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Heavy breathing on the line: Crouching hero, Hidden nitwit

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

[dots connected by Lynn C. Rees]

Sigh

Sigh

What did Lucius Aemilius Paullus know and when did he know it?

Colonel Hamilton

Colonel Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton thought he knew. And who is Colonel Hamilton (as he so liked to be called) that he should know?

Not (then) Colonel Hamilton

Not (then) Colonel Hamilton

Recommendations on LinkedIn? Glowing:

Je considère Napoleon, Fox, et Hamilton comme les trois plus grands hommes de notre époque, et si je devais me prononcer entre les trois, je donnerais sans hesiter la première place à Hamilton. Il avait deviné l’Europe.

Reviews on RateMyFounder.com? Less glowing:

Consider, the profligacy of his life; his fornications, adulteries and his incests… lol ;)

[He is] an insolent coxcomb who rarely dined in good company, where there was good wine, without getting silly and vaporing about his administration like a young girl about her brilliants and trinkets, yet I lose all patience when I think of a bastard brat of a Scottish pedlar daring to threaten to undeceive the world in their judgment…This creature was in a delirium of ambition; he had been blown up with vanity by the tories, had fixed his eyes on the highest station in America, and he hated every man, young or old, who stood in his way or could in any manner eclipse his laurels or rival his pretensions.

lol :O

GLOWING HERO OF DESTINY:

How far Colo. Hamilton, of whom you ask my opinion as a financier, has turned his thoughts to that particular study I am unable to answer because I never entered upon a discussion on this point with him; but this I can venture to advance from a thorough knowledge of him, that there are few men to be found, of his age, who has a more general knowledge than he possesses, and none whose Soul is more firmly engaged in the cause, or who exceeds him in probity and Sterling virtue…

In every relation, which [he has] borne to me, I have found that my confidence in [his] talents, exertions and integrity, has been well placed. I the more freely render this testimony of my approbation, because I speak from opportunities of information which cannot deceive me, and which furnish satisfactory proof of [his] title to public regard.

fevered preening nitwit:

Hamilton’s character is extremely unfortunate. An opinion has grown out of it, which at present obtains almost universally, that his character is radically deficient in discretion, and therefore [we] ask, what avail the most preeminent talents—the most distinguished patriotism—without the all important quality of discretion? Hence he is considered as an unfit head…and we are in fact without a rallying point. :(

GLOWING HERO OF DESTINY:

Colonel Hamilton was indisputably pre-eminent. This was universally conceded. He rose at once to the loftiest heights of professional eminence by his profound penetration, his power of analysis, the comprehensive grasp and strength of his understanding, and the firmness, frankness, and integrity of his character.

He generally spoke with much animation and energy and with considerable gesture. His language was clear, nervous, and classical. His investigations penetrated to the foundation and reason of every doctrine and principle which he examined, and he brought to the debate a mind filled with all the learning and precedents applicable to the subject. He never omitted to meet, examine, and discover the strength or weakness, the truth or falsehood of every proposition with which he had to contend. His candor was magnanimous and rose to a level with his abilities. His temper was spirited but courteous, amiable and generous, and he frequently made pathetic and powerful appeals to the moral sense and patriotism, the fears and hopes of the assembly, in order to give them a deep sense of the difficulties of the crisis and prepare their minds…

fevered preening nitwit:

An indiscretion got him into trouble with W— for whom he served as confidential secretary; other indiscretions obliged him to leave C— in ?83. He has a little too much pretension and too little prudence.

He is only too impetuous and because he wants to control everything, he fails in his intentions. His eloquence is often out of place in public debates, where precision and clarity are preferred to a brilliant imagination. It is believed that Mr. Hamilton is the author of the pamphlet entitledThe Federalist. He has again missed his mark. This work is of no use to educated men and it is too learned and too long for the ignorant. lol ;)

It was in this Federalist that Col. Hamilton, one of the three fevered GLOWING nitwits OF DESTINY of his epoch, said what he thought Lucius Aemilius Paullus knew and when he knew it:

