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The Return Of The Luddites 253

The Luddites have returned, dominating the presidential campaign, attacking technology and culture on many fronts, from ruining work to despoiling the environment to endangering children. Although the term "Luddite" gets kicked around a lot, few people understand who the first Luddites really were. Compared to the current crop of moral poseurs and wannabe anti-technology intellectuals, the originals were genuine heroes. They were fighting for a way of life, not for moral control or cultural power.

Members of a radical agrarian movement in early l9th-century England, the Luddites surfaced in Robin Hood country -- Sherwood Forest, near Nottinghamshire -- and for 15 bloody months took on the Industrial Revolution's first factories and entrepreneurs, until the British army suppressed them for good. The term has come to mean something else, though -- an attitude of fear and resentment toward technology. The Luddites never really left us completely, but the rise of the Net, the Web and the screen-driven culture they're helping to push along are bringing Luddites, or at least modern pretenders, back in force.

The historical Luddites drew their ranks from farmers and artisans whose families had lived for centuries in small villages, using simple machines that could be operated by individuals or small groups. The big mills and factories of the Industrial Revolution meant an end to social customs and community, to personal status and individual freedom. Having worked independently on their own farms, they grasped that they would be forced to use complex, dangerous machines in noisy, smelly factories, enduring long hours for slave wages, and that the trade was not in their favor.

Contemporary Luddites are fighting technology to keep power rather than livelihood, though they have as much chance of succeeding as their predecessors did.

These self-appointed watchmen are opportunists and cultural reactionaries led by people like Joseph Lieberman, former Education Secretary William Bennett, (one of Washington's leading moral gasbags, and one of Lieberman's closest friends), and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, who bemoan the lack of "morality" in popular culture, entertainment, and of course, most of all, the Mother of All Demons, the Net.

In fact, plenty of people call themselves Luddites today; they're popping up all over in media and Academe. The writer and social critic Kirkpatrick Sale, best known for his prescient book on the rise of the Sunbelt and his portrayal of Christopher Columbus as a raving imperialist scumbag (he's most recently the author of Rebels Against the Future: the Luddites and Their War on The Industrial Revolution), routinely attracts college audiences who cheer while he figuratively or literally smashes computers and denounces technology for ruining the world.

Unlike the first time 'round, this time corporations have joined the Luddite movement with a fury, hiring platoons of lawyers and lobbyists to fence off the Net and beat back the menace of free information online. Congress has passed a number of anti-democratic and unconstitutional laws designed to curb the free speech spawned by new technologies. Every season brings more books, articles, news stories warning that technology is driving us crazy, making us stupid, turning out kids into murderers, endangering out families. And how many articles and TV news stories have you seen on dangerous "hackers," online predators, Net addicts?

The neo-Luddites have attacked on a broad range of fronts blaming technology for everything from copyright theft to addiction to the oft-invoked menace of hacking and cracking. But no assault has been more relentless than the idea that technology and culture endanger the moral and literal lives of children. For years Bennett and Lieberman have led a wildly successful campaign (now joined both by Al Gore and George W. Bush), thumping the entertainment industry for allegedly contributing to violent behavior. Columbine advanced the hysterical ideal that computer games were not only unhealthy, but mortally dangerous. This idea has become the central rallying cry of the neo-Luddites.

It's interesting how modern-day Luddites invoke morality as a shield to mask zealotry and ignorance. Basically, they're doing what fanatics have done for centuries: try to force everyone to accept their own personal ideas of right and wrong. We are constantly being told this cultural piety and conformity is really for our own good -- and that of our children. This despite evidence that young people are safer than they've ever been, according to every recent statistical survey, from the FBI Uniform Crime Report to the Center for Juvenile Justice in New York. There are virtually no credible connections between technology use, media and violence.

Author Richard Rhodes, a scholar both of technology and violence, pointed out in The New York Times last week that violent behavior isn't learned from mock struggles on a screen. Violence is learned in personal encounters, beginning with the epidemic brutalization of children by their parents and peers. "Violence is on the decline in America," wrote Rhodes, "but if we want to reduce it even further, protecting children from real violence in their real lives -- not the pale shadow of mock violence -- is the place to begin."

But that isn't likely to happen. Exploiting the idea that technology as a menace to children is a lot easier and cheaper than confronting more complex social problems like child abuse or guns. Rhodes and others have pointed out that as media use has increased in the western world, violence has generally declined. Private violence (as opposed to the military or nation-state kind) has been dropping in the West since the Middle Ages, when homicide rates are estimated to have been 10 times those of Western nations today. Historians attribute the drop to improved social controls -- police forces and common access to courts of law -- and to a shift away from brutal physical punishment in child-rearing, a practice that shows up again and again as a common factor in the background of violent criminals.

Yet most Americans believe violence among the young is skyrocketing, and more than 80% told the Gallup poll last year that they believe the Internet is at least partly responsible. that's how good a propaganda job the neo-Luddites and their media have done.

"This time around the technology is even more complex and extensive," warns Sale, "and its impact even more pervasive and dislocating, touching greater populations with greater speed and at greater scales." In a way, Sale has a point. The neo-Luddities do have a whole new crop of legitimate issues with which to rouse an already alarmed populace: nano-technology, artificial intelligence, the open source challenge to proprietary businesses, and the growing access to information by younger Americans who could previously be easily censored and influenced.

Little organized political or other opposition counters the neo-Luddites. Few people are using mainstream media to argue that digital technology actually is creating many new kinds of jobs, sparking new kinds of communities and liberating information for millions in ways never before possible. Some should. For all its many flaws, the digital culture fosters freedom and opportunity and information everywhere it goes. The irony is that the neo-Luddites, like their predecessors, are fighting forces beyond anybody's control. They can't win either. The only issue is how ugly the brawl will get.

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The Return of the Luddites

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  • What is the real enemy is the lack of technological power and the means to understand it.
  • you currently have a karma of -29. You're still heading in that direction.
  • Mod this up!!!
  • ...the one which hates Javascript. Here's our homepage [ravenna.com]. Do the viewers of your webpages a favor, and don't use frivolous Javascript!
  • thanks
  • Still... it is easy to find examples of mental illness on the internet. The beautiful things seem to be kept away for fear of being ripped off.

    How many open source art projects do we have out there? Especially vs. free exhibitions of the gruesome?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    2 Katz articles in a row!!!
  • by Froid ( 235187 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @06:40AM (#747497)
    Imagine this: one day in the near future, Congress and the FBI finally get their way and install Carnivore boxes not only at the ISP level, but at your local computers also. If Richard Stallman urged a call to arms and geeks everywhere organized massive protests where they liberally shattered the Carnivore boxes into little bits, would you not join? You too, Mr Slashbot, are a Luddite, by that standard, make no mistake about it. When someone shatters your own world-view, it is your right and duty to shatter his means, at whatever cost and to whatever ends.
  • With this article and that super-confusing one 2 above, I'm wondering if it's Mondo 2000 day at Slashdot. Now all we need is another neo-hippie Timothy Leary article and we're set!
  • Katz dismisses out of hand people that complain about the lack of morality in the movies, tv and on the Internet. Yes, people in political positions that are attempting to use the "back to values" battle cry in their political campaigns are usually the least interested in a true check on our morality. However just because people have genuine beliefs about the moral decay of American civilization doesn't make them anti-technology. I think the proliferation of moral relativism is apalling. For those of you who many not be familiar with the term, moral relativism is the mode of thought that whatever anyone wants to do is fine becuase it's what they beleieve is right. This is going to cause the ultimate downfall of our society because eventually one of two things will happen: anarchy will come to pass or a zealot movement will get power and clamp down on all GENUINE freedoms. There HAS to be standards of conduct. Programmers follow standards in code. The Intnet is based on standards and those that don't follow the standards are shunned. Yet in our REAL lives there are NO standards of behavior? That's ludicrious.
  • You know John, you have a few good points, but I did disagree with you in a few places.

    #1: "The historical Luddites drew their ranks from farmers and artisans whose families had lived for centuries in small villages, using simple machines that could be operated by individuals or small groups."

    I think that this shows a tendency of the masses (ie. plebians) vs. the aristocracy to try to rise above the place they are expected to sit complacently in the hierarchy. This is a borderline accusation of communism. These societies weren't as developed as ours. In a study by Fellane (1977), most pre-industrial socities have a lesser change of revolt against a commmon enemy, simply due to the fact that there are higher ratios of "artistic" individuals (ie. producers of art) to common workers. (farmers, blacksmiths)

    #2: "Basically, they're doing what fanatics have done for centuries: try to force everyone to accept their own personal ideas of right and wrong."

    Are you talking about them in a cultural sense, or in an individual sense? Such ideas cannot be imposed culturally, by some fraternal figure from above. This is the reponsibility of the cultured citizen to decide what is right, and also what is wrong. When you ursup this obligation away from the individual, you are stepping on their basic human rights.

    But, all in all, another good thought-provoking idea. I'd like to see what your response is to my queries. Maybe a reply here is in order?
    a funny comment: 1 karma
    an insightful comment: 1 karma
    a good old-fashioned flame: priceless

  • Does anyone else think it's really silly to complain about luddites in a cyber-column?
  • Once again, JonKatz spouts off. Well, that's an editor's prerogative. And ours to flame :)

    The original Luddites were afraid of change, and didn't like that their trade was being usurped by cheaper factory producers. They wanted things their way rather than change to own or build these new machines. Tough!

    The current crop is no different. They are deathly afraid of change because they will lose the status and position they have built for themselves. Tough!

    In every change there are winners and losers. The secret is to adapt so you are on the winning side. I have no sympathy for lazy whining losers. I do have some sympathy for those who try to change, but need help.
  • by hald ( 1811 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @06:43AM (#747503)
    And yet I am a software developer. A contradiction? I don't believe so. My fear is loss of control over my own life and my own destiny. I don't have to wonder how many ways that technology can fail us, I know how many ways technology and the dependence of society upon it can fail us. I develop software in order to continue to be sure that I remain "in the loop" on technology, and the changes that are comming in the future. I try to keep as much technology out of my home, so that I am not dependent on it. I don't have a cellular phone, I don't have a color television. When I consider adding some new technology to my life I try to evaluate the impact. Will I become dependent on it? Will I control it? Or will it control me?

    Hal Duston

  • by magic ( 19621 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @06:44AM (#747504) Homepage
    The real Luddites were opposed to technology being used to suppress people. They all lost their jobs or were put in to dangerous jobs interacting with some scary automated weaving machinery when the industrial revolution occured in England. Like the citizens in "Metropolis", they smashed the machines that were supplanting people and leaving large numbers of the poor unemployed or facing lousy jobs.

    I think they were right. When new technology is introduced, it should be used to make life better for all of society, not to make the rich richer and eliminate the need for other economic classes. Mechanization and new technology have always promised that the work day would get shorter, safer, and easier. So why are so many people working 12 hour days at multiple jobs?

    Most of us are lucky; we are the technological elite and we like our jobs. But too frequently, people (like us) have introduced new technologies without thinking about the social impact. In the case of the Luddites, clever engineers figured out how to make an electric loom. But noone figured out how the textile producing population of England was supposed to support itself. I think the whole point of being 'human' is in looking to higher goals than feeding yourself for one day. Introducing technology that is more efficient and makes you money and more secure is a good thing-- but if the cost is destroying the livelyhood of large parts of your society, it's time to figure out a plan for them to succeed as well.

    Now, the modern "Luddites" tend to be the exact opposite of this. They are protecting large, abusive corporations from technologies that would liberate many people both intellectually and financially. I think it is insulting to the original Luddites to call these new folks "Luddites."


  • "Yet most Americans believe violence among the young is skyrocketing, and more than 80% told the Gallup poll last year that they believe the Internet is at least partly responsible. that's how good a propaganda job the neo-Luddites and their media have done."

    Mainstream media hypes problems, such as isolated acts of school violence, to such an extent that people who point out crime is going down are given funny looks. 'Conventional' wisdom tells us we are living in horrible times with our children under fire at school, and under attack by Hollywood and the Net.

    Conventional wisdom is dead wrong. For this, I blame the mainstream media. Now that we have access to news on the Net, from a wide variety of sources, I'm constantly amazed at the emptiness of the nightly newscasts. So many interesting stories are happening around the world, and they report instead on Al Gore sneezing in Michigan or something.

    Just when the corporations got full control over the mainstream media and managed to eviscerate it, the Net came along and gave us access to more information. Now they are going after the Net. If they succeed, we will all be dumbed-down.

  • And how many articles and TV news stories have you seen on dangerous "hackers," online predators, Net addicts?
    And how many on "dotcompreneurs" who are growing filthy rich? Go on, count the times you've seen Bezos and his ilk gassing on TV about the e-information age...
    As far as the violence goes, it is perception that counts. And that is something Katz has conveniently skipped in this ill though out piece of flamebait.
    There is a saying "no news is good news". Ever wonder where that came from? Originally, in the formative days of the BBC, if there were no disasters or bad news to convey, all that would be broadcast would be "there is no news today".
    But in this day and age of more and more saturated TV coverage, enabled by our better communications and logistics, could you imagine CNBC or the BBC broadcasting that?
    When was the last time you saw a news programme where there were solely "good" events happening, instead of the quirky 20 second slot on some news shows? And why is that? Because it doesn't make for good viewing figures, and that is what the news agencies depend on for funding.
    I have given up watching the news, reading papers for this exact purpose. My current affairs knowledge is now minimal, but I am happier. Because can I really make [insert tragedy here] not have happened? Can I un-drown all those people lost at sea off Greece? (I only know this because the guy who sits next to me at work is Greek, BTW)
    And those that Katz derides as Luddites (BTW, Sherwood Forest is _in_ Nottinghamshire), maybe they're looking at the 80+ hour week pressure cookers some of us high tech workers are in... And want something different. However, they don;t seem to understand that we can walk away from these furnaces at any time. The Luddites were still in a feudal system; the Lord of the land basically owned you, you did his bidding. And that is why the Luddites didn't want the tech.

    Strong data typing is for those with weak minds.

  • And I say this, because I understand women better than most men.

    My qualifications here are that I've had sex, which puts me head and shoulders above your average 15 year old virgin Slashdot reader (cf. Bruce Perens).

  • Note, for example, that Time has a story on the return of exorcism this week. Credulity and antirationalism are on the rise. I blame liberal-arts academics, who are jealous of the strides science and technology have made over the past hundred years while their disciplines -- philosophy, literature, political science, history -- have either been irrelevancies or the handmaidens of mass murder. This has percolated into the general culture somewhat, though the public at large is far more pro-science and pro-technology than the average journalist, pundit, or academic.
  • by SEWilco ( 27983 )
    I reported that one months ago.
  • The original luddites feared to lost their job's. The Industrial Revolution breaked the man and the identity with your own work and life means. The man was no more owner of your work (and life) and the product of your work was far away from your understand, since the industrial line production segregates the worker from the final product. The technology can give this back!

  • It is a mistake to regard technical progress as a tautology or beyond the control of social forces. The willful abandoning of a technical advance by a society is rare but not unheard of. Z.B.- 17th C. Japan giving up the gun.

    This is something which should be given more consideration.
  • The original Luddites were selfishly fighting to keep their unproductive jobs. This would have kept clothing expensive for everyone else. Instead, they lost out, and people got affordable woolens. And in a generation, the industry grew back to its former employment levels.
  • As a minor point of interest...
    1. Do those people run around naked or they make their own clothes out of natural products by hand?
    2. Do they walk from one state to another?
    3. How about TV? Surely their speeches go on the air. Being true to their values...shouldnt they abolish cameras and TV, and so not be able to get their word out?
    If answer is Yes to all 3 points above, I'll believe they are true to their views. If not, they are full of shit.
  • We are the evil ones! The technocrats. We'll win, of course, but, look that poor ones that can't understand why your little son spends hours at www.sex.com and don't have a girlfriend? They loose the control, and blame us for your fault!

  • Calling people gasbags then lumping guns and child abuse together makes it hard to take you seriously. I usually do not mind editorials but this is labeled as news. It would be a pretty good story if it was made a bit more objective.
  • While Internet and other modern technologies may be changing our society, I would suggest that television is still the biggest influence. People watch an enormous amount of television. Besides pushing products, television influences our beliefs about the "real world".
  • that the values espoused by the original luddites (commitment to culture, community, and independence) are so much more attainable in an interconnected world where information is free (as in thought, not beer). Knowledge really is power, and the less a community has to rely on industry or government for their information or approval, the closer we are to having true freedom to live a life our short little lives in a fashion that suits us.
  • Let's not forget the Al Gore or Unabomber [atr.org] game. Get a copy of "Earth in the Balance" and the "Unabomber Manifesto" and play along.

    Aren't you glad The Internet is in Al Gore's hands [algore.com]?

  • I agree...we all have to be prepared to accept change or go the way of the dinosaur. Although this is a lot to be said for a simpler way of life...
  • yeah.. OK big guy
  • by Threemoons ( 70070 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @06:55AM (#747521)
    Alright, Jon, I normally like/tolerate your stuff...but HOW do you get off saying that the current "Luddites" are (insert negatives here) while the "original Luddites" were the ones who were "heros" and "fighting to preserve a way of life" or somesuch?

    The modern Luddites are trying to protect a way of life also...as they always have...they want to keep information that THEY don't like out of the hands of everyone. Whether it's sex ed/AIDS ed for kids, substance abuse information, etc etc etc...the modern Luddites are trying to force their view of the world on everyone NOT by proclaiming their own position but by censoring others'.

  • since I'm browsing Windows NT instead of Linux, I don't have an IP address, instead I have a NetBUIE address, so I'm not worried about this.

    Thanks for the warning, though.

  • Everything changes eventually. We all realise the meaning of this, but we don't always understand how this relates to our own lives. The idea of ending up in the junkyard in a few years time is somewhat un-appealing.
  • by teraflop user ( 58792 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @06:57AM (#747524)
    I think that this argument contains a false appeal to romanticism.

    Workers were being offered heavy, regulated, industrial work in exchange to a farming lifestyle. But to characterise the exchange as uniformly bad is probably unfair.

    Farming is hard. It involves long hours, in all weathers. The results are far less predictable than factory work - bad conditions can mean famine. Many farmers lived in poverty. The plight of the Irish was particularly desparate.

    Some people were being offered worse jobs in exchange for better ones. But I think that many of the Luddites were, as commonly characterised, afraid of change.

  • <rant>

    Something that almost everyone ignores is that technology can be made transparent. Technological advancement has its drawbacks, and often has to fight issues it brings along with itself, but eventually a point is reached where technology can be disguised or engineered to how ever the market wants. Take Chrysler for example. They build cars that look like how they want them to look, not specifically how they function. The PT Cruiser, Ram, Viper, and Prowler are all examples of this change. I hope other automakers and groups follow a similar example.

