by Henry Farrell on August 11, 2011

Matt Yglesias “notes Tim Lee’s editing rule”: that you should never use the prefix ‘cyber’ unless you’re William Gibson. A cyber-rule aptly illustrated in the cyber-breach by “this particular cyber-contribution to cyber-knowledge”: from Ian Bremmer and Parag Khanna.

bq. Cyberteeth bared

bq. 2010 was the year that removed all doubt that cybersecurity is now a geopolitical problem. … Yet WikiLeaks was far from the only big cyberstory in 2010. … We also learned that cyberattacks are no longer simply a weapon for petty criminals and teenagers. …In fact, WikiLeaks showed that a cyber-villain can prove just as elusive and decentralized as Al Qaeda. … Julian Assange, will probably have many days in court. If he is prosecuted in the United States, some will cast him as the world’s first cybermartyr. … will defend that freedom with more acts of cyberrevenge. … In the past, corporate willingness to provide the U.S. government with sensitive data hasn’t been hugely consequential for these firms, because they didn’t yet face a powerful cyberenemy capable of launching sophisticated attacks.

In fairness to the authors, they can’t be blamed for the “Cyberteeth” headline, which one can only imagine was a subtle act of revenge by whichever poor misfortunate bastard of a sub-editor had the grim task of polishing this cyberturd. The rest is all theirs though.



salazar 08.11.11 at 9:22 pm

Ranks up there with Tim Egan’s O’Mansions? I think I remember you expressing a mix of annoyance and amusement about it at the time.


EWI 08.11.11 at 10:00 pm

The Register (another practiced exponent under editor Andrew Orlowski of polishing turds like AGW denialism, pro-Murdoch pieces and relentlessly attacking rivals of Microsoft) couldn’t resist getting their entry into this game either:


The Raven 08.11.11 at 10:24 pm

I want to have your cyberbaby.


Substance McGravitas 08.11.11 at 10:25 pm


What is the deal with the cyberhyphen?


Kieran 08.11.11 at 10:25 pm



b9n10nt 08.11.11 at 10:42 pm

I think

Do human’s cyberthink?

And if so, 

then maybe we know
all that we’re gonna know:

that the knower must be unknown,

the cybernet 

our home.



PHB 08.11.11 at 10:50 pm

The establishment media have never got ‘cyber’ and it is too late to expect them to change.

Early on and against all our expectations the major newspapers suddenly decided it made business sense to put all their content online for free. That pretty much put paid to my efforts to develop a micropayments scheme at the W3C. It made no business sense to me, but I was not in business at the time, what did I know.

Twenty years later with every major newspaper in the US bleeding red ink, it turns I I knew more about their business than it appears they did.

The breathless ‘cyber’ headlines at best tell us what those of us in the field knew a decade ago. At worst they are just plain wrong. Cyberwarfare is not new at all, and it is not something you do instead of war, it is what militaries do to compliment their ‘kinetic’ warfare.

What is new is the possibility of a form of engagement that in some cases is not a form of warfare (e.g. espionage, propaganda) or has an indeterminate status (attacks on critical infrastructure by non governmental actors). The cool kids call this ‘information engagement’, or at least they did a few months ago, they may have another cool term by now.

Cyber is a force multiplier and tends to favor the side with more force to multiply. But there is also an element of opportunity. In the Israeli vs Palestinian hacker war the Israelis ran out of targets pretty quick and then decided it would be cooler to become high paid security consultants helping businesses protect themselves against the attacks they had personally provoked. But even so, the Israelis have vastly more opportunity to make use of IT than the Palestinians.

The real power of cyber that has emerged is not the ability to perform actual attacks or even to coordinate demonstrations. Turning off Twitter did not help Mubarak during the Arab Spring. In fact I think it harmed him since it forced the people sitting in their den following events on Twitter to come out onto the street to find out what is going on.

Twitter and Facebook were important in establishing the conditions in which a demonstration could be effective: A tightly knit group of several thousand young people who expressed mutual opposition to the regime. That was the basis for the people-powered revolutions of ’89 that brought down communism. It was the few hundred demonstrators who came out in Leipzig each week in the spring that led to the quarter million in the fall.

The Arab Spring and the Year of Miracles were both examples of highly asymmetric warfare – the people against the despots and their handful of supporters. The people had always had the power to throw of their government, all that the net did was to provide the means for them to realize that power.

The net is also the antidote to the likes of Bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh. The net gives them access to information and helps them organize. But their political theories are of the fringe and rejected by the vast bulk of the population. They can perform atrocities but they are counter productive.


Sandwichman 08.11.11 at 10:50 pm

From cyburbia to cyberia.


Bill Benzon 08.11.11 at 11:07 pm

The devil made be do it: Enough of this silly-cyberin’!


Shay Begorrah 08.11.11 at 11:18 pm

I understand that Pakistan focuses much of its electronic warfare capabilities on securing the cyberpass.


Strategist 08.11.11 at 11:53 pm



Strategist 08.11.11 at 11:54 pm

that was meant to say



Strategist 08.11.11 at 11:56 pm

nope, it was meant to say

asterisk “cy” asterisk

(What the HTML tag for “this is not an HTML tag”?)


John Holbo 08.12.11 at 12:32 am

Cybertooth Tiger – or possibly Tyger – would be an awesome supervillain. (Putting that one in my notebook.)


William Timberman 08.12.11 at 1:31 am

People, please. The Pentagon believes it. That’s enough make it real — or at least to kill thousands of innocent bystanders who’ve only just begun to wonder what all these official madmen suddenly sprung up out of the woodwork are on about.

Blake knew, but he was an innocent as well. The framing of fearful symmetries has always been the province of lunatics — General Leslie Grove being the archetype, at least in the U.S. It’s bipartisan, and it’s approved. Go back to bed.


Epikhairekakia 08.12.11 at 4:00 am

@Strategist Try <code> text </code>.

[If that doesn’t display, what I wrote was [code] text [/code] with angle brackets.]


Epikhairekakia 08.12.11 at 4:01 am

@Strategist I just realized that I should’ve written “text” in order to display “text“.


Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.12.11 at 7:04 am

With notably cyb-rare exceptions, I am cyb-aware of all internet traditions.


Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.12.11 at 8:04 am

For instance, “cyber” has a very specific internet tradition. Let me explain it in verse (with apologies to William Blake):

Cyber Cyber burning bright
In teh wee hours of night
What immoral acts we type
At least we’re not doin’ it on Skype.

In what distant deeps and skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
How old you are, I cannot tell,
Please IM your A/S/L.

And the pic in your gravatar
Teh tee that says nerds you &#9829;
Makes mine skip an irregular beat
Makes me question if I am 1337.

OMG! Teh heat does suck.
What the anvil? what death grip
Off the desk one hand slips

When it’s done, I lower my spear
And water’d keyboard with my tears
I did smile, thinking you nude
Whilst in my base, killin my d00dz.

Cyber cyber burning bright
In teh wee hours of night
What immoral acts we type
To each other through teh Intarpipes.


Emma in Sydney 08.12.11 at 9:36 am

Dragon-King Wangchuck, I can’t remember seeing you over at Making Light (at least under this nym) where poetry threads are legion, but you would surely fit in there. Nice pome.


Dragon-King Wangchuck 08.12.11 at 12:37 pm

Thanks muchly.


ajay 08.12.11 at 4:16 pm

I that in heill wes and gladnes
Am trublit now with great sicknes
My sicklie stait is no surprise:

Death sovran is of all the tubez,
Of rich, of poor, of l33t, of n00bz;
No mortal shal escaip his eyis:

Al flesh is dust; we are but bones;
Baith knight and maid he freely pwns;
Against his glanse brooks no disguyse;

He drawis al to his dark bucket;
Whoe’er ye be, ye’re surely f***kit;
The Walrus wil not sympathise;

Our base are al belong to Death
And have done since our natal breath
(This point I’d like to emphasise):


LizardBreath 08.12.11 at 4:20 pm

Cracking up, here.


Henry 08.12.11 at 4:26 pm

I’d forgotten that one – one of the funniest to come from the ML poetry threads (this in contrast isn’t funny, but is a genuinely extraordinary piece of occasional poetry).


Emma in Sydney 08.13.11 at 5:45 am

Doesn’t matter how many times one reads that. It still bites.

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