13 August 2013 | Draft
"Big Brother" Crying "Wolf"?
But them "wolves" are a-changin' -- them's becomin' "werewolves"!
- / -
Big Brother crying "wolf"?
Erosion of credibility of authority
Trust, confidence, and credibility under a regime of total insecurity
Appreciating the Emperor's new clothes -- as designed by NSA
Clues for an existential turnaround?
Questionable "existence" of Al-Qaida
Questionable "existence" NSA/PRISM
Cultivation of "terror", "terrorism" and "terrific"
Ambiguity of "democratic oversight": institutionalisation of negligence?
Fear of change: engaging otherwise with "werewolves"
Embodying "malware" transformatively: No Security Anywhere (NSA)?
Paradoxical correspondences and complementarity
Warnings have recently issued by US authorities regarding potential threats to US facilities and travellers, most notably in the Middle East (Eric Schmitt, Qaeda Messages Prompt U.S. Terror Warning, The New York Times, 2 August 2013). Much has been made of the precautionary response of the US in closing over 20 embassies in the region (Al Qaeda threat leads U.S. to issue global travel alert, embassies to close, CNN, 2 August 2013; US closes Middle East and other embassies after security threat, The Guardian, 2 August 2013). Allies in Europe have variously echoed the threat warning and considered similar precautions.
The warnings purportedly derive from successful use of NSA/PRISM in the detection of traffic between terrorists -- said to be resembling the pattern of traffic immediately prior to 9/11 (Dan Roberts and Robert Booth, NSA defenders: embassy closures followed pre-9/11 levels of 'chatter', The Guardian, 5 August 2013). The perceived threat has been associated with prison breakouts of alleged members of Al-Qaida (Interpol issues global alert over al-Qaida-linked prison breakouts, The Guardian, 3 August 2013). The assessment is said to have been made despite a recognized change in the pattern of communications following the recent disclosures (Terrorists changing communication methods after NSA snooping leaks, ZeeNews, 27 June 2013).
In commentary on CNN (4 August 2013), in response to questioning, Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer, indicated that "They're coming after us".
The challenge for the world would appear to be how to evaluate the claims for the credibility of such warnings -- given the source and the potential strategic agendas. Potentially more fundamental is how the current process is indicative of ever increasing critical awareness of the role of trust and confidence -- despite their intangible nature.
Just as the pattern of communication between alleged terrorists is claimed to resemble that prior to 9/11, the claims for the credibility of that evidence vividly recall those made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a key presentation to a plenary session of the United Nations Security Council on 5 February 2003, arguing in favour of military action in Iraq (Remarks to the United Nations Security Council. 5 February 2003). The "concrete proof" was later shown to have been deliberately misleading.
Is recognition of the significance of trust and confidence also indicative of emerging recognition of a need to move beyond simply maligning the "other" -- whether "Al-Qaida" or "NSA"? Are there more fundamental issues than seeking to enhance the unquestionable merits and trustworthiness of those whose exclusive credibility it is desired to prove?
By whom is it then appropriate to be "terrified" and of what is that "terror" indicative? Beyond understandable concern for lives and vital infrastructure, does that focus obscure the "terrifying" implications of change itself?
A relatively gentle "wind of change" was famously recognized by Margaret Thatcher in 1960. There was widely-appreciated acknowledgement by Bob Dylan that The Times They Are a-Changin' (1964). Has the pressure for radical change now mutated radically? In a global society addicted to the daily thrill of "terrifying" experiences (including fearful tales of vampires), is the threat of change now more appropriately framed by "werewolves" rather than "wolves"?
Can the terror induced by change agents -- whatever their cause or modality -- be distinguished from that induced by those acting to resist them? More fundamentally however, what are the existential implications of any sense of "terror" when variants are so assiduously cultivated by the media, and through other experiences welcomed as "terrific"? Vicarious or otherwise, what are we pretending to run from when we are so strangely enthralled by "terror"?
Rather than "they're coming after us" -- like "wolves" or "werewolves" -- the argument is transformed into a concluding recognition that "we're wolves" in quest of ourselves, and of an identity to be otherwise understood. The Zen-like vigilance required then implies that "NSA" be better understood to mean "No Security Anywhere".
Big Brother crying "wolf" ?
"Big Brother": The warnings come in a period following widely commented disclosures by Edward Snowden of the surprising level of "Big Brother" electronic surveillance on the part of the USA -- through NSA and its PRISM collaborators internationally. The scope has been most recently documented by Glenn Greenwald (XKeyscore: NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet', The Guardian, 31 July 2013).
The initial disclosures gave rise to many comparisons with "Big Brother" (Darcy Kempa, NSA PRISM Program: Big Brother is Watching, and That's a Good Thing, Polycymic; NSA scandal: Americans don't like Big Brother', Miami Herald; Michael Liedtke, NSA PRISM Program: Is Big Data Turning Government Into 'Big Brother?' The Huffington Post, 6 July 2013). The comparison has been extended to the recent warnings (Lyuba Lyulko, Made-up Threat Rehabilitates the Big Brother, Pravda, 7 August 2013).
"Big Brother" is a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). As described by Wikipedia, he is the enigmatic dictator of a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence - where the ruling Party wields total power for its own sake over the inhabitants. In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you", which is the core "truth" of the propaganda system in this state. Sound familiar?
A surprising number of commentators now note that the recently issued warnings are also difficult to distinguish from those of the classic Aesop Fable regarding the Boy Who Cried Wolf. However, rather than the "Boy", it is argued here that it is "Big Brother" who may be "crying wolf" to justify dominance in the world community.
"Crying wolf": Even a decade ago it was noted that: NSA has often been accused of crying wolf (Scott Shane and Ariel Sabar, Coded warnings became clear only in light of Sept. 11 attacks, The Baltimore Sun, 21 June 2002). As might be expected under the circumstances, this framing continues to be explored. Thus for Lance deHaven-Smith (As an American, I question the US travel alerts and embassy closures, The Guardian, 5 August 2013):
We've seen this before where US presidents cite terrorism concerns in an effort to win back public opinion. is unfortunate, but true that Americans cannot trust the statements of their leaders about threats to national security. Ironically, this is especially so when questions are being raised about the competence of the government or the legitimacy of its policies. The United States government has a long history of deflecting criticism by crying wolf, especially the terrorism kind of wolf.
As argued by Will Bunch (The U.S. government who cried "Wolf!" Philly.com, 4 August 2013):
Regardless of what one thinks about the embassy closings, no one can argue that the Obama administration wants to change the subject, especially about national security matters and the NSA. Just in the last few days, we've learned about the NSA's XKeyscore program that reportedly collects "nearly everything a user does on the Internet," about the hollowness of Obama's promises to curtail the drone war overseas, and that the CIA is going to extraordinary lengths to cover-up the true nature of its activities in Benghazi last fall. Is it crazy to wonder if there's a...nexus [The Nexus of Politics and Terror]? The real problem is the credibility gap inside the Beltway, starting with the war in Iraq -- the mother of all lies -- and going right up to a few months ago when Obama's national intelligence director committed perjury before Congress but knew that he will never be charged....
For Peter Combs (State Department Embassy Closing Flunks the Smell Test: is the State Department Crying Wolf ? Again? Gaulitics.com, 5 August 2013):
Maybe it's just me, maybe I am all alone on this, maybe I am a bit cynical. Does anyone besides me find the timing of the State Department's announcement of the latest sudden unspecific threat to American Embassy's seem almost predictable? Doesn't it seem too well timed when looked at against the backdrop of the mounting criticism of the NSA in connection with the gathering of intelligence on Americans. Do you believe in miraculous coincidences?
And for Frank Rich (When Privacy Jumped The Shark, The New York Magazine, 23 July 2013):
Whatever the fine points of the NSA's snooping, anyone who cared could surmise enough of the big picture to be wary long before the Snowden leaks filled in graphic details. The NSA is crying wolf when it claims that his disclosures are an enormous boon to terrorists, unless you believe terrorists are morons.
Recent comments using the "wolf" framing have included Phil Butler (PRISM, Microsoft, Anybody's "Soft", and Crying Wolf, EverythingPR, 18 July 2013) and the blogger Moon Of Alabama (Crying Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, Information Clearing House, 3 August 2013), extensively quoted by Daniel McAdams (Major Terrorism Alert: Are They Crying 'Wolf'? Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, 3 August 2013).
Credibility enhancing strategy? As the blogger notes, the threat warnings may indeed need to be given enhanced credibility by physically destructive attacks inviting media coverage to establish "concrete proof" -- especially in the form of actual bombing of embassies. As the blogger also notes, the cost of repairing any damage would be insignificant in comparison with the enhanced public credibility thereby achieved. Unfortunately, as has been a practice in the past, any such attacks can be easily arranged as false flag operations. Why would this not be done?
Many parties have voiced concern and questioned the appropriateness. of the warnings. These have highlighted a level of previously unrecognized complicity by European and other governments in such practices -- raising fundamental issues of the adequacy of democratic oversight with respect to secret agreements and practices (Dan Roberts, Activists stage second national day of protest against NSA's domestic spying, The Guardian, 4 August 2013).
