3 Perspectives on #OccupyWallStreet
(Photo via @Newyorkist)
John Robb on #OccupyWallStreet as an open source protest:
*A promise. A simple goal/idea that nearly everyone can get behind. Adbusters did pretty good with “occupy wall street.” Why? Nearly everyone hates the pervasive corruption of banks and Wall Street. It’s an easy target.
*A plausible promise. Prove that the promise can work. They did. They actually occupied Wall Street and set up camp. They then got the message out.
*A big tent and an open invitation. It doesn’t matter what your reason for protesting is as long as you hate/dislike Wall Street. The big tent is already in place (notice the diversity of the signage). Saw something similar from the Tea Party before it was mainstreamed/diminished.
Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.
That’s because, unlike a political campaign designed to get some person in office and then close up shop (as in the election of Obama), this is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. As the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet.
There’s a lot being written right now about what the #Occupy movement must do. What it should be, where it all needs to go. Yet somehow, everything that looked like a mistake at first has unfurled into an advantage. All any single #Occupy cell needs to do is hold their ground for another night, and plan to make tomorrow bigger and better. It’s easy to write a sneering caricature of a Tea Party rally, but it’s interesting to note how many reporters wrote mocking hit pieces on the Wall Street crowd that all wound up being completely different. It’s hard to get a bead on where the consensus is — but the occupation itself is the whole message. Nobody on Wall Street is confused about what it means, at least.
John Robb interview by Chris Arkenberg at Boing Boing
How big of a domestic threat is there from the narco-insurgency in Mexico and the growing power of Latin American gangs in America?
Very big. A threat that dwarfs anything we face in Afghanistan (a useless money pit of a war). It’s not a threat that can be solved by conventional military means, since the problem is that Mexico is a hollow state. Unlike a failed state like Somalia (utter chaos), a hollow state still retains the facade of a nation (borders, bureaucracy, etc.). However, a hollow state doesn’t exert any meaningful control over the countryside. It’s not only that the state can’t do it militarily, they don’t have anything they can offer people. So, instead, control is ceded to local groups that can provide basic levels of opt-in security, minimal services, and jobs via new connections to the global economy – think in terms of La Familia in Michoacana.
The real danger to the US is that not only will these groups expand into the US (they already have), it is that these groups will accelerate the development of similar homegrown groups in the US as our middle class evaporates.
Boing Boing: John Robb interview: Open Source Warfare & Resilience
My comment, left there:
Robb’s work continues to influence my own thinking. However, I would like to see him answer the criticism presented here: http://reason.com/archives/2008/02/18/open-source-warfare
(If he hasn’t already)
A thought: will legislation (such as that in Arizona) and anti-Latin sentiment lead to alienation that drives the process Robb’s talking about in the US?
To expand a bit: I’m not sure whether Robb’s dire prognosis for North and Latin America is exaggerated or not, but it’s not hard to imagine escalated violence between Latin “gangs” and white “militias” if Latin people are excluded from mainstream culture while the power and influence of Latin drug cartels is increases.
Critique of John Robb’s ideas about open source warfare
From Reason, February 2008:
What most of the global guerrilla groups have managed so far is to not lose. It’s a truism of counterinsurgency that “guerrillas win by not losing,” but successful guerrilla movements eventually win by winning. It’s much harder for global guerrillas to “win” than Robb thinks, because most of these groups have larger goals than he acknowledges.
This oversimplification relates to another of the book’s conceptual problems. Robb refers to the damage a global guerrilla attack causes as its “return on investment”: Spend $2,000 to attack a pipeline, as MEND did in one of Robb’s examples, and get a “return” of $50 million in lost revenue to Shell. But this isn’t really a return on investment as the term is used in economics, because the attackers don’t have $50 million when they’re done. Shell has lost $50 million or so, and the insurgents clearly have increased their utility somewhat; they obviously wanted to destroy that pipeline more than they wanted the $2,000. But it seems implausible to value their increased utility at anything close to $50 million. It’s a perfect illustration of the Australian economist John Quiggin’s dictum that war is a negative-sum game. The combined MEND/Shell system is worth a lot less after the exercise than it was worth before.
This point matters because the relative unattractiveness of open-source insurgency may prove more limiting than anything senescent nation-states do to combat it. Global guerrillas have proven they can keep weak states from functioning but not that they can forge strong states of their own. Iraq’s Sunni insurgents are depriving not just the country’s Shiites of electricity and potable water but themselves too.
Reason: Open-Source Warfare
Characteristics of Open Source Warfare
Sean Gourle’s list of the characteristics that define open source warfare. These are some points I found particularly interesting:
7. Tall poppy: The strongest groups are the predominant targets for opposition forces Internal competition: There is direct competition amongst insurgent groups for both resources and media exposure. They are competing with each other in addition to fighting the stronger counterinsurgent forces.
8. Independent co-ordination: Autonomous groups act in a coordinated fashion as a result of the competition that exists between them.
9. Emergent structure: Attacks in both Iraq and Colombia become ‘less random’ and more coordinated over time
Global Guerrillas: Characteristics of Open Source Warfare
See also Tea Party as open source political protest.