Quote of the Day
When you are having difficulty drawing even in [a] global popularity contest with a crowd of bearded fanatics who put beheading videos on the internet, it’s time to admit there’s a problem.
Zenpundit writes at Chicago Boyz:
One point of agreement across the political spectrum and that of informed opinion is that the USG has not done a particularly good job of managing “the war of ideas” in the conflict with Islamist terrorism. Or against state adversaries. Or with persuading neutrals and even our own allies to our point of view. When you are having difficulty drawing even in global popularity contest with a crowd of bearded fanatics who put beheading videos on the internet, it’s time to admit there’s a problem.
Our difficulty did not start with the Bush administration, they simply ramped up a negative dynamic that began in the 1990’s with the budgetary dismantling of USG public diplomacy, information agencies and CIA clandestine operations, in order to “reinvent government” or to save “Peace Dividend” pennies for pork barrel expenditures. Official America’s withdrawal from the information playing field also happened to coincide with the rise of baby boom, New Left, ‘68-ers as the managing editors, producers and shapers of opinion in European media, as well is in places like South Korea, that had its own veteran cadres of dissenters against the ROK’s old military regimes.
Shannon Love responds in the comments:
Autocracies rely less on the wisdom of the people and therefor risk little in using informational weapons. The can manufacture facts as it suits them with little regard to how those faux-facts will affect their own political structures. Since the goal of any autocracy is to maintain the internal social status of the autocrats, they usually find that they can deploy the same campaigns against foreigners and citizens alike. The low opportunity cost and high expected return means that modern autocracies place great emphasis on and devote significant resources to informational warfare as compared to liberal-democracies.
I think we need to plan on being systematically at a major disadvantage when it comes to formal centrally planned informational warfare. For liberal-democracies, informational warfare is like biological or chemical weapons: we risk inflicting as much or more harm to ourselves than we inflict on our opponents.
On the other hand, our advantage in decentralized informal information warfare is huge. Just the cultural pressure of popular entertainment alone seems to be powerful transformative force (long term) when it bleeds into autocracies. The internet will accelerate the general diffuse information assault on the worlds autocratic governments and movements.
When it comes to the information battle space, the USA is adrift in a sea that was created for the most part by thousands of years of Hebrew, Indian, Greek, and European culture with a surface layer of sensation-seeking decadence and leftover Soviet propaganda. What storm will be required to uncover those forces, undreamed of in a thousand years, lurking in the inky depths of the sea? And how many of us will survive the cataclysm?
Yet the metaphor illumines a truth. The West does not need to react to the memes and narrative of the enemy. The West needs to fish for, reel in, and re-invigorate its own memes and narratives and put them out into the world. The government cannot do this. Hollywood is against the West and won’t help any time in the near future. The struggle will have to be a grass-roots one, with an army of fishers of men writing the traditional stories and performing them in a form so they can be understood.