Fox News, Information Warfare, and Public PerceptionBy Rich
Despite living in Boulder Colorado for 16 years I’m neither a hippie nor a conspiracy theorist. I don’t use patchouli oil, wear a beanie, or ingest any mood-altering substances you can’t buy in a grocery store. I don’t think the Masons control our destiny, black helicopters molest cattle, or the NSA monitors all our communications. Oh, really? Okay, but the cattle thing definitely isn’t real. Except maybe in Nebraska, but that’s not the CIA, not that there’s anything wrong with it…
Anyway, what I’m saying is that I’m fairly skeptical, if a tad on the D side of the political game.
But after seeing Fox (and the AP) on this Foley Congressional page thing, I’m really starting to wonder.
Wikipedia defines information warfare as:
Information warfare is the use and management of information in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent. Information warfare may involve collection of tactical information, assurance that one’s own information is valid, spreading of propaganda or disinformation among the enemy, undermining the quality of opposing force information and denial of information collection opportunities to opposing forces.
Information warfare consists of three broad goals. Controlling the opponent’s access to information, securing your own lines of information (and communication), and using disinformation to create confusion, control opponent actions, and, basically, control the brains of the conflict (including civilians).
I’ve never been a fan of Fox news. Actually, I’m not the biggest fan of any news station these days, and refuse to watch local news (unless I’m on it, of course). But I always figured even Fox has a shred of objectivity. And they can’t really be in some big conspiracy with the GOP and Diebold, can they? It’s just about ratings, isn’t it?
If you’re only a tad paranoid, their latest actions just might sound like information warfare. As the scandal around Representative Mark Foley hit the news cycle Fox repeatedly identified him as a Democrat.
Yep- as reported on BoingBoing Fox news identified, on screen, Mark Foley as a Democrat, not a Republican. Since probably very few Americans can tell you how many representatives are in Congress, never mind who they are and their party affiliations, it might, just might, lead some to believe that it’s the Dems running around hitting on underage boys.
That, my friends, is a classic use of information warfare. At least if it’s on purpose, but since there have been three reports, no corrections, and one instance was on a show recorded hours before air, it’s reasonable to assume that if it’s not on purpose, there’s a distinct lack of contrition over such a major mistake.
So let’s look into the security implications, since this is a security site.
The mass media has more power to sway public opinion than any other single source of information. Disinformation is a core principle of information warfare. Spammers use it to pump stock prices. Hackers use it to access your systems. Competitors set up false blogs to ruin your corporate reputation. Heck, some vendors try and leverage us industry analysts in their information warfare strategies.
All of this is a form of information warfare, we’re just not always willing to admit it.
Information warriors know that compromising mass media is one of the single most effective techniques, as long as you don’t get caught. All it takes is a few seeds of doubt to sway public opinion. If those seeds are true, it’s just good public relations; if they’re false, it’s information warfare.
The best information warfare takes a kernel of believable truth, like some Congressman hitting on an underage employee, and salts it with just the slightest disinformation, like mistakingly listing him as a member of the wrong party in on-air graphics. Outright lies are rarely as effective as the slight lemon twist because without a foundation of credibility they are immediately dismissed by the mass majority.
Disinformation is most effective when most of it is just information.
Which brings us back to Fox. One mistake I could accept; these things happen. I could even understand that same mistake multiple times in the same broadcast. But different times, in different broadcasts, including prepared material? That stretches credibility.
Bias in media is pretty bad, but hard to eliminate. Outright disinformation? Now that’s classic information warfare.
Besides, we all know Democrats stick with inte s. At least they’re over 18…