As the internet continues to make our world smaller, we have begun to witness how everything we once understood about warfare and conflict is changing beyond all recognition. It is changing under the shadow of what many are now calling Fifth Generation Warfare – 5GW.
In fact our digital world is evolving so fast that the classical frameworks of thought around warfare have now become almost irrelevant.
The incredible, exponential and accelerating pace of technology has overturned centuries of standard operating procedure. Diplomats and military leaders alike have been thrust into uncharted domains, disrupted by an invisible enemy that making us all question our very reality.
The ongoing psyop that is the COVID crisis has revealed a modern battleground in which the moulding, controlling, and capturing of your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs are the ultimate objective.
What we are talking about here is fifth-generation warfare.
This is not a term that Rambling In Pen has invented.
No, fifth-generation warfare is a new battleground, which is being deployed today by governments and military intelligence communities across the entire Western world.
The basic idea of 5GW is that wars will no longer be fought between opposing armies or terrorist groups, but rather that new wars will now be fought in the minds of common citizens.
Yes, your mind is the new battleground. This is not hyperbole. This is standard 5GW strategy.
Fifth-generation warfare is a war of information and perception.
A Psychological operation (PSYOP) is an operation to convey pre-selected information and indicators to audiences in order to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning and the behavior of governments, organisations, groups and individuals.
Ultimately the purpose of these psychological operations is to induce or reinforce behavior which is perceived to be favourable to pre-determined objectives.
A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.
What is 5GW?
So, what is Fifth Generation Warfare and why does it matter?
It has been argued that 5GW is the new type of war, one that encompasses everything from bombs to bots.
It should be noted that most of these 5GW operations are Hidden in Plain Sight. (HiPs)
In truth, terms such as “Fifth-Generation War” and “hybrid war” are often used to lend a veneer of strategic gravitas to ultimately a vapid analysis. Contrary to such arguments, the practice of amplifying and creating fissures in an adversary’s society was first established in the early part of the 20th century.
Indeed, since the end of World War II, such tools have now become a standardised element in counter-intelligence tactics.
The American author, William S. Lind, once created a generations of warfare model – it looks like this:
|Generation||Description||Made Irrelevant By|
|1st||Ancient melee battle||Muskets|
|2nd||Organized battle with gunpowder||Blitzkrieg|
|3rd||Mechanised warfare focused on speed and manoeuvrability||Terrorism|
|4th||Decentralized warfare is led by state actors (Primarily Kinetic)||The Mobile Internet, Network Effects|
|5th||Information and Perception (Primarily Non-Kinetic)||To Be Determined?|
The concept of Fifth Generation Warfare itself is controversial, with Lind arguing against it saying that 4GW “had yet to fully materialise”.
However, many would argue that what is happening in modern conflicts today are so radically different from the 4th generation framework that it’s clear we have now entered the fifth generation.
A definition of Fifth Generation Warfare is featured in Abbot’s Handbook of 5GW in which he states;
“The very nature of Fifth Generation Warfare is that it is difficult to define.
The deliberate manipulation of an observer’s context in order to achieve a desired outcome.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
5GW is a war of information and perception”.
It’s clear that Fifth-Generation Warfare technologies have now advanced to the point that when applied correctly, their very use should now be defined as data-driven, non-kinetic military actions specifically designed (and used) to take advantage of people’s existing cognitive biases in order to create new cognitive biases in their minds.
In 2023 a Fifth Generation Warfare conflict can be fought and won without a single bullet being fired, or that most of any targeted population realises that a war is even taking place.
The Woke Brigade are an example of this. A recent example of how both the US and UK governments used 5GW techniques in their “Persuasive Messages for COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake” operation.
(Read the inside story of how these both these government secretly connived together –> HERE.)
In other words most of these 5GW programs which are being used on the general public today are Psyops.
(If you’d like to read more about how Psyops work (and who perpetrates them) on the general public, go –> HERE)
The following technologies and techniques are often associated with 5GW.
- Misinformation (Data Driven).
- Social engineering.
- Social media manipulation (Data Driven).
- Decentralized and highly non attributable psychological warfare (memes, fake news)
- Mass surveillance.
- Open-source intelligence
- Commercially available Social media analytics
- Open source and grey market Data Sets
- Commercially available Satellite / SA imagery
- Commercially available Electromagnetic intelligence
- Cryptographic backdoors
- Electronic warfare, with the rapid reduction in cost and availability thereof.
- Open source encryption/ DeFi / Community technology
- Low cost Radios / SDRs
- Quantum computers? (unclear if being used yet at scale)
What’s important to note is that these technologies may be used to heavily influence, or completely remove the need for kinetic combat:
In summary 5GW is….
- A war of information and perception.
- A war which targets existing cognitive biases of individuals and organisations.
