- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Jaron Lanier: We Blew It

In a provocative interview, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier says he’s sick of what he helped to create in Silicon Valley. [1]Excerpts:

To me, one of the patterns we see that makes the world go wrong is when somebody acts as if they aren’t powerful when they actually are powerful. So if you’re still reacting against whatever you used to struggle for, but actually you’re in control, then you end up creating great damage in the world. Like, oh, I don’t know, I could give you many examples. But let’s say like Russia’s still acting as if it’s being destroyed when it isn’t, and it’s creating great damage in the world. And Silicon Valley’s kind of like that.

We used to be kind of rebels, like, if you go back to the origins of Silicon Valley culture, there were these big traditional companies like IBM that seemed to be impenetrable fortresses. And we had to create our own world. To us, we were the underdogs and we had to struggle. And we’ve won. I mean, we have just totally won. We run everything. We are the conduit of everything else happening in the world. We’ve disrupted absolutely everything. Politics, finance, education, media, relationships — family relationships, romantic relationships — we’ve put ourselves in the middle of everything, we’ve absolutely won. But we don’t act like it.

We have no sense of balance or modesty or graciousness having won. We’re still acting as if we’re in trouble and we have to defend ourselves, which is preposterous. And so in doing that we really kind of turn into assholes, you know?

He talks about how everybody who lives in Silicon Valley is financially secure, but they’re totally cut off from the rest of America, where people are very much not. And this is in large part to the economy the Internet has created. Lanier says that economy is working very well for Silicon Valley, but not so great for everybody else. More:

I’m kind of curious what you think needs to happen to prevent future platforms, like VR, from going the way of social media and reaching this really profitable crisis state.

A lot of the rhetoric of Silicon Valley that has the utopian ring about creating meaningful communities where everybody’s creative and people collaborate and all this stuff — I don’t wanna make too much of my own contribution, but I was kind of the first author of some of that rhetoric a long time ago. So it kind of stings for me to see it misused. Like, I used to talk about how virtual reality could be a tool for empathy, and then I see Mark Zuckerberg talking about how VR could be a tool for empathy while being profoundly nonempathic, using VR to tour Puerto Rico after the storm, after Maria. One has this feeling of having contributed to something that’s gone very wrong.

So I guess the overall way I think of it is, first, we might remember ourselves as having been lucky that some of these problems started to come to a head during the social-media era, before tools like virtual reality become more prominent, because the technology is still not as intense as it probably will be in the future. So as bad as it’s been, as bad as the election interference and the fomenting of ethnic warfare, and the empowering of neo-Nazis, and the bullying — as bad as all of that has been, we might remember ourselves as having been fortunate that it happened when the technology was really just little slabs we carried around in our pockets that we could look at and that could talk to us, or little speakers we could talk to. It wasn’t yet a whole simulated reality that we could inhabit.

change_me

Because that will be so much more intense, and that has so much more potential for behavior modification, and fooling people, and controlling people. So things potentially could get a lot worse, and hopefully they’ll get better as a result of our experiences during this era.

Lanier has some unnerving remarks about what he calls “Digital Maoism,” which is the idea that everybody is going to be empowered by the Internet, but what ends up happening is that only a few people get power, and all the meanness of people is set loose on each other, on the Internet. He says that Internet utopians only thought about the good things that the Internet and social media could do, and didn’t think about the terrible things — like, for example, how there is an equal and opposite reaction to every positive social movement facilitated by the Internet. In fact, Lanier believes that the Internet ends up causing net damage.

Another interesting thing he brings up, in his reasons why people should get off of social media now:

But at the end, I have one that’s a spiritual one. The argument is that social media hates your soul. And it suggests that there’s a whole spiritual, religious belief system along with social media like Facebook that I think people don’t like. And it’s also fucking phony and false. It suggests that life is some kind of optimization, like you’re supposed to be struggling to get more followers and friends. Zuckerberg even talked about how the new goal of Facebook would be to give everybody a meaningful life, as if something about Facebook is where the meaning of life is.

