Systemic Equivalences between Ebola, Alien Invasion and Dissidence
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 20 Oct 2014
Strategic Implications of Seemingly Disparate Forms of Terrorism
Current preoccupation with the strategic measures required in the response to the threat of ebola bear a strange similarity to the manner in which the response to terrorism is framed — especially as exemplified in the case of ISIS. As with other diseases, the focus is on its “eradication” — well-illustrated by the case of polio, malaria, AIDS, and the like. The language of eradication has also been notably applied to ISIS — suggesting a more general understanding of current strategic options, as separately discussed (Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century? 2014).
There is therefore a case for exploring the equivalences in the strategic responses to ebola as a form of terrorism — if only through the terror it evokes, especially in societies prone to psychosis. Ebola psychosis is said to be paralysing (Ebola virus: ‘Biological war’ in Liberia, BBC News, 11 September 2014; James Creedon, “Ebola psychosis”: is the media partly to blame? MediaWatch, 16 October 2014; Eric Boehler, The Media’s Ebola Coverage: the more you watch, the less you know?, AlterNet, 16 October 2014). The US has recently been explicit in relating ebola to issues of homeland security (How worried is the Pentagon about Ebola? CNN, 16 October 2014; Homeland Security Representative releases a statement about Ebola, WREG.com, 12 October 2014; Ebola in the Homeland, Committee on Homeland Security, 10 October 2014).
The exploration can however be usefully extended to include hypothetical invasion by extraterrestrials — a theme extensively explored in imaginative fiction and blockbuster movies, clearly nourishing the popular imagination and helping to reinforce a politics of fear (Promoting a Singular Global Threat — Terrorism: Strategy of choice for world governance, 2002). The ebola virus — despite its miniature size — can be readily understood as an “alien” threat to global society, and a welcome simplification of political discourse. A related concern, triggering a pattern of similar responses, is that of invasive species from other ecosystems — notably across national and state borders.
Potentially more intriguing is how the argument could be extended to include dissidence as a deadly threat to cultures and societies — especially given the manner in which it can transform into terrorism or evoke wrath against “unbelievers” or “infidels“. Unbelief is an explicit concern to various religions — most notably to Islam — and to Christianity in less currently evident forms. However unbelief is also perceived as a threat by those seeking dominance of the world by democratic capitalism or any other political ideology. Hence the problematic engagement with any form of “alternative” — variously framed as intolerable. Whilst ebola is indeed carried by a microscopic vehicle, any dissident belief is effectively invisible — if not to be recognized as using a very particular form of “stealth technology“. A comparison could be made between the virus in genetic terms and unbelief as more fruitfully described in memetic terms — a memetic threat rather than a genetic threat. Dissidence is readily defined by a dominant worldview as a disease — although such labellig may be made by one political ideology of that of any opponent.
The purpose here is to derive insights from the pattern of protective measures considered appropriate to ebola — as they might be extended to other threats to human civilization. The question raised is whether other “threats” currently evoke a similar pattern of response, when the real danger may reside in the failure to question the mindset through which such standard responses are framed.
Do such examples highlight the old strategic adage: if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail? The more contemporary version might be: if all you have is a missile, then every problem elsewhere looks like a target. From what pool of options are strategic options drawn? Does that pool reflect the diversity considered appropriate in terms of the cybernetic Law of Requisite Variety?
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 Oct 2014.
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