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Last week, BLDGBLOG published How The Other Half Writes: In Defence of Twitter. It slammed Margaret Dowd’s “brain-dead editorial” in which she pouted like an adolescent instead of actually interviewing Twitter founders, Stone and Williams.
In Defense of Twitter was vitriolic and robust in its argument. Geoff usually sticks to urban-tectonics, mobile architecture and Los Angeles, so it was unusual to see him drop down to the base debate over whether Twitter is good or not. Alas, he dropped in and closed the debate.
Geoff’s argument was that Twitter is essentially a note taking application, and we shouldn’t crap ourselves just because the post-its are seen by the world.
Paul Carr’s article in the Guardian today suggested Twitter can take care of itself anyway. Twitter and other webomediasphere-folk have been brought in to consult on the loose ends and cable ends of a frayed Iraq. Carr exhorts
“I am not making this up. The department has just airlifted Twitter’s Jack Dorsey along with representatives from WordPress, Meetup.com, YouTube and Google into Baghdad to discuss how social media can help build Iraq 2.0″
Carr’s article runs at the same time the New York Times picks up on the story.
The US military’s partnership with non-military groups/corporations takes me back to a presentation made in 2005 (the pre-Obama era). Thomas Barnett bleated about the failings of the Iraq (mainly the “six months of dicking around” after Saddam was toppled). He relates all of this to the US military’s ongoing deficiencies since the end of the cold war. The American army can annihilate any chosen subject but it has not paid much attention to post-major-operations rebuilding. Iraq is a sorry testament to that fact. Barnett suggested a flood of 250,000 “administrators” into Iraq in April 2003 would have stabilised the country a lot quicker.
It seems the US military is now calling upon Twitter and others as “post-war administrators” infrastructure builders, vacuum fillers – whatever you want to call them – as described by Barnett. What should one make of this? Why shouldn’t Twitter et al. be working to improve the long term prospects of Iraq? The US military is great at shock, awe, power and might, but not building community. Barnett prefers his soldiers “young, male, unmarried and slightly pissed off”. But he insists the military personnel be followed up by a flood of partners who facilitate the the rebuilding of infrastructure. A 19 year old marine cannot carry out both distinct functions/philosophies of war.
I don’t like Barnett’s tone. I like his honesty about the realities of military combat, but not his pompous humour. Barnett takes on many groups; multiple government agencies, the UN, TSA, and not least liberals who squirm uncomfortably to pussy jokes. But just because he takes on the military – just because we share opposition to the Iraq war – does not makes us allies in thought. Barnett wants to make military better and ultimately a more efficient killing machine.
It is perhaps this quote by Barnett describing the relationship of military and non-military responsibilities through hypothetical steps of entering, winning and closing warfare, that positions Twitter best. Twitter is part of the second group.
“The first group takes down networks, the second group puts them up. You’ve got to wage war here, in such a way to facilitate that [second group reconstruction activities]. “
Again, what should one make of this? Everyone knows about Halliburton, because of Cheney’s associations. Are Twitter and its do-no-evil web 2.0 pioneers any different to the tens of thousands of other corporate interests in Iraq?