Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

The Age of Paine Revisited 409

Long ago -- so it feels -- in a galaxy far away, I wrote a story for Wired Magazine called "The Age of Paine" in which I prophesied a utopian outpouring of digital pamphleteering, individualism and democracy, all sparked by the liberating powers of the Net. Like other writers and editors at Wired then, I imagined a new kind of digital citizen, empowered by all the information the Net would bring him by the Net's distributed architecture. The digital citizen would be smart, civil and rational, outgrowing labels like "liberal" or "conservative", engaged in civics, technology, business and government; transcending dogma and cant. Maybe he or she will pop up, but probably not in my life.

I had no doubt that I was seeking the start of a transformative global revolution. The fervor and excitement I felt then are still fresh in my mind, though few of those fantasies have yet materialized and some, as the years pass, are seeming increasingly unlikely in my lifetime. And I'm still not sure I was wrong.

Many of the ideas in that essay were indirectly inspired by the hell-raiser of the American Revolution, a writer I've admired all my life. Thomas Paine, a media pioneer, one of the first people in the world to advance the notion of free information in an open society, of individual liberty flourishing amid the demise of institutions and monarchies. In my piece, I imagined Paine online, flaming and blasting away.

In the overheated Wired environment of the time -- some of the people running the magazine were true political radicals, a rare breed in popular media -- the prevailing idea was that the Net would sweep away hoary institutions like Congress, Big Media and Wall Street, changing more or less everything. Top-down, exclusive, closed and proprietary entities would tremble and collapse at the outpouring of ideas, intellectual property, education, democracy and ideas that the Net would provide. One magazine columnist even gushed that illiteracy among the young would vanish because kids all over the world would be so desperate to get online.

I was Wired's easternmost correspondent, based not in California but New York; as such, I got a first-hand look at just how the Net was traumatizing Eastern media. The spectre of all these weird kids hacking together this exciting new kind of many-to-many information culture really shook people up. The bland, filtered, from the top-down media, Wall Street, Congress -- they were all scared to death. They hated the Net then; they still do. (Though just this week, I noticed the stodgy New York Times op-ed page appending e-mail addresses to its regular columns; a landmark of sorts.) Yet as much as the Net has evolved, it's shocking to see how little traditional politics or the popular press has. Real interactivity, perhaps the most political idea ever in media, barely exists off-line.

In my essay, published in the April, l995 issue of the magazine, I wrote that the pamphleteering Paine, who had no children, did have a descendant

"where his values prosper and are validated millions of times a day: the Internet. There, his ideas about communications, media ethics, the universal connections between people, the free flow of honest opinion are all relevant again, visible every time one modem shakes hands with another. The Net offers what Paine and his revolutionary colleagues hoped for in their own new media - a vast, diverse, passionate, global means of transmitting ideas and opening minds. That was part of the political transformation envisioned when he wrote: 'We have it in our power to begin the world over again.' Through media, he believed, 'we see with other eyes; we hear with other ears; and think with other thoughts, than those we formerly used.'"

It isn't clear whether we -- you -- began the world over again. We do -- thanks to the Net -- see with other eyes and hear with other ears, and think new thoughts. Those are still prescient and timely words.

Paine's ideas about a free press, an outpouring of individual opinion and a ferocious sense of social justice seem especially alien to the corporatized, homogenized, blow-dried practioners of "objectivity" who have inherited the American press. The Net suggested a rebirth of Paine's fading values.

Did it deliver? For sure, the pamphleteering model was true. The explosion in weblogs, pages, mailing lists, groups, topics, threads, message boards and p2p systems has introduced nothing less than a new age of individual expression. The personal archives now on the Net are unprecedented in human history, from family bios to discussions of gardening, dogs, politics and sex. Sites like Napster, Deja and EBay -- even Amazon -- have revolutionized business and consumerism. Sexuality has been liberating online, and TV and other forms of entertainment are sure to become subordinate to the Web. Cultural movements like open source have spread far beyond software in terms of their impact on society. The Net has made anyone with a computer a world-wide communicator or entrepreneur, at least potentially. Individuals are freer than ever to talk about sex, engage in heresy, sound off, connect with others, and distribute their thoughts. People with unimaginably diverse interests can now find one another instantly. It's easier to be a gay teenager, a member of a militia, an ex-Marine, a rabbit lover, a scientific researcher. Thanks to computers, there are now a million Paines out there.

But some things have been lost, as well -- influence and commonality. This new individualistic medium is so personal it's become self-absorbed, almost narcissistic. Individuals are speaking out, but it isn't clear who, if anyone, is listening. And it isn't always democratic either. There are few common grounds, town squares or open spaces online. People frequently use blocking and filtering software and programs to stick with the like-minded, not explore the different or experience other points of view. Ideas fly all over the Web, but they often end up on the screens of people who already agree, otherwise they would have long ago unsubscribed. Teenagers and political fanatics have turned the Net's public forums -- on Slashdot, CNN, ABCNews and MSNBC -- into hostile electronic cesspools. To have actual conversations online, you're forced to join clubs where membership and speech boundaries are regulated, even to the point of specialized blocking programs that permit people to gauge levels of hostility or agreement. The digital citizen isn't always very free and open to new ideas. Some of those sites are great, but this doesn't exactly constitute an open and democratic environment, one of the great early dreams of the Net. Joining a rational discussion of a common issue has become virtually impossible on any Net forum that's not restricted by membership or other restrictive tools.

In practical ways, the Net has proved more revolutionary than most of us thought. In l995, few people imagined how ubiquitous e-mail would become, how much of a family communications tool, how natural a medium for teenagers and college students and for grandma and grandpa, how fundamental to research and text, how threatening to copyright and intellectual property traditions. I hardly expected within a few years that a U.S. President would be passing along URLs in a speech before Congress. The explosion in gaming and online entertainment was similarly unforeseen -- most people took the new medium too seriously for that. Almost nobody predicted how specialized online communications would become, how polished online retailing would get, or imagine the marketplace potential of an entity like eBay. We did lots of heavy breathing about the rise of the virtual community -- expectations that have not been met. The hostility bred by the Internet wildly exceeded anyone's expectations, and is nothing less than a tragedy for the idea of the digital citizen.

The Net is, if anything, bigger than people thought it would be now, a part of more people's work and personal lives. Also their creativity -- art and writing flourish online, even when they can't make it off. But its primary impact has been practical, not ideological. Instant messaging has probably had greater import for younger Americans than digital pamphleteering has.

The hacker universe has sobered up as well. Who would have thought, a decade back, that one company, Microsoft, would in fact achieve everyone's paranoid fantasy and conquer the global desktop? Or that that one of the primary champions of Linux would be IBM? In the post September 11 era, hackers are in for a rough time, and the environment of the Net may change again. In the name of national security, authorities will be more vigilant and visible online, with the authority to throw up roadblocks all over the Net. The consequences of cyber-terrorism would now be staggering, and the spectre of the Twin Towers will give government the upper hand politically in its long brawl with the free spirits online.

Nor did anyone quite expect the speed of the transition from capitalism to corporatism, an era in which global corporations acquire media, commerce and popular culture; control copyright and intellectual property; and become the primary funders and corrupters of the political system.

Despite the flowering of individual voices on the Net, we live in an arguably less democratic culture than we did a decade ago, even before Attorney General Ashcroft's sweeping actions.

So does this add up to grim news? I don't know yet, and may not know in my life. The rise of individualism online seems irreversible. If individuals can't reach mass audiences, they can't easily be shut down, either. It seems inconceivable that our society will ever return to a few-to-many model of information, when masses of people waited for a handful of information gatekeepers to parcel out information. But as for the contemporary armies of Paine's some hoped would emerge from the digital din, make themselves heard, even achieve influence -- I'm still waiting for them.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Age of Paine Revisited

Comments Filter:
  • l995? (Score:3, Troll)

    by umm qasr ( 72190 ) <{ude.ub} {ta} {htiel}> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:35AM (#2665302) Homepage
    In two places, There is l995, rather than 1995; an l rather than a 1. Did JonKatz just (poorly) OCR an old paper of his? tsk tsk tsk
    • If only Katz's little article were a rant about the middle ages. Then we could have references to the year 1337, cuz d00d, that would b l337!

