OSINT and the birds
OSINT stands for “Open-Source Intelligence”; it’s crowdsourced information on various conflicts around the world—particularly the Ukraine at the moment. It all really started back around 2012 with the Syrian Civil War—and perhaps with the Arab Spring, itself “crowdsourced”. It’s the moment’s word—and I doubt it will last. The world it comes from can be found on the website BoingBoing; it’s a cutesy “hey-aint-that-cool” (duderino) boutique worldview that mixes “that’s freakin’ cool” tech news with oddities and historical curios (“This Russian surgeon cut out his own appendix in Antarctica…and Reddit found the pictures”).
It’s what I’d call a para-technological world, in that it’s obsessed with technology and with the latest fads around technology (e.g. cold-press coffee) but the people involved are not really technical people. They’re hipsterish, they did a Python bootcamp once (or whatever). They have a smug confidence that technology is great, even when you get cancer (“That sucks, we’ll do a Crowdfunder.”). I mean they’re nice, nice like a vanilla latte—sweet, you might say; and just very confident everything will be okay (now look at these retro photos that show how NASA imagined an arcology on Mars in 2010).
OSINT inhabits the “BoingBoing space” because it’s the para-military or para-intelligence side to war. It’s broadly democratic in the sense “the wisdom of crowds” (did you know a Victorian scientist had a crowd at a county fair estimate a bull’s weight and, on average, they were correct?). The idea is that once everyone is plugged into the web, with a smartphone, we’ll relay data to “the data guys” who will plot it on a map—or, better, your picture of a Syrian Arab Air Force missile strike on De’era refugee camp automatically uploads to the map (“And that’s how, working together, ordinary people beat the bad guys!”).
In OSINT world, the people interested in it tend to be very much weekend soldiers and Tom Clancy fans (Territorial Army, National Guard—you know, people are just too “into it” to be cool like actual soldiers). In other words, very like the people at BoingBoing—it’s “para-”; paramedic, paratech, paramilitary. OSINT is an online paramilitary, except that makes it sound too grave—they’re not the IRA with their balaclavas and armalites; they’re more like a paramilitary that examines photo reconnaissance images with a desk-top magnification device (i.e. a nerd paramilitary).
So they do things like count the number of Russian tanks destroyed in the Ukraine and then add to a publicly available spreadsheet. As with many technical advances, it’s nothing very sophisticated—what has changed is that people can take and send images from the scene and people around the world can collaborate on a spreadsheet to collate the information. It’s correct, it has value in its way…
However, the actual people involved make me want to throw up (with one exception). It’s because they’re the most ra-ra “slay kween” true-believers you can imagine; and true-believers, whether Christians or Buddhists or Communists, are always sick-making and proud of themselves. OSINT participants are not so much patriots as conformists who like military equipment. If you’ve seen the little NAFO doge, you know what I mean—it’s “too cute” (the NAFO doge is an inverted Pepe; it’s a self-conscious attempt to capture transgressive Pepe energy but because it’s self-conscious and system normative it’s trite—the doge is very BoingBoing, very good boi).
OSINT is a literal paramilitary operation. The people behind its formal iteration are psychological warfare brigades in the West (55th PsyOp Battalion “Observe, Deceive, Overcome”). That’s not to say the “crowdsource” itself is composed from soldiers—it’s not; but the key players are linked into Western intelligence. The purpose is not primarily to gather useful military intelligence (although the West probably derives some in this way)—no, OSINT’s primary purpose is narrative control and propaganda. It’s to get the public “engaged” in NATO missions. You get to “pay along at home” when we bomb Syria or supply arms to the Ukraine—we’re all “doing our bit”, just like “dig for victory” in WWII.
OSINT also serves as a conduit through which Western intelligence services can leak information into the media mainstream. Particular information designed to shape a narrative can be leaked into OSINT channels and then presented as derived from a “neutral, non-government source” to be picked up by the media—not even a war correspondent but a heckin’ ordinary member of the public noticed it (doesn’t it just make you want to hug yourself about quite how brill our technology is and how great we all are in our war against “authoritarian” Putin? It makes me want to cum in my vanilla latte).
So that’s what OSINT is really about; now people say “you’re Western intelligence” all the time and the “OSINT community” just laughs at them—because it’s true, they’re a real online community that exemplifies spontaneous self-organisation (it’s just a few key nodes are Western intel and Western intel spent years analysing how to “high-jack social networks” so, you know)…
However, there is one definite non-system creature in the OSINT community. It’s Manu Gómez. Why is he different? He’s different because all he posts is radar tracks for military flights. He barely comments—sometimes he just puts a laconic “???” (usually underneath a fleet of nuke sniffer planes, so you think the bomb has dropped—master of mystery and suspense). Gómez also quarrels with the mainstream OSINT community from time to time, particularly some tranny Tom Clancy fan in Seattle; and when Gómez talks “at length” (still laconic) he makes quasi-libertarian points, expresses scepticism about the Ukraine war, and mentions he’s Catholic—he’s not “ra-ra war on Russia is heckin’ cool fry the orcs with F-35s tomorrow”.
What’s the difference? He works in images and lets the images speak for themselves. That’s masculine, mysterious. The other OSINTers work almost all in speech and interpretation and “data interpretation” (spreadsheets)—and they’re very collegiate. They’re a gaggle of women—filled with sadistic fantasies about “burning the orcs” and other such nonsense that would not last five minutes if you actually saw real casualties on either side in the war.
Gómez is somewhat religious—a bit ashamed about it, not a fanatic—and his first name is “Manu”; it’s “the law of Manu”—the ancient Indo-Aryan code (username: @GDarkconrad—Joseph Conrad, real adventure writer). Further, per the video above, he has auspices appear over his home—the birds perform a murmuration above his home (a definite message from the gods). It’s because he’s in touch with nature, with the image, with the silent mystery—hence he is the only OSINTer with virtue, and he is also “the outsider”.