We are Always the Hero in Our Own Story

All around the world influence experts are building alternative realities for us to visit and potentially buy into. Some of these are only in our minds, but others are in emerging digital universes found on the internet, in online games, and/or in the emerging Web 3.0, metaverse realms.

These influence experts take advantage of human vulnerabilities to alter how we think. They take advantage of media, both social and traditional, and massive databases of followers/contacts/connections to purposely introduce different realities to different audiences with nefarious intent.

What are these realities? Reality, according to the Neuroscientist Michael Gazzanica, is a story we tell ourselves, “to resolve cognitive dissonance in our minds,” in other words make sense of our confusing and complex struggles and life experiences. Cognitive dissonance is when our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes are not aligning with what we are observing in the world — a state that makes us uncomfortable and agitated. We want the world to comfortably and neatly align with our beliefs and understanding about life — our perceived reality. We seek narratives that help us tie up loose ends. We want to organize our understanding of the world into a comprehensive story that features us as both the victim and hero in this life.

Our desire to make sense of the world leaves us vulnerable to those that wish to exploit it. There is no shortage of hucksters willing to sell us a story. These narratives are especially appealing when they blame outsiders for our life struggles, and paint us in the role of the hero in a historic and glorious struggle. Politicians are famous for featuring their audiences in these kinds of stories to gain their support. It works.

Today military strategists, politicians and marketers all know how to create stories that appeal to our grievances and desires for recognition and status. These stories, may align with an audience’s current perception of reality, or they may introduce new ideas for order or alternative ways of understanding realities.

This strategy even has a name, “The Gerasimov doctrine.” It is named after the Russian General Valery Gerasimov, and describes how to create an immersive alternative reality in the minds of adversaries. Gerasimov was one of the first military strategists to figure out that stories can be weaponized for use against enemies to influence them to think and perceive reality in politically advantageous ways.

“The very ‘rules of war’ have changed,” Gerasimov wrote. “The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown.” Storytelling designed to convince audiences to believe in alternative realities has exceeded the power and force of weapons today. How is this possible?

Influence experts have many proven use cases to follow. They have tutorials on how to create campaigns designed to change an audiences realities through the use of disinformation campaigns, social engineering strategies, information operations, political subversion, fake news, cyberattacks, and false flag events, etc.

They know how to use social media to tear at the fabric of societies for the purpose of destroying trust and social cohesion. Once social cohesion has been torn and pulled apart, they fill the void with new and different perceived realities. They do this by questioning motives, biasing facts, suggesting conspiracies, creating false narratives and introducing alternative interpretations of history, and then promote alternative ways of understanding the world. All of these efforts are part of a comprehensive strategy, designed by influence experts with their own motives, to change the way we think and how we perceive reality.

The Gerasimov doctrine and resulting strategies are now regularly used as weapons against entire countries and peoples. The Gerasimov doctrine has already been used as a weapon by Russia against Georgia (a country formerly part of the Soviet Union), Crimea, Ukraine, the UK and the USA. In each case the strategy was to influence and change the minds of adversaries, destroy their social cohesion, and create distrust and disunity.

Once you understand how these influence campaigns work, it is not difficult to see them. You can recognize the reality they want you to adopt, and identify the techniques being used get you to embrace it.

I propose it is time that we educate everyone on how these social engineering campaigns and information operations work. If we could be assured that alternative realities could provide us with a happier, kinder and more sustainable and beautiful future — then bring it on, but I fear that many influence experts are not working with altruistic motives.

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Kevin R Benedict

Kevin Benedict is a thinker, futurist and writer. He serves on the Future of Business team at TCS, and meets with executive teams globally.