The Counterjihad, the War to Save Civilization, and Distributed Emergence
Pundita is one of those bloggers who should be rich and famous and read by everybody. The fact that she isn’t serves to demonstrate the world’s general injustice.
One of her main specialties is the People’s Republic of China, which keeps her just slightly off our mission statement, so we don’t quote her as often as she deserves. But if you want the best analysis you can find on recent events in Tibet, go over to her blog and keep scrolling down — you’ll find a lot of information and some surprising conclusions.
We get a wealth of news tips every day, many more than we could ever possibly use, and I try to make sure that nothing goes to waste — I parcel unused material out to various bloggers who specialize in the relevant fields. That means I send my China tips to Pundita, even though I know she is almost certainly already aware of whatever tidbit I forward to her.
Last week I sent her a news link about Uighur protests in Xinjiang, and it led to an extended conversation in a series of emails. I gave her permission to post anything I said, and the result was a post at her blog called “Gates of Vienna and the astounding Fitna Rosetta Stone project, Part 1”.
I’ve used the term “Rosetta Stone” a lot in the past few months, but I never explained how it pertains to the Lionheart and Fitna translations. I’ll let Pundita do that for me:
I disagree with Baron that the [Rosetta Stone] project is more symbolic than practical but I’ll leave that discussion for later.
One of the interesting things about the Fitna Rosetta Stone project is the number of years it took Dymphna and Baron to establish Gates of Vienna blog to the point where they could manage such a complex project involving thousands of volunteers. Yet when it all came together, they were able to do things more quickly than many international organizations.
The Rosetta Stone is an Ancient Egyptian artifact which was instrumental in advancing modern understanding of hieroglyphic writing. The stone is a Ptolemaic era stele with carved text. The text is made up of three translations of a single passage, written in two Egyptian language scripts (hieroglyphic and Demotic), and in classical Greek. It was created in 196 BC, discovered by the French in 1799 at Rosetta, a harbor on the Mediterranean coast in Egypt, and contributed greatly to the decipherment of the principles of hieroglyphic writing in 1822 by the French scholar Jean-François Champollion. Comparative translation of the stone assisted in understanding many previously undecipherable examples of hieroglyphic writing…
The term Rosetta Stone has become idiomatic as something that is a critical key to a process of decryption or translation of a difficult problem.
As often happens, my thinking about certain topics wasn’t clear (or even entirely conscious) until I wrote it down while trying to explain it to somebody else. Below are my emails to Pundita, and some of her responses. Part 2 of her post hasn’t come out yet — we’ll just have to wait and see what she has to say next…
The Rosetta Stone happened to come up because she referred to the fact that GoV concentrates on the European front of the Great Jihad.
This is from my follow-up email on April 4th:
Yes, we concentrate on Europe, because to me that’s the most important front in the war.
But the “Rosetta Stone for Fitna” project is actually broadening our reach. It made me realize that everything I do is done by personal networks. I used to read news stories on my own and cobble them together for my essays, but our blogging success has changed all that — I don’t get much time for independent reading! Yet I have excellent tipsters, so I get a constant flow of good up-to-date information. TB is my watchdog over Northern and Western Europe, and also the Arab press. He reads everything. [I should also have mentioned LN here.]
Insubria and C. Cantoni cover the Mediterranean and the Maghreb for me, mostly via ANSAmed, ADNKronos, and AsiaNews.
With all of these, I stay up to date on anything important, but I can use only about 5% of the material sent to me. So I try to make sure none of it goes to waste — I pass China material on to you, Pacific Rim stuff to Wretchard, Spanish-diaspora tips to Fausta, Israel and Jewish issues to Tundra Tabloids and Israel Matzav [and I forgot to include Pamela here in the original], and pretty much everything to Fjordman, Henrik at Europe News, and the Brits in CVF.
In the last few days, as the new volunteers have poured in to offer their services for translation or to help subtitle the videos, I’ve started to get assistance from beyond Europe. We just started corresponding with an Argentinean and a Uruguayan, and an Indonesian guy translated Fitna into Indonesian for us last night. More and more Central and Eastern Europeans are getting in touch, too.
It feels like we’re breaking into new territory here. Less than 24 hours elapsed between the time I posted about Indonesia’s reaction to Fitna and when the three versions of the movie subtitled in Indonesian went up onto the web. I don’t think the State Department or the UN can work that efficiently, and this was a volunteer operation.
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So it’s a distributed network in action, doing what it does best. It’s not me or Dymphna or any other person doing all this; it’s a nexus of contacts, a lattice of information that spreads unbelievably quickly.
My only jobs are to grease this network to make it work a little more efficiently, and to write lucid propaganda copy to accompany the news stories. The rest of the work is done by thousands of people who have volunteered to join the cause of the Counterjihad.
After your comments about GOV going global I am thinking of changing the category title from “Europe in the House of War” to “The Civilizational War.” If you can think of a better title please let me know
Also, if you can snatch a moment can you send me the link to the first Fitna Rosetta Stone post, and if it doesn’t contain an explanation about why you termed it Rosetta Stone, could you toss in a few sentences about this for me to publish?
Answering her questions was like eating popcorn, and I couldn’t stop with just a few sentences.
From my next email on April 7th:
I call it “The Counterjihad”. Not everybody likes the term, but it seems to me the shortest and best summary of what we’re all part of. It says, “Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Sikhs, Christians, Mormons, and Atheists are all included.”
The Rosetta Stone posts:
I never did explain the title! I guess I just assume readers know what the Rosetta Stone is — and I also used an image of it in the graphic that goes with the posts.
I started the “Rosetta Stone” process when I organized the translations of Lionheart in January. The idea was to get versions in as many languages as possible — hence the “Rosetta Stone” meme. We got 17 languages for Lionheart.
But we pushed it up to 20 for Fitna.
Lionheart was a dry run for Fitna, in a way. It helped me to corral a team, and design a system of rapid response for translation. We were anticipating the movie (I had a reliable tip about the date), and were very ready to mobilize as soon as it arrived. The emails went out that night, and the first translation rolled in the next day.
Fitna came out on the Thursday afternoon, and by the following Monday we had it in 19 languages (the Indonesian version came later, and there may be more yet to come, fingers crossed).
This was due to diligent and rapid effort on the part of a lot of different people. It was not me, or Dymphna, or any other single person who gets the credit; it was the entire team, some of whom — the go-betweens and the tipsters — don’t get any public mention.
So the translation team — all volunteers, most of them using pseudonyms, nobody getting paid — is ready for other important projects when they turn up.
You’d have to pay a lot of money to be able to do the same thing in any of the traditional ways, and even then you might not get it done so quickly. This is distributed intelligence at its finest. Everybody who stepped forward to help is a hero, IMHO.
The subtitling process was different — most of subtitled versions were created by people who have nothing to do with us. Maybe four or five of our translations were used to make subtitles. But I gathered links to any of the available downloads as people sent them to me, so that we could have one location where people could find Fitna, in as many languages and formats as are available.
If you want some fun, Google “fitna download” and see what happens!
The goal of the Rosetta Stone project (or projects) is more symbolic than practical, although there is some practical value in it.
Normally, the really big stories in the blogosphere are in English, German, French, or Spanish — the languages of other smaller countries aren’t included, even though they have their own vibrant, intelligent, mature blog cultures.
Almost every literate Dane is also literate in English. But the same is not true of Czechoslovakia or Portugal — they’re at least as likely to learn German or French in school as they are English.
So delivering something to them in their own languages, translated by their own citizens, is a way of recognizing that they are distinct, sovereign countries and cultures, and that we are in solidarity with them. It’s true multiculturalism, one that respects the existence of other cultures on equal terms, but within their own countries.
It’s a little easier for an American to coordinate such an effort, because I don’t have a dog in any of the fights — between Germans and Poles, British and Irish, Portuguese and Castilians, Serbs and Croats, Danes and Swedes, etc., etc. I tend towards a partiality for the Danes and the Brits, but I don’t take sides in any of the squabbles.
Then Pundita had some nice things to say about us in an email she wrote to Dymphna:
GOV is a very important site because for years it has specialized in reporting on the growing situation in Europe, which as of last year had clearly transcended the war on terror. This is a civilizational war. Yet it has been carefully kept out of the mainstream news in the United States. So the situation in Europe that Mark Steyn reported on in his book America Alone (2006) was stunning news to most Americans — but not to those who had been reading Gates of Vienna for years.
Also, as you know, I jumped into the Section 13-free speech issue in Canada very early; what you don’t know is that reading GOV for years had helped me instantly recognize the wider implications of the issue. The civilizational war is not just over there across The Pond.
And once again, my years of reading GOV made me quick to realize the implications of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Sharia speech — as my involvement with the Section 13 affair and readings of Canadian free speech blogs caused me to instantly recognize the import of the archbishop’s diatribe against free speech.
Many issues from many quarters are dovetailing, and only those Americans who are closely following ‘Europe in the house of war’ and the Section 13 struggle are aware of how all this is building to impact the United States of America.
The other day I joked that MSM editors and TV news producers in the US are praying, ‘Oh God please don’t let the American public learn about the war in Europe until after the presidential election.’
It’s unlikely that more than a handful in the US journalism profession are aware of the war but if they knew, probably many would be making just such a prayer.
And her conclusion:
I’m not entirely happy with Baron’s title suggestion (Counterjihad); I don’t think it conveys the scope of Gates of Vienna. But if I don’t come to a decision it will be next year before you get your own category on my blogroll. Right now I’m leaning toward “The War to Save Civilization.” I’ve given myself the deadline of 10:00 PM to make up my fussy mind.
Pundita’s mind is so fussy that 10:00 PM came and went, and still no category title…
When we started our blog three and a half years ago, we didn’t realize what an informational maelstrom we were wading into. Now I’m up to my neck every day in news items, correspondence, skype, editing, practical projects, and (occasionally) writing actual essays.
All of this activity is necessary, and useful, and rewarding. But it’s salutary every now and then to step back and take a look a the larger picture of what we’re doing. Having conversations with intelligent and well-informed people helps me gain that perspective.
From where I stand I can’t see anything but trees. It’s not possible to see the forest. None of us can.
But it’s occasionally entertaining to imagine what a forest looks like.