Several weeks ago, after a long hiatus, two Rosetta Stone initiatives were launched in this space. Each push for translations arose spontaneously after a Geert Wilders post. The first was for the article accompanying Mr. Wilders’ redesign of the Saudi flag, and the second for his open letter to Pope Francis. (lists of languages may be found here and here).
The speed at which the translations of the first article rolled in surprised me. Mr. Wilders had struck a chord with our translators, some of whom sent in their versions of the text before I even emailed them to ask. Within forty-eight hours we were able to publish the article in seventeen languages, eventually reaching a tally of twenty-one (English original plus twenty translations).
Several people emailed us that week to say how remarkable the operation was, and that only Gates of Vienna could manage something of the sort. That may well be true (I’ll have more to say about the matter later), but it’s important to remember one fact: Gates of Vienna did not do it. The entire network did it. I act as a “factory representative”, but I front for an entire factory that does all the hard, sweaty work.
That’s the nature of a distributed network.
Anyone who thinks I am in charge of one of these initiatives is sadly mistaken. It may seem that way because I’m the mouthy one who keeps the blog and maintains the database and the lists and does the basic co-ordination as the material rolls in. But no one is in charge. What you see here is analogous with the synchronized movement of a flock of birds: each member of the flock keeps his nearest neighbor in view at a certain angle and matches speeds, but there is no Flock Czar telling the birds where to go and how fast to get there. They already know; they don’t need to be told.
And yes, it seems that we, the extended Gates of Vienna/ICLA network, are the only ones who do this sort of thing. It’s a peculiar type of operation that requires a lot of dedicated people working very quickly, independently but in coordination with one another. Over the years we have fallen into the role of facilitating the process.
After thinking about it for a while, I’ve concluded that we — the extended network of which I am just one node — are the only ones who attempt these Rosetta Stone projects because structural forces come into play making it likely that only one such network will persist.
This is akin to a physical law. Call it Bodissey’s Theorem of Distributed Networks:
Given a set of distributed volunteer networks that function within a repressive environment and share the same operational focus, various elements of the set will tend to merge within a finite and predictable period of time.
The two basic premises are these:
|1.||Extended networks of activists that operate under repressive (and often dangerous) conditions are made up mostly of volunteers, because funding sources can easily be targeted for disruption by government authorities or quasi-governmental lobbying groups. The operatives comprising the network thus tend to be self-funding, and are not part of a command structure. In other words, external repression imposes a distributed structure on the network.|
|2.||Counterjihad translators by definition share the same operational focus. Since premise #1 applies to them, they will tend to cooperate freely among themselves, sharing texts, contacts, and information with one another.
Given the relatively limited pool of Counterjihad activists, if two such networks exist they will inevitably come into contact fairly rapidly as individual nodes bump into each other. As soon as they do, they immediately begin sharing information and connections, merging the two networks into a single, more extensive one.
This has already happened within the Rosetta Stone network. The three major Counterjihad languages are English, French, and German, and each of these originally used to function more or less separately. But nodes of contact developed amongst those who have mastered two or more of the languages, and now we all communicate freely through those nodes.
A speaker of Hungarian may have originally entered the process through the German branch of the Counterjihad. In a similar manner, Portuguese may have come in through French contacts. Scandinavians tend to be fluent in English, so they have generally moved into the larger network via the English-language nodes.
Once an operation like this reaches a certain critical mass, it expands on its own without further prodding. That’s why the speed and extent of these latest initiatives was able to surprise me so much — I had no idea how much the network had grown since the first Fitna project several years ago. It’s humbling to witness such a development.
Not everyone is able function in a distributed network. Some people have a set of internal rules that requires them to be in charge — in other words, they may only take part in hierarchical networks. No other options are available to them, given their own self-mandated rules. They may agree to be subordinate toadies to some larger warlord-of-the-web, but they don’t do horizontal networking. It just isn’t in their nature.
People who are more cooperative in nature — and who live under repressive political systems — tend to form distributed networks in the same manner that ice forms on the surface of a pond when the temperature drops to freezing. Given the right ambient conditions and the laws of interaction (internally generated by each participant), the whole thing just happens.
Like that flock of birds moving in perfect synchrony, with no one in charge.
No one jealously guards his prerogatives. No one says, “This is my Rolodex, and you can’t borrow it!” Nodes from the several networks form mutual connections, and quickly become a single network.
This is why only we can do this — because “we” are made up of networks that have already merged.
Previous posts about information warfare:
|2007||Dec||16||An Evolutionarily Stable Strategy|
|22||War-Gaming in Cyberspace|
|29||All Information Warfare is Local|
|2008||Jan||28||A Model of Limited Perception|
|2009||Jun||1||Building a Distributed Counterjihad Network