Yesterday Wikileaks began yet another dump of highly classified documents and materials stolen from the US government. This batch of data is being called “Vault 7” and includes all of the tools, tactics, and techniques used by the CIA to conduct cyber-warfare, computer hacking, and technical intelligence gathering.
Wikileaks is claiming that these files were being shared privately, and illegally, by a group of security contractors who worked in the intelligence community. That story is almost certainly made up out of whole cloth, perhaps not even by Wikileaks, but by a foreign intelligence service that handed them stolen files.
If you can count on anything with Wikileaks, it is that they will be used as an unwitting stooge by more powerful players in the game.
While I can sit here and get depressed about how every month there seems to be a new disclosure of classified documents that hurts our intelligence gathering endeavors, there was something to come out of these recent leaks that is both humorous and interesting: The MEME Warfare Center.
One document lays out the proposed structure for the CIA’s Meme Warfare Center. First of all, what is a meme? The definition of a meme is: “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.” This is interesting because it implies that the information carried by the medium infiltrates your consciousness without you really realizing it. On the internet, memes take the form of pictures with some words on the upper and lower registries. For example:
We used to think that things were bad when Americans got their political news from Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. Well, now we get our nuanced understanding of international politics from memes on Facebook. Yes, we are getting even dumber. Incredible isn’t it?
What is even more incredible is how the CIA proposes to set up their meme war unit. Now love it or hate it, memes are a way that people currently use to communicate information. In the context of modern propaganda, information operations, and psychological warfare, the use of memes is a perfectly legitimate tactic given the battle space.
But what kills me about the CIA’s meme warfare center is that memes were invented by 12-year-old kids. As you read this, there is a prepubescent teenager sitting in his mom’s basement making a Pepe the frog meme to troll some people on social media. Ordinary school children are able to throw together memes that are creative, offensive, politically charged, politically astute, ironic, and funny.
Meanwhile, the CIA seems to believe that to create memes they need a meme war council consisting of an economist, a cultural anthropologist, a quality assurance cell, linguists, a targeting cell, and more all folded under a meme engineering department that sounds like the imagineers who work at Disneyland. Then we move over to the analysis department where we will have who knows how many people employed by your tax dollars to analysis memes. Together with the meme communications cell, they will “assess memes.”
By the way, this is just the external memes center. Oh yes, there is an internal meme center too. Presumably they will make memes internal to the CIA that get passed across their agency local area network making fun of their bosses on the 7th floor.
Just to pause here for a moment, can you imagine meeting the CIA employee camped out in the basement of their headquarters at Langley who sits down there in the dark all day and night making memes for the US federal government? I imagine a rather large man with pizza sauce stains on his shirt and eye glasses so thick that they appear to create a visual distortion field around his head, his eyes appearing like those of a frog under this artificial enhancement. As he approaches you he gets way to close inside your personal space, he smacks his lips, adjusts his glasses, and says, “I make memes for the CIA.” This man has a top secret clearance folks.
I have to say, if I still worked for the US government, got called in for a briefing on psychological warfare and they threw this Meme Warfare Center slide up on the Powerpoint, I would literally lose my shit. Tables would be flipped over, trash cans would be kicked, EO complaints would be filed against me by my peers. How many millions of dollars would the US government spend on a team of experts with advanced degrees who will most likely underproduce and create memes that are not nearly as clever or as viral on social media as those made by Middle Schoolers?
Only the US government could come up with such a bureaucratic convoluted scheme. I swear to god, if I find out that we have meme doctrine writers somewhere then I’m pulling the plug. I’ll be writing for SOFREP from Central America from now on and turning in my US passport. If we want to create memes and propagandize our enemies, this is something that can be a part-time job for Army PsyOps. Really, it is something they can do for fun. Or we can outsource the job to high school and college kids, most likely at slave labor wages, but I digress.
To sum this thing up, I used to work with a Warrant Officer in Special Forces who would tell me that “we dazzle each other with dialect and baffle ourselves with bullshit.” We never hesitate to shoot ourselves in the foot with bureaucracy and nonsense. That the CIA needs to draw up an entire table of organization of equipment housing highly trained and highly paid experts to do the same thing that a 13-year-old on 4Chan does should tell you why our adversaries are currently running circles around us.
I conclude with a meme: