The following story was written by hipbonegamer. This piece is a featured entry from the Art of Future Warfare project’s “Great War” war-art challenge that called for a fictional front-page style dispatch from the outbreak of the next major global conflict.
Flashing across my sub-eyes and a few dozen others today, those tiny edge of vision thunderclouds that when my saccade leaps to them indicate increasing war chance – lit by a single bolt of miniscule lightning. As my transport turns itself into its parkplace, too far from the Ed’s for me to throat her a quick morning buzz, I flipvision up and “Temple” appears in yellow and red across the sub-world, and an accompanying jolt from the adrenals gets me out of the comfort of my now stationary pod, through visual check-in and up to my console where I can dig into deets
I was the key-chooser of “Temple” for an accelerated, amplified and psychenhanced notification, having back in the day read Gorenberg on Temple Mount as the “most hotly contested piece of real estate on earth” – a phrase which haunts me still, since the clashing “end times” beliefs of the three relevant belief systems – all three messianic, one mahdist into the bargain – are undercurrents I track “out of the corner of my subs” on the principle that we shouldn’t overlook what seems vaguely irrational to us, when it’s passionately real to others. That way lies blindsiding, never a pleasant outcome.
In out-reality, which my in-reality strives to keep accurately mapped and understood — though that’s a clear impossibility in practice… in out-reality, then, attempts to wipe one holy place off another’s sacred site are standard fare in crisis sparks, have been since the Ayodhya riots, hey, maybe since Hagia Sophia became a mosque or the Mezquita in Cordoba sprouted a cathedral. I could go back into antiquity, if any of my throatees are interested.
Today’s specific deet, then: a bomb in the al-Aqsa mosque. The Who? To be determined. As I pro-think my first “w” word, “firestarter” moves across my subs, standard for “source as yet unknown” in arson and bomb cases. “Plausibles?” “One, direct aggression, Christian or Jewish attempt to wipe mosque in prep Temple rebuild. Two, false flag, Muslim, prob cultural, willing to ignite world”.
That phrase “willing to ignite world” is another of my keys, autosets a “rate from black to blaze” column in left of sub, and I rate an orange – “seven” for those who echo me in numeric. Pretty damn serious, but ”blaze” is reserved for multiple targeted atomics in flight by general consensus – the idiots who hit it by accident or as some kind of joke notwithstanding. Hotdamn. More augmentation from the adrenals, I hope I haven’t set my levels too high and called a conference-meld by mistake. I need far more deets and back memory in place before I go through this on group-mind verbal level, even if it’s opt-in only. But Sally will know, she monitors our levels, and can get the “Temple” key, do a quick scan herself. Good to have someone friendly between you and the Ultimate Boss.
Jay-dam-Rusalem. Knew it. A quick take on the previouses and analogs, current status on all nodes with second order connectivity, all best done on deskscreen for scaling “size” to “complexity of view”, also excellent for permanent record keeping, that secret of searchable, retired information overload.
What are the vectors, what tensions? Emotions in the red to purple range on the Palestinian side, Muslims as far afield as Detroit and Jakarta tuning in, spiking on global news feeds, global apathy levels only mildly disturbed, and zooming on stats, Israeli opinion sharply split three ways. Scanning for fictional analogs, Rosenberg’s “Temple Trilogy” uploaded for rapid access, Gorenberg’s 19-point exec brief available on the nonfic side.
Oops. I have an emotive coloration on right of sub-world indicating BCR – “bias correction required” – and will take a vagus breath pause …
Returning: the nodal graphics are up, optically substacked with more focused zoomins underlaid to right, wide angle contextual zoomouts subbed to left. Basic graph has three nodes, three religions, each claiming importance of sacred site.
Hm. Players include HaMephorash, Temple Rebuild consortium — Judaic-extreme, Christian support, both hoping rebuilt Temple will usher in Messianic Age with potential division over Messiah, J or C, at that point. Islamic world variously deployed, threat to current Al-Aqsa Mosque if Temple built there, usual Iran / Saudi split – special note: Jordan as broker via Temple Waqf.
