ICTs in the Age of Behavior: Public diplomacy

Posted on June 24, 2011  /  0 Comments

A New York Times columnist writes about the possible use of ICTs to counter violent extremism. Not your father’s kind of public diplomacy. Being done by Google, not by a unit with Department of State.

I don’t think the world’s leaders have begun to grasp the implications of unstoppable connectivity. Some people are calling this the Age of Behavior: What I do affects what you do, more directly than ever before.

Usama Hasan, a physicist at Middlesex University, will be at the conference. He grew up a British Muslim with a sense of marginalization at home and anger at what he saw overseas — particularly the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. A gifted student, he attended Cambridge University, but during a winter break went to fight with jihadists in Afghanistan in 1990. He felt sympathy with Al Qaeda after 9/11.

Then began his reversal. A spell in Pakistan in 2003 convinced him that religious leaders there were “narrow-minded and fanatical.” The last straw was the 2005 bombings in London — “I knew then I had to be more outspoken in fighting back.”

The most vulnerable groups, he believes, are young men with strong feelings of isolation and a need to right wrongs. They need charismatic mentors with simple messages: “It’s wrong to kill people, it’s wrong to hate.” Usama sees a big role for technology in spreading the word. But he insists the human is critical to stop radicalization.

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