Cyber WarFARE – Edward Bernays in the 21st Century

Cyberspace is now the digital frontier of choice for executing combat operations by extending the medium in which greater levels of power can now be accessed by Machiavelli agents, Alternative Media, sociopolitical organizations and even nation-states. Squads of overt cyber militants going under banners such as Anonymous and Lulz and covert cyber warriors using the Alternative Media motivated by the ease in which they can now execute high impact operations whilst avoiding detection, are having measurable yet little known impacts across the internet. How nation states might use cyberspace to shape the opinions of their own civilian populations or the opinions of other civilian populations and how others might also attempt to do the very same thing is never discussed. How, for example, the United States or any other country or even another entity entirely, might work to alter the views, the perceptions and the consciousness of civilians by employing the subtleties and nuances of internet cyber warfare against them isn’t something that’s publicized, examined or explored.

Among those who have embraced the term “cyber wars” is Richard Clarke, former counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council (1992) and author of the best-selling book of the same name, Cyber War. Since its publication in 2010, Clarke has popularized the phrase and warned the public about the risks of online warfare with a series of worrisome predictions. “A cyber-attack could disable trains all over the country,” he once told Fresh Air radio host Terry Gross: “It could blow up pipelines. It could cause blackouts and damage electrical power grids so that the blackouts would go on for a long time. It could wipe out and confuse financial records, so that we would not know who owned what, and the financial system would be badly damaged. It could do things like disrupt traffic in urban areas by knocking out control computers. It could, in nefarious ways, do things like wipe out medical records.” “Planes could fall from the skies”, says Clarke; “water systems could be flooded with sewage and panicked mobs could run riot”. More alarmingly, he claims all this could happen “in just 15 minutes.” Pretty scary stuff. So scary, in fact, that Clarke’s 15 minute claim has led the University of Utah’s Sean Lawson to coin his own somewhat mocking term: “cyber-doom.” So the public face of cyber warfare includes cyber doom? Could the untold story be even scarier?

Richard Clarke’s vision of cyber doom is just that, a vision, like cheap Florida property, your winning lottery ticket and free energy. It doesn’t exist. American infrastructure is a little better protected than Clarke might lead Americans to believe. Otherwise Americans would have already had ‘blown up pipelines, blackouts, damaged electrical power grids, badly damaged financial records and wiped out medical records’ as Clarke suggests. Yet this is the public image of cyber warfare and there’s some truth to it. What’s true is that there are those capable of launching cyber-attacks against the US and because US has been engaged in cyber warfare against a variety of countries for a number of years, in some cases very successfully, it’s likely that American’s will eventually sustain an effective cyber-attack of some sort against their own infrastructure. Still, there are yet other lesser known faces of cyber warfare that are important to discuss so this focus will remain less concerned with the public image of cyber warfare and concentrate more on the face of cyber warfare no one is talking about – the Alternative Media, social media, civilians and the internet. Things aren’t always as they seem. We’ve come to recognize that and it’s proven true time and time again. Cyber warfare is very much the same. We know little about it, the face we see daily is feigned and the real face of cyber warfare is hidden, tucked away beneath the surface.

A broad segment of the civilian population relies on Alternative Media web sites for material with which to form their opinions. The Alternative Media is a vast nexus of unconnected web resources from individual bloggers on WordPress and other similar sites to managed productions like Alex Jones InfoWars, Press TV, Veterans Today and RT. There are alternative web sites like AboveTopSecret, the Examiner and the Daily Paul and there are still others like the Drudge Report, BeforeIt’sNews, Global Research and the Daily Bell. There are 1000s of alternative news web sites covering almost every subject we might imagine and millions of people with limited “time resources” use the web and alternative news web sites for access to information about their world. They then use this information to form their opinions. Because these millions of people have limited time they aren’t able to verify assertions and typically have no choice but to believe what they read as long as it sounds somewhat plausible. This quickly leads to false beliefs.


Nothing in human history has changed the world as quickly and as dramatically as the Internet has. Today it’s possible to engage someone in conversation in Pakistan while sitting in any town in the USA. We can find out about the mating habits of the Asian Crested Ibis or we can study centripetal acceleration and centrifugal force – all just a few Google key strokes away. Less than a decade ago “60 Minutes” went to the Pentagon to do a story on something called information warfare or “cyber war” as some people called it then. It involved using computers and the internet as weapons. It was something that might take place years into the future but the internet changed everything and the future is here now.