    Specifically speaking of computers, I don't see a reason why we need to have really obvious computers anymore. My DVD player is an old P-233 pc, and I have it placed where it is unobtrusive. I have discretely placed IR and radio mouse receivers, so my keyboard and mouse can sit on my coffee table when I am using them, but be put away when they are not needed. The display itself is on the TV, not a computer screen, further disguising it. In the future, I hope to be able to forego the TV in place of a discretely placed projector anyway, and not have any of it visible. Ultimately I want to do this for all of my electronics, specifically downplaying their importance while increasing their usefulness behind the scenes. Technology then becomes integrated into my life without intruding.

    Most of the consumer market seems to go in for the gaudy, colourful, 'fruity' look with equipment now. The Apple line right now is a perfect example of this, as is the knockoff PC cases that have followed. Peripherals sit all over the place when people have scanners, printers, mice, keyboards, diskette drives, CD-burners, etc, when designs more like the IBM PS/2 Model 50 (the all in one with some actual expansion bays and an unobtrusive colour) proved that lots of the crap like drives and such could be feasibly integrated. "Natural" coloured equipment is available on the market, but it doesn't appear to sell very well. Until the consumer is told that this is what they want, it won't happen.

    Much of the technology that is commonplace can be made to look like whatever we want. We can put massive computing systems into furniture like the old General Electric stereo cabinet, and never have to look at the innards again. Fighting the advance is not going to work, but working to make it as transparent as possible could be done. All that we have to do is convince the market that this is where to go.

  • This is ridiculous. If you don't like the article, don't comment. Keep it to yourself unless YOU have a better point to argue. As it stands, your post has a much higher garbage to intellectual ratio than Katz article. Most of us come to read facts and opinions, not flames. Don't waste our time. Thank you.
  • Kids today have no respect This music kids listen to is inappropriate The way kids dress today is very inappropriate There is way too much violence today (not like when I was growing up) Said by your Grandma to your Mom. Said by your Mom to you. Said by you to your kids?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    At -50, the user explodes in a shower of grits.
  • ....have several big name silicon valley companies donated close to 22 million this year alone to the 2 presidential candidates???
  • When someone shatters your own world-view, it is your right and duty to shatter his means, at whatever cost and to whatever ends.

    Huh? I don't see the parallel here at all. A hypothetical reaction against forced installation of a particular piece of technology is just not the same as a fundamental resistance to technology in general.

    In any case, I just don't get that last sentence, unless it's supposed to be a joke (and clearly I still don't get it).

  • Besides pushing products, television influences our beliefs about the "real world".

    As an aside:

    It could be argued that the products television pushes aren't the commercials etc, but us - we, the audience, are the product, constructed by the networks to be sold to the advertisers...

    How this helps this debate I don't know, but there you go.

  • I, too, am in the tech industry, have been for years, and the closer I get to the technology, the more I wonder WHY?

    There is no question that these things are fascinating--otherwise we wouldn't be here to discuss them, but at the end of the day, where do they leave us? A conversation with my wife is far more fufilling than getting my MTA working through my firewall, but I still want that system--and the four or five others I have at my home (let alone work!)--to function at peak, secure performance, and so I leave the conversation to go make sure It Is So.

    I personally fear that the machines already have control of me, and I'm not certain how to extricate myself.

    Ahem. Pardon this personal digression.

    While I hesitate to call myself a Luddite, I certainly understand your worldview.
  • I thought that if someone shattered your world-view, it was your right and duty to reappraise that view with an open mind. Then take appropriate steps - which could include acknowledging your error and agreeing with your supposed enemy. To feel compelled to shatter anything and everything they have done, at any cost and to whatever ends would, for example, give credence to Hitler's Holocaust. Or the Spanish Inquisition. And let's face it, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
  • by jaga~ ( 175770 )
    I think this Luddite movement is nothing new; in fact it's as old as civilization itself. As far as I can tell it's merely an expression of fear for people in power either politically, financially or morally, feeling their position threatened by something which they do not understand and that they feel is escaping from their grasps of comprehension and more importantly from their control.

    Columbine advanced the hysterical ideal that computer games were not only unhealthy, but mortally dangerous.

    First, I'm not sure if you meant mortally or morally, but I think morally is more appropriate. Second, as an avid video game player, and not (yet?) a parent, I think I should stress that the ideology that video games ARE morally healthy on their face value is incredibly misleading and is a position only held in opposition to attempts at censorship. Blowing off other people's heads is not morally acceptable in our present culture, and a simulation of such can easily be interpreted as not being either. The stress we should make in this situation isn't that the cause of such violence cannot come from these games/movies/media, but that it isn't the authors of these things that should be held responsible. Freedom of speech is still prevalent in this country (USA I mean) and the responsibility should be held with those responsible for the children's upbringing; Parents, not the public or the media.
  • Programmers don't follow standards. Programmers adhere to APIs when it suits their purposes.
    There are plenty of standards of behavior in our real lives. Laws against libel, slander, assault, conspiracy, kiddie porn, adultery and all those nasty things apply just fine to the Internet.

    What your average Slashdotter objects to is the needless passing of MORE laws to prevent the protection of speech that, as much as a majority of people may not like it, is a valid viewpoint and deserves to exist. Virtually every kind of technology potentially usable to "verify" internet identities or "filter" or "secure" does only one thing -- remove liberty from individuals.

    I'll concede that they may not do so very much -- but that they invoke a slippery slope -- once we give up a little, we'll have to give up a lot. I assure you of that.
  • Let the war on my Karma begin, but this article is just way too much.

    I had been one of the (few?) people on /. that actually enjoyed many of Katz's articles.

    This one, however, has made me join many of the other readers in filtering out Katz posts now. Katz has completely crossed the line of even editorializing here, and has wandered off the deep end into the realm of zealotry and conspiracy theory.

    I don't come to /. for politcal diatribe and for groundless threats and accusations of huge conspiracy theories determined to remove our right and privledges all for the sake of stopping the Internet.
    Every season brings more books, articles, news stories warning that technology is driving us crazy, making us stupid, turning out kids into murderers, endangering out families. And how many articles and TV news stories have you seen on dangerous "hackers," online predators, Net addicts?

    Great. And how do these articles, TV news stories, books, and news stories get published? Oh yes, the entire media system is part of the Neo-Luddite conspiracy, isn't it?
    But no assault has been more relentless than the idea that technology and culture endanger the moral and literal lives of children. For years Bennett and Lieberman have led a wildly successful campaign (now joined both by Al Gore and George W. Bush), thumping the entertainment industry for allegedly contributing to violent behavior.

    Great. So Al Gore and George W. Bush are both leading the Neo-Luddite campaign to our doorstep. Technology as we know it is doomed if we vote for either one of them. I'm surprised Katz doesn't present us with someone running for president to stop the Neo-Luddite menace. Any volunteers Katz?
    It's interesting how modern-day Luddites invoke morality as a shield to mask zealotry and ignorance.

    And it's interesting how Katz invokes the same morality as a shield against his own zealotry. This article reads as little more than a long-winded governmental conspiracy theory against Neo-Luddites. Let me guess, Bill Gates is part of the Neo-Luddite conspiracy too, since he supports the highly restrictive and probably unconstitional DMCA? Please. There are plenty of reasons for politicians to vote for laws that restrict our rights and privledges. They don't need to be members of an anti-technology conspiracy to do it.

    If you're going to construct conspiracy theories, I suggest you read the Illuminatus Triology. You'll learn a lesson or two in conspiracy theories as taught by the Grand Illuminated Masters themselves.

  • by laetus ( 45131 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @07:04AM (#747539)
    I'm not surprised we're seeing a resurrection of Luddite ideals. There are real fears in the general population concerning technologies and unfortunately, the technologists in their zeal to push further/faster are not taking enough time to assuage those fears or listen intently to what the general population is saying. For example:

    • Biotechnology - we see great promise from this technology for medical purposes, but there is great fear about biotech's impact of the environment and our food supply. As seen with the recent Taco Bell gene-altered corn incident, errors can and will be made. Food is so basic to our well being that I wouldn't be surprised by a backlash/revolution against biotech.
    • Nanotechnology - Again, great hopes such as nanotech medical devices to clean clogged arteries. But the visions of nanotech weaponry, unbridled nanotech reproduction, and nanotech self-evolution that permeate nanotech discussions is generating fear in the general population.
    • Net technology - Want the laundry list? Carnivore, Amazon-style different pricing, tracking of financial transactions across websites when you purchase merchandise, name lists being sold when privacy was promised, etc.

      These are just few examples but here's the point. The fear is justified because people are rightfully discerning that technologies are being developed/used that directly (and increasingly adversely) impact their lives and this application of technology to (or against) their lives is out of their own personal control. People are beginning to feel victimized by technology, and not empowered by it. Victimization on a mass basis (and technology is giving us the ability to victimize people in numbers never seen before) is the stuff from which revolutions are wraught, even Luddite revolutions.

    EMUSE.NET [emuse.net]
  • by brad.hill ( 21936 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @07:05AM (#747543)
    Actually, the original Luddites weren't quite so philosophically minded, and weren't really being put of their job by machines so much as by a change of fashion. They were mostly stocking makers, and the stockings they made were of far far superior quality to what machines at the time could produce. They started losing their jobs not because machines were out competing them, but because stockings went out of fashion in America. Once you weren't showing off your stockings as a fashion statement, it made sense to buy the cheaper, but much poorer quality, machine made stockings.

    I think a lot of neo-Luddites are rather the same. They don't have any well thought out objections to technology per-se, they're just people who are losing out to the rapid pace of change in the world, driven by human nature as much as by computers, and they lash out at having to change or having their profit stream threatened.

    Look at how hard the MPAA fought against VCRs. The movie industry isn't anti-technology, they're about as high-tech as you can get, innovating constantly throughout this entire century. They just had a good profit scheme going and they'd rather try to keep the status quo they've been winning at than work to sieze the new opportunities present.

  • by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <gundbear@@@pacbell...net> on Thursday September 28, 2000 @07:06AM (#747546) Homepage
    It really depends on how you define a Luddite. If a Luddite is a person who values his life, his culture, his identity over that of pop-mash-culture, over technology and gadgets and constraints, over someone else's fairy tales, then a cyber-column on the internet in a public forum is one of the better places to do this sort of discussion.

    If you define a Luddite as a technology fearing/hating/avoiding individual, against change, against growth, against 'progress', then yes, you're quite funny.

    The nick is a joke! Really!
  • by Bassthang ( 78064 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @07:09AM (#747552) Homepage
    Most interesting. Firstly, a point of fact. Sherwood Forest is in Nottinghamshire, not near.

    I don't think is fair (as some posters suggest) that the original Luddites were entirely selfish. The move from an agrarian to an industrial economy caused an immense amount of social upheaval. Cities like Nottingham experienced huge population increases, but often without a corresponding increase in their boundaries or facilities, leading to terrible housing, poor health, food shortages, etc. In this sense the Luddites were justified in their actions. However, over time, industry has on balance improved things!

    It is interesting to compare these changes to those occuring in England over the last 20 years, as we have moved from an industrial to a service economy. Whole industries (e.g. mining, textiles) have been wiped out in Nottinghamshire, with consequential poverty. Try talking to some of those people about the information revolution ...

  • JohnKatz is drawing a very thin correlation in this piece. He is trying to draw a direct parrallel between Luddites and modern political and business plutocrats, and then smash that connection under the modern warchant of "hypocrisy" on the part of the "new Luddites."

    The problem JohnKatz with discrediting the analogy is that it is JohnKatz's analogy. It's no mean feat to claim a ridiculous fact and then disprove it.

    The modern foes of Freedom in politics are just that, foes of Freedom, not technology. They have embraced technology that is changing the world, they encourage it and propogate it as much as possible. The problem, of course, is that they want to be in control.

    Try to focus on real arguments instead of semantic tricks portraying your enemies as dishonest and hypocritical.

  • by BBB ( 90611 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @07:13AM (#747561)
    The big mills and factories of the Industrial Revolution meant an end to social customs and community, to personal status and individual freedom.

    Sure, that's why the Industrial Revolution led to the repeal of the anti-poor Corn Laws, the inclusion of non-landowners in the House of Lords, and the first time in history people could have some freedom over where they lived. What if the "social customs" entail burning the houses of Catholics or Jews? Before the IR, you couldn't move away -- you grin and bear it. And the idea that the IR killed individual freedom is ridiculous. The House of Commons gained its first real powers during the IR. Coincidence?

    It's chic to bash the IR. But without it, >50% of jobs today would be agricultural (compared to around 2% now). On the other hand, Katz does seem to have a talent for laying down fertilizer, so perhaps that explains his enthusiasm.

    Having worked independently on their own farms, they grasped that they would be forced to use complex, dangerous machines in noisy, smelly factories, enduring long hours for slave wages, and that the trade was not in their favor.

    Oh PLEASE. "Their own farms", no doubt, were wondrously safe, quiet, fragrant places to work. If Katz seriously believes this then I don't think he has a clue what farming entails. And as for "the trade not being in their favor," yeah, it was undoubtedly much easier to deal with a landlord who took half your harvest but shouldered little of the risk -- and who dictated to you to whom and for how much you could sell your crops.

    The fact of the matter is that the IR enormously improved the lives of almost everyone in Britain (and everywhere else it was adopted), and the Luddites were a middle class interest group who supported laws that kept the price of food and wool high (thus enriching themselves at the expense of people who had to buy those necessities). They also objected to the idea that one could become wealthy without owning land. They were not "heroes" in any sense of the word, unless one is a columnist who has built his reputation on bashing free enterprise, and who is willing to pay any price in bad arguments and inept rhetorical flourishes ("slave wages" is a contradiction) to further that end.


  • by 11223 ( 201561 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @07:15AM (#747565)
    I vowed not to respond... but I have to. You haven't read Kurzwiel's Age of Spiritual Machines yet, have you? You really ought to.

    Kurzwiel uses an excellent quote from a well-known manifesto to illustrate his main point: that technology enthusiasts (like us) are Luddites as well. Being a Luddite is not about fearing technology - it's fearing the application of technology. I, then, am a Luddite, along with Bill Joy.

    These other people are, as you said, opportunists, and those who fear any organization of people. They fear communication among people. They don't fear the application of technology.

    Indeed, the Luddites are returning, but in the guise of you and me - those who love technology but fear what people will do with it. I, for one, hate most of the 'net. It's a stinking pile of capatalist dung. Does that make me a Luddite? Yes. Do the people you named like the 'net as a stkinking pile of capatalist dung? Yes. They hate the aspects of the 'net that I like. They hate communication. That's not being a Luddite - just a power-hungry politician.

    Jon, do yourself a favor, and pick up a copy of Kurzwiel's Age of Spiritual Machines. You won't regret it. Maybe you might even change your message to be a bit more positive.

  • Excellent post. (imho) If only Katz were as clear and brief, there might be some more intelligent discussion on this worthwhile topic. I agree that there are serious pitfalls in the development of all of the technologies in your bulleted list. /. posters are (usually?) much more technologically literate wrt net technology issues and fail to see (better: are less vulnerable too) some of the drawbacks percieved by the greater public.
  • "...Exploiting the idea that technology as a menace to children is a lot easier and cheaper than confronting more complex social problems like child abuse or guns."

    Ah, guns are not a social problems. They are a technology, like the computers you use daily.

    Abusing a child, or an adult for that matter, is not good. A gun, knife, etc. is niether good or bad.... it all depends on how it's used.

    The group of outwardly violent people who feel the need to kill, for pleasure or business, are a social problem.

    Begin Personal Rant

    Additionally guns, like computers, were origianlly designed to do work, and are now [constructively] used for work and play.
    Are there folks using 'guns' for bad? -yes. Are there folks using computers for bad? -yes... Does that mean that they should be taken away from private law-abiding citizens? -no

    And for all of those times when someone makes a stab at ESR, consider this:

    you know when you hear about the 'supercomputer export restrictions' to black-labeled countries? --what does the average slashdotter think "...jeez all you need to do is buy a bunch of Intel hardware and set up a B'wolf cluster just like the 20 US universities who show you their projects online... they can build their own 'supercomputer'..."

    Point is, if someone wants to get around it [partial disarmament], they will. New York City and Washington, DC have outlawed firearms/handguns for over a decade (15 years??) and GEE GUESS WHAT the bad guys still have them.

    if you outlaw guns, only the outlaws will have them.

  • Y'know, that's kind of neat. Why? Because I agree with both Al Gore and the Unabomber. Few have actually read the Unabomber's manifesto. While I don't condone violence, I'd say he certainly had some good ideas. It's too bad that Al Gore isn't the same person now.... every politician is a conservative, because money corrupts every politican!
  • I find it ironic that the original Luddite movement pitted the common man against an Industrial Revolution headed by rich upper class men, whereas the modern Luddites are fighting the common man in a Technological Revolution. Power to the people?
  • They were afraid of change alright -- a change from a fairly comfortable middle-class lifestyle, to that of working class.

    Throughout history, revolutions tend to be brought on as the middle-class grows and starts to thirst for power. This makes sense, in that the lower-class is to beaten down to see the light and the upper class has enough control that no significant portion ever raises its head to see what else is in the world. But once the pressure is lifted a little they can see that there is an end to the tunnel.

    The Luddites were led by fairly well-off leaders that feared for their position in the world. In that they are no different that todays Luddites.

    Personally, I don't think it's such a bad thing. A lit resistance tends to focus the technophiles eyes on the social implications of what they're doing.

  • Whoa.... that made me think (how dangerous!)... wasn't The Matrix about modern-day Ludditism? And don't we all love the Matrix?
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @07:26AM (#747582) Homepage Journal
    About 7% of the population at any given time believes in UFO abductions and Elvis is still alive.

    54% of people polled recently by US News and World Report and MSNBC belive in the actual real existance of angels, ghosts & demons. That is, they are really here and excert a real influence on people.

    The most banned books from US schools over the whole of the 1990's to present are the Harry Potter series because it is believed they promote Satanism, Devil Worship and general un Christian unacceptable thinking.

    Today it was reported on national US news that one of the outcomes being seriously considered by the US Congress in response to the reports that movie companies market to children is that there should be only 2 movie ratings: G and NC-17. That is, there are either cartoon movies with talking animals or everything else that is absolutely forbidden to children even if their parents are present.

    In a recent poll by CNN, ~27% of those polled would accept a fascist dictatorship if it meant that crime would be reduced and/or undesireable people (undefined) were removed from the United States.

    In a recent poll by USAToday 45% of those polled would support the elimination of the separation of church and state as long as the church was Protestant/Fundamentalist.

    In a recent poll by the NY Times 59% of those polled support religious education in public schools.

    So it's not really a matter of technology or Luddism. It's a matter of slowly but surely sliding towards a dark dark ignorant world.
  • I agree very much with your comments. Most people don't get what the luddite movement was all about. The folks protesting the WTO meetings held all over the world are much closer in spirit and tactics to the followers of Ned Ludd than most who profess luddism today.

    I also don't think that John Katz quite grokked the luddite movement. Very few luddites were farmers. Luddites were mostly skilled tradeworkers. Nor did they break into all factories to randomly smash machines. They broke into factories which had dangerous working conditions, unfair wages, and turned out a shoddy product. (British textiles went from being acclaimed throughout Europe to being the last pick of those who couldn't afford anything better as a result of many of the textile factories that put the hand laboring luddites out of work. Its hard enough to get by making hand made goods with a factory making the same goods next door at less than 1/4 the price, but when the market starts thinking that all the goods made in your area suck canal water, it gets almost impossible.)

    Another thing that Katz misses is that while the luddite rebellion was bloody, the violence was almost entirely on the part of the establishment. The luddites broke machines. Capitalists and Sheriffs shot luddites. IIRC, there was only one case of a luddite shooting back during the entire course of the luddite rebelllion.

    And anyone who thinks that the luddites should have just gotten a grip and taken up new trades has no clue to what working in a factory during the industrial revolution was like. Pay was subsistance level or less for inordinately long shifts. Sometimes entire families, including children, had to work just to buy enough food to get buy. The rebellion was not about people being upset about losing their jobs, it was about people being upset about being trampled on by factory owners seeking to maximize profits at the expense of the workers.

    And no, contrary to what some posters have alleged, the luddites were not communists. They just wanted fair wages for a fair day's work.

    On the other hand, we have the neo-luddites of today that aren't looking for a way to get by, but looking for a way to prevent others from getting by. Most (but probably not all) neo-luddites want to censor instead of propagate. They want the large IP corporations to be in charge of the rules governing music and software. They want to return to the good old days where a few large corporations have control over the means of the production of information.

    Look at the past.

    Before the industrial revolution most goods were made in cottage industries by skilled tradeworkers. Enter the industrial revolution, one person with capital can now control a large segment of the industry.

    Look at the present.

    Before the information revolution most IP was produced and controlled by a few large corporations with large amounts of capital. Enter the information revolution, content transforms into a cottage industry where skilled workers can have the same potential benefits as the media moguls.

    The free software movement and groups like the EFF (and even 2600) have more in common with the luddite movement than the neo (or modern day) luddites that Katz describes.

    have a day,


    have a day,


  • ... the originals were genuine heroes. They were fighting for a way of life, not for moral control or cultural power.

    This is a pretty false dichotomy, Jon. As if one's 'way of life' is or could be or should be distinct from one's moral and cultural vision of a good society.

    Those utilitarian miracles which science has made are anti-democratic, not so much in their perversion, or even in their practical result, as in their primary shape and purpose. The Frame-Breaking Rioters were right; not perhaps in thinking that machines would make fewer men workmen; but certainly in thinking that machines would make fewer men masters. More wheels do mean fewer handles; fewer handles do mean fewer hands.-- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World [ccel.org]

    Note that, according to Kirkpatric Sale, the Midlands artisans were not averse to technological innovation -- they had adopted many themselves. Where they objected was when the new technologies (backed up by goverment force) cleared the way for sweatshop factories and massive industrial pollution. In other words, the Luddites were rebelling against The Corporation, not Technology. And they were right -- the new machines did make "fewer masters." Ned Ludd had the right idea.

  • Workers were being offered heavy, regulated, industrial work in exchange to a farming lifestyle. But to characterise the exchange as uniformly bad is probably unfair.

    Factory owners and forement were allowed to beat the assembly line workers for virtually any reason they wanted to. Pay was subsistence level or less. Neither hours nor age was regulated (until after the luddite rebellion).

    Honestly, Katz did a disservice in implying that luddites were agrarian. Most luddites were skilled tradeworkers put out of work by factories that could make the same types of goods at a far lower cost.

    The other falacy is that most (but not all) people will think of modern assembly line jobs when they think of factory work. Factory work in the 1800's was mostly unregulated. Workers were often chained into the factories. There were no health standards, little or no air circulation. Often there was no heat in the winter. Breaks were seldom. Beatings for not meeting a quota were common.

    Now, sure farm life can be difficult, especially in times of famine. But this is apples and oranges. The luddites weren't farmers that went to the city to find regular work. They skilled tradeworkers that had been apprenticed in a skilled trade and suddenly put out of work.

    I think most /. readers would start breaking machines if they lost their well paying IT job and the only alternative to put food on the table was working in a dark, dirty factory for fifteen or sixteen hours at a stretch while the line supervisor often beat you for not working fast enough.

    have a day,


    have a day,


  • "You have to remeber that most people on the street do not have access to 'news' information that doesn't originate from one of the main corporate 'news' outlets. "

    Perhaps they don't have easy access, but a library would provide Net access. Or a bookstore would provide other points of view. Or training in how to detect specious arguments could help them tell when mainstream news is misleading them.

    It may not be as easy, but it is certainly possible. The alternative is to have their thinking led by others, not a healthy situation.

  • moral relativism is the mode of thought that whatever anyone wants to do is fine becuase it's what they beleieve is right.

    As opposed to "What I believe is right and what you believe is wrong, so shut up and do as I say"?

    I'd be interested to know on which basis you are going to pick one morality over another one. And no, "because God told us so" doesn't cut it.

    This is going to cause the ultimate downfall of our society

    I think one of the clay tablets from the ancient Assyria complained that the morality is lacking, the young do not respect their elders, and the world is going to collapse soon.

    There HAS to be standards of conduct.

    There are. They are called "laws". Perhaps you've heard of the concept.

    And before you are going to argue that laws should determine individual morality, stop and think about it for a bit.

    Yet in our REAL lives there are NO standards of behavior? That's ludicrious.

    Riiight. So let's gather all these long-haired freaks, all those disrespectful of authority, all those smarty-pants rocket scientists, and put them in a concentration camp somewhere until they learn to respect the standard of behavior.

    Or is it standards of belief? Morality mostly has to do with what one believes in, not necessarily with what one does. So why don't we make moral relativism illegal and jail those dissidents? It's all for the good of the society, remember? Just trying to prevent the collapse of the civilization...
  • You're also making the assumption here that the carnivore box is some how progressive or positive, which is clearly not the case.

    You are making the assumption that mechanized looms were somehow progressive or positive, which was clearly not the case. People lost their livelihoods and even their lives from the mass-displacement in the workforce perpetuated by mechanization. Remember, this was long before minimum wages, social welfare, and broad unionization, and every fewer person working the looms was one fewer person living to see tomorrow.

    On slashdot of all places, I'd expect to find a more receptive audience for decrying the demise of the individual in pace with the rise of the godless corporate state.
  • Exploiting the idea that technology as a menace to children is a lot easier and cheaper than confronting more complex social problems like child abuse or guns.

    Ummmmm..... Pardon me but aren't guns technology too? It seems the author wants to shift the Luddite hysteria from the sacred internet, which he presumably likes, to the EVIL WICKED guns, which he presumably does not like.

    I watch the Elephant and Jackass parties going round and round with this shit and it never ceases to horrify me:

    Elephants: We need the gummint to censor Quake and violent internet sites so our kiddies won't go on killing sprees

    Jackasses: We need the gummint to take people's guns away so our kiddies won't go on killing sprees.

    As a gun and gaming nut they both drive me nuts.


  • I'm in the awkward position of agreeing with your point that technical professionals often do things without thinking, while believing your specific example to be crap. The number of hours of labor required to produce, say, a pair of socks has declined dramatically over the last few hundred years. Do you really think that people worked shorter hours and had a higher standard of living two hundred years ago? No, they had two pairs of socks instead of the 12 that I have, and they worked 12-16 hour days 6 days a week, instead of 40 hours like I do. A pair of socks is what, US$1? For a professional, 2 minutes of work, for someone earning minimum wage, 12 minutes. A person in pre-industrial times would have to shear the sheep, card the wool, spin the yarn, and knit it into a sock. Just carding the wool for one sock takes more than 15 minutes! Now, cotton is harvested by machines, carded by machines (remember the cotton 'gin?), spun by machines, and the sock is made by machine. Result: you get a sock for a tenth the labor it would otherwise have taken. Now, we like having luxuries such as multiple pairs of socks, so we buy a ten times as many socks, cancelling out the labor savings. Fine, if that's your choice. But don't complain that you haven't gotten anything. If you wanted, you could get by on a couple of pairs of socks and work only a few hours a week as a freelancer. Sure, the people who used to make socks by hand lose their jobs, but they also get the benefit of cheap socks.

    My great-grandfather was a cooper. I'm only in my early twenties, so this was not that long ago, perhaps in 1900 or so. He made barrels for a living, back when people put flour and things like that in barrels. Guess what, there are more efficient ways of storing things than putting them in hand-made barrels with hand-bent slats and hand-hammered hoops. So eventually manufacturers started putting things in plastic drums and cardboard boxes, which reduced the cost of the items. My great-grandfather no longer had enough business to keep on making barrels, so he became a farmer. And I believe lost a bundle speculating on the price of wheat during WWII, but that's another story.

    As for a more contemporary example of misapplied technology, one need look no further than the US Interstate Highway System. It was designed by civil engineers who made decisions based solely on the most rigid engineering principles: Build the least expensive highway through a given area. If that meant hacking a black neighborhood in two because it was the cheapest right of way, so be it. If it meant building a highway right on the flat area next to a river, separating the residents of a city from its natural beauty, fine. And if it meant building 70 feet away from homes, shaking them apart and driving their occupants crazy with the noise and vibration, that was fine too if it was the cheapest way to build the highway. The engineers didn't stop for one second to think beyond the blueprints to the effects on the community. They thought that good highways would *stop* the flow of people out of the cities, for pete's sake! Just goes to show that "can" is not at all the same as "should".


    P.S. For a great, very readable book on the building of the Interstate Highways, see _Divided Highways_, by Tom Lewis. BestBookBuys.com has a great price search here [bestbookbuys.com]. This book is a must for any technical person who wants to consider their impact on the world around them.

  • I know how many ways technology and the dependence of society upon it can fail us

    Do you know in how many way the absence of technology can fail us? What about the famines? the plagues? manual back-breaking work?

    Compare life expectancy in the US and in, say, New Guinea. Does technology has anything to do with this rather striking difference?

    I don't have a cellular phone, I don't have a color television.

    Color? But you have a black-and-white TV? So a color TV will control you, but a B/W TV will not?

    When I consider adding some new technology to my life I try to evaluate the impact. Will I become dependent on it? Will I control it? Or will it control me?

    A man stands looking at a hammer in his hand. "Will I be able to control it? Or will it control me? Aaah, better not take the chance...".

    I don't think you trust yourself.

  • Now this is John Katz at his best - worried about people and pissed at folks stomping on them. This is what made me like the Hellmouth series, and why I was disappointed in some of his recent work.

    And, yes, there is a problem - people are blaming technology for every ill they can think of, instead of noticing that people use technology. A gun, a computer, a car, a knife - they're tools, but its people who put them to use.

    However, frankly, it does seem Americans (at least politicians) don't want to take responsibility for their actions, but instead seek to justify them and demonize people. The net is seen as "Power to the Perverts" technology, guns are the cause of all violence (as opposed to irresponsibility), and so on. Demonize a technology and some of its users and bingo - instant reason to put the smack down on the Constitution.

    Most people are just fine and responsible on their own, but we get the neo-Luddites and the Pat Robertsons and the rest of their ilk convincing them they need to find someone to blame. The average person, given a few days to think about an issue, will probably reach a rational, intelligent conclusion. Sadly, with all the alarmists, we rarely get time to think.

    I'm also glad to see Katz call attention to child-rearing processes. That almost always seems to be ignored in discussions of violence - after all, we must be raising our children right and its only those weirdos with their technology causing problems . . .

  • You are making the assumption that mechanized looms were somehow progressive or positive, which was clearly not the case. People lost their livelihoods and even their lives from the mass-displacement in the workforce perpetuated by mechanization. Remember, this was long before minimum wages, social welfare, and broad unionization, and every fewer person working the looms was one fewer person living to see tomorrow.

    Mechanized looms were great inventions. They made clothes far more affordable. They freed people from having to spend time making their own clothes so they could do something else (do you want to make your own clothes? How good would they come out? Or do you want to pay someone to make your clothes by hand? Any idea what that costs? Figure in 200 years of inflation, and you'll see that the price hasn't changed...). Complaining that Joquard looms put people out of business is like complaining that the automobile put the horse-drawn buggy makers out of business.

    If you don't like technology, move your sorry ass out to the middle of nowhere and try to live for month without it. No machine-made anything. No metal that you didn't personally extract from the ground and smelt. No food that you didn't grow. No dwelling that you didn't build yourself out of completely natural materials. I'd give you about 24 hours before you are back in your nice, comfortable house/apartment, under an electric blanket and sucking down Twinkies while watching TV. And, of course, logging on to the Internet to complain about how awful progress is.

    Trying to explain to someone as dense and spoiled as you that specialization of labor (and mechanization of labor which resulted in specialization) is a good thing would be a waste of breath.


  • I once took a tour of a facility run by my organization. It was an area that utilized some of my developement group's software. I remember feeling sorry for the fellow showing us around because I knew that any changes we introduced would probably make his job redundant.

    Brings to mind a Northern Pikes quote: "Scraping, scheming struggle hard to get myself ahead/with no respect for anyone but me."

    As for those who slam media for what's on it they have to realize that the media is NOT the message, it merely contains the message. The message that gets delivered depends on society.

    IMHO, as per


    IMHO, as per.
  • That wasn't a problem with mechanized looms, that was a problem with companies that built them without safety precautions, etc.

    Today I'm sure a descendant of that machine is chugging away making most of our clothing and probably killing very few of the users.

    The luddites fought against essentially forced servitude in the factories (the factory owners were proved to try to put people out of business and in debt so they'd have no choice but factory work...) where the loom was but one way to die.

    That forced servitude in a death-trap went away but the loom stayed.

    So I think the assumption that the loom is progressive is a safe one.

    I can't see how a carnivore box could benefit the majority of society, it'll be used to control the majority of society, bringing them in line with what their masters want. That sounds positively smashable to me.

    (Don't be suprised if many ISP workers accidentally drop coffee into the vents of these things many times...)
  • I am by nature a computer geek, I love computers and all the hours of fun they provide. I do not love them in K-12 classrooms though.

    More and more I have seen school boards chant that they have to stay modern, and a wired school with computers in every classroom is absolutely essential. I don't know about anyone else, but that is the sigle dumbest idea ever.

    Now don't get me wrong, having a pod of computers for student use is good, but they do not belong in the classroom. Simply because they do not educate students in anyway.

    Whatever they could teach a kid about computers is going to be outdated in 5 years anyhow. Even learning to type might be a waste of time in the next decade.

    Picture a parent asking their kid what they learned today. "Well today we were going to learn about division but my computer wasn't working so we learned how to scandisk, reboot, scan for viruses, reboot again, listen to Jermey get yelled at for unplugging Suzy's mouse, after the teacher spent 15min trying to figure out why it wasn't working."

    The 3R's my friend. Let's teach our kids something useful for a change.

  • But I think that many of the Luddites were, as commonly characterized, afraid of change.
    I too am afraid of change. I am afraid of change to a day when I can no longer read my book [slashdot.org] wherever and whenever and share it with whomever I choose. I am afraid of change to a day when I can no longer have a private email conversation [slashdot.org] without being branded a criminal. I am afraid of change to a day when I can no longer write software [slashdot.org] without hiring an attorney to keep from being sued. I am afraid of change to a day when I can no longer watch movies [slashdot.org] whenever it is convenient to me. I am afraid of change to a day when I can no longer criticize behavior [slashdot.org] that I believe is wrong in a public forum. I am afraid of change to a day when I can no longer control the flow of information [slashdot.org] about my own life. I am very much afraid of change.

    Hal Duston

  • Any time you get big changes, you get big resistance. As Machiavelli noted in The Prince, "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."

    I maintain that there are plenty of neo-Luddites out there, from the followers of Ralph Nader, to the labor unions who oppose the WTO, to the Clinton administration banning work on human cloning, to the evangelicals who would like to see all childhood instruction on morality and sex done within the family. These groups are reacting to change by attempting to drag things back to the way they were. It's not only natural, it's expected.

  • <rant>
    It's interesting how modern-day Luddites invoke morality as a shield to mask zealotry and ignorance.

    I'm tired of this. Why is it that the conservatives are accused of zealotry and so-called intolerance?

    The so-called liberals who embrace modern "tolerance" of ideas and beliefs are completely intolerant of ideas which differ from theirs.

    This is exemplified by the motion brought before the USHouse of Representatives to revoke the Federal charter of the Boy Scouts. They did this based on the idea that the Boy Scouts rejection of homosexual scout leader candidates was "intolerant."

    What is ludicrous is that the "liberals" are intolerant of the rights of the Boy Scouts to hold a view that differs from theirs!

    Boy Scouts don't hate homosexuals, they just don't want them as role models for their sons. Whether you agree or disagree with them, that is their constitutional right as a private organization. They don't take actions against them, they simply ask them not to be a part of their organization. From a purely denotative meaning, they tolerate people who are different - even teach giving respect to others - even others different from you. Tolerating someone's differences is not the same thing as agreeing with or promoting them!

    The so-called liberal tolerance is the real-life embodiment of Orwell's 1984 - where doublespeak has become so firmly enmeshed in our culture that in the process of stomping on the rights of a private organization, the "enlightened" demand that the members of that private organization think the same way they do.

    This is neither liberal, nor tolerant.

    WRT violence - There is no question that the problem of violence is a broad one, and that computer games are not solely responsible. The answer doesn't lie simply in banning games or in warning labels for parents.

    For that matter, it doesn't lie in changing TV, music and movies to remove violence. Finally it doesn't lie in removing the temptation and glorification of "extreme sports."

    Those things are simply the symptoms of a deeper problem - that problem of a lack of real, intimate relationship between parents and children.

    Building deeply intimate (emotionally, NOT sexually) relationships within families will resolve many of these issues.

  • by ( 217783 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @08:30AM (#747643)
    What Jon is talking about is the efforts of people to squash technology in order to maintain power. What he doesn't include is that the same people would use the very latest technology without binking an eye if it would help their situation. If they could, the MPAA would use 512-bit encryption on DVDs. That's no Luddite. From the dawn of humanity, people have been using technology to assert power over others. Guess what? The internet has brought in a whole bunch of new technologies in a short time. So we're seeing a frantic rush to embrace some technology, and stop others. Most people will use whatever technology they can to gain/keep power, and try to stop technology that gives power to others. Again, that's not Luddite behavior -- it doesn't stem from a pathological/philosophical problem with technology, it stems from fear and greed. You could possibly paint the slashdot crowd as Luddite if you only read articles about DoubleClick or RealNetworks. That's what Jon is doing. Ho-hum.

  • We're free to believe or express ideas such as the concept that we're too free. That's part of the beauty of the system.

    I'm free to be an agnostic. Nobody ever came after me for not vocalizing "under God" when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance; and, so far, to my knowledge nobody's ever came after me for anything I've wrote or said.

    On the other hand, the same holds for, say, devout Christian fundamentalists. They're free to say that Church and State should be one, and that our republic should be replaced by a theocracy if they wish. I'm fine with their right to believe that, and they can express that as much as they like.