- 5GW is designed to create new cognitive biases (aka social engineering)
5GW is different from classical warfare for the following reasons:
- It focuses on the individual observer and/or the decision maker.
- Because it’s spread online/digital it’s difficult or impossible to attribute to a single source.
- The nature and purpose of each attack is concealed.
Divide and Conquer using 5GW & Propaganda
The divide and conquer strategy has been widely used throughout history. Both the Roman empire and the British empire played small tribes and groups against one another in order to control their lands and territories. It was used by the Romans when they took Britain, when the British Empire took India, and when the Anglo-Normans took Ireland.
A staple political strategy, divide and conquer is still used by many countries today.
Today the Divide and Conquer strategy has developed into an algorithmic paradigm in which propaganda is a major tool used to fight political and psychological battles. Propaganda is a smart way to tell people black is white and make them believe it.
Historically propaganda is a scientific tool used by nefarious individuals and groups to shape public perception of either a person or a cause.
Garth Jowett, a communications professor at the University of Houston in the United States said;
“Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”
The key difference between the tools of real war and the tools of so-called “fifth-generation”, “hybrid”, or “grey-zone” and “propaganda” wars is that the former uses bombs, guns, bullets, missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while 5GW uses psyops which must be weaponised and spread digitally.
Today a 5th Generation war is being conducted against the people of the western world and by its very nature this being done with the connivance and cooperation of the target people. That’s us.
While the “Handbook of 5GW” alludes to early examples of 5GW, it must be recognised that the book was published before one of the most disruptive societal events of the modern era – the 9/11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers.
The following paragraphs describe when and where the 5GW frameworks first began.
The origins of 5GW as data driven warfare (combined with state engineered propaganda) go back to the years leading up to WWII in Nazi Germany.
However, in the modern world of today we can see how the networked computing platforms, social media and big data analytics are now being used to drive decision making on a societal scale.
For this part of our analysis, we have focussed on how this networked mobile computing power together with their big data analytics have been used to drive decision making on a massive societal scale.
2008: The Arab Spring aka the First Accidental Fifth Generation Conflict.
The Arab Spring represents a key turning point in warfare, emerging in Tunisia in 2008, and erupting across North Africa in 2010. The Arab Spring was the first conflict to be driven by Social Media, primarily Facebook and Twitter.
What the world witnessed first-hand was that a revolution or protest could show up first online, then in the data, followed rapidly by being broadcast on the Main Stream Media just a few hours later.
The fact was that this was a 5GW conflict which was manifesting itself online, and generating tremendous amounts of data before any kinetic action was actually taking place on the ground.
The Arab Spring lacks a few key elements of today’s Fifth Generation Warfare, most notably the ambiguity of the opposing force despite having some ambiguity as to who was fuelling it.
(An interesting side note is that one of the main organizers of the Egyptian Revolution, Wael Ghonim, worked at Google at the time).
From interactions with people who were involved during those early years of privatised data collection, the use of social media to cascade the situation into a regional conflict was almost entirely accidental.
Because of that, they like to call The Arab Spring the first accidental fifth-generation conflict.
2014: The Hong Kong and Taiwan Protests.
The societal echoes of the Arab spring continued to bounce around the planet, focusing a few years later in Hong Kong and Taiwan during democratic protests in 2014.
At this point, we begin to see a new technology beginning to emerge: Decentralised technologies (or “zero trust systems” for those of you who work in more conservative organisations like the DoD). During the Sep 2014 Hong Kong protests, encrypted messaging apps were used heavily.
When local cellular infrastructure was “overloaded” the protesters employed a decentralised Mesh networking app called Fire-Chat – which completely bypassed Great Firewall restrictions.
Governments were extremley disturbed by this event. So much so that the Russian government began deploying their own electronic warfare units to protests.
Decentralised currencies like Bitcoin began to see popular use. For example during Occupy Wall Street, 2011.
While decentralised warfare is a key element in the definition of any 5GW, today’s attackers now use both big data and social media as weapons.
This development serves only to reinforce the view that we are in a world war, one which takes us into entirely new realms of conflict.
5GW + AI = the Social Engine.
While warfare has a long history of psychological operations and propaganda, the conflicts happening online today have accelerated psychological warfare. This has ultimately reduced the feedback loops to a matter of mere milliseconds.
Facebook product teams have a word for this: “Dopamine Loops”.
Military, advertising, and political strategists have now worked out how they can leverage over a hundred years of lessons in psychological warfare and combine this knowledge with data-driven, psychological feedback loops in order to influence the behaviour of the world’s global population.
In the world of big tech (with the help of AI) they can now build, test and deploy a targeted 5GW program in a matter of minutes.
In the trade they call this the Social Engine. On the other-hand Facebook (Meta) calls it “business as usual”.
