How did the world’s most prominent publications turn into “tabloid press”?
What’s going on in the world right now?
Why are participants of the information process playing around?
By Dr. Oleg Maltsev
The ongoing events of today’s world are of interest to literally every world citizen. Global, large-scale problems replace one another, transcending the borders of countries and continents. The world has not completely recovered from the consequences of the two-year pandemic, as the virus that took over the entire planet has been replaced by a military conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Military actions between these countries began back in 2014, but the progress of events and attention that the conflict has now taken could compete in scale and power with the consequences with world wars. Hence, the question asks itself, what will be the next event and subsequent test for humanity? Perhaps an alien invasion of our planet? The latter assumption is undoubtedly the product of irony.
Current events are very interesting to me from a scholarly research perspective: in the present day, the vast majority of people, regardless of their position in society, education, or level of intellectual development, believe in what “the world” broadcasts to them through thousands of technological sources from every corner of the planet.
However, this article offers not a mere reflection on current events and trends in the global geopolitical situation. On the contrary, events, changes, and challenges of modernity serve as demonstrative examples, which allowed the author of this text to comprehend and formulate a particular heuristic model. Thus, the subject product of the presented scientific comparative analysis is the model of operational threat. By looking into current global trends in the given article, I will present the premises and logic of the emergence and formation of this model, and demonstrate how the retransformation of the model takes place by shifting from the operational to the strategic.
The presentation of basic material
The operational threat or immediate temporary threat (ITT) is the basic form of current threats. The primary characteristic of ITT is its temporary nature. This threat arises, exists for some time, then some event (or complex) occurs, after which the current threat is deactivated (it is defeated, stopped or ceases to exist). In fact, we are witnessing the direct realization of the paradigm of this threat. Let us consider the stages in order. Despite the fact that global events and changes concern everyone on a different level, the results of this study are relevant and promising for experts and persons associated with such forms of professional activity as marketing, management consulting, crisis management, HR management, journalism, as well as experts of the security field, including integrated business security.
Why is the comprehension of operational threats and their consequences important and relevant?
From a psychological perspective, if a person does not understand the cause-and-effect relationships that determine the nature of current events (in other words, s/he does not understand “how” and “what” is exactly happening), it is extremely difficult for him/her to process data, to form his/her own opinion about these events and, even more so, to form a forecast or probabilistic judgment about the future. Under conditions of uncertainty, the absence of an orientation system, and the increasing challenges of the environment, everyone becomes subject to various forms of information influence and is deprived of the ability to perceive reality objectively. The following scheme demonstrates the operational threat model.
The presented scheme reflects a special case of the current events taking place. The model can also work according to another scheme. But in this article, we will consider this configuration.
Along with the workings of the model, I believe it is also important to consider how this model emerged. Understanding the cause-and-effect relationships and stages of model formation can also help to understand the functionality of both its elements and the structure as a whole.
First, I would like to begin my analysis with the book of Nassim Taleb, an American essayist and statistician, titled “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” (2007). “Black Swan,” unlike the author’s next book, “Antifragility,” was a true bestseller. The book’s message can be summed up succinctly as follows: “you can’t be sure of anything.” An audience familiar with the book’s contents should remember the following episode. As a non-scientific writer and journalist, Nassim Taleb went to a Japanese conference to personally ask scientists how many of their predictions had come true. The answer was: “None”.
Second, during my interview with Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman, one of the founders of behavioral economics, he conveyed the same message, that one cannot be sure of anything.
Third, turning to the works of the eminent French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, “The Spirit of Terrorism” and “The Gulf War did not take place”, we observe a clear judgment of the role and influence of universal uncertainty. Baudrillard even identified this judgment as the basis of the spirit of global terrorism. It is universal uncertainty as a prerequisite for the operational threat model depicted in the scheme. But what creates this uncertainty? The first element is timelessness. For example, the world information computer network Internet is not influenced by any laws of time. The Internet is a global environment of uncertainty, where events occur “suddenly.” Accordingly, we might conclude that analyzing and predicting events and reactions to them on the Internet is a semi-structured task, practically not comprehensible through mathematical methods.
Let me provide an example: suppose I posted a photo on social networks, under which I got 100 “likes.” Then I posted another photo, in my opinion, a very good one, and I didn’t get a single “like.” I think every person has experienced something like that at least once. It is an example of how it all happens “suddenly,” by some incomprehensible and unpredictable law.