      - StaticLimit
  • It's not worth the effort. We need a <Katz_Rant> template. Something about the obviousness of the theses. The nice bit of self promotion at the top of it. etc. etc.
  • Microsoft (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sulli ( 195030 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:38AM (#2665319) Journal
    Who would have thought, a decade back, that one company, Microsoft, would in fact achieve everyone's paranoid fantasy and conquer the global desktop?

    IIRC MS-DOS and Windows 3.x were the leading OS in 1991. What's changed?

    • OS/2 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wiredog ( 43288 )
      In 91 OS/2 was out. It was a 32 bit os with a GUI. Very technically sweet for it's day. It also cost about 5 times what Dos+Windows cost. IBM was held up as the shining example of a company that couldn't market space heaters in Alaska in January. Everyone (except IBM) knew that the pricing was killing OS2. People who used OS2 were as fanatical about it as the Mac users are. IBM could easily taken the desktop if it had lowered the price. It didn't. As Cringely pointed out [pbs.org] a month ago Microsoft has succeeded because its competitors have acted like idiots.
      • Re:OS/2 (Score:2, Funny)

        by onion2k ( 203094 )
        People who used OS2 were as fanatical about it as the Mac users are

        Why would a Mac user be fanatical about OS/2?

      • Re:OS/2 (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Kenja ( 541830 )
        Let us not forget the act of seeing a development kit as just another source of revenue. This, at the time when MS was giving away dev kits, all but guaranteed there would be little native OS/2 software.
  • Whoa. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gannoc ( 210256 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:38AM (#2665320)
    It's easier to be a gay teenager, a member of a militia, an ex-Marine, a rabbit lover, a scientific researcher.

    Katz is one busy dude!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:38AM (#2665324)
    • Um, What? (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by autopr0n ( 534291 )
      FreeRepublic is the exact thing Katz is bitching about, a community fenced off from any kind of ideological differences. Post something "pro liberal" and you'll get your IP banned.
  • by stealie72 ( 246899 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:38AM (#2665329)
    If anything, the net has given us the ability to find just about any information we want. While the main news/political sites are still status quo, people who want to go out there and raise hell are able to find dissadent information a whole lot easier than before the rise of the net. At least this is true in the US.

    I work for an advocacy oriented nonprofit, and I can tell you that the net has had a huge impact on the way we interact with government, and the way we interact with grassroots supporters (getting them to write their Representatives, etc). Give the US government a few years to catch up.

    I do not think, however, that the net is going to change the way governments work wholesale. They'll still be corrupt and powerful, and they'll still be trying to screw you and me.
  • by PinkStainlessTail ( 469560 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:41AM (#2665338) Homepage
    People frequently use blocking and filtering software and programs to stick with the like-minded, not explore the different or experience other points of view.

    Translation: "Goddamnit! Stop choosing to block my articles from your front page view!"

    (Something I haven't done obviously. He's just too entertaining.)

    • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:27PM (#2665616) Homepage Journal

      What Katz doesn't understand is that for some people don't want to be a part of these "liberated" communities that he is so happy about. What he calls expression, I call pornography. And where he sees discussion, all too often all I see is pointless drivel aimed at the absolute lowest common denominator.

      Now, I believe firmly that everyone has the right to think as they choose, but that does not mean that I want to participate in their idiocy with them. Katz sees filtering software as discriminatory, but I see filtering software as necessary for the survival of true open minded discussion. As we have seen on this very forum, without a way to filter out the background noise it is utterly impossible to have a rational conversation.

      All mankind is created equal, but all opinions are not equal. Some people, no matter how passionately they hold their beliefs, are wrong.

      • On the one hand:

        Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.
        -Henry Miller (1891 - 1980)

        On the other hand:

        A great many open minds should be closed for repairs.
        -Toledo Blade
        • Henry Miller is just flat out wrong. His prose is beautiful, and his message enticing, but he is wrong all the same. There are plenty of opinions that are worthy of denigration, that deserve to be despised, and that should be denied. The opinions of madmen like Hitler or Osama bin Laden will never become a source of beauty, joy or strength, but will instead remain nasty, painful, and even evil forever.

          These examples may be extreme, but they show clearly the basic premise. Opinions and ideas do not all hold equal value. Some are dangerous and even poisonous. Other are merely misleading or misinformed. Some are completely delusional.

          • by itwerx ( 165526 )
            I think we need two new moderation categories. "Wrong" and "Stupid" (or "Dumb"). Be nice to be able to apply them to articles too...
          • Who decides which opinions are worthy of being denied? This is more murky than you might suppose. The way you fight these opinions are not with censorship but with more speech. In fact these bad opinions should be allowed for all to judge their value. Perhaps former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said it best: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

            As an example, when the Nazis (or was it the KKK?) wanted to march in Washington D.C. recently, the counter demonstration was so huge that they canceled the march and ran out of D.C. with their tails between their legs. This is how one fights opinions that are evil. Not with censorship.
          • His prose is beautiful, and his message enticing, but he is wrong all the same.

            Or, as Douglas Adams put it [mg-net.de]: "OK, so ten out of ten for style, but minus several million for good thinking, yeah?"

      • I think the point he was trying to make with the filtering software is when others filter on your behalf. When you control the filter (like the /. comments filter) then you decide and this is ok. When we get to the point where CmdrTaco decides what we see and what we don't, then filtering will not longer be useful and will become a hindrance instead.
  • by Kengineer ( 246142 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:44AM (#2665348)
    Sounds like an Onion headline to me:

    Jon Katz Quotes Self

    - insert witty phrase here
  • In any group with a sufficiently large number of people the majority are idiots. You can find this out by reading slashdot comments, and the quality here is certainly better than in the average AOL chat room. Interactivity doesn't make sense unless you find a good way to filter out all these idiots. Who cares about the ability to read the thoughts of 4 billion idiots?
    And even if you were able to filter them out, it would not really help to improve the world. Ok, you could read stuff written by non-idiots, but as long as the majority of voters can still be influenced by those few media corporations. Most of your examples are either "mass-media delivers to idiots" or "idiot to idiot" communication.
    Abolish the democracy, form a technocracy!
    • The thing is that we chose Democracy not because its the most efficient form of government, but because its the most moral. If the vast majority of people want to make idiotic decisions, that's their right.
      • But why is it moral? Because the majority thinks so. In India people may consider eating cows as barbaric as people in the US would eating dogs. But it doesn't matter because it's only a minority, their opinion doesnt count

        No, the reason for democracy is that your state has a problem if the majority of people isn't happy. If there is only a small group against it it's no problem, then they are called radicals. So the concept of the modern democracy is that the people can elect whoever they want. The only problam is that the media corporations tell them what and who they want.
  • But its primary impact has been practical, not ideological.

    Captain Obvious strikes again!
  • by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:50AM (#2665397) Homepage
    Whatever you like to think, people in general are still lazy, apathetic, and just plain don't care.

    No amount of information overload or internet connectivity will change basic human nature. Simply giving everyone net access (or whatever) won't turn them into caring, conscious, active, wonderful citizens.
    • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:40PM (#2665680) Homepage Journal

      Even more importantly, most of the people that are now getting onto the Internet don't share the same values as Katz. Instead of being excited about the "sexual revolution" they are trying to find ways to keep their children from being immersed in pornography. And they certainly aren't interested in what gay teenagers are doing online (other than trying to make sure that they aren't trying to solicit sex from their sons).

