I told my friend Jon yesterday that all war is culture war. “Real” war is just when the tools are spears and sticks instead of language and indoctrinations. Today I noticed a Fourth Generation warfare tactic spill into the Fifth Generation Warfare space, and I think teasing out the details of it will be a good explainer for both concepts, as well as an interesting temperature gauge for what’s happening on the ground as things continue to unravel. Let’s begin.
We spoke in 2019 on HWFO about how humans don’t control cultures, cultures control humans, and the culture war is between next-level entities that live one level up from us, using us as tools in their gambits to rub each other out.
You can go back and read that if you like, but the gist is that The Pope doesn’t control Christianity, Christianity controls The Pope. All those culture warriors bickering with each other on Twitter are not actually people at all, they’re tools being wielded by an entity one layer of abstraction up from them, warring with other entities at that next layer of abstraction, for purchase within the overall brain-space of mankind.
Fourth generation warfare happens when a war turns decentralized, as a way for a weaker actor to bypass the strength of a nation state and undermine it where it is weakest, from within. Terrorism, propaganda, insurgency, hit and run tactics, and generally forcing a stronger opponent to spend inordinate amounts of money to deal with cheap attack vectors at soft targets are all features of 4GW. A population dedicated to 4GW cannot be occupied by a force, no matter how strong, because that force is only as strong as their weakest link. This is why we could never win Afghanistan. Whatever we did there would create more enemies than it killed, and we were walking backwards on the kill ratios. We were baited into bad behavior because the bad behavior was the only response we had. It was as if we were being led around on a leash by our enemy.
4GW is why Israel can’t beat Hamas in Palestine. They roll in once a decade to “mow the grass,” inflict tremendous human suffering in the process, and even if their targets are 95% legitimate the remaining 5% get broadcast on the internet and in the media, turning more and more people locally and internationally against Israel. That Hamas is launching rockets at the Israelis doesn’t matter, they’re doing it on purpose to prod them on the shoulder again, and again, and again, until they can evoke a disproportionate response and catch it on tape.
4GW is why the 2020 Portland riots had no real resolution. Antifa used the exact same tactic Hamas did, albeit at a lower overall scale. Erin Smith, friend of HWFO, provides incredibly exacting details about this for Reason.com in this article.
This is basically guerilla warfare. They're trying to undermine legitimacy of the state. The police right now, I think some of them are catching up. There's a playbook for how police respond to riots and they're not actually doing it; it's not an actual riot. I mean, it is a riot, but at the same time, it's a specific type of riot that's trying to make the police respond in a certain way.
Meaning, they're able to provoke the police into taking the bait.
Yeah. Basically they're baiting the police into overreacting.
Antifa goes for a certain type of violence, a mid-level violence. Most people aren't practiced in violence, and what they'll do is, they'll either back down or they'll overreact. Antifa basically as a group does the equivalent of just pushing someone on the shoulder, and again, and again.
They keep it at a simmer.
Yes. It's very tricky to react to because people get angry. If you just go in public and pick someone and start pushing them, if you keep pushing them, they're going to slug you; it's just how it's going to work, at the individual level but also at the group level too. I'm also speaking metaphorically, in a sense. Of course if you hit them, they're going to fall down and go, "Oh, God, you're violent. You're a Nazi!"
That's their [antifa's] objective. It's not a tactical thing. That's why all the "press" is there, the sympathetic press. They're trying to create propaganda. They know how the police are going to react, so they carefully calibrate what they do to try to provoke the police into reacting and then filming it. They want to try to push public opinion in favor of removing the police.
Antifa’s job is to force the police into “dilemma actions,” where if they do nothing they lose and if they respond with disproportionate force they also lose.
In the early days of Afghanistan, the USA was caught with our pants down by this, like in 2015 when the USA used an AC-130 gunship to mow down 73 people in a Doctors Without Borders hospital, very curiously not the first time a Nobel Peace Prize winner has killed other Nobel Peace Prize winners. (Arafat did it before Obama.) Over time the USA pivoted its operations to be very limited, to a specific small group of high tech Devgru killers that wouldn’t get bad press.
The most fundamental shift in 4GW is not the tactics, it’s the territory. 4GW practitioners realize the territory is the collective human mind, and losing real estate or lives on the ground is an acceptable sacrifice to win hearts and minds across the human psyche. All war is culture war.
Fifth-generation warfare too is based on this same idea - that the battleground is the overall human psyche. Just like the HWFO cultural analysis in part one, 5GW transpires in the mind, but instead of converting ground violence into a shift in the relative rates of cultural indoctrination, it uses technology itself. As our sensorium continues to be further dominated by our glowing screens, the screens become the new weapons, the content of the screens becomes the new battleground, and control of the content on the screens becomes the new arms race. This is exactly why the modern American Left is having such a conniption fit about Elon Musk taking over Twitter and presumptively stripping woke biases out of it. They’re losing their favorite and most coveted 5GW weapon. All war is culture war.
But these same 4GW Hamas/Antifa tactics of provoking the opponent into overreaction and then promulgating that overreaction to move the battle lines in your favor can happen within 5GW itself, and curiously, the right is catching up on how to do that effectively.
Adult Human Female
Woke culture thinks that anyone who self identifies as a woman is a woman, and should be granted access to the women only spaces and privileges that society has granted to women. Anti-woke culture does not. These cultures are having a culture war, like cultures do. Anti-woke culture made a documentary movie called “Adult Human Female” in furtherance of their cultural mores, against woke cultural mores.
Just like Antifa poking the cops, this movie pokes the wokes. And because the woke understanding of “what a woman is” is hugely unpopular within the general population, hosting a viewing of this movie on a college campus is a poke that is well under the threshold of a shutdown protest in the eyes of the masses. It puts the wokes into a dilemma, and demands a “dilemma action” from them. Being poked, the trans activists stage a protest, shut down the viewing, and then the anti-wokes are able to promulgate this piece of anti-woke indoctrination media much farther than it would have gone before because of the Streisand Effect and the disproportionate response by the wokes.
It’s a 4GW application within a 5GW space.
And we stand to see more of it in the future.
That Trans guy bullies a roomful of women into shutting up and doing what he tells them...
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!
I'm reminded of the countless French citizens that, when faced with orders from their Nazi rulers to work for the Reich, simply walked up into the hills and forests never to be found.
Seems like the right call here, too.