Tag Archives: revolution

Jihadists will prosper using the methods of America’s entrepreneurs.

Summary: How might the various jihadest organizations evolve during the next decade? They might follow the same path as emerging industries in capitalist economies, driven by the same forces of competition to to grow and innovate so that the best grow far larger than anyone imagined possible at their beginnings. We cannot imagine the details, but the general dynamics are easily understood. If so, the future holds many strange and perhaps terrible things. Our current policies, built on arrogance and ignorance — and above all on a refusal to learn from experience — might end badly for us.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

This is a follow-up to Business 101 tells us what to expect next from jihadists: goods news for them, bad for us. The structure of the jihadist “industry” resembles that of other early stage industries entering their periods of rapid growth and innovation. Such as the automobile industry in the 1920’s, before the massive consolidation that took it from thousands of small companies to dozens of giants (Canada went from hundreds to zero), and the cutting edge sectors of the software industry during its many revolutions.

Jihad flag

This is a heavily paraphrased excerpt from Risk and Reward — Venture Capital and the Making of America’s Great Industries by Thomas M. Doerflinger and Jack Rivkin (1987). This passage discusses the automobile industry. I have substituted the jihadist “industry” and changed some of the text. However, the reasoning remains the same. Note that the quotes and numbers are real, from the author’s description of the early auto industry.


An industry takes off

The jihadist industry resembles the classic high-tech industries (e.g., semiconductors, biotechnology). A few thousand dollars are all that is needed to start an insurgent group, and if it scored some early success more people and funds roll in. The flip side is that the industry is incredibly volatile, with fast-growing groups sprouting up and then shriveling like so many mushrooms.

As in the case of automobiles and computers, those outside the jihadist community are slow to appreciate its tremendous potential because they did not anticipate how rapidly it would improve in effectiveness. This is actually typical of both revolutionary industries and movements.


To be sure the jihadist industry has grown more slowly than its French counterpart. It took only 5 years for France to get from the calling of the Estate-General in 1788 to Robespierre’s Reign of Terror in 1793. The jihadist industry followed a more typical trajectory, from “criminals … who are willing to be guns for hire” (per David Petraeus, 9 November 2003) into a serious threat to the region’s regimes in only 11 years. The central reason for this superior performance is that as in the early days of automobiles and computers, no single company monopolized the jihadists. From the beginning it was a competitive free-for-all. They had a second and equally important advantage: local entrepreneurs run the groups, people who had faith in their revolution. The elites of the region, even their supporters, are rational, skeptical, and often wrong — and remain safely on the periphery where they could do little damage.

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Why have our movies have become so dark, showing a government so evil?

Summary: The evolution of America has accelerated as we slide down the long-feared slippery slope leading to the end of the Second Republic (founded on the Constitution). Each event appears clear in the news, but the cumulative effect — the rise of a New America — is too large for us to see. For perspective let’s look at our heroes in print and on screen. Their foes display our fears; their relationship to the government reflects our relationship to it. We might pretend not to see what’s happening, but our mythical heroes see the darkness falling on us — and have changed accordingly in ways that reflect our weakness. When we decide to become strong again, we’ll find new myths (or reclaim the old ones).  {First of two posts today}

“People need stories, more than bread, itself. They teach us how to live, and why. … Stories show us how to win.”
— The Master Storyteller in HBO’s “The Arabian Nights”

Superman in handcuffs

“Man of Steel” (2013)


Our fictional heroes reflect our dreams of individual empowerment, along a gamut from James Bond to Superman. Less often remarked, some of our myths show our awareness that only through collective action do we have strength. In the real world unions, associations, and governments created the middle class and brought full civil rights to women and minorities. Many of our stories feature heroic organizations — such as the British Secret Service, Triplanetary, U.N.C.L.E, GI Joe, and S.H.I.E.L.D. Heroic individuals and organizations protected us against criminals and foreign powers.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E

No longer. The war on terror has revealed that our government might have become our greatest foe. On TV we see stories with ample precedents in history, but unimaginable to most Americans. President Obama personally selects America citizens for assassination, without formal charges or trial. The NSA taps our phones and monitors our emails. Police patrol our streets with military equipment (just like Fallujah), eager to use force (e.g., SWAT teams killing when delivering summonses).

Fiction often mirrors our fears and our view of the world. As do our films today. Soldiers take Superman away in handcuffs. SHIELD launches helicarriers equipped for surveillance and assassination. Government agents attack Captain America. Action adventures routinely feature government officials as the bad guys. The next sequence of Marvel films feature the Civil War series, in which the government regulates — forcibly enlists — mutants in its service.

The GI Joe team

In this world trust becomes rare. Heroes in TV and films are often told to “trust nobody” (e.g., in “The X-Files” TV show, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, and “Captain America: Winter Soldier”). Sometimes the moral of the story is the even more extreme “trust nothing”, with the usual exceptions of love — or friends and family. It’s excellent advice for peons. Taken seriously this prevents people from working together through existing organizations, which shatters even the strongest people into powerless shards. We become individuals and families helpless before the mega-corporations and government agencies that run our world, and helpless before the 1% that own it.

Movies and TV are our myths. Today they give us nothing to inspire people to work for social and political reform.

The missing link

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“Mockingjay” shows us a path to reform for America. A great movie, but bad advice.

Summary:  This is the first in a series looking at Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games stories, both the books and films. It provides a richly detailed mirror image in which we can see many aspects of America, things we pretend not to know (or worse, don’t see). Today we’ll begin with the third book (and film) “Mockingjay”. As usual here, we’ll get there by asking a big questions. And spoilers!

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

“The most heroic word in all languages is REVOLUTION.”
— Eugene V. Debs, “Revolution”, New York Worker, 27 April 1907

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
— Thomas Jefferson in a letter to William Stephens Smith, 13 November 1787

“We must realize that today’s Establishment is the new George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.”
— William O. Douglas (Assoc Justice of the Supreme Court), Points of Rebellion (1970)

Since I started writing these posts in 2003, a thousand times people have explained that America’s political regime has decayed, become corrupt and oppressive — dying or dead. Each time I ask in reply “what’s the solution”? 99% of the time I receive one of two answers.

(1)  Some form of surrender.  We cannot reform the system. Grow flowers, do small scale local reform, become vegetarians or evangelicals. Dream of the glorious future when the oppressed rise up and build a better world. I’ve heard hundreds of excuses for passivity.

(2)  Revolution. For some this is a version of #1, as they’re not actively working to make a revolution; this diagnosis provides an excuse for inactivity. For others, very rare, it is a statement of allegiance (or treason, if you prefer to see it so; a matter of dates). They’ve not crossed the line in deed, but I can easily imagine them doing so. The difference between this group and those in #1 lies in the people saying it.

People of the first kind are inconsequential. When the time comes they’ll climb on to the reform bandwagon or be ignored. The second kind are more interesting. If serious, they don’t understand the fire they seek to unleash.  The Hunger Games books and films remind us why such people are useful, but problematic if poorly led. {Some are dangerous, as they want to see the world burn}

Revolution, as we see it

We’ve not had a violent revolution in America for 150 years, and only two since Europeans landed on this land. Our political lineage goes back to England, who has had only 3 in over a thousand years. Unlike other peoples, the words means little to us in anything but an academic sense. Hence the reaction to “Mockingjay”, which provides a vivid first-person account of the whirlwind unleashed by civil wars. For people who see wars as victorious crusades against evil, especially the “young adult” target audience of the HG books, it provided a shock greater than the vampire & werewolf battles in the “Twilight” movies.

The books give one shock after another, to Katniss (heroine of The Hunger Games) and to the reader.

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The feminist revolutionaries have won. Insurgents have arisen to challenge the new order. As always, they’re outlaws.

Summary:  Yesterday’s post took 2,200 words to explain a simple theory, because I took readers on a journey to “derive” the conclusions. Here’s the spoiler version, in which we “cut to the chase” — showing only the last section.


Feminism is one of the big revolutions of our time, over-turning our concepts of romance and marriage. In response to its success, insurgents have arisen. It’s early days yet, too soon to forecast which side will win. Reviewers consider this one of the more shocking — and darker — posts of the almost 2,900 on the FM website. Post your reactions in the comments (at the original post). It’s the first of two posts today.

Settling for a beta

Feminism is a revolution, one with few or no precedents in history, now in the last stages of consolidating its victory.  We can only guess at the effects.  This post discusses one facet. I expect (guess) that as guys understand the new order, many will refuse to play. They’ll become insurgents — outlaws — from their designated role as beta males — expected to dutifully ask permission at each step of the romantic escalation (see “Feminism for Bros“), marrying a women at the end of her youth after she’s chased alphas (of whom she’ll dream), and dutifully supporting a family until and after your wife divorces you (40-50% of first marriages; higher for subsequent ones; most initiated by the wife).

Once men see the game, why would they play? An insurgency might begin, perhaps leading to a new revolution (or a counter-revolution).

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“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” asks if you want a Revolution

Summary:  Today we have a guest post by film critic Locke Peterseim, a review of “Catching Fire” that uses it as a mirror to our culture — a reflection showing how we want to see ourselves. It expresses my own view, more clearly and deeply than I could. Including the disorientation I feel when looking out at our world. Share your thoughts about this in the comments.

Catching Fire poster


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
You Say You Want a Revolution?

By Locke Peterseim

Posted at the film blog of Open Letters Monthly
10 December 2013

Reposted here with his generous permission


There are times — and they come at me more frequently these days — when I feel out of step with everything and everyone. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into full sobbing mental breakdown right here in the first paragraph — I’ll save that for later.

But when I see the movie-going public go ga-ga for a dull, corporate puppet show like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, I shake my head and wander out of the theater (two and a half hours later, thanks) and into the wild.

You know what’s so great about Catching Fire? It’s tolerably watchable. That’s it. It’s not a good film. It’s not good entertainment.

And contrary to what has now, in less than a month, become Conventional Wisdom, parroted by fans and critics alike, it’s certainly not better than last year’s relatively subtle first Hunger Games movie. Catching Fire is a piece of smoothly assembled and blisteringly marketed product that doesn’t absolutely suck.

(I find myself often saying this about big franchise action movies like Man of Steel, The Wolverine, Thor, and yes even the Twilight films: The studios have their system down pat. Unless the Powers That Be have a momentary lapse of insanity or inebriation and hire some sort of weirdo actual creative artist to make these films, the cinematic outcome — the assembly line McDonalds product — is going to turn out… eh, okay. Tolerable. Watchable. Mostly edible.)

The first Hunger Games movie was helmed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) and, as I wrote last year, I found it surprisingly nuanced and naturalistic. With a little second-unit help from Steven Soderbergh, that first film in the franchise felt like it was breathing, like it cared about its characters. It was a little washed out, a little hand held, and very often it was that most blessed and rare of cinematic things these days: Quiet.

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Thatcher said that we have no alternatives. Progress requires that we prove her wrong.

Summary:  The people in Europe’s periphery suffer from a lack of alternatives. This locks them into two ugly choices: suffer years of austerity (with no end in sight), or futile (perhaps nihilistic) protests. In fact, the West as a whole has a lack of alternatives. Here we discuss that problem, and possible solutions.

AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images



  1. The importance of alternatives
  2. We yearn from change. And we get…
  3. What comes next?
  4. For More Information


(1)  The importance of alternatives

There is no alternative.
Either society has laws, or it has not. If it has not, there can be no order, no certainty, no system in its phenomena. If it has, then are they like the other laws of the universe-sure, inflexible, ever active, and having no exceptions.”
— Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics (1851) — He laid the foundations for modern conservatism. He also coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” in 1864.

“Because there really is no alternative.”
— Catch phrase of the late UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, about the necessity to adopt conservative and neoliberal economic measures for the maintenance of capitalism.

Social evolution runs far faster than Darwinian evolution because its teleological. When people have  a vision of a better society, sometimes they are willing to risk large rapid changes to achieve it. But this requires an alternative that looks better than what they have, attainable, and practical. Otherwise political progress either runs slowly, or stagnates entirely. For example, monarchies worked poorly Europe during the millennium in which they were the dominant political form. There were alternatives (eg, the Republic of Venice, the Swiss Confederacy), but these were not considered realistic by a sufficiently large combination of the elites and masses.  Various belief structures precluded experimentation with other forms of politics.

  • A belief that society was an organic whole like the body, with differentiated organs (as described in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus 1. 95-156).
  • The commandment in Romans 13 to unconditionally obey rulers.
  • The divine right of Kings

The potential for overthrow of these regimes came with the long strain of philosophical work beginning with Machiavelli’s The Prince and Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (see Wikipedia) in 1651. Once the first regime fell in 1783, the evolutionary process accelerated with fantastic speed — with most monarchies replaced in the following 140 years.

The development of Marxism (and its successors) accelerated the pace of social evolution again, so that the conflict among different social forms bathed the 20 century in blood on a scale  seldom seen in history. The result gave a clear winner: various combinations of free-market capitalism and representative democracy (each having a wide range of forms). Various rear-guard retreats are still fought with some intensity, such as by evangelical Christians and Salafist Moslems — but their difficulty coping with modernity gives them low odds of gaining power.

But what happens as the contradictions and flaws accumulate in free market republics? In what direction does the arrow of evolution point? What political model motivates and directs social reform?

(2)  We yearn from change. And we get…

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Social unrest coming to Europe? If not, why not?

Summary: Five years of crisis in Europe, yet its streets remain mostly calm. What accounts for this? How long will it continue?

“At the heart of the crisis, there is the challenge of redefining the social contract to safeguard the sustainability of Europe’s social model.”
Speech by Benoit Coeure (Executive Board of the ECB), 2 March 2013

“Spot on, Benoit. The trouble is European leaders and institutions seem to want to redefine the contract in ways that at least half of European citizens don’t approve, or trust them to carry out. So underneath the three-headed crisis of austerity, banking and sovereign debt, we have one of legitimacy and trust, which is feeding social unrest.”
— George Magnus, Economic Advisor, UBS, 20 March 2013

Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix (1830)

The painting “Liberty Leading the Way” commemorates the July Revolution of 1830, midpoint to a century of social unrest in France. It shows the result of mismanaging the forces of change.


  1. Why is Europe still stable?
  2. What comes next?
  3. Compare with China
  4. Leave a comment
  5. For More Information

(1)  Why is Europe still stable?

The stability in Europe since the second downturn began in March 2010 has surprised many observers (eg, me). Three years of depressionary conditions in the periphery have produced no large, severe outbreaks of social unrest. Elections have produced majorities in favor of the European Union and the austerity it mandates (we’ll soon see if February’s election in Italy broke this record).

What produces this stability? The usual supports for incumbent systems are human inertia and people’s dislike of radical change.  Hence the failure of the frequently made forecasts of regime change in developed nations. But those explanations seem in adequate, as does embrace of the EU from fear of war.

History provides a possible answer: the lack of an alternative. Thomas Kuhn in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) says that scientific paradigms die not when they are disproven, but when they are replaced by a superior alternative. In much the same way revolutions (peaceful or otherwise) require a new political or economic ideology that can substitute for the old.

Without an alternative, accumulated stress breaks out in futile forms, such as protests and riots. These are a commonplace of history, such as the peasants’ protests (Wikipedia) and race riots (Wikipedia). These can produce incremental reforms (although they usually didn’t), but participants seldom had a vision of a realistic better system. Although recognized as defective, other systems were considered less attractive or unworkable (eg, plutocracy in Holland, city-states in Switzerland). For centuries this provided a buttress for European monarchies.

(2)  What comes next in Europe?

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