Harry Henderson (hrh) Mon 29 Oct 01 17:21
Interesting premise. Of course right-wing demagogues use "rednecks." Left-wing ones use radical college students. Ethnic demagogues use the more marginalized and radicalized members of their communities. The idea of marginal people manipulated for political ends could be explored in fiction of course. Maybe it has. Anyone know? It could provide some insight into the dynamics of extremist or terrorist groups. Alas I've never written fiction and the few times I tried it in school weren't very promising. I think it takes a different set of muscles.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 29 Oct 01 17:48
I like that reading a fiction writer and a nonfiction writer in proximity inspires visions of hybrid art, even though the artists who inspired the idea are not likely to write the imaginary book. It's one of the ways the WELL tends to boost synchronicity and creativity. Harry, what do you make of the vague information of heightened threat? Can this help a civilian population, or is it mainly so we know the government does have intelligence sources? Is it standard practice in countries with endemic terrorism? http://www.salon.com/news/wire/2001/10/29/warning/index.html
Harry Henderson (hrh) Mon 29 Oct 01 18:13
I don't know if it's "standard practice." I suppose it heightens generalized awareness in the short term. However if you do it more than a few times you get the "cry wolf" effect, plus you wear down the public safety forces since a condition of heightened alert and increased adrenaline can only be maintained for so long. Since we have no way to know how they judge a threat to be "credible" we don't know whether they simply have the gain on the "detector" turned up too high. Certainly plenty of warnings or alerts of all kinds were coming in before 9/11 and have continued to come in. The difference seems to be that the threshold for acting on them is now much lower. There's also the old military maxim that "he who defends everything defends nothing." This means that if you try to guard against all threats, you spread you resources so thinly that an enemy can easily overwhelm a particular target. Naturally the cynical take is that bureaucrats and politicians would rather risk a mild reproof for "crying wolf" than face charges that they hadn't warned about what turned out to be a successful attack. I guess my bottom line take is I don't think these content- free warnings are very useful, and they may be counterproductive.
John M. Ford (johnmford) Mon 29 Oct 01 18:22
>>The idea of marginal people manipulated for political ends could be >>explored in fiction of course. Maybe it has. Anyone know? It could >>provide some insight into the dynamics of extremist or terrorist >>groups. It's been done. Richard Condon's THE WHISPER OF THE AXE comes to mind. Not first-rate Condon (as, say, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE), but an interesting book.
Ross Alan Stapleton-Gray (amicus) Mon 29 Oct 01 21:00
> marginal people manipulated for political ends this was the whole of Clinton's second term; I can't imagine we would have called Monica Lewinsky or Linda Tripp central to anything, before all that mess began to bubble out of the politcal pot...
Fuzzy Logic (phred) Wed 31 Oct 01 19:58
I was a little unclear in my last question. I tend to think of CNN as an amplifier for all kinds of interests. Normally, it amplifies those of its own kind, namely large multinational corporations. It's the news we expect because it's the news we get because it's the news we expect, and so on. (I have noticed a curious increase in the number of Oxbridgian accents since Sept. 11 on CNN, by the way.) But it also functions to amplify other agendas, including those of terrorists. In that sense, I'm wondering whether the truly horrific attack of Sept. 11 won't have a series of echoing repercussions, starting probably with the anthrax letters, which have the earmarks of domestic hate groups. There are a lot of people out there who have their little plans, and the attention of the world offers an unparalleled opportunity to try things out. Perhaps, again, even at this startling moment, the wonder is not that the anthrax letters happened but that so little else seems to be happening.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 31 Oct 01 21:30
Yeah. All news amplifies crisis. Feeds on crisis.
Harry Henderson (hrh) Wed 31 Oct 01 23:20
I agree with phred that it seems strange. Given how high the gain on the media microphone is turned, any nut or marginal ideologue or grudge case might be tempted to do something - on the other hand, maybe the heightened security is intimidating some of them.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 1 Nov 01 10:31
Harry, over the last few days I've seen multiple references to the idea that terrorism is communication, but the US has not realized it is in a comunications battle, a global conversation to win and keep the hearts of allies, resitance on the streets of the Islamic world, and the support of its own citizens. A few days ago there was an excellent Salon piece on this, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2001/10/31/civilian_casualties/index.html The article shows some of the ways in which the US is working to not hurt civilians, and how that is not seen because the US has failed to mount a serious propaganda war. This morning the San Francisco Chronicle and CBS radio both covered the need for better information in this effort. Of course, crude lies are not going to be as effective as they were in centuries past, since fact-checking is different now. And many who support the idea of defeating the Taliban have strong reservations about some of the actions taken. For example, the use of cluster bombs, the same color as the food packets we drop, looking like a soda can, 5% unexploded and lying in wait like a little bright yellow mine. Just to name one military approach with very bad "information" components, whether or not it can take out a convoy of trucks. I believe that in the age of terror, it is not just what the US military says which is "propaganda" -- it is also the actions taken, especially the ones which are etched into the memories of those who are not sworn enemies, but are on the fence, disliking some of America's past actions, and watching to see who the good guy is in this. We have to figure out how a self-proclaimed super-power can take effective action without having each move send the "bully" or "just-as-murderous" message unintentionally. Of course we are not going to win everyone over, but we need a general consensus if we are to actually defeat or greatly dampen global terrorism, and our actions are information, as theirs are. Could we be less sophisticated than Bin Laden in this arena? I wonder, Harry, what is the expert thought on ALL military action as having a communication component? Is this something strategists understand?
Harry Henderson (hrh) Thu 1 Nov 01 12:46
I think you've raised a very important consideration, Gail. Part of the problem is that while there are academic experts on culture and religion there isn't enough connection between those people and the people who formulate and carry out military programs. A classic example of this domestically was Waco. The FBI completely ignored the religious ideology and motivations of David Koresh and his followers. They simply assumed he was crazy, period but at the same time tried to treat it like an ordinary "holed-up bank robber" hostage situation. The people with the guns even ignored their own hostage negotiators so the negotiators couldn't keep any agreement they made with the Davidians. Yet there actually were experts who understood the religious tradition involved and how someone commited to that tradition would think and react to outside pressures. So I think we've been rather fumbling in our attempt to make our own responses "communicative." Yes, there's the "it's not a war against Islam" meme, but there could have been greater efforts to get respected clerics to condemn Bin Laden and his group. And, for that matter, before the bombing started, there could have been an effort to address what I understand is a key idea in Afghani culture, the responsibility to a guest. Couldn't we have made the point that Bin Laden had violated the hospitality of the Taliban and the Afghani people by using his guest status to carry out attacks that threaten Afghanistan itself with destruction? Could we have quietly worked out something where the Taliban expelled in Laden and al-Quaeda with the face- saving pretext that they had violated hospitality? Could someone more sensitive to such issues have communicated this to them? I don't know, of course, but it brings up a lot of other possible missed opportunities.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 2 Nov 01 17:07
Two weeks went by really quickly, didn't they? Your official two-week tour of Inkwell.vue is done now, Harry, but you're welcome to continue this discussion if you like. We appreciate you sharing your expertise. This has been such an informative session. Thank you, Harry.
Harry Henderson (hrh) Fri 2 Nov 01 19:43
You're welcome, Cynthia. I enjoyed it. I'll leave inkwell.vue on my .cflist at least for awhile and will be happy to respond to anything that comes up. I'll also keep you posted about upcoming titles that I'll be writing on this and other subjects.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 2 Nov 01 21:32
Thanks for that - there's plenty more to discuss!
Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 16 Jun 04 21:13
<scribbled by cdb Thu 17 Jun 04 12:57>
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 17 Jun 04 12:58
(scribbled because it was posted in the wrong thread)
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