In the future, will wars be fought with non-conventional means? Will engines designed for bringing people together and opening lines of communication be used for destruction instead? Some might say that they already are – all we need to do now is to militarize them. Like this.
“Sir, we’ve got enemy movement, possibly up to six units.” The specialist turned from his screen to glance over at his commander, Capt. Eric Steele, standing cross-armed in the center of the room.
“Roger that, go ahead and deploy a screen from 1-5 SMR,” growled Capt. Steele. Spec. Green typed out a message that was sent flying over the net to order the scouts from 1st Battalion (Twitter), 5th Social Media Regiment (Snark-Enabled) to establish a screen in order to harass the probing tweets of the enemy.
“Scouts out,” reported Spec. Green. “They’ve taken up a position just ahead of the forward line of our own tweets.” The tactical operations center (TOC) was awash in the cool blue lights of the banks of computer monitors that provided mission command for Capt. Steele.
“I’ve got gifs incoming!” screamed Spec. Loyd from the far side of the TOC.
“Gifs incoming!” echoed the surrounding enlisted soldiers.
“I’ve got gif fire support on the line!” shouted Lieut. Garcia, wielding a tablet.
“Get that counterbattery going!” barked Capt. Steele.
“Fire mission, fifty gifs, high resolution, target: @rando23, fire for effect, over!” yelled Lieut. Garcia into her tablet’s voice transcription service. The order was received in another room by the fire direction center of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 5th Meme Regiment (Gif Enabled). Gifs rained down on the enemy, silencing their fire support.
“Sir, scouts are reporting enemy movement, looks like a possible tweetstorm,” said Sgt. Hernandez. “Gotta run it by the S-2, but that would confirm the enemy’s most dangerous course of action.”
“Get confirmation on that sighting,” replied Capt. Steele, “But get the quick reaction force spun up. If that really is a tweetstorm we’re going to need some heavy hitters in here. Last time we got hit with a tweetstorm we lost visibility and were flanked by a lousy Twitter poll. That cost us dearly. Not going to happen on my watch.”
He turned grimly away and began plotting his counterattack while Sfc. Irish sent a warning order to the QRF of 4th Battalion (Heavy), 2nd Twitter Brigade (Moments). A moment later, the intercom buzzed; Capt. Steele keyed his built in head-mic.
“Eric, it’s Jeff,” came the voice over the line. “I hear you’ve got a tweetstorm sighted?” It was the battalion S-2 intelligence officer, Capt. Jeff Hains. The two men had served together through the Dank Meme Wars as well as the Instagram Insurrection. They knew each other well.
“Yeah, man, looks like we’ve been able to get intel from the scouts that the enemy is prepping a tweetstorm,” said Steele.
“Threaded or unthreaded?” replied Hains.
“Unknown at this time, but I hope to god that it’s unthreaded,” said Steele.
“Careful what you wish for, bro,” said Hains. “Sometimes the chaos of an unthreaded tweetstorm can really throw us a curveball. Keep an eye out for tweet numbering as well; priority intelligence requirements haven’t changed.”
“Roger that,” replied Steele. “Give me a holler if you get more info. And see if you can gin up some air support.”
“Hell, man, no one’s heard from our attack aviation for days,” said Hains. “Last I heard, they were accompanying the 2nd Battalion (Instagram), SMR in a flanking maneuver, but that they got embedded in the 3rd Facebook Squadron and then engaged by multiple YouTube Comments Sections.” Steele’s face fell.
“Guess we’ll never see them again,” he muttered. “Damn waste of fine Snaps.”
Suddenly the lights in the TOC began to flash red and a klaxon blared.
“Dammit, we’ve got dank memes hitting our cav scouts!” yelled Spc. Green. “We can’t hold against these numbers!”
“Get that QRF online!” barked Steele.
“4th Battalion won’t be booted up for another two minutes,” replied Sfc. Irish, shaking his head. “By that time our forward line of tweets will be overrun and we’ll have to fall back to our prepared Tumblr positions.”
“My god, it’s going to be another MySpace, isn’t it, sir?” gasped Spc. Loyd, eyes wide with fright.
“Get a grip, Soldier!” exclaimed Sgt. Hernandez. “I’ve been with Capt. Steele in worse situations than this. If any man can get us out of this, it’s him.”
