BERLIN July 15 (german-foreign-policy.com) – German think-tanks are calling for the use of public internet forums to spread state propaganda and subversion. The publication of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) writes that virtual platforms, being used by millions around the world as a means of communication, could be applied as “instruments of revolt” against objectionable governments on the condition that “one has control over the debate” taking place in the corresponding media. This also opens possibilities for concerted support for expansionist German foreign policy activities. But the magazine also cautions against the dangers to government interests by an undesired mass mobilization over the internet. If “virtual networks” cannot be brought under control, writes the magazine, effective “counter strategies” must be developed.
According to the current edition of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) magazine, “Internationale Politik”, web 2.0 forums such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube or Twitter, could be applied for “professional political campaigns.” These new media of communication are displaying “an impressive impact,” particularly in countries of the so-called Third World, writes the magazine, pointing to examples of protest movements organized via Facebook against the governments in Iran, Zimbabwe and Egypt, as well as the mobilization against the Marxist guerrilla FARC movement in Columbia. The 2009 Iranian presidential elections and the elections in 2008 in Zimbabwe are provided as concrete examples.
Tool for crisis regions
The “Internationale Politik” magazine notes further that the internet platforms, mentioned above, should be used as “tools” for “public diplomacy directed at foreign countries.” This could particularly serve to transform people of the world’s “crisis regions” into “active activists” in the interests of German foreign policy. The population of foreign countries could not only be used as activists, but also as sources of strategically relevant information, the magazine writes: The “creative potential” accumulated on a global scale in the “web 2.0 communities” could not only be “siphoned off” for the benefit of transnational corporations but even to the advantage of German policy.
While extolling modern communication media as an “instrument” for “rebellions” – desired by Berlin – against anti-western regimes, the magazine cautions against the dangers of undesirable internet mass mobilization (“cyber mobilization”).
“‘Bad guys’, such as terrorists and extremists, of all hues, use this same technology, they hook up over the internet or form hate groups on Facebook,” explains an associate of the “European Foundation for Democracy” (Brussels) in an interview: “They are often even more effective in the use of this technology than the so-called ‘western oriented guys’, who are now using Twitter or Facebook to voice their discontent.” In her opinion, the internet, even though it is “offering the possibility for open debate,” can, at the same time, become an “instrument of seduction.”
This argumentation has been picked up by several of “Internationale Politik’s” authors. The US American political scientist, Jakub Grygiel, explains that the “cyber mobilization phenomenon” can facilitate the “rapid emergence of groups that have a widespread reach and ability to inflict damage.” “The state, with its pronounced logistic infrastructure and management ability”, Grygiel writes, is “not only threatened by these networking groups,” but it is also “incapable of controlling them.”
Through “cyber mobilization” “groups with radical political aspirations” can link together individuals and groups that otherwise would have “remained on the fringe of various societies”: “These technologies link together individuals and groups that in fact always existed (…) but lacked the capacity to meet and organize. Minority interests and passions can find expression.”
Grygiel develops therefore strategies to counter this development. He believes that the means of communication used by anti-Western “extremists”, such as the insurgents in Iraq, could also be turned against them. “The open nature of these groups also makes them vulnerable to subversion by skilful propaganda or infiltration.” Following the example of the insurgents, a “strategy of counter-insurgency” has to include the “decentralization” of the state’s “defensive methods” – even at the risk of “weakening of the state’s monopoly of violence.”
Two other authors in “Internationale Politik” declare that “cyber space” should also be used in the service of German military policy. It is time to develop a “professional web 2.0 platform” to offer the foreign and military policy establishment in Berlin – the “long evoked strategic community” – “a central address”, write PR advisors Johannes Bohnen and Jan-Friedrich Kallmorgen in the magazine’s current edition. It would also be important to launch a “professional communication campaign,” with the aim of conveying to internet forums’ users the alleged necessity of the “out-of-area deployment” of the German Bundeswehr.
1, 2 Johannes Bohnen, Jan-Friedrich Kallmorgen: Wie Web 2.0. die Politik verändert. Internationale Politik, Juli/August 2009
3 “Dissens mit dem Dogma.” Internationale Politik, Juli/August 2009
4, 5 Jakub Grygiel: Der Reiz der Staatenlosigkeit. Internationale Politik, Juli/August 2009. Jakub Grygiel: The Power of Statelessness.
6 Johannes Bohnen, Jan-Friedrich Kallmorgen: Wie Web 2.0. die Politik verändert. Internationale Politik, Juli/August 2009