Neoliberalism benefits the few and makes life for the many increasingly impossible. Big data and blanket surveillance give state and corporate intelligence confidence that they can pre-empt and manage mass, social reactions to neoliberalism. This article is an excerpt from my new book, The War on You.
In 1997, the U.S. Space Command published its Vision for 2020. The Vision says that military force is necessary to “protect” U.S. trade and investment. Colonial forces repelled Native American attacks, Navies enforced sea-based commerce, the Air Force had the advantage of the “high ground.” In modern times, space is an additional domain of warfare. The technologies that we take for granted—cargo tankers, computers, e-commerce, drones, GPS, the internet, jet aircraft, touchscreens, and the satellites that make these things possible—were developed in the military sector with public treasure before their transfer to private, for-profit corporations. This, says the Space Command, will lead to “Full Spectrum Dominance.”
A few years later, Dennis M. Bushnell, the chief scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, gave a presentation based on the work of a host of powerful U.S. (and other) institutions, including: the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joint Forces Command, the National Research Council, and many others.
Entitled Future Strategic Issues/Future Warfare [Circa 2025], the PowerPoint presentation anticipates: a) scenarios created by U.S. forces and agencies and b) scenarios to which they might have to respond. The projection is contingent on the use of hi-technology. According to the report there are/will be six Technological Ages of Humankind: “Hunter/killer groups (sic) [million BC-10K BC]; Agriculture [10K BC-1800 AD]; Industrial [1800-1950]; IT [1950-2020]; Bio/Nano [2020-?]; Virtual.”
In the past, “Hunter/gatherer” groups fought over “hunting grounds” against other “tribal bands” and used “handheld/thrown” weapons. In the agricultural era, “professional armies” also used “handheld/thrown” weapons to fight over “farm lands.” In the industrial era, conscripted armies fought over “natural resources,” using “mechanical and chemical” weapons. In our time, “IT/Bio/Bots” (robots) are used to prevent “societal disruption.” The new enemy is “everyone.” “Everyone.”
Similarly, a British Ministry of Defence projection to the year 2050 states: “Warfare could become ever more personalised with individuals and their families being targeted in novel ways.”
The war on you is the militarization of everyday life with the express goal of controlling society, including your thoughts and actions.
A U.S. Army document on information operations from 2003 specifically cites activists as potential threats to elite interests. “Nonstate actors, ranging from drug cartels to social activists, are taking advantage of the possibilities the information environment offers,” particularly with the commercialization of the internet. “Info dominance” as the Space Command calls it can counter these threats: “these actors use the international news media to attempt to influence global public opinion and shape decision-maker perceptions.” Founded in 1977, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command featured an Information Dominance Center, itself founded in 1999 by the private, veteran-owned company, IIT.
“Information Operations in support of civil-military interactions is becoming increasingly more important as non-kinetic courses-of-action are required,” wrote two researchers for the military in 1999. They also said that information operations, as defined by the Joint Chiefs of Staff JP 3-13 (1998) publication, “are aimed at influencing the information and information systems of an adversary.” They also confirm that “[s]uch operations require the continuous and close integration of offensive and defensive activities … and may involve public and civil affairs-related actions.” They conclude: “This capability begins the transition from Information Dominance to Knowledge Dominance.”
“ATTUNED TO DISPARITIES”
The lines between law enforcement and militarism are blurred, as are the lines between military technology and civilian technology. Some police forces carry military-grade weapons. The same satellites that enable us to use smartphones enable the armed forces to operate.
In a projection out to the year 2036, the British Ministry of Defence says that “[t]he clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants will be increasingly difficult to discern,” as “the urban poor will be employed in the informal sector and will be highly vulnerable to externally-derived economic shocks and illicit exploitation” (emphasize in original). This comes as Boris Johnson threatens to criminalize Extinction Rebellion and Donald Trump labels Black Lives Matter domestic terrorists.
In 2017, the U.S. Army published The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare. The report reads: “The convergence of more information and more people with fewer state resources will constrain governments’ efforts to address rampant poverty, violence, and pollution, and create a breeding ground for dissatisfaction among increasingly aware, yet still disempowered populations.”
The U.S. military, in some ways, survives by maintaining the unjust status quo. It justifies its existence to policymakers as the guarantor of the economic order. However, “[a] global populace that is increasingly attuned and sensitive to disparities in economic resources and the diffusion of social influence,” thanks in part to the internet and instant communication, “will lead to further challenges to the status quo and lead to system rattling events.” These, according to the military, include “the Arab Spring, the Color Revolutions in Eastern Europe, the Greek monetary crisis, BREXIT, and the mass migrations to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa.”
The document might have also added to the list of unpredictable, life-changing political events COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, sparked them time ‘round by the police murder of George Floyd.
The majority of BLM protestors in the U.S. and around the world are Millennials (people born between circa mid-1980s and late-1990s) and Generation Z (GenZ, those born after circa late-‘90s). The Pentagon is worried about GenZ. Millennials matured as their dreams and aspirations crumbled in the wake of major geopolitical and financial events, meaning that they were demoralized in their teens and easier to control. But the more cynical GenZ was born into misery. Unlike Millennials, who learned how to use and indeed pioneered much of the technology available today, i.e., they were one step behind their rulers, GenZ was born hyper-connected, giving them unique opportunities to harness for a better world the very technologies that the Pentagon utilizes as tools of oppression. These views are expressed by military planners in their Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Special Program (JLASS).
Providing no small insight into the thinking of the top generals, U.S. military war colleges planned to stop an imagined “Zbellion” in the year 2025. “Although Millennials experienced [9/11 and the Great Recession] during their coming of age, Gen Z lived through them as part of their childhood, affecting their realism and world view,” says the projection. The younger generation is the “least likely to believe there is such a thing as the ‘American Dream,’ and that the ‘system is rigged’ against them. Frequently seeing themselves as agents for social change, they crave fulfillment and excitement in their job to help ‘move the world forward’”—a dangerous proposition from elite viewpoints.
The seeds of resistance are taking root. The Progressive International has been established to counter the global political shift to the far-right. Extinction Rebellion activists risk prison and hefty fines to halt the climate emergency. Black Lives Matter activists are taking direct action to make both sides of the political establishment bend to their demands for justice and dignity. Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party in the UK has been dragged kicking and screaming to the left. In the Fifth république, the pro-immigrant, anti-climate change, La France insoumise (France Unbowed) has 500,000 members, despite being just four years old. In the U.S., progressives are rejecting the Republican Party that calls itself the Democratic Party and forming a long-overdue, third organization: Movement for a People’s Party.
People are taking action against the war on them and, in the spirit of international solidarity, could soon be active against the wars on others.