      Many of the caring, conscious, active, citizens that are using the Internet for information disagree with Katz and most everyting he stands for. For example, they see the fact that the U.S. government is a Republic (and not a pure democracy) as an important safeguard to their liberties. They believe that the government should take an active role in supporting morality. They support the First Ammendment, and would give their lives to defend it, but they are saddened that all too often the First Ammendment is used as a cover for pornographers instead of in support of actual political thought.

      Katz has made the mistake of thinking that his definition of the perfect society is universal, but it isn't, not by a long shot.



    • This is why, by giving the average human more information, it wont make them care, just give them more weapons to destroy each other with.

      Give bin laden the internet, and he'll learn to make a bomb.

      Sadly enough, Bin Laden repsresents the majority of humans, most use the net for porn, games, or email, the rest use it to make bombs, and only 1% use it to actually learn something and out of that 1%, about half of them are forced to do so because of their job, school, etc.
  • by Unknown Bovine Group ( 462144 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:52AM (#2665400) Homepage
    Thomas Paine was a political revolutionary. Jon Katz worked with some would-be political revolutionaries at Wired. They thought the net would revolutionize the world, destroying all bad things and empowering the common man, who would somehow go from being a greedy bastard to being a righteous do-gooder. This hasn't happened. What's up with that?

    (These Katz Notes provided for those others who began earnestly reading the article only to have their eyes glaze over as they continuted to scroll down....)
  • by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:52AM (#2665402)

    Before the Internet, most people were dumb, passive consumers. Let me just buy things and watch TV, and let others produces things, let others make decisions, let others tell me what my opinions are.

    The Internet hasn't changed this. It's turned into Just Another Medium through which we dummies can be told what to wear, what soft drink is cool, who to vote for, who to fuck, and consume, consume, consume!

    Today, like years ago, we are told that the masses are meant to be all-consuming pac-men, and the few are meant to produce, lead, and make decisions.

    The Internet is not going to bring about a global outpouring of creativity and information sharing, simply because most people can't be bothered to come up with an original thought, much less published writing or software. How many people post to /. as opposed to how many who read it? I bet I can take a pretty accurate stab at the ratio, and I bet it's about the same with most "open forums" on the net. I bet it's the about same with USENET too.
    • I frequent many web forums and I can tell you that there are Thousands of people out there, sharing information, creating websites, building on each others ideas. People, regular folks, with AOL accounts or Roadrunner cablemodems are enabled by the internet to find information and people with common interests.

      And I've found or been informed about many very unique and entertaining sites, put up by people in their spare time, who would definately not have bothered to publish a 'zine or even a pamphlet - which wouldn't have made it to my eyes anyway if it were not for the internet.

      It's all relative, and maybe for now it's just a start. I don't post to Slashdot very often (or at all) myself. But I was able to read Your thoughts on this subject, wasn't I? (Most of the time I come to the discussion pretty late and any points I would've wanted to contribute have already been made)

      Yes, people are Lazy. The cool thing about the 'Net is that it's easy for even lazy people (like me) to put stuff out there for all to see. Even if the majority of that stuff ends up being pointless and dumb, some fraction of it will shine.

    • Actually, in order to own a computer, pay for an internet connection, etc, its very likely that you've had to have a job.

      Now, if you're a 'revolutionary', you've probably had your ideals and theologies watered down by having to bend or comprimize your theologies. To gain a forum and following in which to complain and attempt to change the game, you still have to play the game. And play it alot. And still, the more people that grokk your tune, the more by-the-numbers youve probably had to play. The larger your audience, the more cautious people who are supporting or helping you reach your audience (ISP, webmaster, employer) will be.

      Until computers and access are so cheap that you could panhandle for them within the span of a few days, most of the voices and political ideas expressed on the medium will stay well within acceptable non-boat-rocking parameters. And even when you do have shit-kickers with good visibilty on the 'net, the number of like like-minded people would still be fairly low.

      Basically, its still unfeasable for the demographic that has the most right to complain and likely the most motives to affect changes to our poli/economic system to gain the tools, access, and time neccessary to distribute these ideas via the internet.

      Throw into this the still existing barriers of language, completely different geo-centric value systems, etc, etc ... we're still a shit load of time away from that utopian Star Trek Federation-eque perfect world that the idealistic techies so deeply believe their passion will lead to. If at all.
  • by MillMan ( 85400 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:52AM (#2665403)
    Technology doesn't change the world, people change the world. Or insert any similar one-liner of your choice.

    Things have changed for the better in some ways. Media consolidation has been very rapid the past 6 years or so. Yet anyone with interenet access has access to independant media outlets that ask questions and dig deeper than the mainstream media, who are spoon fed by the pentagon and are quite conciously ok with that.

    The problem is that people have to know about these sites and want to go to them. If the entire population is brainwashed to follow one point of view, it won't matter if the plain truth is right in front of them. That is a problem technology can't solve.
    • "Technology doesn't change the world, people change the world. Or insert any similar one-liner of your choice. "

      But technology can impact on the way that people change the world. Tom Paine had a massive impact on society. But he was only able to do this because of the cheap printing press, and because enough people in the working classes could read. He only managed to survive as long as he did, because he could get out of Britian to France, when his live was threatened here, and out of France to the US when his it was threatened there.

      The idea that the internet was going to change the world was nieve. You can use it to distribute information pushing for change, or venerating the status quo. But it has changed the world in some ways. It has enabled those who are seeking to change the world to comminicate around the world easily, for instance. We can talk to students in Indonesia now, we can see what the multinationals are doing more easily.

      As Katz says its not clear yet what impact the internet is going to have. Only time will tell. After all it took 100 years for the true impact of Paine to become clear.

      Phil
  • by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101&gmail,com> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @11:53AM (#2665410) Homepage Journal

    Why would anyone expect the Net to "change everything"? People have always had the ability to stay informed through the quality newspapers, magazines, etc, but very few take the time to try and understand complex issues.

    On the one hand, the Net gives us the ability to ready any Joe Blo's rants about subjects he knows nothing about, which actually reduces how informed the average citizen is because of all the noise.

    On the other hand, if you are selective about what you read and believe, you can occasionally find gems of wisdom that give you information that might not have otherwise found. Take Slashdot -- the editor's are HUGELY ignorant and foolish about things (*cough*michael*cough*), and the posters are usually even worse. But where the editors do a good job is in their story selection. That attracts the smart, knowledgeable people that occasionally post these gems.

    The question is whether the Net is a net loss or a net gain in educating the public, and I'm just not sure.

    [controversial opinion alert] One huge win in my opinion that the Net has been a great influence on bringing the American ideas of freedom to the rest of the world. The greatest evil of the world, next to communism, is Socialism and I would like to see it finally die like it should have died last century as the failed experiment it was. The more socialism, the less freedom. [/alert]

    And please spare me the "America WAS the home of freedom" blah DCMA blah blah. That's a great example of the narrow-minded, single-issue ignorance that I'm talking about. If you think any of these minor issues are significant in the big picture of freedom, then you need to expand your views are what freedom is.

    • I would consider the best thing about the net to be easy access to primary sources - the news, in the participants' own words. This was virtually impossible before.

      Now, if I want to read the precise text of Osama bin Laden's fatwah against Americans, all I need to do is type a few words into Google. There it is! I know exactly what he said, without interpretation or distortion from media analysts.

      If I want to explore an issue in depth, I can read what Hamas has to say. I can read what Israelis have to say. I can read what the US government has to say. I can read verbatim transcripts of press conferences. So in the end, I can make up my own mind about things from the root, which was virtually impossible before.

      So I would say the net is an enormous advance in potential understanding, and has to be considered a major benefit in this direction, especially to thoughtful people.

      D
    • by Anonymous Coward
      (rant warning)

      Oh, for the love of...

      The cold war propaganda against communism has perpetated the American psyche so badly, that no one seems to know exactly what it is, beyond, ooo, that communism stuff, that's evil...

      I'd really love it if people would stop bashing an economic system they apparently know nothing about.

      Yea, you heard me. Economic system. Communism has nothing to do with the way a government deals with it's citizen's rights. Commisism is merely an economic arrangement by which everything becomes public property. The government merely manages all aspects of an economy, essentially making the entire populace members of the public service. (Which, kinda has it's own problems, heh, heh...)

      I''l give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you're a libertarian, so fine, yea, in your view communism is a bad thing. But it's only the oposite of free market economics. Democracy and communism can coexist quite nicely, it's just that most examples of communist governments slipped into a fascist state of mind.

      Democracy and fascism sit on opposite ends of a spectrum, just like communism and free market. Think of it this way: Whenever something is managed by the government, that's socialism. Roads and infrastructure maintenance, medicaid, social security, hell, the military! That is the essence of socialism, not some cold war ideal of lack of basic human rights. Whenever a government pays for something, that's socailism. There's a good synonym for socialism that get used a whole lot more, since it's such a demonized word. Nationalization. Yea, public service.

      Beisdes, there are plenty of examples of socialism and democracy working just fine together. Look at the Scandinavian countries, and other western European nations. Hey, cast a glance just north. Yea, your forgotten neighbours, and my home, Canada. We've got a social safety net, universal heatlh care and well susbsidized school systems. We have yet to fall into a fascist state. (And oddly enough, the only ones who have proposed repealing human rights for certain individuals are the right-wing anti-socialism political parties) Oh yea, a really good point on this freedom thing, as the anniversary of it's adoption has just passed. The man credited with drafting the universal declaration of human rights. Do you know from where he hails? Not the USA. No, actually he hails from up here. Yea, Canada, land of evil socialism, the country that has probably done the most for the cause of human rights in the past fifty years.

      So much for restricted freedoms...

      (/rant warning)

      (AC'd 'cause I'm at work, and can't remember my password...)
      • Communism is not the opposite of capitalism; socialism is the opposite of capitalism. Communism is a sociopolitical worldview which incorporates socialism as one of its guiding principles. In the real world, of course, neither absolute socialism nor absolute capitalism works too well -- capitalist transactions take place even in the most officially socialist countries, and even the most laissez-faire capitalist countries (e.g. the US) incorporate some government control of the economy.
      • > Communism has nothing to do with the way a government deals with it's citizen's rights

        *blink* What part of "dictatorship of the proletariat" did you fail to understand?

        I'll grant you that in Communist theory, that's only an intermediate stage that's intended to pass away after the dissenters have been, to put it gently, "re-educated".

        But in every historical case, this stage has been effectively permanent, and documented as deadly, not just to the economy, but to the citizens (whether dissenters or not) forced to live under it.

        Nothing personal, but I'll pass.

    • "One huge win in my opinion that the Net has been a great influence on bringing the American ideas of freedom to the rest of the world. The greatest evil of the world, next to communism, is Socialism and I would like to see it finally die like it should have died last century as the failed experiment it was. The more socialism, the less freedom."

      This opinion actually is related to those speculations Jon Katz made about how "the network will bring freedom". I recently read an essay by Bob Avakian which discussed whether or not "the truth would set you free". An example would be to go back 150 years ago - if a slave on a plantation, or an Indian about to be pushed off his land was incredibly enlightened about freedom and rationality and the like. Does this knowledge make him free? No, obviously not. Guns, whips and chains take away their freedom.

      In a similar manner, the president of this country (Bush) and the richest man in this country (Gates) have something in common. They both were born with million dollar trust funds. They both had very wealthy, bourgeoisie parents and grandparents. Their place in society was fixed at the moment of birth.

      1% of this country holds half the wealth and resources. They are bourgeoisie, which means they do not have to work in order to live, they can live off the interest of the money they have. Half of them got there the moment they were born. The vast majority of those in that 1% were born on the top of the income scale if not within the 1%. The rest of us have to work in order to live. Now why should it be that because of birth, some people do not have to work and get control of half of the resources, and the other 99% have to work to live, and have to split the remaining half of the resources? With even that half skewed upward so that the top 10% contains most of it?

      If I had attained membership into that elite bourgeoisie class the way most of them entered it, by nature of birth, I might feel the way some do about socialism, communism, anarchism, whatever. Since I was not, I certainly do not care as much about property rights as much as that 1% who controls half the wealth must feel.

      It should also be pointed out that capitalism is kept in place rather violently. Within the United States propaganda plays a big part, as well as keeping this the country with the highest percentage of it's population in prison and things like that. Worldwide the propaganda campaign has some importance, giving the idea that the US is one giant Baywatch set, but it is dealt with more violently. The US military has engaged communists directly when there is next to no local support against it, like in Vietnam, but mroe often it pays vast sums of money to the the military of foreign countries to do such a job. Colombia's military has received almost $2 billion in US aid over the past 2 years, hundreds of Colombian union organizers have been killed and Occidental is trying to expand it's pipeline in Colombia. These three things are not unrelated, on the contrary, they are very much inter-related.

      Take a look at who is for what and it gives you a pretty good idea at who is going to benefit from it. Steve Forbes is for the flat tax, for the WTO and GATT and so-called "free trade" and the like. Which makes sense since his constituency are mostly millionares and billionares trying to expand their control of the world. Even right-wing people like Pat Buchanan who have a working class constituency actually go against GATT and the WTO and US military presence overseas except if there's an extreme necessity. Why? Because it hurts the working class constituency that supports Buchanan. Of course, the left wing is against these things as well. The Republican and Democratic parties is outside of their hands however.

      This even reaches into our livelihoods. Look at how high unemployment for IT people and how salaries are frozen or slipping. Why is that? Why are corporations who are still making billions in profit per quarter laying us off and freezing/lowering our salaries? One thing that has helped them has been the ITAA's lobbying to allow 600,000 H1-B indentured servants into the country, repealing FLSA for computer operators, sticking section 1706 in the tax code with the NTSA and those sorts of things. People don't really care during go-go times like the late 1990's, but nowadays more engineers are paying attention to what the ITAA has been doing as they are getting laid off and their salaries frozen/cut and they ask, what happened?
  • I just brought my last copy of Wired magazine a few days ago. It's got to a point where it's just not worth buying anymore - I could hardly find an article I could be bothered to read. It used to be that upon buying a new issue of Wired I would read it cover to cover in one sitting.

    What happened? It used to have writers who were passionate about technology, had interesting opinions, and had their fingers on the pulse of change. Now it's like a product catalog for gadgets and 'cool stuff'. About half the articles seem to be 'advertising features'.

    I think the rot set in during the dot-com boom. The writers stopped talking about the technology and started focusing on making a fast buck.

    Sorry Wired, I used to love ya, but we've just drifted apart, ok? Time to move on.
    • by crumbz ( 41803 )
      I agree completely. The magazine started it's descent when they were bought by Conde Nast. They swung into the Red Herring pro-ebiz sector and suck at it. All they have are special advertising sections, electronic/carbon fiber toy buyer guides for people making US$250k/year and business stories I can find in the WSJ. What happened to the revolution? Oh, that's right, it got co-opted by the borg.

      And Katz should hang it up. I don't know why he has the resident professor emeritus status he does on /. Let his comments be modded up or down like everyone else. Techno-democracy.
  • that the inventors and purveyors of some new technology (fire, bronze, the printing press, radio, TV, uP's, etc) envision it as some sort of gateway to an Utopian existance, ushering in an age of peace, harmony, understanding, an end to wars and hunger, blah blah blah - only to have it end up being used for some individual's or group's advantage in gaining wealth, status and power over others?
  • Changes on the way (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <rustyp@noSpam.freeshell.org> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:02PM (#2665477) Homepage Journal
    30 years ago, science fiction was kid's stuff - only children wanted to watch it, only children liked it, etc.