At the same time, society increasingly tends to identify the Internet environment with the real physical world. First of all, this is reflected in the communication change among people in life. Internet slang adds to our every day speech. It is worth noting that the attempt to identify the virtual world with the actual world is one of the first prerequisites for creating an environment of uncertainty. In modern cinematography, we also find several examples through which society is immersed in an environment of uncertainty. The way it works is that one of the central forms of film-making today is the psychologeme. Psychologemic films are made from a cliche; the storyline is almost absent (a video sequence without a plot). Such a film is for the viewer (in other words, for the consumer of dynamic images teeming with signs and symbols without meaning) completely unpredictable and illogical. As an example, we can consider an average detective story. Conventionally, there is a certain inciting incident (say, a murder or robbery), then there is a detective who investigates the crime. In the end, the “hero of the day” is uncovered. Now let’s imagine that something happens every minute throughout the film, but the detective doesn’t show up. At the same time, the viewer meets many people interested in the events taking place. He meets everybody except the detective. Moreover, the viewer can’t be sure that the murdered character won’t come back to life in the next episode, and he might come back without any explanation. This is how the psychologeme works in cinematography. The Russian TV series “Mediator” and “Nevsky” are striking examples, and among American films, perhaps, it is worth noting the infamous film “Joker”. There are many more examples, and the viewer encounters “general uncertainty” as an inherent characteristic of the environment in each of them.
According to my observations, it’s not that modern Hollywood has started making bad movies, but it has started taking specific orders, and I think it is hard to disagree with that. Of course, there are opposing examples of American cinema, among which I would single out the Paramount Network recent series “Yellowstone”. This series, consisting of four seasons, has a clear, understandable plot and, of course, great acting. However, there are fewer and fewer films like this. Besides, I’ve done my research and found a rather curious pattern: films that are broadcast within the U.S. are dramatically different from those that are distributed outside the U.S., and if certain websites didn’t translate them (with further publication on the Internet), we wouldn’t even know about many of them. These films are not hidden, but neither are they replicated worldwide. (Of course, it is not about world premieres shown in cinemas).
Anyone can conduct their research on the Internet, with books and movies, tracing the environment of uncertainty into which we are inevitably immersed. But the main point to be made is as follows: the environment of uncertainty generates various “off guard” events that are almost impossible to predict.
Returning to the model of operational threats, let us pay attention to the presented scheme. The scheme reflects that the indispensable condition for the emergence of these threats is the environment of uncertainty. At the same time, the environment of uncertainty is always created artificially. To provide more details on the scale of the realization of this model, let us consider the environment of modern science. On the one hand, science has perhaps become freer. Any scientist or person “employed in science” (as a friend of mine figuratively and accurately put it) can publish his “essays” and other kinds of written works in a variety of sources, regardless of public opinion or approval of his position. Writing articles for publications, websites, magazines, blogs, etc. is not forbidden, and conversely, it is very popular. Anyone can cover their work for a large audience, including a foreign one. Previously, publishing the results of research activities was much more difficult.
On the other hand, science is conventionally “preserved” in itself. What does this mean? There is a clear tendency in the scientific community towards abandoning “fields of the unknown”. It looks like, today, nobody needs a scientific discovery. The first counterquestion that every scholar is asked in response to his or her research findings is: Who can you refer to? And if s/he has no one to refer to, that means they “made up” what is written in their work. At any rate, such material is immediately questioned (even if the research is groundbreaking and unprecedented). Still, in a perfect scenario, any scholarly research is designed to clarify the field of the unknown. The purpose of any study is to clarify the unknown direction and make it known, practical, applicable, and thereby of benefit to humanity. Consider the following sequence: suppose we know A) the “unknown” and B) the “known” (as two parts of a whole). Then: the “unknown” can be made “known” through research (naturally by applying a methodology, logic, tools, etc.). However, since current research has become irrelevant in today’s scientific environment, and only a form of “rehashing” the past is welcomed, research as such disappears. As a result, there is a generation of teachers instead of researchers, and these are completely different roles due to the different ways and methods of implementing professional activities.
What happens next? Since there is no access to the field of the unknown and it is considered irrelevant because there are no researchers, instead, there are the figures who go through and recompile known facts and already described paradigms of the past; respectively, there is no possibility to clarify any part of the objectively existing field of the unknown through factual research. Conclusion: the scientific sector becomes uncertain.