It is easy to assume that justification for the practices is considered necessary by authorities as a means of responding to such anxiety and to criticism of questionably authorised subterfuge. As remarked by many commentators, it is easy to see that detection of threat from terrorists would serve this purpose admirably:
Will Bunch (The U.S. government who cried "Wolf!" Philly.com, 4 August 2013)
Remember the moral of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is that finally there really is a wolf -- but no one believed the boy because of all the lies that came before. Likewise, the problem with the terror warning of 2013 is not the warning itself but the decade of government baloney that preceded it. Washington needs to acknowledge the reality: If it wants to better a job of keeping the public safe, it will need to start doing a much, much better job of telling the public the truth.
Erosion of credibility of authority
The past decade has seen a progressive and radical erosion of credibility of governance in the light of a variety of mutually reinforcing indications (Abuse of Faith in Governance, 2009). These include:
- questions raised by 9/11 itself (as highlighted by the 9/11 Truth Movement)
- evidential issues relating to the justification of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan
- complicity of government in accumulation of public debt
- apparent complicity of government in processes engendering the current financial crisis
- complicity of government in corruption scandals involving leadership at the highest level
- increasing evidence of the inability of governance to respond to emerging crises
- failure of due diligence to analyze any pattern of crises rather than engage in knee-jerk, fire-fighting responses to isolated incidents as they emerge
- a pattern of broken electoral and policy promises
- evidence of a pattern of secret agreements and activities which suggest that reality (as presented to the public) is very far from being what it is carefully claimed to be
- increasing recognition of miscarriage of justice as a consequence of corruption in the judicial system and tampering with evidence
- dubious justification of detention without trial and extrajudicial executions (notably by systematic use of targetted assassination)
Under these circumstances it is naive to make simple claims regarding warnings of security threats, when it is only too evident that it is in the interest of the parties issuing those warnings to issue those warnings. There is therefore a need to move beyond such "first order" claims to a form of "second order" claim which explicitly responds to that suspicion. There may even be a case for "third order" claims -- reflecting the pattern of insight from first, second and third order cybernetics of regulatory systems -- which merits application to the debate on terrorism as a whole (Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations, 2007; Enabling a 12-fold Pattern of Systemic Dialogue for Governance, 2011).
At some point, there is clearly a need to acknowledge the warning of Abraham Lincoln:
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
At this time it must be concluded that it is still assumed that it is possible to fool an adequate number of people for an adequate period of time, as argued by Paul Craig Roberts (Washington Thinks You Are Stupid, Information Clearing House, 6 August 2013).
Barack Obama has declared Snowden to be not "a patriot", and has called upon him to appear in court to answer the charges against him (Obama: NSA leaker Edward Snowden Not a Patriot, Time, 9 August 2013). As president, and a lawyer, Obama carefully omits to refer to the fact that not a single banker involved in the toxic speculation (resulting in the ongoing financial crisis) has been charged or prosecuted (Extreme Financial Risk-taking as Extremism: subject to anti-terrorism legislation? 2009; Richard Eskow, 7 Things About Prosecuting Wall Street You Wanted to Know (But Were Too Depressed to Ask), The Huffington Post, 7 August 2013). Are those variously complicit to be assumed to be "traitors" or "patriots" -- in contrast to Snowden?
Who would doubt that Obama would be happy to have Snowden assassinated? Would "justice" thereby be assumed to have been done, as with Osama bin Laden (Obama on Bin Laden: 'Justice Has Been Done', National Journal, 2 May 2011; Massimo Calabresi, Osama Bin Laden Killed, Obama Hails Moment of 'Justice', Time, 1 May 2011)? Given Obama's responsibility for "justice", are there no issues which merit very careful examination with regard to extra-judicial execution (Mark Kersten, Obama to those Questioning bin Laden Assassination: "Get your head examined", Justice in Conflict, 11 May 2011)? Given the disastrous impact of the financial crisis on the lives and livelihoods of so many, what then of those who argue that those complicit in engendering it should be assassinated -- with or without due process?
The problem for "Big Brother" is that those with the power to misrepresent no longer have any means whatsoever to prove that they have not done so. The more gag-orders and "super-injunctions" there are, namely the less the transparency, the less the ability to disprove whatever people choose to suspect. Guarantors of the highest integrity are potentially compromised. Severely damaging embassies or other facilities through false flag operations will no longer constitute credible proof. Is there a cynical indication of what level damage would indeed be persuasive -- like 9/11? Some other kind of disaster?
Expressed otherwise, would those with the power to misrepresent fail to undertake such misrepresentation, if it was considered to be in their strategic interest to do so? What might that strategic interest be held to be: full-spectrum dominance, access to oil resources, captive markets, development of strategic industries (arms, etc), a religious agenda (Christian Zionism, "crusades", etc)?
A second problem for "Big Brother" is that under those circumstances claims can readily be made by critics that terrorist actions have been undertaken as false flag operations -- without it being possible to provide concrete proof to the contrary, as with the most recent disaster (Africa travel hit after fire ravages Nairobi airport, BBC News, 7 August 2013). To the extent that the insurance companies have exclusion clauses governing cases of terrorism, it is also in their interest to sustain any pretence that a disaster is of terrorist origin.
More controversially, claims can similarly be made with respect to the origin of natural disasters, as with those variously attributed to the HAARP facility by conspiracy theorists (Christchurch Earthquake Conspiracy: how many coincidences are too many coincidences, Pseudo Reality, 2011; New Evidence Fukushima Disaster Created by HAARP, GeoEngineering Exposed, 2012, etc).
Trust, confidence, and credibility under a regime of total insecurity
Loss of confidence: The complex of trust-confidence-credibility is increasingly recognized as fundamental to many aspects of global society:
- remarkably demonstrated with respect to the confidence factor in inter-bank loans in the early stages of the financial crisis
- radical erosion of trust in the banking system, especially with the prospect of further bank failures
- recognition of the vulnerability of pension funds and personal savings, notably as a consequence of potential retroactive legislation
- vulnerability to repossession of homes through rising levels of indebtedness
- vulnerability of electronic financial transactions to fraud, identity theft, and the like.
- vulnerability of e-mail communications to phishing through identity theft, and to abusive use of profiling
- vulnerability of web searches to abusive censorship, ranking, tracking and creation of questionable filter bubbles
- physical insecurity of people and property (muggings, school shootings, burglary, etc)
- erosion of social security safety nets (health care, pensions, etc) now vulnerable to social instability and retroactive legislation
- exposure to unemployment and erosion of confidence in stability of employment
- evident threats to health from food products, medication and a variety of pollutants entering the food chain
- contractual arrangements (deliberately) designed to be beyond the comprehension of those who are obliged to rely on them
- erosion of confidence in religious authorities as a consequence of a variety of scandals
- erosion of confidence in official statistics and "facts" (subject to "massaging" in support of political agendas)
- erosion of confidence in rule of law (miscarriage of justice, failure to charge individuals responsible for financial crisis, etc)
- recognition of vulnerability to unpredictable natural disasters (flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc)
- recognition of vulnerability to infrastructure failure (structural collapse, accidents, etc)
- increasing sense of vulnerability of interpersonal relations to emerging events and changing attitudes
NSA/PRISM surveillance and data gathering can be interpreted as a global exercise in systematic identity theft -- in anticipation of the need to isolate, manipulate and misrepresent anyone in cyberwarfare.
Curiously striking is the progressive cultivation of suspicion in relation to claims typically made by advertising, whether through the media or otherwise. Competing products and services are each framed by superlatives -- as "the best". This can only create the impression that all such claims are suspect and a misrepresentation -- although legal as "puffery", rather than illegal as "misleading advertising". Since political and other initiatives employ the same media and marketing techniques, their messages becoming equally suspect -- typically confirmed by any pattern of broken electoral promises.
Cynical naivety of authority: The curious feature of the attitude, with which the current warnings were issued by various authorities, is the naivety of the expectation that they will be believed without question. As implied above, this may however be understood to be based on the assumption that sufficient people will believe or consider it prudent to appear to do so -- perhaps in pursuit of their own strategic interests (as in the case of US allies).
Included in a remarkable analysis by Tracy Goodwin (NSA, Snowden and Meta-conspiracy Analysis: politics in a psychotic world, SocioPolitical Dysfunction, 12 June 2013 ) is the comment that:
Yet when you look at the principle of reversal from the perspective of trusting the official explanation it seems downright insane. The idea that you can reverse anything the opponent says and then claim the opposite is irrational to most people. Yet many of us have done this in certain circumstances. Think about somebody in your life that has destroyed all trust you had for them. When that person gives you an explanation you are unlikely to accept that instead you will likely look for alternative motives. You hold so little trust for that person that you expect everything they say to be false so you assume it is and then try to explain their behavior in another manner.
Reading through the official responses to Snowden revealing details of NSA surveillance has shows a single primary theme connecting the official responses; Just trust me. So officials give more detail others less but the overall theme is to simply ask the public to trust the government...there is a long standing cultural mistrust of government in American society. So this is a hard sell to begin with.
More remarkable is perhaps the implied insult in that, despite multiple reasons for lack of confidence, it is considered unnecessary to provide more "concrete proof" -- as is righteously expected of Iran, for example (10 Demands for Concrete Proof by We the Peoples of the World, 2012). The provision of such "concrete proof" may of course take the form of a "false flag" operation. It will necessarily be very difficult to prove that the damage was not the result of terrorist activity.
Promoting a culture of fear: Under these circumstances the challenge for authority is how to engender an adequate degree of confidence in response to any initiative. The focus on cultivating a "culture of fear", especially with respect to "terrorism", is a logical strategic choice (Promoting a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism Strategy of choice for world governance, 2002).
As noted by Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts, US embassy closures used to bolster case for NSA surveillance programs, The Guardian, 5 August 2013):
Amie Stepanovich, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said: "The NSA's choice to publish these threats at this time perpetuates a culture of fear and unquestioning deference to surveillance in the United States.... Too much of what we hear from the government about surveillance is either speculation or sweeping assertions that lack corroboration. The question isn't if these programs used by this NSA can find legitimate threats, it's if the same threats couldn't be discovered in a less invasive manner. This situation fails to justify the NSA's unchecked access to our personal information.
As argued by The Economist (Why We Spy: the war on terror is Obama's Vietnam, 10 June 2013):
But we're not likely to get calmer about terrorism, because too many people are trying to keep us frantic. At least three parties stand to gain from exaggerating, rather than minimising, our reactions to terrorist strikes. The first is the media, which wins viewership by whipping up anxiety over terrorist strikes. The second is politicians seeking partisan advantage, since panic over foreign-backed terrorism tends to increase voter turnout... Finally, the third party trying to exacerbate our responses to terrorist attacks are the terrorists themselves, who have generally proven quite effective at choosing targets that provoke widespread media coverage.
As argued by Johnny Punish (NSA Spying: Damage Control Teams Hit U.S. Main Stream Media, Veterans Today, 17 June 2013) with regard to Dick Cheney
His selling technique is one dimensional! Sell fear, sell fear, appeal to fear, and sell more fear. He would be more effective but most human beings are no longer buying. He's the boy crying wolf! I mean even the most overworked and under-informed Americans, those that are totally enslaved by the system, are figuring this out.
It is extremely ironic that the dilemma for government authority bears such strong systemic resemblance to that of any traditional witch doctor whose credibility is challenged -- and is then obliged to reinforce any warning with shock and fatality.
The inherent difficulty is how people are to be expected to respond to the appeal for "trust" from authorities who have variously demonstrated that they are "untrustworthy" or complicit with the "untrustworthy". Efforts at "confidence-building" may then be seen as cynical attempts to manage consent (Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of the mass media, 1988).
Appreciating the Emperor's new clothes -- as designed by NSA
The argument above exploits Aesop's "wolf" and Orwell's "Big Brother". Not to be forgotten are other well-known tales through which the challenges of trust have long been articulated in support of community and cultural wisdom. Those of Br'er Rabbit and Mullah Nasruddin offer a bridge across obvious cultural divisions.
Of particular relevance to this argument is the tale of The Emperor's New Clothes (1837) by Hans Christian Andersen. As the Emperor of the moment, Barack Obama could be understood to be disporting a new set of clothes -- carefully designed by the US government propaganda machine to persuade the world of the credibility of the claims regarding the current terrorist threat. The clothes are claimed to be a "new" design -- in contrast to that of the past, now deprecated (as outmoded).
The Emperor's allies, through their various spokespeople and commentators, necessarily express admiration for the clothes -- for the most obvious reasons, if they wish to continue to be "accepted at the imperial court". The difficult is that the Emperor's new clothing is virtually transparent. It does not exist -- except to the extent that it can be compared to a "cloak of invisibility". But few with careers and funding to protect would care to draw attention to that fact.
Unfortunately for the courtiers and the Emperor, there are now many without any position to to protect at court -- as a consequence of imperial policies. As with the "Little Boy" of the tale, they can rudely attest for all to hear that the Emperor is "wearing no clothes". He is naked -- although primus inter pares. Manning, Assange and Snowden could each be understood as the "Little Boy" of the tale.
The entanglement of that tale with the fable of Aesop is further discussed separately (Entangled Tales of Memetic Disaster: mutual implication of the Emperor and the Little Boy, 2009).
Clues for an existential turnaround?
As indicated in the introduction, the intangible experience of "terror" plays a profoundly strange role in the existence of many. The focus can indeed be placed on threats to lives and vital infrastructure -- and the defensive measures appropriate in response. But forms of terror are also assiduously sought vicariously in entertainment and in thrilling experiences labelled "terrific". The controversial phrase of Black Panther H. Rap Brown that violence is as American as cherry pie might just as well be rendered as terror is as American as cherry pie.
Terror may also be of major significance in "existential" concerns, whether in contemplation of later life -- or of the life hereafter ,as emphasized by religion in cultivating a culture of "fear of God". Potentially appropriate to the further significance of this argument, the link provided is to a Wikipedia page whose content is subject to unusual dispute and ongoing review -- especially since some theological understanding may reject any notion of the "fear of God". At the time of writing the profile notes that:
- Roman Catholics count this fear as one of the Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- The Love of God, and the Fear of God, are two of the foundations of Islam. Taqwa refers to fear of God in terms of protecting oneself from displeasing God
- In Judaism, having the fear of God is most often considered to be a positive sign of spiritual well-being
The disputed ambiguity corresponds appropriately to current political initiatives to promote a "culture of fear" -- effectively giving NSA/PRISM a "god-like" role, with an assumption that it is acting for the good of all, and the implication that it should therefore be "loved".
Much has been made of the willingness of mujhaheddin fighters to die for their cause -- framed as jihad -- given that it is claimed to offer a direct route to heaven. How does this compare with the Christian framing of a crusade, notably as first promoted by the military orders of the Catholic Church? This emphasis is echoed in Christian theology with respect to the "Church Universal" (understood as divided into the "Church Militant", the "Church Triumphant", and the "Church Expectant").
There is already extensive focus on the terror with which the secretive Al-Qaida has been simplistically associated, or with that implied by the secretive initiatives of the NSA and the targetted killing which they enable. There is however a case for exploring more intensively the nature and role of terror and how it may be variously experienced and "valued". This is especially appropriate if terror is intimately related to change -- considered so "terrifying" by many.
In quest of clues for a turnaround, a first approach is to review the categories and processes which figure most prominently in the current crisis of confidence and trust. Rather than take them at face value, as they have been defined by various forms of propaganda in support of various agendas, the question is whether they have more fruitful meanings which merit exploration. A subsequent approach (below) considers the engagement with fear itself.
Of relevance is the manner in which that crisis extends both into the simplest financial transactions and into deep-seated concerns about interpersonal relations and the trauma of being "nobody". The experience of terror has much to do with exposure to risk -- which may itself be assiduously cultivated, as in gambling, financial speculation and extreme sports.
Questionable "existence" of Al-Qaida
Use of this term has now become the standard 21st century label for any source of terrorism -- as framed from a western perspective, or by those seeking western support for their agendas. No further thought is required. Following the announcement of the embassy closures by the USA, western allies immediately referred to the claimed threat as deriving unquestionably from "Al-Qaida". This is not necessarily how Al-Qaida is perceived or imagined elsewhere.
As is well known on the occasion of any dramatic homicide, police may receive many anonymous calls from people claiming responsibility. Any group undertaking an act of terrorism might well choose to place itself under the label "Al-Qaida" in claiming responsibility after the act, even if they had no involvement in perpetrating it. The label might well be attached to the act by security services (claiming "credible evidence"), irrespective of any other claim -- especially if they themselves were responsible (as a false flag operation). The merit of so labelling is well understood in the brand management of any product or a nation, as a means of cultivating a sense of identity. One reason "Al-Qaida" is so elusive is because there are so many leaders of groups around the world who use the "brand" and collect their own resources. .
For the West, use of "Al-Qaida" follows Cold War exploitation of "Communist", notably during the McCarthy era of the US House Un-American Activities Committee. This was preceded by the dubious complicity of "Christianity" (under the banner Gott mit Uns) in the demonisation of the Jews, reminiscent of an earlier pattern of witch-hunting. For Christians of religious sensitivity, "Al-Qaida" is now a convenient substitute for "Evil". "Evil" has figured prominently in the discourse of US presidents (Ronald Reagan, "Evil Empire", 1982; Barack Obama, "Evil does exist in the world", 2009). The difficulty is that similar exploitation is used to frame the West -- as with reference to the USA as "evil" or "satanic" by some in Islamic cultures.
"Al-Qaida" therefore offers a more tangible form to "evil". As some have argued, it may well be a form carefully crafted for propaganda purposes by western allies in need of an opponent justifying various strategies and military expenditures -- re-imagining the nature of "Al-Qaida" as required.