The creation of data-driven cognitive biases has already defined the past decade, everything from “swinging” elections, to determining a Netflix script, or which celebrity will be seen in an advertisement for makeup.
In fact, the AI algorithm GPT-3 was used to write the italicised section of this paragraph.
GPT-3 is a predictive text entry program, which allows people to type words on their keyboard by predicting keys that are likely to be typed.
This allows us to influence cognitive biases by sneaking certain ideas into peoples’ text, bypassing their critical thought processes altogether.
People will then replicate these messages in their own texts, and the spread of the content will be a reflection of the users’ natural cognitive biases.
Cyber Attribution Problem
In the Fifth Generation of cyberwar, simply knowing who your enemy actually is can be nearly impossible to establish.
This is because one of the main areas where 5th Generation warfare begins to break down is the ambiguity of what/who the attacking force is. This is known as“the cyber attribution problem”.
This problem is related to the fact that software engineers (often employed by the dark state) are actively hiding or misconstruing their identity while writing their lines of code.
However in some cases, hackers have been caught using modified cyber-weapons stolen from NSA servers (see EternalBlue, 2017).
The cyber attribution is a problem in 5GW warfare. The reason for this is that almost all modern military doctrine requires knowing the identity of the enemy. This is where modern conflict begins to get very frightening.
Governments have routinely stated that cyberattacks can and will be responded to with kinetic force.
In the 2018 edition of the U.S. Dept. of Defense Nuclear Posture Review the U.S. government states that they reserve the right to respond to “non-nuclear strategic attacks” with “the employment of nuclear weapons”.
The fatal flaw of nuclear deterrence is that it does not apply only to nuclear weapons.
“The United States would only consider the employment of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies, and partners.
Extreme circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.”
The Nuclear Posture Review itself mentions “cyber” sixteen times.
Considering some of the largest cyberattacks in history were started by teenagers, (Mirai botnet, 2016) the impact of the Cyber Attribution Problem on modern nuclear deterrent theory is quite literally insane.
This is M speaking to James Bond in the film No Time to Die;
“We used to be able to get into a room with an enemy, now they’re just floating in the ether.”
Social media in its essence (along with most of the internet today) is driven by for-profit cognitive programming. This is also known as advertising.
Advertising along with an exponentially growing set of data generated by the billions of people using social media platforms have now been weaponised.
With the never ending advancements in data gathering techniques the amount of data being collected on individuals is increasing exponentially.
Social Media is one of the primary weapons used in today’s 5GW programs.
Recent cases of Fifth Generation Warfare
2022 – U.S.A: Jan 6th Insurrection
The January 6, 2021 mob assault on the U.S. Capitol exposed deep fissures between Americans and shook the very foundations of the country. The violence that day and the tech industry’s response to the tsunami of polarising content triggered a major public debate over how social media and tech companies manage their platforms and services and the impact of content moderation policies on polarisation, extremism, and political violence in the United States.
One of the biggest unresolved questions about the Jan. 6 mob assault on the U.S. Capitol in 2022 is how much the social media platform, Parler was responsible for the violence that day.
Founded in 2018, Parler took off during the 2020 presidential race. In the summer and autumn of that year, high-profile conservatives, including representatives of the Trump campaign, urged their supporters to join them on Parler, which billed itself as a haven for free speech with a laissez-faire approach to moderation compared with mainstream social media platforms.
However, research has shown that Parler’s business model, their platform design features, and content management system combined to make users of the social media platform especially vulnerable to high levels of manipulation and exposure to what Facebook and many others have referred to as coordinated inauthentic behavior.
2016 – U.S.A: The Presidential Election
Some would say that the first compelling case of Fifth Generation Warfare was the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. This includes complete ambiguity of the opposing force, wide-scale societal engineering using data (eg Cambridge Analytica), organised counterattacks between government and social media companies, censorship, and the direct attack on the decision making process of billions of people.
We encourage you to read the leaked internal Facebook report detailing precisely how this is taking place. It’s fascinating and very scary: “Stop the Steal and Patriot Party: The Growth and Mitigation of an Adversarial Harmful Movement”.
May 2021 – Israel: Operation Guardian of the Walls
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are masters of information warfare. Israel even has their own propaganda division of the military, the IDF Spokesperson Unit. Their corporate logo shows the propagation of radio waves.
The first 5GW conflict to evolve into a kinetic battle (excluding the storming of the U.S. Capitol) took place during the Israel–Palestine conflict in 2021.
On May 13th, 2021, the IDF announced falsely on Twitter, and on the record to The Wall Street Journal, that “IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip”.
The IDF had announced that an Israeli invasion of Gaza had begun.
The New York Times then reported the following day that the announcement had been a deception, that no Israeli troops had stepped foot into Gaza.
