Thursday, September 27, 2007

We Need Pro-Liberty Production Companies

Why are we surrendering the single most effective propaganda medium to the left?

A group of Hollywood executives have teamed with a veteran Washington Democratic hand to create a political production company with an eye toward playing a major role in the 2008 election.
The goal of the company, which was created last year but whose existence has not previously been reported, is to use the creative minds of Hollywood to create content — Web and television — designed to move a political or policy message.

The dominance of the left's ideology is the direct result of persistent advocacy (it certainly is not because their ideas actually work, because they don't). For whatever reason, many on the left feel a deep and powerful need to take action to disseminate and implement their ideas. In comparison, conservatives, libertarians and classical liberals in general don't seem to feel the same need to take action to disseminate our ideas. Pro-liberty, pro-Americans are are much too passive. We've done a good job of pioneering think tanks, but that is not enough. If we want to defeat the left's ideology, then we have to find the same passion for our ideas that they have for theirs and we have to be as creative and persistent in our advocacy as they are.

Hollywood has declared war on America. In the coming fall season we will suffer through no less than six strident very high profile anti-American films designed with the precision of a smart bomb to undercut the American people’s will to fight this war. This is the only way the terrorists know they can win. This is the only way Hollywood knows America can lose. And so they have joined forces.
Knowing what films are coming in the next weeks and that there are well-positioned conservatives in the film industry with the power to fight back who haven’t is truly maddening. I keep waiting for a brave man or woman to stand tall and announce a film that will portray our troops and mission in Iraq as worthy. I keep waiting for a true counter-culture hero to rise from the Hollywood Hills and proclaim their forthcoming hundred million dollar balls-to-the-walls action film about America kicking al-Queda butt.

I keep waiting…
I keep waiting for one of the tens-of-thousands of conservative announce they’re ready to drop $50 million into a pro-war/pro-American film should someone only bring them a great script and director.

We bitch about Hollywood liberals but conservatives are just as guilty; maybe even more. As twisted and immoral as most liberal beliefs are at least they fight for their beliefs. Conservatives on the other hand, refuse. I’ve been reluctant to say this up to now because I was positive that at some time a principled, grateful, patriotic Hollywood insider would finally grow the guts to say “enough.”
And to those of you not in the film industry but with the money to make a difference I promise you there are smart talented frustrated patriots out here eager to make pro-American/pro-freedom/pro-war films. People with proven track records. People who have made successful films you’ve enjoyed. 

Fighting to change the culture in Hollywood by hoping the people in power can be shamed or brought to see the light is an exercise in futility. Those people will never change, which means their product will never change. Which means the most effective propaganda tool ever devised will remain firmly in leftist hands until it’s taken from them. That requires insiders with guts and outsiders with a vision.

The time for the Fox News of Hollywood is now. We’re at war. Where are you people?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lloyd Cole

As part of an archival effort to preserve the unique culture of the 80s, I offer Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and "Perfect Skin". If anyone has a video of "Speedboat" let me know.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Robert Kaplan Podcast

Here is a podcast with Robert Kaplan discussing Kaplan's new book, Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts. The last few minutes of the podcast are an interview with Bill Ardolino who is currently embedded in Fallujah.

MORE: This is a podcast of a Kaplan talk at the Carnegie Council. The occasion of the talk is the recent publication of his book, but the talk itself is on larger nat'l security/int'l relations issues. Very good.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Been doing some book shopping lately which is one of my favorite things to do. Amazon is convenient, which is good, but I really love just being in a bookstore, especially a used bookstore, and spending an hour or two just browsing. It's a very peaceful experience. Here are some recent buys:

Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground by Robert Kaplan.
I very much enjoyed Imperial Grunts and have been waiting for this book to come out. I like that Kaplan goes where most reporters don't: with SF in Algeria, an attache in Mongolia, or with a Coastie in Yemen.

The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media and Technology Success of Our Time by David Vise.
I've had a growing interest in business history especially the stories of individual businesses and entrepreneurs. I would like to find some histories of entrepreneurship in different periods of American history.

With that in mind, I was happy to find this book at my favorite used bookstore.
The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century by Bernard Bailyn.

