Monday, March 28, 2011

The Info War

 Alwin and Heidi Tomer, begin their classic work, War and Antiwar, with the horrific pic­ture of a Bosnian child whose face has been half ripped away by explosives and its mother staring at what is left. Exactly a decade after the book was published, we again see a similar pic­ture but from Iraq proving the theory of the Tomers that the book is a prel­ude to the wars and anti wars to come. But the difference in the two pictures is that if the Bosnian child's was caught by the CNN, the dying child in Iraq was shown to the world by Al­-Jazeera, and if the former picture was about war, the latter is about the anti­war that is being waged.
That is exactly what the Tomers did not foresee, for they thought that even anti- war efforts are domain of the war mongers. The Tomers could not have imagined a powerful alternative channel like the AI-Jazeera to fight for the cause of the "second wave nations" against the might of the "third wave superpowers" to put it in their own terms. They believed that media ac­tivity in the future would be the ex­clusive sphere of the big conglomer­ates, and if any competition arises for CNN, it would be from other players from the industrialised info-rich na­tions of the "third wave" stable. (Alwin Toffler's "third wave" is char­acterised by knowledge and brain­based economies.)
Toffler talk about a new world order threatened with wars and anti-wars, and where "knowledge has become the central resource of destructivity just as it is the central resource of productivity". Information is central for "third wave" warfare, and hence, an equally competent anti-war force characterised by dissemination of counter-information, is necessary and vital.
In this context of anti-war, the ef­forts of AI-Jazeera and a host of dedi­cated websites and newsblogs, de­serve unreserved appreciation. Unlike the first Gulf War of 1991, the ongo­ing battle has given rise to an equal volume of media coverage of both pro-­war and anti-war activities. The prin­cipal voice of the warmongers has been the AP, Reuters, CNN and BBC," who carry nothing but pro-war propa­ganda. The BBC and CNN reports are stuffed with Coalition Forces' press briefings that show military generals defending their actions, and saying how their "humanitarian" laser-guided smart bombs have avoided great human casualties by selective target­ing. As proof, they show clippings from the weapon video systems of demolished targets and satellite pic­tures of the target before and after detonation. Never before have military generals shown pictures of war from such angles to substantiate their argu­ments. Toffler too refer to this, saying that these video images of tar­gets and hits, amplify the real situa­tion. Even pilots engaged in actual combat sometimes reset their cockpit video displays, to make themselves look better on CNN. The likes of these video images are part of the Toffierian "third wave" information warfare. In this warfare, it is even easy to simu­late entire battles that never took place or summit meetings, showing the en­emy rejecting a peaceful negotiation.
The info war does not end there. Take the Reuters report of March 25: "For Iraqis war is better than hunger". The report goes on to say that plenty of people in southern Iraq are trying to "surrender" as a means of getting food and water; it ends by saying that the PoWs are being treated fairly and humanely with "good halal food"­ - the punch-line. Yet another Reuters reportage expresses immense doubt about the Saddam Hussein images shown on Al-Jazeera, and tries to ex­plain that there is no concrete proof as to whether he is dead or otherwise. Interestingly, the report ends with a quote from an Iraqi doctor and mor­phologist that the "real Saddam died because he had cancer of the lymph nodes and since his death in 1999 they're just showing his doubles". Another instance is an AP picture of a British military doctor "saving" the life of a four-day-old child, thereby highlighting the humane face of the war mongers. Or was it to neutralise the Al-Jazeera picture of the dead Iraqi child? Such is the dreadful nature of this information war.
As Toffler says, the "third wave media is characterised by such tacti­cal approaches to information, creat­ing a sense of unreality over real events. The jamming of the AI-Jazeera websites and the attacks on its televi­sion stations, are also part of the "knowledge strategies" to aid destruc­tion.
The US might win the war, but for sure, they would not stop there. Any country with great natural resources would be the target of American ex­pansionism. What the Thirld World needs is a more mature anti-war strat­egy, more effective use of knowledge resources and the creation of a new "information ecology"

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