From the November 2002 Idaho Observer:


1995 RAND corporation report begs question: To what extent is activism orchestrated?

The models above were presented within the context of “Cyber War is Coming,” a 1995 report written by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt for the RAND (Research and Development) Corporation. In this report the well-funded Washington, D.C.-based international issues think tank assesses what was then the coming Internet/email communications explosion. RAND identified the relevance of the models above to modern, borderless communications among people, governments and corporations in 1995. As a result their clients, high level government officials and multinational corporations, were able to see into the future which is now. With that kind of prior knowledge compared to how most of us have been merely adapting to the Internet as it develops, one has to wonder how much of what we are experiencing in the age of activism is being orchestrated outside of ourselves.

By Scott Thurston

At this time there is a myriad of social activist campaigns on the Internet. Once one picks a cause he can suddenly be part of an international network of like-minded electronic activists. This network system of activism is not only working (and working well) but is growing rapidly in numbers of people involved and growing in political and social influence.

The Internet has been increasingly involved in politics and international conflict. Local, state and national governments are establishing a presence on the Internet, both for disseminating information to the public and for receiving feedback from the public.

Candidates for elective office are conducting debates over the Internet. Organizers of domestic and international political movements are using the Internet.

The world Wide Web played a key roles in Desert Storm, the Tiananmen Square massacre, the attempted coup in Russia, the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and in the challenge to authoritarian controls in Iran, China, and other oppressive states.

The fight for the future will not be between the armies of leading states and the weapons will not be those of traditional armed forces. The combatants of these future wars will be what has come to be known as “non-state actors” like Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, or like the drug smuggling cartels that presently exist in Columbia and Mexico.

On the positive side are civil-society activists fighting for liberty, justice and human rights. What each of these have in common is that they will operate in small, dispersed units that can deploy anywhere, anytime to penetrate and disrupt. They all will feature network forms of organization, doctrine, strategy and technology attuned to the information age.

These network forms of organization are proving very hard to beat and the powers that be are frantically involved in switching from the less traditional and effective hierarchy forms of organization to this new form of organization known as the “network.”

This idea, which has introduced new terms into our vocabulary such as “cyberwar” and “netwar,” was first conceptualized by a couple of researchers at the RAND Corporation which is a military “think tank” and policy maker for the U.S. government and, specifically, the U.S. Department of Defense.

While both “netwar” and “cyberwar” revolve around information and communications, at a deeper level they are forms of war about “knowledge”; about who knows what, where, when and why.

According to Acquilla and Ronfeldt who wrote the RAND report entitled, “Cyberwar is Coming”, netwar means “trying to disrupt, damage or modify what a target population knows or thinks it knows about itself and the world around it” and “represents a new entry on the spectrum of conflict that spans economic, political and social, as well as military forms of war.”

Ronfeldt also argues that, “Contrary to the impotence felt by many social activists, they have become an important and powerful force fueled by the advent of the information revolution. Through computer and communication networks, especially via the worldwide Internet, grassroots campaigns have flourished and the most important, government elites have taken notice.”

For the first time in the history of mankind networks of individuals are able to communicate with every other member is possible. The age of the organization with a charismatic leader directing the energies of his followers is passing and the age of the network organization is rapidly replacing it. It is clear that RAND, and possibly other wings of the establishment, are not only interested in what activists are doing on the Internet, but they think it is working. It is also clear that they are studying our activities and analyzing our potential power. We should do the same, but obviously not from the perspective of inhibiting our work, but the opposite: how to further facilitate it.

To read and understand more concerning this newly discovered form of organization please visit my website at www.angelfire.com/az/sthurston/ and read the article entitled “Netwars and Activists Power on the Internet”. Related articles from the RAND Corporation can also be found on “THE JAILHOUSE LAWYER's LINKS PAGE”, under the TECHNOLOGY section of that page.