Episode nine focuses on the unusual work of Francesca Recchia. Francesca is an independent researcher and writer who has worked in many challenging places including Iraq, Pakistan, and Palestine. She is currently in Kabul and this episode features several daily updates that I asked her to record shortly after I started this project. Francesca’s work is the kind of activity that so often gets overlooked in the process of rebuilding a nation that has experienced significant conflict but cultural and intellectual pursuits are a direct reflection on the society in which they take place and, in the best of times, have enough influence to transform their environment. In creating a space where art and ideas can be pursued we are giving the best parts of humanity a foothold.
In episode eight I look at the case of Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill and the culture that lures men and women like him out of the shadows and into a world of fame, ego gratification, and financial reward. I examine the role that military leadership and our culture at large plays in chipping away at the notion of quiet professionalism and share some thoughts about how we can change course. There is also a call from Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland’s Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics. Phillip shares some thoughts on social media and its impact on national security, politics, and the collection of intelligence.
In episode 7 I’m pushing back at the notion that Daesh’s social media visibility equals success. The group might have mastered trolling and they can shoot and edit passable HD video but are these activities going to help them achieve their goals or are they, in fact, undermining themselves with every tweet and every recorded act of brutality? You’ve read the title so I think you know where I’m going with this.
This episode ends with a message from Ambassador Lukman Faily. Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States is an engaging presence on Twitter and I’ve interviewed him twice for Blogs of War. The Ambassador argues that Daesh is a global problem, not just an Iraqi one, and comments on the changes his government is making to address critical internal political and social issues.