Much of it was still theory, but we were told that before too long it might be possible for a hacker with a computer to disable critical infrastructure in a major city and disrupt essential services, to steal millions of dollars from banks all over the world, infiltrate defense systems, extort millions from public companies, and even sabotage weapons systems. Today these things are all possible and some have actually happened. Yet what was never discussed was the internet as a weapon of ideas, thoughts and opinions. What would American Edward Bernays who is known as “the father of public relations” and propaganda, have done with the internet? Surely he would have advocated devising elaborate and detailed perceptual hoaxes to elicit various desired public responses. That’s how Bernays exploited the media in the 1930s isn’t it? Remember the fabricated war in Guatemala for United Fruit or how he managed to alter public opinion towards women and smoking cigarettes?

Today many of the alternative web sites could be owned and managed by intelligence agencies, disparate political groups, PACs, foreign countries or the American government and as such might have much larger agendas behind the content they post daily. Alternative media web sites might also be owned or operated by individuals or small groups with their own personal sociopolitical agendas. The Alternative Media has little more to offer than the Mainstream Media.

This is not to say that 100% or even 90% of a web sites content is fabrication although surely that’s possible but that any web site can maintain itself as a legitimate alternative view resource while placing bits and pieces of disinfo into their news cycle from time to time such that their larger agenda might very well be fully covert and even virtually undetectable. Many of us have our favorite alternative web sites. We go to them regularly, sometimes daily, for updates on what’s happening in the world. Yet if we’re not careful we might find ourselves far worse off then had we used the mainstream media we’ve grown to mistrust and avoid. As unfortunate as that may be for freedom and journalism it might be the very sad truth.

The authors of a lengthy article posted at Veterans Today, Dennis Cimino, who has extensive engineering and support experience with military electronics, predominantly US Navy Combat Systems and was the Navy’s top EMI troubleshooter before he went to work for Raytheon in the 1980s and Dr. Jim Fetzer, a former Marine Corps officer and McKnight Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota Duluth would have us believe that it was likely that a 3-man team was responsible for the Sandy Hook massacre, that crisis actors were used, and that there may have been no deaths at all. This based on a carefully crafted narrative that’s loosely peppered with thinly disguised innuendo, implication and reference. Their several position papers are nothing more than a series of clever fabrications. Very clever but exaggerated fictions and manufactured lies nevertheless. In other words, nothing they state in their “Sandy Hook Was Staged” essay can be proven false yet neither can it be proven true and all the while the assertions are based on speculation, innuendo, aspersion, bias and at times outright lies. Yet their position sounds relatively plausible and even probable when the entire article is taken at face value by someone without the time to check thoroughly each of the many individual claims. That would be most people which is how these “Alternative Media” web sites continue to thrive.

Perhaps those that already mistrust government and who might be less apt to mistrust a so-called “alternative media” source? Is there a larger agenda playing out here? What motivates the alternative media? Who’s behind the web sites? Is the alternative media any safer than the mainstream media? These are some of the many questions we might ask ourselves before we choose to believe a particular perspective from any web source.

Organized, attractive, well established and popular Alternative Media web sites may be owned, in some cases, by a foreign government as is the case with Press TV. Alternative Media sites and their web editors might also contract with international public relations firms to represent various governments, causes or political agendas and some alternative web sites may have been established specifically for the purpose of disseminating fabricated material or propaganda from time to time or for specific sociopolitical events. Planned elections or unexpected tragic catastrophes could both be used to their advantage. In the Matrix, in Spookworld, in the century of managed news and created opinions anything and everything is possible.

The so-called Alternative Media presents us with the same problems that the mainstream media presents us with. We get a lack of data, poor data, no data or erroneous data regardless of which media source we choose. Alternative media sources can also be just as agenda driven and advertising conscious as the mainstream sources we used before the internet. For anyone interested in the truth it’s necessary to go to the source.


There are also cyber warriors we don’t read about. Cyber warriors might be employed by international public relations firms to alter perceptions about other countries, other people or other cultures. Intelligence agencies can do the same and so can groups or organizations united by sociopolitical beliefs. Not only can perceptions about other countries, other people and other cultures be altered but so can perceptions of national events, economics, science and any subject we might imagine. Edward Bernays would have embraced the internet and he would have had a field day. Corporations, banks, the political and warrior classes, those with social and political agendas, religious agendas, economic and cultural agendas all would have embraced the internet with a “Bernays-like” strategy, don’t you think? Weapons and ammunition sales, medical supplies, storable foods, seeds, antibiotics, flu shots, gold, silver and numerous other “perception purchases” can be influenced by various entities with vested interests (shareholder profits) in the consumption of a particular commodity. For example, after each major public shooting we see weapon and ammunition sales skyrocket and when a flu epidemic is publicized we see sales of vitamin D and zinc soar. Fukushima fueled iodine sales. These are perception managed purchases. The mainstream media as well as the alternative media can both be used by cyber warriors to create perception purchases of vast proportions.

