So-Called Bloodless Wars: Blogs and Schizophrenia

An Interview with Noam Chomsky, by Carl Whithaus

Caldwell Name on Uniform

CW: There is a whole shift in terms of the science of war with the stuff that has been in the news recently. I asked the initial question because I was thinking about a tension between the way the Internet and information technologies are seen in terms of openness versus control. I was really interested in your thoughts on the work by Lt. General William Caldwell on reorganizing the Army’s Strategic Communication Initiative. He requires all the officers under his command to keep blogs, and some folks have wanted to read that as an opening up of communications within the military. Given your answer initially, it would sound like you would suggest that Caldwell’s program is not so much about openness, but rather is a way of emphasizing control of the officers.

Chomsky: I don’t know this particular program or the person you mention. But all of these systems have a kind of schizophrenic character. All of them are designed for control, surveillance, and domination, but the very nature of the technology means that they can be opened up for independent use. Sometimes that is almost comical.

Take, say, the ARPAnet—the precursor of the Internet, the military-based Internet system. Research universities like mine were on the ARPAnet. In fact, a lot of it was developed in places like MIT. I was on the ARPAnet. I happened to have a daughter in Nicaragua during the 80s when the United States were essentially carrying out a terrorist war against Nicaragua. Communications were almost shot. You know mail, phone, everything was extremely difficult. But I was able to keep in touch with her because she was able to find an ARPAnet outlet. So, thanks to the Pentagon, we were able to keep in touch while the U.S. was at war with Nicaragua. That’s kind of illustrative of the dull character of these systems. They can be used in all sorts of ways.

The Internet is a good example. There are efforts to try to control and change the Internet so that it serves power interests. But that’s really hard to do. And it’s a terrain of struggle now—grassroots struggle to keep the Internet free against pressures to try to control it through the controlling portals using different fast and slow systems.

[Author's Note: Coverage on Lt. General William Caldwell's view of soliders' keeping blogs can be found in sources ranging from Wired to the Small Wars Journal blog. Other sources such as the Nation discuss the apparent contradictions and tensions between Caldwell's recommendations and Pentagon policies for Operational Security (OpSec)].

[Editor's note: Caldwell is interviewed elsewhere in this issue by Mike Edwards and Alexis Hart.]

Chomsky's face and glasses with lines Introduction
West Point Cadets Training U.S. Military Officers
Philipines The Conquest of the Philippines
Flying Drone IT in the Early 21st Century
Binary Numbers Cyber Section of the Pentagon The Cyber Section of the Pentagon
Red Block Blogs and Schizophrenia
Intellectual Property Intellectual Property
partial Israeli flag Israel
Circuit Board High Tech Corporations
War Photograph War Images
Chomsky Closing

Note: The complete audio recording of the interview is available to listen to as you browse the edited webtext.