American Connections: The Founding Fathers. Networked. by James Burke.
I've enjoyed James Burke's Connections TV show and essays. This book applies his technique to the founding generation. I think it is important to have essays that explore history and ideas in creative ways outside the academic framework. Burke has been successful at doing this.

Democratic Capitalism and Its Discontents by Brian Anderson.

As I read things I often find myself thinking "I'd like to find a book on X." And I'm always excited when I find a book on those topics. So I was very happy Saturday when I found a book on the history of the Bill of Rights and the other on the Stamp Act crisis. I had been wanting something more specific than the more general accounts that I had been reading.

The Birth of the Bill of Rights by Robert Allen Rutland.

The Stamp Act Crisis by Edmund and Helen Morgan.

Over the past couple of years I've become more interested in the history of American political movements and very curious about how the transition from an agricultural age country to an industrial age country changed our forms of social organization, and our concepts of how government should be organized and its role in society. I believe that we live in a time that is experiencing an equivalent transition from an industrial age society to an information-service-entrepreneurial-creative age society and that this change will spur new concepts of gov't organization and its role in society. I've become very interested in the origins of the progressive/liberal and conservative political movements that are products of the industrial age: how they emerged, the narratives they created of the past leading up to and justifying their creation and their visions of what they were trying to achieve. These movements today are old and tired. I want to understand them for insight into creating political movements that will inevitably emerge from our own unique time. To that end I pulled from the shelf the following two books on my recent expedition:

The Progressive Mind, 1890-1917 by David Noble

The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The War of the Swarm

Over the past few weeks I've been reading Arquilla & Ronfeldt's Networks and Netwars with particular focus on the chapter on the Zapatista movement. There are a lot of lessons to be learned about waging a strategic citizen campaign from the role of transnational NGOs in that movement.

The Zapatista movement was one of the pioneers of "social netwar." The techniques developed by NGOs to wage a "war of the swarm" in Chiapas can be applied to a Muslim anti-irhabi movement, pro-democracy movements, movements in the West to counter the influence of radical Islam and the anti-West, anti-American left, movements to help developing countries build the institutions necessary to "shrink the gap," etc. Strategic citizens using the methods of social netwar can marshal resources with greater speed, efficiency, adaptability, and resilience than any government IO activity. The Zapatista movement demonstrates that national and transnational civil society organizations can have a strategic impact.

The insurrection did not begin as a social netwar. It began as a rather traditional, Maoist insurgency. But that changed within a matter of a few days as, first the EZLN's military strategy for waging a "war of the flea" ran into trouble. and second, an alarmed mass of Mexican and transnational NGO activists mobilized and descended on Chiapas and Mexico City in "swarm networks"...
Combat operations were thus dying out, and when the public, the media, and human-rights NGOs, both domestic and transnational, got involved, the EZLN was ready to shift gears to a very different sort of conflict in which the principle maneuvers would take place off the battlefield.
Demonstrations, marches, and peace caravans were organized, not only in Mexico but even in front of Mexican consulates in the United States. The NGOs made good use of computerized conferencing, email, fax and telephone systems, as well as face-to-face meetings, to communicate and coordinate with each other. They focused on improving their ability to work together...and begin to struggle ceaselessly through fax-writing campaigns, public assemblies, press conferences and interviews, and other measures to make Mexican officials aware of their presence and put them on notice to attend to selected issues...In addition, the activists worked to ensure that the insurrection became, and remained, an international media event--swollen by the "CNN effect"--so that the EZLN and its views were portrayed favorably. Indeed, all sides waged public-relations battles to legitimize, delegitimize, and otherwise affect perceptions of each other.

