Pro-Palestinian student protests across the US have led to allegations of anti-Israel hate crimes and damage to property and occupations of university buildings that have created an environment in US academia which is – rightly – perceived as hostile to Jewish students and staff. Following the lead of elite campuses in the US, students at Australian universities began their own protest action, protest camps, and even occupation of university buildings.

The current situation indicates that the West is losing its youth to anti-Enlightenment ideas about liberty and security perpetuated through cognitive warfare.

Student protests are not new: recent examples come to mind that were critical of military intervention or climate change. What is new, however, is that the support for Hamas-led Palestine is also an open challenge to our Western liberalism, democratic values, and heritage which brought about the Enlightenment. It is precisely these rights that allow for the expression of one’s opinion and to demonstrate peacefully.

But support for Palestine is in fact support for Hamas, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation, which is a proxy of the global state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, and its regional non-state actors. Hamas started the war when it attacked Israel on 7 October last year, where it and other Islamist terrorists (including civilian Palestinians) allegedly went on a rampage of rape and murder in Israel.

Hundreds of civilians (including infants) were taken hostage and over 1,000 civilians were allegedly murdered. The number of alleged deaths alone makes this massacre of Jews the worst since the Nazi Holocaust of over 75 years ago.

The events of this day were celebrated immediately across the globe and not only in the Middle East. The Sydney Opera House was the backdrop of a pro-Palestinian rally with reports of antisemitic chants including ‘gas the Jews’ (an allegation which was disputed by NSW Police later). Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong condemned the antisemitism, but the condemnation did not extend to what has been supported through omission since then.

Australia has seen an ever-increasing cascade of pro-Palestinian activism, fuelled by The Greens, some academics, trade unions, and fringe activist groups (which the Prime Minister recently referred to as ‘Trots’ – or ‘Trotskyists’). This activism created cognitive dissonance through distorted narratives, such as equating Hamas with a legitimate liberation movement, demonising Israel and Jews in general as colonisers of foreign land, and morphing the protest into something far more dangerous: a general protest against the ‘West’ and the glorification of Islamist terror organisations from Hamas to the Houthis.

Chants of ‘From the River to the Sea – Israel will be free’ and ‘Global Intifada’ on our streets and university campuses of today will become the challenge call of our present way of life in Australia and the West more broadly.

The greatest threat to the West is identity politics. Identity politics is a logical extension of the Enlightenment and of John Stuart Mill’s liberalism. But practised in the extreme, it can lead to individualism that conflicts with the idea of the common good. James Fitzjames Stephen argued against Mill’s version of liberty. Stephen criticised Mill’s religious zeal in support of individualism and argued that:

 ‘Attempts to impose unlimited freedom, material equality, and an indiscriminate love of humanity will lead inevitably to coercion and tyranny.’

We find the West in this space now. Western youth, in a quest for individual identities that determine their rights and privileges, have lost their cultural identity. Lacking identity, they have become susceptible to malicious influence. This space is ripe for coercion and ultimately the loss of the West.

If we lose our youth to identity politics, we lose the great ideas that make Western Civilisation the most successful of all hitherto civilisations in terms of individual liberties, rights, and individual prosperity. And identity politics is ripe for exploitation by the enemies of the Western way of life.

The most obvious example in Australia is the copycat/cosplay approach by mostly white, well-to-do students to pro-Palestinian protests at our elite universities. Interestingly, only the elite universities have these camps. Working-class and regional universities do not have the same type of privileged students who can afford to live out their identity politics.

There is a major assumption that ignores not only the diversity of human experience and the practical realities of human nature but the evidence of individuals on the public record. Some people just do not fit the ‘narrative’.

Even the term ‘the narrative’ is a socialist construct. We don’t need to ‘change the narrative’. We need to understand that ‘the narrative’ is a socialist construct designed to speed up the process of ’contradiction’.

Most importantly, extreme individualism contradicts the very idea of liberal democracy. John Stuart Mill was radical for his time, and while we might accept that ‘eccentricity’ is good for diversity of opinion and lived experience, diversity is not good in all circumstances, especially when it comes to cohesion within a democratic society, resilience, and in the end, national security, which brings us back to our case.

Australians are losing their identity to the point where our universities are protecting free speech that supports proscribed terrorist organisations and vilifies Jews in general. James Fitzjames Stephen warned of such tyranny in his critique of John Stuart Mill.

James Fitzjames Stephen’s critique of Mill was relegated to the dustbin of history. Until now. But his work was visionary. Stephen understood that when governments lose their moral compass, so too does society.

But the Australian example is one among many in the West. Europe has had its fair share of identity politics. The major difference is that Europe is re-experiencing the tropes that were used during the Cold War by the Soviet Union – in effect, an attempt to undermine the West by using its own success against itself.

This is now known as cognitive warfare, where psychological operations (PSYOPS) are being used to manipulate public opinion in the target state’s population to undermine social cohesion, trust in the government, and institutions. Developed during the Cold War by the Soviet Union to target the West, cognitive superiority is achieved by manipulating opinions, emotions, and attitudes. Russia has been key player in this domain in Europe. It was only a question of time until Western identity would be targeted more generally. Hamas as Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupiers is a continuation of a Soviet cognitive warfare trope aimed at Western audiences. The use of modern mass social media platforms such as TikTok as a tool for cognitive disinformation has been proven to be effective: the recent Tiktok craze ‘Bin Laden’s letter to America’ has shown that there is no limit to the extent of disinformation and its success among Western Gen Z audiences due to absence of resilience among the audience.

Cognitive warfare was easier to identify in the past when it was known as PSYOPS. Leaflet dropping or broadcasts to enemy forces were targeted at particular audiences. Now, however, the approach is more general in nature and influences cognitive behaviour through memes – or snippets of cultural information – that lead to what we might now refer to as ‘Woke tropes’.

The only defence against cognitive warfare as we now know it is to re-establish our Western and national identities, something that is being undone by the decolonisation project.

But contradiction is at the core of cognitive warfare. Our Enlightenment and liberal democratic traditions allow us to debate and protest, but free speech is now being used as a cognitive weapon against us.

Israel, for example, is the decolonisation project par excellence, but it does not fit ‘the narrative’. We caution anyone who finds themselves referring to ‘the narrative’ in their professional lives. This is a major part of cognitive warfare and is replacing the stories we tell each other that reinforce the liberties and standard of living our forebears enabled.

The worst part of the current geopolitical situation is not that we are engaged in a battle for hearts and minds. This has been a large part of warfare for the last several decades.

Rather it is by protecting freedom of speech at any cost, unless of course it is antisemitic, we are losing our youth to cognitive warfare that is designed to use our way of life against us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *