Following a pattern established in the 1970s by Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard, Giroux only mentions Guy Debord and his "pioneering" theory of the society of the spectacle so as to say that, since the 1960s, the spectacle has changed so much that Debord's theory is no longer relevant. Debord and "older notions of the spectacle" could not possibly account for "the emergence of new media and image-based media technologies" such as "camcorders, cellular camera-phones, satellite television, digital recorders and the Internet" because none of it existed in 1967. Either these gadgets are so fundamentally different from radio, TV and the cinema, or the "new media" exist in such great quantities, that "a structural transformation of everyday life" has taken place: these media "have revolutionized the relationship between the specificity of an event and its public display." And while "neither the concept of the spectacle nor the practice of terrorism itself is new," there has been a new and completely unprecedented "merging of the spectacle, terrorism, war and politics." There is, in sum, "a new regime of the spectacle in which screen culture and visual politics create spectacular events just as much as they record them."Lest we suspect that this "new" spectacle seems an awful lot like the "old" spectacle, and that is it not true that "critical discourses of the spectacle need to be revised so as to provide the theoretical tools required to fully understand how the spectacle has changed," Giroux contrasts "the terrorism of the spectacle" (the old, surpassed reality) with "the spectacle of terrorism" (the new one). While the former was based in "fascist culture and late capitalism's culture of commodification," the later is rooted in "a new notion of the subject forged in social relations largely constructed around fear and terror." And, while the former was dominated by "consensus," "a sense of unity," "solidarity," "illusion" and "depoliticization" (as if the Cold War never existed!), the later is dominated by "a theatrics of fear and shock," "politicization," and "the image added with the thrill of the real." The key idea is that "the spectacle of terrorism undercuts the primacy of consumerism, challenges state power and uses the image to construct a new type of politics organized around the modalities of death, hysteria, panic and violence" (emphasis added).To dismiss Debord in this way requires two operations, neither of which is intellectually honest. First, Giroux must primarily rely upon summaries of Debord's The Society of the Spectacle produced by other academics, and not on a direct confrontation with the text itself. Not surprisingly, such summaries are completely inadequate and have an agenda that Giroux shares: "The image had replaced the commodity as the basic unit of capitalism; rather than arguing that commodities remained the sine qua non of domination, he insisted, as Eugene L. Arva points out, that in the current era, 'the system of mediation by representation (the world of the spectacle, if you wish) has come to bear more relevance than commodities themselves.'" Second, Giroux must pretend that Debord never wrote another word about the spectacle after 1967: "Debord could not have imagined either how the second media revolution would play out, with its multiple producers, distributors and consumers; or how a post-9/11 war on terrorism would shift, especially in the United States, from an emphasis on consumerism to an equally absorbing obsession with war and its politically regressive corollaries of fear, anxiety and insecurity." And so, for Giroux, neither the Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (and its remarks on computerized networks), nor the preface to the fourth Italian edition of The Society of the Spectacle (and its remarks on the spectacle of terrorism in Italy during the 1970s), ever existed.With Guy Debord and his inconvenient insistence on the commodity out of the way, Giroux can get to where he wants to go (where he has always been?), which is a completely uncritical embrace of the "new" media and Leftist politics: "Radically new modes of communication and resistance based upon the new media are on full display [sic] in the global justice movements, in the emergence of bloggers holding corporate and government powers more accountable, and in the new kinds of cultural and political struggles waged by the Zapatistas, the Seattle protesters, and various new social movements held together through the informational networks provided by the Internet and the Web." Unlike Debord, obsessed as he was with social revolution, "theorists such as Thomas Keenan, Mark Poster, Douglas Kellner and Jacques Derrida are right in suggesting that new electronic technologies and media publics 'remove restrictions on the horizon of possible communications' and, in doing so, suggest new possibilities for engaging the media as a democratic force both for critique and for positive intervention and change."
A new report from the U.S. Army War College warns that the American military must learn the lessons of the Second Lebanon War, in which Hezbollah operated more like a conventional army than a guerrilla organization.The report, "The 2006 Lebanon Campaign and the Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy," warns against placing too heavy an emphasis on classic guerrilla warfare, and raises the possibility of further non-state actors following the Lebanese militant group's example."Hezbollah's 2006 campaign in southern Lebanon has been receiving increasing attention as a prominent recent example of a non-state actor fighting a Westernized state," the authors of the report state. "In particular, critics of irregular-warfare transformation often cite the 2006 case as evidence that non-state actors can nevertheless wage conventional warfare in state-like ways."The authors of the report, Dr. Stephen D. Biddle and Jeffrey A. Friedman, state that changes made by the U.S. Army in conducting urban warfare against guerrilla fighters in Iraq could compromise the military's ability to deal with other enemies in the future.The authors give a high grade to Hezbollah's performance in the 2006 war, describing it as more effective than that of any Arab army that confronted Israel in the Jewish state's history, and that Hezbollah militants wounded more Israelis per fighter than any previous Arab effort.Unlike a traditional guerrilla force, however, Hezbollah emphasized holding territory and digging in to bunkers, instead of the usual tactic of hiding among civilian populations. Likewise, the militant organization's discipline and coordination highly resembled those of conventional armies.This combination of conventional and guerrilla tactics, the report claims, places new challenges before the U.S. Army. It calls for preparing the military for asymmetrical urban warfare, while at the same time working closely with civilian populations. It also calls for reducing military activity likely to harm the image of the U.S.The report indicates that no army can be ideally prepared to deal with both kinds of enemy, conventional and guerrilla, simultaneously, and that in light of the discrepancies between the lessons of the Second Lebanon War and the current U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, serious challenges confront military planners.While fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan demands the ability to defeat guerrilla forces, the example of Lebanon may inspire enemies of the U.S. to adopt more conventional methods.