Meanwhile, Marcos and other EZLN leaders kept urging NGO representatives to come to Mexico. Likewise, the NGOs already there began calling for other NGOs to join the mobilization. A kind of "bandwagon effect" took hold. A dynamic swarm grew that aimed to put the Mexican government and army on the defensive. NGO coalitions arose that were characterized by "flexible, conjunctural..., and horizontal relations." held together by shared goals and demands.
Thus the Zapatista networking conformed to what we would expect from a netwar. The activists' networking assumed informal, often ad hoc, shapes. Participation shifted constantly, depending partly on the issues--although some NGOs did maintain a steady involvement and sought, or were accorded, leading roles. While NGOs generally seemed interested in the collective growth of the networks, to create what would later be termed a "network of struggles," each still aimed to preserve its autonomy and independence and had its own particular interests and strategies in mind. Clearly, the NGOs were--and are still--learning how to use this new approach to strategy, which requires that they develop and sustain a shared identity as a network and stress information operations.
This movement had no precise definition, no clear boundaries. To some extent, it had centers of activity for everything from the discussion of issues to the organization of protest demonstrations...It had organizational centers where issues got raised before being broadcast...And it drew on a core set of NGOs. Yet it had no formal organization, or headquarters, or leadership, or decisionmaking body. The movement's membership (assuming it can be called that) was generally ad hoc and in flux; it could shift from issue to issue and from situation to situation, partly depending on which NGOs had representatives physically visiting the scene at the time, which NGOs were mobilizable from afar and how (including electronically), and what issues were involved. Evidently, some NGOs took a constant interest in the Zapatista movement; others showed solidarity only episodically, especially if it was not high on their agenda of concerns. In short, the Zapatista movement writ large was a sprawling, swirling, amorphous collectivity--and in a sense, its indefinition was part of its strength.

As "information operations" came to the fore, the insurgents further decentralized organizationally and deemphasized combat operations in favor of gaining tighter links with the NGOs. Meanwhile the latter utilized, and advocated others to utilize, nonviolent strategies for using varied new and old media to pressure the Mexican government to rein in its military response and accede to negotiations.

The Zapatista article in Networks and Netwars is a condensed version of Ronfeldt and Arquilla's monograph The Zapatista "Social Netwar" in Mexico which can be read in PDF form online.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cycling Generations

I came across an interesting blog recently, Netwars, that has a lot of good posts on 4GW including this one presenting some thoughts on the generation model as cyclical:

I posit these transformations are cyclical depending on technology and organizational capability.
In the Stone/Bronze age

1st generation – Spearmen
2nd generation –Archers following the Bow revolution
3rd generation – Bronze weapons and specialized armies with logistics
4th Generation – The Chariot revolution and conquests by the Steppe nomads

Iron Age in Europe

1st Generation – Greek hoplites
2nd Generation – Macedonian phalanx and heavy cavalry using hammer and anvil tactics
3rd Generation – Roman legions with flexible formations and long-distance maneuver
4th Generation – Germanic war bands and Steppe nomads

The 4th Generation Warfare of the Iron Age destroyed the Roman Empire. The Gunpowder Revolution brought back 1st generation military tactics.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Last October Tigerhawk posted a comment by a Saudi blogger that is very encouraging. A young Saudi man who dreams of a future that has nothing to do with radical Islam.

Looking forward to the future, I wonder: do we dare to dream? I, for one, do. I dare. And I don't have only one dream; I have many dreams actually: I want to live to see the day when this country becomes a real democracy with a fully elected parliament; when freedom of expression is guaranteed to all, and no one is afraid to speak his mind no more; when women have their full rights and stand on equal foot with men. This was to name a few. Call me a dreamer. Maybe I am. I know one thing for sure, however: change is coming. This country is changing, not as quickly as I wish maybe, but it is changing nevertheless. Probably I'm just a young lad who can't wait for this to happen, but who can blame me? If it wasn't for the young to push change then who would?

My friend and I went to Java Cafe on King Abdul Aziz Rd., and on the other side of the road, we could see the building of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. He was amazed by how big and stylish this coffeehouse was. "Revolution is coming to Saudi Arabia," my friend said. I was startled by the word revolution. The increase and popularity of coffee shops means that people want to talk, he explained, and this is how the French Revolution was started, one cup of coffee at a time. It was getting late, so I dropped my friend at the hotel. Meanwhile, my head was turning between the ideas of revolution and my mentioned above dreams.

The other day I was re-reading that post and clicked on over to his blog and discovered that he is now traveling in the US as part of a State Department program. Unfortunately his experience at our embassy in Saudi Arabia was not pleasant. It is good that State is identifying people to be part of this kind of visiting program, but since they invited him to participate they should ensure that he should not have to deal with bureaucratic stupidity and some idiot FSO who needs lessons in customer service. Hopefully his experience in the US will be better.

