HomeIntroducing CybercultureBook ReviewsCourses in CybercultureEvents and ConferencesFeatured LinksAbout RCCS

View All Books

11M. Redes para Ganar una Guerra

Author: David de Ugarte
Publisher: Barcelona: Icaria, 2004
Review Published: June 2005

 REVIEW 1: María Goicoechea (English)
 REVIEW 2: María Goicoechea (Español)

Encountering David de Ugarte's book, 11M. Redes para Ganar una Guerra (March 11: Nets to Win a War), is one of the most refreshing and illuminating experiences that the Spanish intellectual scene can offer, especially for those readers who were not satisfied with the simplistic and shortsighted discourse transmitted in unison by the mass media and the politicians with respect to the terrorist attacks in Spain on March 11.

For de Ugarte, the attacks of 9/11 and 3/11 have violently taken us into the new millennium, forcing us to leave behind our old way of perceiving reality, and propelling us into searching new analytical strategies and points of reference. The incapacity of the Spanish media to make a rigorous analysis of the 9/11 terrorist attacks reveals to the author the lack of critical tools with which Spanish society faces the new millennium and its threats:
    The Spain which is incapable of understanding 9/11 is a country of quadrilles, where the political and social leadership resides in the last attempts of the PP [Popular Party, led by former Prime Minister Jos� Mar�a Aznar, was
    the conservative party in government in Spain from 1996-2004] government, together with the emergent peripheral independentisms, to impose a canonical national identity in the style of those of the XIX century. This world reaches its end on March 11. (27)
For instance, the theory of the fair punishment that was used to understand the events, first in the US and then here in Spain, has left us unarmed against the true nature of the new net-terrorism. Regardless of the legitimacy of Spanish or US military responses, which de Ugarte does not defend, what is at stake is understanding that those responses are useless. In as much as they are designed according to outdated models, far from defending or protecting us against danger, they have negative repercussions on the citizen, who sees his or her freedom and rights cut out.

The events that followed March 11 make evident the emergence of a new form of social organization, "the net-nation," which, according to de Ugarte, is the most sensible response and the key to face the challenges posed by net-terrorism. However, to be able to develop the new social nets of Latin cyberculture, countries like Spain must confront the lack of identity that characterizes their own autochthonous form of organization: the quadrille. de Ugarte points to the heterogeneity of Spanish groupings -- formed by proximity rather than affinity -- as the main reason for their inability to create an effective medium -- that is, to serve as a medium for the transmission of new ideas, or to be able to offer any resistance to mass media or political caciquism.

Middle Class Terrorism

Another sign of the government's and Spanish society's myopia -- in itself a product of the division in quadrilles, of the separation between us and them -- is associating the terrorist attacks with a foreign phenomenon, which has nothing to do with our limited integrating capacity. As de Ugarte notes: "The fact that AlQaida tends to hide is that the terrorists converted to Wahhabism in Spain, March 11 was not the product of a 'foreign terrorist group,' it was the first big attack of Spanish Islamic terrorism" (39).

In the third chapter, entitled "Spanish Islamism: A Gaze upon Darkness," de Ugarte develops one of his strongest points by refuting another commonplace in every debate about terrorism. In his analysis, he highlights the fact that the ones rebelling against a society that fails to integrate them are not precisely the most underprivileged. Rather, they are the local caciques, in collaboration with the Wahhabi discourse, the ones who introduce in Spain a fundamentalist ideology that was until then very distant from the Malaki and Sufist tradition brought by the Maghreb Muslim emigrants.

The State connivance, the Saudi Princes' money and integrist discourse, the fracture inside Spanish Islam, the connection between the small merchant bourgeoisie and the street gangs, and the cession of a social space disguised as multiculturalism but which, in the end, is nothing but another ghetto, are some of the keys that de Ugarte provides to understand how it is generated in our country the culture medium that led to the terrorist attacks of March 11.

With respect to the attacks' logistics, described in chapter four, "March 11, The Future was Yesterday," de Ugarte underscores its parasitic nature, since the terrorists used public information, technology, and nets, transforming their function and turning them into death traps: "It is pure 'hacking' of the train system, not a mere sabotage or derailment. The trains are a means of carrying the bombs, in fact the trains (like the 9/11 planes) are the bomb" (53).

