The Social Engineering of Identitarian Conflict

Essays Political Philosophy

Social engineering is the planned, lasting and furtive modification of behavior. Unlike propaganda and manipulation, whose impacts are one-off and reversible (thus short-term), social engineering is the definitive and irreversible (thus not only short-term, but also long-term) modification of something’s nature.

Two concepts underlie social engineering: “phishing” and “triangulated conflict”. Their application makes it possible to stimulate in people a feeling of inevitable conflict (even if the conflict could very well end, or not even begin in the first place), all this to render more “natural” some artificially-built conflictual structures. It is about hacking people’s minds and behaviors, much resembling computer hacking. In both cases, it is a matter of discreetly violating the defenses and integrity of a security system, taking control of it without anybody noticing. This approach to social engineering is useful for providing a compact methodology comprising recipes and keywords – a sort of mental toolkit to hack or furtively violate any system by way of a confidence trick, or by way of inducing indifference (phishing), and then to destroy that system indirectly by raising contradictions and engendering mistrust between the parties (that is to say, by establishing a triangulated conflict). 

A Polemological Approach to the Identitarian Question  

The idea that it is possible to engineer an identitarian conflict comes from polemology, or war studies, a discipline founded after WW2 by the sociologist Gaston Bouthoul (1896-1980). Regardless of whether they are applied to economic or military intelligence, war studies are devoted to modeling conflicts, and more specifically, modeling factors that are sources of conflict (i.e., polemogenic and solvent factors). This essay deals precisely with this point: namely, modeling the strategic production of conflict, modeling the necessary “divide and conquer” undertaking that occurs shortly before the actual conflict.  

To control a group requires increasing the visibility of its internal differences and highlighting its contradictions in a way that amplifies its latent divisions and paralyzes its organization. The Romans applied this age-old method against the Gallic tribes, a method still of utmost relevance today because it manifests itself in the so-called “Kitson doctrine”, in which “active minorities”, intelligence agencies, or a variety of organisations are encouraged to play the “identity card” and stir up all sorts of inherently divisive tensions, such as coup d’états, wars, terrorism, and communitarian-isms. From an identitarian point of view, ethnic or cultural identities are considered an authentic repository, a place in which one can confidently root oneself, for it never lies. Yet, upon closer inspection, we find that even the most traditional and well-established identities do not escape manipulation, and that the application of certain techniques renders it possible to make them lie after literally “hacking” them.

In this essay, I argue that the production of conflict relies on the exacerbation of identitarian rivalries. The concept of “identitarian rivalries” is largely inspired by René Girard’s concept of “mimetic rivalries”. Since rivalry mobilizes the processes by which rivals are identified, the nuance I provide using another adjective simply serves to clarify that any mimetic rivalry is in fact an identitarian mimetic rivalry. Moreover, I will apply this concept to a slightly different field than Girard. Three categories of people are interested in the identarian question:

  • Identity militants, i.e., political or associative groups and individuals
  • Identity analysts, i.e., researchers in the human, social and cognitive sciences
  • Identity engineers, found in “consulting” and political, commercial or military intelligence (psychological warfare)

Consultants do not hesitate to hack that which analysts objectively describe without touching. They rework and reconfigure it according to a strategic, managerial perspective that can influence activists by means of psychological operations. What Rene Girard describes as a universal anthropological structure can therefore also be shaped and instrumentalized for social engineering purposes. Let’s delve into identitarian rivalries and how they can be used strategically to produce conflict.