So too can perceptions of the future be crafted, implanted and fostered. This also means that at any given time dozens of different entities could be engaged in cyber warfare on the internet all at the very same time. These various groups might all be pursuing a diverse mixture of different agendas using a variety of strategies. The Alternative Media, it’s authors and pundits are no better than and can be far worse than the mainstream media. These are the cyber warriors of the 21st century vying for your opinions, your thoughts, your mind. Maybe even your soul. Furthermore, some of the many alternative media web sites are obviously operating with an agenda and that pre-programmed strategy may not always include the truth. Surely that must be glaringly apparent to anyone researching Sandy Hook, the Aurora Colorado theater shooting, the Columbine massacre, the DC Sniper, the Giffords shooting and Virginia Tech. A complete and thorough investigation of these events might take weeks and even months but it proves without question that these events weren’t staged. While there may have been substantial so-called anomalies early on in the news cycle for each of these events we can see now after years have passed, and in some cases many years, that the overwhelming evidence does not support that these events were staged and these anomalies or memes were nothing more than carefully crafted fabrications.


When cyber warfare is discussed the angle is always and always has been from a primarily financial or military perspective. The “spooky” aspects of cyber warfare are avoided while the militarily and financially related concerns regarding US economics are pushed to the fore. We don’t really know much about the perception management aspects of cyber warfare, do we? Americans typically learn about infrastructure threats should their electrical or water systems be compromised, Americans hear about the perils to the banking and financial sectors should terrorists gain access and American’s are informed of the danger to national security should the military cyber network be compromised. Americans are told that their electric grid could be shut down to immense calamity.

How Edward Bernays might apply cyber warfare to a civilian population he was teaching elites to severely distrust isn’t discussed. Bernays felt that the public’s democratic judgment was “not to be relied upon” and he feared that “they could very easily vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing, so that they had to be guided from above”. He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the ‘herd instinct’. Adam Curtis’s award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC, The Century of the Self, pinpoints Bernays as the originator of modern public relations and exposes some of the dramatic and compelling effects he had on the public and their perception of reality. Bernays was involved in public perception manipulation and management for the government and the corporations and he not only assisted and instructed in a great number of social interferences, he tampered with public perception using false contextual images and media mischaracterizations. He created total fabrications to engineer consent. Those same theories of social manipulation and new ones using 21st century technology are in full swing today. They’re employed by cyber warriors. Cass Sunsteins known position paper and US national policy regarding conspiracy groups is eliminated from the discussion when cyber warfare comes up. That cyber warfare was discussed intimately by US policy makers and government agencies as it applies to and could be used against conspiracy groups is absent from the conversations that take place within the conspiracy groups themselves. This makes the government’s job rather easy. Cass Sunstein states, “The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories, we suggest, is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies, whatever the latter may be.” He goes on to propose that, “the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups”. Cognitive infiltration is managed through America’s cyber warfare brigades. How else would one “cognitively infiltrate” diverse group(s) of civilians among a large population of people? And at the very same time there are various groups with a variety of agendas operating as “alternative media” and they are all vying for your attention, your time, your conversion to their way of thinking. This is the nature of propaganda in the 21st century.

Bernays referred to public relations as “engineering consent” and he viewed himself as an engineer of sorts. An opinion generating engineer designing and managing public perceptions. Much has changed since Bernays was directly involved in engineering consent. With the advent of the internet and the development of memes anyone can engage in engineering consent and opinion or perception management. We can see this if we examine the alternative media carefully. They’re engaged in perception management daily. Each varying issue – for example free energy, global elite satanism, Sandy Hook as a staged event or the idea that one person “rules the world” is a foray into perception management and opinion generation. Mischaracterization and trivialization of complex issues is a sophisticated form of perception and opinion management as is the omission of important information. The global elite and even America’s own national elite are experts at mischaracterizing, fabricating, omitting and trivializing issues. We’ve entered the age of the Sound Byte where people are no longer educated nor interested in education. They’re constrained by time and thus settle for whatever the media dishes out. No longer do people read several lengthy and complicated perspectives, discuss the issues with one another and over time develop an opinion based on conference and debate of the known facts. Plato and Socrates would be outraged! Today your opinions are handed to you directly; from a TV or a computer monitor feeding straight into your cerebral cortex your opinions are injected into your brain after being watered down, dumbed down and over simplified.

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About Khalid Latif 2 Articles
The author is the Executive Director (COPAIR), Director Program (Middle East) Editor, The Asian Telegraph and Melange Magazine.