as military generals are quick to remind us, we are now fighting the first war of the 21st century. This is the first major battle of the Internet age, with broadband news streaming, online radio and easy-to-access information from around the world just a few keystrokes away. Why, then, as a friend remarked to me the other day, is the war so boring?
Futuristic weaponry and mobile satellite transmitters aside, the battle for Afghanistan seems remarkably low-tech, at least in how it's being reported.
Of course, there are hundreds of news sites offering a million different opinions on what's happened in the month since September 11, but beyond the standard War On America mini-site, even the most creative online sources have been fairly bland in how they're covering what's happening.
There are photo galleries of the twin towers on fire, maps of Afghanistan and back stories on the Taliban and al Qaeda, but little that you couldn't find in a newspaper or on TV.
Where are the interactive elements that make the Internet such a key and revolutionary informational tool? What was crucial reading in the days immediately following the attacks has become stagnant and underdeveloped.
As anyone with an e-mail address will tell you, the one place where the familiar and almost clichéd perspectives on the war are being twisted around is in the minds of net pranksters.
The dozens of hoax e-mails and Osama Photoshop manipulations (last week's widely circulated evil-Bert- meets-bin-Laden, for example) suggest that some people have far too much time on their hands, but also that these are people willing to use the technology available to them to push the story further. The direction might be suspect, but at least it's something new.
Prank e-mails are just the beginning. The war is also generating dozens of Flash games, most dealing with the untimely and often incredibly violent death of Osama bin Laden.
The sharp-eyed folks at www.newgrounds.com have collected most of the best. It's here that you can shoot the most wanted man on the planet with a shotgun, infect him with anthrax, kick him below the belt and cover him in excrement. No one said the Internet was highbrow, but it can be a lot of fun.
Oddly, for information I find myself lugging out my clunky and relatively low-tech shortwave radio late at night. There, if you have the patience to find a station and put up with the howling noise, you can learn about the war through the perspective of stations like Voice of Afghanistan as well as the disembodied voices of Montana doomsday preachers.
The reception is horrible, but there is the sense, however realistic, that what you're hearing is a little more organic and a little less filtered through the wide lens of Tom Brokaw.