This is the second in a series of information war-gaming posts. The content of each post in the series will be determined by the discussion that follows the previous post.
In other words, I have no precise idea of what is coming next.
In the comments to last week’s “War-Gaming in Cyberspace” post, A Jacksonian had this to say (in part):
Not only is the MSM a vast wasteland of carrying pain and ‘feel goodism’ of everything being exactly equal, but government that is centralized and unaccountable is then beholden to those that can leverage power via threat and coercion. That is why extremist minority organizations target governments first — it has the power of punisher and it is that power that they want.
Information warfare in this arena is difficult, but not impossible, as the ’net yields asymmetrical tools, if you think about the internet as a tool and not just a message transportation system. As a tool system the internet is discriminating: multiple cultures and languages interoperate but rarely overlap beyond cross-over points. Thus, in larger, common MSM you will see a wide message given on a one-to-many paradigm and to do that the message must be simple and repeated multiple times as the cost barrier for rich information interchange is not present. What the MSM cannot do, and something that it will have problems tracking, is the concept of a many-to-many information system. These are described as a ‘Friend of a Friend’ or FOAF, and they are highly used by organized crime and terrorist organizations because they are ‘trust networks’. The positives of FOAF systems are: high degrees of internal trust, low degrees of penetration, and low degrees of outside interference due to the first two.
Putting these into a COIN paradigm, the methodology of going after the problem is, like in Iraq, not addressed at the highest scale first but at the lowest scale. National governments are too far out of the decision loop (or OODA loop) to be able to respond to anything but long, long term massive threats or immediate military ventures. The last place you want to venture for positive reinforcement of messages is National government and the best that can be hoped for is holding it to keep message systems absolutely open to everyone… whenever government bias is seen or encountered or promulgated it must be given high visibility and denounced. But you cannot do that as single individuals what is needed are internal nets of trust networks.
Yes, steal a page out of the other guy’s playbook and utilize the exact same outlook and methodology as it is effective. Then you do the one thing the enemy cannot do: apply it locally in the language discriminating parts of the internet that do not cross-operate well. These are havens that are language-dependent and should be a source of localize support and networking. The primary use of such networks cannot and should not be political — that is a secondary function given the Tom Paine paradigm of society. What it is good for are those things that support society, tradition, and keeping faith within trust networks between individuals and the local society as a whole.
The #1 weak point of modern societies is that of cutting off the modern from the past. By seeing the past as barbaric, backwards and quite nasty, the negative emplacement of those ideas by individuals supported by government is a continuous problem. From schools to the MSM to localized political groups espousing ‘progressive’ views, past culture is being removed from the modern culture and with that goes the direct support of the modern culture. By making it without attachment, culture can be molded into different forms, the worst of which is unable to stand for anything. If the modern West and other societies depending upon Western cultures cannot identify what they are then the entirety of those societies is up for grabs for those that can coerce government to do its bidding.
A Jacksonian has outlined the exact characteristics of the network needed to fight the information war against the Great Jihad.
Our governments are all but useless in waging this aspect of the conflict, being huge, unwieldy, slow to respond, tied up in red tape, and hobbled by political correctness. By the time any government understands the nature of this information war, the new Caliphate will already be in place.
It’s very difficult to turn our minds away from our central governments. We are long accustomed to looking to them for information, instructions, and solutions. But in our current struggle, not only is the government of no help, it is an active impediment to success.
And not just our governments. No large, centralized, hierarchically organized bureaucratic structure will be of any assistance against the worldwide networks of mujahideen. Anything that follows the government model — corporations, large religious groups, national charities, political parties — will exhibit the same inadequacies as our governments. If it has a head office and a chain of command, then for our purposes it’s useless.
The model of a hierarchically organized command network looks like this:
As you can see, it has a fractal nature, exhibiting an organizational structure similar to that of a central nervous system, or a lung, or the flower clusters of a butterfly weed plant. Hierarchical branching fractals of are found throughout nature, in both organic and inorganic systems. Wherever a flow gathers and aggregates into fewer and fewer channels, or is broken up and successively dispersed, a hierarchical structure will form.
But other organizational network structures are possible, and are quite common. The one we are looking for is a flat or distributed network. It’s what A Jacksonian calls a FOAF network, and looks like this:
A familiar example would be a collection of small towns within a given region connected by road, rail, and the power grid. A prairie dog colony provides another analogy, with its separate burrows joined to one another by narrow tunnels.
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In terms of social organization, the model for a hierarchical network would be the Catholic Church, with the Pope sitting in the Vatican in the heart of the central node. In contrast, Baptist churches form a more distributed network, with individual churches occupying more or less the same level, without answering to a command node.
If a hierarchical organization is exemplified by the central nervous system of a vertebrate, a distributed network is best represented by the nerve net of a hydra, which wraps itself throughout the structure of the animal without ever forming a branched fractal structure or aggregating into ganglia.
The vertebrate central nervous system has proved the more successful in Darwinian evolution, so it obviously has its advantages. But distributed networks are still well-represented in biological systems.
From time to time they may even prove crucial to survival. We are currently at war with an enemy which has formed very effective distributed networks and is defeating us handily with them. We will be victorious in the current struggle only if we form flat networks that are at least as effective as theirs.
One way or another, it will be a distributed network that wins.
Why is it that decentralized non-hierarchical information systems are proving so effective now, after all the centuries in which centralized bureaucracy has been in the ascendant?
The primary explanation is the nature of modern electronic communication systems. Within an environment in which communications are slow and unreliable, the centralized model has all the advantages. In the hierarchical design shown in the diagram above, there is a maximum of ten connecting links lying between any two given nodes in the network.
The distributed model, on the other hand, may require many more intermediate links — hundreds or even thousands — to connect a given pair of nodes. When communication is by courier, or pony express, or even by postal truck or telegraph, this method is unworkable, and is easily defeated by a reliable hierarchical model.
But with almost instantaneous electronic communications over a worldwide network — cell phone, internet, radio, and so on — the advantages of a hierarchical system are lost. When all messages have to pass through a central node, the system chokes at the command point. In contrast, distributed structures in a flat network can form, emerge, perform their mission, and disappear in less time than it takes for a presidential memo to make its way from the Oval Office to an assistant undersecretary of defense.
That’s how Al Qaeda gets inside our informational OODA loop and stays there.
Another advantage of a distributed network is its ability to sustain and recover from damage. Depending on how close it is to the center, the removal of a node in a hierarchical network can cause major disruptions:
As you can see from this example, removal of the central node isolates the five sub-networks and makes them autonomous. In order to re-establish the full network, one of the sub-nodes must reconnect with the rest and assume supremacy over the others.
Removing a node from a distributed network causes much less of a disturbance:
The remaining nodes are analogous to routers in a computer network, and will find the most efficient route around the gap. As soon as a few new links form across the gap between the neighboring nodes, the architecture of the network will be restored, and will remain essentially unchanged.
How does all this apply to the Counterjihad?
Obviously, the nature of communications among real human beings is far more complex than the models described above. But for our purposes, the added layers of complexity only increase the advantages enjoyed by the distributed model.
Increased complexity tends to add layers to a hierarchy, thereby making it even more ponderous and unwieldy. The president adds a new cabinet department; a corporation creates a new layer of middle management; archbishops are inserted between bishops and cardinals in the organizational charts. The bureaucracy becomes more and more sclerotic and resistant to change.
The biological analogy would be the nervous system of the brontosaurus, in which three full seconds were required for a nerve message to travel from tail to brain and back again.
In contrast, adding complexity to a distributed network allows it to become more flexible through self-organization. Prior to instantaneous electronic media, networks were constrained by physical location. Nowadays they can be self-selecting within the entire global communications system. Like-minded people can discover each other, share functions, and create nodal links that amplify those functions.
These things are already happening. None of us has to be conscious of the process or direct it in order for it to occur. The nerve net of the hydra emerges naturally and performs its functions without any of the neurons involved planning what happens.
In fact, any attempt at conscious direction within the network will tend to convert it into a hierarchical system in which orders are given and carried out along a chain of command.
If we choose to inhabit a distributed network, a global overview is all but impossible to achieve. Our understanding of the entire system will of necessity remain within the realm of analogy and metaphor.
What each of us can do from within our limited perspective is to learn how to contribute more effectively to the immediate environment of our network. We can recognize our own abilities and utilize these talents to build stronger links to our neighboring nodes. It’s not necessary for us to know and understand what goes on in the distant regions of the network, but we can become adept at functioning in our chosen local environment.
Later posts in this series will cover more specific applications of distributed networks to our information war. But there’s one thing we all should remember: the architecture of our networks is always mutating. Nothing we plan for should assume any permanency. The only constant is continuous change.
One of the changes that may lie ahead is that we will be forced underground. Right now, even though I blog anonymously, I can communicate and organize relatively freely here in the USA. But in some European countries the things I do and say are already illegal, and it may not be long before the same restrictions emerge in the United States. Mark Steyn has recently discovered the chain-link fence that surrounds “free” speech in Canada.
Each of us should be prepared for an internet crackdown, and any organizing we do should allow for alternative means of maintaining our networks. The old ways are slower and more cumbersome, but if we build them wisely, when the time comes they will suffice.