Encircling Empire: Report #26 — Reviewing Force Multipliers

Posted on 30 November 2015


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Over the period of a month, from October to November of this year, an experiment was attempted: to deliver an extended “lecture” via Zero Anthropology and its Twitter and Facebook connections, using a combination of articles and image-quotes. These were extracted from material presented in the Force Multipliers volume, which itself has been made available for free. The results? Ambiguous, to say the least. It’s not clear at all just how (un)successful this effort at what is in effect free public education–ultimately funded by the Canadian public–has been, can be, or will be.

While many US and UK anthropologists, among others, seem particularly enthused with the idea of “public anthropology,” and being “relevant” in public discussions on “contemporary issues,” and while Canadian universities emphasize “knowledge mobilization” (public communication, open access, “community outreach”), the case for any of these thrusts remains less than convincing. Far less attention is paid to what Pierre Bourdieu warned over two decades ago: the desire for increased public visibility can produce a relationship that undermines and erodes academic autonomy (to the extent that there is any), while promoting the celebrated figure of the journalist-activist (Twitter is a proving ground for this type) as a new claimant to academic capital, but with less and less scientific substance. Justifiably, some warn against us about the phenomenon of academics with a high K-index rating, that is, a large Kardashian factor (more followers in social media with comparatively fewer citations of published research, or just little published work).

On the other hand, as the US State Department and US military and intelligence agencies, along with US-based corporations, are intent on seeding the Web with images, messages, and lures to serve US foreign policy aims, it would seem wise to offer more to analyze, explain, and counter such efforts. Hence the online “lecture,” presenting resources necessary for questioning and reversing the dominant mode of ideological regimentation that serves the imperial state, by taking apart the language of its cherished constructs.

Analysis and explanation: many quasi-theories are popular out there, that treat the production and deployment of US power in far-fetched terms. However, one of the most basic points of the Force Multipliers volume and online “lecture,” was to show that US political leaders, diplomats, corporate executives, and military strategists, have each devised a core set of theories and plans that are designed precisely to infiltrate, manipulate, divide, and destabilize societies around the world. Is that “new”? Not at all–indeed, current plans feed on the long history of the US as the “new empire” (it has been a new empire for nearly two centuries now). What is different is the degree of emphasis–the degree of anxious, almost desperate and thus excessive reliance on leveraging other actors to serve US interests, and to reduce the costs of US dominance. What also stands out is the degree of extraction, that is, force multiplication as another form of capital accumulation.

Counter-operations: As warned in the following slide presentation, another key point that is the basic message of the force multipliers idea is that within the pseudo-science of “force multipliers,” there is a dangerous statement of intent: to use humans as a form of drone, being less expensive yet more precise and in less need of constant guidance, than their mechanical counterparts. Right now, many are rightly exercised about the brutal impact of mechanical drones, while being less attentive to their far more destructive flesh-and-bone counterparts. The threat to sovereignty today is an insidious one. Though the confrontation with local collaborators of empire is not by any means “new,” the current phase of struggles against US domination will require more intensified efforts, beginning at home, given that an overreaching empire relies ever more on local proxies.

To begin this round-up, here is a list of all articles on force multipliers published on Zero Anthropology:

  1. (New Book) Force Multipliers: The Instrumentalities of Imperialism
  2. Eight Questions and Seven Theses about Force Multipliers
  3. Instrumental Partners: An Imperial Science of Agency
  4. Scientific Imperialism
  5. The “Science” of Global Domination
  6. Force Multipliers and Cuba
  7. Force Multipliers and Stealth Imperialism
  8. Empire’s “Mimic Men”
  9. Connected Capitalism?
  10. Military Capitalism
  11. The Dismal “Physics” of Blowback and Overstretch
  12. Force Multipliers and 21st Century Imperial Warfare: Practice and Propaganda

And finally, an extensive and illustrated slide presentation: