by Warner Todd Huston | June 15, 2014 1:57 pm
Obama’s Pentagon is now studying “civil unrest” in this country and others looking for ways that the military can be used to understand, predict, and to put a stop to political protests, both non-violent and violent ones.
We all should understand the desire that militaries have to study this field, of course. After all, security is their game. But it also should make ALL of us uneasy that our government is looking into ways to stop us from indulging our First Amendment rights.
A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”
Launched in 2008–the year of the global banking crisis–the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”
Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagians by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”
Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.”
One interesting question that the studies addressed was why some people turn to terrorism while others in the same movement don’t, even though the non-violent actors seem to be just like those who turn to violence. Why some do and others don’t is an interesting question, to be sure.
But the whole enterprise only lends credence to the idea that our government is setting itself up as our lord and master and not an entity controlled by we the people.
Remember what Thomas Jefferson once wrote in a letter to Roger Weightman:
“The palpable truth is that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god.”
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