If terrorism is a meme, then one of the strategies against it has been exemplified by Joe Lieberman's efforts. Senator Lieberman has asked Youtube to remove al-Qaeda videos posted on its site. Google, which owns Youtube, has responded by removing what it deemed the most offensive of the videos. Lieberman said that:
if you search on YouTube for related videos, it will "return dozens of videos branded with an icon or logo identifying the videos as the work of one of these Islamist terrorist organizations." "Islamist terrorist organizations use YouTube to disseminate their propaganda, enlist followers, and provide weapons training – activities that are all essential to terrorist activity,"
Google responded on the YouTube Blog with the removal of select videos. Google said, "we examined and ended up removing a number of videos from the site, primarily because they depicted gratuitous violence, advocated violence, or used hate speech. Most of the videos, which did not contain violent or hate speech content, were not removed because they do not violate our Community Guidelines."
Lieberman's approach can be roughly described as an "anti-virus" strategy. The world functions under a tacit kind of operating system. We know it as a system of laws, freedom of navigation, etc. Just a virus uses the resources of an operating system it aims to subvert against itself, terrorism can be said to use the modern communications, transportation and legal systems of the civilization it wants to destroy in order to empower itself.
It has been said that all wars are ultimately conflicts of ideas. In the 19th and 20th centuries, key conflicts were fought over the question of whether "all men were equal". Or whether there was a "master race" or ideology. Fighting Hitler was not just about destroying the armies of the Third Reich, it was also about discreding the idea of Nazism. Another way to look at these conflicts was as attempts by the world operating system to right itself in the face of a severe viral challenge.
The classic strategy employed by most antivirus software packages is simple. Once a virus has been identified, the software takes steps to 1. attempt to repair the file by removing the virus itself from the file, 2. quarantine the file (such that the file remains inaccessible to other programs and its virus can no longer spread), or 3. delete the infected file.
That would correspond to a vigorous debate with terrorist ideology; efforts to limit its spread and -- when all else fails -- deleting its memes. We are too timid to go into mosques to debate radical imams. Too timid in fact to even acknowledge they exist. But Lieberman at least, sees the utility of quarantining and deleting some of the al-Qaeda memes.
The other approach to malignant memes is to change the operating system of the world in order to accomodate it. Bring it into the Big Tent. Commentary Magazine believes that Barack Obama is on the verge of winning legitimacy for the idea that negotiating with enemy regimes is an end in itself.
It seems to me that it’s a victory for Obama. The Iran debate is being defined as one of diplomatic engagement versus diplomatic isolation, with Obama presenting himself as the bearer of a new strategy ... Why is McCain allowing himself to be dragged into a debate about presidential-level diplomacy, when the more important question — and the question whose answer is more politically favorable to McCain — is whether diplomatic engagement will actually get anything accomplished? McCain should be asking Obama what concessions he realistically thinks he’s going to get from the Iranians upon going hat in hand to Tehran.
But that is nothing to the point when "engagement" -- like the the "peace process" is seen as the end, and not simply the means. Already we are told it is "manly" to negotiate with the enemy. After all everybody has negotiated at one point or the other. But what this skates over is the fact that all "engagements" are not equal. Percevel's negotiations with Yamashita at the Fall of Singapore are not the same as those which the Allied Powers informally had with Japan shortly before its surrender.
Therefore the focus of Obama's proposed negotiations ought to be in what they hope to achieve. Not simply, as they have become, because they will take place come what may.
There are two basic lines of thought in the war of memes with radical Islam. The first implicitly sees it as a virus. The other sees it as a candidate component of the world's future operating system. It's fair to say Lieberman sees it as a virus. What does Obama regard it as?
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