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Fifth generation wars: Media as modern form of guerrilla warfare


Jan 10, 2018
By: Charl Fouad El-Masry

In my last article, I explained the concept of fourth generation warfare, and I touched on the wars of the first, second, and third generations. We took Egyptian media as an example, and Egypt – its state and people – as the operational field.

In the concluding part we will discuss fifth generation warfare.

Firstly, the term fourth generation warfare has not been used often, and was not given enough space in the media to raise people’s awareness of its dangers. A major reason for this may be that that a large segment of the media was a participant in this type of war. Another reason could be that many media figures are unaware of the term or do not understand its meaning.

The term Fifith Generation Warfare appeared in the media, when President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi warned that we had already entered this type of warfare, in statements early July 2015, following some attacks on military spots in Sinai.

So, the fifth generation war has begun. The question is, what exactly is this type of war?

In global intelligence agencies, the term fifth generation warfare is already used, and it means using false information, and directing it to achieve certain goals for particular countries at the expense of others. There are a number of ways of doing this; however, one of the most notable ways in which this is accomplished is through the use of media.

In fifth generation warfare, intelligence agencies cooperate with terrorist groups to coordinate and disseminate terror. The terrorist groups bomb a building or kill a civilian, and then the intelligence agency broadcasts photos, videos, and information about the number of martyrs.

So what does fifth generation warfare look like in Egypt?

Take the example of a well-known tabloid – which was otherwise unconcerned with political affairs – that reported that 64 persons had died in the terrorist attack that shook Egypt in Sheikh Zuweid in 2015, despite the fact that this contradicted the real number of persons killed. This is paradigmatic of fifth generation warfare; it is type of psychological warfare that aims to shape the people’s confidence in the military.

Another example of fifth generation warfare was the case of the Egyptian television host who, addressing President Al-Sisi, asked how Egypt continues to fund militaristic development despite the downturn in the Egyptian economy.

The military openly disclosed information regarding its purchase of the French Rafale fighter jet, the Russian Mistral helicopter carrier, and the announced contract for German for the first time. However, relying on his wide viewership, the television host tried to instigate anti-military sentiment. We cannot help but wonder, towards whose interest is he asking such a question?

The media is a tool of fifth generation warfare that depends on airing false or falsified information, designed to enrage public opinion and shake confidence in the government and the president for a number of outside parties: agencies, countries, groups, or the highest bidder.

Fifth generation warfare moreover depends on the rapid dissemination of news due to social media networks, whereby negative stories are exaggerated and played up in an attempt to inflame the public.

So, how do we confront this type of warfare?

Firstly, it is necessary to organise the media to ensure more accountability.

Also, it is necessary to develop state media tools that broadcast in either the domestic or international sphere.

Another way to face fifth generation warfare is to expose the old tainted faces of the media and hold them accountable.

We must lay foundations that do not change, even if the government changes, to deal with the media system for the next 50 years.

Lastly, we must take swift decisions because the correct decision at the wrong time is pointless.

Charl Fouad El-Masry is a columnist and political analyst.


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