The Growing Mexican Cartel and Vigilante War in Cyberspace
This short essay blends traditional Mexican cartel analysis indicative of earlier Small Wars Journal writings by this author with advanced (5th dimensional) warfighting concepts. These concepts have utility for engagement with non-state (new warmaking) entities. They are being increasingly discussed now that cyberspace and ‘dual dimensional’ operations are more frequently breaking out in the Mexican conflict.
The criminal insurgencies in Mexico are rapidly evolving with regard to media (informational) based conflict . This is an outcome of an action-reaction (offensive and defensive) dynamic of the conflict that has transcended older forms of media (newspaper, radio, film, and television) into new media forms (websites, blogs, texts, tweets, et al.).
Earlier analysis of elements of this theme— focusing on cartel use of instrumental and symbolic violence to shape the conflict environment and two concepts of communications theory— can be found in John Sullivan’s November 2010 “Cartel Info Ops: Power and Counter-power in Mexico’s Drug War” MountainRunner and April 2011 “Attacks on Journalists and ‘New Media’ in Mexico’s Drug War” A Power and Counter Power Assessment” Small Wars Journal essays .
For a comparison of the components relating to this conflict refer to Table 1. Old Media vs New Media. That table provides a general overview of the difference between older and newer media forms. Overall the newer cyber-media form is far superior to the older media form as would be expected of a more networked, dynamic, and entrepreneurial set of informational technologies. However, it is still considered inferior to the ‘industrial media’ by much of the status quo and older aged cohorts due to its anonymity of reporting, lack of accountability, and more illegitimate nature (e.g. most of the blogs post pictures with no concern over copyright issues).
The Mexican cartels and, more recently, cyber-vigilantes (both bloggers and hackers), have been involved in a number of identified information offensives/counter-offensives. It should be noted that these engagements are increasingly taking place in both human (4th dimensional) and cyber (5th dimensional) space. The hybrid expression of this is ‘dual-dimensional’ operations— ones that have both forms of dimensionality present . These more complex operations are also now taking place in the conflict with the cartels. In addition, disruptive targeting—also known as ‘Bond-Relationship Targeting (BRT)’— is being widely utilized by the cartels and directed against Mexican society . The basic timelines in this information-based conflict are as follows: