growth in engagement online. One result has been that many aspects of the internet, including social media, “became a kind of public utility” upon which people rely.32 Consequently, discourse can occur online. Scholars P.W. Singer and Emerson Brooking noted in 2018 some of the less appealing consequences: “simply sharing crazy, salacious stories became a form of political activism.”33
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