Reflexive Conditioning and Control Through Weaponized Social Media

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John Robb:

"This loss in legitimacy has been lethal to the traditional sources of value and meaning many Americans have built their lives upon. The result is a growing existential crisis. In Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a similar existential crisis led to a drop in life expectancy as despondent Russians drank themselves to death. In the US, life expectancy is falling too (for two years in a row !) as Americans kill themselves with opiates (opicide).

● Reflexive Conditioning: This existential crisis has led to political polarization as authoritarians on the left and right supplied simplistic replacements for traditional values. We can see evidence of this authoritarian conditioning in how quickly trigger words, events and situations generate widespread outrage, condemnation, disgust. In the traditional mass media environment, this type of authoritarian conditioning merely created a bothersome polarization and political gridlock. That changed with the sudden emergence of social networking. As we saw in November’s GG Report on “Reflexive Control,” social networking turns this conditioning into a weapon of mass disruption and control." (The Global Guerrillas Report, December 2017,

Weaponized Social Networks

John Robb:

"This new weapon has fueled the rise of the socially networked organizations that burst onto the scene during the last election cycle and how it being used by these networks provides clues on the direction we’re headed.

To fully explore this, let’s look at how these networks wage war through the lens of John Boyd’s (America’s best strategist) three dimensions of warfare:

● the physical, ● the mental (psychological), and ● the moral.

In any dimension of warfare, victory is achieved by reducing the connectivity of the opposition’s network while improving your own network’s connectivity. It’s fairly simple in concept but fiendishly difficult in practice.


In the physical dimension of warfare, the objective is to to physically disconnect the opposition while increasing your own physical connectivity. The traditional way to fight in the physical dimension is through attrition -- physically damaging an opponent (killing soldiers, destroying equipment, chewing up supplies, etc.). Online, attrition translates into account deletion, temporary bans, and self-editing.

● The insurgency disconnects participants in the opposing network through

relentless harassment and intimidation. A preferred method is doxing -- the public release of detailed information on a target, from private online accounts to where they live. Once doxed, targets are swarmed with threats by anonymous members of the insurgency both on and offline. Studies show that doxing is extremely effective at reducing the target’s participation in the network and/or driving them completely offline. In order to defend its own physical connectivity from attrition, the insurgent network has developed alternative social networks like (etc.).

● The #resistance uses complaint campaigns to compel the social networking

companies to ban targeted individuals from the network and to protect members of its own network from disconnection. The resistance also uses complaint campaigns, targeted at the employers and the families of insurgents that it can identify (e.g. the Charlottesville torch march provided the resistance with pictures it was able to use to ID targets for attritive attacks).

● The corporations that own the social networks are unmatched in their power

to control physical connectivity. They can delete accounts, without recourse, based on vague violations of its terms of use. So far, deletion has been only minimally applied since these companies see themselves as ubiquitous utilities (think: power and water). As a result, these companies have limited themselves to soft bans (the ability to secretly reduce an account’s visibility to others on the network), account suspension, and the removal of privileges (i.e. blue check marks or posting).

Mental (Psychological)

Conflict in this dimension is accomplished by reducing the psychological cohesion (make it harder for them to think clearly) of an opponent while improving your own mental cohesion. Both online and offline, this is best accomplished by making rapid maneuvers (e.g. armored thrusts deep behind enemy lines in maneuver warfare or a rapid series of tweets/posts) that leverage ambiguity, deception, and novelty in order to disorient, disrupt, and overload an opponent.

● The insurgency disorients, disrupts, and overloads opponents by developing

(Reddit, 4Chan, etc.) and deploying the novel triggers (memes, etc.) needed to generate reflexive responses (outrage). To keep its opponents off balance, the insurgency rapidly maneuvers from new outrage to new outrage, using bots and fake accounts (deception) to amplify this activity. Over time, this onslaught overloads opponents, making it impossible for them to think clearly. The insurgency is strongest within this dimension.

● The #resistance uses authority and consensus to achieve success in this

dimension of war. For example, the resistance has deep connections in academia, the government, and the (traditional) media. These connections allow it to quickly amass claims of authority that it can use to defend against insurgent attacks and mount disorienting attacks of its own. Also, unlike the insurgency, the resistance is publicly visible online. This visibility allows it to quickly generate “a defacto consensus” on any issue. This consensus can be used to disorient the opposition since many opponents don’t want to be seen as too extreme.

● The corporations can wage war in this dimension by manipulating the “social

graph.” This manipulation allows them to increase or decrease the distribution of messages and information on the platform. So far, these companies are only using this capability to increase the addictivity of the platform rather than a means of muting opponents. This currently makes them arms suppliers to both the insurgency and the #resistance, rather than opponents. This status can change rapidly.


In in the m=oral dimension of warfare, menace, uncertainty, and distrust are heightened in order to create alienation, fear, and anxiety within the ranks of the opposition. As we have seen in guerrilla wars of the past, success in this effort will cause the opposition to break apart into smaller, non-cooperating centers of gravity that can be easily defeated.

● The insurgency wages war in the moral dimension through moral nullification

-- a rejection of public morality. When facing a moral attack (a claim of immorality), the insurgency has three options: 1) to deny the claim is valid (distrust of the source), 2) to deny the claim is real (uncertainty), and 3) to cast the claim as an attack (menace). The insurgency mounts its own moral attacks through charges of hypocrisy (whataboutism).

● The #resistance is strongest in the moral dimension. It casts itself as the sole

protector of the public morality and the arbiter of public values. To date, this positioning has provided it with the gravitational attraction it needed to grow its network and maintain good cohesion. It’s been particularly successful in exerting overwhelming moral pressure on targeted individuals. As we saw in its #metoo campaign, once the #resistance makes a moral claim against an individual, the targets are immediately removed (alienated) from society and fear/anxiety keeps others from coming to their defense.

● The corporations protect themselves from moral attacks through appeals to freedom of speech. In parallel, in an effort to enhance their moral value, these networks are actively developing nanny services to “protect” their users. For example, Facebook now has a service that can determine if someone is suicidal and alert family or friends.'

(The Global Guerrillas Report, December 2017,