The Image Illustrates the Diverse people who call themselves American

One Nation, Under Attack

Over 100,000 Americans died in a pandemic our President chose to ignore.

Yet, large numbers of Americans believe the Coronavirus Pandemic is a hoax, and they are aggressively breaking the rules designed to protect us from the spread of the virus.

Why is this happening?

Information warfare became a hot topic in the United States shortly after Trump took office, but as a concept, it is hard to understand.

How can people in Moscow or Vietnam use bots to convince people in the United States to make decisions that destroy their lives?

It seems outlandish.

But it’s not new.

Everything I know about espionage I learned from Mission Impossible, which means I know almost nothing.

But the premise of a team of covert operatives who use disinformation, deception, and staged scenarios to achieve military goals suggests a general public awareness of ‘Perception Management’ or ‘Reflexive Control’ in Cold War America.

Most of the public information regarding Information Warfare uses the dense academic language of specialists.

In writing this, I simplified the language and paraphrased quotes, I strive for accuracy, but translations are rarely perfect; the reference material is available for download at the end of the post.

Mass Media as an Arm of the Armed Forces
Russia Views Mass Media as an Arm of the Armed Forces

What is Information Warfare, as defined by Russia?

To paraphrase the Russian Ministry of Defense: “Information War is the confrontation between two or more states to damage institutions and resources by undermining political, economic and social systems with a psychological attack so massive it destabilizes a nation and its government.Russia’s Information Warfare, Exploring the Cognitive Dimension.

A massive psychological attack.

A collage of Russian Facebook ads found online
A grouping of Russian Facebook ads

Americans who think the Russian attack on the 2016 election was mere ‘meddling’  to sow chaos are wrong.

Putin spent years preparing to ‘meddle,’ and the Russian attack continues into 2020,  with co-ordinated attempts to sabotage our Coronavirus Pandemic response.

These are explicit acts of ongoing aggression.

What is Reflexive Control?

The concept of ‘Reflexive Control’ emerged in the 1950s when Soviet Scientists searched for ways to optimize the use of computer technology and cybernetics for the military.

In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev reportedly said the Soviet Union would destroy the United States from ‘within’. He had ‘reflexive control’ in mind.

Russia studied the United States and continued to analyze our strengths, weaknesses, and divisions after the end of the Cold War.

As an observer, Russia can potentially know Americans better than we know ourselves.

According to the New York Times, “… “Reflexive Control” is a military tactic to control the enemy’s perceptions, to convince him to ‘reflexively’ act against his interests.

To achieve Reflexive Control, you must study the enemy, know how the enemy thinks.

Russia uses ‘insight’ into our intellectual and regional differences to model our decision-making process to target specific groups with the half-truths and lies most likely to provoke a ‘reflexive’ decision that benefits Russia at our expense.

Screenshot of a 1983 disinformation campaugn that falsely claims the U.S. Invented the Aids virus
How Do Russia’s Lies Distort Your Perceptions of Reality

A Personal Experience:

In 1986 Right-wing  activist Lyndon LaRouche Jr. successfully launched Proposition 64:

Prop 64 “Declares that AIDS is an infectious, contagious and communicable disease and that the condition of being a carrier of the HTLV-III virus is an infectious, contagious and communicable condition. Requires both be placed on the list of reportable diseases and conditions maintained by the director of the Department of Health Services. Provides that both are subject to quarantine and isolation statutes and regulations. Provides that the Department of Health Services personnel and all health officers shall fulfill the duties and obligations set forth in specified statutory provisions to preserve the public health from AIDS.”

The men of the Castro thought the State of California was ready to round us up and send us to camps.

That year I heard a rumor, later confirmed by Dan Rather: the U.S. government – specifically the Pentagon – created the AIDS virus to kill blacks and gays.

I believed the story and hated my government for the suffering it caused.

But the story was a Soviet fabrication, a lie, disinformation designed to incite paranoia and mistrust among Americans who had reason to believe the worst.

As a youth, I became a gay activist because I had faith in my government’s commitment to reason and justice and was courageous enough to one day admit the mistake of discriminating against me.

As a ‘reflexive’ reaction to Russia’s lie, I lost faith in my government and viewed everything it did with suspicion, and for a short time, stopped voting.

The government restored myfaith on June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court approved same-sex marriage.”

Read the story of how Russia made this and other lies go viral before social media.

Prop 64 lost, btw.

During the Cold War, hundreds of salacious and bogus headlines around the world appeared, part of a covert playbook of Russian disinformation used to undermine America.- NBC News

Insight is called ‘reflex.’

A Russian Facebook page called 'Woke Blacks"
A Russian Facebook Page for ‘Woke Blacks’
A Russian Facebook ad for Southern Heritage
A Russian Facebook ad for Southern Heritage

The side with the most ‘reflex’ wins.

The Russian Federation

Most of the journals I read describe the Russian Federation as a corrupt capitalist country controlled by oligarchs, the Russian Mob, and remnants of the Soviet Union’s KGB.

President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, trained in Psychological Warfare beleives, “Russia’s approaches to conflict between nations “are to be based on intellectual superiority. They will be asymmetrical and less costly.”

Intellectual superiority = ‘reflex’.

‘Setting the stage.’

Russia used several methods to profile Americans. This 2018 video published by the Wall Street Journal describes the profiling of African Americans in 2014.

“Intelligence services are interested in personal information because they’re trying to find a weak point, and trying to find ways of making this person do what they need done. If you can insert false or misleading information into a government agency’s decision-making process, or into a policy maker’s decision-making process or even a voter’s decision-making process, you can have an impact on how the United States reacts to Russia or to other powers around the world.” Former Special Agent Leo Taddeo

Cambridge Analytica spent $1m, harvesting millions of Facebook profiles in early 2014 to build a system to profile individual U.S. voters to target them with personalized political advertisements.

Screenshot of antisemitic propaganda produced by the Russian Internet Research Agenc
Antisemitic propaganda produced by Russia’s Internet Research Agency
A Russian Facebook ad that blames Black Lives Matter for Policeman's death
Anti Black Lives Matter propaganda produced by Russia’s Internet Research Agency.

In this 2018 video, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie describes how Cambridge Analytica turned Facebook likes into a political tool.

Screenshot of a russian facebook ad blaiming immigrants for American poverty
LIKE if you agree

Reflexive Control is most effective when targets are unaware of it. Even when lies are exposed, the effects linger, fueling division, and conspiracy theories.  If a nation’s people are extremely divided, Russia’s lies are used by the opposing sides to intensify political conflicts.

Example: 49% of voters polled by Gallup approve of Trump’s performance as President despite his mishandling of a pandemic that has killed over a hundred thousand Americans.

The simplest way to understand reflexive control is to think of it as non -stop marketing campaign on speed designed to convince people to self destruct.

Russia views civilians as legitimate targets, so we are suffering the effects of an ongoing psychological attack, all of us.

The most effective way to protect yourself is to be aware that you are a target.

Take a close look at the tweet that pisses you off?  Is it divisive? Does it use loaded language?

When you read a story,  notice the language, verify the source,  mistrust ‘breaking stories’ without links to credible sources.

The New York Times and MSNBC are credible sources. Art by Rob Goldstein isn’t, at least, for verifying a news story.

Again, know you are a target, Information Warfare exploits your vulnerabilities.

A russian facebook ad that depicts Bernie Sanders as a gay superhero
A Pro-Bernie appeal to the LGBTQ community from Russia’s Internet Research Agency

Russian operatives are working to subvert Joe Biden. They will post smears and racially charged content designed to go viral.

Question content about Biden that causes a ‘reflexive’ or intensely negative emotional reaction.

Update: May 28, 2020

EuroMaidan Press is an online English-language independent newspaper launched in 2014 by Ukrainian volunteers.

Part of Russia’s hybrid war, which is based on a Soviet secret technique of reflexive control. The virtual reality Russia creates has the aim of altering its victims’ vision of reality. Wearing Russian-made glasses, they make the political decisions Russia wants without suspecting a thing.

You can also find ‘One Nation, Under Attack‘ on #DemCast

Vote D for Democracy
#DemCast Graphic

(c) Rob Goldstein 2020

All images used in this post found and twitter and Google. I use them for educational purposes.

‘One Nation, Under Attack” by Rob Goldstein (c) 2020

Below is the downloadable source material for this post.