    But what they CANNOT legally do, without sufficient numbers in order to get an amendment passed, is impose those ideas on the rest of the nation via the force of law. That's a key point. Fundies can control a local school board, but only with the consent of the governed. If they then wish to oppose elements of best-selling children's literature because it conflicts with their deeply held beliefs, then again, they can be voted out if the community decides they've gone too far. That's local control, and I'm not going to argue that a more permissive community should be able to force a less permissive community to open up any more than I'd argue the other way around, except in unusual, extreme cases such as if a cult community decided to teach something blatantly disproven such as the Ptolemaic theory of the solar system, or otherwise extremely unacceptable such as raising kids to form organized crime syndicates with an eye towards defrauding or extorting the rest of us. At that point, we start wandering into the areas of child welfare and criminal conspiracy, respectively...
  • Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 13:24:18 -0400 (EDT)
    From: William T Wilson
    To: [list - expurgated]
    Subject: (void) JonKatz

    Today, JonKatz wrote an article without any major hysterics or factual errors.

    I don't know what to say.

    Says it all, really. Since when is Katz this cogent?

  • "slowly but surely sliding towards a dark dark ignorant world"?

    You had me till that line. It has *always* been a dark ignorant world. Want proof? Salem Witch Trials. Many events of World War 2. The current attitude in Africa regarding AIDS. Want a whole book of examples? Charles Mackay wrote an excellent book on the subject called "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds."
  • The modern market-driven, global corporation is the most advanced technology our civilization (or any) has created for bringing together vast resources (physical, human, intellectual, etc.), creating from that mix value-added products, and selling huge quantities of them to consumers around the globe.

    Katz hates this technology, calling it "corporatist". Katz is therefore, by his own definition, a neo-Luddite.

  • I too often fear that TV will control me. Afterall, it does send out those mind rays...oh, wait. That was just in one of those really awful Batman movies.

    Give me a break, Mr. Luddite. If you honestly believe that owning some inanimate objects is going to cause them to control you, then you must not have any faith at all in yourself. I simply don't understand how you, or anyone else for that matter, can say that technology is going to cause you to lose control of your life. Technology is a tool. It does what you tell it to. It does not tell you what to do. In fact, it is quite incapable of telling you what to do. As it is, technology can be quite enpowering. If wedid not have technology, we would have virtually no control over our lives. We would have to spend every single day just focussing on survival, with the possibility of dying at any moment because of circumstances beyond our control (Admittedly, that is still possible today. However, the chance of it happening is far less since there is so much more that is under our control thanks to technology.).

    People who have cellphones and pagers use them because they want to. Nobody is putting guns to their heads telling them to use their cellphones. Nothing is preventing them from turning them off. But they would rather be in touch with people so they keep them on. That is, presumably, the whole reason they bought them in the first place. Now, if you have no need to keep in touch with people and you don't want to buy a cellphone, that's fine. Don't. But telling yourself that cellphones are controlling people isn't going to make it so.

  • The factory owners didn't try to put anyone out of business, except in the same way that businesses are put out today, by being out competeted. If you can make a loom which reduces the cost of making cloth by 95%, then the demand for handmade cloth will go down. No-one was forced to take a job in the mills, in fact many people moved into the areas where the mills are just so they could get a job in one. Yes it was hard work, but it was a better life than working on a farm. It was dangerous, but that was the acceptable standard at the time. Many other jobs, eg mines, were equally dangerous. I have no doubt that in the future, life in the late 20C/Early 21C will be considered dangerous - "You mean you didn't have daily cancer screenings!".
  • Are you suggesting that technology hasn't also been a "handmaiden of mass murder"?

    Whenever it is pointed out that certain atheistic (some proportedly "scientific") regimes of the 20th century have slaughtered more people, by orders of magnitude, than all the religious zealotry of the world's history, it is quickly pointed out that those numbers were a product of technology, not of philosophy. ("You witch-burners would have taken Spain and Turkey right off the map if you had the right weapons!")

    And I would hardly consider any of the humanities ("philosophy, literature, political science, history") as irrelevancies. Science and technology can address some problems, but humans are not merely creatures of knowledge; we are also creatures of heart, of emotion and of purpose, and science cannot begin to tell us, personally, who we are.

    And as for exorcism, well... that's another debate for another day.

    In short: (-1, Flamebait)

  • Politicians understand the role of government.

    If that is true, their actions certainly don't show it. It is not the role of government to:
    - create a gigantic mandatory Ponzi scheme under the guise of a retirement plan
    - dispense billions of dollars in corporate welfare
    - use police-state tactics to imprison millions whose only crime was to ingest a substance they disapprove of
    - censor the Internet "for the children"

    And what people like Lieberman or most other moral-right politicians do is use their newfound Celebrity status to voice their opinions. That's all well and good, really. When you see legislation mandating that companies or citizens do something unconstitutional successfully working it's way through the legislative process, maybe you have the right to complain.

    Lieberman and Gore have specifically said that if they're elected and Hollywood doesn't clean up its act in six months, they will try to get legislation passed to force them to. I think it's entirely reasonable to protest threats of censorship.

    On the other hand, Gore and Lieberman subsequently attended tons of Hollywood fund raisers and curiously failed to bring the topic up, so it's possible they were just pandering to soccer moms for votes. So they are either liars, censors or both.

    every other person you disagree with has that some right to freedom of Speech, and there is not reason that holding a government salary should prevent them from saying what they belive.

    Absolutely. I have no problem with Lieberman saying he doesn't like what Hollywood produces. I have a huge problem with him threatening to imprison people if they produce things he doesn't like.

  • Well, there is a problem here. Do you think that the proper level of technology is to be decided by the society (==government) or by individuals? If by individuals, I have no problem. You don't like technology, I do.
    I never said I don't like technology. I said that I should not be forced to use it. (By government or society or corporate america) See another comment to see some examplesHal Duston [slashdot.org]
  • I think what Jon was trying to say (and all those big, scary, impressive words got in the way) is that the original Luddites were fighting for what they preceived as a direct threat to their way of life. Not just who they hung out with and banal stuff like that, but the fact that they were hardworking people who enjoyed some amount of freedom. They were fighting to retain that, and not get roped into a new-fangled noisy, dangerous slave operation making Persian rugs.

    Today, however, the "Luddites" are merely (I say "merely" in comparision to fighting for what you preceive to be your freedom) fighting for things that do not necessarily threaten anyone's way of life, but do affect the fabric of society. Is the Internet going to enslave us all and make us fall into a global slave trade? No. But it does give kids access to porn, and bored individuals access to exciting things like how to make a really big bomb.

    To understand what Jon's saying, just take the gist of what he's saying and mod it down -2 Overblown. :)

  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @09:39AM (#747681)
    The term "Luddite" gets thrown around whenever someone isn't all gung-ho about the latest technology. That's a warping of the term. The key is that progress for the sake of progress isn't always a good thing. For example, a lot of people like to play the upgrade game. They buy new CPUs, they buy new video cards, they recompile new kernels, they upgrade their applications and utilities whenever a new X.0Y verion is released.

    For the most part, I don't get involved in this sort of thing. I keep puttering away, working on projects and code. There are excellent computer science books that could keep you busy for decades, yet they're not based around DirectX 8 or the capabilities of the GeForce 2. By general web-oriented terminology, I'm a Luddite, because I'm not obsessed with the latest and greatest. Perhaps a new term is needed here, something that means "is not interested in constant faux-improvements driven by people who have made a hobby of buying the fanciest consumer tech."
  • the law is not the ultimate source of morality. It cant be. And relying on it as such is flawed for many reasons.

    You're moral argument goes like this
    Everything that is law is moral,
    my action is within the law,
    therefore, my action is moral.

    first off, the law is changing constantly, and things that used to be in the law are not any longer because we found them to be immoral. Things such as slavery, Jim Crowes laws, women's rights. This shows that the law has not always been the ultimate source of morality, because it has been 1) wrong, and 2) changing.

    You see, ultimate morality can never change, nor could it ever be wrong. Its contrary to the nature of being "ultimate".

    Law is supposed to be based on the moral principle of Justice. HOwever, oftentimes the law is NOT JUST. For a discussion that is far better than anything i could write, go read Socrate's Euthyphro. Anybody got a link?


  • you're confusing moral relativism with social rule sets...and misapprehending moral relativism while you're at it.

    moral relativism makes no statements about what is "right" or what is "wrong" it merely speaks about what is "right for me" and "wrong for me". To a mass murderer, killing people is "right for me" even though for the rest of the world may think it is "wrong for me". what you're talking about is the determination that mass murder is "wrong for me...and everyone else, too" (ie. the objective term "right") which is a wildly different ball of wax.

    what you are REALLY talking about are societal rule sets...those sets of customs, rules, and laws that we swear to live by in exchange for the ability to both live alongside and interact with other people. while relative morality makes subjective statements about what is "right for me" or "wrong for me" (there is no such thing as objective morality, humans are all too different), societal rule sets just outline a set of specific punishments that relate to specific activities (ie. stealing a car = 1year in prison, etc.). Societal rule sets make _absolutely no_ moral judgments (subjective or otherwise), they are merely punitive guidelines.

    even should everyone accept relative morality as "right" (which would kinda defeat the purpose, no?) societal rule sets would still maintain as the barometer for what a society *as a whole* considers allowed behavior for someone who wishes to remain a member of that society.

    in short, moral relativism is _not_ going to be the downfall of society...what very well may be the downfall of society is the endless horde of mindless idiots who think moral == legal and vice versa.

