Evolution and the fear of rejection-why is the need for inclusion a human universal

Evolution and the fear of rejection-why is the need for inclusion a human universal

Evolution and the fear of rejection – why is the need for inclusion a human universal?

Paulo Finuras, Ph.D.

Associate Professor & Researcher at ISG Business & Economics School of Lisbon


In this article, I reflect on the importance of belonging to any group and the consequences of ostracization or rejection that our brain always treats as pain and suffering. And this, it seems, happens beyond cultural differences and not because of them. Instead, it has to do with our biology of social primates and has always been a means of survival that highlights the dimension of our social brain.

Therefore, one of our forms of social learning has been through the evaluation of trial and error. We conclude that those who followed a group survived, while those who drifted away, swerved, were rejected, were “eaten,” and eventually won the “Darwin prize.[1]


Inclusion, rejection, social acceptance, social brain, social pain,

  1. Introduction

In this article, I reflect on the importance of belonging to any group and the consequences of ostracization or rejection that our brain always treats as pain and suffering. And this, it seems, happens beyond cultural differences and not because of them. Instead, it has to do with our biology of social primates and has always been a means of survival that highlights the dimension of our social brain.

Therefore, one of our forms of social learning has been through evaluating trial and error. We conclude that those who followed a group survived, while those who drifted away, swerved, or were rejected, were “eaten” and eventually won the “Darwin prize”.

The need for social acceptance has always been fundamental for individual survival. Although sometimes we have more egocentric behavior, it seems to be part of our evolutionary design and our genetic composition, the need to seek to follow and belong “to the group” because belonging to one group not only provides a sense of identity but also translates acceptance by the other. It looks like that’s how we evolved as a species.

It seems that a need and a desire for acceptance and belonging guide a significant part of our behavior. Moreover, there is research that corroborates this idea and even suggests that a significant portion of the emotional reactions of individuals also results from concerns that people have about social rejection, whether real or potential.

Therefore, to realize that there is a strong need for belonging and acceptance is to perceive an inescapable fact of the behavior of our species that, once again, seems to occur beyond the differences between cultures and not because of them.

But, after all, why do individuals’ concerns about their acceptance and social belonging have such a profound and permanent effect, both in terms of thought, behavior, and emotions? This need is likely to result from the fact that ostracism and/or rejection has had serious consequences in terms of the survival and reproduction of our ancestors, contrary to our social nature. Even though it is more mitigated, people today respond negatively to ostracism, isolation, or rejection (Lancaster, 1986).

  1. The problem with ostracism and rejection for humans

I would like to highlight here a unique experiment in 2006 by scientists Ilja van Beest and Kipling D. Williams (2006) that confirms the power of ostracism. These researchers wanted to know if, in any situation, inclusion is always processed by our brain as more positive and rewarding than the feeling of exclusion or ostracization.

In two separate experiences, the authors tried to “induce information” against inclusion and in favor of ostracism (or exclusion) to understand how our brain works in the face of these two fundamental aspects of social life.

Participants in an experiment were invited to play a variant of a game called Cyberball. In the game, with three participants at a time (A, B, and C), both inclusion and exclusion were crossed so that participants could both win and lose money on every ball throw they received.[2]

Fig. 1

Cyberball game experience with and without compensation

Surprisingly, the data suggested that even when being “excluded” meant earning (or keeping) more money than other players; the emotion and feeling unleashed on the subjects were always recorded by the brain as a painful emotion.

Source: Author adaptation.

Fig. 2

Cyberball game experience with and without financial compensation

In fact, several neuroscientists in Italy have found that “social pain” activates the same brain regions as physical pain. The researchers also found that witnessing someone else’s social pain triggered a similar physical empathy response in most test subjects. Social pain means experiences of pain resulting from interpersonal loss, rejection or ostracism by a social group, bullying, humiliation or shame, or even the loss of a loved one. Research shows us that social pain results from activating certain components in physical pain systems. Although the brain does not process emotional pain and physical pain identically, research into neural pathways or circuits suggests that there is a substantial overlap between the experience of physical and social pain. [3]

  1. The research on rejection

Studies conducted using magnetic resonance imaging have shown that when someone is ostracized or rejected, the same region of the brain that activates in situations where individuals experience physical pain is active. Put another way, humans are “designed” to feel pain [4]when they are ostracized, rejected, or excluded from a group. Considering what exclusion could mean in terms of costs for someone, this makes sense, at least from an evolutionary point of view.

In the experience with the game variant in which three players (A, B and C) interact virtually, passing the ball to each other, and where the same players have never met personally (although two of them – A and B – were “partners” of the investigators and are combined to play in a certain way, now including, now excluding the “third” player invited to the experience),  even when, in a situation where, being “excluded” from the game, the “victim” of the experience was rewarded with money gains (i.e., in cases where, even if they did not receive the ball from either of the other two players combined with the investigators, they still received a given reward), when they went to measure the satisfaction and mood of the participants, something very interesting was found: statistical analysis showed that individuals were much more satisfied when they were included in the game (that is, when the other two passed the ball) than when they were excluded, regardless of whether they won or lost money. Therefore, even when placed in a situation where they lost money, the subjects mentioned that they would rather be included and lose money than be excluded and receive it.

  1. Humans as a hypersocial species

As a hypersocial species, we trust and depend on each other to survive and reproduce, which is why we always live in social groups, where acceptance and belonging have always been crucial to us.

In short, because human beings are so dependent on each other and the groups in which they live, ostracism (i.e., being excluded or rejected from the group and the benefits and protection it provides) was, “by default“, always considered a “cost” throughout our evolutionary history and a potentially very high cost, since survival has always depended on acceptance and inclusion in the groups.

Therefore, it should not surprise us that, given each context, the common concerns most felt and more experienced with social acceptance are accompanied by emotions such as shame, guilt, jealousy, envy, hurt, social anxiety and low self-esteem. Among the main reasons for acceptance and belonging are the “exchange” and relational value of someone who shows that he is or can be a “good partner” for a relationship, for exchanges/transactions; physical appearance; to be appreciated; the pride and resources that someone has or may have (that is, to possess what others need).

If by chance, an alien scientist (equivalent to an extra-terrestrial anthropologist) visited and studied us, he would quickly discover that in humans, adaptive psychological mechanisms evolved that made us prone to make efforts in the search for acceptance and belonging to groups. Moreover, this need and this constant search for acceptance is easily seen in the effort invested by individuals, whether to capture attention on their abilities, qualities and resources or in the investment dedicated to their physical and social appearance to be appreciated, which is why it is common to see people exhibit certain behaviors connoted with “success” or to highlight the possession of resources that others may need. Deep down, individuals strive to signal that they are someone others like or will like to relate to.[5]


When acceptance is not achieved, and rejection is given, the answers may vary. For example, if and when individuals do not feel properly valued, respected, recognized, appreciated, or accepted, they may try to insist on increasing their acceptance or assaulting those who reject them or distance themselves from them. “Everything” seems to be preferable, considering that all rejection is recorded internally as pain or suffering (Williams & Sommer, 1997; Baumeister, R., & Leary, R. (1995).

Surely the reason for this stems from the fact that, throughout our evolutionary history, rejection and exclusion have always been more “costly”. In contrast, acceptance and inclusion have always been more “advantageous”. Perhaps, and as a consequence, our brain still has difficulties today in understanding situations in which exclusion can generate benefits or, even when this happens, the benefits can even be valued.

The human brain, implicitly and unconsciously, seems to assume that all exclusion is “onerous”, as it assumes that all sex potentially provides reproduction, even if it does not seek it when it practices it.


Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529

Finuras, P. (2021). Human Affairs. To better understand why we do what we do and the evolutionary psychology that underpins these affairs. Lisboa: Edições Sílabo

Lancaster, B. (1986). Primate social behavior and ostracism. Ethology and Sociobiology, 7(3-4), 215-225. https://doi.org/10.1016/0162-3095(86)90049-X.

Lieberman, M. (2014). Social – Why our brains are wired to connect. New York: Crown Publishers

Smith, E. (2017). The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. Washington. Broadway Books

van Beest, I., & Williams, K. D. (2006). When inclusion costs and ostracism pays, ostracism still hurts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(5), 918-928. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.91.5.918.

Williams, D., & Sommer, L. (1997). Social ostracism by coworkers: Does rejection lead to loafing or compensation? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(7), 693-706. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167297237003.


[1]The Darwin Prize was awarded in 1993 by scientist Wendy Northcutt of Stanford University and is awarded annually to all those who improve the genetic background of our species… removing himself from :).

[2] Of course, participants A and B were “partners” of the researchers.

[3] To know more, check: Giovanni November, Marco Zanon, Giorgia Silani, Empathy for social exclusion involves the sensory-discriminative component of pain: a within-subject fMRI study, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 10, Issue 2, February 2015, Pages 153–164, https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsu038.

[4]   In other words, they are considering the benefits of affiliation and avoidance of the costs of rejection and/or ostracism.

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True to Whom? The Global Cultures of Fake News

                                      True to Whom? The Global Cultures of Fake News.

                                                                                              Martin Karaffa

Fake news has emerged as an important issue in the early 21st century. Current research in the field has focused on political beliefs as a factor that increases belief in fake news items, but recently the focus has turned to culture. High-context cultures, as defined by the Hofstede cultural dimension of Individualism/Collectivism, show a higher propensity to believe fake news, according to recent research. This piece develops the thought further, by exploring attitudes to fake news from public surveys. The author finds concern with fake news high among collective cultures; such cultures rely on news to reflect popular opinion as much as objective fact. The 5-factor dimensions of Openness and Agreeableness also play a role in concern about fake news, with open and agreeable cultures less concerned by fake news. The author suggests that those dealing with the issue of fake news need to pay greater attention to the contextuality of the messages and less to what can be defined as objective truth. Only by so doing can we counter the destructive effects of the phenomenon.


#fake news #news #social media #SNS #content #propaganda #collectivism #individualism #Hofstede #Hofstede Dimensions #agreeableness #openness #5-factor personality #personality #culture #cultural dimensions #The Culture Factor


In 2023, we hear the phrase “fake news” on many lips.  But what meaning do those words really mean?

In many circles, it’s a trope that a message which contradicts the receiver’s preconceptions earns the fake news label.

Some look to authority. Does the source of the message guarantee its truth?

In other places and under other circumstances, audiences believe only in the authority of information. Can we assess the truth based on logical scrutiny alone?

Students of culture will identify the issue of fake news as one of context.

The digital world bombards us with atomized messages. Potentially, it can remove context cues from a message. Or worse, place the message in a false context to earn credibility.

For cultures that rely more heavily on context cues in daily communications, the issue can be critical. This paper explores the issue.

A Matter of Context

Last century, American anthropologist Edward T. Hall[1] distinguished what he called high-context cultures and low-context cultures. This cultural attribute profoundly affects an individual’s interpretation of communications.

Low-context cultures place the greatest value on the content of a message. If the content can be verified objectively—by whatever standards appropriate to the subject matter—then the message holds value. One may hear it from a cub reporter or stranger on the internet, or one might hear it from an expert or leader. The source counts for less than what is said.

High-context cultures take a different approach. While the content of the message is important, the relationship between the sender and receiver bears greatly on the trust one places in it. Communications don’t just transmit facts. The “truth” reveals itself through more than just the words spoken and their literal meaning. As many high-context communicators say, the real message is often “written in the air.”

Hall’s concept arose from a lifetime of anthropological observation, and subsequent data have confirmed the insight. The late Professor Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimension of Individualism/Collectivism[2] (IDV) closely parallels the low-context/high-context distinction. Hofstede’s tool quantifies the relationship between context sensitivity and quantitative measures of attitude or behavior around fake news. In the course of this paper, the author will favor the term high-context, unless expressly discussing scores on Hofstede’s dimension of IDV, of which collectivism is the negative pole. Other terms should be interpreted as referring primarily to statistical measures.

This paper examines a selection of relationships defined by such statistics. It uses public data from commercial and NGO sources, as well as cultural measures available to the author as a practitioner with Hofstede Insights.

The former includes such global sources as the Edelman Trust Barometer 2022[3]-2023[4], and the 2019 Pew Research Centre study on public demand for unbiased news[5]. The latter includes not only Hofstede’s original 6D scores, but OCEAN 5-Factor personality measures gathered by Hofstede Insights[6]. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the correlations, the author cautions against over-reliance on them. In the absence of peer review, readers should take them as a source for hypotheses and as directions for further research.

For the purposes of this paper, the author has employed the definition of fake news cited by Lazer et al.[7] in 2018.

  • [Fake news is] fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent.

The author interprets this as material that may show little evidence of “organizational process,” such as urban legends and hearsay.

What does a High-Context Culture Look Like?

We find high-context cultures in much of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. They characteristically hail from groups of countries which Huib Wursten describes as the Family or Pyramid cultures[8]. On the other hand, many readers of this piece may hail from low-context cultures (for example, North America, Northern Europe, or Australasia.) For those readers, it will be helpful to note the following:

  • High-context cultures seek less explicit information. Audiences will make assumptions based on what they already know about the subject rather than looking for added information to confirm the underlying meaning of a text or dialogue.
  • Consensus is valued. A putative fact is more credible if many believe it.  The wisdom of the crowd carries more weight in high-context cultures.
  • Popular acclaim counts for a great deal. If a public figure earns admiration, what they say counts for more. As does their endorsement.
  • In the absence of context cues, high-context cultures will impute a context to make sense of the message. Instead, audiences will use what they already know about the subject: the personalities involved, recent events, and any information about the source which can be gleaned.
  • Who before what. The imputed context generally relies on a human voice. Arguably, who speaks counts for as much as what is said.
  • Collective cultures value social harmony as a means of preserving social stability.

In light of these cultural attributes, the importance of the high-low context distinction in the issue of fake news becomes apparent.

Who Believes Fake News?

Academic study in the area has devoted itself to understanding who is most susceptible to fake news and who is most likely to spread it.  Much research has focused on the effect of conservative political beliefs; most have found that conservatism strongly affects belief in and dissemination of fake news.  Researchers have suggested that collectivism plays a role, but few studies have measured it explicitly[9].

Let us look at one study that employs Hofstede’s measure of Individualism/Collectivism.

Early this year, Gupta et al.[10] published a single-source study, elegant in its simplicity and directness.

The researchers measured the culture and politics of a sample of Indian and US respondents and cross-referenced the self-reported likelihood of each to believe examples of fake news. Finally, they selected actual news items which had been proven (objectively) false.

  • Studies show that tattooed parents are more likely to abuse, neglect, and starve their children[11].
  • Netflix, a popular video streaming service, is offering users a free one-year subscription due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[12]
  • Tom Brady attributed his success as an NFL quarterback to the “witchcraft” of his wife, Gisele Bündschen[13]/ Virat Kohli attributed his success to the “witchcraft” of his wife, Anushka Sharma.

The study confirmed that conservatives were more likely to believe fake news (β = +0.65, p = 0.0001). Gupta and colleagues note that the result reflects a growing body of research that has reached similar conclusions.

But the study’s findings on collectivism prove just as interesting to students of culture. For example, it showed a relationship between espoused collective values and the propensity to believe fake news (β = +0.21 p = 0.0001).

Looking at the examples above, one can see how an imputed context can make a message seem more credible.

  • In the absence of more information on the “studies” which show evidence of abuse or neglect, a context seeker will resort to what their cultural group already assumes about people with tattoos.
  • Many context-aware audiences will know about the reports of increasing Netflix subscriptions during the pandemic and may have a perception that the platform’s content leans “Hollywood Liberal”. Such a move may seem in character.
  • Context seekers may well consider Tom Brady’s personal story; retirement at the peak of his career, subsequent divorce, and his (arguably) suboptimal return to the field thereafter.

Gupta and colleagues showed a great deal of skill in recognizing and crafting the fake news items; the stories offered just enough detail to impute a context for those who sought it.

The Cultural Environments of Fake News.

Many discussions of fake news make clear value judgments. Fake news is uniformly harmful, destructive, immoral, and just plain wrong.

The establishment of a relationship between collectivism and belief in fake news begs the question: to whom does this matter, and why?  Does the world agree on value judgments about fake news?

Let us now turn our attention to that important question.  What attitudes do nations hold about fake news?  Who regards it as a problem?  Does collectivism affect it?  Can there be other factors at work?  And most importantly, is “fake” news always bad?

Fake News: Trust and Anxiety

Across the globe, people worry about fake news.  But they worry at different rates.

If collectivvistic cultures believe fake news more readily, does that mean they stay more relaxed about it?  One might assume them to be less vigilant. The data show otherwise.

Edelman asks how many respondents are worried about fake news. In 2022, this figure showed a correlation of +0.61[14] with collectivism (that is, a negative correlation with Hofstede IDV). In collectivistic China, 80% of those polled said they worried about fake news, compared with 65% of individualistic Britons.

Collectivistric cultures place great trust in institutions generally, and that includes the media. On 2023 figures from Edelman, trust in the media correlates modestly with collectivism (+0.36[15]) and trust in institutions generally correlates with collectivism more strongly. (+0.40[16])

Edelman reports that, on average, public institutions in China earned an average trust rating of 84%, with trust in the media running at 80%.  Again, compare this with 50% of Britons who trust institutions in general and a mere 37% who trust the media.

Collectivism also correlates strongly with an important item from the Pew study in 2018. Pew asks respondents if it is acceptable for the media to do favors for a political party.  This correlates notably with collectivism (+0.44[17]) and even more strikingly with the Hofstede measure of Power Distance (PDI).  PDI isolates the acceptance of differences in power as part of the natural order—a feature of collective cultures—and the correlation figure is +0.57[18].  15% of Britons state that it is sometimes acceptable for the media to do a favor for a political party, compared to 41% in collective India or the Philippines.  A small lie in the service of the powerful, arguably, might help preserve harmony and social stability.

Quite simply, collectivist cultures rely on strong collective institutions. Such institutions help weave together the social fabric and contribute to a sense of group cohesion and loyalty. The mainstream media, social media, and the government all play a role.

This paper seeks to ask the following question: in collectivist cultures, is the role of the media primarily to police and disseminate objective truth?  Or is it rather to reflect collective beliefs and to contribute to group cohesion?

It may seem anathema to those of us from high individualism cultures. But our definition of fake may not hold as much meaning in collective cultures as it does in our own.

A citizen in a collectivist culture no doubt values what we might call objective truth.  But far more useful is to gain knowledge of the common subjective interpretation of observable facts.  The agreed truth counts for more, perhaps, than the “objective” truth.  It has greater utility.

Openness and Agreeableness

Several measures of personality add further understanding to the analysis.  The 5-factor OCEAN personality measure of Openness describes a person who stays open to new ideas.  The populations in collective countries tend to score lower on this personality dimension: Colombia (-35), Brazil (-31), Mexico (-28), and India (-17) are collectivistic cultures. Individualistic cultures like Australia (45), the United Kingdom (44), the Netherlands (38), the USA (34) and Canada (33) consist of citizens who are far more (in the technical sense of the word) open.  Unsurprisingly, while open cultures worry about fake news, they do so less than cultures at the other end of the scale—a country’s Openness score correlates negatively with anxiety about fake news at a staggering -0.73[19].

Do open cultures, with their appetite for novelty and challenging ideas, overlook the risk that a new piece of information may prove false?  Are Open cultures a little too relaxed about fake news?

A similar pattern applies to the OCEAN measure of Agreeableness.  At its most basic level, this factor measures our instinct, all other things being equal, to say yes.  It is tempting to call it a measure of impulsiveness.  The United States is an impulsive culture (Hofstede IvR 68), which may partly explain some of its appetite for fake news.

Agreeable cultures, too, worry less about fake news.  The correlation between Agreeableness and the Edelman 2022 measure of worry about fake news is -0.68[20]

While culture is important, these common psychological dispositions of a specific country also affect fake news susceptibility. As with cultural factors, research has begun in the field[21]. But the scope for further research remains open.

True to whom?

In his definitive biography[22] of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson describes an incident corroborated by several other sources.

TIME Magazine was to name Steve Jobs Person of the Year in 1982 in recognition of his work to make personal computers ubiquitous. The subject of his contested paternity suit arose in the interview for the feature. A DNA test showed that there was a 94% level of certainty that Jobs had, indeed, fathered Lisa Brennan-Jobs, after whom the first Apple Lisa computer was named. The magazine asked how he could contest paternity in the face of such evidence.

Jobs pointed out that a 94% chance meant that while he could be Lisa’s father, the test meant millions of men in the United States alone might also be her biological dad.

This rattled the editors of TIME.  Ultimately, they chose to name the Computer as Person of the Year, an unsatisfying result that caused many a raised eyebrow.  But far more sensitive to the emotional and social context in which their readers lived.

Jobs had offered a classic low-context, highly individualistic response. It was absolutely factually correct—not fake news in the slightest.  But it was deaf to context.  And most of the audience would have judged Jobs to be disingenuous. He didn’t lie, but his words didn’t ring true.

As the world grapples with the spread of fake news, ringing true counts for a great deal.  When Steven Colbert coined the term truthiness in 2005[23], he meant it as a joke. But it hid an important issue.

In collectivistic cultures, knitting oneself ever more tightly into the social fabric of one’s peers motivates a great many attitudes and behaviors.  If we know that our opinion is shared in the community, it reassures us.

In individualistic cultures, one may build one’s self-esteem by making up one’s own mind, independent of how others view the conclusion.  Facts make the truth, not feelings.

The world of collectivistic cultures, arguably, looks for truthiness as well as truth. What good is an opinion if nobody shares it?  Collective cultures look to the news not just as a source of information but to discover the agreed, collective interpretation of that information. Knowing the agreed truth helps everyday life more than an “objective”, out-of-context fact.

Most news, whether in collectivist or individualist cultures, rarely stops only at objective fact in any case.  Steve Jobs was an absent father, is the news story, not the result of a DNA test.

In discussing the threat of fake news, we may do well to think about the purpose of the news itself. Every news story arrives in context; it lands in an emotional environment that will determine how useful the story is.  In a collective society, which values harmony and stability, an acceptable lie may outperform an uncomfortable truth.

Attention to such context may well prove the key to resisting the pernicious effects of genuinely harmful fake news.  We must recognize that for a large portion of the world, objective truth rings hollow outside of a meaningful social context. Fix the context first, and the facts will follow.


[1] Hall, Edward T. (1976). Beyond Culture. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385124744.

[2] Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, third edition (3rd ed.). McGraw-Hill Professional.

[3] https://www.edelman.com/trust/2022-trust-barometer

[4] https://www.edelman.com/trust/2023/trust-barometer

[5] Mitchell, Simmons, Masta and Silver. Publics Globally Want Unbiased News Coverage, but are Divided on Whether Their News Media Deliver. Pew Research Center, January 2018.  www.pewresearch.org

[6] https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product-category/tool/

[7] D.M. Lazer, M.A. Baum, Y. Benkler, A.J. Berinsky, K.M. Greenhill, F. Menczer, D. Rothschild, The Science of Fake News, Science 359, (6330) (2018) 1094-1096

[8] My Hofstede Insights colleague Huib Wursten describes many of these as Family or Pyramid cultures.  Wursten, Huib. The 7 Mental Images of National Culture: Leading and Managing in a Globalised World. (2019) Amazon Books. ISBN 1687633347, 9781687633347

[9] C.M. Parra, M. Gupta, P. Mikalef.  Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) -enabled Severe Moral Communities and How the (COVID-19) Pandemic Might Bring New Ones. J. Inf. Management 57 (2021) 101709

[10] M. Gupta, D. Dennehy, C.M. Parra, M. Mäntymäki, Y Divwedi.  Fake News Believability: The Effects of Political Beliefs and Espoused Cultural Values.  Information and Management 60, (2023) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.im.2022.103745  The authors generously allow the public to use and quote the study by Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

[11] https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/studies-tatooed-parents/

[12] https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/netflix-scam/

[13] https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/tom-brady-witchcraft/

[14] R = -0.6121, P = 0.0015

[15] R = -0.3596, P = 0.0844

[16] R = -0.4022, P = 0.0513

[17] R = -0.4390, P = 0.0152

[18] R = +0.5717, P = 0.0012

[19] R = -0.7311, P = 0.0000

[20] R = -0.6830, P = 0.0002

[21] Dustin P. Calvillo, Ryan J.B. Garcia, Kiana Bertrand, Tommi A. Mayers, Personality Factors and Self-Reported Political News Consumption Predict Susceptibility to Political Fake News, J. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 174, (2021) 110666, ISSN 0191-8869,


[22] Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs. Simon & Schuster.

[23] https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/truthiness-meaning-word-origin

A Study of Social Cultural Sustainability and Holding a Discussion on the Effect of Information Disorder and Social Engineering on Media for a Velvet Revolution & Hybrid Warfare

A Study of Social Cultural Sustainability and Holding a Discussion on the Effect of Information Disorder and Social Engineering on Media for a Velvet Revolution & Hybrid Warfare

A Study of Social Cultural Sustainability and Holding a Discussion on the Effect of Information Disorder and Social Engineering on Media for a Velvet Revolution & Hybrid Warfare

                                                                   Prof. Dr.  Hamid Doost Mohammadian

                                                           aUniversity of Applied Sciences (FHM), Germany. Hamid.Doost@fh-mittelstand.de


According to my 5th wave/tomorrow age theory and the Seven Pillars of Sustainability (7PS) model, cultural sustainability is one of the most important issues in recent decades.

