Newport, R.I. – The U.S. Naval War College (NWC) hosted the 6th iteration of its Genocide Studies Conference, virtually, October 27, aimed at fostering understanding of the indicators and tools of genocide, and the roles played by political leaders, citizens and militaries.
Titled “The Informational Tools of Genocide,” the virtual conference brought together NWC students, NWC faculty, and the general public to dialogue with experts and scholars in order to analyze how technologies like social media, smartphones, virtual reality and even video games can either help perpetrate or combat genocide.
“Today, we gather to explore the relevance of genocide studies in the contemporary world, and in particular, modern informational tools of genocide,” said Rear Adm. Pete Garvin, president of NWC. “This is not merely an academic exercise; it is a call to action.”
Conference attendees participated in panels led by NWC and U.S. Army War College faculty, covering topics such as the ethical use of technology, the enduring effects of different types of information and contemporary challenges in genocide.
Hayat Alvi, Ph.D., NWC professor and organizer of the conference noted that historically, even before the internet and social media, there have been very ugly propaganda campaigns to convince and persuade people about hating and dehumanizing others.
“Today, hate speech online has been linked to a global increase in violence toward minorities, including mass shootings, lynchings, and ethnic cleansing, and policies used to curb hate speech risk limiting free speech and are inconsistently enforced,” she stated.
Alvi also affirmed the importance of genocide studies as a global issue, emphasizing that professional military education institutions especially have an obligation to foster discourse about the topic.
The conference’s research on the informational tools of genocide supports the work of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Five Eyes, Special Competitive Studies Project, NATO, and other relevant institutions committed to the issue of technology and national security.
“Genocide’s impact is more penetrating and individualistic,” stated Thomas E. Creely, Ph.D., NWC creator and director of the Ethics & Emerging Military Technology (EEMT) graduate program. “No longer is genocide contained to ethnicity, societies, cultures, arts, or political entities; Genocide is redefining the individual through ‘Dataism’ which replaces being human.”
Creely added that digital platforms must be held accountable and technology principles including literacy and ethics must be taught - from diverse perspectives - to bridge the abyss between our receding ethics and the exponential development of technology.
Since 2018, NWC’s annual Genocide Studies Conference has hosted discussions on genocide-related matters that invite input from experts and scholars to discuss historical and contemporary cases of genocide. These workshops yield vital information and encourage a collaboration of ideas that help promote in-depth understanding and incite much-needed action concerning the issue.
NWC delivers excellence in education, research, and outreach, informing today’s decision-makers and educating tomorrow’s leaders. The college provides educational experiences and learning opportunities that develop students’ ability to anticipate and prepare strategically for the future, strengthen the foundations of peace, and create a decisive warfighting advantage.