It is the first time for me to visit the United States as well as being my first trip to a non-Arab country. The two-week trip is a part of a long-running exchange program called the International Visitor Leadership Program. It is sponsored by the State Department and a number of prestigious NGO’s...

Last year, there was this American professor who was visiting Saudi Arabia to learn more about the country and its people. The professor has been reading my blog for a while and he wanted to meet me to talk about blogging and youth culture in the Kingdom. We met in a hotel lobby in Riyadh and talked for a few hours. Present at that meeting was an official from the US Embassy who was coordinating the professor’s trip.

In the middle of an answer to a question I mentioned that I’ve never been to the States or Europe. The American official was a bit surprised that my English was very good despite the fact that I’ve never been to the US or the UK. Later, she said they have this exchange program at the embassy and asked me if I would be interested in such thing. I said “yes,” although I thought she was just being nice, and shortly I forgot about the whole thing.
Few months later she contacted me saying that I was nominated for the program and they will need some information about me. Even at that point, I did not take this thing seriously. I was saying: there will be a lot of people nominated who are much better than me and they will certainly be chosen over me.

It wasn’t until the beginning of this summer when the embassy contacted me saying I was selected for the program so they should start arranging for my participation in the program. They have taken care of almost everything: I just had to sign the papers and show up for the visa interview.

However, visiting the US Embassy in Riyadh for the interview was not a very pleasant experience. One day in August, at 6:40 AM, I was standing in a quickly growing line outside the embassy building. Around 7:20, they started allowing people to enter.

I was somehow lucky because when I showed the security officer my papers he took me ahead of others. I went through the highly-guarded gates, took a number and waited for my turn. The process was relatively slow and the atmosphere inside the embassy was cold and dry.

Before going in, I thought the interview would go something like this: you come into a room and sit on a chair facing two or three people who would ask you some questions, chat with you a little bit and then you leave. Needless to say, that was not the case.

After waiting for about two-and-a-half hours, it was finally my turn for the interview. I went to the the interview window (yes, not a room, just a glass window) not knowing what to expect, and there was this blond lady who asked first me to put my fingers on a device to take my fingerprints.

She started questioning me in a rather accusing tone about my intention of the visit and who nominated me for the program. She asked me why I was nominated for which I did not have a good answer and it was a question she better ask to those who nominated me.

The way of questioning made me nervous and it felt to me more of an interrogation than an interview. After a long pause and some staring at me, she said my papers were incomplete and there was a missing form that I had to provide. I told her it was her colleagues at the embassy who prepared all the paperwork for me and all I had to do was to sign them. She said my application could not be processed until I provide the missing form. She gave me my passport and said someone from there would contact me later.

Few days later someone from the embassy called and said the missing form was still in Washington; as soon as it arrived they sent it to me. I signed the form and fedex’d it with my passport. After two weeks I had my passport back with a short visit visa.

Now that I got the visa, I have to admit that I expected the process to be smoother than how it was. I mean: the program is sponsored by the State Department and they were responsible for arranging the whole thing. In general, the experience was relatively good, but that’s maybe because I was expecting it to be worse, except for the interview part which really sucked.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Waging an Anti-Irhabi Media Campaign

In waging an information campaign it is important to be in position to take advantage of events as they occur and to get media products out in a timely manner. An organization needs to be in place and prepared to move quickly. This is true generally with any kind of activist media campaign. In the effort to delegitimize the irhabi movement, all kinds of events have occurred and will continue to occur that can serve a useful purpose. For example, there was an anti-terror rally in Algeria recently to protest bombings that killed at least 50 people by al Qaeda's north African chapter. Rallies are exactly the kind of event that will provide excellent visual material for a media campaign. Material that can be produced in a variety of forms and distributed quickly on the internet, via cell phone, dvd etc. Our adversaries already have such an organization in place to take advantage of the events that they create to further their own agenda:

In the case of short attack videos, only the footage of the actual attack need come from Iraq. Once an affiliated individual has received that footage and basic accompanying information, which can be transferred over the internet or by mobile phone, he has only to add the insurgent group's logo, a short title sequence, and perhaps a soundtrack with a motivational song. He then uploads the resulting video product to a free upload-download site and posts and announcement to a forum. The video-editing software required to produce such a video is cheap and readily available. (Part 2: 3.3.1)

The same technology that enables the terrorists to wage a do-it-youself, decentralized media campaign is available for waging a non-violent anti-terror campaign as well. As we have seen in Anbar, al Qaeda's inclination to murder, torture, terrorize, and tyrannize other Muslims is a flaw that can be exploited to delegitimize their movement and serve as the catalyst for the creation of a Muslim anti-irhabi movement. We need to identify Muslims who want to act but maybe don't know how or perhaps feel alone in their opposition to the extremists and help them organize and build networks. This kind of campaign needs to be run by Muslims for it to have credibility, but we can be facilitators of such a movement.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Rupert Smith on the Art of War in the Modern World

I have been coming across mentions of Gen. Sir Rupert Smith more and more frequently at the Small Wars Journal and so I googled him and found the following videos of Smith in an interview (about 28 minutes) and giving a talk (about an hour), both at the Carnegie Council, on his book The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World.

During the talk, he tells a very interesting story from his experiences in Northern Ireland:

One of the most difficult things is to identify your opponent in warfare amongst the people. He is deliberately concealing himself amongst the people. He does it for security; he does it to gain legitimacy; to force you, through the strategies of provocation and propaganda of the deed, to treat the people in such a way that they start to support him rather than you—in other words, to dislocate your military act from your political purpose. He relies on the people for his sustainment morally, physically. He gains information and so forth from the people.

I paused a moment because a memory came. I'm about to tell an "I was there" story, which I hope will perhaps entertain but also make the point.

As a fairly young officer, I was in Belfast, responsible for a patch of West Belfast. A bus route came to my area, at the end of its route from Belfast city center. There was a roundabout, and the bus would sit there for twenty minutes and then turn round and go back down into Belfast.

Most Friday nights, somewhere around 9 o'clock in the evening, this bloody bus would get burned. There would be a riot, and people would throw stones at the fire brigade when it came, and then we'd all turn out and fire batten rounds and things at the hooligans throwing the stones, and then someone would shoot as us and we'd shoot back. A good time was had by all. The BBC and everyone were all in there. A burning bus can really get everyone going.

This was going on rather more than I was prepared to put up with. But I couldn't stop it. I just wasn't able to defeat this. Until we came up with a cunning wheeze, which involved me persuading two soldiers that it was in their interest to hide in a hidden box on the top of this bus, and when the hooligans appeared with the buckets of petrol and the box of matches, they would leap out before they lit the petrol and capture the hooligans with the petrol, and we would all rush in and help them.

These two soldiers agreed that this was a wizard wheeze and hid in the box. We drove the Trojan Horse in. And, sure enough, we got them.

A quiet conversation took place between the regimental sergeant major and these two little hooligans. It turned out that this thing that we had been treating as IRA terrorism, disrupting the streets, a come-on operation so that we would be pulled in so that then we could be sniped at—that was our complete logic and understanding of it—was wholly and totally wrong. This had nothing to do with terrorism at all. It was the black taxis, and they were paying these hooligans to burn the buses so they got more trade. We hadn't been fighting anybody.

But as one clawed away at it, I learned a lot. Yes, the IRA were benefiting from this. They were able to show us as being part of the problem, because we went onto the housing estate, invaded their space, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. They were now defending and were given legitimacy because they were the defender. They were taking 10 percent off the taxi drivers, because they knew what was going on, so they got money as well.

So we then started to develop an operation, which went on for a long time—this is timeless, remember. About eight years later, I am back there, at a rather more senior level, and we knock off the whole of the financial structure of that part of the IRA. It starts with that event. As you went through the file, the opening entry was the black taxi man who was handing over the 10 percent. We found out who he was, and you've got the beginning of a piece of string. But it took eight years.

