Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"We Were Warned": CNN Premediates Cyber.ShockWave

On Saturday and Sunday at 8 PM ET, CNN will televise the results of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Cyber.Shockwave, the simulation of a major cyber-attack on the United States staged today, February 16. For now, here is a video from CNN's American Morning news show featuring an interview by John Roberts with former CIA Director General Michael Hayden and Fran Townsend, CNN reporter and former Homeland Security Advisor for the Bush-Cheney administration, two of the principals in today's simulation. This interview premediates the scenario that will unfold in Tuesday's simulation, which itself is a premediation of possible cyber attacks on the US.

Both Hayden and Townsend underscore their belief that the US is not prepared for a potential attack. In describing the possible consequences of such an attack, they paint any number of potentially terrifying scenarios, like the breakdown of transportation networks, the loss of electrical power, the shutdown of ATMs, or the disruption of the nation's cellphone networks--all intended to frighten the public. Roberts plays into this fear-mongering throughout the interview, repeating on more than one occasion how what they are telling him makes him and the audience anxious or terrified or frightened. At no point does he or his guests note that any such disruptions would undoubtedly prove temporary. While there may be vulnerabilities in the nation's cyber-defense system, the damage from such attacks would most likely be quickly repaired. It's not as if the entire nation will lose electrical power or internet service or cellphone connectivity for an extended period of time.

In the interview Hayden makes it clear that the simulation is not an attempt to predict a particular future scenario but to impact policy decisions today, including front and center questions of privacy, the relation between government and the private sector, or the question of chain of command. What seems clear from this preview of today's event is that the aim of those staging and participating in this "shock wave" is precisely to shock or scare the American public into accepting further incursions on individual and collective liberties by premediating the most frightening possible implications of a cyber attack on the US.

CNN's weekend report on today's scenario will undoubtedly prove to be the US media's most extensive premediation of cyber war to date--or perhaps more accurately its premediation of a premediated cyber war. In any event, this special report will bear watching. Check it out. You've been warned!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another interesting post. When is a simulation not a simulation, but rather an exercise in demagoguery? When does the transmission of knowledge- of scenarios of future risk- turn into the deployment of power, the attempt to manufacture consent for policies which we would otherwise be hesitant to support?

This cyber warfare video seems to be a good example of this, of how the deployment of knowledge comes to take on a deeply political role. The speech situation of the video is also interesting from the perspective of Albert Borgmann's philosophy. Instead of raising questions about the ends and purposes of political institutions and formations, the people in the video concentrate on means- i.e., on how we can best deal with the implicit end of avoiding the negative consequences of cyber warfare. Of course, the obvious answer to this question is to

This kind of lack of questioning of the ends of political institutions on the part of much American political discourse (focusing instead on means) seems similar to me to what we saw with the premediation and scare-episodes preceding the Iraq war, and makes me somewhat pessimistic about the current state of (mass-mediated) American political life. Perhaps, in a country where corporations as well as government authorities have acquired enormous amounts of power, the conditions for freedom are disappearing and democratic rule over the government is withdrawing, giving way to technocracy.