In media coverage of commentary and political declarations in this period, it is striking to note how "Al-Qaida" is readily associated with any and every form of terrorist threat, or any individual suspected of association with that threat. Whereas, in referring to a suspect in conventional due process, great care is taken to prefix the qualifier "alleged", the omission of the qualifier has become automatic -- and unthinking. In dramatic contrast to the treatment of "suspects" in other situations, preference is typically given to "suspects" in justifying such an attack (Timothy Alexander Guzman, Yemen under Assault: drone strike kills 4 "Suspected Al-Qaeda" members, Global Research, 7 August 2013)
A tangible consequence is that remote villages are now targetted for drone attacks because of the assumption that they may be sheltering "Al-Qaida" operatives -- irrespective of the probable loss of civilian lives. Without evidence, those suspected of providing such shelter may indeed be framed as "Al-Qaida" sympathizers.
The difficulty with the labelling of "Al-Qaida" is that its very "existence" is questionable according to conventional criteria -- whether as a formal organization, especially when legality is otherwise claimed as a criteria for "existence". Who has seen "concrete proof" of the existence of "Al-Qaida" and what confidence can one have in their affirmation of that -- especially given the extremely low confidence in elected representatives?
"Al-Qaida" could be compared to a private price-fixing cartel for whose secretive "existence" it may be difficult to provide concrete proof and is therefore readily deniable -- whether or not the evidence for the bodies so linked is more tangible. It has been argued that "Al-Qaida" is better understood as an idea or philosophy which appears to thrive as an "organization" whilst that ideology continues to exist (as noted by debate.org). Thus for Jason Burke (Al-Qaida is now an idea not an organisation, The Guardian, 5 August 2005):
... we need to face up to the simple truth that Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri et al do not need to organise attacks directly. They merely need to wait for the message they have spread around the world to inspire others. Al-Qaida is now an idea, not an organisation.
As a movement of opinion, it can be fruitfully compared to the Republican Tea Party movement (Cultivating Global Strategic Fantasies of Choice: learnings from Islamic Al-Qaida and the Republican Tea Party movement, 2010). In such terms any sense of "membership" of Al-Qaida becomes questionable, irrespective of admission of that "fact" under enhanced interrogation.
Involvement with "Al-Qaida" then merits comparison with involvement with any philosophy or worldview. This could range from voodoo to the most challenging understandings of nonduality. How is the evocation of "evil spirits" in voodoo to be meaningfully contrasted with the evocation of "Al-Qaida" by the US and its allies? Framed in this way the challenge of "Al-Qaida" is the existential challenge of a worldview disruptive of (western) convention -- as with many other alternative worldviews.
It is however the consequences in practice on which attention is focused -- the impact on lives and vital infrastructure in the course of promoting that worldview, as with advocacy of any form of change. This is evident in any multi-party democracy in which the other party is readily portrayed with some of the attributes of "Al-Qaida", including "evil".
It is appropriate to suspect that "Al-Qaida" itself may in the future come to be replaced by some other imaginative vehicle for "evil" -- perhaps by "extraterrestrials" or human mutants, as extensively explored in fantasy movies
Questionable "existence" of NSA/PRISM
There is a curious ease with which some relax their disapprobation of "Al-Qaida" and project various degrees of "evil" onto NSA/PRISM.
Although NSA/PRISM is claimed to "exist" through evidence of its legislative provisions, infrastructure and funding, it can be fruitfully asked to what extent it "exists" for those who are a focus for its activities -- or for those responsible for its oversight (given issues of "right to know"). As with "Al-Qaida", its nature is essentially unknown to most -- or known only through a carefully crafted image, or through challenging claims made regarding its real intentions. The comparison of "Al-Qaida" with a private corporate price-fixing cartel (whose secretive "existence" is readily deniable) can be extended to the relation of NSA with PRISM, the UKUSA Agreement, or ECHELON -- based as it is on secret agreements (as with other NATO allies), variously denied in the past.
If "Al-Qaida" is claimed as the creation of Islam, it could be argued that "NSA/PRISM" is the "Al-Qaida" of NATO and its allies.
Especially intriguing is speculation on the possibility that the activities for which NSA/PRISM is of most concern are a skillful complex of misdirection. Its purported invasive surveillance may be primarily a carefully crafted bluff -- a global threat whose nature few are able to confirm and many are legally obliged to deny. NSA/PRISM could well be a massive exercise in "fooling the people all the time" -- a "confidence trick", in defiance of the warning of Abraham Lincoln. Would anyone doubt the capacity of NSA/PRISM to orchestrate the Manning-Assange-Snowden revelations to that end? This has been partially argued by Naomi Wolf (My creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be..., Sott.net, 14 June 2013).
For many critics of NSA/PRISM, it is in effect "our Al-Qaida". The ambiguity with which "Al-Qaida" may be appreciated in Islamic cultures (and by their authorities) may then be compared with the ambiguity with which NSA/PRISM is appreciated in western cultures (and by their authorities).
The experiential reality of global civilization then includes the shadowy world in which both "exist" to some degree -- if only as a focus for imagination and distraction. The question is then how to engage more fruitfully with both -- especially since both represent extremes otherwise evident to a lesser degree in multi-party systems. As shadowy entities, they bear some resemblance in psychosocial terms to the role of shadowy deities and spirits in animist belief systems like voodoo (as noted above).
More challenging is the extent to which both are characteristic of patterns of individual behaviour. Framed as "Big Brother", it is evident the extent to which characteristics of NSA/PRISM feature in sibling rivalry. Forms of "Al-Qaida" are readily evident in parental reference to the threat of a "bogeyman". As indicated in the Wikipedia profile, this is
an amorphous imaginary being used by adults to frighten children into compliant behaviour. The monster has no specific appearance, and conceptions about it can vary drastically from household to household within the same community; in many cases, he has no set appearance in the mind of an adult or child, but is simply a non-specific embodiment of terror.
Cultivation of "terror", "terrorism" and "terrific"
Varieties of terrorism: Given the argument above, the question is how insight into terror can be extended, as separately explored (Varieties of Terrorism: extended to the experience of the terrorized, 2004). This distinguished:
That final section explored the possible distinction between:
- "Terrorism-alpha" as the narrowly defined form of terrorism
(emphasizing the total responsibility of the immediate perpetrators and the
total innocence of the victims). As the "evil needed elsewhere",
it affects very few and relatively rarely (even in comparison with road accidents).
It lends itself to extensive media coverage using individual human tragedy
as a form of emotional camouflage (based on unchallengable "motherhood
statements") to facilitate simplistic analysis and to avoid questioning
of strategic assumptions. It offers considerable opportunities for immediate
action by reallocation of resources to the military-industrial complex and
by restriction of human rights in the name of national security. This assumes
(or sets up) an identifiable target -- a "linchpin" -- as the focus
for the delivery of a "silver bullet".
- "Terrorism-beta" as the more inclusive understanding of
terrorism that recognizes the experience of terror amongst many over long
periods of time. Responsibilities in this case tend to be deliberately obscured
or "spun" in media coverage with little attention to the wider tragedy
for many. Since there are relatively few lucrative opportunities for the military-industrial
complex, the focus is on recognizing the most general principles of human
rights (in terms of which appeals can be made, and regrets can be sincerely
expressed) -- avoiding, to the extent possible, any sustained remedial action.
Such action, when it is successful, tends to be based on subtler conceptual
frameworks that seek to evoke widespread participation and engagement -- intuitively
recognized in counter-productive battles for "hearts and minds"
by propaganda and "psychological operations".
It was then argued there that whilst the response to Terrorism-alpha impedes recognition of Terrorism-beta,
it might be asked whether the latter obscures a "Terrorism-gamma".
The gamma variant is likely to be much more widespread -- to the point
of being endemic in society. It is partially acknowledged, and simultaneously
excused, with such phrases as "human nature" or "being
only human" -- namely a potential, if not explicit, characteristic
of everyone as being in some way responsible for the beta form and the
generally unpeaceful nature of society.
More intriguing is the possibility of a "Terrorism-delta".
This might be the specific corollary to recognition of the gamma variant,
namely the extent to which one is oneself an "Osama bin Laden"
in some measure -- carrier in one's own psychic makeup of a covert mindset
that engenders terror of the most terrible kind, as separately explored (Looking in the Mirror -- at Josef Fritzl ? Global conditions on reflection, 2009). This possibility would
of course be most vigorously denied -- especially by oneself! This would
however be consistent with the preoccupations of enactivism.
It is also consistent with many spiritual insights, including the Christian
sense of personal sinfulness, and understandings of ignorance in Hinduism
in Buddhism (mithyajnana), or "forgetting God" (in Islam).
These all understand personal thoughts of violence as the root cause of
wider social ills [more].
Together these four forms of terrorism appear to have a curious symmetry.