Further, it is proposed to analyze what type of methods and forms global information sources use to impose universal uncertainty in every possible way. In particular, this can be seen in the example of the military conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. By “global information sources,” I mean the foreign media, which in the most sophisticated forms cover the course of events, assigning and announcing, in particular, the exact dates of the attack on Ukraine. For those who, for some reason, have not seen this news, I will give some examples of what the official Western media claim on the pages of their publications and what the information message of the speakers of these media is (it is relevant to analyze public speeches).
According to foreign media reports, Ukraine is expecting invisible drones, killer robots, assault rifles with their “own brains”, kamikazes, and commando dogs that are about to be thrown into battle. The following message became quite a topic of discussion: “Aliens avoid contact with Earth because of military threats from the Russian Federation.” A German newspaper published a map image of an attack plan, allegedly in possession by the Russian leadership. Apparently, this map is more than a century old because the city of Lviv is marked on this map as Lemberg. This was the name of Lviv in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The American press makes predictions about how many civilians and military personnel will die. This is just a small part of what is happening in the world media today. By such methods, events escalate, and tensions rise in society, as the information war is “inflated,” while prominent publications turn into the tabloids.
But how are such events possible? How are “news occasions” and “information messages” generated, the essence and meaning of which are “beyond the realm of fiction”? And why do the masses believe them? We will discuss it next. Everything begins, as already mentioned, with the formation of an environment of general uncertainty. The presentation of information in the media has reached such a level that the facts, literally, make no matter. That is why a simple statement can convincingly enough deny previously exposed statements: “I didn’t say that.” And “they” (the various speakers) can afford such denial tactics because they know in advance that they will not be held accountable for what they have done. If the case were in court, it would be difficult to deny the facts (which could lead to imprisonment). But in the case of the top leading media, the information is distorted and simply made up.
For example, one might present to the public that I’ve written a specific book. And as soon as people start asking questions about the book that I don’t like, I can change my mind and say that I didn’t write it. And then, after a certain period, claim my rights again and, in addition, sue those who deny it. Isn’t it absurd? Of course, this example is ridiculous, but it accurately reflects the essence and order of events. Through such methods, the general environment of uncertainty is created and developed.
It seems possible to conclude that such an interactive, indeterminate, semi-structured environment, in which we now find ourselves, is characterized by its special own laws that do not correspond to the laws of the human mind and individual perception. As a result, the interactive environment of uncertainty turns into the environment of uncertainty where humans live. A person who can no longer know for sure what is true and what is not. As the host of a Russian-language media outlet said, “…this is a new kind of madness, a new kind of insanity and inadequacy.” Let us assume that the environment of uncertainty arose naturally due to the development of the Internet. Initially, this environment was quite predictable. I would say that those who needed qualitative predictions could succeed in predicting by building a model, conducting scientific experiments, etc. But now, the environment, whose events we are all witnesses to, has become completely unpredictable. At this point, let’s refer to the operational threat scheme again.
Note the element called X…n (n-period) is the so-called “receiving device.” The receiving device is neither a machine nor a computer, as one would probably assume. It is human beings. This conclusion has nothing to do with humor or irony. This is what experts in the study of critical forms of social influence call the electorate that is being influenced.
Humans today have become so-called “receiving devices.” The term “human” certainly does not refer to absolutely all the people on the planet, but, unfortunately, most of them. In his writings many years ago, Jean Baudrillard used terms such as: “silent majority” and “screened out.” Today, we could use another term “receiving device,” essentially a radio receiver, the passive one and it would not be an exaggeration. This term was not invented by me. I heard it from my colleagues who work in the global security field. That is what they call, among themselves, the majority of modern people who succumb to the events described earlier.
Next, let us consider in the scheme how this model functions. So, in an environment of complete uncertainty, people choose certain leaders, i.e., politicians. And since most people in society, being under the influence of uncertainty and information tension, lose the ability to assess the situation correctly and think constructively, the electorate elects rulers like itself. Voting is done through majority choice and the so-called “receiving devices” vote for those with whom they seem to be on the same wavelength. In other words, the more “fools” there are in a state, the more likely it is that a fool president will come to power (as is being observed on the world stage). I will not name specific figures; it can be an aspect for everyone’s further personal analysis and observation.
Let us return to the example of the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. There is the following question: who is talking about the conflict? Politicians do. But to speak intelligently about war, one must not be a politician but a professional of a different kind — a military professional. Otherwise, the figurative analogy to this situation looks like it is “consultation on gynecology with an agronomist”. Putting aside the war example and returning to the pandemic, the same, identical information line can be seen. The people who talked for hours and days about the pandemic were not virologists. Competent virologists were not given a voice on the world stage, and interviewers did not approach them for various reasons. Why not? The point is that a specialist would immediately bring certainty to the topic of discussion. And universal certainty is not needed because otherwise, the operational threat model would not function.
