A lot has changed in the last 18 months. The Western world has descended into chaos and darkness, with the rise of the far-right leaving people aghast and demoralised.
Brexit, Trump, Germany, Ukraine, Syria, North Korea. A constant bombardment of once impossible to conceive occurrences, surrounded by a never ending attack on the truth through Alternative Facts and Fake News.
At first it seemed like a joke, then the reality of the situation started to come home, leaving a bewildered public questioning first what had happened and, even now, "why?" is only just starting to surface.
We have been taken by surprise at the end of an unprecented period of stability by a combination of disinformation, targeted messaging, hacking, and information leaks. All of it accompanied by a blitzkreig of managed social media use. Masks have slipped, sides have changed, goal posts have moved, and the people responsible are already on to the next targets.
Thanks to NATO documents dating back a decade, evidence uncovered by US security services, corporate security specialists, cyber firms, NGOs, journalists, and even private individuals, we now know who was involved and where they stood to profit.
Russia have not done this alone, that would be a naive assumption for anyone to make, they have brought together a group of broad-ranging skills with diverse access and credentials, the uniting factor being greed. Far-right groups, politicians, lobbyists, businessmen, criminals, fugitives, and data companies have actively worked alongside Putin's Kremlin to enhance their own financial and political positions. A joint enterprise in which each of them forms one piece of a puzzle.
Working together they have steered public policy and decision-making, manipulated electorates, and created chaos throughout the mechanisms of state and media which had always managed to keep them at bay.
Our time may be limited but within this mess there is hope. Hope and an opportunity.
There a limited number of individuals and entities working across the world to counter what is referred to as a Hybrid Offensive, an Alternative War. Some are fully funded, state-sanctioned operations. Others are small pockets of civilian resistance forged of nothing more than good will. As yet they are not led, not co-ordinated. They have been fire-fighting admirably but little more. This is hope, because the lights haven't gone out. Yet. This response is called Strategic Communication, known as STRATCOM. The exact weapon used against us all.
But we need more than hope. We now know the parties involved so far are eyeing future elections and referendums. We know how they operate; how they target both decided and floating voters; the methods they use to spread dissent and harness the public's will, even where that means acting against their own best interests.
Because we know this, it is now possible to do something about it. To start to prevent future successes, allowing us to better address the effects of battles already lost. This is opportunity, because we know where they will going next.
The elections and referendums across the world for the next two years have already been mapped. This means we can target specific locations with campaigns to correct disinformation, stem the flow of propaganda, raise public awareness, reduce social media signal amplification, and find and support local pockets of resistance - connecting them with other networks. This is Strategic Communication for good, preserving the freedoms of democracy.
This is where Liberty STRATCOM comes in. A public interest initiative which will provide InfoSec news where the public is exposed to hacking or data loss. A project specifically designed to target disinformation in elections, referendums, and daily life worldwide. A channel which will collaborate with a number of official departments across the defence and apolitical sectors and, also, with citizens countering disinformation across the globe.
There will be trial and error, there will be failures. For a while we will have to live with a part-finished logo. This is a crowdfunded initiative versus unmaginable budgets and resources. This is a public initiative versus machinery of war. But we have to try. We can only get back from the world what we put into it.
Huge steps have already been made in setting up the network, including the establishment of mutual communication with EU STRATCOM, and, for example, we already have contact with the Army of Elves, the digital resistance in Lithuania. We have a website, we have the elections listed. But at the moment we are fighting time and the need to put bread on the table by other means. This cannot be an afterthought.
The funding sought will initially take us from an empty website to live content by December 2017. We will be able to publicly map the coming fronts and start to seek out those who will help us. We will be able to gather intelligence, establish which tactics are being used. We will bring together the official and unofficial STRATCOM groups and provide a central hub. All the while, broader investigations and public interest news will continue to be produced at Byline, eventually bringing the two operations together and supplementing this with timely and accurate publications on world events via Byline Books.
Liberty STRATCOM will always provide free to read content, though it will be a long time before subscriptions and top ups are not required. This is a truth which needs to be understood, and all that will ever be bought in reality is time and tireless energy.
Should you wish to set up monthly contributions, rather than a one off contribution, even at this early stage you can do so here (though this will not count towards the initial funding target and this is an all or nothing funder):
As time passes and our network grows, Liberty STRATCOM could become the largest operation of its type in the world and until then I'm going to personally invest my money and energy in getting it off the ground.
This is chance to do something more than write the news or read books about what once happened.
This is a chance to make history, for the right reasons.
I hope you can support Liberty STRATCOM which you can now follow on Twitter @libertySTRATCOM.
In terms of rewards, there's not much I can offer for now, barring copies of Alternative War, which are included in the rewards structure. Later, once things have become established, your support will automatically mean you recieve email updates and publications comeing out of Liberty STRATCOM. But, what you are really taking away from this, I suppose, is the knowledge you tried to do your bit too. In a world of madness, that's all most of us can hope to do.
I, for one, have three children and two more on the way. Even if this doesn't get funded I'm determined not to leave them wars to fight on my behalf.
You'll notice the domain name is quite deliberate too. Thermopylae was a Greek battle of few standing against many for the greater good. Now, as then, tell the passers by.