    30 years have passed, and the children have grown up. Now Sci-fi is a complex medium intended for the use of adults - it grew up with its fans.

    15 years ago video games started getting to be more than just 'Pong,' and the children started to play them. Now games are complex, and getting more so. Today, games are still for the young - but not just for kids.

    A mere 10 years ago the net started to become a popular means of [everything the wired article talks about]. It has powerfully transformed the world BEFORE a generation has come to power. That is truly amazing, but you can't expect all of the changes that are on the way to happen overnight.

    In 20 years, after the internet has had as much time as Sci-Fi to become commonplace, we will be an internet generation. Then all the people who are using this as their media outlet will have it, and just like the stock market, it will become a chaotic tyranny of the majority's decisions swayed by the charisma of those who write well.

    Bring it on. The written word has always been my favorite medium of information exchange.

    On the side: I don't care if this issue is last year's news, or last century's. Its relevant today, and there are more things that cna be said about it now than could be said last year!
    • 30 years ago, science fiction was kid's stuff - only children wanted to watch it, only children liked it, etc.

      30 years have passed, and the children have grown up. Now Sci-fi is a complex medium intended for the use of adults - it grew up with its fans.


      No, 30 years ago, science fiction books, television and films had boatloads of adult fans. These fans bought books, went to the cinema, and attended conventions in *droves*. The "mainstream" culture just chose to marginalize and caricature them as part of a trend towards cynical materialism and "live-in-the-now" which characterized the 70's and 80's. I'm not entirely sure how fandom made the transition from "Spock-ears-wearing fat weirdos" (a minority in real life to be sure) to *everybody* watching the X-files, Enterprise etc. but I suspect it has to do with the entertainment industry realizing how much money could be made off of SF if they just tried a little harder to make it "cool".

  • Well, duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:05PM (#2665495) Homepage Journal
    on Slashdot, CNN, ABCNew and MSNBC -- into hostile electronic cesspools. To have actual conversations online, you're forced to join clubs where membership and speech boundaries are regulated, even to the point of specialized blocking programs that permit people to gauge levels of hostility or agreement.

    What did you expect, for all your utopian dreams, you forgot one thing. Most people are fucking stupid. And a great many of them are annoying as well. "giving everyone a voice" (the phrase) might sound good, but actually giving everyone a voice won't. leveling the playing field for everyone and you end up with a world awash in moronic penis bird posts and SPAM promoting porn sites.

    The hacker universe has sobered up as well. Who would have thought, a decade back, that one company, Microsoft, would in fact achieve everyone's paranoid fantasy and conquer the global desktop?

    What is this supposed to even mean? The "global desktop"? Lots of people run windows on desktops across the globe, but M$ hasn't got central control over much of anything, just lots of revenue streams. And its not like their market share has gone up much since the DOS days anyway.
  • Yep. The net is a commercialized extension of existing systems in The Real World. More spam for everybody...

    No utopia of free thought and expression, with furious online debates in a sort of "Digital Renaissance".

    How did it get like this? How is it that most internet traffic ends up at either an AOL or MSN owned site? (according to some report I read somewhere, don't remember).

    Surely, the Internet is populated by people intelligent enough to know when they are being corralled and taken advantage of? Where did it all go wrong?

    I have always believed that people watched the garbage on Network Television because of the influence of the networks in the history of the development in television. The net was supposed to change this, allow individual people to express their opinions, and allow netizens to get information from ANY source. The geeks were in charge, and here first, we would show people the way to digital enlightenement ... Now the masses are 'stuck' with AOL/MSN and don't even know/care enought to know better.

    That's what we get for making this stuff "easy to use" ... more spam for everybody ...
  • The FOREST Got BIG! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:05PM (#2665499) Homepage Journal
    From the intro to the original Article in Wired.

    "Thomas Paine was one of the first journalists to use media as a weapon against the entrenched power structure. He should be resurrected as the moral father of the Internet. Jon Katz explains why. "

    Let me suggest that size and force of the "media" has simply become ubiquitous. Can't see the forest that has grown, for the single tree you are looking at one foot in front of you, Jon.

    Consider this forest enabling us all to integrate information in ways that would be impossible to even dream of before, not to mention now having the ability to share that new information with others so that they can help make productive use of new integrations.

    As an Example [mindspring.com] integrating the world information to the computer industry to the individual....
  • There are plenty of places on the net that you can find halfway interesting discourse between normal everyday folks. This is one of them.

    As for useful discourse from "professioanl" editorial sites, sure there has been a bloodbath in the online content market, but sites like Salon are still limping along with useful original writing, and most print magazines have expanded online with interactive publishing.

    With the rise of the web, usenet has actually become more intelligent and useful and the true wankers have moved on.

  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:10PM (#2665531) Homepage
    Despite the flowering of individual voices on the Net, we live in an arguably less democratic culture than we did a decade ago, even before Attorney General Ashcroft's sweeping actions.

    You just had to get a swipe at the AG in there, eh? All this digital hand wringing about the High Lord of Evil, John Ashcroft, is really stupid. I live about 1/2 mile north of what was the World Trade Center. I lived through military checkpoints and police blockades for 2 weeks to get into my apartment. Outside those that lost loved ones, were injured by the attacks or lost jobs, I have had a lot to put up with to get my life back together the way it was before 9/11. None of the barriers were created by AG John Ashcroft. His actions have actually made me feel more comfortable about my situation.

    But then I have to listen to the Chicken Little's of the Civil Liberties gang. The group of "well meaning, good intentioned" Americans that only believe that effective policing can occur when the "Cops" are handcuffed and blindfolded. You got to love their arrogance when they proclaim that non-US citizens are guaranteedprotection of our Constitution even though they never lived in the US. I am sure that would be a shock to those folks living in China that were run over by tanks 12 years ago.

    The amazing thing at the end of the day, no matter what Ashcroft w/ Congress has done, I feel no loss in liberty. No evil corporation is holding me down. Jack booted thugs haven't beat down my door or surrounded my place of worship with tanks and set it on fire. I have no fear to speak my mind. And to prove it, I am going to say the most controversial thing I can imagine, "John Katz is an insightful, intelligent, fully informed writer focusing on the issues that matter to citizens of Cyberspace and his witty commentary is a favorite of all Slashdot readers." It might not be true but I have no fear in saying it. Just like Jon Katz, I have the Constitutional Right to be full of sh*t and spout it out to the masses. Don't worry Jon the High Lord of Evil, John Ashcroft, is not going to gag you no matter how bad your writing is.

    P.S. Jon if you are talking about the US, I need to remind you that we are not a democracy, we are a constitutional republic. If we were a democracy, evil would reign via the power of the ballot box -- majority gets to force the minority to do anything it wants.

    • You make a lot of good points, but you have to admit that Sep 11th gave the government a clean run at passing laws that would otherwise have a very difficult time getting on the books. The second we start giving up personal liberties for the sake of security is the beginning of the end.

      I consider myself a well intentioned American, but I'd rather have my civil liberties protected than live with some of the laws that have been passed. We have to find the right balance.

      This is all relative of course, we're in a stable system, it's not like we're in 1968 ...
    • I am sure that would be a shock to those folks living in China that were run over by tanks 12 years ago.

      I could have sworn those were Chinese tanks, not American, and so not subject to "Congress shall make no law". You learn something new every day.
      • Missed the point. There are "Civil Rights ADvocates" that say that not non-US citizens should have the same rights as Americans in the view of the court system. I am arguing if that is the case, the chinese students should have had the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. They don't just like the terrorists.
    • You obviously haven't read the fine print yet, have you?

      If you had, you'd realize that many of the shiny new powers granted to the Prez, AG, the USAGs, the FBI, and others, have no limits as to their scope. Like in programming, things with global scope tend to cause problems, sooner or later.