Distinguishing Between Good and Bad Reasons to Fight

Polemology is a scientific approach to conflict. Throughout the history of mankind, innumerable conflicts have broken out. Although fights seem to inevitably occur at regular intervals, nevertheless, in hindsight, and despite everything, some conflicts could have easily been avoided. Indeed, there are good, but also bad, reasons to fight. How can we distinguish between good and bad reasons to fight? By deploying a scientific and rational approach to conflict, and leaving behind emotional and passionate approaches which confuse everything. The scientific method consists of 1) collecting objective facts and 2) proposing models (or modelings), that is to say, cause-and-effect relations, or schematic and hypothetical representations of the way in which the objective facts are linked by causality. Those are the two stages – practical and theoretical – of scientific activity. The good reasons to fight are “natural” and have not been orchestrated in a triangulated manner. All the actors involved in the conflict are visible and generally fall into two camps. In contrast, the wrong reasons to fight are triangulated, that is to say, artificially provoked and then “naturalized” by means of phishing. Three actors are involved in the conflict, but only two appear. From an irenic and pacifistic – though not utopian – perspective, we can identify and isolate the wrong reasons to fight (to avoid being fooled), reduce their destructive impact, and focus on the right reasons to fight. It is all about being able to answer the following Schmittian question: who is my true enemy, or the person I must dissolve, and who are my real friends and allies with whom I should coagulate? An ally is not the same thing as a friend but, by definition, we can ally with the former against a common enemy.

Identarian Mimetic Rivalry

How is a conflict created from scratch? How does a conflict start for no reason? How does one set up a conflict that occurs for no objective reason, for no “good reason”? To answer these questions, all of which relate to the engineering of a triangulated conflict, we must analyze the “bad reasons” to fight. In the following paragraphs, I describe how an identarian mimetic rivalry can be implemented to artificially launch a conflictual process that can in turn be naturalized and automated as far as possible.

Mimetic rivalry, as defined by Rene Girard, is a mode of identarian construction which culminates in the voluntarist affirmation of one’s superiority over others. A commonly coveted object gives rise to competition that sidelines the object and promotes a rivalry of prestige between two subjects or egos. In Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, Girard writes:

In the radically competitive world of doubles, there are no neutral relationships. There are only the dominators and the dominated, (…) One’s relationship with the other looks like a swing wherein one of the players is at the highest when the other is at the lowest, and vice versa. (Grasset, 1978, 406)

In most cases, one’s voluntarist self-affirmation provokes in others a mirrored response to his own superiority. An automatic mechanism for growing narcissistic revindication is then put in place, a competition that induces a climb to extremes and that logically leads to conflict as well as the weakening of the two parties engaged in the rivalry. On this subject, reference is also made to game theory and the phenomena of schismogenetic escalation, studied by the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, of which the arms race is a good practical illustration.

Mimetic rivalry is the general structure of any human conflict, that is to say, of any intersubjective and psychological conflict occurring between subjects rather than around an object. What I think of others, and what I think they think – a purely mental territory which cognitive scientists call the “theory of the mind” – takes precedence over objective observation. When there are no objective reasons to fight in the present, we can find subjective reasons on the representational field by looking for them in the past, i.e., by reviving polemogenic memories (X, Y, and Z countries attacked W country last century), or in the future, by evoking risks to come (preventive attack based on suppositions), or otherwise, the third option is to find recourse in an exhilarating metaphysics that plays a psychotropic role.

Wrong reasons to fight are thus scripted through polemogenic “storytelling”, and are born in a purely representative, mental, egotistical, subjective and narcissistic field linked to one’s image of himself and others, to the feeling of one’s own identity and that of others. Unfortunately, quite concrete and physical consequences can emerge from this purely psychological phenomenon. All living species can be physically injured, but only one species – we, the human species – can also be so psychologically injured as to enter a concrete process of revenge aimed at restoring the esteem and integrity of our identity, thereby inundating the conflict of the subjective field to such an extent that we are brought to physically harm others. Indeed, deep psychological and identitarian wounds result in a depressing feeling of humiliation that can lead to a physical “passage to the act”: reparatory and revengeful behavior that induces rising violence of the sort which obeys the “law of retaliation”, and which brings the conflict from the psychic and subjective state to the physical and material state. Social engineering is all about turning violent words into violent actions.

Orchestrating the Rivalry

Identity conflicts are human tendencies that can be cultivated, stimulated, amplified, and manipulated. In fact, mimetic rivalries are the main structure of all situations in which a third-party pits two people against each other in hopes that they tear each other apart. In triangulated polemogenic engineering, automating a conflicting behavioral cycle that is in constant crescendo requires the installation of anti-kickback pawls to stimulate and mark out for the climb to extremes, such that we can never go back in reverse to pacify it. The clutch of this perpetual movement often demands what intelligence agencies call a “psychological operation” which, here, is the methodical orchestration of a deep prejudice, a traumatic founding injury that is kept alive (think of the role of the slogan Never forgive, Never forget) to fuel a thirst for infinite revenge – the engine of mimetic rivalry par excellence (the “Holocaust industry”, the Clément Méric affair, various terrorist attacks, etc.).

A mimetic rivalry always appears as a dual structure at first sight. There are always two sides to any conflict, so the saying goes. Let us consider two subjects who have no objective reason to fight, yet nonetheless find themselves drawn into a conflicting mimetic rivalry for negative, purely mental reasons, reasons which a third actor will crystallize into the intersubjective field of representations (images and words) in hopes of weakening the other two. Disentangling the objective and subjective reasons for engaging in conflict can sometimes be difficult. Humans live as much in the objective world of facts as they do in the subjective world of representations and images of themselves and others. Yet, the strictly identitarian, intersubjective and psychological part of conflicts dramatizes and unfolds only in the field of representations (language and images). As such, this side of identitarian conflict is highly susceptible to media manipulation, wherein the media hides the real object behind its linguistic representation and falsified iconic.

Let’s take an example: proponents of the “clash of civilizations” thesis claim that Islam is incompatible with the West. Regardless of whether we agree with this hypothesis, we should test it, like all hypotheses. For the test to be neutral and objective, however, we must first get rid of all the images and representations that the media has associated with this religion since the launch of the official narrative of 9/11 on September 11, 2001. To discuss Islam seriously in the West therefore means at least returning to the conditions of September 10, 2001, voluntarily forgetting everything that has occurred since that date in terms of state-sponsored terrorism, rigged incidents and false-flag operations: 9/11, Madrid, London, Toulouse, Boston, Brussels, ISIS, Charlie Hebdo, etc. Upon stripping, cleaning and deconstructing this layer of media images, the real object finally appears in a way that can be apprehended scientifically, but not before. Fighting Islam for the reasons invoked since 9/11 (fanaticism, terrorism, absolute cultural incompatibility, etc.) is therefore an orchestrated mimetic rivalry, an identity duel staged by the media using images and keywords. Such a polemogenic Pavlovian conditioning is comparable to how dogs or roosters are conditioned to fight each other for no objective reason, and is therefore based on bad reasons. This idea obviously does not exclude that there are good reasons to fight against Islamization, but these objective reasons are to be defined independently of the mainstream media discourse and its representations that capture public opinion.

For the record, we should recall a comment made in a US military report by the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS), cited in the Washington Times on September 10, 2001:

Of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, the SAMS officers say: “Wildcard. Ruthless and cunning. Has capability to target U.S. forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act.”

For its part, the website Wikistrike wrote the following laconic headline on September 11, 2011: “In the last 10 years, Al Qaeda has targeted the entire world except Israel.”

Dual or Triangulated Conflicts

War propaganda always involves the construction of a shameful, polemogenic image of the enemy. The current year [2014] marks the commemoration of the centenary of World War 1, so let us recall how in the years leading up to the conflict, the media of the Belle Époque – essentially the printed newspapers – manufactured consent for the war to come and precipitated peoples into fighting each other by diffusing fake news and caricatures in their press articles. We are dealing here with the field of perception management, which comes between the real object and the perceiver (the subject). A third person does not appear at first glance, but may alter or modify our perception of an object or of another subject (another country, religion, or identity). We are thus left with a geometry of conflict. There are at least two types of geometric forms of conflict: dual or triangulated. In a dual structure, two actors confront each other face-to-face. The conflict occurs “naturally” when two actors meet in a problematic, yet direct and unmediated, manner. In a triangulated structure, however, two actors clash while a third one watches on. The clash between the two actors at the base of the triangle is supervised, influenced and guaranteed by a third actor occupying the apex of the triangle. Here, the problems are orchestrated.