The experience of other Nations will afford little instruction on this head. As far, however, as it teaches anything, it teaches us not to be enamored of plurality in the Executive. We have seen that the Achæans, on an experiment of two Prætors, were induced to abolish one. The Roman history records many instances of mischiefs to the Republic from the dissensions between the Consuls, and between the Military Tribunes, who were at times substituted for the Consuls. But it gives us no specimens of any peculiar advantages derived to the State from the circumstance of the plurality of those magistrates. That the dissensions between them were not more frequent or more fatal, is a matter of astonishment, until we advert to the singular position in which the Republic was almost continually placed, and to the prudent policy pointed out by the circumstances of the State, and pursued by the Consuls, of making a division of the Government between them. The Patricians engaged in a perpetual struggle with the Plebeians for the preservation of their ancient authorities and dignities; the Consuls, who were generally chosen out of the former body, were commonly united by the personal interest they had in the defence of the privileges of their order. In addition to this motive of union, after the arms of the Republic had considerably expanded the bounds of its empire, it became an established custom with the Consuls to divide the administration between themselves by lot one; of them remaining at Rome to govern the city and its environs; the other taking the command in the more distant provinces. This expedient must, no doubt, have had great influence in preventing those collisions and rivalships which might otherwise have embroiled the peace of the Republic.

Boy

Undoubtedly inspired by Boy, the Aemili Paulli’s kept historian. And Boy did glow for Lucius Aemilius Paullus:

Next morning the two Consuls broke up their camp, and advanced to where they heard that the enemy were entrenched. On the second day they arrived within sight of them, and pitched their camp at about fifty stadia distance. But when Aemilius observed that the ground was flat and bare for some distance round, he said that they must not engage there with an enemy superior to them in cavalry; but that they must rather try to draw him off, and lead him to ground on which the battle would be more in the hands of the infantry.

He refused to let his glow so shine for Gaius Terentius Varro, Paullus’ consular colleague for 216 B.C.:

But Caius Terentius being, from inexperience, of a contrary opinion, there was a dispute and misunderstanding between the two leaders, which of all things is the most dangerous. It is the custom, when the two Consuls are present, that they should take the chief command on alternate days; and the next day happening to be the turn of Terentius, he ordered an advance with a view of approaching the enemy, in spite of the protests and active opposition of his colleague.

Hannibal set his light-armed troops and cavalry in motion to meet him, and charging the Romans while they were still marching, took them by surprise and caused a great confusion in their ranks. The Romans repulsed the first charge by putting some of their heavy-armed in front; and then sending forward their light-armed and cavalry, began to get the best of the fight all along the line: the Carthaginians having no reserves of any importance, while certain companies of the legionaries were mixed with the Roman light-armed, and helped to sustain the battle. Nightfall for the present put an end to a struggle which had not at all answered to the hopes of the Carthaginians.

GLOWING HERO OF DESTINY:

But next day Aemilius, not thinking it right to engage, and yet being unable any longer to lead off his army, encamped with two-thirds of it on the banks of the Apennines…For the other third of his army he caused a camp to be made across the river, to the east of the ford, about ten stades from his own lines, and a little more from those of the enemy; that these men, being on the other side of the river, might protect his own foraging parties, and threaten those of the enemy…Aemilius, dissatisfied with his position, and seeing that the Carthaginians would soon be obliged to shift their quarters for the sake of supplies, kept quiet in his camps, strengthening both with extra guards.

fevered preening nitwit:

After waiting a considerable time, when no one came out to attack him, Hannibal put the rest of the army into camp again, but sent out his Numidian horse to attack the enemy’s water parties from the lesser camp. These horsemen riding right up to the lines and preventing the watering, Caius Terentius became more than ever inflamed with the desire of fighting, and the soldiers were eager for a battle, and chafed at the delay. For there is nothing more intolerable to mankind than suspense; when a thing is once decided, men can but endure whatever out of their catalogue of evils it is their misfortune to undergo…When he took over the command on the following day, as soon as the sun was above the horizon, Caius Terentius got the army in motion from both the camps…

GLOWING HERO OF DESTINY:

Though he had been from the first on the right wing, and had taken part in the cavalry engagement, Lucius Aemilius still survived. Determined to act up to his own exhortatory speech, and seeing that the decision of the battle rested mainly on the legionaries, riding up to the center of the line he led the charge himself, and personally grappled with the enemy, at the same time cheering on and exhorting his soldiers to the charge…

Lucius Aemilius fell, in the thick of the fight, covered with wounds: a man who did his duty to his country at that last hour of his life, as he had throughout its previous years, if any man ever did. As long as the Romans could keep an unbroken front, to turn first in one direction and then in another to meet the assaults of the enemy, they held out; but the outer files of the circle continually falling, and the circle becoming more and more contracted, they at last were all killed on the field; and among them Marcus Atilius and Gnaeus Servilius, the Consuls of the previous year, who had shown themselves brave men and worthy of Rome in the battle.

fevered preening nitwit:

While this struggle and carnage were going on, the Numidian horse were pursuing the fugitives, most of whom they cut down or hurled from their horses; but some few escaped into Venusia, among whom was Caius Terentius, the Consul, who thus sought a flight, as disgraceful to himself, as his conduct in office had been disastrous to his country.

Contemptible, if true“, as our third Vice President once observed.

And that’s why the NSA records (meta)data on all Americans.

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The possible unexpected consequences of intervention

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- wondering whether it can ever be possible to expect the unexpected, and if so, what exactly that might mean? Libya & Mali ]
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Alex Thurston at Sahel Blog: Covering Politics and Religion in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa posted Libya and Mali, Part I today. The topic is one I am not qualified to comment on, although I’m trying to learn from those (such as AT) who are — but this sentence caught my eye and got me writing:

A failure to soberly consider the possible unexpected consequences of intervention and transition has helped chaos to develop in post-Qadhafi Libya.

I wonder if that’s a koan?

**

Is it ever possible to “soberly consider the possible unexpected consequences” of anything? Consider Donald Rumsfeld‘s remark:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

Throw in the missing fourth category, supplied by somebody for Wikipedia:

Moreover, one may criticize Rumsfeld statement for omitting the most dangerous type of unknown: the “unknown known”. That is, as Mark Twain famously expressed it, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you think you know that just ain’t so”. Indeed, Rumsfeld was really discussing an “unknown known” which provided faulty justification for the war — members of the Bush administration claimed that the Iraqi government possessed weapons of mass destruction (see Rationale_for_the_Iraq_War), but it just wasn’t so.

**

Now allow for what you might call informed guess-work, what CS Peirce called abduction – I’m just now introducing my elder son to Eco & Sebeok‘s magnificent book, The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce — and “non-predictive” attempts to lay out a spread of possible outcomes by means of scenario-planning, as Tom Barnett wrote in his Year 2000 International Security Dimension Project Final Report:

By “decision scenario approach,” we mean using credible scenarios to create awareness among relevant decision-makers regarding the sort of strategic issues and choices they are likely to face if the more stressing pathways envisioned come to pass.

and:

Again, none of our material here is meant to be predictive in the sense of providing a step-by-step “cookbook” approach to Y2K and Millennial Date Change crisis management. Our fundamental goal in collecting and synthesizing this analysis is to avoid any situation where US military decision makers and/or operational commanders would find themselves in seemingly uncharted territory and declare, “I had no idea . . ..”

We (myself at times included) seem to be busily employed making non-predictive predictions.

**

Black swansNassim Nicholas Taleb may have been the one who most recently crept up behind us and clapped loudly to alert us to the unexpected, but Stéphane Mallarmé was there first in 1897 with the great graphical poem Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard, featured in the lower image of the pair at the top of this post.

My own “zen telegram” version, for those who neither know the poem nor read French:

A ROLL OF THE DICE

NEVER

not even when tossed sub specie aeternitatis from the depth of a shipwreck

WILL NEVER EVER ABOLISH

CHANCE

— now there’s a koan for our times — and always.

**

Listen to the poets…

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future, sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walk’d among the ancient trees…

**

Sources and links:

  • Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard from Wikipedia
  • le début de la typographie moderne by Étienne Mineur with page images
  • Un coup de dés, French original and English translation, by AS Kline

  • See that voice of the Bard, William Blake
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    Should I whisper, should I scream? – Abu Musab al-Suri redux, Pt 2

    Thursday, March 1st, 2012

    [ by Charles Cameron -- typology of intelligence failures, analytic blind spot, millennial movements, prophecy as strategy, abu Musab's end times chronology ]
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    To tie in with the first part of this double-post, let me quote Aaron Zelin again:

    I’ll back that up with Jean-Pierre Filiu‘s observation that in Abu-Musab al-Suri’s reading of jihadist history, “events lead on from one another toward the appearance of the Mahdi” — and that in Abu-Musab’s own words, “We shall be alive, then, when Allah’s order comes.”

    I’ll give a brief account of the chronology below. Let’s get on with this.

    1.

    I don’t believe that Richard Landes, my mentor at the Center for Millennial Studies, mentions Abu Musab al-Suri in his Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experiences (again as with Furnish, I could be wrong) — but if there’s a single book that will convince you of the enormity of our blind spot when it comes to taking millennial movements seriously, it’s this masterwork — simply stunning.

    The thrust of his book is that millennial movements have been quite deliberately overlooked twice by the grand narratives of western civilization — first by religious writers who were embarrassed by the repeated cycle of enthusiasm followed by failure of end times prophecies and retroactively marginalized the topic, and more recently by…

    secular historians, determined to push religion into the background of their story, [who] were hardly interested in highlighting religious phenomena that even the ecclesiastical historians considered ridiculous.

    It is to undo the damage that this two-fold blindedness has caused us that Landes writes his remarkable book, covering in extraordinarily wide-ranging scholarly detail and with insight and wit, that current in human fear and hope he terms “the most protean belief in human history: millennialism.”

    2.

    In other words, the “the most protean belief in human history” has been consistently disregarded for way too long by academics, pundits and experts.

    Put that in the context of this trenchant paragraph from Richards Heuer‘s Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, just recently quoted and indeed highlighted by Clint Watts and John E. Brennan in their paper Capturing the Potential of Outlier Ideas in the Intelligence Community:

    Major intelligence failures are usually caused by failures of analysis, not failures of collection. Relevant information is discounted, misinterpreted, ignored, rejected, or overlooked because it fails to fit a prevailing mental model or mind-set.

    3.

    Rejected and overlooked?

    Even the Psalmist (118.22) knows the importance of what’s rejected:

    The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

    And just in passing, I’d argue that two of the seven “outlandish, unthinkable, and wholly anomalous” outliers that Watts & Brennan offer as bulleted examples in their paper — the Khomeini and bin Laden events — would have shown up rather more prominently had a subset of analysts been tasked to keep an eye on millenialist and / or specifically mahdist movements.

    4.

    Very quickly, then, here are some of the recent reports regarding al-Suri from well-informed analysts which seem to pay little mind to the Mahdist strand in his strategic thinking:

  • Raff Pantucci‘s January 26, 2012 post Whither al Suri? focuses on the implications of al-Suri’s release and quotes Brynjar Lia — insightful, but no mention of Mahdism.
  • Aaron Zelin‘s February 3 Foreign Policy post on al-Suri’s release comes closest to mentioning an apocalyptic angle when he writes:

    Additionally, his lore will grow in light of an alleged vision he had this past August, which was relayed by online jihadist Jundi Dawlat al-Islam (“Soldier of the Islamic State”), a member of the important Shamukh al-Islam Arabic Forum. “I have been informed that the Shaykh [Suri] saw in the past days a vision that he will have an important role in Bilad al-Sham (Syria), we ask Allah that it becomes true,” the jihadist wrote. Suri’s release will be seen as a vindication of that vision by his supporters, and no doubt boost his influence.

    The significant role of Shams — “the apocalyptic theater par excellence” — in al-Suri’s narrative is something J-P Filiu emphasized (p. 189).

  • Bill Roggio‘s February 5 piece for Long War Journal is an excellent backgrounder as befits LWJ — but no mention of eschatological strategy there, either.
  • Jarret Brachman‘s February 6 Abu Musab al-Suri Still Matters Online at Chronus Global is a brief note, just a tip-off that al-Suri is still influential…
  • MEMRI‘s February 8, 2012 The Release of Top Al-Qaeda Military Strategist/Ideologue Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri from Syrian Prison – A Looming Threat makes no mention of al-Suri’s eschatological thinking, and neither does their more extensive report on al-Suri, Al-Qaeda Military Strategist Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri’s Teachings on Fourth-Generation Warfare (4GW), Individual Jihad and the Future of Al-Qaeda, to which their February 2012 post links.
  • And the Jamestown Foundation‘s Feb 10 piece by Murad Batal al-Shishani, Syria’s Surprising Release of Jihadi Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, in their Terrorism Monitor v 10 # 3 doesn’t mention the apocalyptic angle — and Jamestown is where I heard Ali A Allawi speak on Millenarianism, Mahdism and Terrorism: The Case of Iraq back in 2007!

    Curious…

  • Ah well, there’s always Zenpundit [vbg].

    5.

    Okay, it looks to me as though we’re still so focused on the “nizam la tanzim / system not organization” and “lone wolf / leaderless resistance” aspects of al-Suri’s work, significant as they are, that it’s easy to overlook that damned ridiculous “end times” stuff the fellow also considers important, strategically speaking.

    So for the record, here’s the chronology of future events as J-P Filiu recounts it:

    Events will unfold in the following manner: “The Arabian Peninsula will be preserved [from harm] until the destruction of Armenia, Egypt will be preserved until the destruction of the [Arabian] peninsula, Kufa will be preserved until the destruction of Egypt, the city of impiety [mad?nat al-kufr] will be conquered only after the great wars, and the Antichrist will appear only after this conquest.” The concentrically expanding path of apocalyptic devastation will then close in upon Palestine, the sanctuary of Judeo- Crusader “impiety,” where the ultimate confrontation with the Byzantines will take place in and around the city of Acre.

    Well, that’s part of it, but you should read Filiu’s pp 186-191 for a fuller account — and somebody, please send me a reliable translation of those last 100 pages of abu Musab’s Call if you have one!

    Sadly, I don’t read or speak Arabic.

    6.

    Okay, that’s it, I’ve shouted, or whispered or whatever.

    The books at the top of this post are:

    David Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature
    Timothy Furnish, Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden
    Jean-Pierre Filiu, Apocalypse in Islam
    Richard Landes, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience

    All four are worthy of your consideration.

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    2012 just got more interesting

    Monday, January 16th, 2012

    [ by Charles Cameron -- 2012, apocalyptic, AntiSec, impact of decent graphic design ]
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    1.

    The artwork above is taken from an AntiSec / Anonymous proclamation. It’s the A in “AntiSec”, and I think it’s quite striking, has a bit of a Cirque du Soleil effect, or Kokopelli maybe. As regular readers know, I’m a sucker for decent graphics no matter where they came from, so this particular logo (I’ve only shown you the first letter, the whole thing is huge) caught my eye, and was enough to set me scanning the rest of the 421-page document.

    The document itself was provided to me and many others a little over a week ago by way of a link in an email purporting to come from george.friedman@stratfor.com – i.e. George Friedman, the founder of STRATFOR, the “global intelligence company”. The email was headed “Rate Stratfor’s Incident Response” and told its readers (presumably people whose email addresses had been found in a Stratfor address book, which was downloaded in the “intrusion” in question):

    We would like to hear from our loyal client base as to our handling of the recent intrusion by those deranged, sexually deviant criminal hacker terrorist masterminds.

    The rhetoric here is interesting – “loyal client base” is phrasing I could easily imagine a bureaucrat using in a public document, while “deranged, sexually deviant criminal hacker terrorist masterminds” is way more fun but just a tad less, how shall I put it, official-sounding.

    And with a come-on like that, I could hardly resist digging a little deeper…

    So I clicked on through, and found myself looking at the long, long piece which opens with the striking graphic above. Okay, there was a lot of code, and I don’t read that — but the graphic at the head of the whole thing was neat, and in among the extended passages of code I found various paragraphs of English prose with enough lulz to keep me skipping and skimming, and…

    Lo, I am rewarded. Because…

    2.

    There’s a reference to 2012, and indeed specifically to 21 December 2012. I love those – they’re apocalyptic!

    Apocalyptic movements are a major interest of mine, not least because they provide the many varieties of human with an immensely rich playground for our hopes and fears — our sense of an unjust and imperfect world in which we live and the utopia it might and by rights “should” be – that bridges mundane reality with heightened imagination. And they’re found, as Richard Landes shows in his masterful recent book, Heaven on Earth: the Varieties of the Millennial Experience, scattered across the centuries and continents.

    21 December 2012, as you may have heard, is when the Mayan calendar allegedly runs out — or rolls over, and a “new age” begins. And the 2012 Mayan Calendar prediction has spawned a popular apocalyptic movement with enough leeway in it to attract survivalists, sorcerers’ apprentices, and those who are deeply skeptical about organized religion alike…

    Just my kind of thing, eh?

    3.

    This Mayan calendar / 2012 business looks to be a “bigger” apocalyptic event than last year’s two Harold Camping predictions combined, even though those spawned $100 million in billboard and other advertising worldwide, and had an impact as far afield as the Hmong montagnards of Vietnam, some 7,000 of whom are said to have gathered on a mountain to await the Rapture, and some of whom may have been “massacred” by security forces – the official response to these accusations apparently being that a group of secessionists were arrested.

    Camping’s predictions were made in the face of a widespread (and Biblical) understanding that “of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24.36) and agreement that “date-setting” of the Camping kind is therefore, in strictly theological terms, indefensible – not to mention that failed predictions of this sort tend to bring disrepute on religious narratives in general.

    The Mayan Calendar “prediction” for 2012, on the other hand, appeals to a wide range of people who might identify as “spiritual, not religious” – there’s no scripture they’d all agree on available to disconfirm it in advance in the way that Matt. 24.36 disconfirms predictions like those of Rev. Camping – and it can be “read” as a date certain for the end of the world, of history, of “the world as we know it” — or simply as a convenient peg for a “turning point” not unlike the Harmonic Convergence which preceded it, the tipping point after which humanity comes to its senses, finally recognizes the futility of war, the need for global justice and ecological renewal, and all good things…

    4.

    So it is interesting that certain persons Anonymous have picked that wave to ride… and are aiming to add a touch of their own mayhem – their word, not mine – into the mix.

    They announce this upcoming “Project Mayhem” — in the particular AntiSec / Anonymous zine we’re discussing — by way of publishing an excerpt from an unclassified (but “For Official Use Only”) Homeland Security document, claiming with some mix of irony and joy:

    THEY R HIP 2 OUR MASTER PLAN…

    Here are two of the relevant paragraphs:

    • (U) “Project Mayhem,” (PM) was announced by Anonymous in August 2011, and according to their public website projectmayhem2012[dot]org, is set to culminate on 21 December 2012. The PM website ahs several links to YT videos, which appear to have been randomly selected and have no direct tie to PM or past / current / future Anonymous malicious activity. Furthermore, there is no dialogue or hints as to specific tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) that Anonymous plans on employing on or prior to 21 December 2012. There are also several seemingly related internet wiki-style portals and web forums, operating under the PM name, devoted to random malicious acts – some involving physical disruption and some involving targeting information systems – but no direct discussion of attack scenarios.

    [ … ]

    DHS/NCCIC’S PM ASSESSMENT: While Anonymous’ PM will not likely be as spectacular as the activities it was named after in the movie Fight Club, little is known about their plans for this event. We anticipate several more YT videos and public statements via Twitter leading up to the culmination date of 21 December 2012. Based on previous incidents involvin Anonymous, we can expect DDOS, web defacement, SQL injection, and potentially in-person protests targeting worldwide government institutions and private corporations. Though the characters in the movie Fight Club who carried out their version of PM utilized deadly force and terrorist tactics, Anonymous is not likely to use violent force in their operations.

    5.

    When Y2K rolled along, there was concern that what seemed on its surface to be a technical problem (a glitch in the ways in which un-remediated computers handled dates) might also prove an opportunistic moment for people with millenarian beliefs to take disruptive action.

    So the conjunction of millennialism and disruption is not a new one.

    In the event Ahmed Ressam, acting on behalf of Al-Qaida, tried to take advantage of the rollover between the second and third millennia to detonate a sizeable explosive at LAX on December 31st 1999 – a time when many other problems might be expected to be tying the hands of the authorities — and would likely have managed it had he not been intercepted and his bomb-making materials confiscated at the Canadian-US border on December 14th of that year.

    This time around, it’s the ancient Mayans who have (allegedly) been doing the date-setting, and this time it’s techno-savvy black-hat hackers who may take symbiotic advantage of the predictions to make their own brand of mayhem…

    6.

    Okay, as usual, the religious rhetoric angle is what intrigues me, so here’s some of their prose text.

    In an act of loving egalitarian criminality, we used company credit cards to make donations to dozens of charities and revolutionary organizations, including the Bradley Manning Support Organization, the EFF, the ACLU, CARE, American Red Cross, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, some commies, some prisoners, various occupations, and many more unnamed homies. It took weeks of hard work, but it paid off: to the tune of over $500,000 dollars liberated in total.

    That’s pure Robin Hood, isn’t it? Take from the rich and give to the poor? With some political analysis thrown in, and a touch of overturning the money-tables?

    Note that phrase, “loving egalitarian criminality”!

    I’m reminded of the Situationist Raoul Vaneigem‘s book, The Movement of the Free Spirit, of Robert Lerner‘s Heresy of the Free Spirit, and Norman Cohn‘s great The Pursuit of the Millennium which first introduced me to that most interesting of medieval heresies — and the antinomianism that runs like a thread through so many apocalyptic movements and moments.

    Fascinating stuff, medieval heresy…

    7.

    I’m guessing from the way the writers of the email from pseudo-Friedman described themselves that they enjoy the rhetoric that is deployed against them – as I said above, they seem to feature a heady mix of irony and joy, and clearly took some pleasure in being called “PUNKS and CANNIBALS!!!” by one of their detractors. Which brings me to their motto:

    WE ARE ANONYMOUS. WE DO NOT FORGIVE. WE DO NOT FORGET. WE ARE LEGION. EXPECT US!

    I’m betting whoever came up with that phrasing was aware that in the New Testament (Luke 8.30), Jesus asked a man possessed by demons what his name was…

    And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him.

    So that word “legion” is an interesting a little trip-wire that would pass unnoticed by most people, but would be liable to excite the wrath of those who see the world we live in through the lens of scripture — another hint of the significance of apocalyptic rhetoric in times of social discord…

    8.

    I started with a stunning graphic, I’ve been on about apocalyptic rhetoric all along, and I’ll end with two more apocalyptic graphics -– there are so many to choose from! — these ones come from a video on an extensive Christian site that’s set up to debunk 2012 theories in favor of the personal form of “end of the world” situation — cancer, heart attack, you know the story.

    All of which might happen in 2012 – but then again, maybe not.

    So there we go… whoosh!!

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    One thing leads to an unexpected other

    Saturday, August 13th, 2011

    [ by Charles Cameron -- complex situations, unexpected consequences, analysts' need for semi-random knowledges ]
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    azelin-tweet.gif

    Suppose you’re a Japanese journalist given a news report to write about a tourist who may have contracted an obscure disease on a visit to Zaire. The job seems straightforward enough, you expect your Japanese readers to be sympathetic to the plight of your Japanese tourist subject, you don’t exactly expect your readers to include one Shoko Asahara, guru of Aum Shinrikyo…

    But he’s there in the penumbra, reading… as this report from the Center for Counterproliferation Research of the NDU testifies:

    In 1992, Aum sent a team of 40 people to Zaire to acquire Ebola. Led by Asahara himself, the team included doctors and nurses. During an outbreak of Ebola in Zaire, a Japanese tourist visiting that country may have contracted the hemorrhagic fever. This report, which received considerable publicity in Japan, apparently inspired Asahara to mount the expedition to Zaire in October 1992. Ostensibly, this trip was intended as a humanitarian mission, called the “African Salvation Tour.” It is not known if Aum actually obtained Ebola cultures. A Japanese magazine quoted a former member of the group, “We were cultivating Ebola, but it needed to be studied more. It can’t be used practically yet.”

    One things leads to an unexpected other.

    *

    Here’s a positive example, one that I heard on the radio yesterday, and nothing to do with terrorism — except perhaps at the cellular level:

    You know, the Scottish surgeon George Beatson was walking through the highlands in England, and he heard some shepherds saying, oh, you know, when we remove the ovaries of cows and goats, the pattern — or the breasts of these animals changes; the pattern of milk production changes.

    So, Beatson began to wonder, well, what is the — this was a time when no one knew about estrogen. So, Beatson began to wonder, what is the connection between ovaries and breasts? And he said, well, if ovaries are connected to breasts, then maybe they’re connected to breast cancer.