“I was with him at Reddit Ridge,” said Staff Sgt. Rose, nodding her head. “Commenters right and left, but he just calmly held his ground and then – damn – you should’ve seen it. He’d managed to get the full 1st Marine Attack Battalion (Signal) right around the enemy flank, and they just came right out of nowhere and blitzed through the Redditors. Nothing left of them. It was insane.”
“We’re gonna need some of that luck right now,” said Lieut. Crawford. “I’ve sighted two threaded tweetstorms as a fixing force and a Facebook comments section as the exploitation force.”
“We should be able to hold off just one comments section,” said Lieut. Garcia.
“Not this one,” muttered Lieut. Crawford, head in hands. “It’s about the importance of vaccinating your kids and Jenny McCarthy just weighed in.”
“My god,” breathed Lieut. Garcia.
Silence descended on the TOC. All eyes turned to Capt. Steele.
“Broken arrow,” he muttered. The words – though silent – echoed off the monitors and keyboards. He drew himself up taller, as if his words gave him conviction. The monitors flickered, causing his Keyboard Action Badge to glow with a reddish light.
“Broken damn arrow,” he said again, his voice rising. “If it’s a fight they want, I’m calling in everything.” His glaring eyes took in the scene – tweets retrograding past Moments that were barely holding their fighting positions, as gifs flew overhead and plummeted into dank memes, while two tweetstorms surged and lunged. But lumbering closer was the Facebook Comments section, doubling, tripling, and quadrupling in size before their very eyes, as links, images, and YouTube clips were added. It was a behemoth never before seen in the annals of the Social Media Wars.
Capt. Steele eyed it with a thoughtful malevolence. He keyed his mic.
“Break, break, break, clear the net. This is Hashtag 6, requesting all available units key in on my location, broken arrow, I say again, broken arrow. Priority fires on target reference points 1, 2, and 3, sustained fire requested on all enemy elements, bring it in danger close, Hashtag 6 out.”
Within seconds, the screens were flurry of activity as friendly forces scrambled to bolster the line. Hashtags piled up as servers scrambled to clear the avenues of approach and deconflict their netspace.
“We’ve got Snapchat squadrons stacking up above us in seven layers,” said Lieut. Garcia in an awed voice. “I’ve never directed this kind of firepower.”
“Hashtag 6, this is 3rd Pinterest Wing, we’ve got your coordinates and are coming in for Pin run over your position, get low now,” crackled the intercom.
“Oh my god, we’re in it now,” breathed Spc. Green.
“Hashtag 6, this is Rear Admiral Blessom, 5th Fleet, on the USS LinkedIn,” the intercom crackled again. “I’m about to fire all tubes of the fleet’s Likes, as well as sending up a sortie of every single Recommendation and Endorsement from the LinkedIn. Stand by.”
“Get small everyone, this is about to get loud!” yelled Capt. Steele.
“They’re still coming, sir!” shouted Lieut. Crawford. “Our lines literally cannot even with this assault!”
“I’ve got enemy in the wires!” shouted Spec. Loyd. “I’ve lost control of my station, my mouse is down! ZOMG!”
“I don’t think even the Marines can save us from this, sir,” said Staff Sgt. Rose. She extended her hand, and they shook. “It’s been a privilege, sir. We’ll go down fighting.” She saluted. “We Win the Internet, Sir.”
“YOLO to victory,” replied Capt. Steele, returning her salute. They turned to face the screens, tablets in hand, furiously typing away.
“Sir, you hear that?” shouted Lieut. Garcia above the fray of clattering keypads. “Something big is coming in!”
Capt. Steele paused. Then he smiled. He knew that sound. As if on cue, his headset came to life.
“Hashtag 6, this is Do the Right Thing 6, I’m moving onto your position with a full payload.”
“Holy snark, it’s Google,” gasped Sfc. Irish. “I never thought we’d get this kind of support.”
Screens flickered and flashed, sparks hopping from the towers. Suddenly everything went dark.
After what seemed like an eternity, the TOC came to life again, screens – now devoid of enemy movement – casting their calm glow over the weary faces of the soldiers.
“Yasssssssss,” breathed Lieut. Crawford, collapsing into his seat in exhaustion.
Capt. Steele allowed himself a brief smile. “This,” he murmured. “So much this.”
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About the Author: Angry Staff Officer is an Army engineer officer who is adrift in a sea of doctrine and staff operations and uses writing as a means to retain his sanity. He also collaborates on a podcast with Adin Dobkin entitled War Stories, which examines key moments in the history of warfare.