So much has happened in 2016, from the Brexit vote to President-elect Trump, and it certainly feels like we have entered a new normal.
One common theme is a parabolic Putin rebound. At this moment, President Putin has Fortress Europe surrounded. The intellectual father of the new Zeitgeist that propelled Brexit, Le Pen, the Five Star movement in Italy, Gert Wilders in the Netherlands, is Vladimir Putin.
In the Middle East, it is Putin who is calling the shots in Aleppo, and in a quite delicious irony it looks like he has pocketed Opec as well.
However, my starting point is the election of President Donald Trump because hindsight will surely show that Russia ran a seriously sophisticated programme of interference, mostly digital.
Don DeLillo, who is a prophetic 21st writer, writes as follows in one of his short stories:
The specialist is monitoring data on his mission console when a voice breaks in, “a voice that carried with it a strange and unspecifiable poignancy”.
He checks in with his flight-dynamics and conceptual- paradigm officers at Colorado Command:
“We have a deviate, Tomahawk.”
“We copy. There’s a voice.”
“We have gross oscillation here.”
“There’s some interference. I have gone redundant but I’m not sure it’s helping.”
“We are clearing an outframe to locate source.”
“Thank you, Colorado.”
“It is probably just selective noise. You are negative red on the step-function quad.”
“It was a voice,” I told them.
“We have just received an affirm on selective noise... We will correct, Tomahawk. In the meantime, advise you to stay redundant.”
The voice, in contrast to Colorado’s metallic pidgin, is a melange of repartee, laughter, and song, with a “quality of purest, sweetest sadness”.
“Somehow we are picking up signals from radio programmes of 40, 50, 60 years ago.”
I have no doubt that Putin ran a seriously 21st predominantly digital programme of interference which amplified the Trump candidacy. POTUS Trump was an ideal candidate for this kind of support.
Trump is a linguistic warfare specialist. Look at the names he gave his opponents: Crooked Hillary, Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, ‘Low-energy’ Jeb — were devastating and terminal.
The first thing is plausible deniability
The second thing is non-linearity, you have to learn how to navigate a linear system (the new 21st digital ecosystem) in a non-linear way.
Beppe Grillo, the comic turned leader of the Five Star movement in Italy said: This is the deflagration of an epoch. It’s the apocalypse of this information system, of the TVs, of the big newspapers, of the intellectuals, of the journalists.”
He is right, traditional media has been disrupted and the insurgents can broadcast live and over the top.
From feeding the hot-house conspiracy frenzy on line (‘’a constant state of destabilised perception’’), timely and judicious doses of Wikileaks leaks which drained Hillary’s bona fides and her turn-out and motivated Trump’s, what we have witnessed is something remarkable and noteworthy.
Putin has proven himself an information master, and his adversaries are his information victims.