    And he took out the ovaries of three or four women with breast cancer and had these spontaneous, had these, not spontaneous, but amazing remissions. And it was — this is the basis for tamoxifen, the drug that actually blocks estrogen, and thereby affects breast cancer.

    I mean, who would have thought that walking through and talking to a shepherd in Scotland would affect a billion-dollar drug, which is very, very powerful against breast cancer today?

    One thing leads to an unexpected other.  Listen.

    *

    Back to terror — and what jihadists notice, think about and discuss:

    They follow the news.

    If the stock-market takes a dive, the folks on the forums know about it — and crow about it.  Because, as bin Laden said, AQ’s policy is one of “bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy, Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah.” Inspire magazine calls it “the strategy of a thousand cuts” and claims the “aim is to bleed the enemy to death”.  Daveed Gartenstein-Ross‘ book, Bin Laden’s Legacy, is abundantly clear on that point.

    So yes, they follow the news.  So they know about the riots in the UK.

    There was an interesting short flurry of tweets on Twitter a couple of days ago, when Will McCants, who monitors such things and runs the Jihadica blog, noted: “Lots of pictures of #londonriots being posted to Ansar jihadi forum” and followed up by quoting a couple of forum comments: “God is burning the ground beneath the feet of the Crusaders” and “We are witnessing this aggressor nation quaking inside and out….collapsing and suffering defeat by the permission of God”.

    Jason Burke of the Guardian picked up on McCants’ post and noted, “so now Islamic militants exploiting #londonriots” – and Aaron Zelin of Jihadology chimed in with the tweet I quoted at the top of this post.

    The conversation continued for a bit, but it’s Aaron’s comment that I want to focus on, because it makes explicit the kind of seamless weave of knowledge that I’ve been thinking about lately — which makes cross-disciplinary awareness both so necessary and so feasible at this time.  Let’s call it Zelin’s law:

    every event and issue will be exploited by every group and ideology on the net.

    Here’s my corollary: one thing leads to an unexpected other.

    *

    So what?

    So we need a supersaturated solution of knowledges where decisions are made.

    So our analysts need to be speckled specialists — experts with a sufficiently wide and random assortment of additional odd knowledges to be able to frame and reframe and reframe, to shake off any group frame and suggest half a dozen plausible alternatives, to doubt each one of them in turn, to turn to the right people who are themselves specialists in those other framings, to ask, to listen, to hear…

    So we also need a supersaturated solution of ignorances — admitted, and inquiring.

    *

    Here’s Herbert E Meyer on the non-bureaucratic qualities of first-rate analysts:

    In normal circumstances people like this would never be willing to take government jobs. Moreover, any agency that hired them would soon be driven nuts by their energy, their drive, their seemingly off-the-wall ideas, their sometimes bizarre work habits, even their tempers.

    Sometimes bizarre, eh?  “Embrace the maverick,” Deputy Director for Intelligence Jami Miscik advised.

    And by extension, embrace the unexpected — learn to expect it.

    Is there a literature of the unexpected? Read it! And I don’t just mean read Nicholas Nassim Taleb‘s Black Swan — I mean, keep tabs on the undertows, read the opposition, read the factional fights within the opposition, read the underclass and upperclass, the radical and the pacific and the merely eccentric and the totally off the wall.  Know that some people believe there is a reptile in Queen Elizabeth II‘s head — and I don’t mean people who hold some variant on Paul MacLean‘s triune brain theory!  Read the ancients as well as the moderns.

    Note especially the places where two fields or perspectives or framings overlap — they’re the places where experts can most easily see that each others’ approaches have value.  Cultivate binocular vision — and I mean, vision.

    And do all this with a fair amount of randomness, with curiosity.

    I happen to study religion, for instance, and splatter myself with other things — epidemiology, for instance, and complexity, and lit crit, and medieval music and plenty more besides — just enough to give a vaguely Jackson Pollock look to my interest in religion.

    And Aum Shinrikyo’s attempt to gather samples of the Ebola virus isn’t an epidemiology story, isn’t a new religious movements story — it’s at the intersection, it’s both.

    *

    How many fields of knowledge can you gossip in for a minute or three? That’s a question with profound implications in terms of networked interactions and collective understanding.

    How many languages can you frame your questions in?

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