The concept of fourth generation war is credited to the paleoconservative thinker William S. Lind and it remains a popular topic on the Dissident Right today. The idea is that rather than direct conflict between professional armies, 4GW conflicts are ones where non-state entities, possibly sponsored by a state actor, use propaganda, subversion, terrorism, and disinformation to undermine domestic support for state actors. The weak non-state actor uses stealth and cunning to bypass the strength of the state actor.
The concept is not without its critics. The term “fourth generation” implies it is new or part of a natural progression. The term “guerrilla war” dates to Napoleon and the Vendée could be called a fourth generation war, even though it occurred in the age of first generation war. The use of subversion and psychological war date to the dawn of settled societies. The non-state actor, using irregular tactics against a state actor, possessing superior military strength, dates to the rise of the state itself.
This is more of a language issue, than anything else, but the concept is a useful starting point, when thinking about social conflict in the modern age. For example, the Left’s fetish for doxing heretics is a facet of the new kind of politics in the surveillance state. It is not just the unmasking, but the fact that the heretic will be known forever, just by putting his name in a google search. Everyone now has a permanent record, so the people in control threaten those who challenge them, with a negative entry on their permanent record.
Another aspect of this is the moral role of corporations. It is one thing to have your name plastered all over the internet as a heretic. It is quite another to find yourself banned from the internet. Social media companies are not just companies selling your personal information. They see themselves as morality police. Instead of jailing dissidents or banning inconvenient speech, the ruling class uses its social control to threaten the social capital of their enemies. Whatever you want to label it, ours is the age of social war.
The question though, is what does the other side look like in this social war? Given the disparity in power, resistance to the ruling orthodoxy will have to be irregular, but within the narrow bounds of the law. It will also have to operate in the social sphere. An obvious example is the meme war that the alt-right waged on social media during the last election. The swarming of mainstream accounts with mockery and criticism scrambled the signals in the Progressive echo chamber. Conformation became cacophony for them.
That was an ad hoc response, but going forward, a more complex and organized effort will inevitably develop. You see hints of it with the Identity Evropa guys. They stay out of the spotlight and perform guerrilla marketing style actions, like hanging banners over highway overpasses and putting up posters around Progressive strongholds. The subtle message being sent is “We are in your neighborhoods, walking among you.” It is a form of psychological warfare that encourages the dissidents and freaks out the Progressives.
Of course, an aspect of the social war has been with us since Dan Rather was exposed back in the Bush years. The last two decades since then has been a steady discrediting of the main propaganda organs, by pranksters, honest citizens and partisans. Every time some dope on cable falls for a Sam Hyde prank after a shooting, the mainstream media becomes a bit more useless as a weapon. Trump won the White House largely by riding the fake news wave. The mass media has been turned into a liability.
In all probability, a weapon the resistance will use against the orthodoxy is a take on what the guerrilla movements have always done to conquerors. Occupying forces inevitably rely of collaborators to control the local population. Targeting collaborators and their handlers not only scares the collaborators, it sows distrust in the occupiers about the reliability of the collaborators. In a prior age, this meant violence. In the information age, it means operations that turns the paranoia of the Left against its own people.
We see glimpses of how this will work whenever “It’s OK To Be White” signs turn up at a workplace or college campus. The company hustles everyone off to a re-education camp and the college campus has a day of mourning. When Greg Conte was revealed to be a member of the alt-right, the school spent the rest of the school year investigating its staff, looking for heretics. Now, imagine if Conte was not a heretic, just a guy caught up in a witch hunt, orchestrated by subversives pulling a clever prank on the school.
Following this through to a logical conclusion, the ruling classes of western societies will be engaged in an endless war to undermine the moral legitimacy of their own people. The resistance will be engaged in a war to discredit the factual legitimacy of the ruling classes. One side cannot be trusted because they believe the wrong things, while the other side cannot be trusted because they lie all the time. Eventually, the people will have to decide if they want to side with the heretics or side with the liars.
That’s what is unique about this new brand of social conflict. In prior guerrilla wars, the public was nothing more than camouflage for the resistance and an obstacle for the occupiers. In the information age, the public is the battle field. Instead of winning turf, the goal is to win the crowd. Good humor, cleverness and daring are more useful than power and intimidation. The hail fellow well met is hard to hate, even when he is causing trouble. The severe prude is impossible to love, even when she is right.
To their credit, the people in charge have understood this for some time. It is why they have unleashed the social media hounds on the heretics. At some level, they know they cannot win playing straight up, so they cheat. The other side is still too disorganized and leaderless to have a coherent plan, but there are signs they are figuring it out. Ultimately, the dissidents need to win turf by winning converts and that means exploiting their freedom of intellectual movement, to outmaneuver the people in charge.