This blog discusses ideas, drafts and papers about the whole spectrum of systems theory and anything else that concerns the WissTec R&D Services UG.

13.7.2020 - Social Systems Security 3:

Zersetzung and Counter Measures:

(by Eike Scholz)

Zersetzung is something everyone should know about. Its a Stasi psychological warfare strategy. Unfortuntely my family had some direct contact with Stasi operations. My Father, the initial founder of WissTec, was involved in blowing a Spi's cover, who tried to double my father.

To but it briefly: Zersetzung is a psychological warfare strategy of the German Stasi to satisfy the perverse sadistic desires of persons in the GDR power apparatus. Fake sarcasm aside, the official rationalization for that strategy was - of course - "controlling" the enemies of the system. Zersetzung is actually an older concept in warfare. Correctly applied, it is used by spies to erode an enemy states capabilities and not your own states capabilities. But it works on your own population too. No one will stand up against the persons of power and nobody will dare to correct their errors. Hence the fake sarcasm, you have to be either dimwits in pursuit of ideological purity to apply this to own population, or just be sadistic persons wanting to satisfy your desires. For the latter you don't have to be dimwits. You can be at any level of intelligence and just don't give a fuck for the society you live in - having at least one cluster B personality disorder will help in that regard.

But what exactly is Zersetzung? Wikipedia has an article on Zersetzung. To keep this short I re-quote an translation by wikipedia of an original source:
a systematic degradation of reputation, image, and prestige on the basis of true, verifiable and discrediting information together with untrue, credible, irrefutable, and thus also discrediting information; a systematic engineering of social and professional failures to undermine the self-confidence of individuals; ... engendering of doubts regarding future prospects; engendering of mistrust and mutual suspicion within groups ...; interrupting respectively impeding the mutual relations within a group in space or time ..., for example by ... assigning geographically distant workplaces.

— Directive No. 1/76 of January 1976 for the development of "operational procedures".[34]
However, Zersetzung can not be properly targeted on individuals of a states own population. If applicable to individuals of a population, the envy of the unskilled powerful with respect to the skilled, in combination the shadow of human nature, will inevitably cause a Zersetzungs-System to remove almost all skilled workers from positions of high status and thus undermine the prospects of prosperity as well as hard security capabilities in the medium to long term.

Lets for example discuss it in the historical context of the Stasi, that is capitalists vs. communists. If the capitalists where playing a long term strategy, devoid of ethical constraints, supporting and stabilizing the Stasi would be an excellent strategy of Zersetzung as well - second order Zersetzung, if you want to apply systems terminology. The capitalists just should get their "kind" out of the danger zone, and the underlying nature of sadistic desire satisfaction will cause the system to attack other internal factions in an often seen competition for ideological purity. If the capitalists can install a spy in the system, it would be easy to intensify the competition for ideological purity. Once Zersetzung is applied, common power dynamics, will bring individuals of the narcissistic and psychopathic sub-population into power, who, because of their mental setup enjoy applying Zersetzung, but lack the capability of proper long term planning. The society will eventually break down as the GDR did.

That is all fine with respect to history. Social systems have changed and improved in many cases. While Zersetzung does not seem to be a viable system of power preservation for the competent modern tyrant, the insecure nature of the modern internet based communication and social network systems make it an excellent strategy to attack other states. Modern China with their newly devised social networks should be especially careful. Their systems might not have the intended stabilizing effects in times of turmoil.

Lets investigate the idea of using zersetung as a modern cyber warfare strategy further. Faking video and audio data is possible in real-time, giving a man in the middle a gigantic attack surface for the above quoted strategies. However, man in the middle attacks are old and there are well established counter measures of properly checking and validating sources as well as evaluating claims. To make a modern target population susceptible to Zersetzung a state of target society must be manufactured, where these counter strategies are not systematically applied. This can for example be done by the following strategies: Aside of special historical events, most of the above strategies will need time to be installed by an adversary using spies. However, as Adam Smith said, there is much ruin in a nation, and one should never underestimate common social dynamics that can create the above effects even without the influence by an organized malicious adversary. The countermeasures against Zersetzung are pretty much to the opposite of the above points but the list above is not meant to be complete in any way.

However, in modern democratic republics Zersetzung against its own population is outlawed. For example, the Federal Republic of Germany has a constitutional law GG20.4, that will allow to attack, with any means necessary, any group that tries to install a covert system for Zersetzung. But on the other hand, this would require, that Germans follow the law and not the leader. That the later will happen, once such a system is sufficiently established, is far from self evident - given the history of Germany. Sadly general history also suggests, that the populations in other nations are only gradually and not in principle better in that regard.

So, be vigilant.

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