Terrorism Steeped in Tao?

Back in November of 2009, I recounted my befuddlement by the perspective that al Qaeda is inherently weak because it utilizes a strategy of ‘leaderless resistance.’ The government advisor who expressed this view seemed to think that because al Qaeda cells did not have leaders following the Great Man archetype, boldly marching on the field of public consciousness, that they were weak and easily eliminated.

On the contrary, I mused. Perhaps these terrorist cells have selected a strategy of great strength and endurance. After all, as Lao Tzu said,

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him… But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.'”

A 2009 analysis published in Security Studies, which the aforementioned government advisor must have missed, seems to support my view that this strategy of ‘leaderless resistance’ may be stronger than it appears to the casual observer. This article, by Jenna Jordan and aptly titled “When Heads Roll: Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Decapitation,” states that

“despite a tremendous amount of optimism toward the success of [leadership] decapitation, there is very little evidence on whether and when removing leaders will result in organizational collapse.”

In fact, Jordan goes on to say,

“The marginal utility for [leadership] decapitation is actually negative. Groups that have not had their leaders targeted have a higher rate of decline than groups whose leaders have been removed. [Leadership] decapitation is actually counterproductive particularly for larger, older, religious or separatist organizations.”

Perhaps, anticipating the incredibly predictable strategy of eliminating the ‘man at the top’, al Qaeda took heed of some ancient Tao wisdom and integrated it into their organizational culture.

If only Taoism was more widely (and thoroughly) followed.

[Blog] carefully, for you [blog] on my [goods or services?]

Bloggers beware! According to guidelines published by the FTC in October 2009, writing about goods or services – personally or professionally – makes you a target for investigation by the FTC. Your spidey-sense should tingle especially if you have received free goods or services which you then write about – unless you disclaim your “material connection” to the vendor (Disclaimer: I have received these FTC guidelines free over the internet).

Note an example of a blogging “no-no” which the FTC provides:

“Assume…the consumer joins a network marketing program under which she periodically receives various products about which she can write reviews if she wants to do so. If she receives a free bag of..new dog food through this program, her positive reviews would be considered an endorsement under the [new guidelines]” (60).

Who Should You Vote For – and Why?

It’s high time to address two of our biggest distractions as voters.

When Obama remarked that Sarah Palin “is a great story,” he accomplished two, somewhat contradictory things. On one hand, he dismissed the legitimacy of McCain’s running mate by recasting Palin’s allure as totally insubstantial (i.e., Sarah Palin is nothing more than a “great story”) and, on the other hand, he surreptitiously recognized that the only ingredient which seems to matter in public elections (or in any public deliberation) is the narrative embodied by the person (or subject).

In the September 13 issue of Newsweek, Sharon Begley brings attention to this exchange and the role narratives play in powering the political machine of each presidential candidate.

Continue reading “Who Should You Vote For – and Why?”