Saturday, January 26, 2008

The First 21st Century War

Here we sit eight years into the twenty-first century, and we now find ourselves at a very important, and historically significant juncture, just last week, our world plunged into war for the first time this century. Now I know what you're thinking, that the current war in Iraq is almost five years old, so what war could I possibly be talking about?

Before, I answer that question, I need to explain something. The Iraq war is not a 21st Century War in any way, shape or form. For starters, in a typical US Foreign Policy move, no official declaration of War was made. In fact the United States has only officially been at war four times, the War of 181, the Spanish-American War, and both World Wars. All other times they have taken "Police Actions" or other vague terms which mean that they are not as inclined to follow the rules of war.

Secondly, and most importantly, this is plain and simply a 20th Century War. The comparisons between this Iraq War and the Vietnam War have been made time and time again. There was no real mission, no clear objective, facts were distorted or ignored to sway public opinion, they were both largely unpopular, really I could go on, but that would be a topic for another post, hopefully you get the point. The "Good Guys Coming to the Rescue" Model which seemed to work in both World Wars and in Korea, failed in Vietnam, and seemed to be a success in the first Iraq War, has failed miserably this time around. The Bush Administration has been using the 20th Century narrative of Us vs. Them, Good vs. Evil, and Freedom vs. Tyranny, to confront a 21st Century Problem.

While this model may have worked very well before, there is something very important that has changed, the access to information. One of the simple reasons that Vietnam failed, was because of Walter Cronkite and the evening news. The harsh realities of the war were broadcast directly to Americans so they became much more open to the realities of the time, and subsequently rejected the notions of the establishment at the time.

Fast forward to 1991 and the next American "War", this time in Iraq. By this point, the establishment had learned how to use the television in their favour and not against them, and were able to twist their message around and ensure that people saw what they wanted to see, and low and behold, we have a popular American war in the name of "Freedom" (i.e. oil).

We fast forward again another decade and a bit, and the world is a very different placeYet despite the different world, we are given by and large the same message to support another war in Iraq. The establishment proved great, yet again, at controlling the spin on television, as CNN, Fox News, and the major news networks in the United States, broadcast news that largely supports the War in Iraq, regardless of what they may say now. But there is one very different thing that the Bush Administration did not take into account, the little machine that I currently type on, and you currently read this blog on. That's right they forgot about the internet. This day and age, information and ideas are able to spread like wildfire. People were able to learn almost immediately that the Bush Administration was lying about the Weapons of Mass Destructions, which anyone with half a brain would have known before, no wonder Fox News never figured it out. Yet it took people a solid four decades to figure out the the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was exaggerated and/or fabricated, making it pretty irrelevant at this point.

So what's my point here? That the Iraq War has been a failure because the United States is busy waging a 20th Century War in the 21st Century. Just like World War I can really be seen as the last war of the 19th Century instead of the first war of the 20th Century, due the 19th century's narrative featuring the rise of nationalism and liberalism, the Iraq War can hopefully be seen as the last 20th Century war, due to that century's narrative of the rise of individualism, shifting public opinion and political dissent.

So while the last war of the 20th Century rages on, without an end in sight, last week the first war of the 21st Century was declared, fittingly, on the internet. With this video, the nature of war has changed.

Yeah it's cheesy, yeah it's weird, but I'll be damned if it's not historically important. A hacker group known only as Anonymous has officially declared war on the Church of Scientology, called Project Chanology. In the past week, since war has been declared, many official Scientology websites have been hacked and crashed, the Church has received many prank phone calls and "black faxes". Anonymous has also obtained many of the Church's official secret documents and posted them on file sharing websites, and has organized many protests outside of Scientology Churches. They have also repeatedly posted these videos of Tom Cruise extolling the virtues of Scientology that was initially removed by Scientology's notoriously powerful legal squad. I'm not sure how long this video will be up, so please leave a comment if it's down and I will find a way to repost them.

Note the lines in the first video of "I don't hesitate to put ethics on somebody else" and "We are the authorities on the mind"...and I really don't know how they come up with this number of 1.037 billion, and I like how they included "...of Earth" at the end. Which needless to say, is pretty interesting, considering their supposed fundamental creation myth.

Scientology has responded by placing a $5000 bounty on the head of the hackers, and have shut down several Anonymous related websites, and have repeatedly relied on copyright laws to threaten the people who host the videos and documents.

Needless to say, this is going to get really interesting in a hurry. This is the first time that we have seen an anonymous (pardon the pun) group declare total war on an established organization in a very long time. Previous wars have started with a shot, but yet this one begins with a click. Both side appear ready for battle for a variety of reasons, and I expect this to be a very long, drawn out process.

What I find so very interesting about this, is just how 21st Century this conflict is. I think that someday historians will look at the beginning of the 21st Century as the "Me Age", characterized by the individuals total empowerment. Because of technology, every day people like you and I, have more power than ever imagined. We can shape the lives of people on the other side of the planet in literally an instant. As shown on September 11th, 2001, a group of individuals can paralyze a nation. Here we are a little over half-a-decade after that event, and people are beginning to realize this fact.

This marks the beginning of the pendulum swing that began in the 19th Century. Then we saw collectives of people fight against the individual tyrants, in the 20th Century we saw collectives fight against one another, and now at the beginning of the 21st Century with this "war", we are seeing individuals fight against collective tyrants.

While this "war" probably has no immediate effect on your life, mark my words, it's outcome is important to all of us. This is a war of The Individual vs. The Collective, which I feel will be a hallmark of the 21st century. However, instead of being fought with guns and bombs, this war is being fought with something far more powerful, information. This war is going to be decided by whoever is able to spin the truth more aggressively, and effectively.

While I assume more "wars" of this sort will be fought in the coming years in grander, and grander style, make no mistake about it, this is something that history will look back on as a defining point in our information age. History is happening right here, history is happening right now on your computer screen, be sure to pay attention to it.

I leave you now with another of Anonymous's videos, this one to the media...enjoy...

Until next time,



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