Posts Tagged

Security and Insecurity

Whichever way you look at it, the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden in a comfortable house in Abbottabad within walking distance of Kakul (Pakistan Military Academy) and a short drive from the nation’s capital Islamabad, constitutes an abject humiliation for Pakistan. The options are limited. Either the Pakistani authorities did not know that bin Laden was there, apparently for several years. In which case their incompetence is so colossal that it should cause widespread panic, except that it beggars belief. Or the Pakistani authorities knew of bin Laden’s presence in their midst. In which case the worst cynics have been proved right. There are some tell-tale pointers as to which of these is more likely to be true. …

Everyone wants to see wrongdoers punished. But safe exile for bad rulers is often the least worst option. The violence in the Ivory Coast that has left more than 1,300 dead since last November’s presidential election may soon be coming to an end. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to cede power after losing in the polls to Alassane Ouattara, is reportedly negotiating the terms of his surrender after a week-long offensive by pro-Ouattara forces. What’s puzzling about how this conflict is ending is why Gbagbo didn’t leave sooner, especially after African Union leaders had offered him immunity several times if he agreed to go into exile in South Africa. With 80% of Ivorian territory taken by pro-Ouattara forces and …

For some time, I’ve been developing the argument that when we want to understand the role of internet technologies in politics—in particular when it comes to getting people involved in electoral campaigns, in various forms of activism, and in other forms of civic and political activity—we should focus less on the newest and most heavily hyped tool of the moment (Twitter election! Twitter revolution!) and pay more attention to the role of what I call “mundane internet tools” like email, search, and ordinary websites. New Media & Society has published the article where I make the argument, based on ethnographic research I did during the 2008 U.S. elections, but based on intuitions and interests aroused by previous research in the …

His Excellency Mr Ban Ki-moon, current Secretary-General of the United Nations, gave this year’s Cyril Foster Lecture on ‘Human Protection and the 21st Century United Nations’ on 2 February at Oxford’s Examination Schools, hosted by the Department of Politics and International Relations. HE Mr Ban Ki-moon was the 4th Secretary-General of the UN to give a Cyril Foster lecture and he was greeted by an audience of over 700 attendees, including the overflow rooms. From the very early days of his tenure as Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has placed humanitarian issues, and particularly the notion of the ‘responsibility to protect’, at the forefront of his agenda. More specifically, he has sought to turn ‘words into deeds’ – to translate the …

Two seemingly unrelated events from last Sunday night: the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and Derren Brown’s The Heist was on TV in the UK. Let me tie them together. First, for those who aren’t familiar with Derren Brown, he is a brilliant magician, illusionist, hypnotist, and “mind reader”. If you watch his shows, you’ll see that he is a master of psychological techniques. On The Heist, the show that I watched last night, he did something quite extraordinary: he got three middle-class professionals to commit armed robbery– voluntarily. Well, a simulation of an armed robbery anyway. If you haven’t seen Derren Brown, you’re probably thinking that he used actors or accomplices. I don’t think that this was the case. They were …