Terrorism-alpha is the extremely focused outward projection
of dysfunctionality onto Osama bin Laden, and his like-minded terrorists,
as the ultimate evil causative factor undermining the values of the civilized,
essentially good, world. The problematic nature of this world, with its
many other experienced sources of terror, is characterized by the less-focused, more diffusely widespread Terrorism-beta. This recognition of
multiple others as a source of terror in society can however be matched
by a recognition of a diffusely shared responsibility with others as contributing to the climate of fear -- Terrorism-gamma. The symmetry
is however completed by recognition of Terrorism-delta, of which the engendering
source is oneself, as the inner complementary focus of dysfunctionality mirroring the outer focused projection of unmitigated evil (see En-minding
the Extended Body: Enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and
deep ecology, 2003).
Complicity in engendering terror: Clearly (as noted above) the media, movie makers and videogame designers are all highly complicit in the design of . experiences seamlessly blending terror with the terrific. Marketing endeavours much appreciate any product or service being popularly rated as "terrific". This is consistent with a long tradition of story telling, creative writing and theatre. There is very limited capacity to produce cultural products without violence of some form -- and a very limited market for it. Religious tales, including that of Jesus, offer a focus on violence -- culminating in its depiction on the Christian cross (tragically echoed by an iconic image of torture in Abu Ghraib).
Clearly controversial enhanced interrogation techniques are designed specifically to engender terror as a means of encouraging truth-telling -- following a long tradition of the use of torture for that purpose, and as a means of punishment.
Of particular relevance is the complicity of the medical profession in the process of interrogation, highlighted by the role of Josef Mengele ("Angel of Death") in performing experiments on humans in concentration camps in the course of the process. Following a pattern deprecated in the Soviet Union, such complicity is currently highlighted by the central role psychologists play in USgovernmenttorture and abuse of national security detainees, with the apparent protection of the American Psychological Association, as described by Roy Eidelson and Stephen Soldz (Hawaiian Mind Games: APA fiddles while psychology burns, Psychology Today, 5 August 2013) who note:
As has beenreported many times over the past decade, psychologists designed, implemented, supervised, researched, and provided ethical cover for abuses committed by the CIA and U.S. military. As a result, the APA has faced repeated calls to take action to prevent future abuses by members of the profession. But rather than engaging in a careful evaluation and reconsideration of theethicsof psychologists' involvement in national security settings, the Association's leaders have insteadresponded, over and over again, with little more than empty talk and feeble resolutions devoid of any real significance. And true to form, last week the APA successfully enacted one of the most vacuous of these recurring exercises.
Psychological warfare: As an aspect of war propaganda, techniques of psychological warfare may deliberately endeavour to elicit a sense of terror in the enemy through "psychological operations" (PSYOP). These have been defined as:
The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives
Beyond what can be readily imagined as engendering terror, a valuable summary of the more unconventional techniques explored by the US has been produced by Jon Elliston (Psywar Terror Tactics, ParaScope, Inc., 1996; Supernatural Subversives in the Congo, 1997). He notes the publication of a strategy paper, commissioned by the US Army , on paranormal combat, discussing "counter-magic" tactics to suppress rebels who are backed by witch-doctors, charms, and magic potions. (James R. Price and Paul Jureidini, Witchcraft, Sorcery, Magic, and Other Psychological Phenomena, and Their Implications on Military and Paramilitary Operations in the Congo, 1964). Some use was made of related techniques during US operations in Vietnam (The Use of Superstitions in Psychological Operations in Vietnam, Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office), with instructions given for "the exploitation of enemy vulnerabilities provided by superstitions and deeply-held".
Does supernatural psywar do the job? Are enemy troops and civilians coaxed into submission by foreign propagandists using paranormal pranks? Based on the experiences of U.S. PSYOP specialists, the answers to these questions are ambiguous. Sometimes paranormal propaganda has swayed a target population, in other cases it merely strengthened the perception that U.S. forces were out of touch with the local reality. Whatever its effectiveness, supernatural psywar has been an oft-used weapon in the military's arsenal of fear.
"Terrific terror": As noted above, "terror" is carefully cultivated and disseminated through the media for purposes of entertainment -- potentially qualified appreciatively as "terrific". An obvious example is the enthusiasm for vampire movies and for the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is irrespective of expressed concern regarding the impact of violence in the media and controversies regarding violent video games.
It is however appropriate to note the extent to which such games are used in military training, with their development partially facilitated to that end by military authorities. Encouraging use of the games also facilitates military recruiting. As has been remarked, the software and skills of some games may also be closely related to the operation of drones by the military.
Concern with the use of such games has been highlighted by the role of Anders Behring Breivik as the perpetrator of a multiple deaths in Norway in 2011, discussed separately (Gruesome but Necessary: Global Governance in the 21st Century? Extreme normality as indicator of systemic negligence, 2011). Breivik was an enthusiast of online war games -- World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2 -- in which millions engage daily, often for many hours at a time (Norway Terrorist Used World Of Warcraft As A Training Simulator, 27 July 2011; Terrorist Anders Behring Breivik Used Modern Warfare 2 as "Training-Simulation", 23 July 2011). More curiously, the justification offered for the slaughter by Breivik was that it was "gruesome but necessary". That phrase figures prominently (some 75,000 hits, at the time of writing) in any web search relating to World of Warcraft -- prior to any reference to Breivik. It would appear to be recognized as a slogan.
Specifically to be understood as consistent with video game appreciation as "terrific" is Diablo. This is an action role-playing hack and slash video game in which "terror" figures prominently -- most notably in terms of the "Lord of Terror". Information for participants is available through a dedicated DiabloWiki.
The sense of "terrific terror" is also evident in the thrill of visiting haunted places -- and passing the night there. This is echoed by some traditional fair ground features for the young.
Ambiguity of "democratic oversight": institutionalisation of negligence?
Oversight: At the time of writing there is considerable debate about the existence and adequacy of "democratic oversight" of the NSA/PRISM surveillance program, notably as articulated by Glenn Greenwald (Glenn Greenwald Mocks Robust Oversight' of NSA Spying, Infowars.com, 4 August 2013).
A number of bodies have long been concerned with the process more generally -- whether termed "congressional oversight" or "parliamentary oversight". Serious concerns have been expressed regarding the adequacy of oversight -- expressed over decades (see references).
The bodies include the Parliamentary Oversight Global Task Force and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. There are many documents relating to the process (Parliamentary Oversight of Intelligence services, DCAF, 2006; Oversight and Guidance: the relevance of parliamentary oversight for the security sector, DCAF; Tools for Parliamentary Oversight: a comparative study of 88 national parliaments, IPU, 2007). Presumably their relevance to the secretive issues of electronic surveillance have yet to be fully clarified in the light of the recent disclosures.
In the secretive context of NSA/PRISM, access by duly elected representatives to information enabling appropriate democratic oversight is itself a challenge, as recently highlighted (Glenn Greenwald, Members of Congress denied access to basic information about NSA, The Guardian, 4 August 2013; Scott Lemieux, 4 Ways the Government Keeps You In the Dark About What It's Doing, AlterNet, 9 August 2013).
Ambiguity: Irrespective of the degree of "access" and the quantity of information provided -- perhaps deliberately to the point of overloading any such "oversight" process -- there is the question of how effectively the process can be performed (beyond the need to make that claim for public relations purposes). There is an irony of the highest order in the ambiguity of "oversight" -- indicative as the term also is of negligence, blindspots, and forgetfullness -- all suggestive of the "intelligence failure" originally associated with 9/11. In that sense "democratic oversight" could be understood cynically as a total pretence -- the institutionalisation of systemic negligence.
In the light of progress in this matter over the years, previous recommendations to strengthen "democratic oversight" merit consideration in this cynical light, as with those of Robert M. Gates (Strengthening Congressional Oversight of Intelligence, National Security Law Report, 1993). Gates was Director of Central Intelligence (head of the CIA) from 1991 to 1993 and US Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, succeeding Donald Rumsfeld. Controversy surrounds his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal.
Quality of oversight: Expressed otherwise, would anyone want to fly in an airplane subject to security and safety checks of a quality equivalent to that currently advocated for "democratic oversight"? This can be extended into the more complex example offered by a system of airtraffic control. What standards of "oversight" would be applied to ensure collision avoidance on flight paths over a region?
How does the quality of that oversight compare with the industry Six Sigma standard? It would be normal to expect NSA supercomputers to be operating according to that standard.
A Six Sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defects per million). As noted by Wikipedia with respect to manufacturing processes, Six Sigma:
... uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization ("Champions", "Black Belts", "Green Belts", "Yellow Belts", etc.) who are experts in the methods. Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified value targets, for example; process cycle time reduction, customer satisfaction, reduction in pollution, cost reduction and/or profit increase.
Is there a case for envisaging Six Sigma "Black Belt" capacity in the democratic oversight process (Six Sigma Master Black Belt Body of Knowledge, 2013)? What might then be the "quantified value targets"? Curiously SIGMA is also the abbrevation for the Support for Improvement in Governance and Management -- a joint initiative of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
By contrast, does the quality of oversight correspond in practice to that employed in target acquisition by drones in remote areas -- namely tolerance of any unfortunate killing of innocents as being statistically acceptable? This is an issue highlighted by Bradley Manning in releasing a video via Wikileaks (Collateral murder in Iraq by US helicopter).
