Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Sunday, September 14, 2014

GUEST POST BY TONY COUTURE

Many of you will have seen the comments on MOOCs and such things by Tony Couture.  Tony is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada.  In response to my thoughts about ISIS and asymmetric warfare, he sent the following brief essay to me, which I offer here as a guest post.

                                                                    On Air Power
                                                                by Tony Couture

One of the most ominous moments of President Obama’s speech about Islamic State or ISIS on Sept. 10, 2014 was his vow to destroy them with America’s air power. Superiority in traditional air power does not necessarily translate into victory because of the new uses of social media and the ability of groups to put their messages “on air”–to make themselves visible to the world through the media despite being destroyed in person. Social media appear to be a new stage in the development or the degeneration of our species revolutionary capacities.


One narrative of the main generations of modern revolutionaries would begin with religiously-centered groups like the Puritans dissenting, and from the fight for religious freedom evolved the early radicals who invented democratic revolutions by secularizing opposition to governments
and raising the class struggle to consciousness. This first group sometimes seized power with violence and terrorized the ruling classes (guillotined them), while disciplining themselves by making revolution into a professional pursuit: it was not to be a mere coup d ètat, it must be a mass
movement of liberation from arbitrary rule.

In the early 1900`s, a second generation of modern revolutionaries in Russia applied Marxism to make the scientifically planned economy and the materialist worldview essential to another paradigm of revolutionary activity. Though the mass movement to unionize and socialist government entitlement programs remain important consequences of this generation, it has been associated with genocide and mass extermination of over 100 million people for the communist cause. The second generation continues to inspire hard-nosed, scientific revolutionaries who cannot solve every problem with government through total government.

A third generation of revolutionaries added the 1960`s counter-culture, which psychologized and sexualized revolution in order to shock the traditional culture. Lenny Bruce, Herbert Marcuse, feminists, John Lennon and artists such as Rodney Dangerfield, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the New Left fall into this third paradigm of revolution as making peace, not war. The focus shifts here from an adversarial stance typical of war of ideas thinkers to an opting out to create your own new age instead, and a de-militarization of revolution into practices like demonstrations, people power and the sexual revolution.

In the 1990`s, new waves of computer-assisted agents of the information society arose and functioned to displace traditional revolutionary activities. The cybernization subsumes the previous processes
(sexualization, communization, democratization) and diverts them into pornography, security and consumer concerns. What makes them different are their cyber-skills and impersonal identities: internet advantages such as greater anonymity, more access to free information, more privacy, and more possible publicity than ever imaginable before. They have set new records of mass murder, learned to televise killing for greater effect and in defiance of civilization. Schooled in virtual violence and online games, killers like ISIS have tried to invent the atom bomb of social media strikes: beheading of a hostage or worse violence and then spreading the images through the
Internet. Filmed in English to cause maximum insult, this is nausea, revolting but not revolution. It is a Trojan Horse, fired through virtual spaces as an image of our ultimate undoing, to shake down a largely virtual civilization. If entertainment and social media have become our Achilles Heel, then beheading video bombs will continue. We should be humiliated now by our videos of “smart missiles” exploding enemies, and struck dumb as we are.



2 comments:

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

I've been struck by the psychological power of the beheadings. On the one hand, it ellicits comparisons with the middle ages or barbarism, on the other, it evokes the French revolution. This must feel very differently in France.

Tony Couture said...

I think that Kropotkin or Tolstoy (or another famous writer!) witnessed some beheadings in France, and was overwhelmed by the spectacle of a large group of people gasping together as a body was beheaded and it then stood up from the guillotine and moved around in pain without being able to scream. Not sure if this is from The Great French Revolution or A Confession, but I think the writer describes it in his explanation of his anarcho-pacificism.

The ISIS videos are a jihadist answer to reality TV and our sickening cult of the almighty image. I think the power of the images comes from a combination of our bondage to the good and bad news that stirs our daily emotional cycles and our freedom to feed off the flow of information.......................Do I dare watch the beheading? I forced myself to watch an Al Qaida beheading as a professor teaching Philosophies of War and Peace, to see if I should use it in a class exercise and show it to university students with a proper warning to let them leave if they did not want to participate. I could not finish the short video (5 minutes), and thought no human is designed to "watch" this garbage, and actually watching it might damage your humanity by blinding you morally.