It’s been obvious that Russia plays both sides in our political chaos. Two independent reports presented by the Senate Intelligence Committee all but confirm it. Hamilton 68 highlighted it. Based on qualitative interpretations of Russian propaganda headlines, in February 2016 I pointed out Russian support for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in a comment in a Forbes article — and after acknowledging he had not had the idea before and asking if it was my work — within days the author wrote an article about Russian support for Bernie and Trump in 2016 (with no attribution to my ‘Mitchell Indiana Hedges‘ pseudonym).
But seriously — just look to the Nazis and anti-fascists — or the schismatic Orthodox Church even. Russia drives wedges and plays both sides — it is what/who Russia is. Not really controversial. The longer we ignore the obvious, the bigger fools we are. President Trump was right when he urged calm in both sides during the Charlottesville protests, no matter what you think of him. (Of course he got attacked the one time he wasn’t divisive.)
Also not controversial is the idea that conspiracy theories encapsulate a ‘paranoid style’ in politics. One needn’t look very far into the scholarly literature on metanarrative/master narrative to find there is a good body of work touching on Freudian/Kleinian psychoanalytical concepts as they relate to ‘paranoid-schizoid’ processes as part of personality development and how these normal psychological processes in humans can be related to conspiracy theories. (I admit, I don’t know a ton about this but the material in the link seems very solid and consistent with my existing research — even including an unsought Nostradamus reference.)
So often we hear about culture war, cyberwar, or ‘infowar’ as they relate to Russian active measures and conspiracy theories — but none of these terms describe the ‘two sidedness’, ‘divisiveness’, and ‘psychological paranoia’ which is inherent to the Russian version of these concepts at least and the higher order strategy they apparently serve. I’d like to propose a term to conceptualize what we deal with and sort of merge the ideas of psychological warfare, ‘infowar’, and culture war into one concept: ‘schizowar(fare)‘.
First, the definition of ‘schizo-‘:
schizo- in American
(ˈskɪzoʊ ; skizˈō; ˈskɪzə ; skizˈə; ˈskɪtsoʊ ; skitˈsō; ˈskɪtsə ; skitˈsə)
- split, cleavage, division
Also, before a vowel, schiz-
Word origin of ‘schizo-‘
ModL < Gr schizein, to cleave, cut < IE *skeid- < base *skei-, to cut, separate > shin1, L scindere, to cut
Also in a biblical sense, the meaning of ‘schizo’ in the bible in original Greek was :
to cleave, cleave asunder, rend
to divide by rending
to split into factions, be divided
NAS Word Usage – Total: 11
divided 2, opening 1, split 1, tear 2, tears 1, torn 4
I think this ‘schizo-‘ prefix is a good word to describe the online conspiracy environment and how they are seemingly used strategically to undermine the US and the West. (It also complements Russian messianic ideas, eg. ‘Third Rome’ and how those seem to influence cultural warfare — in this sense also apocalyptic Russian-Orthodox themes as well.)
I see both definitions of ‘schizo-‘ as being applicable to Russian warfare in both a divisive and cognitive sense:
- The conspiracies are designed to exploit divisions in society (schisms)
- The conspiracies may also exacerbate normal human cognitive processes towards otherness and paranoid-schizoid behaviors.
Thus, while the method of delivery of the conspiracies / disinformation is through cultural and informational channels, an observation of the Russian behaviors may suggest that the strategic goal is to exploit divisions in societies which at best may lead to social change — but are more likely to create worst-case structural deficiencies and chaos that Russia can use to improve its position. In addition, while the term ‘schizo’ is generally used in a perjorative sense in modern society related to mental illness, it seems that the basic paranoid cognition processes which support conspiracy thinking are part of a ‘normal’ human psychology.
As it seems to be hard to come up with a definition of ‘information warfare’ which really satisfies the Russian meaning, perhaps we should call these activities ‘schizowar’? If, in the case that such external forces representative of Russian culture were focused on dividing society and that those psychological processes they exploited to do so were part of the normal cognitive processes of humans, it shows how important it is to erect defenses to disrupt such schizowarfare strategies in the cultural, political, and informational spheres.
schizowarfare – The use of psychoanalytic/psychographic approaches to exacerbate divisions in organizations and societies by inducing a state of conflict and paranoia, often through the use of strategically architected and deployed disinformation.