all discourse as trivial
My name is Josh Sargent. I am a sophomore in the Global Security track of International Relations and am studying Arabic to meet my language requirement. I want to take this class because I believe Afghanistan and especially Iraq are the first blogged wars as Vietnam was the first televised war and this has changed the nature of the Global Media. I feel the media has segmented and now, instead of there being a universal figure like Walter Cronkite was during the Vietnam War, there is Fox News for conservatives, NBC/CNN for moderates, Jon Stewart for liberals (and yes I understand the irony of mentioning a comedian as a news source) and a blog for whatever an individual's ideological viewpoint is. Instead of a universal media for all cultures, I see a media that is becoming more and more divided and I want to understand how that effects issues of global security, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the “Global War on Terror.”
“The militant who in the name of praxis (the idea that philosophy should actively change the world) dismisses all discourse as trivial”
I would disagree with this statement and say in this age of terrorism violence becomes a form of discourse. 9/11 and the train bombings in London and Madrid were statements, not strategic targets. Al Quaeda has a very sophisticated propaganda department and presents very different faces to different audiences. For example, Bin Laden’s offering of peace to the United States was not intended for American audiences (who vehemently rejected it) but for Muslim audiences to establish his own credibility as a leader in the Muslim world. Also when Bin Laden darkened his beard he was attempting to remind Muslims of how he led the mujahideen against Russia in Afghanistan (the mujahideen darkened their beards with henna before going to war) and again establish his credibility as a Muslim leader. The terrorist organization Hamas is now the ruling party in the Palestinian Territories and just blew a hole through the Eqyptian border so that they can establish legitimacy by reestablishing control over the border (and how convoluted is that). Discourse is necessary for legitimacy and legitimacy is what every militant group requires in order to maintain its existence.
Legitimacy is at the heart of every discourse. When Barthes mentions a “will to power,” that power is being recognized as a legitimate authority on a subject. In speaking some of this legitimacy comes from a speaker's physical characteristics, which are out of his control, while writing comes almost from a void and a writer can be legitimate regardless of his speaking ability or physical characteristics. Terror subverts this paradigm because it can attach a power to a group that it cannot attain through the more ordinary methods of speaking and writing.
I should be in this class because I want to do this work and I think I bring a unique perspective because I want to focus on security issues and the media's usually facile interaction with them (the "surge", the causes of terrorism,). These issues cannot be explained in terms of sound bites or absolutes such as defeat or victory yet the media tries to pinhole them into these terms in order to meet their qualifications of what they think their audience wants.