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Tony Grist

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Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee [Dec. 15th, 2010|09:59 am]
Tony Grist
A useful report on Newsnight last night made the point that government and corporations and the police are all hierarchies- and that puts them at a disadvantage when dealing with the free-form, leaderless protest movements that use the Net to organise. The protesters can get things done very fast. Someone posts a suggestion or a piece of information- and within minutes there are people gathering on the street. The State and the corporations and the police can't act or react anything like as fast because orders have to go up and down the chain of command. They're Patterson or Frazier or Foreman- big old ugly bears- and the protesters are Ali.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2010-12-15 10:16 am (UTC)
Well, yes, that is true, but the advantage of a hierarchy might be that the senior people at the top deserve their status and can counsel the organisation on what a good decision looks like, whereas a flashmob just reacts on gut instinct without any consideration for the consequences.

However I am going to undermine my own argument by using the words "Jody McIntyre" "Metropolitan Police" and "BBC".
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-15 11:23 am (UTC)
It's a large presumption that the people at the head of such organisations as the Met deserve their status.

Jody McIntyre was enormously impressive in that interview- and made the BBC's man look like a fool.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-15 01:15 pm (UTC)
Good point.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2010-12-15 12:51 pm (UTC)
I liked the way the mp emphasised it was our right to protest while not mentioning the governments' right to ignore.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-15 01:16 pm (UTC)
He was a smoothie, that guy. It felt like my bedtime so I switched him off.
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[User Picture]From: veronikos
2010-12-15 01:11 pm (UTC)
Any Sage of whom we have any record whatsoever has testified to the hierarchical nature of creation and the universe. Things exist along an ascending-descending scale of a vibratory continuum. None who has been struck by the Thunderbolt of the Wise has yet come forward to testify of some kind of circle-round, leaderless, hand-holding kumbaya of equal voices.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-15 01:29 pm (UTC)
But human hierarchies are rarely hierarchies of merit or wisdom.

Or even competence.
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[User Picture]From: veronikos
2010-12-15 03:45 pm (UTC)
Leaderless, human blob-collectives are rarely bastions of merit, wisdom, or competence, either. I suppose, then, that each of our comments says something about human nature, instead of something about hierarchies or leaderless blobs.

Actually, what I find most distressing is the banality of the report, itself. The thesis is little more than "It's hard to nail a jelly to the wall." That's not news to me.



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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-15 05:22 pm (UTC)
There have always been mobs, and they've always had the ability to take authority by surprise; what interests me here and now is the role played by the Internet- and the way in which it gifts the mob with more intelligence- and ability to organise itself- than it ever had before. This is a new thing- and new things always interest me. Whether it is also a significant thing remains to be seen.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2010-12-15 05:36 pm (UTC)
It may also mean that it easier to rouse the usual rabble without much thought for the consequences. but in general, it is a good thing. Yay for You Tube in this context.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-15 09:13 pm (UTC)
Perhaps, but I think it's also possible the Internet may make for more intelligent protest. I don't know- it's such a new phenomenon. It's going to be interesting to see how things develop.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2010-12-16 11:41 am (UTC)
The technology is new, but I think the advantage of spontaneous fluidity on the battlefield, so to speak, was formally described in Sunzi's, The Art of War, more than two millennia ago. He used flags to communicate by day and fire by night, but the effect is the same.

Broadly speaking, the tactics we are seeing are just a species of asymmetrical warfare. Properly deployed, it is as devestating against the police as it was against the British during the American Revolution, or against US forces in south-east Asia, or as it was more recently in Iraq and today in Afghanistan. Authoritarian command and control structures are inherently slow, stupid, and inefficient. These flaws are not always fatal, obviously, but they are unavoidable and when circumstances combine to make them exploitable the rigid hierarchy will invariably lose.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-16 01:37 pm (UTC)
It's going to be interesting to see how this develops. At the moment the London protesters are outfoxing the police- who respond with kettling and cavalry charges.
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