The IDF then clarified their statement declaring that the intent of the announcement was to expose opposing Hamas forces (presumably using unmanned ISR) and destroy tunnel networks with precision-guided munitions.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced two weeks after operation “Guardian of The Walls”, that the conflict was the “First AI war”.
2016 – Syndrome in Havana:
Our last example, Havana Syndrome, includes the purest form of Fifth Generation Warfare we have witnessed to date. It is also one of the weirdest. Havana Syndrome checks all of the 5GW boxes:
- Ambiguity of the opposing force.
- Ambiguity of attack vector.
- Dopamine loops.
- Triggering existing cognitive biases in target.
- Creating new cognitive biases.
In fact, Havana Syndrome is so obscure there is significant debate within the U.S. DoD on whether or not it even exists.
Havana Syndrome was first reported in and around the Cuban embassy in 2016 and has since been reported all around the world including Guangzhou, Hanoi, Berlin, and most notably Vienna, Austria.
Diplomats report hearing strange noises and headaches, resulting in significant neurological damage. The US Army Mad Science Lab interviewed Dr James Giordano, one of the doctors involved in researching the cases.
As Dr James Giordano describes to the U.S. Army Mad Science Lab:
“ To date, there are over 100 validated cases of personnel being afflicted with the subjective symptoms and clinically validated objective signs representative of Havana syndrome…
The acute symptoms are relatively ambiguous, in that some individuals report sensations of pressure in the head, ringing or buzzing in the ears, and feelings of confusion.
The majority of the originally affected individuals, and many of those subsequently affected have shown long-lasting, discernible neurological features that are evident upon physiologic testing and imagination”.
To make things even more interesting, the US State Department recently declared that 5GW was no attack at all, simply a cricket, Anurogryllus Celerinictus, and that psychogenic effects were the primary cause of reported health issues.
Their report has since been deleted.
The very nature of the attack being ambiguous, and the heated debates between DoD and even CIA officials over causes and existence makes “Havana Syndrome” fit perfectly into the 5GW framework.
Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior
In many cases we see today fake accounts are used en masse in order to create a sense of ubiquity.
This can also be referred to as “brigading” – that is, cooperating across a series of networked social media platforms in order to post intimidating content on such a large scale that it ultimately drowns out the voices of intended targets.
Coordinated inauthentic behavior takes a number of different forms. In some cases, it might mean the use of bots to amplify content at a rapid rate. This can make also memes and catchy hashtags like #StoptheSteal go viral.
Bottom line: What makes online behavior inauthentic is when posts are made at a rate and scale that would defy the laws of physics and human biology for a singular person.
We would recommend you read our research on the dark state/military Origins of Facebook.
- Ambiguity of the opposing force.
- Ambiguity of attack vector.
- Dopamine loops.
- Triggering existing cognitive biases in target.
- Creating new cognitive biases.
- Emerges from The Arab Spring.
- Solidified during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
- The 2021 Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the first example of 5GW in kinetic battle.
- Havana Syndrome is pure 5GW.
The term fifth-generation psyops is perhaps a more accurate term for what is currently happening across the web.
Hopefully, we have given you an overview of what this 5GW hell is, it’s history, and how we can begin thinking about it.
The definition of a 5GW is evolving, and the attacks that we will begin to see are about to evolve into the bizarre and seemingly impossible.
It’s easy to get rather depressed about a future of biological and nuclear deterrence, massive social engineering attacks, and hypersonic proliferation concerns. But we must always remain positive.
And to finish, a former DARPA program manager was once asked how he stayed optimistic about the future, having witnessed so many technologies that could potentially wipe civilisation off the planet.
The ex-program manager replied,
“Civilisation has been through a lot, they always get through!”
The future is going to be incredibly interesting, and we’re excited to see it.
We thank you for reading this article. If you found it useful and informative please share with your friends and family. We leave you now with a video and a tune from the late great Leonard Cohen – Everybody Knows.
Peace and Tranquility.
Author: Michael W
Essential reading on the history and future of propaganda, and information warfare:
Massenpsychologie (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego), Sigmund Freud, 1921.
Propaganda, Edward Bernays, 1928 (this heavily inspired Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels).
The Ultra Secret, F.W. Winterbotham, 1974. The first “tech leak”, the book goes into detail in the breaking of the Enigma Codes at Bletchley Park, along with the propaganda campaigns organised by Churchill and Special Liaison Officers to hide Ultra’s use.
Berlin Diary William L. Shirer, 1941. Describes the compelling account of WWII breaking out in Europe as it’s happening, as described by a CBS news correspondent. His descriptions of Nazi propaganda and arguments with censors is fascinating.
Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007. Just read it.
Snow Crash Neal Stephenson, 1992. (Science Fiction) An extremely entertaining account on information warfare, literally defined the “MetaVerse” and “Avatar”