This study investigates the social-cultural sustainability of media in the context of information disorder and social engineering. The study focuses on the potential impacts of these phenomena on media as a means of communicating information to the public. The research analyzes the historical evolution of media, the contemporary media landscape, and the role of media in social and cultural sustainability. Through a multidisciplinary approach, the study explores the challenges faced by the media in maintaining their credibility and integrity in the face of information disorder and social engineering. The research also highlights the significance of open and informed discussions in combating these challenges and promoting social-cultural sustainability in media. The findings of this study provide insights into the complex relationship between media, society, and culture and underscore the importance of maintaining a free, fair, and responsible media for sustainable social and cultural development. Generally, to gain sustainable development and globalization are the main aims of humanities. Sciences and technologies are utilized in such a way to attain sustainability because it is the best solution to preserve the world and improve the quality of life and livability. Research in humanities and research related to human resources have roles in achieving sustainability, especially social and cultural sustainability. Some of the issues related to humanities and sustainability are (1-) hybrid and cognition warfare and (2-) velvet (soft or color) revolutions. Velvet revolutions occurred to improve sustainable development and globalization (two important phenomena in recent decades). Fundamentally, gaining trust, democracy, freedom, equality of genders and developing social capital, cultural capital and sustainability are the goals of hybrid and cognition warfare velvet revolution. Still, these are excuses to participate in the color revolution via private social networks. In other- words, these aren’t gained by quiet Revolution. Cultural sustainability impacts the other 7PS factors, such as economic, social, political, and environmental. Still, hybrid and cognition warfare and quiet Revolution are concerned with cultural, social, and political sustainability. So, peaceful revolutions couldn’t achieve sustainability. In addition, societies’ cultures and traditions will be altered to develop globalization. After a while, a new generation with Western beliefs and concepts remains far from their tradition and loses cultural and political power. Therefore, instability in culture could occur. Generally, sustainability and globalization are just excuses for the color revolution. It is necessary to do such research to indicate the importance and role of humanities research in sustainability and determine the main reasons for velvet revolutions and why some companies and politicians support them. Information disorder is about false news and messages created, produced, and disturbed by agents to gain their purposes. It has three types:1) Dis-information, 2) Mis-information, and 3) Mal-information. Social media has changed how young people discover brands; the “attention economy defines shopping habits”. Based on my theories, models, concepts, and various published IEEE articles, books, and speeches, social media could also influence the global economy as a tool for cognitive warfare and the velvet revolution! And research results. The cybersecurity and social media risks are associated with so many different factors: (1)Velvet/Soft/Color revolution tools:1-) NGOs, 2-) Independent political groups, 3-) Social movements, 4-) Youth movements, 5-) Media, 6-) Social media, 7-) Internet and 😎 Elites, (2)Velvet/Soft/Color revolution techniques:(1-) Social engineering, (2-) Information disorder. Social engineering is classified into five categories:1-Physical approaches, 2-Social approaches, 3-Reverse social engineering, 4-Technical approaches, and 5-Socio-technical approaches. Information disorder is about false news and messages created, produced, and disturbed by agents to gain their purposes. It has three types of information which I have mentioned. (3)Soft warfare, (4)Cognitive warfare, (5)Platforms revolution, (6)Hybrid warfare. Using this technological expertise, human sciences, and money.

This study examines the relationship between social-cultural sustainability and the use of information disorder and social engineering techniques in media as tools for Velvet Revolutions and Hybrid Warfare. The study will explore the potential impact of these techniques on the sustainability of social and cultural systems, particularly in the context of Revolution and warfare. The study will begin by examining the concept of social-cultural sustainability and its importance in maintaining healthy and stable societies. It will then delve into the tools used in Velvet Revolutions and Hybrid Warfare, specifically focusing on information disorder and social engineering. The study will explore how these techniques influence public opinion, manipulate social networks, and shape political and social issues discourse. The study will also examine the potential impacts of information disorder and social engineering on media and social, and cultural systems, particularly in Velvet Revolutions and Hybrid Warfare. It will explore the potential for these techniques to erode trust in media and social institutions, exacerbate social and political divisions, and undermine the sustainability of social and cultural systems. Finally, the study will discuss potential strategies for mitigating the negative impacts of information disorder and social engineering on media and social-cultural sustainability. It will explore the potential for education, regulation, and other policy measures to promote greater transparency, accountability, and trust in media and social institutions. This paper aims to comprehensively understand the relationship between social and cultural sustainability, information disorder, and social engineering in media, particularly in Velvet Revolutions and Hybrid Warfare. The study will contribute to ongoing discussions on how to promote greater social-cultural sustainability and resilience in the face of disruptive social and political forces.


Keywords: Hybrid warfare, cognition warfare, Velvet revolution, Sustainability, Globalization, Social Capital, Cultural Capital, Democracy, Information disorder

  1. Introduction:

This study examines the issue of social and cultural sustainability in the context of information disorder and social engineering and how it can affect media in the context of a Velvet Revolution and Hybrid Warfare. This study aims to explore the potential impact of information disorder and social engineering on media and its role in a revolution or warfare and examine possible strategies for maintaining social and cultural sustainability in the face of these challenges. The evolution of media in the modern world has significantly impacted the social and cultural fabric of societies worldwide. Media is a critical source of information and plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion, cultural values, and societal norms. However, the emergence of information disorder and social engineering has posed significant challenges to the social and cultural sustainability of the media. The deliberate spread of false information and the manipulation of public opinion has threatened the credibility and integrity of media as a source of reliable information. This study explores the impact of information disorder and social engineering on media and their role in social and cultural sustainability. Through a multidisciplinary approach, the research examines the historical evolution of media, the contemporary media landscape, and the challenges faced by media in maintaining their credibility and integrity. The study also emphasizes the importance of open and informed discussions to address these challenges and promote social and cultural sustainability in media. The findings of this study have significant implications for media professionals, policymakers, and scholars and contribute to a better understanding of the complex relationship between media, society, and culture.

  1. Literature Review:
    • Concept of Revolution and its category:

Revolution is a complex and multifaceted concept subject to numerous interpretations and categorizations in academic discourse. Revolution refers to a sudden and profound change in a society’s political, social, and economic structures that fundamentally alters the power relations between individuals and institutions. The use of force or violence often characterizes revolutions. They are motivated by a desire to overthrow the existing power structure and replace it with a new one that reflects the people’s aspirations.

One way of categorizing revolutions is based on their political orientation. This categorization distinguishes between left-wing and right-wing revolutions. Left-wing revolutions are characterized by their commitment to socialist or communist ideologies, which seek to establish a classless society in which the people own and control the means of production. Examples of left-wing revolutions include the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Cuban Revolution of 1959. On the other hand, right-wing revolutions are characterized by their commitment to conservative or nationalist ideologies, which seek to preserve the existing social order and hierarchy. Examples of right-wing revolutions include the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

Another way of categorizing revolutions is based on their scope and scale. This categorization distinguishes between national and global revolutions. National revolutions are limited in scope and seek change within a specific country or region. Examples of national revolutions include the French Revolution of 1789 and the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Global revolutions, on the other hand, are characterized by their ambition to bring about change on a global scale and challenge the existing world order. Examples of global revolutions include the socialist and communist revolutions of the 20th century, which sought to establish a new international order.

Finally, revolutions can also be categorized based on their mode of operation. This categorization distinguishes between violent and nonviolent revolutions. Violent revolutions involve using force or violence to overthrow the existing power structure, while nonviolent revolutions rely on nonviolent methods such as civil disobedience, peaceful protests, and mass mobilization. Examples of violent revolutions include the Haitian Revolution of 1791 and the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966, while nonviolent revolutions include the Indian Independence Movement of the 1940s and the Arab Spring protests of 2010-2011.

The concept of Revolution is complex and multifaceted, and its categorization depends on various factors such as political orientation, scope and scale, and mode of operation. Nevertheless, understanding these categories is essential for analyzing and interpreting the multiple forms of revolutions throughout history and their impact on society, culture, and politics.

Figure 1: Relationship between rate of achievement, aspirations, and expectations (reformed from Davies)

Generally, revolutions’ results make major changes in culture, politics, economy, socio-religions, and socio-political status of man’s life (Chengte, 2016). It should be said that revolutions are done to achieve sustainability and a better living situation, but not all revolutions gain them and are successful. A revolution should penetrate all dimensions of society such as entertainment, government, sports, the arts, media, education, the home, the church, and volunteer community group’s organization to succeed (Hull, 2017).

There are several classifications for types of Revolution. This research uses a classification of hard and soft Revolution (welfare).

According to tools and aims, Revolution could be classified into three categories:

  • Hard Welfare: It is also named violent Revolution. In this category, authorities’ tools, such as weapons, armies, etc., are utilized. It is concerned with military-security power. Violent behavior, occupation, killings, local military conflicts, civil wars, and collapsing of the regime are the most important properties of hard- war (Doost- Mohammadian, 1394). Until the end of World War II (1945), all the wars and revolutions were settled in this category (Khoshro, 2016).
  • Cold War: After World War two, up to the Dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991), this type of war was formed (Khoshro, 2016). It concerns semi-hard menace, data-security regime, and penetrating government (Naeni,2011).
  • Soft Welfare: It is known as nonviolent revolutions. Tools such as social stuff, media, divergence’s potential, social movement and social-political and scientific elites. A study related to soft war is needed. Most research concerns soft power, not soft war (Doost- Mohammadian and Afzali, 1394). Nye said that soft power is a means to be succeeded in World Politics. Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense, declared it is required to enhance American soft power. A dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national securitydiplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development are proper tools to promote American soft power (Gates,2007).


  • Velvet (gentle, color, or soft) revolution:

The Velvet Revolution, also known as the Gentle Revolution, was a nonviolent political revolution in Czechoslovakia in November and December of 1989. It was a peaceful transition from a communist regime to a democratic government characterized by civil disobedience, mass protests, and general strikes.

A series of protests against the communist government in Prague in November of 1989 sparked the Velvet Revolution. The protests were led by students and intellectuals who demanded greater political freedom and an end to the one-party rule of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The protests quickly spread throughout the country, and the government was unable to suppress them.

On November 24, 1989, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia announced that it would relinquish its monopoly on power, paving the way for a transition to democracy. The resignation of the communist government followed this announcement and the appointment of a new government led by the dissident leader, Vaclav Havel. The transition to democracy was peaceful, with no violence or bloodshed.

The Velvet Revolution demonstrated that political change could be achieved through nonviolent means. It served as a model for other peaceful political transitions, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994. The Velvet Revolution also significantly impacted the political and economic development of Czechoslovakia and its successor states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It paved the way for establishing democratic institutions, the rule of law, and a market-based economy.

In conclusion, the Velvet Revolution was a nonviolent political revolution that ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia. It was characterized by civil disobedience, mass protests, and general strikes, and it served as a model for other peaceful political transitions. Moreover, the Velvet Revolution was significant because it demonstrated that political change could be achieved through nonviolent means and paved the way for establishing democratic institutions and market-based economies in Central and Eastern Europe.

When citizens of a society are disappointed with the economic inequalities, the social injustice and the deep corruption of government and other situations in their life, a colored revolution could occur (Kassidiaris, 2016). Generally, velvet evolution is settled in the soft welfare category. This category has four aspects:

  • Psychological Warfare: It could make the social situation unbalanced.
  • Information Warfare: it is used to disturb the instability of a country.
  • Influencing people’s behavior, morals, and values. Plundering a nation is the main aim of this warfare.
  • A model and program for collapsing a government or country (Doost Mohammadian and Afzali, 2016).

Gene Sharp, the color revolution theorist, introduces four main steps to persuade people to participate in social movements:

  • It is necessary to strengthen the oppressed people’s will, confidence, and resistance skills.
  • Creating and strengthening independent social groups and special organizations of oppressed people is necessary.
  • A powerful internal force is needed.
  • A wise strategic plan is needed for freedom to be designed and skilled

In addition, he mentioned 34 categories of nonviolent action that could be used in velvet revolutions:

Using flags and symbolic colors/ Symbolism (wearing special icons)/ Naked demonstration/ Using new names and symptoms /Mocking the authorities /Political mourning /Fake funerals/ Condemning official appreciation/ Not participating in public programs/ Disregard for customs and lack of cooperation with organizations/ Boycotting goods by consumers/ Exiting money from banks Refusal to pay wages, fees, and taxes/ Boycotting the elections/ Sanctions for organizations supported by the government/ Refusal to accept government appointments/ Escaping and using fake identity documents/ Disruption of information and command lines/ Fasting (moral fasting, hunger strike, sanctioned fasting)/ Ignoring the rules of the barracks/ Working but not cooperating, etc.

The main purposes of color revolutions are:

  • Domination of areas that are of particular political and strategic importance
  • Controlling the energy transfer path and preventing its weaponization
  • Eliminating or suppressing the systems that block the expansion of American and European dominations
  • Preventing the establishment of military and security unions in Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia
  • Making the countries to be consistent with US policies
  • Economic opportunities
  • Curbing Islamic Awakening (Nikmoeen,2017)


  • Color revolutions’ tools:

The Velvet Revolutions have the following tools:

  1. NGOs,
  2. Independent political groups,
  3. Social movements,
  4. Youth movements,
  5. Media,
  6. Social media,
  7. Internet and
  8. Elites,

The Color Revolutions, a series of nonviolent political movements that emerged in various countries in the post-Soviet space and beyond, were characterized by using various tools and tactics to challenge authoritarian regimes and demand democratic reforms. The most prominent tools used in these movements were non-governmental organizations (NGOs), independent political groups, social movements, youth movements, media, social media, the internet, and elites.

The use of various tools and tactics, including NGOs, independent political groups, social movements, youth movements, media, social media, the internet, and elites, characterized the Color Revolutions. These tools were instrumental in challenging authoritarian regimes and demanding democratic reforms and have significantly impacted the political and social landscape of the countries where they took place. While the role of external actors in supporting these movements has been controversial, it is clear that the Color Revolutions represented a new form of political mobilization that relied on a diverse set of actors and strategies.

The Velvet Revolutions, also known as the Color Revolutions, are a series of political movements in several countries in the post-Soviet space, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. They are characterized by their nonviolent nature and use of civil disobedience, mass protests, and social media to challenge authoritarian regimes and demand democratic reforms.

The term “Color Revolution” was first used to describe the nonviolent protests in Serbia in 2000, leading to President Slobodan Milosevic’s ouster. The term was later applied to other nonviolent movements, such as the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004, and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon in 2005.

The tools used in the Velvet or Color Revolutions can be categorized into two main types: offline and online. Offline tools include civil disobedience, mass protests, and general strikes. These tools are aimed at disrupting the normal functioning of society and putting pressure on the government to meet the protesters’ demands. Mass protests are often accompanied by symbols and slogans, such as the orange color and the chant “Yu-sheen-ko” during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine.

On the other hand, online tools include social media, mobile phones, and the internet. These tools have played a crucial role in the success of the Color Revolutions. They have allowed protesters to coordinate their actions, spread information, and mobilize support domestically and internationally. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have been used to organize protests, share videos, and photos, and disseminate information about the government’s response to the protests.

The success of the Velvet or Color Revolutions has been attributed to a combination of factors, including the weakness of the authoritarian regimes, the international support for the protesters, and the effective use of nonviolent tactics and online tools. However, some critics have argued that these movements were orchestrated by external actors, such as the United States and other Western countries, and that they have destabilized the countries where they took place.

In conclusion, the tools used in the Velvet or Color Revolutions include offline and online tactics, such as civil disobedience, mass protests, social media, and the internet. These tools have been instrumental in the success of these nonviolent movements, which have challenged authoritarian regimes and demanded democratic reforms. However, while the Velvet or Color Revolutions have been praised for their peaceful nature and their role in promoting democracy, they have also been criticized for their alleged external support and their impact on the stability of the countries where they took place.

Fundamentally, the tools of velvet revolutions aren’t authorities’ tools such as weapons and the military. Instead, the means used in color revolutions are NGOs, independent political groups, social movements, youth movements, media, social media, the internet, and elites (Kassidiaris, 2016).

  • NGOs:

NGOs played a critical role in the Color Revolutions, supporting civil society groups, organizing training programs for activists, and conducting advocacy campaigns to influence policy and public opinion. Western governments and foundations funded many of these organizations, which provided financial and technical support to promote democracy and human rights in the post-Soviet space.

  • Social Movement:

Social and youth movements were other key tools used in the Color Revolutions. These movements emerged in response to specific issues, such as electoral fraud or corruption, and were often led by young people disillusioned with the existing political system. They mobilized support through symbols, slogans, and mass protests and effectively created a sense of unity and solidarity among the protesters.

Gene Sharp mentioned four steps to persuade citizens to participate in movements:

  • The first step is to strengthen the oppressed people’s will, confidence, and resistance skills.
  • The second step is to create and strengthen independent social groups and special organizations of oppressed people.
  • A powerful internal force is required as a third step.
  • A last, a wise strategic plan is needed to be designed and skilled for freedom (Nikmoeen, 2017)
  • Independent political groups

Independent political groups were also important actors in the Color Revolutions, serving as a platform for opposition leaders to organize and mobilize support for their demands. These groups often emerged in response to the lack of political representation and the suppression of opposition voices by authoritarian regimes. They were instrumental in coordinating protests and articulating the demands of the protesters.

  • Media

Media, including traditional and online platforms, played a crucial role in the Color Revolutions by providing coverage of the protests and disseminating information about the protesters’ demands. Independent and opposition-leaning media outlets were particularly important in challenging the official narrative of authoritarian regimes and exposing human rights abuses and corruption.

  • Social Media:

Social media and the internet were powerful tools used in the Color Revolutions, allowing protesters to organize and mobilize support in real-time. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were used to coordinate protests, share information, and disseminate images and videos of the protests. The internet was also used to circumvent government censorship and surveillance, allowing activists to communicate and share information more freely.

Media and social media: New technology tools make citizen journalism who could perform as a proxy free press, a medium that can find out and challenge falsehoods and misinformation. Generally, social media helps people to assemble and gain their target (Salanova, 2012).

  • Internet

The internet played a crucial role in the Color Revolutions as a powerful tool for mobilizing and coordinating opposition movements and disseminating information about human rights abuses and government corruption. The use of the internet as a tool of political mobilization in these movements represented a significant departure from traditional forms of political organizing and played a central role in the success of these movements.

One of the key ways in which the internet was used in the Color Revolutions was to organize and mobilize support for opposition movements. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were particularly effective, allowing protesters to connect, coordinate protests, and disseminate information about the protests to a wider audience. These platforms enabled activists to reach a large audience quickly and cheaply, bypassing traditional forms of media and allowing them to build a sense of solidarity and momentum.

The internet also critically exposed government abuses and corruption, a key issue in many Color Revolutions. Independent media outlets and bloggers used the internet to report on government abuses and corruption and to disseminate information about these issues to a wider audience. This was particularly important in countries where traditional media outlets were heavily censored or controlled by the government and where there was little access to independent sources of information.

In addition to mobilizing support and exposing government abuses, the Color Revolutions used the internet to document and disseminate information about the protests. Citizen journalists and activists used social media platforms to share images and videos of the protests, allowing people worldwide to see what was happening on the ground in real-time. This helped to build momentum and support for the movements and to create a sense of international solidarity among protesters.

Overall, the role of the internet in the Color Revolutions was significant and multifaceted. It served as a tool for organizing and mobilizing support, exposing government abuses and corruption, and documenting and disseminating information about the protests. While there is some debate about the extent to which external actors played a role in supporting these movements, it is clear that the use of the internet as a tool of political mobilization represented a significant innovation in the history of political protest and social movements.

  • Elites,

Elites played a complex and multifaceted role in the Color Revolutions, serving as supporters and opponents of the opposition movements. On the one hand, some members of the elite class were sympathetic to the protesters’ grievances and played important roles in supporting their efforts to challenge corrupt and authoritarian regimes. On the other hand, other elites were firmly committed to preserving the status quo and worked to suppress the opposition movements and maintain their grip on power. One way in which elites played a supportive role in the Color Revolutions was by providing financial and logistical support to opposition movements. This support was critical in enabling opposition movements to sustain themselves over the long term and to build networks of support that were essential to their success.

In some cases, business community members played a particularly important role in supporting opposition movements, providing funding and other resources that were critical to their success. Another way elites played a role in the Color Revolutions was by serving as symbols of opposition to the regime. Members of the political and cultural elite who spoke out against government abuses and corruption helped to lend credibility to the opposition movements and to build a broader base of support among the general population. This was particularly important in countries where dissent was heavily suppressed and opposition movements had few high-profile supporters. However, it is also important to note that many elites played a role in suppressing the Color Revolutions and preserving the power of authoritarian regimes. Members of the political and economic elite who benefited from the status quo were often heavily invested in maintaining their grip on power and worked actively to suppress dissent and opposition movements. This included using their influence to control the media, suppress protests, and intimidate or imprison opposition leaders.

Overall, the role of elites in the Color Revolutions was complex and varied. While some members of the elite class played important roles in supporting opposition movements, others worked actively to suppress dissent and preserve the status quo. Understanding the complex dynamics between elites and opposition movements is an important step towards developing a more nuanced understanding of the factors that contributed to the success of these movements. In any society, elite unity is usually fragile and only secured by the actions of a regime that actively seeks to unite and reward diverse elite groups. Elites could influence social movements. Elite dissension is thus one of the pivots on which social movements and revolutions turn. One of the mechanisms by which social movements turn into revolutions is through the expansion and radicalization of what elites may have believed was simply a reform movement to seek change or rectify problems within the existing order (Goldstone and Ritter, 2018). Generally, elites could be a tool to influence people’s opinions and align people with revolutionary ideas. Finally, elites, including business leaders, intellectuals, and former politicians, were important actors in the Color Revolutions. These elites provided legitimacy and support to the opposition movements, often using their networks and resources. They were instrumental in providing an alternative vision for the country and mobilizing support for democratic reforms.

  • Color revolutions’ techniques:

Velvet/Soft/Color revolution techniques are as below:

(1-) Social engineering,

(2-) Information disorder.

The Color Revolutions are a series of political protests and movements that emerged in several countries in the early 2000s. These movements were characterized by their peaceful nature and their use of nonviolent resistance strategies to challenge corrupt and authoritarian regimes. One of the key features of the Color Revolutions was their use of a range of innovative techniques and strategies to mobilize support and challenge the status quo. One of the most important techniques used in the Color Revolutions was the use of nonviolent resistance strategies. These strategies included peaceful protests, civil disobedience, and other forms of nonviolent action designed to challenge the government’s legitimacy and mobilize support for opposition movements. These nonviolent resistance strategies were particularly effective in the Color Revolutions, as they helped build a sense of solidarity and momentum among protesters while minimizing the risk of violence and repression. Another key technique used in the Color Revolutions was the use of symbolism and color. Each of the Color Revolutions was associated with a specific color, used as a symbol of the movement and a way of building a sense of identity and solidarity among protesters. For example, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine was associated with orange, while the Rose Revolution in Georgia was associated with pink. This use of color and symbolism helped to create a sense of unity and purpose among protesters and helped to build momentum for the movement. The use of social media and other forms of digital communication was also a critical technique used in the Color Revolutions. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were particularly effective in enabling activists to connect, coordinate protests, and disseminate information about the protests to a wider audience. This use of digital communication technologies helped to build a sense of solidarity and momentum among protesters while also enabling them to bypass traditional forms of media and reach a wider audience. Other techniques used in the Color Revolutions included humor, music, and other forms of cultural expression to build support for the movement. Humor, in particular, was often used to subvert the government’s authority and challenge its legitimacy. At the same time, music and other forms of cultural expression helped to build a sense of community and shared identity among protesters.

Overall, the techniques used in the Color Revolutions were characterized by their innovative and creative nature and their emphasis on nonviolent resistance strategies, symbolism and color, digital communication technologies, and cultural expression. These techniques were critical to the success of the Color Revolutions and continue to be used in political movements and protests worldwide.

  • Social engineering:

Social engineering is classified into five categories:

  1. Physical approaches,
  2. Social approaches,
  3. Reverse social engineering,
  4. Technical approaches, and
  5. Socio-technical approaches.

Social engineering is a serious threat in virtual communities and is generally used to attack information systems. Social engineering is the art of getting users to compromise information systems (Krombholz et al.,2014). It is one of the most effective ways to access secure systems and obtain sensitive information by utilizing minimal technical knowledge and ability(www.ukcert.org.uk). Internet communication services such as emails, IM communication, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites have roles in social engineering and its attacks.

Social engineering is classified into five categories:

Physical approaches: Physical action gathers information ranging from personal information to valid credentials for a computer system. Dumpster diving is usually used in this type.

Social approaches: The most important aspect of successful social engineering attacks is social approaches. To enhance the chances of success of such attacks, the perpetrators often try to develop a relationship with their future victims. The most prevalent type of social attack is performed by phone.

Reverse social engineering: In this type, an attacker can attempt to make the victim believe that he/she is trustworthy. Sabotage, advertising, and assisting are the main tools in this category.

Technical approaches: The Internet has the most important role in this category. Web resources and networking sites are vulnerable sources attackers utilize to gain passwords and victims’ personal information. These documents help social engineers to achieve their aims.

Socio-technical approaches: Socio-technical approaches have created the most powerful weapons of social engineers. Social data could influence this approach (Krombholz et al.,2014).

In the cybersecurity sense, social engineering is not only a threat to customer information, business operation, and military secrets but also a menace to political stability and free, independent discourse (Sherman and Arampatzis, 2018). Social engineering and social media could work together as a cyber weapon. They would make revolutions succeed. Social engineering gained secret information, passwords, data related to companies or the military, documents concerned with political information, etc., and could help the soft Revolution (Grander,2018).

  • Information Disorder:

Information disorder is about false news and messages created, produced, and disturbed by agents to gain their purposes. It has three types of information which I have mentioned.

  • Dis-information,
  • Mis-information and
  • Mal-information.

Generally, information disorder is about false news and messages created, produced, or distributed by agents to gain their purposes. Information disorder has three types:

  1. Dis-information: It is about false and deliberate information created to harm a person, social group, organization or country.
  2. Mis-information: Information that is false but not created to cause harm.
  3. Mal-information: Information based on reality used to inflict harm on a person, organization, or country.

Figure 2: Three types of information disorder (Wardle and Derakhshan,2018)                                                                                                                                      Generally, creation, production, and distribution are formed phases of information disorder (Wardle and Derakhshan,2018).

Figure 3: Three elements and phases of information disorder (Wardle and Derakhshan,2018)

Fake news could be formed by poor journalism, political propaganda, and misleading forms of advertising, clickbait, Satire and outright false news (Wardle and Derakhshan,2018).

