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The Mexican drug war cannot be understood without reference to the virtual dimension. Cartels are seeking to aggressively shape the use of information within the drug war to promote an image of themselves as a source of unstoppable power and influence. Their methods range from the classic “propaganda of the deed” — killing for intimidation and effect — to psychological operations against Mexican police, military, and the public. By doing so, cartels struggle for information dominance. Civil society and press coverage of the cartel war have been quite literally silenced, pushing reportage to the margins of social media. However, the entry of cyber-vigilante organizations and use of new media by cartel gangsters have created a new dynamic that could change the rules of the game.
First, it is essential to understand that advances in information, while hailed as revolutionary, also tend to be excellent tools for facilitating the violent coercion and destruction of human life. The Chinese “human flesh search engine,” the informal name for crowdsourced cyber-vigilantism among the country’s wired “netizens” is a massively parallel, largely self-organized sensor system for locating and punishing individuals who transgress against social norms. In his paper on cyberocracy, the RAND Corporation information theorist David Ronfeldt analogized the East German state as a kind of cybernetic entity that used a complex array of technologies for surveillance and control and large state bureaucracies to regulate social life on both the individual and societal level…
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