Reflexive Control Thomas_2004

Cognitive Bias and Reflexive Control

The NATO Handbook of Information Warfare



28 thoughts on “One Nation, Under Attack

  1. I am so happy to see you back. I have sorely missed you.
    I just don’t understand people’s ignorance.
    I have never opted to discuss politics…but…
    I have a “friend” I used to talk to. I mentioned my worry about the way things are and of course…the pandemic.
    Her response was “you’ve been listening to that fake Democratic news.” I told her that the coronavirus was real and something to be taken seriously. She then said that everybody was blaming the fake number of deaths…on Trump…and every Democrat needed to be taken out and hung. I was absolutely stupefied. I reminded her that I was a Democrat.
    (Shaking my head). This is a woman who claims to be a Christian and loudly preaches love and acceptance.
    I’ve known her for several years and am just now seeing her true colors. I’ve seen them, listened to her bullshit rhetoric and now I’m done. People like her…”bless their hearts.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It looks like it’s all going according to Putin’s plan. He bought a dummy and slimed his way into America. It’s stunning how people choose not to get educated on what’s really going on. All the bullies in the world want to take over it seems. We’ll have our own shit here soon as some people don’t appreciate what we have and can’t wait to get rid of our peaceful PM holding our country together wonderfully through this pandemic. Our Konservative party scares the hell out me and they are vying to get back in. There’s nowhere safe anymore 😦

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Fantastic article Rob. As a political junky I am aware of much of what you wrote. This Russian interference has been a long time plan and they found the perfect dummy to orchestrate their desires through. Sad to know the GOP (Gov’t of Putin) has no qualms about having their country sold out.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Rob! Hope you are well, and stay save. I am sorry for the very late revisit. ;-( Thank you for this great posting, but dont forget many other states like Germany have the same problems. But the have a better, in my opinion “regulated” public relation management. In Germany rassism is not on the top, antisemitism too, because the world do not get notice of the “people on the street”. Here we only get information about the “higher class” (or whom think they are in this league). Its horrible whats going on in the USA, but on the reaction on the citizens you can see democracy happens. Here in the past we had some cases of murdered migrants, but most of these cases are not enlightened. As example this case from 2005:
    Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks fo the comment, Michael. If the United States survives as a democracy we need to have the overdue convesation about how to manage ‘our rights’ when they are being abused. Everything has
      a limit. Germany learned this in the 1940’s and never forgot it. Thanks for stopping by.


  4. Sowing division among peoples has always been a strategy of the Masters of our World. Social Media is yet another means of doing just that. We are foolish to believe that we control our lives.
    Thanks for the follow, Robert.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The point of self-government is empowering people. Yes, we are foolish to believe we have control over every aspect of our lives. We are affected by environments and events over which we have no control. The government is just another aspect of our lives. With a reason-based democratic system of government, we can decide how we allocate resources, how we administer justice, and we can use our government to mitigate the unpredictable cruelty of life. We can also correct laws based on superstition. I cannot control earthquakes, but, I can pool my money with millions of other tax-paying citizens to build structures that might mitigate the damage of an earthquake. There will always be tyrants who want to be masters of the world, and those of us who envision a more equitable way of life will still struggle with them. Democracy is an endless battle against the forces of cynicism and fascism. We can join that fight or sit in our doubt and do nothing. I choose to fight because that is my foolish heritage as an American. There are no perfect systems of government, and we don’t control the nature of the depredations of selfish people. Still, we can choose to create systems of government that make our lives a little better. Participating in that struggle is a mission and a calling. There are differences between sowing division and psychological warfare, and both are always wrong. When we accept what is wrong as a way of life, we fuel our cynicism. You’re welcome. Glad to follow you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A lot of people think that the response to covid-19 and lock down of economies, which is going to cause mass poverty and misery going forward, it way in excess of the impact of this illness. In South Africa we have 50 murders a day and yet our people have been forced into abject poverty and starvation over 500 deaths in 2.5 months from Covid-19. We have 50 000 deaths a year from HIV/Aids. The figures don’t stack up. An interesting post, Rob. I hope you are well?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m in favor of debating the economic and social merits of not shutting down the U.S economy. This post is more about the impact of disinformation on our decision-making process and our political debates. I’m staying home because I don’t trust my government to give me the facts I need to make an informed decision. I’d like this nightmare to end, Different nations have different patterns and degrees of infection. Based on your numbers, I can see how a shutdown seems bonkers. 🙂


  6. Thanks for all this, Rob. I don’t know if you’ve been following what’s happening in the UK with Dominic Cummings? He broke the lockdown rules (twice), rules he was instrumental in making and one of his justifications for the second time was that he was driving on a 60 mile round trip to check his eyesight was okay to drive back to London next day. People are saying must be stupid if he expects us to believe this – but this guy is the Prime Minster’s adviser, he worked for Cambridge Analytica, has Russian connections and is not stupid – but I can’t work out what he’s trying to do. I just feel so frustrated and helpless about everything that’s going on.

    Liked by 1 person

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