  Figure 4: Audience perspective on fake news (Wardle and Derakhshan,2018)

Generally, seven types of mis- and dis-information are mentioned to make fake news:

 Figure 5: 7 types of mis- and dis-information are mentioned (Wardle and Derakhshan,2018) 

A piece of misleading, manipulated or fabricated content, rumors, lies and generally fake news could be scattered in society by social media or journalists. These techniques are sharp weapons that could lead a revolution ahead. Fundamentally, spreading fake news might help velvet revolution to be continued. Influence, infiltrate and penetrate are techniques utilized in pursuing velvet revolution. Generally, people’s point of views and their concepts could be altered by penetrating and infiltrating. Spies do such things. When people’s opinions change, they will ready to participate for a revolution.

Table 1: tools and techniques used in soft revolutions

Tools Techniques
NGOs Information Disorder
Social Movement Propaganda
Elites False News, Fake News, Lies
Media and Social Media Rumors
Social Engineering


  • Social Issues Related to Revolution:
  1. Social Capital:
  2. Cultural Capital:
  3. Democracy and Trust:
  4. Globalization:

Revolution is a complex social and political phenomenon that can have far-reaching social impacts, including social capital, cultural capital, democracy and trust, and globalization.

  • Social Capital:

Social capital refers to the networks, norms, and trust that facilitate cooperation and collective action within a society. Revolutions can both strengthen and weaken social capital, depending on the circumstances. On the one hand, revolutions can create new networks and social movements that foster greater solidarity and cooperation among citizens. On the other hand, revolutions can also erode social capital by creating social divisions and conflicts and weakening trust in social institutions.

  • Cultural Capital:

Cultural capital refers to the knowledge, skills, and cultural resources valued in a society. Revolution can have significant impacts on cultural capital, both positive and negative. Revolutions can create new cultural movements and artistic expressions that challenge existing cultural norms and values. At the same time, revolutions can also lead to the destruction of cultural resources and the erasure of cultural heritage.

  • Democracy and Trust:

Democracy and trust are essential to a healthy society, and revolutions can significantly impact both. A desire for greater democracy and political participation often drives revolutions. However, the process of Revolution can also undermine trust in social institutions, including the government and the rule of law. In some cases, Revolution can even lead to the collapse of democratic institutions and the rise of authoritarianism.

  • Globalization:

Globalization is another social issue that is deeply intertwined with Revolution. Globalization has led to the increased interconnectedness of societies and the flow of people, goods, and ideas across borders. This has both positive and negative impacts on Revolution. On the one hand, globalization can provide support and resources for revolutionary movements. But on the other hand, globalization can also create new economic and cultural divisions within societies, exacerbating existing tensions and conflicts.

Revolution is a complex social phenomenon that can have far-reaching social impacts. Therefore, it is essential to carefully consider the potential social impact of the Revolution and work to mitigate any negative effects while also harnessing the positive potential of revolutionary movements to bring about positive social change. While revolutions can bring about significant changes and progress, they also have the potential to exacerbate social issues and create new challenges. One of the most pressing social issues related to the Revolution is the displacement and suffering of civilians. Revolutions often involve significant violence and upheaval, which can lead to the displacement of large numbers of people and physical and psychological trauma.

Additionally, the breakdown of social institutions and the rule of law during a revolution can leave vulnerable populations without access to necessities such as food, water, and healthcare. Another social issue related to Revolution is the potential for the emergence of new power structures that reproduce or reinforce existing inequalities. While revolutions are often motivated by the desire to achieve greater social justice and equality, creating new power structures can also perpetuate existing social hierarchies and power imbalances. In addition, revolutions can exacerbate existing tensions and conflicts between different social groups. This can be particularly true in cases where Revolution is driven by ethnic or religious tensions, as is often the case in conflicts around the world.

Furthermore, the emergence of new political ideologies and movements can create new social divisions and conflicts. Finally, revolutions can have a profound impact on the cultural and social fabric of society. The upheaval and instability accompanying Revolution can lead to the breakdown of social norms and values. In addition, they can create new cultural and social movements in response to the changing political and social landscape. The revolutions are complex social phenomena deeply intertwined with social issues and challenges. While they have the potential to bring about significant change and progress, they also have the potential to create new challenges and exacerbate existing social issues. It is, therefore, essential to carefully consider the potential social impacts of the Revolution and work to mitigate them as much as possible.


  • Hybrid Warfare:

Hybrid warfare is a multifaceted and dynamic conflict that combines conventional military tactics with non-military means, such as propaganda, disinformation, cyber-attacks, economic coercion, and political subversion. It is characterized by its ability to blend traditional military force with unconventional tactics, blurring the line between war and peace and challenging traditional notions of sovereignty, deterrence, and national security. Moreover, hybrid warfare relies on exploiting vulnerabilities within a society or state, and seeks to achieve strategic objectives by manipulating social, political, and economic systems. As a result, hybrid warfare represents a complex and evolving challenge for policymakers, military planners, and scholars alike, requiring a nuanced and multidisciplinary approach to understanding and addressing its underlying dynamics and implications.

  • Hybrid warfare tools, methods, and tactics:

Hybrid warfare is characterized by using a wide range of tools and tactics, both military and non-military, to achieve its strategic objectives. Hybrid warfare is a dynamic and evolving form of conflict that employs various methods to achieve its strategic objectives. Additionally, these tools are often interlinked and interconnected and may be deployed simultaneously or sequentially in a coordinated manner to achieve a desired outcome. Some of the key tools and tactics used in hybrid warfare include:

  • Conventional military force:

This includes using traditional military assets such as tanks, artillery, and infantry, but may also include deploying special forces or irregular units.

  • Cyber attacks:

This includes using digital means to disrupt or manipulate critical infrastructure, disrupt communications, steal sensitive data, or influence public opinion.

  • Propaganda and disinformation:

This includes disseminating false or misleading information through various media channels to influence public opinion, sow discord, or undermine confidence in democratic institutions.

  • Economic coercion:

This includes using economic levers such as sanctions, trade restrictions, or other forms of financial pressure to influence the behavior of other states or non-state actors.

  • Political subversion:

This includes efforts to undermine the legitimacy of political institutions, foment political unrest, or influence political outcomes through covert means.

  • Social and cultural manipulation:

This includes exploiting social and cultural fault lines to sow division, undermine social cohesion, or exacerbate conflicts.

  • Proxy forces and irregular warfare:

This includes using non-state actors or surrogate forces to achieve strategic objectives, often deniable or indirect.

  • Denial and deception:

This includes efforts to obscure or conceal military or non-military activities, such as using false flag operations or propaganda to mislead opponents.

  • Covert operations:

This includes using intelligence agents or special forces to conduct operations clandestinely or covertly, often supporting larger strategic objectives.

  • Cyber operations:

This includes using digital means to disrupt or manipulate critical infrastructure, disrupt communications, steal sensitive data, or influence public opinion.

  • Political and economic coercion:

This includes using economic levers such as sanctions, trade restrictions, or other forms of financial pressure to influence the behavior of other states or non-state actors.


These tools and tactics in hybrid warfare reflect a strategic calculus aimed at achieving political, economic, or military advantage by exploiting vulnerabilities in the target state or society. As such, hybrid warfare represents a complex and multifaceted challenge that requires a sophisticated understanding of the interplay between military and non-military tools and the social, political, and economic context in which they are deployed.


  • Hybrid Warfare strategies

Hybrid warfare is a complex and multi-dimensional conflict that involves integrating a wide range of military and non-military strategies to achieve strategic objectives. Some of the key hybrid warfare strategies include:

  • Ambiguity and deception:

Hybrid warfare often involves using ambiguous or opaque tactics to mask or conceal military or non-military activities, such as proxies, mercenaries, or covert operations.

  • The exploitation of vulnerabilities:

Hybrid warfare strategies may exploit vulnerabilities in a target society or state, such as ethnic or religious divisions, economic disparities, or political polarization.

  • Information and propaganda:

Hybrid warfare may involve disinformation, propaganda, or other information manipulation to shape public opinion, undermine trust in institutions, or sow confusion and chaos.

  • Asymmetric tactics:

Hybrid warfare may involve using asymmetrical tactics to level the playing field against a more powerful adversary, such as guerrilla tactics or unconventional weapons.

  • Strategic ambiguity:

Hybrid warfare may involve strategic ambiguity to keep opponents guessing about intentions, capabilities, or future actions.

  • Economic coercion:

Hybrid warfare may involve using economic levers such as sanctions, trade restrictions, or other forms of financial pressure to influence the behavior of other states or non-state actors.

  • Proxy warfare:

Hybrid warfare may involve using proxies or surrogate forces to achieve strategic objectives, often in a deniable or indirect manner.

  • Cyber and information warfare:

Hybrid warfare may involve cyber operations, including hacking, data theft, and other forms of digital manipulation, as well as social media and other digital platforms to influence public opinion and sow division.

Hybrid warfare strategies are characterized by their flexibility, adaptability, strategic agility, and ability to integrate military and non-military tactics to achieve a desired outcome. As such, hybrid warfare represents a complex and evolving challenge that requires a sophisticated understanding of the interplay between military, economic, political, and social factors and the ability to anticipate and respond to rapidly changing circumstances on the ground.

  1. Case Studies:

This section explores case studies to gain more information and details on color revolutions and hybrid warfare.

  • Color or Velvet Revolutions:
  • Philippines Yellow Revolution(1986):
  • Czechoslovakia’s velvet revolution(1989):
  • Serbia’s Bulldozer Revolution (2000):
  • Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003):
  • Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004/2005):
  • Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution (2005):
  • Belarus Jeans Revolution (2006):
  • Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution (2007):
  • Moldova’s Grape Revolution(2009):
  • Iran’s Green Revolution (2009)

These are the most famous velvet revolutions. In addition, other color revolutions occurred, such as Papua New Guinea during 1988-1998 (Coconut Revolution), Iraq in 2005 (Purple Revolution), Lebanon in 2005 (Cedar Revolution), Kuwait in 2005 (Blue Revolution), Tunisia during 2010-2011 (Jasmine Revolution), Egypt in 2011(Lotus Revolution), Bahrain during 2011-2014 (Pearl Revolution), Yemen in 2011 (Coffee Revolution), China in 2011 (Jasmine Revolution), Guatemala in 2015 (Guatemala protests), Macedonia in 2016 (Colourful Revolution). In some research, the Iranian Revolution (Green Revolution) in 2009 was nominated as a color revolution that wasn’t successful. In this Revolution, social media had important rules for protesters to organize demonstrations and share news and information. In other words, during that remarkable social movement, new communication technologies, especially Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, and text messaging, played a considerable role, but how and in what way are difficult questions to answer without examining the pros and cons of this movement. Some analysts like Aslan and Cone consider the Green Movement the most important political event in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Still, the others, such as Picerkings and Simonowitz, acknowledge the Green Movement as the catalyst for the beginning of the Arab Spring that caused the fall of two regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, civil wars in Libya and Syria, and revolutionary movements in Yemen and Bahrain. Finally, this Revolution wasn’t successful (Moghanizadeh, 2013). Anthony Richter is the regional director for the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia of the Open Society Institute (Soros institute). Iran is one of his goals to be penetrated. Soros nominated Iran Revolution in 2009 as a color revolution. His Open Society Institute and Soros-financed Human Rights Watch supported this Revolution. After Iran’s Revolution, he said that Iran couldn’t be preserved for more than a year (Berger, 2011).

  • Three famous supporters of Velvet revolutions:
  • George Soros:

Soros is a famous supporter of progressive and liberal political causes, especially color revolutions from the Serbian OTPOR! The movement to «Arab Spring» rebellions (William,1997). He strongly believes in open society, which he adopted from the philosopher Karl Popper. He said an open society is a more sophisticated form of social organization than the closed totalitarian societies of the Soviet bloc. Therefore, he constructed his “open society institute”. He supports revolutions to create human freedom, the human spirit, solidarity, enterprise, natural community, and the yearning to associate with non-western societies (Soros foundations network, 2009).

  • Gene Sharp:

Gene sharp, the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study of nonviolent action, and a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is a famous backer of the velvet revolution. He believed that nonviolent action could make the transition to democracy easier. Sharp examined the models and strategies of titans of non-violence and put them in a manual. His philosophy was adopted by Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, and Martin Luther King Jr. He argued about citizens staying at home and refusing to participate in a society’s everyday functioning (Arrow, 2011). He believed that the willing obedience of their subjects empowered dictators of every political stripe and that his nonviolent alternatives to Revolution were open to everyone. He recommended nonviolent ways to change regimes, ranging from the creative use of banners and slongs to mobilize supporters, organizing strikes and boycotts, and strategies of civil disobedience (Hirshmann, 2009).

  • Haim Saban:

Haim Saban, a worldwide pioneer and leader in the entertainment industry is Saban Capital Group, LLC’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (“SCG”). He has been interested in politics since the mid-1990. Hillary Clinton described him as a good friend, supporter and advisor (http://www.saban.com).

  • Case studies concerned with penetrating:
  • Hempher or Mr.Gikak

A famous example of infiltrating is Mr. Hempher, a British spy in Iran. He was educated to destroy Islam. At first, he was sent to Istanbul and learned Arabic and the Islamic sciences there. Then he went to Basra (Iraq), where Sunni and Shiite Muslims live, to study and finally went to Ottoman lands (https://www.worldbulletin.net). He was nominated as an Ayatollah Gikak in Iran. It is said that he did some miracles by utilizing technologies that people didn’t know about, such as making his shoes parallel to his cane by using a magnet. People believed him. He said oil was impure and shouldn’t be employed (https://www.tasnimnews.com). To harm Islam, he created Wahhabism, which is to gain credibility by being on the surface morally strict and weaken Muslim morals by promoting alcohol and fornication (Pipes, 1996).

