Understanding Influence: A Matter of National Security

By John M. Koval III

image_thumb[1] This post is inspired by your Nov. 1, 2010, post titled Wikileaks as an exemplar of Now Media, Part 1. I agree with you that anyone can be influential, and that it’s impractical to distinguish between consumers, creators, audiences, and media. That being said, we’re failing as a country to understand influence, not as a subjective skill, but as a system, or, perhaps more accurately, as a weapons system.

From a national security perspective, we have an obligation to know exactly how state and non-state actors, like Wikileaks founder Jules Assange, employ influence. In the 21st century, we’re fighting influence wars against traditional states, transnational networks, bloggers, media, and countless others. Yet, we don’t have a framework to fight these wars. It’s as if we’ve begun the Manhattan Project without the periodic table of chemical elements.

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