The Javelin missiles making mincemeat out of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tanks in Ukraine work differently from old-fashioned antitank weapons.
Instead of flying straight at the tank and having to defeat the thick armor on the front and sides, they pop up into the air and come down from above, attacking the comparatively defenseless top, where the armor is much thinner.
That works well for tanks, whose defenses haven’t caught up with the new realities yet.
But something similar is happening in our ideological wars, and we’re not doing well there.
Just like tanks, our society is more vulnerable to “misinformation” attacks at the top, but we’ve been concentrating our defenses further down, with poor results.
Efforts at protecting our society from “foreign disinformation” are mostly aimed at keeping unapproved messages from reaching the common people, who are presumed to be too dumb to see through foreign propaganda.
There are two problems with this.
One is that the common people are also what are known as “voters,” and efforts to limit their exposure to unwelcome information and ideas are inevitably — and I mean inevitably — perverted into domestic political manipulation.
Witness the massive collaborative effort of tech companies, the media and what can fairly be called the “Deep State” to suppress truthful reporting about Hunter Biden’s laptop during the 2020 election.
They told us the story was foreign disinformation.
But actually it was true. Their efforts to squash it were the actual manipulation — and may have altered the close 2020 contest’s outcome.
The other problem is that while the apparatchiks are trying hard to limit what ordinary people are exposed to, misinformation and disinformation are rife within the top layers of our society.
This makes sense, of course. Influencing a country by changing the minds of its working class is difficult.
There are far more of them than there are elites.
They pay less attention to the sort of media that might change their minds — you can try to make sports channels or thriller movies politically correct, but they’ll just quit watching — and they care less about the sort of issues you want to influence.
Contrast that with the elites. There are maybe 1 or 2 million total, of whom only a few tens of thousands really matter.
Change their thinking and you can change the nation.
In modern America, after all, very few important matters are put to the voters.
They’re decided by unelected administrators: government bureaucrats, college administrators, corporate executives.
After George Floyd’s death, we didn’t have a national election on what to do. Institutions just executed a simultaneous turn to the same policies — defunding police, for example — most of which wouldn’t have passed muster with voters and have been disastrous.
But everything from TV commercials to civil-rights policies to educational curricula changed all at once, in the same way.
And the armor is thinner.
Educated people, trained in school, tend to believe what they’re told.
Working-class people tend to be more cynical about media and “experts.”
Our ruling class is a monoculture of people educated in the same schools, in the same ways and with the same values.
Whatever fools one of them will probably fool all of them or enough to make a difference.
And they can be easily bought. Not just our political class but the entire upper stratum is for sale.
You can buy universities with donations, grants and institutes, you can buy politicians with campaign donations and jobs and consulting fees for families (see, e.g., Hunter Biden), you can buy off corporations even more directly.
They’re for sale, and they’re not even ashamed of it anymore.
Our ruling class mostly believes Israel is an “apartheid state” committing “genocide” — it’s not, and it’s not — capitalism produces poverty (rather the reverse, actually), “Western colonialism” is responsible for the ills of the Third World (nope) and whether one is male or female is purely a matter of social construction (also nope).
It thinks the only way to defeat racism is by being racist and the way to end urban violence is to disarm people in the suburbs.
So we need to look at armoring the top of our society against bad ideas instead of trying to limit what ordinary people can read online.
That would require limits on foreign funding, the cultivation of strong moral and patriotic values in our leadership and the reduction of top-level influence on society as a whole.
Breaking up big businesses and shrinking big universities and big government would make them less appealing targets and take away some of their power.
But doing that would reduce the amount of graft available, and it’s hard to imagine our leadership class going along.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.