Numbers > Number 19 > Disinformation and hybrid warfare. Instrumentalization of informative narratives to understand the war of the 21st century
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ISSN: 1885-365X
DÍAZ CUESTA, José Contact 0000-0002-9674-7656

Disinformation and hybrid warfare. Instrumentalization of informative narratives to understand the war of the 21st century

11 de agosto de 2022
20 de agosto de 2022


Introduction: War is as old as Humanity where communication becomes as important as traditional armies. Internet prints a novelty stamp. Prohibited in the West the word war, it is intended to be replaced by the abstract concept of strategic competition, the non-physical domains of the conflict acquire a leading role. It is intended to analyze the concept of disinformation as a weapon of the information domain. Methodology: bibliographic review on the topics of war, disinformation, hybrid warfare and all the journalistic content that analyzes the new incorporation of computer attacks by armies.
Results: The mechanisms that are involved in disinformation in war are exposed, some of those used historically by the USSR, today Russia in the war in Ukraine and the preventive responses of the countries with specific agencies that try to counteract them. The use of algorithms, the manipulation of user websites with content designed by the subverter, the massive dissemination of false news and narratives using computer programs (bots) or human hackers that develop as users (trolls) make a force multiplier set that is not only achieved with the traditional army.
Conclusions: disinformation has been established as a mechanism of war especially in the 20th century and currently with digitalization, the phenomenon of war is presented in an aseptic, sterilized, dehumanized and cybernetic way.

1. Introduction

After the end of the Cold War and the decomposition of the block system, Western societies once again believed that the need for war as a form of conflict resolution had disappeared. One of the factors that has possibly influenced this illusion the most has been the eruption of new information and communication technologies (ICT). These have made it possible to build a global network through which the infinite social, political and economic relations circulate that make up a system in which its members are profoundly and dangerously interdependent.

However, the system is asymmetric, since in this relationship of interdependence some members turn out to be more dependent than others. With the evidence that the displacement of the geopolitical center of gravity towards the Asia-Pacific space at the beginning of the 20th century was already a reality, it was assumed since then that friction would grow in relations between the great powers (Mersheimer, 2001, pp. 385-386). Therefore, in the face of the official liberal and multilateralist discourse in Western societies over the last two decades, the truth is that the international system is currently moving towards a more realistic framework that we suspect has never been abandoned.

War is the most painful political phenomenon to which a society can be subjected, but in the same way it is as old as Humanity (Maccionis & Plummer, 2011, p. 478). Perhaps as a transition towards its supposedly inevitable disappearance, it was thought that at least its manifestations tended inexorably towards aseptic and non-bloody forms, which, in a way, should make it more tolerable.

On February 24, 2022, the army of the Russian Federation simultaneously launched an offensive on Ukraine from four different directions; the deaths on both sides are already counted in thousands and the number of refugees and displaced persons in millions. According to Clausewitz’s theory, war, in its most Clausewitzian form, «a continuation of politics by other means» (that is, organized violence), has reappeared in all its harshness in the Eurasian space, something that for the average citizen seemed unthinkable.

From a polemological perspective or study of war, not a few authors have failed to emphasize that the war had not lost one iota of its value as an instrument of power and that, therefore, its purpose would continue to be that of the policy to which it obeys (Quiñones, New Post-Cold War Conflicts, 2017, p. 11). On the other hand, what has happened is that the same factors that were expected to make war unnecessary have opened up new fields for war action. Under these conditions, the domains in which the war will take place in the near future will manifest a clear expansion from the traditional spheres of physical nature, land, sea and air, towards other non-physical ones that seem to acquire even greater importance, such as the fact of hybrid warfare after the appearance of the internet.

One of these last areas is information, which contemplates a wide range of capabilities with which to expand military power beyond physical environments, without a solution of continuity with these, to begin to exploit the possibilities of information and knowledge systems (Caballero, 2003, p. 256). Due to constant technological innovation, currently, the rate of possibilities in the information domain grows exponentially.

However, due to the imprecision of many of these contents, and their difficulty to conceptualize, in Western security literature it has been accepted to include them under the vague term of hybrid warfare (Quiñones, A review of the hybrid actor/hybrid threat concept, 2020). Within the framework of hybrid warfare, as artificial as it is media effective, disinformation undoubtedly emerges as one of its essential components. However, as its use is expansive as well as imprecise, it encourages the uninitiated audience to confuse it with the expression false news or fake news in English.

From a systemic approach, certain actors of the international system appear who make regular use of disinformation even in their foreign policy. From the Western perspective of international relations, some authors refer to them as revisionists of the status quo, which is also a disputed aspect (Schweller, 2015).

An initial approximation to the concept of information would present it to us as the set of data that the sender and receiver exchange through a channel. The meaning of said interaction will be provided by the code, which must be known by both for the information to make sense. Finally, the context finishes configuring the communication process. On the contrary, the term disinformation already harbors a malicious intent, a premeditated desire to cause harm or harm to someone. In addition, it does not refer to the absence of information, as could be deduced from the lexical point of view, nor is it a distorted image of that, similar to the one that a certain type of curved mirror returns of the object located in front of it. On the other hand, we could indeed interpret it as contradictory in terminis of the root term, the one that perverts.

After the previous exposition of the contextual framework, the rest of this work will be organized as follows. In the first place, we will analyze how disinformation can be militarized and that, in fact, it works as a capacity of the information space and how narrative constructions can profoundly condition the perceptions of the receiver and that, within the framework of communication processes, certain actors of the system international use of them as support for disinformation. Next, as a case study, it will be verified how Russia has traditionally used disinformation with offensive intent to benefit its foreign policy objectives.

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