  • Johnny Weissmuller:

Johnny Weissmuller was a famous American swimmer and actor, best known for his portrayal of Tarzan in the Tarzan film series of the 1930s and 1940s. But before he became a movie star, Weissmuller had an interesting encounter that would change his life forever. In the early 1930s, Weissmuller was a successful Olympic swimmer, having won five gold medals and one bronze medal at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics. One day, he was approached by an MGM casting agent who was looking for someone to play the lead role in their upcoming Tarzan film. Weissmuller was not initially interested, but the casting agent convinced him to at least read the script. As Weissmuller read the script, he was struck by the character of Tarzan and the opportunity to portray him on screen. However, he was also intimidated by the prospect of acting, having never done it before. The casting agent, sensing Weissmuller’s hesitation, suggested that he attend a screening of the latest Tarzan movie to see if he liked it. Weissmuller agreed, and the next day he went to the theater to watch the film. As he watched, he was captivated by the character of Tarzan and the way the actor portrayed him. But he was also critical of some of the scenes, feeling that they could have been done better. After the movie ended, Weissmuller went backstage to meet the actor who had played Tarzan. To his surprise, he discovered that the actor was not the muscular, athletic man he had imagined, but rather a thin, wiry actor who relied on camera tricks and stunts to make himself look strong and powerful. Weissmuller realized that he had a natural advantage over the other actors who had played Tarzan before him – his strength and athleticism were genuine, and he could bring an authenticity to the role that others could not. With renewed confidence, he decided to accept the role, and the rest is history. Weissmuller went on to play Tarzan in 12 movies, becoming one of the most iconic and enduring portrayals of the character. His career as a movie star may have been unexpected, but it was ultimately a perfect fit for the man who had already achieved so much in his life as an athlete.  He was elected to play in Tarzan movies. At first, he didn’t accept, but finally, he admitted. He was invited to a Hollywood party. When he was situated in such a condition, he accepted the role and signed the contract at the party. It is the other case of infiltrating that is not related to Revolutions. Hybrid warfare is a relatively new and evolving concept, so examples of its use are still emerging. However, several instances of hybrid warfare have been observed in recent years, including:

  • Case studies regarding hybrid warfare:
  • The conflict in Ukraine: The conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists has been widely cited as an example of hybrid warfare. The conflict involves a combination of conventional military tactics, irregular or proxy forces, information and propaganda campaigns, and cyber operations.
  • The Syrian conflict: The Syrian conflict, which began in 2011, has involved a range of hybrid warfare tactics, including the use of conventional military force by the Syrian government, the use of proxy forces by various actors, the deployment of foreign military advisors and special forces, and the use of disinformation and propaganda to shape public opinion.
  • The 2014 annexation of Crimea: Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was widely viewed as an example of hybrid warfare, as it involved a combination of military force, irregular or proxy forces, information and propaganda campaigns, and cyber operations.
  • The 2016 US presidential election: The Russian government’s alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election has been described as an example of hybrid warfare, as it involved a combination of cyber operations, information and propaganda campaigns, and the use of social media to influence public opinion.
  • The ongoing conflict in Yemen: The conflict in Yemen involves a range of hybrid warfare tactics, including the use of conventional military force by various parties, the deployment of proxy forces by regional powers, and the use of information and propaganda campaigns to shape public opinion.

These examples illustrate hybrid warfare’s complex and multi-dimensional nature, which involves integrating a wide range of military and non-military strategies to achieve strategic objectives. They also highlight the need for sophisticated and comprehensive responses to hybrid threats, which must address conventional and non-conventional forms of aggression.

  1. Results and Discussion:
    • Results:

The study has identified the various tools, techniques, and strategies employed in hybrid warfare, including social media, cyber attacks, and disinformation campaigns. The study has highlighted the critical role of social-cultural sustainability in shaping the success of a velvet revolution, including the importance of shared values, norms, and institutions. The study has demonstrated how information disorder and social engineering can undermine the democratic process by sowing distrust and confusion among the public. My findings suggest that social and cultural sustainability can be challenged by using information disorder and social engineering tactics. In particular, manipulating media can undermine trust in traditional sources of information and foster the spread of misinformation, potentially leading to the fragmentation of social and cultural values. We also found that social media platforms can be a key battleground in Velvet Revolutions and Hybrid Warfare, as they provide a powerful tool for disseminating information and mobilizing support.

  • Discussion:

The discussion has emphasized the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in addressing the challenges posed by hybrid warfare, with governments, civil society, and the private sector working together to develop effective strategies for preventing and countering hybrid threats. The discussion has highlighted the importance of promoting greater media literacy and digital literacy among the general public, enabling them to critically assess and evaluate information in the age of digital media. The discussion has explored the potential implications of hybrid warfare for democratic institutions and social cohesion and how these challenges can be addressed by cultivating social-cultural sustainability. The study of social-cultural sustainability and its impact on media is a critical area of research in the context of hybrid warfare and the potential for velvet revolutions. Hybrid warfare, which involves using a wide range of military and non-military strategies to achieve strategic objectives, poses a significant threat to social and cultural sustainability and the integrity of media and information systems. One of the key tools of hybrid warfare is information disorder, which involves spreading false or misleading information to shape public opinion or sow discord. Social engineering, which involves psychological manipulation to influence behavior or attitudes, is another important tool in the hybrid warfare arsenal.

Both of these tactics can profoundly impact media and journalists’ ability to report accurately and objectively. Social and cultural sustainability is particularly critical in the context of a velvet revolution, which is a nonviolent overthrow of a government or regime. Velvet revolutions rely on broad-based public support and a shared vision of the future, which the use of information disorder and social engineering can undermine. These tactics can sow division and mistrust, eroding the social and cultural capital necessary for successful nonviolent resistance. To address these challenges, it is important to develop comprehensive strategies that address the multiple dimensions of hybrid warfare, including information operations and social engineering. This requires a multidisciplinary approach that draws on the expertise of scholars and practitioners in a range of fields, including media studies, psychology, and political science. One potential approach is to build social and cultural resilience, which involves strengthening the social and cultural bonds essential for successful nonviolent resistance. This can be achieved through a range of initiatives, including community-building activities, education and training programs, and the promotion of inclusive and diverse media narratives. Overall, studying social-cultural sustainability and its impact on media is an important area of research in the context of hybrid warfare and velvet revolutions. By developing a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics at play in these situations, we can develop more effective strategies for promoting social and cultural resilience and maintaining the integrity of media and information systems. Trust, democracy and freedom will be established. These might improve social relations and integration to gain social sustainability.

Furthermore, democracy creates a better political situation that citizens are satisfied with. Besides prevailing democracy and trust, social and cultural capital will be achieved. Social capital makes human resources and economic capital work together and create innovation in businesses; the organization network will work efficiently, and the economic situation will be enhanced in society. Based on the Doost model, economic, political, technical, and organizational networks are required to gain social capital. Soft Revolution promotes these dimensions so that social capital will be achieved. No government can be stable unless it is under sustainable governance. In other words, in sustainable governance, governments can create sustainability with strategies to change new policies or practices. Blue-Green Sustainable Services can improve the quality of life in communities. According to Prof. Doost’s model (2018), entitled: 5N.BG.7PS model, successful Blue-Green mobility technology development projects would include five networks:

  • The political networks
  • The technical network
  • The organizational networks
  • The economic networks
  • The interdisciplinary community networks


In fact, by using innovative digital infrastructure, the government can influence, change and improve education and training in digital infrastructure as well as our lives.[18-35].

Figure 6 presents the relationships among these five aspects, Blue-Green Sustainability, Quality of life, and Livability (5N.BG.7PS model):

Figure 6: 5N.BG.7PS Model (Doost, H. 2018)

 Figure 7: 9 Pillars Sustainable Governanve (9PSG) Model (Doost, H. 2017)

Sustainable governance, along with good governance, is a strategy for achieving the goals of sustainable development. Therefore, using the pillars of sustainability as a behavioral policy and dimensions of good governance such as transparency, accountability, justice and equality before the law as software and implementation approaches can be practical.[3] On the other hand, with the advancement of technology, societies have become more intelligent, and their complexity has increased. As a result, there are more expectations than governments to meet the community’s needs. In such an age, sustainability education policies need to move learning away from the traditional practices of the past and link education to the dimensions of sustainability to provide a better perspective for societies on the challenges ahead. [4] New dangers and threats require better training models and mechanisms in sustainable, innovative governance [5].

In 2017, Professor Dr. Hamid Doost Mohammadian introduced and developed a sustainable governance model, shown in Figure 7.

The cultural impact of information disorder and social engineering on media in the context of a Velvet Revolution and Hybrid Warfare can be significant. These tactics can undermine trust in traditional sources of information and create a climate of uncertainty and mistrust, potentially leading to a fragmentation of social and cultural values. This can be particularly damaging in societies already experiencing social and cultural tensions. Culture refers to a particular group or society’s shared beliefs, values, practices, customs, and behaviors. It encompasses everything from language and religion to food, music, art, and social norms. Culture is a fundamental aspect of human existence, as it shapes our identity, influences our behaviors, and connects us.

  • One potential cultural impact of information disorder and social engineering is the erosion of democratic values and institutions. These tactics can create a polarized political climate in which individuals are less likely to engage in constructive dialogue and compromise, leading to a breakdown in democratic norms and institutions. In addition, spreading misinformation can undermine trust in the electoral process and create a sense of apathy or disillusionment among voters.
  • Information disorder and social engineering can also significantly impact cultural identity and values. In particular, they can be used to manipulate narratives and shape public perception of cultural groups, potentially leading to a heightened sense of polarization and mistrust between different communities. This can be particularly damaging in societies that are already experiencing intercultural tensions.
  • The use of social media in the context of the Velvet Revolution and Hybrid Warfare can also have significant cultural impacts. Social media can provide a platform for the dissemination of diverse perspectives and the mobilization of social movements. Still, it can also amplify extremist voices and spread false information. This can create a distorted picture of cultural values and priorities, potentially leading to a further polarization of society.
  • The cultural impact of information disorder and social engineering on media in the context of a Velvet Revolution and Hybrid Warfare is complex and multifaceted. It can undermine trust in traditional sources of information, erode democratic norms and institutions, and shape public perception of cultural identity and values. Addressing these challenges will require a comprehensive approach that promotes media literacy, critical thinking, and diversity in media.

Figure 8. 7PS Model with the pillars’ priority, connections & PEACE/LOVE [Doost. H, 2017]

Social culture will be united with western’s social culture. In other words, after revolution occupants’ -opinion and culture will be altered by penetrating western believes.

Figure 9: Color Revolution and Globalization

Revolution makes sustainability. Sustainability is the best solution to maintain the world for future life, make quality of life better and improve livability in the world. Livability and quality of life are the most important dimensions concerned on life’s willingness. Sustainability is related to better quality of life. So, for non-western countries that most of them struggle with a lot of challenges such as poverty, slums, health diseases problems, unemployment, economic problems, social instability and etc.; sustainability is the best reason to participate in revolution. In addition, sustainability is one of the most important issues in recent decades and all of countries want to achieve sustainability to improve quality of life and livability in the world. Not only soft revolution creates trust, democracy, and freedom and improves social capital, cultural capital and gains sustainability; but also makes globalization. Gradually by soft revolutions, globalization will be occurred. All over the world, economy, politics, culture, education, environment or other matters have same standards and these same standards could make globalization.

The implications of these findings are significant, as they suggest that efforts to promote social and cultural sustainability must take into account the role of media and the potential impact of information disorder and social engineering. One possible strategy is to promote media literacy and critical thinking skills among the public, in order to help individuals distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information. Additionally, efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity in media can help to foster a more robust and resilient media landscape that is less susceptible to manipulation.

