Bizzaro Fred Phelps and 5GW Speculation

I just posted on The Bizzaro World of Fred Phelps (inspired by a HotAir post).

Look at the Wikipedia article again, especially the section called Legitimacy:

Because of his outlandish behavior and activism, some have speculated whether Phelps might be an elaborate prankster or agent provocateur. Such speculation has come from across the spectrum, both from conservatives who find him to be too much of a caricature of their arguments regarding the religious right and liberals who believe he must be consciously trying to discredit social conservatives…Such claims, however, have been contradicted by claims of Phelps’ estranged children who have argued their father’s beliefs are very real.

This is very interesting. He is bizzaro, but apparently legitimate. He is a parody of christian/social conservatives and often he expresses anti-America statements that America is dammed by God to be destroyed.

Here is the Fifth Generation Warfare (5GW) angle. If you want to discredit social conservatives or Christians (because you have an alternate agenda, or you want their influence to be reduced as a roadblock in the future) at a good return on little costs, a small 5GW group could seek out, identify, and fund the activities of guys like Phelps.

So, Phelps can be legitimate, but a 5GW group could be nudging him along (remaining safe from exposure) in order to reduce the appeal of social conservatives / Christians slightly over the long-term for some other grander purpose. It doens’t take much money to get Phelps going. Also, he mostly likely has enough adherents now that financially he is self-sufficient, so the 5GW efforts can move on to their next small step. As far as Phelps, the 5GW effectors could care less what actually happens to him, he has served his purpose.

Now, I am not saying that Bizzaro Phelps is being duped by 5GW effectors. I am suggesting, that potential/future 5GW effectors might act in this manner.

Update: Oops, I fixed a few typos.

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21 Responses

  1. [Here] is the Fifth Generation Warfare (5GW) angle. If you want to discredit social conservatives or Christians (because you have an alternate agenda, or you want their influence to be reduced as a roadblock in the future) at a good return on little costs, a small 5GW group could seek out, identify, and fund the activities of guys like Phelps.

    Interesting angle. So far, AFAIK, you’re the first one I’ve seen to give this take, but it is one of these “obvious” things I’ve long pondered.

    Why “obvious”? Because this is the “flipside” to the ["Far-"(?)]Left’s “Cointelpro” paranoia. There are Leftists who still insist that some (or–some insist– even all) of the darker stuff committed by the New Left were the result of fed infiltration or provocation.

    Many Leftists also make a similar claim about El Salvador’s communist guerillas–that their atrocities were supposedly either committed by, or provoked by, infiltrators. And Palestinian sympathisers make a similar claim with regard to Israeli manipulation (ISTR Noam Chomsky asserting something to that effect).

    Of course, in *this* case, it would be “easier”–this is pretty much a propaganda thing. Would make for interesting fiction, that’s for sure.

    Speaking of 5GW, have you see Heather MacDonald’s piece “The Security-Industrial Complex” in the 9/7/06 Thursday WSJ? There’s an angle to consider.

    At the same time, I’m coming to dislike this 5GW idea. Could easily become a mental slippery-slope to conspiracy theorizing…

  2. I thought the people’s reaction to conspiracy theories would aid the 5GW org in hiding: https://purpleslog.wordpress.com/2006/05/30/5gw-will-hide-in-the-sea-of-conspiracy-theories-to-avoid-discovery/

    Follow along in this PhaticCommunion post – http://www.phaticcommunion.com/archives/2006/06/alqaida_goes_5g.php – and you can see tha power of “Analysis Paralysis” the 5GWers will rely upon.

    I hope to have a longer 5GW post in the next few weeks. I have been trying to work out changes in my own thinking toward 4GW, 5GW, and the generations of war framework. Until then, I will most likely only have smaller 4GW and 5GW posts as I tryout how certain ideas sound.

    I found a link to the article you mentioned and I will be giving it a read –> http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/_wsj-the_security_industrial_complex.htm

  3. 3GW attacks an opponents ability to fight in time and space.

    4GW attacks an opponents will to fight.

    5GW attacks an opponents ability to know a fight is even happening?

  4. Arherring,

    Something like that. 3GW also came about to avoid the firepower and industrial might of 2GW.

    4GW came about partially to avoid the firepower/industrial might of 2GW and ability of 3GW.

    The OODA mapings matter. Alot of this is economics too.

    1GW is really the start of orderly warfare. Whether this is traced to state systems started in the mid 1600′s (think the Cromwell’s New Model Army) or to the order and teamwork required by the early greek phalanx tactics, it doesn’t matter much.

    2GW is attrition warfare driven by massed firepower and industrial capacity.

    3GW Uses techniques (like speed, time, and better use of information) to avoid the firepower and industrial might of 2GW. It has a better economic efficiency then 2GW.

    4GW (which I am starting to think of as Full Spectrum Warfare) uses smart combinations of hard and soft power to avoid and neutralize the strengths of 2GW and 3GW. There is economics at work here to, as the soft power component is often quite cheaper then the hard power 2GW and3GW it neutralizes.

    5GW or SecretWar is (or will be) further evolved to avoid the soft power and hard power of 4GW and the firepower associated with2GW and 3GW. The 5GW org remains hidden to avoid consequences of exposure. It will also have more modest goals because big or splashy actions increase likelihood of exposure and facing the opponents power.

    Economic thinking comes into play in that super-empowered small groups have more control over the actions and objectives and the resources they use. I think that a 5GW org might try to work behind the scenes either to raise or lower the long term resiliency of the target.

    I like you comment from a week or so ago, that offense or defense blurs away in 5GW. A 5GW may be trying to help or hurt the target (a state, meme-based-network, or some other actor).

    While I think it is possible a 5GW might try to use assassination or manipulations of 4GW to achieve its ends, I think it is likely it will concentrate on soft power and soft power actor manipulation. Using assassinations and 4GW manipulation might bring greater results, but the costs and risk are also increased. It may be that lots of smaller actions aimed at resiliency are more cost-effective and safer.

  5. Economic thinking comes into play in that super-empowered small groups have more control over the actions and objectives and the resources they use.

    I really like this consideration. In a very big way, it’s about increasing the efficiency of soft power efforts. And so…think about some hyper-priced weapons systems being developed for pre-4gw forces now in existence, and how such things not only tie up a great section of potential energy/power, but also how such expenditures can have a negative cascading effect in our type of capitalist and, especially, democratic (read: ‘oversight’) societies.

    that offense or defense blurs away in 5GW

    A stunning and very important consideration. I’ve been vaguely contemplating similar, but this nutshell characterization is intriguing and holds a lot more to be considered, I think.

  6. Commenter arherring must get credit with the idea (though I am running with it):

    From

    https://purpleslog.wordpress.com/2006/08/23/5gw-thought-would-a-goal-of-a-5gw-organization-be-to-reduce-the-resiliency-of-the-target-state/#comment-2331

    “5GW, in my mind, is a strategy based on creating a situation or a set of circumstances in order to reach a certain outcome. In itself it is neith offensive or defensive, it merely is.”

    Curtis your…”it’s about increasing the efficiency of soft power efforts” is where my thinking is also heading.

    In 4GW, soft power is introduced as coordinated with hard power to neutralize/avoid/fix the hard power of 2GW and 3GW opponents.

    5GW (among other things) will try to magnify and make hyper efficient use of soft power to neutralize/avoid/fix/change/enhance/diminish/etc the hard and soft power of the target actor (for or against the target’s benefit and interests).

  7. I was recently eading the book State of Fear by Michael Crichton. In it this two sides are engaged in ‘netwar’. One of the plots laid by the black-hats was to engineer a flash flood to coincide with a conference on sudden global climate change. In other words it was supposed to be a great tragedy that the organizers of the conference could point to and get better impacting television time.
    The centerpiece of the plot was a technology the black-hats had aquired that would augment the power of a storm causing flash flooding.
    To ensure greatest impact the black-hats, through various pretexts, arranged to have church groups, schools, class reunions, ect. having events or picnics in state parks in the time frame they wanted the event to occur.

    What jumped out at me in the context of 5GW is that all of this was devoted to creating a set of circumstances in order to strengthen the impact of a completely unrelated event. This I think is what is the essence of 5GW.

  8. What jumped out at me in the context of 5GW is that all of this was devoted to creating a set of circumstances in order to strengthen the impact of a completely unrelated event. This I think is what is the essence of 5GW.

    Yep, I agree. This sort of approach is not very new, but I think it will be refined into what we are thinking of as 5GW.