      Easy examples in U.S. Federal law: RICO statutes, Co-Intelpro, automatic drug-related asset forfeiture laws.

      RICO was a good thing that neither sunseted nor was limited in scope. It ended up being applied to cases it wasn't suited for, and it's a very difficult thing to defend against. Enables AGs to say "we believe you've done a bad thing, we don't have proof, but you're going down anyway." Justice, eh?

      Much of Bush and Ashcroft's rhetoric presumes guilt before innocence. The new structure of Bush's military tribunals assume that this form of Justice is infallible: As a defendent, you've one turn at bat. If you lose, you have no appeal, even if you received the death sentance. Plus, evidence can be withheld from the defense, and the sessions can be closed, so there's no chance to analyze or debate a ruling. Also, the jury is an empanelment of military law officers -not a jury of peers, not a jury of equals.
    • by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:20PM (#2665929) Journal
      His actions have actually made me feel more comfortable about my situation.

      I know they do. And it would likewise make me feel more comfortable if the government would lock up great numbers of people that make me nervous, without any particular evidence, and with restricted or no access to legal counsel. Hell yes, lock up everyone that looks funny to me! But guess what: the Bill of Rights was not written to make either you or I feel more comfortable. It was written to guarantee basic human rights to those who come into contact with the U.S. government. And in at least some cases recently, this has not been the case.

      I'm sorry that you're nervous about living in NYC; I'm nervous about similar things in my city. But going overboard in our efforts to feel comfortable is not and will never be the correct solution if we have to destroy the very ideas that constitute this nation in order to reach that comfort. Our support of the principles of this nation need to be strongest in times of trouble - anybody can be a flag-waving freedom fighter when it's the Chinese government that's cracking down, but real patriots will stand up for the Constitution even against misguided members of their own government when they try to use a crisis to advance their own agendas.

      In short: the Founding Fathers never promised you a rose garden, and they would be spinning in their graves if they knew what Mr. Ashcroft is trying to do in order to provide you with one.

      • ow they do. And it would likewise make me feel more comfortable if the government would lock up great numbers of people that make me nervous, without any particular evidence, and with restricted or no access to legal counsel.

        Typical Chicken Little Civil Libertarian response. Take reasonable measures expressed by the President, both sides of Congress and the AG and blow them out of proportion in a civil rights meltdown. We are talking about foreign terrorists not domestic liberal fruitcakes. If you are not a US Citizen, you are not afforded the rights guaranteed by it. These laws are focused at getting the foreign enemy within than domestic, hate America first, verbal bomb throwers. Even so, none of these laws passed by the Government is going to prevent you from calling President Bush "Chimpy" or tell your friends that John Ashcroft is a "Big Poo-Poo head". It didn't even stop you from replying to me saying I am a little nervous twit bent on having my freedom stripped away for a little safety. Just to note, I am/was not nervous just very uncomfortable after the situation. Having an active government bent on getting to the bottom of the situation was the comfort I received.

        As long as you are not in the habit of causing physical terror to those around you, I don't see how you feel restricted. I don't know why you think the Bill of Rights was not supposed to provide comfort. I am always comfortable knowing I have the Constitutional Right to own a double barreled 12 gauge shotgun.

        • We are talking about foreign terrorists not domestic liberal fruitcakes.

          How can you be sure? After all, one of the big things that these civil liberties groups have been complaining about is that we don't know who's been arrested. The government is keeping that information secret - we can't even find out.

          Heard from your relatives lately? If not, they could be the ones in jail. Then again, I haven't seen Al Gore in quite a while either. I'm not saying he's gone, but the point is we just don't know, and here you are blithely condoning this.

          Take reasonable measures expressed by the President, both sides of Congress and the AG and blow them out of proportion in a civil rights meltdown.

          So for you, reasonable measures include the ability to secretly arrest someone, be they domestic or foreign, bring them to a secret military tribunal, have two out of three officers - using evidence being kept a secret from the accused - decide to secretly execute the person, all supported by the weight of the law? Because that is what these laws allow.

          Now will they be used that way? I really doubt it, but there shouldn't even be the possibility of this happening.
          • So for you, reasonable measures include the ability to secretly arrest someone, be they domestic or foreign, bring them to a secret military tribunal, have two out of three officers - using evidence being kept a secret from the accused - decide to secretly execute the person, all supported by the weight of the law? Because that is what these laws allow.

            They can arrest any foreigner for terrorism and bring them to a secret military tribunal during this time of war in my opinion. Secret evidence is fine. I don't want my country's security to be threatened by dangerous evidence being released to the general population of terrorists. Do you believe that we should be forced to read Usama the Miranda rights when we capture him? Make sure he gets to call Johnny Cochrane right after we "book him"?

            If they are an American citizen, I want them to be tried in the US Justice System like that idiot US Citizen that joined the Taleban and got caught recently. Read his/her miranda rights, indict by a grand jury and given a trial by his/her peers. Then we hook them up to drug pumps for their big nap into eternity.

    • The only minorities that get left alone by the government are those with enough resources (money, connections, public prestige) to be able to sway some politico. Just ask any racial minority how wonderful the government is to them.

      This post has one thing correct, the often
      touted idea of a constitutional republic is inimical to democracy. I don't why some folks chortle with glee when they advocate a political system similar to Ancient Rome (which btw had slavery!, another class of citizens our government failed to protect - what idiocy)

    • The amazing thing at the end of the day, no matter what Ashcroft w/ Congress has done, I feel no loss in liberty. No evil corporation is holding me down. Jack booted thugs haven't beat down my door or surrounded my place of worship with tanks and set it on fire. I have no fear to speak my mind....

      Ahem...

      In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
      Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
      Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
      Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

      Then they came for me - and by that time no one was left t speak up.

      It is not right to compromise the civil liberties of foreign nationals just because they're not citizens. I live in New York City too, bub, and if that's the kind of stuff that makes you feel safe, you've got some therapy to do.
      • It is not right to compromise the civil liberties of foreign nationals just because they're not citizens. I live in New York City too, bub, and if that's the kind of stuff that makes you feel safe, you've got some therapy to do.

        Foreign nationals have no rights under our Constitution. It is the sole protector of US citizens. Just ask anyone that is not a US Citizen to go to Texas and try to buy a gun legally. It ain't gonna happen. They have no 2nd Amendment rights. Because at times we have provided those Constitutional protections to foreign nationals does not mean they have an automatic right to them. It is our national compassionate soul that allowed that to occur. As for me needing therapy, I am not the paranoid in this conversation thinking that the US Government (a Government by the people for the people) is nothing more than the Nazi Party in earth tones just waiting to strip us of our rights, one by one. If you believe that, I would hate to think what other X-Files like paranoia episodes you have.

        Remember tinfoil is for cooking not haberdashery.

    • I lived through military checkpoints and police blockades for 2 weeks to get into my apartment.

      I got there a couple of days after they moved the checkpoints from 14th St. to Canal St. This was lucky, as the only place I had to stay was on Christopher St. When I was there, in the bars between stints of volunteering, I got a very good impression of the people. I already admired New Yorkers, not least because I grew up there. It seemed to me that at that time, most were not in favor of war and would have been opposed to restrictions on civil liberties. Perhaps that has changed.

      The group of "well meaning, good intentioned" Americans that only believe that effective policing can occur when the "Cops" are handcuffed and blindfolded.

      You don't need to mince words. As one of those people concerned with civil liberties, I am well aware that people think of us as horrible, vicious, anti-American scum.

      The trouble is this. When people speak of security, it can mean two things:

      1. Feeling secure
      2. Actually being secure

      When you write "His actions have actually made me feel more comfortable about my situation," you are clearly referring to number 1. I view 2 as being more important than 1. I also think that, in many instances, the sweeping measures taken support 1 at the expense of 2.