Thus, etymologically speaking, a conflict can be “mediated”, that is to say, it can be maintained by a media or medium which occupies an intermediate position between the two belligerents. What transactional analysts call “The Drama Triangle” or “Karpman’s Triangle” sets up a relational structure comprising three roles: the victim, the persecutor and the rescuer. It seems most of the conflicts plaguing the planet are triangulated. In other words, virtually all conflicts are artifacts which are staged, elaborated, shaped, and constructed as part of a true strategy for engineering deliberate tension. Most observers struggle to come to this realization because they lack the framework of intelligence agencies. A researcher like Bernard Lugan, for instance, provides a wealth of information on ethnic conflicts across the African continent, but he seldom applies the framework of intelligence agencies. As a result, his analyses often omit the third element of the triangle, the apex. When we read Bernard Lugan, we get the impression that intra-African ethnic tensions are directly caused on their own when conflicting parties meet controversially, for he does not describe the apex of the triangle, the engineer of conflict, the principal conductor. If we apply the framework of intelligence agencies to understand these ethnic conflicts, we find that in most cases, they are supervised, maintained, provoked, and guaranteed by an outsider – often Western – for colonial and imperial reasons.  This outsider obviously does not come from Western populations, which have nothing to do with it, but rather results from the convergence of interests between financial mafias, industrial lobbies, various NGOs and Western intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, MI6, Mossad, and DGSE.

France applies whatever has been successfully applied in sub-Saharan Africa or the Arab-Muslim world. Polemogenic representations are used to construct the identitarian mimetic rivalry between two sociological groups. A third sociological group then diffuses these representations in the mass-media. Lest we forget, for instance, Rav Ron Chaya’s Talmudic parable of the little Jewish rooster that prospers by pitting the big Christian and Muslim roosters against each other (in accordance with the Jewish racial supremacist theories of Yitzhak Shapiro, Yaakov Yosef and Ovadia Yosef, among others), of which the 2005 French riots, lasting several weeks, was a good practical case study. Personal sources and other, more legitimate sources mentioned in the appendix below show that the rioters and agitators were linked to the Mossad and Israel. The official media narrative portrayed this page in French history as a dual conflict between terror-stricken French natives hiding behind the police, and furious African and Muslim madmen of immigrant background. It ignored the third actor of the situation, the professional provocateur agent, who can be seen only if we apply an intelligence agency’s framework. This triangulated structure is also found in the rapidly expanding French Halal products market, which is controlled by non-Muslim individuals and companies; hence the need to always ponder on the non-Muslim elements of the Islamization process to really understand their function. This trinomial reappears in the false political opposition between Left and Right, which the apex of the triangle artificially maintains to prevent French populist forces from uniting in a common front against it – in other words, to continually dissolve populist attempts to coagulate. The Left/Right divide must be denounced for what it is: the paraphernalia of republican triangulation, mere socially-engineered phishing.

Most conflicts comprise not two actors but three. To reconstitute a “triangle of rivalry”, to identify the three actors engaged in a mimetic rivalry or balance of power requires identifying “who” dragged the actors into the rivalry. Two actors can easily be identified, but the third one is always trickier, which is normal. After all, deception is the sine qua non of an effective triangulated conflict: triangulated conflict must not be perceived as mobilizing three subjects, but rather as a duel. The base must in no way perceive the apex, and if it does, it must certainly not understand it.

