I’m torn and i need some advice. I was asked to be on a panel at an upcoming CIA conference “with the objective of providing extensive insight into how terrorists can and likely will use cyberspace for influence purposes.” They want to understand how blogs and Friendster work. They seem to be running a series of conferences, including a cyber one, one with religious and non-profit groups, one with advertising and PR groups, and one with entertainment and gaming folks… all to get “insight” from experts to understand the terrorist schtuff.
My first inclination is to object on moral grounds. I am violently opposed to PATRIOT and how the government and military are using technology to track civilians under the umbrella of finding terrorists. I object to the culture of fear being perpetuated and the “if you aren’t with us, you’re against us” attitude. I have major systemic issues with our government and its exploitation of power. Major issues.
Of course, part of me wonders if i can learn from these folks and use this platform to change people’s minds (or maybe be a little bit subversive). The audience is purportedly “group of between 40 and 50 high level intelligence managers and policy analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, Office of Naval Intelligence, and various other unified military commands.”
I’m also worried because the terrorists make sense to me in the same way that punks who steal and kids who blow up schools make sense. These groups feel as though they will never have agency within the system because the systemic hegemony is too oppressive. They seek to overthrow the oppressor through brute force, to disrupt the system from its core and rattle the foundations that blind everyone to the problems of the system. Of course, in every case, the system does a good job in keeping the mainstream blinders on so that these acts are only ever seen as wrong instead of as attempts to wake up the mass zombie culture. I don’t support these groups’ violence and i think machismo clouds the efforts to make change. But it’s the same attitudes that make Fakesters and goths utterly lovable to me – same concept, no violence.
Given this perspective, i’m worried that there’s no way that i could ever change the minds of military folks because the core values are so different. I’m worried that my efforts to influence will simply be repurposed and manipulated, no matter what i do. I’m worried that i will become a tool of the kinds of oppression that i loathe and the lack of understanding that angers me. I don’t want to eliminate terrorism by force; i want to see a cultural change that makes it unnecessary and unvalued. But is there any way that i can do that by participating? I’m not sure…
Anyhow, i’m torn. Thoughts? Perspectives?
It’s funny… i sat in traffic on the Bay Bridge for an hour last night and i kept reading the bumper sticker in front of me. “Join the army and go to exotic distant lands so you can meet exciting new people and then kill them.” ::sigh:: I don’t want to be that anthropologist that helps the colonial empire destroy the world and abuse its privileges.