      This is a fundamental philosophical difference, and I'm well aware that people who are concerned with 2 are a reviled minority. Consider the case of the ACLU pushing so that Nazis could march in Skokie. Most people think that's horrible, because people who are hated by Nazis have a right to feel comfortable. Personally, as someone who is Jewish enough for Hitler and Israel, I want Nazis marching. That's because I want to see and count them. Forcing them to stay in their homes doesn't make them or their hatred vanish, it just allows people to keep their head in the sand. I am well aware that most people consider my perception monstrous.

      What concerns me about the recent legistlation is not the ostensible use to track down foreign nationals. Rather, it is the big bunch of riders that have been attached to these bills that grant more surveilance power over civilians. The FBI once got into a little bit of trouble for wiretapping Martin Luther King and about 10,000 other Americans. At the time, that was illegal. Now it would be perfectly legal. All the FBI would have to do is note that there were riots of black people, and that there were some inciting violence (therefore terrorists), and that even though MLK taught nonviolence, he was potentially associated with suspects. You may not care, but I don't think I like that.

      Right now, I think that the FBI is too busy to bother too many private citizens much. However, in the past there have been actions on suspected Communists, people who wanted civil rights for black people, pornography, and supposed ritual satanic abuse in day care centers. I'm not sure what the next fad will be, but I'm pretty sure there will be one, and when there is, there will be less oversight. In the words of Spider Robinson, "we may even be making the problem worse, but hey, that's the price we pay for drama."

      In addition, I think that, Serpico notwithstanding, the NYC police are pretty good, probably second only to the Austin, TX police. Not everywhere is it like that. There are, for example, the Washington DC police, who were responsible for more than 300 accidental shootings in the first 18 months after the introduction of the Glock 9mm, some in the words of one perpetrator because the cops didn't know not to put their fingers on the trigger unless they wanted to shoot the weapon. There's New Orleans, where one of my friends was hit by a beer bottle thrown from a Police car. I think my trust that they will always do the right thing is far from total.

      • The trouble is this. When people speak of security, it can mean two things: 1. Feeling secure 2. Actually being secure

        Guess what, we have been given your item #2. I feel more secure and I know I am more secure. Notice that nothing else in three months has gone "Ka-boom". I doubt it will in the near future. The only way the American Government is going to make me feel secure is by doing something not just talking about it. You are thinking that anyone wanting security and safety is a bleeting sheep. That is not the case. I know I have more safety now (F-16s over my head right now) without losing any freedoms. I am no less free today than I was on 9-10-01.

  • As an active political radical, I cannot stress enough that overuse of the internet is running rampant among other radicals. Sure, listservs [ainfos.tao.ca] are useful and all, but beyond simply informing other radicals, there's not much use to the internet. Indymedia [indymedia.org] certainly tries to not be big media, but again -- news by activists, for activists, and about activists. If they would at least admit that, then people could no longer complain about the bias!


    The true changes in society are made face-to-face with people you see everyday. Memes are so much more contagious when you are sharing the same air with someone.

  • ...see, I'e always been wrong, please keep reading my stuff.
  • Here's the issue (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gilgamesh2001 ( 313066 ) <john@gi[ ]mesh.ca ['lga' in gap]> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @12:20PM (#2665579) Homepage
    I think the nub of the problem is this:

    A person is smart. People are stupid.

    One on one you can reason with people. En masse, you can only emote with them.

    Emotions have huge bandwidth but tiny frequency ... in other words: they're very powerful but they're incredibly stupid (low infomrational content).

    Changing that reality would entail re-engineering the human race.

  • Teenagers and political fanatics have turned the Net's public forums on Slashdot into hostile electronic cesspools.

    That's what you get for reading Slashdot posts at -1...

    Until Katz is willing to accept that no one says brilliant things all the time, then he'll never have the nerve to read the generally higher quality posts ranked 3 and above and ignore everything else.
  • At the close of the 16th Century, Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council met and decided that henceforth English troops would use muskets rather than crossbows. What remains unclear was the rationale behind the decision. Crossbows shot farther and more accurately, reloaded faster, and had been key to English victories in France and elsewhere - the English had the best bow technology. Long guns remained technologically and operationally inferior to the crossbow for many decades afterwards. (Pistols had the small advantage of being small - but there's a reason real soldiers continued to carry swords along too.)

    Evidently you could do enough of the sort of thing you'd do with a crossbow with a long gun that it the difference wasn't fatal to England, and the guns must have seemed gee-wiz modern and cool, at least. But the change in technology didn't really gain anything for the English, beyond the psychological, until guns improved to a point past prior crossbow technology in the 19th Century. The realities in the field remained much the same - except you had to get closer to hit anything with the gun, and it made noise that more easily gave away your position.

    So in networked computers we've got this new weapon with which to penetrate people with our ideas. But does it penetrate better than the front page of the Times or a well-printed book? Or is the advantage more purely psychological - "Look, I've got the new thing!"

    In any case you've still got to marshall your troops, engage the enemy, retain the support of your hinterland ... and have a strategy that actually can conquer and govern. A change in weaponry doesn't compensate for weakness of strategy and execution, even when the weapons are better. Building a free land is no more a matter of just giving everyone computers than it was of just giving everyone guns.

    However, given the right strategy and leadership, computers and guns have their obvious place in social transformation. Since Ashcroft refuses to match gun purchase records with arrested terrorist suspects [nytimes.com] - claiming that would infringe on gun rights - but wants to closely monitor the Net - it's clear which he and his friends are more scared of. Thinking that a computer is scarier than a gun is about as rational as prefering a musket to a crossbow. Isn't it?

    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:47PM (#2666164)
      > Since Ashcroft refuses to match gun purchase records with arrested terrorist suspects [nytimes.com] - claiming that would infringe on gun rights - but wants to closely monitor the Net - it's clear which he and his friends are more scared of.

      1) The terrorists we're looking for probably aren't worried about acquiring their guns illegally.

      2) The terrorists we're looking for probably are using the publicly-available communications infrastructure, even if they're not using crypto. We also know they're using it for money-laundering, even if they're not using it to discuss their operational plans.

      Ergo, if you want to find the terrorists, monitor the communications infrastructure, not gun purchase records. > Thinking that a computer is scarier than a gun is about as rational as prefering a musket to a crossbow. Isn't it?

      Who was the mobster who said that he'd teach his son computers rather than bank-robbing, because you can steal a lot more money with a computer than you can with a gun?

      I'd say Ashcroft's on the right track. We use guns on the battlefield today, not crossbows, no?

      • We use guns on the battlefield today, not crossbows, no?

        Today, guns are better. At the time of the American Revolution, Washington would have had an advantage on the British if he'd armed his troops with crossbows. 'Me-tooism' cost American lives.

        But if we grant that Ashcroft is right and a computer should scare us more than a gun, then we're back to asking why computers have done so little to effectively change a power structure so corrupt that a proposal to give large corporations with close ties to the party in power billions in retroactive tax refunds counts as "economic stimulus" for the good of us all.

        Of course, readers of the New York Times know this theft and fraud is being perpretrated, but most cities are served by chain newspapers which don't even cover the issue - which gets at best a half a sentence on network broadcasts. So then, why hasn't the Net enabled information truly in the political self-interest of large numbers of people - about having public funds siphoned off to the already-rich in a time of national peril - to be more broad disseminated and acted upon? Why will the politicians behind the theft, who have in the past depended on the expensiveness of advertising and the duplicity of media to hoodwink the public, not be threatened by the end-run made possible by low-cost, uncontrolled Net dissemination?

        Well, for one thing because I've certainly thought of being more cautious in my postings since realizing that Ashcroft likely has the NSA scanning this stuff like never before - and that under new laws and regulations some of my posts can probably be construed as giving aid and comfort to the "enemy." As a citizen with friends in high places I've decided to go ahead and stay free with my opinions - but the point is if I had to think about it, then others have surely been chilled. And that's not the climate both sides of my family fought the American Revolution to create here. If you're not saddenned, I question whether you are a true American. You should hope that, after a future change of government, precident hasn't already been established by which my questioning that could chill your own expression - which is why Bush and Ashcroft usurping the Constitution is both tragedy and treason, however popular.

        Having watched the towers fall from my apartment window, don't think I'm not as revenge-happy as the next New Yorker - but we need to be more careful our revenge doesn't catch us in blowback.

  • With a rant like that, it's no wonder people don't read slashdot stories!

    BTW Katz, political revolutionary utopian ideals of freedom and openness in society are not that. They are pipe dreams of self-proclaimed intellectuals. I'm glad they exist, they need to for the general betterment of the world, but let's be realistic. In over 10,000 years of known human history, WHEN have we ever even come close to utopia? You have to agree that utopia would be great, but the human race is currently not capable of creating such a thing with our naturally selfish humanity. After all, democracy and economic free markets thrive solely on the selfish desires of the individual to get what they want. As a group, this provides the usually best compromises between self desires and group needs. It gets skewed when any one individual gains more power. And communism has NOT worked to provide a utopian future - quite the opposite. Ask any Russian, Cuban, or Chinese citizen if they are as rich as the average American citizen. - We're not even a democracy or true free market economy!

  • Tuesday, December 4, when I looked at the "Dump Katz" poll page at http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=98/11/16/184223 &mode=thread [slashdot.org], the "Dump Katz" were winning with something like 2800 votes to 2100 (round numbers because, oddly enough, I didn't feel a need to write down the results). But today, when I looked at the results, more than 1500 anti-Katz votes had mysteriously disappeared. The current numbers are Dump Katz (1178), Keep Katz (2098). I'm not making this up, and notice that I'm not posting as an AC.

    Sayeth Katz [everything sic, bad formatting artifacts and all]: "Still, I?ve come to trust interactivity and believe in it. A big difference between this culture and the old one is that ideas have to stand the test. And I?d rather write about other things. So I suggested to the Commander that we move this discussion forward by sticking a poll box next to this column, and make me the topic. Let the geeks speak for themselves...Vote to dump the jerk or keep him."

    While it could be a glitch, it's hard to imagine a glitch that just loses the anti-Katz votes. It seems like someone doesn't want to let us "speak for ourselves". As Stalin once said, "those who cast the votes determine nothing. Those who count the votes determine everything."

    What happened to more than 1500 anti-Katz votes?

  • The Net is still young. Lamenting its lack of revolutionariness now is like complaining in 1955 that TV was just radio with pictures.

    One way in which the Net will prove revoluntionary, I hope, is in lowering the skeptical boundaries we have all created for ourselves based on the huge cost of checking facts. But as more and more source materials go online, linking becomes possible to make facts asserted checkable at low cost. Therefore I expect beliefs that are true but counterintuitive to resurge based on the change of medium.

    This explains, for instance, the online popularity of libertarian ideas. But I am sure there are many other domains of life where most people believe something false, or don't believe anything at all, due to lack of easy access to trustworthy authoritative sources.
  • Looking back thru history we can see the British Invasion, Hitler, Communisim, and today terrorisim. But long behold, the biggest threat to us always has been and always will be oursleves. Our society is still attacking our individual liberties, and this year far more people died from alchol abuse than from the WTC.

    The biggest short term threat is already well entrenched among us, "intellectual properety". Copyrights and patents were never intended to be treated like property, that is why they had strict limitations and expiration dates. Unfortunately today, people are so blinded by the "it's property" propaganda that it leads to things like the DMCA, and business process and software patents. Today it is obvious that they were probably never needed, but up until modern times were tolerable. What if we half to choose between copyrights and the internet? What if we half to choose between copyrights and the bill of rights? Well it's already hapening.

  • huh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WINSTANLEY ( 229048 )


    H.L. Mencken once wrote favorably of predujice (in the sense of being opinionated) because he thought indicated a person cared enough about an issue to give it some consideration.

    The above comments and a couple of others make me wonder just how thoughtful consideration Katz engages in.

    1. The web will democratize society. Both Cuba society and your average high school student government can conduct wide-ranging, open discussions of issue, but the participants in either have little formal power and I wouldn't call either democratic. In fact, it is the discussion which is cynically used (in both cases) to give the illusion of power, accountability, democracy etc.

    2. The rise of corporate power within capitalism has been going on a long time (the legal foundations for it were laid during Reconstruction) and has nothing to do with the Internet (and they don't even coincide historically). Furthermore, moneyed-interest have been corrupting American government since the beginning and before the rise of the modern corporation as even a cursory reading of history reveals.
  • by lysurgon ( 126252 ) <<moc.hsojhsidnaltuo> <ta> <khsoj>> on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:45PM (#2666141) Homepage Journal

    Nor did anyone quite expect the speed of the transition from capitalism to corporatism, an era in which global corporations acquire media, commerce and popular culture; control copyright and intellectual property; and become the primary funders and corrupters of the political system.


    A couple things. This is not really a new phenomina. Does the term "millitary industrial complex" ring a bell. Same process.

    More importantly, the recent trend of "corporatism" is unlikely to go on much longer. Already you can see the rise of the independent professional, the enterprising individual. I know a lot of corportate people who got their first taste of enterprise and freedom at some now defunct .com, and none of them want to go back.

    One associate of mine said he'd have to get a pre-frontal lobotomy before taking another corporate job. Backlash is on the way.

    The truth is that corporations are beureaucratic. And because they don't have even the limited accountability/transparency of governments, they tend to be the most inefficient beureucracies around. They waste so much money and time it's rediculous.

    And another thing...
    What's up with all the pessemism? All the "you can't change people" and "people are going to be consumers no matter what". Come on, people: Cynicism isn't cool. Maybe it's fun to pretend when your a teenager so you can feel grown up, but in real life it's stupid. It doesn't get you anywhere.

    People are not by nature consumers. It's just the current situation. Instead of sniping and whining, why don't we try and improve?

    Try constructing positive arguments: don't just argue against something without arguing for something else.
  • what is politics? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by POLS1OH ( 194830 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:47PM (#2666166)
    15 years ago I began studying politics intensely with the notion that there were real answers out there to public policy questions. Actually began my quest trying to figure out why my guy lost the election, I must obviously know something that 52% of the population didn't.

    Now, as a PhD in political science I realize how true the following statement is: The fundamental nature of politics is the distribution of resources among people according to ones moral and ethical beliefs.

    One can change the mechanisms for obtaining information. One can spend large amounts of money on campaigns, one can wire houses for some sort of electronic democracy. But these are only foolish dances around the core issues. Moral and ethical beliefs do not change significantly for an adult. Societal norms only change with new generations and advances in education and income (which allow individuals more liberty to contemplate instead of planting corn).

    Technology will have an effect on politics, but only because it creates wealth and perhaps accelerates the underlying growth in access to education.

    Sort of interesting to note that media exposure actually tends to result in more ephemerial political attitudes, not really a more serious contemplation.
  • Overblown (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aphrael ( 20058 ) on Thursday December 06, 2001 @01:53PM (#2666229) Homepage

    The digital citizen would be smart, civil and rational, outgrowing labels like "liberal" or "conservative", engaged in civics, technology, business and government; transcending dogma and cant. Maybe he or she will pop up, but probably not in my life.


    I think there's every bit of evidence that people who meet this description exist today. Mr. Lessig, as an example, would qualify.

    I agree that the vision of a world where everyone is like this is unlikely to be met anytime soon. But the fact that every tree in the forest isn't the tree you're looking for does not mean the trees you are looking for do not exist.

No line available at 300 baud.

Working...