The challenge has been recognized in the UK (Conal Urquhart, GCHQ and security services 'need parliamentary oversight', The Guardian, 22 June 2013). It is further illustrated there at the time of writing, in another arena for which a system for "democratic oversight" is purportedly in place (Rob Evans, Serious Fraud Office admits losing thousands of documents linked to BAE Anti-fraud unit, The Guardian, 8 August 2013). Are there embarrassing comparisons to be made with the leaking of documents by Snowden? Although a procedural review is envisaged in that case, are such reviews merely exercises in dangerous tokenism -- reflecting an outmoded mentality -- in the absence of adequate simulation to detect potential "holes"?
Similarly, in the course of a major press conference, Barack Obama indicated as a confidence-building initiative that he would work with Congress to reform NSA's FISA court and Patriot Act (Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman, Obama touts NSA surveillance reforms to quell growing unease over programs, The Guardian, 9 August 2013; Barack Obama pledges greater surveillance transparency, BBC News, 9 August 2013). However he made clear that mass surveillance would continue. Using the same test, who would have the confidence to fly in an airplane dependent on initiatives of that quality? Who would fly in a plane whose safety was pledged by a politician? The parallel with Obama's health care proposals, in terms of the quality of safety nets, merits reflection.
Simulation: Improvement of "oversight" capacity merits detailed verification of that process through simulation -- given the human cognitive constraints in relation to such vast quantities of data and the highly problematic dynamics of any oversight committee process. Appropriate simulation would ensure appropriate feedback loops to confirm the integrity of the process -- in the light of cybernetic insights (as noted above). As with "oversight" itself, there is however a delightful irony to the fact that "leaks" occur through "loopholes". In mathematical terms, these may be of higher dimensionality than is normally assumed or readily understood. The concern is occasionally compared metaphorically to the holes in a Swiss cheese, as with the argument of Euro-MP Dennis de Jong (EU Banking Regulation 'as full of holes as a Swiss Cheese', SP International, 16 April 2013) or that of Eliot Spitzer (Romney's tax plan is Swiss cheese: full of holes, The Cap Times, 21 October 2012).
Such simulation could be fruitfully related to the more general issue of the manner in which solicited "democratic feedback", and proposals for "alternatives", are systematically ignored (Considering All the Strategic Options -- whilst ignoring alternatives and disclaiming cognitive protectionism, 2009; Enabling Collective Intelligence in Response to Emergencies, 2010). There is of course no lack within the NSA environment of the relevant skills to design such a simulation -- although a higher order of oversight would also be required to ensure that backdoors were not inserted to enable the process to be "tweaked" (as with some electronic voting processes).
The whole question of "democratic oversight" of intelligence services calls for simulation capable of highlighting the vulnerabilities best described by "setting the fox to guard the chicken coop", a phrase widely used in several variants in relation to government (Molly Ivins, Fox Guards Henhouse in Bush's Selections, The Dispatch, 25 August 2001).
The argument is remarkably developed in a well-illustrated presentation by Kimmo Soramäki (Simulation Analysis and Tools for the Oversight of Payment Systems, Latin American Center of Monetary Studies, 2012) as a means of clarifying the system of financial transactions implicated in the financial crisis. It is introduced by remarks of Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank:,
When the crisis came, the serious limitations of existing economic and financial models immediately became apparent.... As a policy-maker during the crisis, I found the available models of limited help. In fact, I would go further: in the face of the crisis, we felt abandoned by conventional tools. (18 November 2010)
The case of Edward Snowden is a useful challenge for exploring the ambiguities of "democratic oversight". On the one hand his actions revealed the insecurity "holes" in what might have been assumed to be a Six Sigma system. On the other hand, his initiative was purportedly in the interest of ensuring "democratic oversight" -- by the peoples of the US. Is Snowden effectively an embodiment of "democratic oversight" in both senses of the term? The founder of the e-mail service, reportedly used by Snowden, closed it down with the suitably ambiguous declaration that he would not be complicit in "crimes against the American people" (Spencer Ackerman, Lavabit email service abruptly shut down citing government interference, The Guardian, 9 August 2013). To what extent should a simulation encompass both the possibility of leaks and efforts to enable democratic transparency, however misguided?
Unknown unknowns: Ironically the challenge of "democratic oversight" of electronic surveillance is highlighted by the "poem" notoriously presented by Donald Rumsfeld as US Secretary of Defense in February 2002, and discussed separately (Unknown Undoing: challenge of incomprehensibility of systemic neglect, 2008):
There are known knowns;
there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say,
there are things that we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns -
there are things we do not know we don't know.
Engaging otherwise with fear of change
It could be considered that the global preoccupation with "terrorism" at this time is extraordinary -- given the extent to which "terror" and violence are so central to the excitement of entertainment, of many sports, and of many forms of recreation. As indicated above, the "terror" to which "counter-terrorism" responds might be considered quite distinct from that associated with entertainment. That argument could be contested, especially when it is characteristic of a "thrill" or an "adrenaline rush", and more dubiously when pleasure is derived from the terror engendered in others.
Officially denied terrorism and experience of terror: The preoccupation with "counter-terrorism" could be understood as deliberately ignoring the very real terror experienced by some (possibly on a daily basis), possibly with physical consequences (even death), as with:
- domestic violence (whether between adults, towards minors, between siblings, or in behaviour of minors to parents)
- sexual abuse (of women, of minors), in prisons, or in the military (The Invisible War, 2012)
- violence in the workplace (and towards bonded labour, slaves, etc)
- violence in institutions (prisons, military, schools, care homes, etc), possibly also associated with hazing rituals
- violence in the street or public transport (gang violence, muggings, etc), notably in police "no go" areas
- induced terror (road rage, bike rage, air rage)
- post-traumatic stress disorder (most notably in the case of military veterans, and the terror they may engender in their neighbourhoods)
- fear of crime
These may all be associated with harassment and bullying -- experienced as terrifying -- possibly leading to fatalities or suicide. The latter may also be a consequence of cyberbullying in internet chat rooms. Threats, whether of violence or loss of livelihood, can be similarly experienced as terrifying.
It would seem that "counter-terrorism" focuses on acts intended to result in fatalities -- because of the terror they engender after the fact or in anticipation of it. It seemingly ignores forms of terror engendered without that explicit intention -- or the terror experienced by those who do not die. Could it be said that "counter-terrorism" operates a dubious strategy of triage -- or gerrymandering -- in selecting those forms of terror to which it gives attention? Those forms excluded are then effectively defined as "terror-free". There is then some irony to treatment of "shootings" as terrorism if they involve a foreigner, but otherwise if they do not (as in the case of school shootings). Hence the embarrassment of "domestic terrorism" -- when in fact there is far more such terror-engendering activity than is suggested by that term.
Experience of fear: To reframe the situation, the question meriting attention is the experiential nature of fear itself -- rather than assuming that it can be simply defined and described. Especially relevant is the fear of change and the terror induced by the threat of change. This terror could prove to be notably characteristic of any conservative worldview -- complementing the terror experienced by many in any society dominated by such a worldview..
In exploring the nature of fear, it is most curious that this could be seen as a continuing preoccupation of media dramatisations of many kinds. The attraction could then be understood as an effort to understand various forms of fear, to see them articulated, even as a form of therapy. Exposure to such fear also offers possibilities of vicariously acting out responses to situations which may arise in the future, or which may have arisen in the past.
Source of insight into fear: Framed in this way, it is then useful to ask who knows about "fear", in addition to those faced with the contexts identified above. What particular skills do they, or others, bring to bear in understanding it less superficially than those preoccupied with "counter-terrorism"? Sources of insight could include:
- specialists in "enhanced interrogation" and infliction of pain (aided by psychologists, as protected by the American Psychological Association, and other authorities)
- combat troops:
- front line troops (as traditionally exemplified by those in World War I prepared to leave the trenches -- "going over the top" -- with a high probability of being killed)
- fighter pilots (as exemplified by the Spitfire pilots in the Battle of Britain, faced with similar fatalities)
- special operations combat troops (with a high risk of being captured and tortured, and therefore trained to "handle" that experience)
- mujhaheddin fighters and suicide bombers (prepared to die for their cause)
- speculators (prepared to risk a very high percentage of their assets, as notably described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007; Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, 2012):
- high risk speculators on financial market
- venture capitalists
- poker players and other gamblers
- extreme sports and martial arts:
- participants in extreme sports with a high risk to life (mountaineering, free climbing, etc)
- participants in martial arts and hand-to-hand combat (notably according to eastern philosophies)
- wild game hunters and photographers (especially those expecting to be in dangerous proximity to animals)
- conflict participants, mediators, and negotiators:
- conflict and hostage situations (with every possibility of being killed)
- street and bike gangs, potentially competing violently for territory (and the community facilitators required to engage with them and mitigate their violence)
- organized crime gangs
- people with a terminal illness or otherwise facing death (Arthur Koestler, Dialogue with Death, 1942)
- counsellors in fear management (either with respect to institutional environments or as a feature of personal development, possibly extending to a pathological lack of self-esteem and sense of identity)
The exploration can be further extended by considering:
- competitive contexts (whether sports or corporate) in which engendering fear, or experiencing it, is part of that reality. The conventional environments can be contrasted with those of (criminal) gangs where these can be associated with fatalities. The question is then whose "rules" condition the level of risk? Especially relevant is the degree of exposure to the threatening "other".
To what extent is one competitor able to "look the other in the eye" without having the other bound under constraint to minimize the threat?
- potentially threatening contexts:
- to what extent have those preoccupied with "terrorism" encountered a "terrorist on his/her own ground -- rather than in Abu Ghraib, Bagram or Guantanamo Bay?
- to what extent has the hunter engaged "face-to-face" with a dangerous wild animal -- rather than equipped with weaponry eliminating any threat?
- to what extent is the reality of gang operations appreciated, including engagement with gang members "face-to-face"?
- to what extent is the reality of prisons and mental asylums appreciated, including engagement with other inmates and abusive staff?
- to what extent is the reality of intentional communities and cults appreciated, including engagement with other participants and manipulative leadership?
- to what extent is the reality of other ethnic groups appreciated, including engagement with people of that culture?
- hypothetically threatening contexts might include the nature of the encounter with extraterrestrials, as frequently explored in science fiction, and separately discussed (Communicating with Aliens: the psychological dimension of dialogue, 2000).
Fear of change: There is an extensive literature on "fear management" and "fear of change" (Melanie A. Greenberg, Ten Skills to Manage Fear and Anxiety in an Unsafe World, Psychology Today, 15 December 2012; Marc MacYoung and Dianna Gordon MacYoung, Fear Management vs. Danger Management, No Nonsense Self-Defense). There is a related literature on "fear of change" (Adam Dachis, Why You're So Afraid of Change (and What You Can Do About It), lifehacker, 11 February 2013; Jacquelyn Smith, 12 Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Change at Work, Forbes, 18 January 2013; Tara Wagner, 5 Things Your Fear of Change Really Means, 21 September 2011).
"Fear of change" of course includes those fears associated with the change to oneself at different phases of life: puberty, adulthood, mid-life crisis, and death. The latter includes "fear of death" as in terror management theory.
Of relevance to this argument is whether the focus is in fact on a carefully framed environment -- to be caricatured as "fear-lite" -- or whether it encompasses the degree of existential fear to which some are exposed, as noted above. Of even more relevance, is whether "fear management" is simply conflated with "counter-terrorism", as framed by the security services.
It is clear that the experience of fear in some contexts calls for special attitudes to engage with it appropriately -- as in the martial arts or some extreme sports. The subtlety of these attitudes is obscured by framing them as a form of "fear management". There would seem to be a requirement to engage with that fear and to be transformed by it -- in ways which call for deep insight, as is for example cultivated for high-risk environments. The attitude is presumably evident to those able to take extreme (sacrificial) risk in combat or hazardous situations -- irrespective of whether that attitude can be meaningfully communicated.
In relation to the collective framing of "terrorism", the "fear of change" can also be usefully explored through engagement in unusual collective experiences (subsequently framed as iconic) such as:
Radical change: Such examples can be used to explore understanding of Christian crusades in relation to Islamic jihad. Both may be understood as a battle for change. In both cases, however, the focus is on changing the "other" to the preferred worldview. This is also characteristic of modern uses of "crusade". Neither is especially focused on collective change of those initiating the endeavour. The initiatives therefore obscures a more fundamental fear of "self-change".
The challenge of collective self-change might also be said to be evident in many alternative initiatives crusading for change on the part of those holding a more conservative or deprecated worldview. There is little question of collective self-change, although this may be implied to a degree by the slogan: You must be the change you want to see in the world (Mahatma Gandhi). Framed in this way, the implication is that the change is risk free -- and does not require coming face-to-face with existential fears. This might be caricatured as "change-lite".
Embodying "malware" transformatively: No Security Anywhere (NSA)?
The nature of more radically fundamental change could well be usefully explored through the challenge of "otherness" and how best to engage with it. The self-reflexive dimension can be recognized in the extensive literature on the encounter with the "shadow" (Jeremiah Abrams, The Shadow in America, 1995; Robert A. Johnson, Owning Your Own Shadow: understanding the dark side of the psyche, 1993). Less evident is the nature of the challenge of the collective shadow.
The question is how the engagement with "terrorism", framed as a global challenge, can be compared with engagement with a collective shadow -- the collective shadow of humanity, possibly the collective unconscious. This could be understood to encompass the crisis of crises with which civilization is currently faced (Mapping the Global Underground, 2010).
Mutation of the "wolf": Any engagement with "the shadow" implies a reframing of the "wolf" metaphor highlighted above. The "wolf" can be understood to correspond to Rumsfeld's "known knowns" or "known unknowns" -- or even to "unknown knowns". As such the wolf, in evoking fear, is relatively "safely" well-framed. A "counter-terrorism" security mindset could well suffice in order to avoid any need to change according to the conservative paradigm.
The question raised here is whether avoidance of any change, through fear, has enabled the wolf to "metastasize" or "mutate". It is no longer a conventional wolf able to be managed with conventional mindsets. The "wolf" now embodies the worst collective fears of humanity -- those most deeply repressed. It can be usefully understood as a "werewolf", as widely anticipated in fantasy movies and fiction -- presumably for good psychological reasons. More personally, it is the entity perceived in a magic mirror -- the kind which offers an image of who one really is -- as with that described by Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890).
Acting unconsciously, to the extent widely recognized, people are effectively werewolves, whether individually or collectively (John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1995). Aside from recognizing the characteristic in oneself -- as being in some respects "two-faced" -- it can be recognized in others deprecated as "sociopaths", as with the classic movie portrayal of Dr Strangelove. (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1964). Their existence is readily imagined in the case of NSA/PRISM, with some known personalities (explicitly associated with the "secret government" of conspiracy theorists) corresponding readily to that profile.
Threat of otherness: To repeat, this approach is not about focusing on the "evil" projected by the primarily Judeo-Christian West onto Islam, nor about the "evil" projected by Islam onto the Judeo-Christian West. It is a case for coming to terms with the projection of "evil" onto "otherness", and recognizing the manner in which the "other" is effectively a mirror in which unresolved issues with which one identifies can be perceived as inhibiting change ("Human Intercourse": "Intercourse with Nature" and "Intercourse with the Other", 2007; Mirroring of self and other: enjoyment "through" the world, 2011).
Understood in these terms, the fear of otherness can be understood as the fear of change -- especially to the extent that it may imply a form of "shapeshifting", otherwise considered as essentially "terrifying" (En-minding the Extended Body: enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003; Secret sharing, Shapeshifting and Embodiment: reintegration of a remaindered world, 2011).
The recognition of former CIA operative Robert Baer (cited above) that "They're coming after us" then merits understanding in those terms. Change is indeed a-comin' -- whether understood as emerging from the future or from the netherworld of the collective unconscious. And it is indeed coming "after us" and our identification with an outmoded worldview -- so demonstrably "unfit for purpose". Engagement with the dynamic of that change calls for skills as indicated above. Failure to do so transforms the emerging forms into terrifyingly destructive experiences -- now echoed in many videos.
Aiding the enemy -- but "them is us": A major declared concern is that Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have been "aiding the enemy", specifically the enemies of US. Manning has recently been acquitted on that count (Andrew Aylward and Julian E. Barnese, Manning Acquitted of Aiding the Enemy, The Wall Street Journal, 30 July 2013; Ed Pilkington, Bradley Manning verdict: cleared of 'aiding the enemy', The Guardian, 30 July 2013). Many have protested that their revelations were in fact aiding the people of the US to obtain understanding of their democracy and its challenges.
The question is how it might be possible to highlight a pattern of intermediary conditions between the unquestionably absolute good of "us" and the unquestionably absolute evil of "them", as .discussed separately In considering the challenge (Us and Them: Relating to Challenging Others: patterns in the shadow dance between "good" and "evil", 2009). One inspiration for such a pursuit, cited there, might be Pogo's classic: we have met the enemy and he is us. However the challenge is to render explicit what might otherwise be encompassed and conflated within the experiential mystery of otherness as explored by Martin Buber (I and Thou, 1923) and others ("Human Intercourse": "Intercourse with Nature" and "Intercourse with the Other", 2007). Clearly such laudable insights have not yet been adequate to the challenge -- notably in the Middle East.
Reconciling distinct worldviews: Curiously the emergent forms and their dynamics, as vehicles for the highest values, will necessarily be perceived differently through the lenses offered by the different extant worldviews:
- for those of religious inclination, it will imply values associated with the "heaven" of their respective tradition
- for those of secular beliefs, it will correspond to assumptions implied by "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness", for example
- for those of scientific orientation, it will reflect the wonders and optimism of technological imagination
What is terrifying about these respective worldviews is not so much their obvious inadequacy in dealing with each other and their internal dissensions -- given the violence and other problems this negligence engenders -- most notably on the part of the Abrahamic religions. Far more terrifying is their total incapacity to address that incapacity with any humility and creativity. Like "Al-Qaida" and "NSA/PRISM", it could be said that they do not "exist" with any coherence and therefore have no ability to respond to the conditions of the times with any integrity.
