There’s Something Happening Here / What It Is Ain’t Exactly Clear

For the past few weeks I really haven’t had the opportunity to watch the unfolding political scandals as I would like. But as I was quickly scanning headlines tonight in an attempt to maintain a foothold on the current political landscape, something occurred to me. For as much as we talk about war in western society I’m not sure if we’ve had a traditionally defined war since WWII. And by that I don’t mean we haven’t fought with other countries”¦I mean that in the current age our wars initially begin as wars of information, and then physical skirmishes occur in an effort to win control of, or maintain control of information.

The lack of a recognizable enemy makes this current landscape so damn scary. In WWII we knew that Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito were the bad guys. Same thing in WWI. While the impetus behind the WWI remains a little unclear, we knew who the bad guys were. Then we had Korea and Vietnam and so much information was withheld from the public discourse that for the first time in history citizens doubted whether or not our government really gave a damn about them or not. For a while we had Osama to hate. Now he’s been pushed to our periphery.

And it’s just gotten worse. We have no real idea what is happening in Iraq or the middle east. Rumors of abuses perpetrated by American soldiers are circulating wildly, and instead of dealing with the situation honorably and punishing the guilty the government suppresses information. They play games of semantics to confuse us to a state of disinterest. The political scandals here on our homeland are also contestations of data manipulation. Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Karl Rove and now Dick Cheney; all these men are desperately trying to control and manipulate information. Computer files”¦ones and zeros”¦are all that stands between them and prosecution. And the general public doesn’t really understand the allegations against them. Sure, they know that those men are under scrutiny and may have committed some kind of crime, but as to the details, we don’t know. It’s too technical. We don’t have enough information.

The information the government allows the public to access has been so thoroughly cleansed and sterilized that we are perpetually at their whim. The media reads information given to them by the government as if they were a PR firm and not the fourth estate.

While proofing this post, a scene from the movie Sneakers came to mind (sorry, no video for this one). In this script excerpt the hero and the villain are arguing over a machine that has the ability to decode any encrypted data file or website, effectively making the owner of the machine the manipulator of all the data in the US, thereby controlling everything from national finances to sensitive military documents.

COSMO
Don’t you know the places we can go with
this?

BISHOP
Yeah, I do. There’s nobody there.

COSMO
Exactly! The world isn’t run by weapons
anymore, or energy, or money, it’s run by
little ones and zeroes, little bits of data.
It’s all just electrons.

BISHOP
I don’t care.

COSMO
I don’t expect other people to understand
this, but I do expect YOU to understand
this! We started this journey together!

BISHOP
It wasn’t a “journey”, Cos. It was a prank.

COSMO
There’s a war out there, old friend, a world
war. And it’s not about who’s got the most
bullets, it’s about who controls the
information. What we see and hear, how we
work, what we think, it’s all about the
information!

BISHOP
If I were you, I’d destroy that thing.

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