Narrative Dominance, Information Warfare and the Freedom to Think

Policy Brief No. 6

February 1, 2024

“A fair contest where contenders use facts, logic and reason to persuade a free, open-minded audience is an ideal way for a society to settle its affairs. Evidence from cognitive sciences, however, puts a dampener on such hopes.…our cognitive makeup is susceptible to biases and manipulation. The human mind is vulnerable. The collective is even more so.”

In this policy brief, Nitin Pai writes that with society today structured around the production, consumption and effects of information, the ancient practice of information warfare has become the centrepiece of international politics. Nation-states and non-state actors, among others, are engaged in a relentless global contest to control narratives and influence people’s thinking for political purposes. Cognitive autonomy thus becomes a national security objective. There must also be constitutional safeguards to prevent governments from directing information power against their own citizens.

Pai presents a high-level analysis of the external, geopolitical dimension of information warfare and offers recommendations for defence and national security policies for liberal democratic states.

About the Author

Nitin Pai is co-founder and director of the Takshashila Institution, an independent think tank and school of public policy based in Bangalore, India.