Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Controlling the SWARM: Rhetoric as system control?

John Robb is developing an interesting line of ideas on his blog "Global Guerrillas" on the swarm - the self-ordering multiple actors, who, forexample, attacks a target. The German U-Boots in the Atlantic during World War II is a good example. A definition goes: a primary maneuver that results in an attack from multiple directions (all points on the compass) by 5 or more (semi) autonomous units on a single target/unit.

We didn't start the fire
Recently John Robb has speculated that the fire in the refinery in London was a terror-attack following a speech by Al-Qaeda strategist Zawahiri (and Osama Bin Laden more indirectly). Read the post here. (And read this article on a similar blast in Texas City, that will stir your inner conspiracy theorist and make you wonder if a government could deny a terrorist attack, even though the terrorists took responsibility?).

Terrorist groups as audience
Now, the interesting thing here from a rhetorical viewpoint is if urging for attacks on specific types of infrastructure nodes actually result in such attacks, carried out by (semi) autonomous units? Basically it is adressing a rhetorical situation, as described by Lloyd Bitzer, adressed to an audience that can set about the desired change. This raises questions of audience and how terrorist inspirators tailor their messages to this effect - if it is at all possible. Considering how difficult it would be to attack a highly protected refinery compound, it isn't likely that you will just get up and grab your bag of explosives after hearing Zawahiri on the internet. More likely we should be looking at long term creation of persuasive patterns here.


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