Let us also point out some other aspects and features of the operational threat model. Thus, journalists retransmit the statements of “experts,” globalizing and scaling such “statements” through the leverage of the media. This is how prominent publications become tabloids. They keep working as if confirming that the statements of the country’s leaders are official and reliable information. The media print politicians’ statements and produce reports. And for some reason, no one is aware that much of the information is fake. As a result, fakes retransmit and multiply the statements of officials who should be responsible for what they say. However, the latter does not happen.
Next, in the scheme, let us focus on the “receiving device” component. It should be noted that “receiving devices” are tuned to the waves of various media, according to the principle of “I listen to the speakers I like” (rather than according to the principle of reliability). At the same time, most Western media today transmit unreliable and even false information, which consumers (society, the electorate, masses, etc.) are literally forced to absorb. Then, by surfing in the Internet, people confirm the claimed information on the example of video messages of the leaders of European countries and the United States. As a result, after receiving several confirmations (in fact, just repetitions), the masses start to believe in the claimed information. As a result, the whole world is literally “screaming” that there will be war. But no one knows when. This is how uncertainty works again.
It is also worth noting how a certain magnet is “wound up” (the arrows in the scheme show this). The described mechanism, which is also a fear generator, becomes habitual and ordinary; a person gets used to living in fear. Where does fear come from? From the endless tension because of the individual’s being in this electric circuit. The greater the degree of tension, the greater the fear. Conversely, there is less fear when the degree of tension is lowered. Thus, fear arises from the individual’s placement in this magnetic informational electric circuit. But why is this electrical circuit required and organized? The answer is simple. For the human being, it is very uncomfortable to be in a state of tension, so to release the tension s/he is ready to believe even in such absurdities as killer robots and commando dogs. In other words, a psychological form of “unburdening” the human psyche is triggered. And as a result of the unconscious triggering of the mechanisms of the psyche that provide temporary unloading, it seems to man that certainty appears in his life.
There can be many magnets that generate and multiply fear. Military conflict is just one particular case. As a result, the sum of the magnets creates total uncertainty and the desire to make something understandable. And every time an individual, having received another informational confirmation of previous statements – even if these statements are absurd by definition – seems to make the situation clearer. At this moment, the individual’s psyche works so that s/he relaxes; however, not for long. After a while, the circular psychological chain, which generates fear and tension, will be restarted. The pandemic acted as such a strain for two years. Remember how everyone feared the epidemic and how many thousands of different prognosticating speeches we heard. Being in the described above state, a person becomes most suggestible and is ready to believe even in aliens who are planning to “contact us.”
For the realization of events in the environment of uncertainty, a mechanism presented in the form of a model of the operational threat is raised to the level of a Strategic Threat. Such a mechanism allows for the manipulation of certain views of the whole world. I suggest returning to the writings of Jean Baudrillard, such as “America,” “The Spirit of Terrorism”, and “The Gulf War did not take place.” In the pages of these works written long ago, the outstanding thinker described politicians’ tools to realize their marketing and political objectives. The example of military conflict clearly shows how state power and official position are used for selfish purposes. Please pay attention to the fact that this state of affairs seems to have become the norm in the modern world. To the possible question, “when will it all end?” I answer this way: “This formulation is fundamentally wrong; the question should be redefined.” The question should rather be: What new methods and forms of global and large-scale simulations await us in the near future? The reason I am confident in the continued existence and functioning of the operational threat scheme is as follows: once people have been given a weapon in the form of an advantage over the majority, they will no longer be able to relinquish that advantage. And only under conditions when this model becomes less effective will the search for new, more effective methods and ways of implementing such tasks at the global level begin.
Given that Jean Baudrillard had already described the environment of uncertainty and the phenomenon of non-existent war in which people are led to believe, I decided to conduct my research from the perspective of global security and to compare it with Baudrillard’s research. I ended up with evidence that today’s immediate temporary threat (ITT) can be weaponized. The manipulation of temporal threats is not done spontaneously and selectively but in a controlled and organized way, as a tried-and-true strategic system. The pandemic and military conflict examples can fully demonstrate how this system works. The changes observed in the global security system prompted the writing of this article, and I, in turn, have shared with you the results of my own research without “cutting corners and unnecessarily smoothing over political and social angles.”
(Feb 17, 2022)