node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04
A totalitarian state simply enunciates official doctrine -- clearly, explicitly. Internally, one can think what one likes, but one can only express opposition at one's peril. In a democratic system of propaganda no one is punished (in theory) for objecting to official dogma. In fact, dissidence is encouraged. What this system attempts to do is to fix the limits of possible thought: supporters of official doctrine at one end, and the critics -- vigorous, courageous, and much admired for their independence of judgment -- at the other. The hawks and the doves. But we discover that all share certain tacit assumptions, and that it is these assumptions that are really crucial. No doubt a propaganda system is more effective when its doctrines are insinuated rather than asserted, when it sets the bounds for possible thought rather than simply imposing a clear and easily identifiable doctrine that one must parrot -- or suffer the consequences. The more vigorous the debate, the more effectively the basic doctrines of the propaganda system, tacitly assumed on all sides, are instilled. Hence the elaborate pretense that the press is a critical dissenting force -- maybe even too critical for the health of democracy -- when in fact it is almost entirely subservient to the basic principles of the ideological system: in this case, the principle of the right of intervention, the unique right of the United States to serve as global judge and executioner. It is quite a marvelous system of indoctrination.

Here is still another example along the same lines. Look at this quotation from the Washington Post, a paper that is often regarded as the most consistent critic of the war among the national media. This is from an editorial of April 30, 1975, entitled "Deliverance":

For if much of the actual conduct of Vietnam policy over the years was wrong and misguided - even tragic - it cannot be denied that some part of the purpose of that policy was right and defensible. Specifically, it was right to hope that the people of South Vietnam would be able to decide on their own form of government and social order. The American public is entitled, indeed obligated, to explore how good impulses came to be transmuted into bad policy, but we cannot afford to cast out all remembrance of that earlier impulse.

What were the "good impulses"? When precisely did the United States try to help the South Vietnamese choose their own form of government and social order? As soon as such questions are posed, the absurdity becomes evident. From the moment that the American-backed French effort to destroy the major nationalist movement in Vietnam collapsed, the United States was consciously and knowingly opposed to the organized political forces within South Vietnam, and resorted to increasing violence when these political forces could not be crushed. But these facts, easily documented, must be suppressed. The liberal press cannot question the basic doctrine of the state religion, that the United States is benevolent, even though often misguided in its innocence, that it labors to permit free choice, even though at times some mistakes are committed in the exuberance of its programs of international goodwill. We must believe that we "Americans" are always good, though, to be sure, fallible:

For the fundamental "lesson" of Vietnam surely is not that we as a people are intrinsically bad, but rather that we are capable of error - and on a gigantic scale....

Note the rhetoric: "we as a people" are not intrinsically bad, even if we are capable of error. Was it "we as a people" who decided to conduct the war in Vietnam? Or was it something that had rather more to do with our political leaders and the social institutions they serve? To pose such a question is of course illegitimate, according to the dogmas of the state religion, because that raises the question of the institutional sources of power, and such questions are only considered by irrational extremists who must be excluded from debate (we can raise such questions with regard to other societies, of course, but not the United States).
Tell me, and I’ll forget
Show me, and I’ll remember
Involve me, and I’ll understand
Those who build a back door into their life will one day use it as main entrance.
The environment is so full of television, party political broadcasts and advertising campaigns that you hardly need to do anything.
There always seems to be two sides to a genius. Most people look at Jimi Hendrix as this amazing rock/blues musician, which he was. What people don't realize is Jimi Hendrix was probably the most humble musician to ever walk the face of the earth. He was a journey into the soul through the sounds of an instrument. If Jimi Hendrix grew up in today's age and messed around with electronic music the way he played guitar, all these dubstep assholes would bow. Jimi Hendrix didn't have much of an ego, that is what allowed him to become such an amazing musician.
I have spoken here of what ought and ought not to be done, of what is morally repugnant, and of what is dangerous. I am, of course, aware of the fact that these judgements of mine have themselves no moral force except on myself. Nor, as I have already said, do I have any intention of telling other people what tasks they should and should not undertake. I urge them only to consider the consequences of what they do do. And here I mean not only, not even primarily, the direct consequences of their actions on the world about them. I mean rather the consequences on themselves, as they construct their rationalizations, as they repress the truths that urge them to different courses, and as they chip away at their own autonomy. That so many people ask what they must do is a sign that the order of being and doing has become inverted. Those who know who and what they are do not need to ask what they should do. And those who must ask will not be able to stop asking until they begin to look inside themselves. It it is everyone's task to show by example what questions one can ask of oneself, and to show that one can live with the few answers there are.
"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation" (1976)
All is ephemeral, - fame and the famous as well.
The web is for everyone, whatever technology stack they use. The reason we have standards is to enable people to make their own choices about what they do in the privacy of their own servers. We don’t have to use the same libraries, so long as we implement the same standards. It doesn’t matter if you programme with Ruby or PHP or C# or Scala or XQuery, you can build a web application because we have the standards of HTTP, HTML, CSS, Javascript and so on.

Just as in wider society, we need to find compromises that balance the needs and desires of different constituencies. We need to balance the rights that everyone has to code as they wish against the rights that everyone has to have a web that works. We need to make sure that the quiet voices are heard, and support the equal rights of those who tread the less worn paths.
Most of us are unable to sort out reality — we can't distinguish between a thing and a symbol for that thing. This springs from several causes. One cause is that we are isolated from the natural world, where the distinction between a thing and a symbol is more obvious. Another cause is our educational system, which simply reflects the intellectual laziness of the society in which it is embedded. A third cause is resistance on the part of vested interests — if we could think creatively, we would be difficult to govern, and advertisers would have to appeal to reason instead of emotion.
The received wisdom in advanced capitalist societies is that there still exists an organic “civil society sector” in which institutions form autonomously and come together to manifest the interests and will of citizens. The fable has it that the boundaries of this sector are respected by actors from government and the “private sector,” leaving a safe space for NGOs and nonprofits to advocate for things like human rights, free speech, and accountable government.

This sounds like a great idea. But if it was ever true, it has not been for decades. Since at least the 1970s, authentic actors like unions and churches have folded under a sustained assault by free-market statism, transforming “civil society” into a buyer’s market for political factions and corporate interests looking to exert influence at arm’s length. The last forty years has seen a huge proliferation of think tanks and political NGOs whose purpose, beneath all the verbiage, is to execute political agendas by proxy.
It’s im­por­tant for us to crit­i­cize tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies. And it’s not hard, be­cause they’re full of shit.
All this death, you don't think it ripples out? You don't even know what the fuck I'm talking about. I was a few years ahead of you at Edmondson, but I know you remember the neighborhood, how it was. We had some bad boys, for real. Wasn't about guns so much as knowing what to do with your hands. Those boys could really rack. My father had me on the straight, but like any young man, I wanted to be hard too, so I'd turn up at all the house parties where the tough boys hung. Shit, they knew I wasn't one of them. Them hard cases would come up to me and say, "Go home, schoolboy, you don't belong here." Didn't realize at the time what they were doing for me. As rough as that neighborhood could be, we had us a community. Nobody, no victim, who didn't matter. And now all we got is bodies, and predatory motherfuckers like you.
"The Wire"
The only remedy for a barren heart is prayer, however poor and inadequate. As I did that night at Blumberg, I'll keep on repeating it for us both: We must pray, and pray for each other, and if you were here, I'd fold hands with you, because we're poor, weak, sinful children. Oh, Fritz, if I can't write anything else just now, it's only because there's a terrible absurdity about a drowning man who, instead of calling for help, launches into a scientific, philosophical, or theological dissertation while the sinister tentacles of the creatures on the seabed are encircling his arms and legs, and the waves are breaking over him. It's only because I'm filled with fear, that and nothing else, and feel an undivided yearning for him who can relieve me of it.
'I feel, you know, I hurt, please help.' I'm saying words, man, and if I look at an audience and they ain't understanding me, it's just like getting kicked in the teeth.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.
We've changed. And we've become contemptuous of the idea that we're all in this together. This is about sharing. And about, you know... when you say sharing, there is a percentage of the population, and it's the moneyed percent of our population, that hears "socialism" or "communism" or any of the other -isms they wanna put on it, but ultimately, we are all a part of the same society, and it's either gonna be a mediocre society that, you know, abuses people, or it's not.
Man always dies before he is fully born.
When you’re happy, you enjoy the music. But when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics.

The Paradoxical Commandments

  • People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  • If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  • If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  • The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  • Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  • The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  • People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  • What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  • People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  • Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
The greatest calamity which could befall us would be submission to a government of unlimited powers.
When it’s Tunisians and Egyptians using FB and Twitter, everyone is quick to take credit and talk about the “transformative” power of social media. When it’s genocide, suddenly everyone is mumbling and looking at the ground. You can’t have every job listing include “changing the world” and then duck responsibility when you actually do change the world, just for the worse.
Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.
The only answers are either open source or objective third party auditing, or preferably some combination of both. Words from google employees mean nothing.
What has come to light is neither nihilism nor cynicism, as one might have expected, but a quite extraordinary confusion over elementary questions of morality — as if an instinct in such matters were truly the last thing to be taken for granted in our time.
"Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
We cannot say much about human affairs with any confidence, but sometimes it is possible. We can, for example, be fairly confident that either there will be a world without war, or there won't be a world -- at least, a world inhabited by creatures other than bacteria and beetles, with some scattering of others.
Give us an open (hardware) phone and OS plus apps will follow. Manufacturers however would hate this because the phone (tablet, etc.) as a platform allowed them to undo what Open Source achieved in the last decades on personal computers: now they have again a piece of hardware they can fully control; the software is closed and incredibly dumb, and it forces you to connect to online services to do anything. We're sort of back to mainframes, that's like killing over 40 years of IT development!

Experiment IV

We were working secretly for the military
Our experiment in sound was nearly ready to begin
We only know in theory what we are doing
Music made for pleasure, music made to thrill

It was music we were making here until
They told us all they wanted
Was a sound that could kill someone from a distance
So we go ahead and the meters are over in the red
It's a mistake in the making

From the painful cries of mothers to a terrifying scream
We recorded it and put it into our machine

They told us all they wanted
Was a sound that could kill someone from a distance
So we go ahead and the meters are over in the red
It's a mistake in the making
It could feel like falling in love
It could feel so bad
It could feel so good
It could sing you to sleep

But that dream is your enemy
We won't be there to be blamed
We won't be there to snitch
I just pray that someone there can hit the switch

They told us all they wanted
Was a sound that could kill someone from a distance
So we go ahead and the meters are over in the red
It's a mistake in the making

And the public are warned to stay off
It's reasonable to some degree to expect that you keep your password secret. It's a different thing altogether to take information that is unavoidably known to lots of parties, or in many cases even outright essentially public info (like, stuff you can just buy as a database) as proof of identity, and then insist that you are legally responsible for a contract or whatever they made with someone who knew your date of birth or something.

It's really not much different than just throwing darts at a phone book, and then pretending that the fact they hit your name proves that you now have a contract with them ... no, it doesn't, and it's your fucking problem if you think it does.
I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
Suppose that, say, China established military bases in Colombia to carry out chemical warfare in Kentucky and North Carolina to destroy this lethal crop [tobacco] that is killing huge numbers of Chinese.