node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04
All human evil comes from a single cause, man's inability to sit still in a room.
Whenever people think of Orwell today they usually think also of security cameras and ‘Big Brother’. Orwell represents much more than that. He saw that language and writing can be perverted to deceive people rather than inform them. If we remember that single lesson then his legacy will remain secure.
The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.
It's well documented that Facebook allows its developers unusual permission to push experimental updates live, and that the company has internal propaganda posters with mottos like "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" I wonder, what would be different if the posters read, "What would you do if you cared about the result?" Then again, that's not exactly fair, since it's clear that Facebook's leaders and employees care a great deal about the output of their work insofar as that output pleases and benefits them until their equity vests. So perhaps a different compass bearing: "What would you do if you cared about someone other than yourselves?"
We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles, we don't need any Molotov cocktails, we just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda – fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.
At elite conferences, they wonder how to regain trust, or otherwise deal with the rising atmosphere of populist discontent. They acknowledge that something is deeply wrong. But they dare not lay the blame at their own feet, caused by their own overreaches and dysfunction. Anyone who did would immediately be under suspicion. No longer one of us, but one of them. So, those who might otherwise lead the difficult but necessary elite self-critique instead keep their mouths shut, or they say the wrong thing without ideological, psychological, and social preparation for the consequences and get cast out. Only the true believers incapable of self-critique, the incompetent, and the cynics, remain as voices in the public forum. They talk in circles, never quite able to correct course and come to any new conclusions, except the need to double down on current ideological practices.
Yes! You can give away all of your personal information to Apple, Google, and Facebook AT THE SAME TIME. This is unprecedented. The stupid should be ecstatic over this.
Oh, I've been following the bass line since James Brown invented it. I was a great disco queen.
I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority, by someone recognized wiser than oneself.
As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. [...] This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion.
"The Descent of Man" (1871)
There was a wonderfully illustrative story which I thought I had bookmarked, but couldn't re-find: it was the story of a man whose know-it-all neighbor had once claimed in passing that the best way to remove a chimney from your house was to knock out the fireplace, wait for the bricks to drop down one level, knock out those bricks, and repeat until the chimney was gone. Years later, when the man wanted to remove his own chimney, this cached thought was lurking, waiting to pounce...

As the man noted afterward—you can guess it didn't go well—his neighbor was not particularly knowledgeable in these matters, not a trusted source. If he'd questioned the idea, he probably would have realized it was a poor one. Some cache hits we'd be better off recomputing. But the brain completes the pattern automatically—and if you don't consciously realize the pattern needs correction, you'll be left with a completed pattern.

I suspect that if the thought had occurred to the man himself—if he'd personally had this bright idea for how to remove a chimney—he would have examined the idea more critically. But if someone else has already thought an idea through, you can save on computing power by caching their conclusion—right?

In modern civilization particularly, no one can think fast enough to think their own thoughts. If I'd been abandoned in the woods as an infant, raised by wolves or silent robots, I would scarcely be recognizable as human. No one can think fast enough to recapitulate the wisdom of a hunter-gatherer tribe in one lifetime, starting from scratch. As for the wisdom of a literate civilization, forget it.

But the flip side of this is that I continually see people who aspire to critical thinking, repeating back cached thoughts which were not invented by critical thinkers.
The ordinary man with extraordinary power is the chief danger for mankind - not the fiend or the sadist.
Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.
It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"
Stasi couldn’t record what newspaper articles you were reading. For how long. And in what order. That, along with pretty much every thought you have ever explored while sitting at a computer, is now part of your permanent record – even if you never told a single human being.

Yes to the Earth

So radiant in certain mornings' light
With its roses and its trees
Is Earth, or with its grain and olives

So suddenly it is radiant on the soul,
Which stands then alone and forgetful
Though just a moment earlier the soul
Wept bloody tears or dwelt in bitterness;

So radiant in certain mornings' light
Is Earth, and in its silence so expressive
This wondrous lump rolling in its skies;
Beautiful, tragic in solitude, yet smiling

That the soul, unasked, replies,
"Yes" replies, "Yes" to the Earth
To the indifferent earth, "Yes!"

Even though next instant skies
Should darken, roses too,
Or the effort of life grow heavier still,
The act of breathing even more heroic,

"Yes" replies the battered soul to Earth,
So radiant in the light of certain mornings,
Beautiful above all things, and human hope.
"Yes to the Earth"
Every powerful state relies on specialists whose task is to show that what the strong do is noble and just and, if the weak suffer, it is their fault.

In the West, these specialists are called "intellectuals" and, with marginal exceptions, they fulfill their task with skill and self-righteousness, however outlandish the claims, in this practice that traces back to the origins of recorded history.
There is something deeply offensive about old men starting wars that young men must fight.
[Q: what did the United States have to gain by intervening in Somalia?]

In Somalia, we know exactly what they had to gain because they told us. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, described this as the best public relations operation of the Pentagon that he could imagine. His picture, which I think is plausible, is that there was a problem about raising the Pentagon budget, and they needed something that would be, look like a kind of a cakewalk, which would give a lot of prestige to the Pentagon. Somalia looked easy.

Let's look back at the background. For years, the United State had supported a really brutal dictator, who had just devastated the country, and was finally kicked out. After he's kicked out, it was 1990, the country sank into total chaos and disaster, with starvation and warfare and all kind of horrible misery. The United States refused to, certainly to pay reparations, but even to look. By the middle of 1992, it was beginning to ease. The fighting was dying down, food supplies were beginning to get in, the Red Cross was getting in, roughly 80% of their supplies they said. There was a harvest on the way. It looked like it was finally sort of settling down.

At that point, all of a sudden, George Bush announced that he had been watching these heartbreaking pictures on television, on Thanksgiving, and we had to do something, we had to send in humanitarian aid. The Marines landed, in a landing which was so comical, that even the media couldn't keep a straight face. Take a look at the reports of the landing of the Marines, it must've been the first week of December 1992. They had planned a night, there was nothing that was going on, but they planned a night landing, so you could show off all the fancy new night vision equipment and so on. Of course they had called the television stations, because what's the point of a PR operation for the Pentagon if there's no one to look for it. So the television stations were all there, with their bright lights and that sort of thing, and as the Marines were coming ashore they were blinded by the television light. So they had to send people out to get the cameramen to turn off the lights, so they could land with their fancy new equipment. As I say, even the media could not keep a straight face on this one, and they reported it pretty accurately. Also reported the PR aspect.

Well the idea was, you could get some nice shots of Marine colonels handing out peanut butter sandwiches to starving refugees, and that'd all look great. And so it looked for a couple of weeks, until things started to get unpleasant. As things started to get unpleasant, the United States responded with what's called the Powell Doctrine. The United States has an unusual military doctrine, it's one of the reasons why the U.S. is generally disqualified from peace keeping operations that involve civilians, again, this has to do with sovereignty. U.S. military doctrine is that U.S. soldiers are not permitted to come under any threat. That's not true for other countries. So countries like, say, Canada, the Fiji Islands, Pakistan, Norway, their soldiers are coming under threat all the time. The peace keepers in southern Lebanon for example, are being attacked by Israeli soldiers all the time, and have suffered plenty of casualties, and they don't like it.

But U.S. soldiers are not permitted to come under any threat, so when Somali teenagers started shaking fists at them, and more, they came back with massive fire power, and that led to a massacre. According to the U.S., I don't know the actual numbers, but according to U.S. government, about 7 to 10 thousand Somali civilians were killed before this was over. There's a close analysis of all of this by Alex de Waal, who's one of the world's leading specialists on African famine and relief, altogether academic specialist. His estimate is that the number of people saved by the intervention and the number killed by the intervention was approximately in the same ballpark.

