Information Warfare for the Revolution

There are many comrades amongst the socialist, anti-imperialist, and world-wide pan-African movements doing great propaganda work on social media right now. Among the cacophony of celebrity worship, consumerism, individualism, and roasting you can find here and there gems of information – well researched and presented. Invitations to conversation and deeper exploration. A light in the dark shown by principled revolutionary socialists, revolutionary nationalists, and anti-imperialists across the globe. These comrades are to be commended for making use of these platforms in this way. 

But what the last three weeks have revealed is that lights in the dark here and there are no match at all for the organization and scope of the bourgeois propaganda apparatus. With what felt like the snap of a finger one third of the world’s population – almost the entirety of the west – was mobilized for a mockery of an anti-war movement in so-called solidarity with Ukraine that was in actuality a clear call for the US colonization of Europe and Asia and an invitation to another pointless world war in disguise. Within a matter of days people who had perhaps never spoken or thought of Ukraine in their lives were crying glory to Ukraine, glory to the martyrs. This was clearly not an organic uprising. This was something deliberately cultivated – a sudden outburst from the steady long term process carried out by the global ruling class to develop a new existential enemy in the eyes of Western citizenry. The speed with which it took hold was shocking to behold, even to those of us who understood the strength and capacity of the bourgeois propaganda apparatus. 

Now anti-imperialists find themselves fighting against a tidal wide of lies. Though I’m sure you, like me, have managed to snap comrades and community members out of it here and there we have to, at this point, concede that our whack-a-mole approach to breaking people out of the bubble of imperialist propaganda – after the fact – is simply not effective on a mass scale.

Hope is not lost though. Revolutionary history has shown time and again that superior organization can and will defeat superior resources, weaponry, and even numbers. We need to apply that understanding to the ideological battlefield of social media. What we need to do at this point in history is to develop and deploy a revolutionary anti-imperialist social media strategy – our own form of organized information warfare. 

In order to develop this strategy, we need to undertake a study of how social media platforms function – to understand them as we would any other terrain of battle. We should use that understanding to develop tactics to disrupt the ruling class’s strategies of confusion and manipulation and to create popular push back against them. For example:

Perhaps folks are familiar with the concept of a “main character” on Twitter. For those who aren’t, what it means is that quite often on Twitter, someone will tweet something so egregious or objectionable that a chain reaction of condemnation will begin where people essentially pile on to the person who made the transgression until they either retreat (perhaps by going private or apologizing) or double down and provide more fodder for the spectacle. In practice the main character process typically has intense Lord of the Flies energy but it also has the capacity to provide visibility to both an objectionable ideological position AND a massive popular backlash against it. Imagine if this tactic was deployed strategically to target puppets of imperialism – like perhaps a negro that’s riding around with fascists in Ukraine. Where such a puppet can easily deflect a criticism or even six criticisms in their mentions here or there, they’d be less able to withstand a mob organized against them with the explicitly anti-imperialist objective of exposing them, their handlers, and the machinations that gave them a platform. The target of a progressive main character strategy could be pressured into walking back a particular line of the empire, revealing more information than they intended about their political moves and objectives, or conceding to a demand. The only limits are our imaginations and ingenuity. 

Some other ideas or organized information warfare on social media:

  • Picking a campaign and sticking to it across the movement – right now some of us are going hard on Ukraine, some of us are raising the alarm about looming new COVID variants and waning protections, some of us are tracking the spread of fascist anti-trans legislation across the US, and some of us are attacking each other. We need a strategy that understands these struggles (minus the attacks, though we should develop an understanding of how capitalism-imperialism is producing them) as linked and develops and spreads an analysis within a unified campaign that is relentless about illuminating the connections and the path forward for folks. No issues analyzed in isolation. 
  • Inoculation BEFORE the propaganda hits – Over a century of workers’ movements have revealed many typical strategies used to discourage us from building collective power on the job. Union organizers use this knowledge to develop political education that helps workers see these tactics for what they are before they’re deployed. We have to do the same thing for capitalism-imperialism’s tactics. We need anti-imperialist inoculation. We need propaganda strategies that first and foremost prioritize developing the critical thinking skills of our base, so that they don’t have to wait for us to tell them something is a lie, but rather can see it’s a lie for themselves first. Inoculation could be a specialization of a dedicated team organized to support the unified campaign, people with this training could also work across campaigns, help identify situations that require an inoculation response, AND help more folks develop these skills.
  • Organizing digital mobilizations like we would in-person actions – no more declaring days to use a particular hashtag that only three people from the same org participate in. You wouldn’t organize a direct action in person and just hope someone with de-escalation training shows up! Or a community feed in the park where you hope someone with a grill who can work it shows up! How can we get engagement from MANY organizations and visibility on large accounts – particularly organized via activation and relationship building ahead of time.
  • Continuously raise the contradictions of the current system – every new blow by imperialism is both an attack and an opportunity to expose the enemy. We gotta make it plain for folks consistently and repeatedly – $12 billion for Nazis in Ukraine but nothing for US COVID relief with one million dead? Global human rights outcry against Russia but silence on the slow starvation of Afghanistan and the manufactured chaos sending people fleeing from Haiti? Call it out. Make it consistent. Ignore accusations of whataboutism. Force people to see it. 

In developing this strategy the following framework could be useful: 

No Investigation, No Right to Speak: Every position we take must be ideologically consistent and backed by comprehensive research of primary sources. What we absolutely can not do is replicate that ‘talking just to be talking’ tendency that is pervasive across social media nor can we risk providing wide visibility to lies and misinformation. 

Patience, Principles, and Practice: apply revolutionary tools of analysis like dialectical and historical materialism and principles like internationalism, revolutionary optimism, and PATIENCE to develop an approach to engaging on social media that centers accessibility, approachability, and rationality. Remember that history is on our side!

Stop Snitching on Ourselves: We should STOP across movements, political tendencies, and organizations the liberal, individualistic, and self-destructive practice of engaging in disagreements and attacks upon each other on these platforms controlled by our enemies. Twitter, Facebook,  Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok staff are a who’s who of former NATO employees, US and EU intelligence agency officials, and still active members of the military industrial complex and parasitic transnational corporations. We are only allowed on the platforms they control so they can surveil us. We should not make their jobs easier by illustrating in great detail the internal contradictions of our movements. Beyond this outside observers who are not privy to the details of our deeply pointless inter-movement conflicts will either be turned away from all of us or needlessly primed to contribute to the acrimony. Learn to have direct conversations and direct generative principled conflict with people to find actual resolutions, my god. 

These are just some initial notes on how a strategy could be developed and what it should entail. Locally we’ll be testing out some of these strategies with an Abolish NATO campaign that we hope to get wide traction for. Revolutionary organizing is a remarkably under-discussed amount of experimentation within the biggest lab on the planet. Only by continuously raising theories about struggle, building strategies to test them, and refining them based on results in real world conditions can we find the strategy that is going to carry us forward to victory. Let’s do this in every corner of our lives and movements until we win.

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Onyesonwu Chatoyer is an African woman marooned in the United States, organizing to defeat capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. She is an organizer with the All-African People's Revolutionary Party and the All-African Women's Revolutionary Union, an editor with Hood Communist, and also serves on the national committee of the Venceremos Brigade.