We live in the Age of Information.
We are information.
Every fact and moment, every purchase and movement in our lives is now on record somewhere.
Collection of information has cost us our personal privacy. Distribution of information, however great for intellectual development, comes with a considerable political cost.
The global distribution of facts and falsehoods, of systems of religious belief and schematics of new technologies can keep anyone engaged, and – for better or worse – learning with messages that are both instantaneous and enduring.
On the receiving end, the barrage of this so-called “information” can be as indiscriminate and absolute as GPS tracking on your smartphone, or as specifically tailored to your politics as to your taste in shoes.
Social media are where powerful global branding and an artisanal, personal approach combine to sell products, services, ideas or beliefs.
When it comes to PMSCs, Private Military Security Contractors, the market is changing, often driven by social media. There is still continuing demand for familiar brand names, like whatever mercenary-meister Erik Prince calls his latest company, but there’s a boom in “boutique operations,” much-smaller PMSCs with a more limited range of services, but an ethnic, national or religious affinity a client prefers.
In theory, big brand name firms value their reputations, which constrains them from unethical behavior. In the private military security contractor universe, the legal history of Prince’s most famous group, Blackwater, shows that notion is absurd, but most observers believe a proliferation of small, shorter-lived mercenary or security training forces will produce even more and worse abuses of human rights.
David Isenberg is an independent researcher and writer on U.S. military, foreign policy, and national and international security issues. He a senior analyst with the online geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat and is a U.S. Navy veteran. He is the author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq. His blog, The PMSC Observer, focuses on private military and security contracting, a subject he has testified on to Congress.