Posted By: Qronos16
The Pentagon is funding social science research in an effort to model risks of “social contagions” that might damage US strategic interests. The US Department of Defense (DoD) is funding universities, under the supervision of various US military agencies, with the Minerva Research Initiative to model dynamics, risks, and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest around the world.
The program is a multi-million dollar operation designed to develop “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials within the defense community and to also inform policy that is to be implemented.
The initiative was initially launched back in 2008, during the year of the global banking crisis. It frequently awards students and other professionals for academic contributions. One previous award (funding is awarded) went to a study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, to develop an empirical model of dynamics involved with the social movement mobilization and “contagions”. The study aims to determine the “critical mass” or tipping point of social movements by observing their digital traces; looking at the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, and others. The study will consist of examining numerous Twitter posts and other online conversations in order to “identify [when individuals] mobilized in a social contagion and when they become mobilized.”
An additional project that was awarded this year by the Minerva Initiative, went to the University of Washington for their study which “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with the determination of their “characteristics and consequences.” The project is being managed by the US Army Research Office, and will be focusing on large-scale movements that involve more than 1,000 participants. It will be mapping movements across more than 200 different variables, expanding upon existing research on 23 countries.
The University of Massachusetts Lowell, in a program management by Dr. Harold Hawkins of the Office of Naval Research, received an award for research that “will identify the specific processes and pathways of children’s mobilization into terrorist movements and create a model of children’s involvement in violent extremist organizations (VEOs).” More unnerving is their interest to fund and investigate non-violent activists who “support armed militancy” or its goals, those who might eventually support political violence but have chosen so far to remain non-violent.
It is increasingly apparent that the US views social activism as a “threat to national security,” and that they are increasingly interested in using social science for militaristic and political efforts. This would explain why they have been excessively arming themselves with weapons for the past few years. This year the Minerva program has received over $17 million in funding from US Congress via the American public.
“National security” encompasses current policies of the state and those policies are failing the American people miserably, and as long as there are social efforts to bring about real change to those policies in order to finally serve the people rather than a small political elite, the state is going to brand those efforts as a threat to its own security.
Millions of dollars continue to be funneled into programs that operate with the effort of perpetuating an increasingly unpopular system which favors only a tiny minority of the people. The definition of terrorism and domestic terrorism continues to expand, and those of us who are not engaging in any crimes or acts of violence against other, find ourselves the subject of inquiry and interest of the state all too frequently.
More often, nonviolent individuals are being demonized and ridiculed by the state simply for their personal political beliefs. When you aren’t personally footing the research bill, it’s easy to toss around millions of dollars toward self-serving interests instead of toward interests and programs which might benefit the lives of the people who the government is there to serve in the first place.
We are living in an environment that is already heavily monitored both online and in the real world by ever-improving AI dealing with our meta-data. We have to ask ourselves, who is the state protecting itself from, and who is it protecting exactly? If you have to ask if this money well spent, you should look at its aims, effectiveness, and benefits relative to its cost: thus far its total costs reach into the billions (with the Utah Data Center alone costing $1.5 billion). Instead of concentrating on profiling everyone and isolating threats, it might be smarter to learn from the social criticism at the center of such movements.