Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Digital warfare, Hagel, and ISIS. Against mercurial malignancy.

At the risk of making an ill-conceived claim, the resignation of the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on 24 November is one in what will be a long line of fails for the US in its war against ISIS. No defense administrator, or any "real world" bureaucrat for that matter, can manage a traditional military and its institutions against the swarming intensity of ISIS. 

More distressingly, the massive militarization of the first world liberal west cannot contain the virtual beast that feeds ISIS. (More of the militarization boondoggle later).      

The clue to the mercurial malignancy of ISIS and the inability of the world's hegemon to know how to react, was buried in comments from the Press Conference about Hagel's departure. Here is the comment that caught my eye from the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest.
“The priorities of the department, or at least of the new secretary, have changed given
changes in the international community”...  “It doesn’t mean that Secretary Hagel hasn’t done an excellent job of managing these crises as they have cropped up but it does mean that as we consider the remaining two years of the president’s time in office that another secretary might be better suited to meet those challenges.” (Italics added) report - source
"Cropping up" happens because the ISIS organization practices an as-yet-unknown-disorder to which the hegemon can only respond with certain force. This is the true swarm. Its emergence should be a lesson in stark reality, a head-on fail of the often vacuous outputs of researchers who have championed the Internet as an uncontrolled communication device. Unregulated is where this got us.

To all the libertarians, where are you now?

In the ISIS context, the net has failed because it has facilitated a system of anti-liberal, unprogressive, regressive political action.

At a talk to colleagues at Boston College's Media Research and Action Project, I referred to this as a negative social movement. 

Another negative social movement could include the hyper-mobilized US military-industrial complex, which is sucking much needed capital and expertise out of society and democratic social programs, in favor of more traditional military hardware and management. (More work needs to be done on the negative social movement concept).

The wonderful, bold and truthful Andrew Bacevich wrote this week that KBR, the Halliburton offshoot had won contracts for its action in Iraq between 2003-2011 worth $39.5 billion. Bacevich blog Private warfare marks the realization of President Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower final speech (From 7'45" to hear the critique of the emerging complex and its threat to the US way of democracy. The entire speech is worth a listen.) 

Nothing in the "traditional" configuration of the military-industrial complex is capable of addressing the Internet+ISIS.

What we don't need is a new Secretary for Defense. What we need is a new way of thinking. Without it the fails will become a mountain of despair.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Public criticism of Rupert Murdoch in Australia by Clive Palmer

Outside Australia, few people know of the Palmer United Party (PUP and its leader Clive Palmer. He is a new politician who formed his party after deciding that the conservative parties in Australia - of which he had been a life-long member - were either corrupt, inept, misguided, or all three.

This week, Clive Palmer unwound some of his feelings about Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation in a news conference. The video, released by The Guardian shines a powerful light on News. Clive Palmer on Rupert Murdoch

The video also offers some instruction on how Australian journalism works - against the etiquette of journalists elsewhere - with one (maybe two) journalists asking question after question, interrupting Palmer and making accusations in the form of questions. Palmer accuses them of being News Corporation stooges. Call it the robust Australian journalistic style, barely controlled and just like Australian Rules football.

Palmer pushes back and in doing so makes deep criticism of News - especially in Australia. For these views to be public are unique. For those of us in media studies in the critical community, Palmer's criticism is welcome.

Background:  Palmer is a House of Representatives member from Queensland. Sometimes referred to as "The Deep North," for the way its politics mirror some US politics from "The Deep South." Palmer seems a curious mixture of populist appeal with hyper-democratic instincts. For example, after 14,000 public servants were made redundant by the conservative Queensland State Government a couple of years ago, Palmer set up a fund to help support those who could not find work.

The "workforce reduction" in Queensland by his former colleagues in the conservative movement, was the point at which Palmer left the party and formed his own... a course of action open only to people like Palmer, who are self-made mining magnates with money to spend on pet projects.

It is easy to forget that the Australian Labor Party started in Longreach, Queensland. It began as the result of a strike by sheep shearers in 19890 who formed the Trade Union Movement. It seems that Palmer is tapping into the traditions of organized blue collar worker sentiment. Unlike other conservatives who use social issues to attract blue collar voters, Palmer has a broad approach to working people, including concern about their economic welfare. He seems very Australian, as the video indicates, with his comments about Rupert Murdoch being American yet running his Australian newspapers.