  • In the case of the Luddites, clever engineers figured out how to make an electric loom.
    Electric loom? You're dreaming. The looms of that era were powered by steam or even water. There wouldn't be widespread electric power for the better part of a century.
    Introducing technology that is more efficient and makes you money and more secure is a good thing-- but if the cost is destroying the livelyhood of large parts of your society, it's time to figure out a plan for them to succeed as well.
    The best way for the others to succeed is for them to upgrade their skills and become part of the new, more productive system. For instance, with today's labor shortage someone might invent a semi-automated fast-food restaurant. Imagine machines which load magazines of frozen patties and bins of potato fingers, and crank out fries and half-made sandwiches to meet the orders put into the system. The amount of labor required to run the shop goes down by maybe half. Is this bad? You tell me; the person maintaining the machines is going to make a lot of money due to the skills involved, and can afford a bunch more free time. Meanwhile the price of fast food might drop a bit instead of inflating due to labor costs and shortages.

    The losers will be people who can't or won't learn new skills to keep up with the new tasks that are part of the changing nature of work. I put part of the blame for this at the feet of "educators" who think that schools ought to be easy, silly and fun instead of rigorous, challenging and fun. Teachers ought to be drawn from the best people in their specialities, and paid enough to keep them from defecting to industry. Instead we have something like an 800 average SAT score among ed-school entrants. People like that don't have what it takes to challenge kids; many of them are barely literate themselves. There's a lot more that's wrong with the system today, but that's a big part of it.
    Build a man a fire, and he's warm for a day.

  • the people protesting the WTO, World Bank, and IMF (and the Republican and Democrat Conventions) are spoiled, self-important, ignorant facsists.

    I think you don't know what you are speaking of. Try reading the literature of some of the opponents of the WTO. One such paper is here. [ratical.org]

    Some excerpts:

    The removal of import controls and tariffs on the entry of cheap agricultural products has undermined indigenous subsistence agriculture and led to the bankruptcy of small-scale indigenous farmers. This is pushing them to abandon their organic and low-impact agricultural practices and shift to high-chemical input, commercial cash-crop production. To add insult to injury, those who were pushed to shift to the production of so-called `high-value, globally competitive' crops, could not even rely on any support and protection anymore since these are considered trade barriers.
    The destruction of the traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples because of the appropriation of their lands and resources, has resulted not only in the degradation of the environment but also in ill health, and high levels of stress manifested in alcoholism and suicides. This is a conclusion reached in the "International Consultation of the World Health Organization with Indigenous Peoples"
    The liberalization of investment laws, like the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, has allowed for the entry of foreign mining corporations. They are allowed to lease lands for 75 years, are given the right to evict peoples from these mineral lands, and have full rights to the water. They can also repatriate 100% of the profits. Indigenous peoples who were not successful in resisting the entry of these mines, now find themselves displaced and the use of open-pit mining methods is destroying their lands and polluting the seas and rivers.

    Here is another article. [rwor.org]

    Some excerpts:

    While total world trade expanded rapidly in the past two decades, the 48 poorest countries--where 10 percent of the world's population live--saw their share of world exports decline by almost half. The U.S. and the Western Europe countries have roughly the same total population as the 48 poorest countries--but account for almost half of the world's exports. More than 80 countries in the Third World are worse off today economically than they were a decade ago. Global food production increased almost 25 percent between 1990 and 1997--yet 800 million people around the world are malnourished.
    "Free trade" and globalization are also leading to further impoverishment and ruin of peasant farmers around the world. Small farmers in countries like Mexico, India and the Philippines cannot compete with cheaper agricultural imports from countries like the U.S. This is contributing to massive social dislocation in the countryside of the Third World and accelerating concentration of land ownership--while traditional agriculture and basic food production are being destroyed. When the NAFTA Treaty went into effect in 1994, there were estimates that millions of Mexican peasants were going to lose their land over the next decade.

    Aside from the reality of the severe effects of the WTO on the world, I really have to wonder how when people protest and are met by tear gas and billy clubs how the people doing the protesting are the 'fascists.'

    have a day,


    have a day,


  • Isn't it amazing how a concept like 'the noble savage' lives on although any historian or anthropologist you ask about it will tell you the concept has been discredited for years?

    Those who think everything would be better if we still used horses instead of cars need to read the history of Typhoid epidemics. Renfairs need to be sprayed down with a layer of shit to get that real 15th century feel. And those opposed to automated looms need to dress in sackcloth and go barefooted for a year.

    We live in an age of miracles, but human foibles are still the same. People need to blame their problems on themselves not inanimate objects.

  • Many of the factory owners of the days performed what would be called 'anti-competetive' practices today. They weren't content to simply let market forces win. Everyone they shut down was less competition and also more potential workers.

    But yeah, I bet people jumped up and down for an honest chance to be chained to some big death-dealing machine for slave wages.
  • Today, very few people work 12 hour days.

    Glad you brought that historical point up. It's nice to see someone else who has some grasp that there is something called "history" and that in certain ways, things were different back then.

    So a little while back I reread the Communist Manifesto, including the various prefaces I never read before, and when after Marx's death Engels wrote the preface to the 1890 English edition, he wrote...now wait, do you have a job, work for a living? or do you live, effort-free, upon the dividends of your or your parents's and grandparents's capital investments? If the latter, hang up now, I'm not talking to you, parasite; if the former, then this, brother, is what Marxism has done, historically, for you:

    "...But that the eternal union of the proletarians of all countries created by it is still alive and lives stronger than ever, there is no better witness than this day. Because today, as I write these lines, the European and American proletariat is reviewing its fighting forces, mobilized for the first time, mobilized as _one_ army, under _one_ flag, for _one_ immediate aim: the standard eight-hour working day to be established by legal enactment, as proclaimed by the Geneva Congress of the International in 1866, and again by the Paris Workers' Congress of 1889. And today's spectacle will open the eyes of the capitalists and landlords of all countries to the fact that today the proletarians of all countries are united indeed.

    "If only Marx were still by my side to see this with his own eyes!"

    So, in the names of decency and gratitude, won't you please say "thank you" to the shade of old Uncle Karl? For having untightened somewhat the clamps and shackles of your wage-slavery, so that they don't bind so severely, or chafe so harshly, that after your working day you have no strength left to think straight.

    Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

  • ...hunting. There are few male-bonding experiences like hunting. A group of guys in backpacks (not all of us get drunk and wait in deer stands) and rifles go out for days at a time and usually come back empty-handed, but it was the experience that was worth it...

    So how do you get out from wherever you live to wherever you hunt? I'm making the not-completely-implausible guess that you don't happen live in the deep woods of Montana or wherever. Why I surmise, you or your buddy drives a motor vehicle, right?

    Now, suppose I take at face value your pangyric to the perfect virtues of hunting - OK, I'll admit that a.) I myself eat meat and b.) hunting one's meat with a rifle is a thousand times more morally justifiable than buying it out of the grocery freezer in cellophane and supporting that nightmarish factory industry which delivers it there. That aside, but taking into account the irrefutable logic that no 4x4 to drive you fifty miles from your house to the woods equals no thrilling hunting/male bonding experience, do you from that conclude that the state should not ever under any circs lift a finger to remove repeat drunk drivers, blind persons, young children and the stark raving mad from behind the wheels of cars?

    Believe it or not there is a narrow pathway betwixt allowing the over-the-counter sales of Stinger anti-aircraft rockets and punishing possesion of a steak knife with decades in the federal slam. All I ask of the govt. is that all through the U.S.A. (where there are no internal customs stops) there should be a law regulating the sales of firearms so that felons can't buy them with impunity from so-called "private owners" at public gun shows.

    I know it's a hassle for you gun lovers. I know the very notion of universal national handgun registration (together with almost seven decades worth of various legislation, like that which outlaws free commerce in Tommy Guns, but which nonetheless, strangely, the Supreme Court has found to pass muster) ruthlessly violates that old long dead letter the Second Amendment. I know, like the license tag laws, it opens up the possibility of abuse (I'm thinking here of the curious fact that the FBI through their informer allegedly informed the Alabama Ku Klux Klan of Viola Liuzzo's [fbi.gov] tag number). But the ugly fact remains that your favorite hobby object, the gun, is responsible for thirty thousand deaths and a quarter million injuries a year in this country. And while I know guns are themselves inanimate and blameless, still I refuse to buy the argument that any so perilous a technology should, on moral/ethical/constitutional grounds, be immune to effective regulation.

    You allude to the ineffective gun laws in New York, etc. Have you ever visited a gun show in sunny Florida? I did once. No ID required, no background check, all the pistols and ammo you can carry, and they'll sell 'em to ya even if you still have on the stripy orange Raiford suit and the sawn handcuff-halves on your wrists. Now hop in the old car in Bradenton, I-275 to I-4 to I-95 and (if you've got enough methedrine) without stopping except at the Pump-n-Piss all the way to NYNY, where even including the costs of guns, gas and tire wear you can double your investment on their gun-controlled streets. Remember: no internal customs stops.

    Now I really really really don't want to take away your goodole deer-huntin 30-06, much less my old buddy Tim Kurtz's fancy muzzle-loader. But seriously, answer me this, friend: it is asking too much to have the law put the likes of Hank Earl Carr [tampabayonline.net] out of business?

    Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

  • The machine loom also caused the death by starvation of many artisan weavers, as they were no longer needed to do the work, and were neither trained nor wanted for other work. So Ned's distress was understandable, if misdirected.

    Technological dislocation without adequate humanitarian underpinnings can cause tradgedy, however with proper planning (or plain good luck) it can also provide opportunity. I wouldn't be taking my frustrations out on Carnivore boxes -- I'd be after my government (through proper legal means of course) :-).

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.