Nodal news graphs are never exactly static, but they can stay close to motionless for months, then erupt into sudden flurries of info and emotion. On the primary, the Palestinian vector is the one doing all the jumping, Israel and adjunct US support picking up slack but with far less ferment. Some bank action, apparently, but I caught that from an econ colleague’s throating, it’s not my angle, I won’t zoom it. No –for me it’s Palestine > Arab > Islam with branchings for Arab-Israeli, Tolerance, Schism, Secular input, Diplo – the Diplo feed is probably the one to watch here, Jordan, Great Britain, Israel — preferably in that order to avoid my maternal bloodline’s influence.
Jordan concern running high, it’s the King vs the recently integrated refugees, a monarch who fits the global scene, a people inextricably local. Britain? Left leaning but too timid to commit to much of anything. Israel – seems even some of the haredim are crossing over to the secular side of the split. Successive heads of Shabak and Mossad have consistently warned of this eventuality, cooler headed and more experienced than the PM’s office will ever be. I should quickly check their feeds, yup, same old same old, with a touch of “we warned ya” – no tactical details of course, but maybe I can backchannel a friend or two as things begin to settle. Wish I had use of our top level inhouse drone on this one, but its covering the Spratlys unsurprisingly – last week’s kerfuffle, and in my view not nearly as hot button as this one. It never stops, it just never stops.
Perhaps that should be our worldflash today – “it never stops – this time it’s Jerusalem”.
Nope. Not sexy. Besides, they’ll lede with a hot graphic, our stuff will get buried in “to see more” if I or my colleagues don’t come up with some kind of eye- and breath-catching flash splash. People don’t pay to know, they pay to hurt, to fear, to enjoy the rumble.
Moving through the levels about as fast as eye can scan screen and sub-world, catching alerts from colleagues throated across the floor, taking lapses for breath calmings and mental integration, roughly up to speed as alert breaks of rioting, Peshawar. Widen scope to include 17 top hotspots global concern for Is-Pal ripple effects, mapped and with spot-rings indicating emotional heat. Seems Tehran, Riyadh both mustering special ops forces – forward IRGC in case of Iran. Flash message from Najaf ayatollahs: stay calm. Thank God, despite decades of turmoil, Najaf still holds to quietist pre-Khomeini views on the importance of religion staying out of (way up above) politics.
Cyprus, Malta as our likely staging grounds. Uh, oh.
Don’t want WH view to cloud judgment, but Presidential alert noted, will check once primary hypothesis is formed. She Who Must Be Obeyed, however, will want her views incorporated before we flashbrief the world – journalism is inherently not just editorial but edictatorial, c’est la vie…
Still cortically aroused – exhilarated, concerned, both – but that sickly feeling that signals an integrated insight coming on, and the almost stomach turning release of biochemicals with cognitive slowdown that accompanies it, creating “enough space to land a complex thought on” – whoosh! — as always, I wonder how much of this my friends have caught, how much has been recorded for eventual playback, Pulitzer consideration and lessons learned, how many bias-catchers I may have tripped, but let’s see…
Unbidden, a fragment of midrash from my pre-journo past floats into old-style memory:
As the navel is set in the centre of the human body,
so is the land of Israel the navel of the world…
situated in the centre of the world,
and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel,
and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem,
and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary,
and the ark in the centre of the holy place,
and the foundation stone before the holy place,
because from it the world was founded…
Midrash Tanhuma that is, if I recall correctly. And beautiful – not that that’s a category too many people care about these days.
Belay that, my biases are showing.
Time to go to work. Set sub-world default to far background – enough already, I don’t and won’t need no more damn news for a while – open matrix, pull in grids & associated briefs of colleagues’ hypotheses, and begin competitive hypothesis testing…
I’d be an analyst in one of the three-letters – we all would, if the pay wasn’t so piss poor. But that’s the way it goes, we’re doing our best to be analysts-light, open source only, and on the journo floor. As much truth as can make it past the filters, at digital speed, and spun together with pre-digitally evolved brains.
Up periscope: Are we still alive? Excuse me if the next war flies right past me one of these days…
Ahem. Suggestion, open-cast:
“We are interrupting your rap-rock for those of you who have requested level four and up global alerts. Topic: Jerusalem > Israel > Middle East. Please select from high, medium or low detail or ignore.”
“Thank you. High detail will receive a menu of options including five initial and eighteen secondary perspectives. Thanks for awareness.”