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Players and Pawns
By Jay Taber
Aug 22, 2012
Image via Deep Green Resistance: “How do you learn the truth when the media lies?”
In 1996, when David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla wrote their prophetic paper on netwar, they foresaw the powerful impact new forms of social organization could have on international politics. Using the Zapatistas and other examples of networks involved in opposing such things as globalization, Ronfeldt and Arquilla went so far as to suggest that civil society might have the upper hand — at least for a while — as institutional actors scrambled to catch up with the dynamics involved.
Examining the 1999 WTO Ministerial in Seattle, Paul de Armond expounded on the netwar aspects of anti-globalization networks. In 2001, Ronfeldt and Arquilla examined its usage by terrorists and transnational criminal networks, in addition to social activists as they engage in the fight for the future. In 2005, Michelle Shumate, J. Alison Bryant and Peter R. Monge looked at how storytelling in the form of narratives about globalization are deployed in netwar.
Today, as noted by observers like Wrong Kind of Green, it appears institutions have caught on. Using corporate and government funding to create and co-opt international NGOs like Amnesty International, covert agencies like the CIA now work hand in hand with State Department puppets manipulated by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy. Able to choreograph fake revolutions as well as control dissidents, institutions like the National Security Agency are arguably back in the drivers seat.
Networks, of course, are only as effective as their understanding of conflict, and that means having a working knowledge of the principles of psywar. False front networks, with the aid of corporate media, might be able to deceive public opinion, but they also present an opportunity to illustrate the difference between cover stories and back stories through investigative journalism. Using authentic communications networks to differentiate between players and pawns exposes both the hubris and moral corruption of institutions, while simultaneously using research as organizing tool.
Keeping our eyes open to the reality of netwar is as vital to indigenous networks as any. Given our limited resources, we need to conserve our energy, choose our battles, and pick our targets, before we marshall our resources. Otherwise, we risk being played against each other by powerful forces working behind the scenes.
[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, an author, a correspondent to Fourth World Eye, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as the administrative director of Public Good Project.]