    Incidentally Arherring, I wonder what you think of 4GW & 3GW in a 5GW world. I mean, for instance, that although those might be ‘utilized’ (proxies) by a 5GW, in order for a 5GW force to have better control over situations, the more chaotic earlier forms of warfare might need to fade into history. They are good distractions, of course, but perhaps unwieldy distractions? (An example: given the objectives of the ‘black-hats’, would a long-term and costly and distracting 3GW vs 4GW prove anathema, especially since so much attention and resources would be going toward such a conflict?)

    And on that last point: Although I like Purpleslog’s idea that 5GW forces might seek to reduce the resiliency of a target, and although I think that a very chaotic war against a 4GW entity would help in such a process, this only goes toward the ‘destabilization’ of a foe and does not address very well how a 5GW force might want to ‘build up’ a situation.

    Incidentally, btw, I’ve been thinking of 5GW as a very, very necessary process if world peace is to be achieved. I’m using italics around that term and might have put single quotes around it to signal that I mean something a little different than is normally meant by ‘world peace.’ I said once in an early 5GW post something about the fact that 5GW’s will be building paradigms, and even then I was thinking about the fact that 5GW would be better builders than either 3GW or 4GW forces. In a comment to a later 5GW post (although I can’t now find it!! Argh!), I believe I once said 5GW would actually tend to have a stabilizing force even if some destabilization was utilized in some part, unlike 3GW or 4GW as we think of them: the building of paradigms is a building of order (just an order to the 5GW’s liking!)

  9. Curtis,

    I found this links around the “5gw building paradigms”

    http://www.phaticcommunion.com/archives/2006/03/initiating_5gw.php
    “The strategy of a 5GW force, in utilizing emergence, is the shaping of new paradigms which will shape the geo-economic-social-political framework. The only theater of operation is global; and the only goal is global domination. But most people will not realize that they have been dominated.”

    I to remember another post somewhere talking about 5GW as Paradigm War but cannot find it.

  10. “I wonder what you think of 4GW & 3GW in a 5GW world.”

    I don’t think we are going to get rid of these two generations of warfare…ever. 3GW is (for all of its faults) the most effective method of directed military force available. 4GW (for all of its faults) is the most effective manner of fighting war on the cheap, especially against a materially superior opponent.

    How will they work in a 5GW world? Interesting to consider that. I don’t think they will really change too much in practice. I really think that 4GW will suffer more against 5GW than 3GW because conventional military forces have the ability to hold territory, project power and assert their own, if only localized, order and 4GW can do none of these things effectively except in its advanced stages where it evolves to more resemble a conventional force.

  11. When I think of ‘world peace’, I think of ‘managed chaos,’ roughly speaking. And I do think that 5GW will still have a place for 3GW and 4GW, although I think that these earlier forms will become more limited eventually. I.e., as 5GW is refined and the costs of a major 3GW outweigh the benefits — picture a U.S. vs China scenario — 5GW efforts will require more precise control over situations and prove more cost effective. Actually, the Barnettian pseudo-5GW — heh, PNM theory — would operate similarly, since 3GW forces would begin by establishing a localized stability and order, and then capitalist and democratic forces would kick in to allow for an expansion of that order (within a nation as well as across nations.)

    4GW is a thornier subject, but I’ve long maintained that the only 4GW forces which have any hope of long-term success would eventually turn toward building and away from merely destabilizing. (4GW leaders are not merely ‘demons’ without an ulterior order in mind as goal.) Hezbollah, for instance, would appear to have some chance of long-term success, because of its 5GW tendencies (as discussed previously on Purpleslog: the Hezbollah Sysadmin operations.) Something like al-Qaeda, even, will find they need to develop into a 5GW force, at least in part; and, in any case, I do not believe that al-Qaeda is the type of non-human, purely disruptive force often described by John Robb.

  12. In the Sling and the Stone the description of Maoist style 4GW given by Col. Hammes is constructive in that at later stages in the evolution of a 4GW movement the 4GW organization turns from political assassination and distabilization to organizing their own enclaves and governing organizations and creating conventional military forces that follow a 3GW model.

    I don’t think Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations follow this 4GW model. They may use 4GW tactics and network organization but they don’t want to follow the strategic path of 4GW to eventually hold and build territory. All they are interested in is maximum damage and bigger headlines.

    Nation states will always maintain conventional military forces until there is no conflict anywhere on the planet (not likely) hence, there will always be 3GW.

    Is 5GW Barnett’s sysadmin? I don’t know. It could be. I can imagine scenarios where it is, but I doubt any U.S. government has the focus to do it.

  13. I need to re-read Sling and the Stone. Hammes I recall was also talking about 4GW different levels: Strategic, Operational, Tactical, Physical, Moral, Mental.

    I am thinking…why would you need to do 4GW at each.

    For instance, I find the Global Guerrilla concept a bit confusing. It resembles both 3GW and 4GW to me. If I look at it level by level…4GW would be used at the strategic level. GG is 3GW, but at the tactical (and maybe operational) level. It suits the purpose of the higher level 4GW organizations to have GG/3GW in some locations, because GG helps create the ungoverned spaces that a 4GW organizations can then use for other purposes (many of the GG operators can be discarded too).

    I need to re-read Hammes in the context of these other discussions.

  14. I’m not ready to drink John Robb’s Kool-Aid mostly for the reasons you point out. It just doesn’t fit cleanly and I’m not sure you can be generation three and a half or four and three quarters, or whatever it is GG is supposed to be. (Plus the guy never seems to have a solution or a suggestion for fighting GG to go along with his pessimistic scenarios.)

    What I was referring to in The Sling and the Stone were the stages of progression of a classic Maoist 4GW. The first stages involve activities like political organization, assassination, and disruption in some areas to in the later stages eventually carving out enclaves and becoming the de-facto government in those areas. As the organization matures and comes to control more territory it becomes more conventional in its military and political organization by sheer neccessity.

    As an example, Hezbollah was a late stage 4GW in that it controlled its own territory and was the de-facto government in those areas. Furture north in Lebanon it remained a political movement.

  15. Is 5GW Barnett’s sysadmin? I don’t know. It could be.

    Arherring,

    I once expressed my doubts about Barnett’s system (and similar ‘Admin’ types of ‘solutions’ to global problems) by referencing 5GW in a post called “Ideas Requiring Attention“:

    Thus, all the effort expended on creating definition for globalization and globalism appears to be the work of Grand Masters and their proxies — although, who is who is not as easy to discern — and, as a response to emerging paradigms and conflicts, has a very, very, very 5GWish aspect.

    Something about these ‘Grand Masters’ and their efforts to lay out plans in advance for the ordering of the world, during globalization, reminded me of 5GW activity.

    Now, of course, typically when we speak of 5GW, we think of secrecy; but see how much is often kept secret from the public, whether our own or our targets’ public, although certain platitudes are bandied about to give the populace something to think about. The processes haven’t been refined, but the effort to establish paradigms by altering aspects of the world — Barnett’s PNM theory — has a very 5GWish aspect to it when you consider the fact that he wants to establish ‘rule sets’ that are basically those broad and widely shared paradigms. In fact, PNM may not be quite refined yet (not to mention that it has never really been tried!)

  16. One thing that really strikes me about Barnett’s PNM theory is that (as he staes in his book several times) His new map is not about war within the context of war but war within the context of everything else. Also, that the PNM thoery doesn’t focus on the horrible possible futures, but the a future that is a goal to work toward.

    In this way I see Barnett as being 5GWish on a grand-strategy scale. 5GW is goal-oriented. It seeks to create situations. It seeks to create outcomes. It seeks less to prevent events than it does to steer them, augment them or place them in a particular context leading to the next step in a proression, a chain of events if you will.
    That is why I don’t see 5GW as being in itself offensive or defensive. This implies an action and reaction cycle. 5GW does neither or these and certainly not in any appreciable cycle. It guides, steers, focuses, promotes, publicizes, hides, ect.

    As for the secrecy theoretically inherent in 5GW. I think it entirely possible to work on a strategic scale so globally vast like Barnett’s that it can’t be appreciated and demonstrated except in history books.

  17. I think we have two different possible 5GW organizations emerging from the discussions on this and other blogs:

    1) The Secret Puppet Master 5GW – which infiltrates and manipulates other organizations secretly (among other things)

    2) The Master Social/Paradigm Entrepreneurial 5GW – that shapes the future with ideas and grand strategies and new ways of thinking/framing.

  18. I’m not entirely sure that those two are not just a matter of scale. Number two may just be a whole lot of different instances of number one working together but all 5GW.

    To go back to the example the post was founded on. The infiltrations and manipulation of the Puppetmaster 5GW may be to insert an extreme right wing spokesperson into the media. There may be an infiltration into the media to ensure he gets airtime and or to slant news in his direction. There may be an infiltration into national political organizations to attempt to give him legitimacy or sponsor him. And on and on. Following this progression, each link of the chain leads toward a larger 5GW manipulated paradigm shift where the conservative / liberal balance of American politics moves to the right and suddendly he who was before considered very conservative is now more centrist. Centrists tend to win elections more often. Especially presidencial elections where swing-voters matter in close races.

    Granted, probably easier said than done and probably very dangerous to put an ultra-conservative wacko on the airwaves and give him legitimacy, but it smells like 5GW to me.

  19. Arherring,

    You and Purpleslog have dual fantasy conjectures:

    1. “So, Phelps can be legitimate, but a 5GW group could be nudging him along (remaining safe from exposure) in order to reduce the appeal of social conservatives / Christians slightly over the long-term for some other grander purpose. It doens’t take much money to get Phelps going.” [P]

    2. “The infiltrations and manipulation of the Puppetmaster 5GW may be to insert an extreme right wing spokesperson into the media….each link of the chain leads toward a larger 5GW manipulated paradigm shift where the conservative / liberal balance of American politics moves to the right and suddendly he who was before considered very conservative is now more centrist. Centrists tend to win elections more often.” [A]

    My guess is #1 above, especially the wackier the pawn. Sure, countless philosophers have noted the tendency for big lies to succeed better than small lies in swaying the public, but a lie’s a lie and a wacko’s a wacko. So now we have Republicans willing to let Howard Dean and people like Jesse Jackson spew their spew — but Democrats have always seemed more confrontational when the far Right spews its spew; for a liberal to let Phelps go unchallanged is almost more than most liberals could possibly manage, and actually supporting Phelps for a bit of reverse psychology would require an extremely patient and adept liberal. Maybe a classical liberal could do it, but not the majority of the left wing: they’d try too hard to ‘show’ and highlight the wackiness, turning everything into an obvious political ploy, with a lot of chest thumping. (I.e., not secret enough.)

    Also, I like your comment about the way global-scale operations have a kind of inherent secrecy. The larger the scale, the more complex the activity and distant-seeming the activity, the more abstract and vague those operators and activities become. So we might know that someone’s doing something without really knowing who they are or ‘seeing’ them. Government already works this way in America, where most people on the street can’t even name a single Cabinet-level public servant in the Executive Branch. So how can they be called ‘public servants’ when they are operating largely unknown (by the everyman)? When you begin to consider all the lower-level positions in government, and also the secret employees such as those operatives in the CIA, etc., etc., that’s not too much different than having a shadow government, even if we can often see or guess the existence of a shadow or have occasional outlines drawn by the media who highlight or spotlight Person A or Person B.

    This reminds me of something else from Barnett’s book. He made the comment that the junior officers who received his briefings seemed to grasp better the importance of where he was going, unlike many of the senior officers: they are the future he’s trying to influence. Plus, Barnett often meets with corporate executives who, he says, intuitively understand most of what he’s saying: a way of going outside the hierarchy of government to get things done. Heck, Barnett’s even had his book translated into Chinese and recently visited China to deliver the same messages. Just think of all the converts — or, proxies — he could have!

  20. Purpleslog,

    Like Arherring, I’m doubting that the split you give is really between two exclusive approaches. They might be two faces of one coin. For instance, given what I’ve just commented about Barnett…well, consider a front-man who happens to sway a large number of key figures with his philosophy / ideology, and then consider those key figures being casually introduced to each other from time to time, and then consider the possibility that they would choose themselves to pursue things further without going through Barnett. (Or, really, consider any other similar ideologue, not just Barnett.) Of course, we might have a tough time coming to conclusions about whether the ideologue actually planned it that way or if those people in fact chose to form a secret society on their own:

    1. Tracking memes, as I’ve written elsewhere, can be extremely difficult; so finding the origin with certainty can be difficult.

    2. If 5GW is about influencing others to make their own choices — but within a limited framework — so that they actually believe they are doing their own work, then knowing whether the secret society formed spontaneously (on their own) or were pushed in that direction by the ideologue might be quite difficult. They might not even know which has happened.

    But I suspect that Barnett would try to keep the channels of communication open, insert himself into whatever agreeable group formed, and so maybe he’s not the best example in this case.

  21. Hmmm…I should note that the last three comments I’ve made to this thread were made on very, very, very little sleep. So I’ll need to think a bit more about these when I can…

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