Who is the good guy here?
Once upon a time there was a boy, who was born a wizard. He grew up with no parents and was abused both physically and psychologically during his childhood. He had no friends growing up and was bullied at school. Even his teachers treated him with suspicion. So once he was told about his heritage, he began attending a magical school and trained himself physically and mentally. He gathered around him a group of people that he radicalized to his ideas. He controlled this group by passing propaganda and offering them training in magic. During his school years he stole, lied and used violence. He formed a vigilante group that later worked against the government and won the wizarding war. His name was Harry Potter.
Huh? Harry Potter? Isn’t he a hero?
That was indeed how J.K. Rowling told us the story. Harry Potter was the good guy and Voldemort the bad one. But if you really think about it, the text above tells you the story of Harry from a different perspective. And if Rowling had told it to us as such, maybe we would really see Harry as a bad guy. Just by changing the perspective we can create and entirely different worldview. Even Voldemort tried to do this by showing Harry how he saved the school by exposing Hagrid. Maybe he would have even succeeded if Harry had not already been friends with Hagrid.
And this is what information war is all about.
Information warfare can be defined as systematic manipulation of information to affect target’s awareness, beliefs, feelings and actions. The aim is to make the target act in the interest of the one manipulating them. The manipulation can be straightforward, like how North Korea uses information and suppression of it to keep its citizens in check, or somewhat subtle, like with how Russia is accused of manipulating voters in the US with propaganda.
The purpose of any kind of communication is always to affect others. It might not always be with evil intentions, but there is always a purpose behind. For example, me complaining about being bored is a way to signal my friends that maybe they could try to help me alleviate my boredom. In the same sense a politician on a podium tries to affect their audience. And propaganda needn’t be just explicitly worded information, but pictures and sounds work as well. Before the internet came about, posters, tv-adds, movies and even theatre were all used to raise awareness of issues and influence people’s feelings.
Even Disney produced some propaganda featuring Donald Duck:
Nowadays we also have social media that is creeping to our lives. We encounter information all the time and often it can be hard to tell the source. If an influencer tells about this fancy product on Youtube or Snapchat, how do we know they were not paid to say it? And if someone shares a news story, do we really know the agenda of the news outlet? And what about the fake campaigns by people just wanting to troll, like with 4Chan convincing people that iOS 7 update made their phones waterproof? And while hidden advertisement or stupid prank sound mostly harmless, it is chilling to think what other seemingly innocent things lurk in social media sphere and aim to influence us.
But what can we do about this then? It is hard question. My advice is to try see any new information from several angles and to form an opinion afterwards. It would also be good to see to the possible agenda of the source of the news, be it a politician, government, news organization or any other. And if you friends are promoting any idea, maybe discuss their reasoning with them. Discussing things helps and usually gives us new perspectives to things. Maybe seeing things from different perspective once in a while might help us to understand our own beliefs as well.
So, what do you think: Was Harry the good or the bad guy?
I honestly have no idea.