2012/10/21

the ironic cloud

From moon's favors, 2009

What we call the beginning is often the end...

Looking back, Robert McNamara tells us, among other things, in The Fog of War*:

point 4) Our judgments of friend and foe, alike, reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.
(note bots now blocking this link.)

He'd like this.
Harper's, The ironic cloud By D. Graham Burnett and Jeffrey Andrew Dolven

intro:
By D. Graham Burnett and Jeff Dolven, from “Irony in the National Defense.” Last winter, Lockheed Martin Corporation approached Princeton University with a request for research initiatives. In April, Burnett, an historian of science, and Dolven, a professor of English, submitted the proposal, the cost of which they estimated to be $750,000; Princeton declined to forward it to Lockheed.


But you can read it here. It's beautiful. and Χαλαπα τα καλα...

excerpt (and wind down):

Admittedly the most speculative dimension of this project is the preliminary investigation into modes of weaponized irony. Superpower-level political entities (e.g., Roman Empire, George W. Bush, large corporations, etc.) have tended to look on irony as a “weapon of the weak” and thus adopted a primarily defensive posture in the face of ironic assault. But a historically sensitive consideration of major strategic realignments suggests that many critical inflection points in geopolitics (e.g., Second Punic War, American Revolution, etc.) have involved the tactical redeployment of “guerrilla” techniques and tools by regional hegemons. There is reason to think that irony, properly concentrated and effectively mobilized, might well become a very powerful armament on the “battlefield of the future,” serving as a nonlethal—or even lethal—sidearm in the hands of human fighters in an information-intensive projection of awesome force. Without further fundamental research into the neurological and psychological basis of irony, it is difficult to say for certain how such systems might work, but the general mechanism is clear enough: irony manifestly involves a sudden and profound “doubling” of the inner life of the human subject. The ironizer no longer maintains an integrated and holistic perspective on the topic at hand but rather experiences something like a small tear in the consciousness, whereby the overt and covert meanings of a given text or expression are sundered. We do not now know just how far this tear could be opened—and we do not understand what the possible vital consequences might be. Even under the current lay or primitive deployments of irony, we see instances of disorientation, anger, and sometimes even despair. There is thus reason to hope that the irony of the future, suitably tuned, refined, and charged, might be mobilized to ” the enemy or possibly kill outright. This would be an extreme form of the sort of “speech act” theorized by the English philosopher (and, significantly, Strategic Intelligence Service officer in MI-6) J. L. Austin. Excitingly, such systems could be understood as the tangible culmination of a 2,500-year humanistic Western project of making words matter.

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and with more funding, we can develop a condensed, portable version. Maybe an ironic vest. Portable litmus-coated spit cups. Jobs, America. Jobs!


Oh, wait--