Against net-terrorism, a replicant virus without precise location or hierarchy, the classical anti-terrorist responses (political hounding, civil rights restriction, etc.) are of no use: "Speaking bluntly: the 'Patriot Act' does not protect Americans one bit more but, conversely, it has made them lose freedom spaces . . . with the consequent debilitation of civil networks" (54).

Rajoy: lost call

In chapters five and six, titled "Rajoy: Lost Call" and "Four Days of SMS," respectively, de Ugarte brings to the forefront the incapacity of the Spanish government on March 11 to detect the nature of the new enemy, as well as that of the civil response, and, therefore, to react adequately.

In fact, the PP government became its own enemy when pointing toward ETA [Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Liberty] since its national antiterrorist policy, one of the strong points of its mandate, appeared in this light to have failed head-on. At the same time, the effort to dissuade the population of AlQaida's authorship was perceived as an implicit selfblaming for the failure of its foreign affairs policy. Another scenario would have been possible, as noted by the prologue writer Rafael Estrella, if the party in government had itself called for demonstrations against terrorism, and offered, with the rest of the political parties, a common front against a global threat, a threat that has always been present independently of Spanish intervention in the Iraq war.

Further, the government did not know how to react with respect to the new role performed by the social networks on March 13. For the first time in Spain, the rebelliousness threshold was crossed over and it took shape in a massive flash mob, in which each mobile user became a diffusion node thanks to SMS and the amplifier function exercised by the radio. The government could only explain this phenomenon as the product of a conspiracy organized by the opposition and, in this way, it was turning its back to the new net-shaped reality.

In Chapters seven and eight, "Policies to Win a War" and "Nets to Win a War," respectively, de Ugarte makes an appraisal of the situation and proposes a path to follow. His proposal is twofold: political and social. From his political perspective, Islamic terrorism is the violent response of those who have experienced a loss of power with the advent of globalization:
    Identifying violence with the victims of an unfair situation is a mistake inherited from the XX c. ideologies that needs to be overcome in order to understand AlQaida and the net-terrorism. AlQaida represents the reaction of globalization's first two victims -- not at all innocent -- in the Islamic world: the small local caciques and the big families of the Arab oligarchy. One and the other fear losing their power in a world that is opening. (73)
However, while his exposition of the origin and nature of Islamic terrorism is very lucid and revealing, the solution he presents to modernize the Arab world, "liquidate the CAP agreement" (77), implies a simplification that distorts reality and exempts all responsibility from the Arab governments.

The position of Arab aristocrats in the Gulf States is ambiguous and purposely intricate. We can assume that they have advocated the entry of their countries in the World Trade Organization -- which is, without doubt, one of the main promoters of globalization, and which includes the vast majority of Islamic countries -- and that, at the same time, they are encouraging terrorist attacks that undermine the power of democratic countries. But, in my opinion, it is gratuitous to say that those who escape in boats are victims of the "atrocious trade blockade that the CAP protectionism represents" (74). To conclude that the CAP has caused "the abandonment of fields, the food dependence and the massive migrations" (75) would be equivalent to stating that the Spanish emigration to the north of Europe in the 60s was a consequence of the protectionist policies of North European countries.

The European Union is promoting trade relationships with all the Maghreb countries, giving them many commercial concessions with a clear preferential treatment with respect to other countries. Proof of this is found in negotiations at the World Trade Organization, in the V Ministerial Conference celebrated in September 2003. Significantly, an agreement on the agricultural package could not be reached since a group of twenty-two countries, lead by Brazil and India, considered that the agricultural concessions, made mainly by the European Union, the United States, and Japan, were not enough. Strangely enough, except Egypt, there was no country from the Maghreb in that group. The reason is simple, insofar as those agricultural concessions are generalized to the rest of the WTO countries, the Maghreb would lose the relative advantage it has by virtue of the community preferential treatment [1].

I think it would be better-aimed to point, as the author does in the social perspective of his proposal, towards the social dimension of technology and to the identity problems that the new setting of globalization generates. The question that he addresses is the following: "How are we going to integrate Muslims, emigrants for the most part, in a country of quadrilles?" (78).

The alternative that de Ugarte proposes versus the multiculturalist model is the mestizaje, which places diversity in the individual rather than in the communities. According to de Ugarte, to win the battle against anti-globalization net-terrorism, it is necessary to generate more networks, more globalization, and more freedoms. For mestizaje to exist, it is essential to generate spaces and networks where the sovereignty falls back into the individuals, who decide their degree of belonging to the various communities they freely inhabit.

New technologies provide once more a space for the transmission of information from many to many, creating a new agora where civil organizations, previously weakened by lacks in communication systems, can be included again. Failing to take into account this crucial change introduced by new technologies in the social dimension has been the cause behind the historical defeats of the US neo-conservatism as well as of those of its Spanish version.

To win a war is no longer a matter of physically controlling a territory, not even of controlling the image of the conflict that we wish to transmit through the media. To win, it is necessary to face a specific form of conflict characteristic of the net-society: the swarming. This new form of fight is the one represented by AlQaida, but it also exists in its civil format, exactly of the type that took by surprise the American and the Spanish government alike.

It is important to note that de Ugarte does not emphasize the concept of technology, but rather that of the identity that can be generated through it. AlQaida, for instance, does not need to give orders in a hierarchical manner; instead, it transmits an identity sign, composed by a few basic traits, to which lots of scattered, and not necessarily connected, groups can adhere. This net-identity of AlQaida, which functions like a franchise, is what makes it so slippery and irreducible.

Against this net, we have to build more civil nets that transmit a different identity sign, more inclusive and attractive, and that promote the development of individual freedoms in open organizations. de Ugarte points intuitively toward that direction, but it is still difficult to foresee how an effective defense against the new terrorism can be articulated from the social networks, and what type of interconnectivity or density must that net structure have, so that its own structure or form of organization becomes a "political" option.

According to de Ugarte, "There is nothing more political than the form of organization adopted by a group" (35), and for him, the net structure, decentralized and ubiquitous, represents a shape of great potential for the transmission of an integrating mestizo identity. In opposition to this model, the author places the professionalized and hierarchical structures, which are contrary to his ideal of an open society in the shape of a net.

I fully share the idea that a freer and more integrative society is indispensable in order to isolate the fundamentalist discourse so that it becomes each time more marginalized and less attractive to young immigrants. I also concur with Ugarte that it is essential to break the informative centralization, so that we can have access to other sources, in other languages, since English, despite being a great lingua franca, does not provide access to important local sources. These local sources would allow us to widen our discourses and would let us contaminate them with new ideas.

However, a net structure, by itself, does not represent an alternative versus the centrifugal and centripetal forces that cause the social fracture. My question in this respect is: If the model of the cuadrilla, based on the notion of a primitive community or Gemeinshaft, is rejected, and so is the hierarchization or professionalization of the knowledge communities, such as, for instance, academic communities, which model do we have? Which will be, in practice, the form of organization that his ideal of an open community will have?

David de Ugarte�s 11M: Nets to Win a War is of a precious rotundity, since it illuminates the path and impels us to formulate urgent questions in relation to the labyrinth of nets that are woven around us. However, we will have to continue searching for the answers all together.

1. For more on this, see: "El fracaso de la Cumbre de la OMC muestra la fortaleza negociadora de los pa�ses pobres," EL MUNDO, 16 de septiembre de 2003, Madrid; "Conferencia da OMC. Fracasso anunciado aumenta diviss�o entre mundo rico e pobre," Diario de Noticias, 16 de septiembre de 2003, Lisboa; and "V Conferencia Ministerial de la OMC. La UE se equivoc� al acudir a Canc�n con la PAC reformada," Revista de la Asociaci�n Agraria J�venes Agricultores, Septiembre 2003, N 281, Madrid.

María Goicoechea (English):
María Goicoechea studied English Philology at the University Complutense of Madrid. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled The Reader in Cyberspace: A Literary Ethnography of Cyberculture (2004). Her research interests include literary theory, ethnography, and cyberculture. Currently, she teaches Mediterranean Literature and Cinema at American University in Madrid.  <mgoicoech@hotmail.com>

©1996-2007 RCCS         ONLINE SINCE: 1996         SITE LAST UPDATED: 12.10.2009