That's Somalia. That's what's given as a stellar example of the humanitarian intervention.
Talk titled "Sovereignty and World Order" at Kansas State University (September 20, 1999)
If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that's something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can't live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organizations that keep doing things, and people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.
Man they knew how to dance. I'd often stand there fucked out of my face just watching them dance. It was an absolute pleasure in fact. They were so passionate about the music, not like nowadays. It seems like a self obsessed society now. Full of cunts worrying about how they look...
Some people spend their lives interested only in themselves. Almost all Japanese animation is produced with hardly any basis taken from observing real people, you know. It’s produced by humans who can’t stand looking at other humans.
But after awhile I began to understand that oppressed people —just by being oppressed — suffer serious wounds. You might go into a store, and somebody might follow you around the store, and you would have a choice of how to react: you could confront them and say "Why are you following me around the store?" or you could say to yourself: "Well, I came here to buy some socks, so let me just concentrate on buying the socks." But you still feel the pain. The obvious racism before had affected me, the prisons, torture... my whole life had created wounds, scars in me that in Cuba I was able to find a space to begin to heal. To begin to think, "Yeah, this happened", and I can look at it and see it for what it was but not be there, not be destroyed by it, not be turned into something bitter and evil by it. And not be like my enemies. Because I think that the greatest betrayal that a revolutionary can participate in is to become like the people you are struggling against. To become like your persecutors. I think that is a betrayal and a sin.
To be an effective trader, basically what you do is step in to a transaction between two people and shove them far enough apart that they can't communicate. Then you go to the seller, tell them that you and your buddies are their only market and you will pay them $XYZ for everything they have. A real low-ball figure. Do your best to put them in the fucking poor house.

You then take whatever you bought to the person who was already interested in buying it, and tell them you and your buddies are the only source for whatever it is you bought, and if they want any of it they'll have to pay you $XXYYZZ. An absurdly overvalued figure. Do your best to put them in the fucking poor house.

What's going on is that traders at no point are about facilitating exchanges between two parties. Every step of the way, their goal is to screw everybody who's still holding a single red cent so hard that their fillings fall out, and then collect those fillings -- gold, too, is an investment.
When it gets down to having to use violence, then you're playing the system's game. The establishment will irritate you - pull your beard, flick your face - to make you fight. Because once they've got you violent, then they know how to handle you.
It is hard to have patience with people who say "There is no death" or "Death doesn't matter." There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter.
Behind the technological veil, behind the political veil of democracy reality shows itself: the universal servitude, the loss of human dignity with prefabricated freedom of choice. And the power structure does not appear 'sublimated' anymore in the style of a liberalist culture, not even hypocritical (so that it at least retains the 'formality', the husk of dignity), but brutal, in that it abandons all claim to truth and justice.
"Konterrevolution & Revolte" (1973)
I'm kind of sick of the whole "bias" obsession. It's everyone's go-to counterargument these days, and it's a shallow, poorly developed one. It's like everyone's lost critical reasoning skills, which require delicate attention to the particular strategies and propositions deployed in a given argument, and found these set of stock biases to use instead. In fact it's impossible to purge an argument or line of thinking of all so-called biases (though these don't actually exist in arguments, they are deduced from arguments)--if it were, it wouldn't be an argument or thought.

The goal of catching our own mistakes is an admirable one, and I'm not advocating people stop doing that--I just think it too frequently bleeds into trying to find so-called biases in arguments (whether written or verbal). In fact, this is more or less a fool's errand. What people are actually trying to point out in arguments are logical fallacies which are traits of the argument. Biases contrarily occur at the individual level and are operational flaws, they only occur during the thought process, and it's only meaningful to talk about them in these terms (that is, as they manifest in the ongoing practices of a person)--they are not properties of a line of thought's encoding (the written or spoken argument). Fallacies or viewpoints expressed in an argument may hint at the biases of the author, but it's a non-sequitur to start talking about them (when critiquing an argument), as the only way one could actually confirm this is by observing the author at work in daily life. To say, such an such an author is biased, is useless. It doesn't contribute meaningfully to a critique of the argument, and it would need to be verified through observation of the author.

Demonstrating to someone that they have developed/fall prey to particular bias frequently and working to rectify that one-on-one is a totally different story, or trying to catch biases operating in yourself is a totally different story.
States are not moral agents, people are, and can impose moral standards on powerful institutions.
We have 1 shot at this and it's now.

After what happened, the NSA will lock down everything and do everything to stop such a leak from ever happening again. The chance that we'll have other whistleblowers with Snowden's kind of scope 10 years from now or later is almost zero. The NSA knows the future of their incredible position of power is being questioned right now and they won't let that happen again.

There won't be another "you have a choice now, it's up to you" moment. If there won't be fundamental changes to our system, we and our children will have to live with drastic consequences. We'll be leading the entire World once again - 180 degrees in the wrong direction.