The other bit of information was that in the wallets of one of these little hooligans was a check for £10 from the BBC. And down we went to the BBC and said, "What the bloody hell are you doing?" It turned out that this little hooligan would ring up. Having been paid by taxi drivers 50 quid to burn a bus, he then rang up the BBC and said, "There's going to be an incident at such and such." So the cameras were already there. 

War amongst the people, the theater. Nobody is in control in the sense that we think there is a master plan. So your operation must be a learning operation.

The currency of war amongst the people is not fire power. That's the currency of industrial war. The currency of war amongst the people is information—not just intelligence, information—what you put out, what you get in. That's what is going on on that confrontational seesaw.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Hinduism: Open Source before Open Source was Cool

Discovered the Bootstrap Network Blog today where I found this interesting post:

On a recent trip to DC and a visit to the Freer Gallery, I was struck by the realization that Hinduism (unlike most other religions), adopted a peer production/open source approach, thus making it one of oldest examples of the concept.

How does it work this way? Under Hinduism, only a few basic core concepts are articulated, particularly around the form and nature of God (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva as Creator/Preserver/Destroyer), with some core texts such as the Upanishad and Bhagavad Gita. Beyond this, however, adherents are allowed to create and worship any particular manifestations of God that they like. One therefore finds hundreds of gods that are worshipped and venerated all across India, various mythological stories and a wide variety of practices and traditions. Particular temples are dedicated to a specific god and, in effect, adopt a similar structure to many open source organizations that monetize their work by charging for entrance fees, special offerings, etc. Anyone can become a "guru" espousing their particular method or approach simply by declaring themselves as such. The marketplace of adherents determines their validity. Even with regard to the texts, there is no notion that these are "official" in any capacity. Adherents are free to subscribe to any set of mythologies, gods, traditions, gurus, etc, that they deem fit. A Hindu is one simply by virtue of self declaration.

There are also analogies to the the Starfish/Spider concept in that there is no central authority in Hinduism and everyone is free to create and worship whatever aspect they choose. This also in part, explains why Buddhism, though "invented" in India, never took root there. Hindus simply acknowledged it as an aspect of the larger "open source Hindu" concept.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

PSYOP Auxilliaries

PurpleSlog found a very interesting blog: Civilian Irregular Information Defense Group. A blog that is exploring the same kinds of ideas that I've been thinking about as the Strategic Citizen. It's always a relief to find that I'm not the only one arriving at these conclusions.

Cannoneer No. 4:

There are a lot of reasons and excuses, but the bottom line is that the regulars have left the home front undefended in the battle space that counts the most in this war, the area between the ears of the American voter. 
Nobody in the government is going to do much to oppose the enemy’s strategic communications campaign. Half of their political masters profit from the enemy’s unchallenged, unopposed, unmitigated 24/7/365 barrage. 
We’re going to have to counter the propaganda ourselves. 
We the People, those of us not subject to military justice, not vulnerable to having our promotions stalled by vengeful politicians,  and not constrained by law from targeting domestic audiences, will have to perform the counter-PSYOP mission.

Exactly, absolutely, 100% right. As I have said at another location:

What we are talking about is creating a movement in which people are inspired by the ideals and a vision of the American Experiment to take action on their own, independent of any centralized control and guided by their ideals and values. The specific kinds of non-violent action available to us are many and varied. Any type of media, technology, activism, rhetorical technique and organizational form is there in the tool box. What I would like to see is a proliferation of dozens perhaps hundreds of organizations all promoting pro-liberty, pro-American ideals and working to counter the postmodernist left and Islamic fundamentalism. How do we inspire people to do this?

I keep coming back again and again to ideas, attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and interpretations because that seems to me to be the primary battlefield. Alinsky references the well-known statement of John Adams that the revolution had taken place in the minds of the people before the war was fought. Something like that needs to happen now. This is the kind of thing that operates at a more fundamental level than electoral politics. This is about what people believe about their country and ultimately what they believe about themselves. We need to be striving to create this kind of a revolution in the minds of the people. So whether we call it 4GW, meme war, media war, culture war, whatever, I don't care, but it needs to be done.

Hopefully we will soon reach a tipping point and we will see the spontaneous emergence of many small groups dedicated to waging the war of ideas, perceptions, interpretations and narratives, because this is what it is going to take to win.