Sunday, 15 August 2010
GLOBAL GUERRILLA: Julian Assange
Julian Assange is the front man for Wikileaks. Wikileaks, if you haven't been keeping up with current events, is a network that runs a site dedicated to makingleaks easy. It's been very effective at this. Wins include:
- 91,000 DoD secret reports on the war in Afghanistan (between 2006-2010).
- Secret gun camera footage from Iraq reworked into a viral video entitled "Collateral Murder."
- TSA screening manual (unredacted).
However, what's really interesting about Julian Assange is that he is one of the most important innovators in warfare today. A true global guerrilla. In other words, he's effectively adapted modern methods of warfare/conflict to engage and defeat the biggest nation-states in the world (in a relatively non-violent way). Here's some highlights on how he has used global guerrilla methods to accomplish this feat:
An Open Source Insurgency
Wikileaks is, if you dive below the surface, an open source insurgency (as we have seen in Iraq, Nigeria...). An open source insurgency is a loose network of otherwise unrelated groups/individuals that attack enemies as a swarm. How did he pull this diverse network together? Julian created a very simpleplausible promise around which this diverse community assembled. The promise can be seen on the "Wikileaks:Submissions" page:
Submitting confidential material to WikiLeaks is safe, easy and protected by law.
The recent wins against the US government is a clear demonstration that this promise -- the idea that it possible to safely leak anything, regardless the power of target -- is plausible. The promise above is followed by an advertisement of its plausibility:
Over 100,000 articles catalyzed world-wide. Every source protected. No documents censored. All legal attacks defeated.
Read the article: "Open Source Insurgency >> How to Start." for more about how to start an open source insurgency through developing a plausible promise.
Wikileaks uses individual superempowerment -- the ability of one individual to do what it took a large company or government agency to do a couple of decades ago -- to its advantage. In fact, the site is designed as a tool to confer superempowerment to anybody that connects to it. It's both a highly trafficked global stage (a place to successfully reveal the hidden acts of others and/or to do extreme damage those with secrets) and a personal CIA with huge global resources.
Like other open source insurgencies, Wikileaks uses a very effective method of attack called systems disruption. Systems disruption is pretty simple. It simply means that small and carefully aimed attacks against any large network/system, can result in levels of damage a million times greater than the attack itself. Why? The dynamics of the targeted system serve to amplify the damage of the attack. Here, Julian explores how leaks can be used as social systems disruption in his article "The Non-linear Effects of Leaks on Unjust Systems of Governance"
The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive "secrecy tax") and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.
Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.
In Julian's analysis above, there's also a hint of John Boyd (America's best military thinker). Julian's focus appears to be on disrupting/slowing the decision making cycles (OODA loops) of organizational opponents through a "secrecy tax" (a tax that is radically increased through leaks). Like Boyd, he maintains that any organization unable to respond to environmental changes, due to very slow decision making cycles, will eventually succumb to competitors.