September 04, 2004

Barnett on the World of the 21st Century

Once again, amazing television from C-SPAN. Who needs HBO when C-SPAN is this good?

I'd never heard of Thomas P.M. Barnett before, and was doing the proverbial flipping-thru-channels around dinnertime when I came across Barnett's presentation about the U.S. military in the 21st century. The presentation dates from early June 2004 and is airing again tonight at 11pm apparently.

While I didn't agree with everything he had to say, I found it an amazing and compelling lecture worthy of serious consideration. (Is there a blog debating Barnett somewhere? I wish.) He included historical perspective, post-9/11 analysis, and how things might go in the next 50 years. The hell with war: he shows how weak America currently is at waging peace (witness the mess of Iraq), how that's one key element to a stable future globally. And he makes recommendations on how we might address that weakness. Needless to say, I now plan to buy and read his book, The Pentagon's New Map.

The AntiTufte
One notable thing about Barnett: Barnett is the AntiTufte. His Powerpoint presentation (or whatever presentation software he uses) was fascinating. Fascinating in its cheesiness: pops, groans, whooshes, goofy uses of fonts, bad graphics, hard-to-read and way too dense text, silly and far too much use of animation, inclusion of "Groovy, Baby" clips and Law and Order clangs and various musical clips . . . it was like 1988 all over again when we were all playing with WAV files for the first time. But it was fascinating in how effective the cheesy multimedia was. Perhaps Barnett has learned this is the best way to keep an audience of military and intelligence officials awake.

I was pleased to see he uses the Peters projection when depicting maps of the world, throughout his presentation. Given how so much of the story of the 21st century is going to be taking place in the places that the Mercator projection always shunk, it's fitting that he chose Peters as those places -- Barnett's "Gap" regions of the world -- are much larger (in fact, more accurately sized) in Peters. Particularly Africa and the Middle East.

But then if you go to his website, it's just as cheesy: broken graphics, old-school layout. But then, he's got a blog, which is now added to my list here at brianstorms.

I wish Barnett's thought-provoking C-SPAN program was shown in theatres just like F9/11.

Posted by brian at September 4, 2004 09:40 PM


I also happened across Barnett's presentation and had a similar reaction. The combo of the over-the-top giant presentation background and his mastery of his talking points was very persuasive. The audience - all Defense and military people - was rapt. He was telling them that much of what they thought they knew was very wrong, and they seemed to be lapping it up.

Posted by: Cliff at September 10, 2004 10:32 AM

Yeah, his website is cheesy, with broken graphics and old school layout. But hopefully it was sufficient to catch readers' attention long enough to get them to think, "Hey, perhaps this message is worth exploring."

I, too, wish Barnett's thought-provoking C-SPAN program was shown in theatres just like F9/11. Then, in addition to providing a public information service, maybe he could afford to invest in a professional web design.

I'll be happy when that day comes.


Posted by: Critt at September 10, 2004 11:50 AM

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