Missing from these framings are the existential implications, namely the counterpart to the fear and terror in the anticipation of change. It is this existential change that will transform the sense of order with which identity is currently associated and to which it is "attached" -- as to an umbilical cord. The profound differences between these worldviews exacerbate the violence with which they are currently associated.
One possibility to be explored is the manner in which mathematical theology offers a bridge between both the religions and with the sciences -- given the profound significance attached to some mathematical insights by religion, as discussed separately (Mathematical Theology: Future Science of Confidence in Belief, 2011).
Little Red Riding Hood and the "wolf": Further exploiting both the "wolf" and the fables above, the tale of Little Red Riding Hood can be entangled with them to enable further insight. As indicated above, such widely-known tales carry folk wisdom regarding complex situations which is valuable in time of crisis.
It could be argued that there is always a case for mining such resources at the time of crisis to identify any that are especially relevant to deeper understanding and the need to share it widely, as argued separately (Proportionate Response in the Eye of the Beholder: educational fables for faith-based global governance, 2006). The existence of the Aarne-Thompson folk tale classification system suggests a complement to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in the identification and comprehension of "memetic disorders", as discussed separately (Memetic and Information Diseases in a Knowledge Society: speculations towards the development of cures and preventive measures, 2008). Used together, these might prove indicative of the potential for "intelligence failure".
Appropriate to this argument, the wolf of the tale is sometimes portrayed as a werewolf -- especially in the light of its changing appearance.
As with the "little boy", the "little girl" of the tale epitomizes a degree of innocence -- perhaps to be compared to the peoples of the world in their use of the internet. Even her encounter with the wolf evinces no fear -- as might be compared to the insouciance with which many relate to the NSA/PRIM revelations, despite the duplicity associated with the implementation of that system. The wolf skillfully extracts personal information from the little girl and is thus able to locate the home of her grandmother. The latter could be understood as embodying the traditional values and sense of security which the Statue of Liberty might be considered symbolically to enclothe as a democratic ideal. In that respect, Facebook and Google can be framed as the friendly front-end of the NSA/PRISM quest for Total Information Awareness.
The wolf then "swallows" the grandmother whole -- echoing the sense for many that what has been most valued in the USA has been similarly engulfed by NSA. Then, using those values as a disguise, and appropriately "embedded", the (were)wolf greets the little girl. Like the little boy, the girl notices how strange her grandmother looks -- leading to the memorable dialogue:
-- "decoded" ?
||Granny / (Were)wolf
|"What a deep voice you have"
||"The better to greet you with"
||voice of unquestionable authority
|"Goodness, what big eyes you have,"
||"The better to see you with"
|| tracking satellite dishes
|"And what big hands you have!"
|| "The better to hug/grab you with"
|| legally-empowered targetting
|"What big teeth you have"
||"The better to eat you with!"
Embodying "malware": Subsequent phases in the tale of the relationship between (were)wolf, grandmother and the little girl are complex and variously recounted and interpreted.
One approach to their implications is through comprehension of integration of the shadow, perhaps to be phrased as "becoming what one fears" -- taking ownership of one's worst imaginings. Such comprehension does not lend itself to rational articulation -- hence the value of its framing through illustrative folk tales. The challenge is evident in passage through phases of life evoking fear (puberty, etc). The tale of the little girl has notably been interpreted to that end. More evident for adults is the midlife crisis, loss of sexual functions, and recognition of the prospect of mortality.
Another indication is offered by the extent to which "wolf" (as noted by Wikipedia) is used as a designation for the sports teams of many countries, and for military vehicles and ships.
Other clues are offered in competitive situations in which the art is to "know thine enemy" and creatively to reframe the skills of the enemy. Within a healing framework, clues are offered through techniques of taking on the ills of the other, notably by some psychic healers and faith healers -- perhaps exemplified by the purported role of Jesus, widely acclaimed by Christianity with respect to the problems of humanity.
As discussed separately (Progressive integration of the shadow of non-self-reflexivity, 2009), a further clue is offered by the classic set of Ten Ox-herding Images of Zen Buddhism. These are also known as the Ten Bulls -- a highly appropriate alternative for western appreciation (Transformation of Global Governance through Bullfighting: visual symbols and geometric metaphors, 2009). Each image is indicative of an evolution of insight into the relation with challenging "otherness" and is accompanied by brief commentary (cf D T Suzuki; Kubota Ji'un, Ten Ox-herding Pictures with the Verses Composed by Kakuan Zenji, 1996).
As argued elsewhere (Enlightening Endarkenment: selected web resources on the challenge to comprehension, 2005), these are of special interest because of their indication of progressive discovery and interplay with a shadowy element -- even an "enemy" -- denoted by an ox. In a Commentary on the Integration of perceived Problems in the Human Development section of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, the images were used to suggest the unfolding relationship between humanity and its shadow (in the shape of the complex of world problems).
The commentary on the "ox-herding" phases is made there under the following headings -- of potential relevance to phases in reframing engagement with the "malware" imaginatively exemplified by either "Al-Qaida" or "NSA/PRISM":
- Undisciplined exploration of the problematique
- Recognizing traces of the problematique as an integrated system
- Focusing on the problematique as a whole
- Encompassing the problematique
- Orienting the problematique
- Using the problematique as a vehicle for sustainable development
- Transcending the realm of the problematique
- Disappearance of both humanity and the problematique
- Expression of essential humanity
- Human intervention in the world
The sequence evolves from extreme dissociation, perhaps exemplified by framings such as "if it moves, kill it -- it may be dangerous". The final phases are an extreme challenge to conventional comprehension and more akin to understandings of nonduality, explored by fundamental physics and some philosophies. In that light it is not a question of "security" or "insecurity" but of the kind of vigilance cultivated in eastern martial arts and Zen -- hence the provocative reference to "No Security Anywhere". This is consistent with the much-cited quote "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty", and its alternatives, as variously attributed.
Paradoxical correspondences and complementarity
The argument above deliberately endeavours to frame the sterile polarization which characterizes the framing of an enemy -- who simply returns the favour. This calls for a counter-intuitive, self-reflexive reframing which contrasts with linear thinking, as discussed separately (Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations, 2007; Sustaining a Community of Strange Loops, 2010)
Archetypal figures from folk tales have been used (above) to that end. These may well disguise the fundamental shock of recognizing oneself in the enemy -- horrifically mirrored -- especially when that relationship is characterized by violent fatalities, as may well be the case in some forms of sibling rivalry. The relationship between Israelis and Palestinians has often been cited in that regard.
Another approach is to recognize the strange complementarity and correspondences in the current situation (Theories of Correspondences -- and potential equivalences between them in correlative thinking, 2007). From this perspective it is extraordinary to note the quest of NSA and its PRISM collaborators for:
- hyper-transparency everywhere -- contrasted with the emphasis on enforcing hyper-secrecy regarding that process and the knowledge gained thereby (including gag orders on requests made for such secrecy)
- a form of "voyeurism" with respect to everyone -- effectively "grooming" everyone into a form of "exhibitionism" (through the lens of Google/Facebook/etc.)
- a transformation into a form which would have been the envy of previously declared enemies of the USA -- whose initiatives were formerly framed as totally abhorrent (KGB, Stasi, incarceration of opponents, secret courts, etc)
- extreme assertion of legality and the rule of law -- contrasted with increasingly sloppy "justice" through legitimating the elimination of suspects without due process
- commitment to total security -- now associated with ever increasing levels of insecurity (exemplified by systematic use of drones to engender fear in civilian populations indiscriminately)
- cultivation by the military of the highest honourability in their defence of security -- contrasting with their reputation in relation to detainees, to sexual abuse of women in the military, and to reliance on unmanly combat vehicles (Petraeus scandal, Tailhook scandal, Guantanamo, The Invisible War)
- defending faith-based principles enabling access to heaven (consistent with Manifest Destiny) -- contrasting with the deadly competition with an "enemy" claiming a similar fundamental preoccupation (and mandate from heaven)
This transformation is otherwise recognized as the process of enantiodromia, through which the deprecated values of the other are eventually embodied. Like the US, "we the peoples" of the world may be our own worst enemy. In the style of the subtitle of this document, rather than "werewolves", the implication of "we're wolves" now merits attention. Rather than Robert Baer's above-mentioned recognition that "They're coming after us", it is a case of "We're coming after ourselves" -- and for an identity to be otherwise understood.
Missing from such "enantiodromia" is any reflection on the nature of the requisite "existential turnaround" -- the enabling function provocatively explored with respect to ECHELON as the program underpinning the operation of PRISM and the Five Eyes agreement (From ECHELON to NOLEHCE: enabling a strategic conversion to a faith-based global brain, 2007).
|Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf
(image reproduced from Wikimedia Commons)
|A depiction by Gustave Doré.
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