USMA Research Unit Affiliation
Army Cyber Institute
Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions highlights the critical term “paradigm shift,” which occurs when it suddenly becomes evident that earlier assumptions are no longer correct. The plurality of the scientific community studying this domain accepts the change. These paradigm-shifting events can be scientific findings or, as in the social sciences, a system shock that creates a punctured equilibrium, triggering a leap forward acquiring new knowledge. In information warfare, the government lines of effort have been to engage fake news, intercept electoral interference, fight extremist social media as the primary combat theater in the information space, and use the tools to influence a targeted audience to defend against an adversary that seeks to influence our population. The COVID-19 pandemic generates a rebuttal, or at least a challenge, of the information warfare assumption that our government’s authority, legitimacy, and control are mainly challenged by tampering with the electoral system, fueling extremist views, and distributing fake political news. The fake news and extremist social media content exploit fault lines in our society and create civil disturbances, tensions between federal and local government, and massive protests that impact only a fraction of the population. We have seen with COVID-19, for example, public health has a far more powerful effect on public sentiment and is more likely to create reactions of larger magnitude within the citizenry, which ripple out.