How to become Invisible

Since hacking is the art of furtivity, it is also the art of invisibility. How does the “hacker” apex of the triangle go unnoticed and unappreciated by its base? Triangulation is effective because two subjects on the base of the triangle consider each other enemies, so they end up trusting the apex, or at least do not become suspicious of it – they remain indifferent to it. According to the famous computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, social engineering is the art of deception; it is essentially about playing on the credulity of others to modify their behavior, which is also what “phishing” is all about. The fact that the apex is perceived with trust or indifference allows it to be seen, but not as the architect of conflict. It is a matter of “hiding in plain sight”, a “royal art” and technique used by prestidigitators, illusionists, esoteric societies, and secret services. It is a matter of partly revealing oneself to earn people’s trust and give the impression that there is nothing more to dig: “Oh, it’s only that? Moving along. There is nothing to see here.” However, as soon as both actors at the base of the triangle lose confidence in the third actor, we shift from a duel to a triangulated conflict. The apex is understood and perceived to be the engineer of the conflict, thereby marking a shift away from the duality of mimetic rivalry. The bad reasons for conflict – those orchestrated by the apex – evaporate.

The phisher is never totally invisible, so to reach his goals, he must prevent those at the bottom of the triangle from focusing on him. The hacker apex knows that it will be seen, so it must divert attention away from itself; it must successfully diffract the base’s focussed attention. How so? By multiplying lures, diversions, and false leads, or by taking control of trust-based relations. The key to social engineering is mastering trust and mistrust-based relations. If I were a social engineer, my job would be to occupy the apex of the pyramid by creating mistrust between you and I, or at least by creating an absence of distrust, that is to say, indifference. If I succeed in producing feelings of indifference towards myself, then I defocus your attention away from myself, and I therefore practically become invisible from your perspective. Phishing is about becoming invisible, which, by contrast, allows one to better organize the visibility of other people, both for positive and negative reasons. When we control a range of indifference/mistrust /trust-based relations, which allows us to control the focussed attention of others, we master the technique of invisibility, and we thus practically become all-powerful. In this view, we can sum up the key moment of phishing – gaining one’s trust – in a single saying: a fake “good” to mask a real “evil.” To move others forward, the phisher dangles a carrot – a conflict presented as salutary – in front of the two people being phished, both of whom believe they will gain from it at the expense of their enemy, despite the reality that it is a no-win situation for them both, since the phisher is the only winner.


We think we are engaged in conflict with only one other foe until we realize that three actors are involved altogether. The French Poilus  must have faced this situation when they started mutinying and fraternizing with unfortunate Prussian soldiers in the opposing trenches, all this after suddenly discovering that they had no good reason to fight, that the only reason they were fighting all these years was because a third actor whom they trusted had convinced them to do so. And when these courageous patriots, totally manipulated by their respective staffs, themselves manipulated by the media of the time, went about reflecting on the apex of the triangle, did they follow the causal chain relentlessly until they got all the way to the root causes, to the very top of the pyramid? Did they go as far as denouncing the ancestors of the military-industrial complex, namely, the cosmopolitan bankers and arms manufacturers, whom Louis Ferdinand Celine designated in his pamphlets as being those truly responsible for causing the First World War? Although some soldiers back then had individually managed to decipher the general situation as well as the identities of the real warring parties, most people were unaware of the historical truth of this conflict because the mainstream media did not address it. In consequence, the same triangulated conflict structure, mobilizing nearly the same actors, was reproduced in identical fashion between 1939 and 1945 – why change a winning team? – and this time, even Celine fell into the trap! To avoid being trapped in new massacres orchestrated by our superiors for no objective reasons, we must organize a massive collective political force capable of developing anti-piracy measures. It is essential to democratize the culture of intelligence agencies, which is the only means to expose the various triangulated conflicts and phishing attempts in France, the Middle East, Ukraine and wherever the Washington-Tel Aviv axis strives to provoke wars, coup d’états, and terrorist attacks.

This article was featured in the journal Rébellion n°66 (September/October 2014). Link to article

 Dr. Lucien Cerise is a French philosopher and author of the book Oliganarchy. He writes for the magazine Le Philosophoire. He lives perched high in a ‘chambre de bonne’ and works in the basements of the BNF. Facebook profile: