Saturday, February 1, 2014

Patriot Acts, Stateless Actors, and the Challenge to Freedom on NBC's "Revolution"

The appearance of the Patriots on the shores of North America has not only changed the landscape of the NBC show “Revolution," the presence of the “U.S. government” colony suggests the current international realities of the day. Whatever one might say about the direction of Season 2, the role of the Patriots is particularly prescient; the present age of the early 21st century is rife with groups like the Patriots, pretenders to legitimate governments.

The future belongs to stateless actors.

“Revolution" has delivered a stark vision of the American future, one of a reduced U.S. government (the Patriots) that can take advantage of conditions that are conducive for a decentralized collection of semi-autonomous states. As the Patriots look to dominate the continent and the leftover remains of the former U.S.A., we see signs of the direction of the future, where stateless groups can come clothed in star-spangled patches and take advantage of the fragmented reality of the times.

The current trend towards the decentralization of government can work for the advantage of the organizations and groups like the Patriots, whether or not they are crowned with such symbols of the ‘all seeing eye and pyramid.’ In either case, and like President George H.W. Bush said at the close of the First Persian Gulf War -- this is the New World Order.

What we’ve seen from the Patriots, this so-called heirs to the “U.S. government," is the ability to function like all stateless actors of the early 21st century, ones that don’t need big groups within their organization to implement their goals. Like other stateless actors like the Taliban or the Minute Men, the goals are narrow and limited. In the case of the fictitious Patriots, those goals, other than to restore American greatness, haven't been explicitly stated; and other than occupying the ruins of the White House, they’ve barely made a claim to their nominal legitimacy of governing the U.S other than saying 'they're the U.S. Government.'

The Patriots have vague goals that they're pursuing in secret. And how do they, like other stateless actors, aim to achieve their goals? They intend to command technology. Look to Dr. Horn and his interest in the pendants and the mysteries at Willoughby to understand what they want to use to further their goals: technological control over the nanite mystery. This, more than guns and armies, is how they act like a contemporary stateless actor. Their special ops groups that poor, poor Jason belongs to are but a small part of their attempt to control the divided Americas. They mean to use the network of the nanites, or the nano machines (depending on your choice of terminology), to take over the decentralized American states. The proliferation of the intelligent nanomachines serves as a network to use in their bid to rule the former U.S.A.

Like the fall of the U.S.S.R. and the proliferation of weapons, the collapse of the U.S. has also introduced a steady supply of weapons. First and foremost was the launching of the U.S. nuclear missiles at the east coast nations. Conventional arms are also a threat, having fallen into the hands of the occupying Patriots. During the trial of General Sebastian Monroe, the Patriots made a show of their command of surviving weaponry in Willoughby, Texas. And their use of Jason Neville in their Werewolf Divisions is heavy with the force of modern warfare, resembling the “shooter games” of today and, more importantly, the ability to use human capital, in order to carry out their plans. As American jihadists, their control over weapons of mass destruction and people willing to sacrifice their lives permits them to make war without the needs of a modern nation-state. Stateless actors can rule in the shadows of any former federal union,  albeit the failed states of the world like the U.S.S.R. Syria, or a future U.S. The aim of the Patriots is not to restore the U.S. government. Disunity is their union.

The real U.S. government no longer exists on the show “Revolution.” Even under the aegis of the U.S.S. Constitution, the Patriots are pretenders; that much is obvious. What has happened to the former government from the District of Columbia? They’ve become extinct. The Patriots are winners in the battle to destroy a nation-state like the United States. The former hegemon of the continent possessed a major vulnerability; it's the same weakness that large nations have today: the infrastructure the states have built must be maintained. Even the independent American states, like Texas, must operate a large government. On “Revolution,” Season 1, that critical systems of fail safes -- failed. The Blackout lay exposed the vulnerabilities that large nations-states face today.

The show seems to suggest that, for the Patriots, the best course of the present-American government should be in further efforts to strip down its federal armament. The union that Patriots look to rule makes room for national sovereignties like the Republic of Texas. The U.S. government the Patriots claim to possess title to can exist in a sea of American nationalities. Whether it can survive shall be seen.

The stateless actors of the future behave much the ways as a Star Trek villain, or even Javier Bardem in Skyfall -- they can disrupt the governments of more centralized nation-states, which are bigger and require more of an physical organizational infrastructure, manned by a human bureaucracy to operate and maintain. Stateless actors don’t need that. They can operate as a few individuals spread across the globe, taking advantage of the Internet. The Patriots still have a command structure, and they still operate very much like a traditional government. However, this is merely an appearance they must keep up for their unknown goal. The real strength is network strength; hence their interest in the nanites. Their interests have nothing to do with really assuming leadership over the disunited American states like Texas.

They know if they solve the mystery of the nanites and use them to their advantage that the decentralized nature of the former U.S. will allow them dominate. Then they can implement their most radical plans. Stateless actors act the very same way. They don’t have to compromise with a legislature or the other members of a nation. As individuals of a very small organization, stateless actors are their own nation; and they can follow through with their radical plans.

Lastly, the direction of the show seems to suggest that the future of government is smaller and cheaper. While it’s a libertarian dream, and an Ayn Randian one at best, the truth is that smaller, more decentralized governments, like today’s stateless actors, could only function in a world with today’s Internet. In computer language, there is also a word called “stateless” protocol: it’s at the heart of the present Internet. On the show Revolution the Internet is no longer a physical infrastructure, or at least, not like today. The nano machines are the “virtual cloud”, and the Patriots recognize that, in order to rule the continent, understanding and controlling the “fireflies” is their best chance. Whether they can control them is the challenge they face. For now, it’s anyone’s game.

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