NATO School in Norfolk VA; and the generational threat ISIL presents

I’m writing this blog at 36,000 feet travelling at mach 0.83 as I pass over St Louis – between New York and Los Angeles, after an incredible week spent on the east coast of the United States of America.

It’s perhaps fitting that my first invitation to present with my Info Ops HQ CEO’s hat on was at the Mecca of info ops in the State of Virginia. Home to the illustrious Langley CIA headquarters; the Pentagon and bordering Washington DC – I’ve spent the better part of the last week in Norfolk at the Naval Base – where I’ve met the NATO Allied Transformation Command’s Innovation Hub team and presented for the first time at NATO School.

The significance of both events isn’t lost on me.

In May 2013 I wrote a blog called ‘Everyone’s Talking about Cyber Warfare while Social Warfare is Flying under the Radar.’

No one took me particularly seriously.

In fact, I fielded a few messages from people asking what I’d been smoking when I’d come to the conclusion that social media could be used as a weapon of war (for the record – I don’t smoke!)

But despite the criticism of my logic – I remained undeterred.

To my mind – if hijacking a corporate twitter could cause stock-market plunges and the loss of millions of dollars in the REAL world; it was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to reverse engineer the social media platforms that had been built predominately for marketeers – for warfare purposes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly – NATO’s Innovation Hub discovered me online and invited me to join their first Massive Online Open Course (MOOC). As I said to Serge Da Deppo from the Innovation Hub upon meeting him in person for the first time last week – when I received his LinkedIn message I wasn’t sure if it was real or a hoax!

NATO – contacting me? Asking me to provide training to them?

I did contribute to that first NATO MOOC and I am about to deliver another lesson in Social Media Influence Activity in early December.

I met my business partner and co-founder of Info Ops HQ David Bailey in much the same way.

So from an extremely niche blogging platform to NATO MOOC to business partner to standing in front of a class of Staff Officers from over 28 Nations at NATO School at the Norfolk Naval Base in the USA … my incredible journey is a true testament to the power of social media.

As many of you will be well aware – Australia is not a NATO nation. We are however; as I was repeatedly reminded with great affection from those I met in Norfolk – one of NATO’s biggest non-member partners.

Which is apt because wars are no longer fought inside defined physical borders.

We’ve already seen the outcomes of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) inspired religious fundamentalism hit home with lethal consequences in Australia and Canada. Further ISIL terrorist threats have been neutralized around the Western world.

ISIL’s social media jihad- takes the fight to anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.

ISIL are the biggest threat to global security the world has seen since World War II. They aren’t simply the new Al Qaeda; having taken terrorism out of sandy caves with shaky handycams to broadcasting violence in high definition.

ISIL’s social media jihad is targeted far more broadly than anyone could have anticipated. ISIL are making terrorism a generational prospect by targeting their radicalization programs at children. Children today will grow up being continually desensitized to their violence, their rhetoric and their ideologies.

Will the youth of today be as outraged by ISIL’s jihad as we are now, when they grow up?

It is up to us to ensure ISIL do not become a normalized fixture in the urban dictionaries and Wikipedia entries of the future. We cannot allow ISIL to humanize and rationalize themselves into the generational consciousness of our youth.

With social media changing the traditional view of asymmetric warfare; with the definitions of cyber warfare and social media warfare rapidly becoming indistinguishable and with a single hash tag now the most valuable tool in the warfighters non-kinetic arsenal – ‘Battlefield Information’ is now streaming live into workplaces, schools, homes and handbags.

With blogs and tweets the new bombs at rockets of modern warfare- it is both humbling and an honor to be contributing to the NATO community on such a vital mission.