  1. Conclusion and future suggestions:

In conclusion, this study has highlighted the critical role of social cultural sustainability in shaping the success of a velvet revolution and the impact of information disorder and social engineering on media in facilitating hybrid warfare. The study has identified the various tools, techniques, and strategies employed in hybrid warfare and the potential implications for democratic institutions and social cohesion. In response to these challenges, future research should focus on developing comprehensive frameworks for addressing the social and cultural factors that underpin successful velvet revolutions. Additionally, policymakers and civil society organizations must be vigilant in identifying and countering information disorder and social engineering campaigns that seek to undermine democratic institutions and social cohesion. It is also important to emphasize the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in addressing the challenges posed by hybrid warfare. Governments, civil society, and the private sector must work together to develop effective strategies for preventing and countering hybrid threats. Furthermore, there is a need to promote greater media literacy and digital literacy among the general public, which will enable them to critically assess and evaluate information in the age of digital media. In conclusion, the study of social cultural sustainability and the effect of information disorder and social engineering on media in the context of velvet revolutions and hybrid warfare is an essential area of research that demands further attention. The findings of this study underscore the need for a coordinated, multi-pronged approach to addressing the challenges posed by hybrid warfare and safeguarding democratic institutions and social cohesion. Fundamentally, color revolutions are excuses to gain sustainability and pursue globalization, but most of societies after revolution in long term not only don’t gain sustainability, but also their situation is worsened because soft revolution couldn’t make all aspects of sustainability stable. The study of social cultural sustainability and the effect of information disorder and social engineering on media for a velvet revolution and hybrid warfare has generated several important results and discussions, which have been summarized below:

  • The conclusion has summarized the key findings and discussions of the study, emphasizing the need for a coordinated, multi-pronged approach to addressing the challenges posed by hybrid warfare and safeguarding democratic institutions and social cohesion.
  • The conclusion has identified several future research areas, including the development of comprehensive frameworks for addressing social and cultural factors that underpin successful velvet revolutions.
  • The conclusion has underscored the importance of promoting media and digital literacy among the general public and the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to countering hybrid threats.
  • Overall, the study of social cultural sustainability and the effect of information disorder and social engineering on media for a velvet revolution and hybrid warfare has generated important insights into the challenges and opportunities of democratic governance in the digital age.

In conclusion, this study highlights the potential impact of information disorder and social engineering on media in the context of a Velvet Revolution and Hybrid Warfare. While these challenges are significant, they can be addressed through a range of strategies aimed at promoting media literacy, critical thinking, and diversity in media. Ultimately, the promotion of social and cultural sustainability will require a multifaceted approach that takes into account the complex interplay between media, politics, and society.


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                     Authority representation as a cultural discourse

                                                                                       Dr. Amer Bitar


In this article, I analyze the representation of authority by visual artists, the interpretation of authority by the target audiences for these artists’ work, and the effect of national culture on the representation and interpretation of authority. To explore authoritarians’ use of visual art to impose disciplinary power and control the minds of others, I assess the representation of authority with reference to Geert Hofstede’s dimensions of national culture. I also draw on Foucault’s arguments that the human subject and social practices are products of historical discourses communicated through a coding system rooted in national culture. Finally, as a theoretical framework, I draw on visual culture studies and the power of the “gaze” to highlight the use of visual representative art as a powerful instrument for controlling minds and creating docile bodies.

Keywords: authority, aesthetic leadership, images, visual art, propaganda, national culture, visual genealogy, Hofstede, Foucault


In this article, I consider the expression of authority by visual artists, the interpretation of such expression by those over whom authority is exerted, and the role of national culture in the presentation and interpretation of authority. My first step is to define and explain the concepts of culture and visual art to authority as reflected in the social, political, and historical contexts in which art is produced. Authoritarians throughout history have used the visual arts to project power. The cultural context is a crucial aspect of the application of visual arts in exercising disciplinary power for the collective programming of minds (Hofstede et al., 2010).

To establish this context, I present examples of totalitarian regimes from various parts of the world during the previous century. Taken together, these examples suggest an explanation for the use of power to create docile bodies and control minds applicable to various cultural contexts. Most of the research on these issues has focused on the Western world. This paper expands the scope of the inquiry by looking at the use of visual art representing authoritarian figures in Western and non-Western countries. Thus, after discussing the key concepts of culture, visual art, authority, power, and discourse, the paper’s core is an analysis of five paintings of and for authoritarians who were particularly successful in controlling their countries and representing a range of national cultures.
Theoretical Framework


Edward Tylor (1871), a pioneer in cultural anthropology, defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”. (p.1) In the next century, Claude Lévi-Strauss defined culture more narrowly as the set of shared symbolic systems that shape human behavior and thought (Lévi-Strauss, 1971, 1996). Other scholars have offered more figurative definitions, such as Peter Brooker (2003), for whom culture is ” a complex and still open history, which in itself expresses the complexity of general human history” (p. 67). Raymond Williams (2014), on the other hand, resignedly described culture as one of the most complex words in the English language.

The meaning of culture has been difficult to pin down and has changed over time. Thus, the earlier focus on fine art and aesthetics, in particular, literature, art, and music, considered, in Matthew Arnold’s (2006) famous words, the “best which has been thought and said in the world” has given away to the notion of culture as an “active cultivation of the mind . . . a whole social order” (Williams, 1981). Modern ideas of culture are based on ‘anthropologists’ efforts to classify and decode the symbols that the members of a given society use to express group identity in media such as popular music, art, literature, and print and contexts ranging from sports, food, and transportation to relationships and kinship.

Sturken and Cartwright (2018) attributed the production of culture to complex networks of making, watching, talking, gesturing, looking, and acting through which members of a society or group negotiate meaning. In these networks of exchange, images and media texts are among the objects that actively draw the attention of audiences or viewers and encourage individuals to feel or speak in particular ways. Hall (1997) similarly viewed culture as

concerned with the production and exchange of meanings—the “giving and taking of meaning”—between the members of a society or group. Thus culture depends on its participant interpreting meaningfully what is around them and making sense of the world in broadly similar ways. (p. 2)

Hofstede et al. (2010) posed a more concise definition for culture as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others” (p. 6). They argued that culture resides in the individuals who share it, serving to shape their perceptions and thoughts about the world and actions within it as they learn and transmit it across the generations. Hofstede’s research generally has been directed at constructing a practical system for identifying and measuring cultural differences at the country level based on a large dataset of survey responses from IBM employees. This approach provides a framework for identifying cultural variation among nations. I extend it here to a comparison of the visual arts associated with authoritarian figures in five countries that differ greatly in cultural values and norms.

Visual Art

Visual art involves using various media types for artistic and expressive purposes, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and photography. The study of visual art takes into account the form, content, historical and cultural context, and interpretation of specific works. Within a society, the visual culture includes the visible artifacts the community members create and by which they are shaped (Bitar, 2020). By definition, visual representations are non-verbal and perceptible through the sense of vision. They serve to convey information, entertain, and express emotion. As a form of human expression that goes back tens of thousands of years, images have had and continue to have a strong impact on the development of the human mind. Thanks to the digital revolution and technological advances, creating and sharing visual art is now easier and more accessible to more people than ever before.

Authority, Power, and Discourse

In general, authority can be defined as the exercise of legitimate power by a person or group over another person or group. Thus, power and legitimacy are the two main components in conceptualizing authority from a social perspective. Within the context of the present study, authority is a political and juridical form of social relations. Notably, these latter terms associate authority and power with notions of masculinity and patriarchy. For Foucault, power is a form of energy that permeates every society as “the moving substrate of force relations, which by virtue of their inequality constantly engender states of power” (cited in Taylor, 2011, p. 21). Hence, every social relationship involves a power imbalance, and the exercise of power creates resistance in various forms of outputs, in particular, new knowledge and truths (Foucault, 1977). From this perspective, visual artwork depicting an authoritarian figure is a power tool.

My approach is based on the insight that any version of reality is a socially constructed discourse articulated through systems of symbols, in this case, images, though I acknowledge that “discourse” can have various connotations regarding spoken and written language (Bitar, 2020; Hardy et al., 2000). So, to be more specific, the discursive nature of reality in a given society is reflected in the nature of the subject, which may be an active or passive agent. Foucault conceived of the subject as active, with the capacity both to exert and to receive influence, whereas Taylor (2011) conceived of it as passive, consisting of a “substance” that is affected by other agents or forces but cannot have an impact on them. My conception is closer to that of Foucault (1972), specifically, that individuals remain free and active agents in their responses to media use by authoritarians, however great the capacity of the latter to control minds. Moreover, that discourse remains embedded in the historical context.

Discourse is central to producing, disseminating, and preserving societal knowledge through power relations. Foucault (2009) argued that discourse shapes individuals’ perception of the world and their place within it, encompassing not just language but also the practices, institutions, and technologies that shape the understanding of a topic and responses to it by the members of society, influencing the production and dissemination of knowledge and cultural values. Power relations play a crucial role in shaping discourse, for “Power is a relationship, it is not a thing” (p. 11).

Since the primary goal of my research is to understand the rationale behind the deployment of symbols of power and their interpretation by individuals in accordance with their national cultures, I use the visual genealogy method (Schroeder & Zwick, 2004). Culture plays a central role in mediating the understanding of symbols of power, in that behaviors, attitudes, rituals, and beliefs, and all cultural and social interactions, exist within a complicated social framework made up of individuals who share a common understanding and application of a symbolic system as a result of mind-programming (Bitar, 2020; St. Clair, 1982). Observing and interpreting the various levels of culture through the representation of authority and interactions with these visual art tools allows for decoding the frames of meanings and perspectives on the reality of the social context in which the art is embedded.

The focus of this paper is on the visual representations of authority used by 20th-century totalitarian figures to control the populations that they ruled in five countries. I explore and offer answers to three related questions:

  • How do totalitarian regimes represent authority?
  • What is the effect of national culture on the construction and representation of images by authoritarian figures?
  • What is the effect of national culture on ‘viewers’ perceptions and interpretations of visual representations of authority?

I use Foucault’s analytical framework of genealogy from a historical perspective, treating each visual work I discuss as a visual discourse. The following discussion of genealogy in relation to images serves to clarify my use of this framework.

Genealogy and Images

The place of genealogy in modern philosophy traces back to Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, which critiqued traditional moral values and framed them as historical and cultural phenomena. For Nietzsche (1913), genealogy served as a method to trace and deconstruct the historical development of such moral concepts as good and evil and show their use to maintain power relations in social systems. The method has to be used to examine the roles of values and ideas in historical events and trace the origins of specific discourses and the power relations that produced them. Foucault (2009) developed the concept of genealogy, defining its practitioner as “a diagnostician who examines the relations between power, knowledge and the body in modern society” (p.10), highlighting the fact that institutions and ideas are products of the specific relations between knowledge and power. Similarly, in describing his method, Kritzman (1988) explained, “I set out from a problem expressed in the terms current today and I try to work out its genealogy. Genealogy means that I begin my analysis from a question posed in the present” (p. 262).

Schroeder and Zwick (2004) contributed to the study of genealogy by coining the term “visual genealogy,” defined as “an excavation of representational practices, perceptual processes, and cultural codes”(p. 29). Guthey and Jackson (2008) contributed to the concept a practical framework for the use of visual genealogy to analyze images on three levels that they labeled frame, gaze, and period eye. “Frame” refers to that which falls within the edges of a visual work, in other words, the content that viewers see. “Gaze” refers to viewers’ deep consideration of an image and effort to construct meaning from it in a kind of dialogue with it, in which process power plays a key role concerning their social and cultural backgrounds and emotions. The dialogue is between an active subject, the viewer, and the passive object, the painting (Bitar, 2020). “Period eye” involves analyzing a work of visual art in its historical, cultural, and social context and thus represents the influence that the viewer receives from viewing it at a certain point in time (Baxandall, 1988; Guthey & Jackson, 2008).

The visual genealogy framework I used to analyze the five authoritarian paintings is the product of these ‘thinkers’ and ‘scholars’ theorization of the interactions between visual art and its audiences.


The five 20th-century authoritarians I selected for the study had a tremendous impact on the people they ruled and the wider world. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, and Gamal Abdel Nasser represent a range of countries and cultures, some Western and some not. The sample is not large, but I suggest it is sufficient to provide the basis for a meaningful assessment of the role of national culture in shaping the reception of authoritarian imagery. The paintings analyzed here were official propaganda designed to persuade their audiences of the ‘leaders’ effectiveness. Each creates a kind of heroic emotional narrative that encourages viewers to embrace an authoritarian political cause (Rose, 2012).


Figure 1 represents an official portrait of Adolf Hitler painted in 1937 by Heinrich Knirr (1862-1944), an Austrian-born German artist known for landscapes, still lifes, and portraits and the only artist known to have painted Hitler from life. His work depicts the Führer[1] in a single-breasted brown jacket, black trousers, white shirt, and khaki-colored tie. The black Nazi cross badge hangs from his left pocket, and a round black Nazi insignia on the standard red and white NSDAP[2] band encircles his left arm. He leans on a walking stick with his right hand without bending his body while his left-hand rests on his hip. His stance shows him confident and ready to act, and his piercing eyes gaze proudly and directly into the eyes of viewers of the painting. The background landscape shows a cloudy grey sky over a forest, hill, and river suggestive of the Bavarian Alps with echoes of Renaissance art.

The obvious and dominant iconography of Hitler’s leadership in this visual work is typical of the formal state portraits of authoritarians. The impression is of a mythical hero who has come from the past to save the nation. The shaping of Hitler’s image was in large part the work of Josef Goebbels, his minister of propaganda, who proved effective in constructing such images that depict the dictator as a kind of messiah figure with the power to unite and control the masses through a combination nationalistic, political, and religious rhetoric.

Figure 1. Heinrich Knirr, Portrait of Adolf Hitler, 1937, oil on canvas (127.2 x 93.5 cm). Copyright Imperial War Museum, London.

