Monday, July 11, 2005

Winning the War on Terror: a post-7/7 review of Hugh Hewitt's Blog

In the aftermath of a terrorist attack at least two emotions are common: anger and helplessness, a feeling that there is nothing personally one can do about terrorism.

Here's a partial solution: read Hugh Hewitt's Blog, and get to work.

Blog: understanding the information reformation that's changing your world (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005) is built on a Reformation paradigm: HH likens the rise of weblogs to the rise of the printing press in the late fifteenth century--with the subsequent effect on the Reformation and northern Europe's revolt against Rome.

The model has some valuable merits: it rightly appreciates the essential role of information flow in determing how humans act. For Aristotle, it is of the essence of man that he is a rational animal--but what we think is reasonable depends crucially on the information we have about our surrounding environment. We went to war against Al Qaeda because we thought Al Qaeda bombed the World Trade Center building--if we had thought it was domestic terrorism such as Oklahoma City, we would have done something else.

It follows from this that one of the most important factors in human societies is who controls the information flow. For the last generation, most Americans have gotten most of their information about public life from three television networks based in New York: ABC, CBS, NBC. These networks have been staffed by reporters 85% of whom have never voted for a Republican for president (according to various surveys). The result has been a hard-left monopoly on the information flow in much of America's public debate.

There is no question that this has frequently had decisive consequences for American foreign policy. The Tet offensive of 1968 was a crushing victory for American forces that crippled enemy action in South Vietnam for years. But when CBS presented this to the American people as a defeat, the American will to win was badly maimed, and led eventually to American defeat.

The thesis of Blog is that the rise of weblogs has created a postmodern information system that allows free citizens to subvert the narratives established by the mainstream press. Part I of Blog retells some of the key stories: the fall of Trent Lott, the scandal of a journalist at the New York Times, the Swiftboat Veterans and the defeat of John Kerry--and most humiliatingly, the erasure of Dan Rather's credibility in the forged documents attack on George W. Bush. Part II is about the decline of the audience for the major networks, decline in circulation for major newspapers, and the corresponding rise in new on-line information sources: principally weblogs. Part III focusses on constructive suggestions for starting weblogs and making them work. All this takes up about 150 pages, then followed by various appendices--all told, a short read, and designed to be a short read: HH emphasizes the importance of speed in modern communications.

If HH likens the rise of weblogs to the Reformation, another analogy in the present period might well be the Committees of Correspondence that were organized in America starting in 1764. The Committees were the nerve center for the network of patriots that organized against the British, and kept the public informed of the nature and need for the revolution. Without the Committees of Correspondence there would have been no Revolution and no American Republic.

Today, victory in the war on terror depends upon an informed and well-connected citizenry that can mobilize information and public opinion to defeat global terrorism. War--according to Clausewitz--is not fundamentally about killing the enemy but about breaking his will to resist. The weblogs are essential to the information flow necessary to win the war on terror and energize the national will.

This role cannot be played by a mainstream press led by reporters who know little or nothing about war, don't speak Arabic, don't understand Islamic culture, and simply aren't qualified to cover the important events of the war. The alternative is the network of weblogs:

1. Strategy Page is probably the single best source of information for regular updates on the war in Iraq--written by military experts in close touch with the front lines, it is vastly superior to anything being written for the NY Times or any of the leading networks.

2. Numerous Iraqi citizens have weblogs in English that tell the truth about Iraq which the western press won't face and doesn't understand. Start with Iraq the Model and go from there.

3. Numerous US soldiers are also blogging from the front lines--and they'll be first to tell you that the press isn't getting the story right. The Mudville Gazette is Grand Central Station for milblogs.

4. Essential writing on strategy and the war on terror can be found at former Pentagon strategist Thomas Barnett. See also Iraq veteran Colonel Austin Bay. Terrorism experts have organized The Counterterrorism Blog.

5. Accurate information on the Middle East is all but impossible to get out of the mainstream press. MEMRI offers direct translations of key Arabic media--with a story that doesn't show up in the English-speaking press. The Foundation for the Defence of Democracies led by former CIA director James Woolsey is invaluable for the global defense of democracy. Arthur Chrenkoff regularly rounds up evidence in the war on terror that the mainstream press omits.

6. LaShawn Barber and Michelle Malkin have been sounding the alarm on border security (and see the Counterterrorism Blog on this as well!).

Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.

I ask ...for your patience in what will be a long struggle.

The advance of human freedom -- the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time -- now depends on us. Our nation -- this generation -- will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.
--George W. Bush/20 September 2001.


At Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Hewitt hopes people will stop reading "mainstream press" -- poorly educated peasants are so much more easily oppressed! (See Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II)

It's difficult to get the news out of many places on the other side of the world -- but it's there in the mainstream press, if one looks. Of course, one has to look

Try the New York Times, for example, or the BBC. Both of those sources carry much more, and much more accurate, news than is available on blogs.


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