Reflexive control is a “uniquely Russian” concept based on maskirovka, an old Soviet notion in which one “conveys to an opponent specifically prepared information to incline him/her to voluntarily make the predetermined decision desired by the initiator of the action”.[ii] That is, reflexive control is a sustained campaign that feeds an opponent select information so that the opponent makes the decisions that one wants him/her to. Methods of reflexive control include spreading false information, leaking partial information at opportune moments, and projecting a different posture of oneself than what may actually be the case.[iii] The goal of reflexive control is to ‘control’ the ‘reflex’ of the opponent by creating a certain model of behavior in the system it seeks to control.[iv] The most fundamental way to do this is to locate the weak link in the system and exploit it through moral arguments, psychological tactics, or appeals to specific leaders’ character.[v]
Tucker Carlson is now telling his audience to harass people who wear face masks outside.
If they see children wearing masks, Tucker says the response should be no different than when you see a kid being abused — "call the police immediately, contact child protective services" pic.twitter.com/4svVH0JY3s
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) April 27, 2021
Unlike the Russians, Carlson isn’t trying to control his opponents. Rather, he’s trying to control his viewers. To see if he can actually get them to do what he’s telling them to do.
This is really, really dangerous. Listen to his tone of voice, and what he’s instructing. He’s moving from his viewers passively consuming his propaganda to having them act on it — against their neighbors. He’s testing his audience’s compliance. https://t.co/ZxqFMsboAW
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) April 27, 2021
This is how authoritarian demagogues with political ambitions leverage platforms that disseminate information set the conditions for mass atrocities. The most recent examples are, of course, Radio Rwanda and the Myanmar ethnocide against the Rohingya.
This is incredibly dangerous. It is incredibly reckless. And it is likely to produce very, very, very bad results.