Figure 2 shows The Great Oath, painted in 1949 by Fyodor Reshetnikov (1906-1988), a prominent Soviet artist and a leading exponent of the socialist realism art movement. The work is one of the earliest representations of Joseph Stalin in visual art. It depicts him during the Second Soviet Congress held at the Bolshoi Theatre in January 1924, when the Soviet leader delivered a speech eulogizing Lenin that gives the painting work name. The painter emphasizes Stalin’s status in the Soviet hierarchy and his role as Lenin’s heir, the new vozhd.[3] Stalin wears a simple collared smock, his left hand positioned on his heart and his right on some papers and a book from beneath which the red Soviet flag drapes down from the right, showing him to be the protector of the flag and communist doctrine. He stands against the majestic background of the Bolshoi Theater like a figure from a historical novel.

As he delivers his speech, Stalin gazes out over his audience, his enormous presence dwarfing the mass of onlookers, who pay rapt attention to him as if to a hero from Russian mythology. The triumphant red and gold colors against the backdrop of the crowd convey ‘Stalin’s uniqueness and monumental greatness. His towering figure is bathed in golden shafts of light from the frame as if from the heavens illuminating his vigorous face. Notably, he wears no symbols that are prominent in ‘Knirr’s painting of Hitler.

Figure 2. Fyodor Pavlovich Reshetnikov, The Great Oath, 1949, oil on canvas (235 x 175 cm). Copyright State Russian Museum.

Figure 3 shows a 1934 painting by Arthur Fischer (1872-1948)[4] of Benito Mussolini, the leader of the National Fascist Party and a leading figure in the creation of fascism. The half-length portrait depicts the Italian leader in a khaki military uniform featuring a wide, black leather belt and wearing a black fez-like hat with the insignia of a golden eagle representing the National Fascist Party. Mussolini appears strong and bold, with his piercing eyes staring directly at the viewer and his head bent back in a proud and defiant look. The uniform evokes the image of an ancient Roman leader, in contemporary terms, Il Duce,[5] as well as symbolizing the fascist ideals of force, power, and authority. In addition, the khaki-colored uniform is suggestive of colonial soldiers and, hence, the fascist regime’s expansionist ambitions.

Figure 3. Arthur Fischer, Portrait of Benito Mussolini, 1934, oil on canvas (81.9 x 61.5 cm). Copyright Imperial War Museum.

Figure 4 is a 1972 painting by Wu Yunhua (b. 1944) of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong inspecting the Wushun Opencut Coal Mine[6] in February 1958. This work was part of a propaganda campaign called the Great Leap Forward, intended to spur rapid growth in China’s industrial and agricultural productivity. In the painting, Mao wears the distinctive khaki-colored tunic suit named for him and serves as a symbol of proletarian unity topped by a long coat of the same color. His right hand on his hip expresses his confidence in his plans and readiness for action while he holds a cigarette in his left, and a content smile communicates a pleasant mood.

The painting expresses Mao’s pivotal position as the leader. Four smiling figures surround him in the foreground. The two closest to him are clad in military uniforms, the one on his left holding a furled red flag and wearing a red armband and the one on his right looking at him as if awaiting orders. Slightly behind them, a woman and a man in ‘miners’ garb gaze proudly at Mao. Finally, a mass of people, smiling in the background on the left, proceed toward the five central figures carrying a red flag. At the same time, on the right, in the distance, cranes and other heavy equipment dwarf other groups of workers receding into the horizon.

Figure 4. Wu Yunhua, Mao Inspects Wushun Opencut Coal Mine, 1972, oil on canvas
(425 x 185cm). Private collection.

Figure 5 is a 1957 painting by Hamed Ewais (1919-2011) titled Al Zaim w Ta’mim Al Canal (“the leader and the nationalization of the canal”)[7] depicting Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser, as Al Zaim,[8] occupies the center of the painting dressed in a Western-style navy-blue striped double-breasted suit with a white shirt and a red and burnt orange striped tie. He raises his left hand as he addresses a mass of people who appear much smaller than him and are represented only by partial views of their faces. At the top right, the stern of a cargo ship on blue water is visible, representing the Suez Canal. Nasser appears charismatic and vigorous, his disproportionate size and position in the painting indicating his authority over the mass of smaller figures, who, small and submissive, gaze up at him as if he were a combination of matinee idol and protective patriarch.

Figure 5. Hamed Ewais, Al Zaim w Ta’mim Al Canal, 1957, oil on canvas (109.5 x 134.5 cm). Private collection.

In technical terms, the style of all five examples of visual art blends idealism and realism. As it was deployed in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and Nasser’s Egypt, this blend was well-suited to the portrayal of the autocratic leaders as a protector working to revive his nation. It is also consistent with the literal terms used to describe most of these men (führer, duce, vozhd, zaim). In Mussolini’s case, the imagery harkens back to the glories of the Roman Empire. In communist Russia and China, art reinforces socialist values and associates the messianic leader with the betterment of the lives of the working class. Of course, however enthusiastic the artists were about the leaders they depicted, their work was carried out according to the dictates of the regimes they served and subject to censorship, as is the case for artists in all totalitarian countries.


I mentioned earlier the power of images to initiate dialogue with viewers and the importance of their historical and social contexts for decoding them and assessing their impact on their target audiences. The paintings of Hitler and Mussolini shown in Figures 1 and 3 share the context of the European fascist movement of the first half of the 20th century, glorifying authoritarian regimes led by a single party and charismatic leader with aggressive expansionist policies who achieved and maintained power through the suppression of political opponents and espousing and racist and nationalist ideologies promoted through state-controlled media. Until World War II ended their power, these regimes maintained their grip by promoting cults of personality. From a stylistic standpoint, both regimes condemned modern art as a danger to traditional values and persecuted modernist artists and intellectuals. In Nazi Germany, the target was entartete Kunst, “degenerate art”, the creators and advocates of which were banished, imprisoned, or executed and their works seized and destroyed.

The images of Stalin, Mao, and Nasser shown in Figures 2, 4, and 5 were painted after World War II and reflect that conflict’s dramatic historical and social impact on the rest of the century. These works were part of government propaganda campaigns that used social realist art to condemn the West and capitalism as imperialistic and promote the transformative potential of communist and socialist values. Unlike the lone figures of the European dictators, these images include representations of ordinary people and show concern about improving their lives through political and social change. To be sure, the leaders tower over their followers, suggesting their power both to protect and to control, for the objective of the art was to rally support for these leaders and their regimes. Thus, the ordinary people surround the leader with rapt attention as he makes a gesture (though only Nasser is shown in the act of speaking). These works of visual art create the impression that the populations ruled by these authoritarians fully support them and are dedicated to their nation-building vision. Put less generously, the upward gaze in each case signals loyalty and submissiveness to the charismatic leader.

Overall, these five works of visual art, despite their distinct historical and social contexts, share five key characteristics. In the first place, their purpose is to communicate and normalize the leader’s legitimacy to viewers, which some of the paintings do by referencing a historical discourse rooted in a quasi-mythical past and others by promoting ideological goals and reinforcing dogmas (Foucault, 1977, 1979). Second, they emphasize the power that the leaders claim by making them the focus of the ‘viewers’ attention and the charismatic nature of their absolute authority; notably, the post-war works also include symbols—the theater, machinery, a ship—that point to the ‘leaders’ practical competence. Third, the artists pay particular attention to the ‘leaders’ gazes, which are directed either toward the external viewers (Figures 1 and 3) or toward the other figures represented in the painting (Figures 2, 4, and 5) to showcase their humanity as well as their dominance. Fourth, each leader is shown in uniform, further reinforcing their ability to control others, enforce unity, and deliver discipline. Lastly, each image projects masculinity, notions of gender being central to the exercise of power, which, in human history, seems only rarely to have been the prerogative of female leaders. The male gaze projects a sense of paternal surveillance and normalizes the authoritarian impulse by rooting it in power exercised by the father in the traditional gendered household. For the transformation of the leader from a mere mortal to a divine superman, each of these artworks seems to assume the appropriate vessel is the male body.

The Period Eye

Twentieth-century totalitarian regimes, including those based on fascism and socialism, followed a long tradition of utilizing art as a means of control when rendering populations submissive and, to return to Foucault’s phrase, creating docile bodies. The differing historical, social, and political contexts, though, shaped the particular forms that these propaganda efforts took. In Germany and Italy, with their links to Europe’s imperial and colonial past, the leaders claimed to revive traditional values through, among other things, condemning modern art and adapting Greek and Roman symbols and found receptive audiences in populations that had lost out in the new order that emerged after World War I. In Russia, China, and Egypt, on the other hand, a focus on constructing a new nation and national identity made the regimes more receptive to modernism, at least in the form of industrialism, even as they rejected Western domination of the order that emerged after World War II. As a result, the construction of meaning and use of symbols in art and its interpretation by the public took a distinct form in these post-war nations. However, the universal authoritarian objective remained of controlling minds.

Leadership as a Cultural Discourse

It is no surprise that the national culture profoundly impacts the nature of leadership in many, if not all, countries. Therefore, to conclude my analysis, I considered the variation in the deployment of symbols of leadership symbols across the cultural contexts represented by the five paintings using as a framework the six cultural dimensions distinguished by Hofstede et al. (2010) and the seven cultural mental images identified by Wursten (2019). Through this analysis, I identified four distinct cultural images represented in the paintings, specifically, the depiction of 1) Germany as a well-oiled machine, 2) Italy as a solar system, 3) Egypt and Russia as a pyramid, and 4) China as a family.

  • Well-oiled machine. The defining traits of a well-oiled machine culture include limited acceptance of hierarchy, a strong sense of individualism, a strongly masculine orientation, and a strong tendency to avoid uncertainty. Figure 1 illustrates many of these traits through the symbols associated with the uniform, which represents rules and discipline and a preference for strong uncertainty avoidance; insignias, which represent progress and recognition as well as masculinity; and other attire that suggests equality and a low power distance. Conversely, the absence of symbols representing individualism reflects the incompatibility of National Socialism with the traditional German sense of individualism, a fact that may have contributed to the relatively short lifespan of the Third Reich.
  • Solar system. The defining traits of a solar system culture include high power distance, a strong sense of individualism, and a strong uncertainty avoidance. These traits are evident in Figure 3, particularly the depiction of Mussolini in military gear, which symbolizes hierarchy and high power distance and the prioritization of discipline and strong uncertainty avoidance.
  • The defining traits of pyramid cultures, exemplified here by Egypt and Russia, are collectivism, high power distance, and, once more, a strong tendency to uncertainty avoidance. Thus, as discussed in Figures 2 and 5, the masses throng around their towering leaders, looking up at them reverently in a manner that well symbolizes a high power distance. Also, in these visual artworks, the government’s dominant practical role in managing the economic system is represented by the association of the leader with modern industry (i.e., shipping in Egypt) or with a pliant assembly of powerful subordinates (i.e., the admiring Russian dignitaries and military men at the Bolshoi). Finally, the leader who protects his loyal and adoring subjects is a conceptualization of political power common in highly collective societies.
  • The defining characteristics of family cultures are collectivism, high power distance, and low uncertainty avoidance. Thus, in Figure 5, the loyal followers surrounding Mao gaze at him with childlike wonder as if at a beneficent father. The conceptualization of society as a family or household is likewise a common feature of collective societies. In this case, Mao is atop the hierarchy, inspecting the work of his beaming followers. His smiles and postures reinforce the sense that an enormous power distance separates the leader from the masses, even in the socialist ‘workers’ paradise. The figures’ relaxed and contented looks are also suggestive of the rewards of low uncertainty avoidance.

Accordingly, to the extent that leadership is a cultural discourse, it is a social phenomenon. As such, leadership is shaped by culture and the historical and social context in which it operates. Understanding leadership in these terms, I hope to have shown, helps to explain why leadership styles and approaches, despite their similarities, vary significantly across cultures along with the nature of their visual communication.


Whatever their merit as art, the five paintings discussed here served to construct, reinforce, and maintain the authority exercised by five especially powerful leaders of the 20th century. These objects were directed at the ‘leaders’ subjects in order to control their minds through exposure to an idealized representation of the power of the gaze. In creating these tools of power and means of communicating ideology, the painters did not seek, at least not primarily, to create aesthetically pleasing experiences for the target audiences who would view their work. From this perspective, Groys (1992) indeed asked the key question regarding the images created by professional artists for the purpose of controlling thought on a large scale: “Are we really dealing with art here?” (p. 7). The answer, in part, is that these artists worked within an aesthetic context that countless repressive regimes have found effective in their efforts to achieve hegemony and render the bodies of those they rule docile.


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[1] Führer, a German word meaning “leader” or “guide,” is a political title Hitler used (officially, der Führer und Reichskanzler, “the Leader and Chancellor of the Reich”).

[2] NSDAP is the acronym for Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

[3] Vozhd, a Russian word meaning “leader” and used exclusively of Communist Party rulers, was Lenin’s and Stalin’s title, sometimes expanded to “Vozhd of the proletariat.”

[4] Fischer, a German portrait painter, studied in Paris, Rome, and Dresden and served as court portrait painter for Kaiser Wilhelm II.

[5] Duce, the Italian word for “leader,” was the political title of National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini.

[6] Wu’s work appears in the collections of the National Museum of Art in Beijing.

[7] Ewais was among the founders of Egyptian social realism and a leading figure in Egyptian revolutionary art generally.

[8] (Al) Zaim is an Arabic word meaning leader or chief that served as a political title for Nasser and, later, Hosni Mubarak.