I have been an active participant on the campaign (Peoples Vote/ For Europe) trail for a short time. Other people have been on it since before the referendum. It is stressful for people. Everyone has their own buttons and buttons are being pressed in this hot house, intense situation we are in.
One of the things that stresses people is the fact that we can see the manipulation, the crisis looming but other people are switching off. They do not want to look. It makes us want to scream at them to wake up but we know that will have the opposite effect and so we internalise the anger and frustration and become mentally and emotionally unwell. I have noticed it is socially acceptable to express some of this anger on the various campaign groups. People are supported in a “better out than in” way which is good but limited.
Individuals on a mass scale are in a situation that has not been experienced by humanity before. This is because of the internet. Not only do we have so much information to process and decisions to be made (more than our brains were designed for) we also have people with ill intent who want to create distrust and confusion and are putting money and resources behind that. So we are in a constant state of ‘what to trust’ ‘who to trust’ which is really stressful.
If I had any influence and money I would pour money into educating people on how to stay psychologically strong and well in this new unprecedented environment. The reason I say this, is because there are people who are pouring money and resources into doing the opposite i.e. making people more unstable.
I would first of all educate people into what is going on. J J Patrick has done a good job int his regard, with his book “Alternative War”. If you don’t want to read the whole thing (I am getting through it very slowly myself as it is very dense and emotionally frightening so I have to do a bit at a time)….read the first couple of chapters where you will learn that NATO has been aware of this thing known as Psyops (Psychological operations) for years and have taken it seriously (had conventions on it in the early part of this century). Psyops is where one group of people (e.g.a nation) purposefully uses the internet to disrupt the psychological well being of people in another nation (or another group) – purposefully create doubt and distrust against the norms of that society. Another aspect of it is to find out what makes individuals tick and then target them with information that will make them think in a certain way. This is organised. It is known about.
(Side thought: I have a big question as to, even though it was known about, the Remain campaign was so ill prepared and so limp. I think part of it was under-estimating the threat but that can not be the whole story because NATO did not under estimate it and warned people. I think the answer to this question will come out years down the line).
So back to what we do. As individuals it is really hard work, actually. Personally I have approached it in two main ways: First of all research from a variety of sources and fact check as much as I can. Secondly is to look after my mental well being. I take this very seriously. Self knowledge is the key..if you learn and are willing to learn what your buttons are then you are protected from someone else (with ill intent) using them to manipulate you.
As a group what can be done? Some people of influence in the Remain groups are being upfront that we are in an information and psyops war situation. However, are there any big Twitter or Facebook accounts focused on what the heck we do about it? Basically we have been told we are under mental and psychological attack but not given much information about how to handle it. I think this is why many people switch off – as a coping mechanism but those of us who have found out a bit about this psyops stuff, know that leaves people vulnerable to manipulation. We need some sort of coordinated effort for mental wellbeing! Just as in a physical war, people are supported by group effort, then the Remain groups need to mobilise to support people psychologically. We are in for a long haul. Even if we get the results we want, democracy will still be attacked with these methods. Becoming self aware and emotionally and mentally strong is not an indulgence, it is vital.
References: “Alternative War” by J.J. Patrick published by Cynefin Road
The fantastic article by Carole Cawadalr that made scales fall from my eyes: