The CSS Blog Network

New Media and Latin American Violent Movements

Social Media Mess, courtesy Kexino/flickr

This article was originally published July 2 2014 by E-International Relations

The Commons Lab, an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars recently published a provocative article entitled “ New Terrorism and New Media.” In his discussion, Professor Gabriel Weimann of Haifa University in Israel focuses on insurgent movements such as Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. His work explains how terrorist movements utilize social media outlets, such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, to expand the reach of their ideology and attract new converts.

According to Weimann, social media is different than traditional internet resources because, with social media, terrorists are able to directly target individual followers. Thus, social media has increased the number of “lone wolf terrorists,” namely individuals who commit terrorist acts without being connected to a particular terrorist organization. With the rise of social media, Weimann argues that the war on terror has become increasingly “vital, dynamic, and ferocious,” and creates a new front in the struggle for international security.

However, the use of social media and new technology is not limited to violent groups in the Greater Middle East. Thus, the authors of this article would like to expand upon Weimann’s research by discussing how criminal groups in Latin America have also been successful at utilizing new media resources. » More

Virtual Conflict as Cultural Catharsis: Re-fighting Vietnam 2.0

Online Game Call of Duty, courtesy of Movistar Campus Party México

This article was originally published by Strife on 12 June 2014.

Storytelling is a core part of how we communicate with each other, understand complex issues and come to terms with the world around us. The prevalence of so-called ‘talking therapies’ show that such processes are important in helping to overcome and move past negative events and experiences. The experience of 9/11 left long-lasting and deep collective and cultural damage on the US/Western collective psyches. The ‘War on Terror’ has been compared to what Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson: ‘a vast, tragic distraction in which he must be seen to be winning, lest the domestic agenda he really cares about be derailed.’ Popular culture, in this case Western-developed video/computer games, have become a medium in which the cathartic and curative process of storytelling is taking place on a cultural level, to move past and overcome both of these ‘unfinished’ conflicts.

War and conflict have been staple thematic topics in games for decades, as far back as Space Invaders and Missile Command in the late 1970s. However, the games released after 9/11 show an interesting pattern indicating a marked swing in direction and focus. Between 2002 and 2005 there were two games released that were set during the first Gulf War (Conflict: Desert Storm I & II), at least nine games released set during the Vietnam War (Vietcong, Vietcong 2, Battlefield: Vietnam, Conflict: Vietnam, Shellshock: ‘Nam 67, Wings over Vietnam, Platoon, Men of Valor, Line of Sight: Vietnam) as well as many more set in the modern day in real or analogous Middle-Eastern theatres. One of the most stand-out titles from this period was America’s 10 Most Wanted, whose finale consists of the player fighting Osama Bin Laden in hand-to-hand combat, and subsequently bundling him into a helicopter that flies off into the sunset while the credits roll. From this period mainstream game development began to shift to reflect changing current events. From 2008 games in this thematic field have often adopted Private Military Contractors in both pro and antagonistic roles. after the details of Blackwater’s/Xe’s involvement in Iraq became wider public knowledge and a hot topic of the time.

The ability of popular culture to serve as a space for cultural catharsis and as a coping mechanism isn’t a new one; after the collective cultural trauma of Vietnam a similar process of mourning and understanding took place. The trajectory of tone and content in the ‘war is hell’ films from the 1970s such as Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter shifted dramatically to the restorative and cathartic films from the 1980s like Top Gun and Rambo. These films either painted the US military in a far more positive and victorious light or, in the case of Rambo, literally re-fighting Vietnam on-screen. » More

The Rise of the Humanitarian Drone: Giving Content to an Emerging Concept

Unmanned/Unarmed Aerial Vehicles, courtesy of MONUSCO

This article was originally published by iRevolution on 30 June 2014.

Kristin Bergtora, who directs the Norwegian Center for Humanitarian Studies (and sits on the Advisory Board of the Humanitarian UAV Network, UAViators), just co-authored this important study on the growing role of UAVs or drones in the humanitarian space. Kristin and fellow co-author Kjersti Lohne consider the mainstreaming of UAVs as a technology-transfer from the global battlefield. “Just as drones have rapidly become intrinsic to modern warfare, it appears that they will increasingly find their place as part of the humanitarian governance apparatus.” The co-authors highlight the opportunities that drones offer for humanitarian assistance and explore how the notion of the humanitarian UAV will change humanitarian practices. » More

The Ukraine Crisis and the Issue of National Minorities

Pro-Russian Meeting, courtesy of Lystopad

This article was originally published by Security and Human Rights.

National minorities are a political and social fact in Europe and many other parts of the world. In Europe, the issue of national minorities became particularly acute after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 as well as more recently after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s. The newly created independent states became hosts to national minorities: for example, the Baltic States and Ukraine to a Russian minority, Romania to a Hungarian minority, Croatia to a Serb minority and vice versa, just to name a few. » More

Acting Time; or, Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict

Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie chairing the “End Sexual Violence in Conflict” Global Summit in London. Image: Flickr.

This article was originally published June 17, 2014 by The Disorder of Things.

The attention lavished on sexual violence in conflict [three weeks ago] was in many ways unprecedented. As well as convening the largest ever gathering of officials, NGOs and other experts for the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, co-chairs William Hague (Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) and Angelina Jolie (Special Envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees) also generated very many pages – both print and digital – of commentary.

In some myopic quarters, that achievement was in itself a distraction from the really important politics of blossoming conflict in Iraq. Such views should remind us that there are still those who insist on seeing gender violence as marginal to international peace and security. Worthy, yes, “no doubt important”, obviously a cause for concern , and so on, but naturally not the real deal. » More

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