It suggests that you’re just a cog in a giant global brain or something like that. The rhetoric from the companies is often about AI, that what they’re really doing — like YouTube’s parent company, Google, says what they really are is building the giant global brain that’ll inherit the earth and they’ll upload you to that brain and then you won’t have to die. It’s very, very religious in the rhetoric. And so it’s turning into this new religion, and it’s a religion that doesn’t care about you. It’s a religion that’s completely lacking in empathy or any kind of personal acknowledgment. And it’s a bad religion. It’s a nerdy, empty, sterile, ugly, useless religion that’s based on false ideas. And I think that of all of the things, that’s the worst thing about it.

I mean, it’s sort of like a cult of personality. It’s like in North Korea or some regime where the religion is your purpose to serve this one guy. And your purpose is to serve this one system, which happens to be controlled by one guy, in the case of Facebook.

It’s not as blunt and out there, but that is the underlying message of it and it’s ugly and bad. I loathe it, and I think a lot of people have that feeling, but they might not have articulated it or gotten it to the surface because it’s just such a weird and new situation.

Read every last bit of it. [1]It’s very good.

Lanier concludes by saying that he’s in his late 50s now, and has an 11-year-old daughter, and believes that he and his generation of Internet builders have left the world a worse place for her generation. I am reminded of Sen. Ben Sasse’s remarks last fall about the world that is here and that is coming at us fast and hard.  [2] He urged philanthropists to spend their time and treasure building things that will help local communities withstand the disruption.

I wish people who have this idea that the Benedict Option [3]is about running for the hills and recreating Fortress Mayberry would read the book. They would see that it is, in fact, about constructing institutions and ways of life that will enable Christians individuals, families, and communities to be resilient and faithful amid this catastrophe that Lanier discusses. (Somebody ought to write the Ben Op for Jews and Muslims, by the way.)

Lanier talks about how in China, technology allows the government to regulate who can travel, buy, and sell, based on the social credit score they have (that is, how well they behave, and how loyal they are to the system). CBS News reports that it’s already being rolled out, and is going to be fully in place by 2020. [4] Excerpts:

Nearly 11 million Chinese are not allowed to fly and 4 million are barred from trains. Next week, the program will start expanding nationwide.

The government says it is trying to “purify” society by rewarding people who are trustworthy and punishing those who are not, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy. So like the credit scores most Americans have based on how they handle their finances, Chinese citizens are getting a social credit score based on everything from whether they pay their taxes on time to how they cross the street to what they post online.

When Liu Hu recently tried to book a flight, he was told he was banned from flying because he was on the list of untrustworthy people. Liu is a journalist who was ordered by a court to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote and was then told his apology was insincere.

“I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” Liu said. “You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”

The list is now getting longer as every Chinese citizen is being assigned a social credit score, a fluctuating rating based on a range of behaviors. It’s believed that community service and buying Chinese-made products can raise your score. Fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it. If a score gets too low, a person can be banned from buying plane and train tickets, real estate, cars and even high-speed internet.

“It’s a good thing,” one Chinese woman said. “There should be punishment for people who can’t behave.”

China’s growing network of surveillance cameras makes all of this possible. The country already has an estimated 176 million cameras. It plans to have more than 600 million installed by 2020.

You don’t think that’s going to come here one day? The rudiments for it are already here in America. [5] You don’t think people will welcome it? Really? After generations have been acculturated to expect a “safe space”? After the Patriot Act mentality has caused people to think that only guilty people have anything to worry about?

So, Christian, ask yourself: how are you going to keep the faith and pass it on to your kids in a world in which going to church stands to cost them in their social credit rating? In a world in which it is hard to buy and sell unless they are conformed to the system, subservient to this beast? That is what we’re talking about here. That is part of what the Benedict Option concerns. It’s not about creating a utopia; it’s about learning how to survive, even thrive, in the present and coming dystopia.

89 Comments (Open | Close)

89 Comments To "Jaron Lanier: We Blew It"

#1 Comment By RFB On April 25, 2018 @ 4:26 pm

I’ve been in IT for twenty years and I’ve never been overly optimistic about the impact of technology on culture. Can we really say that the technologies developed in the past decade or so have improved our lives? Have they led to us working less hours? Have they improved our interaction with other people? Have they made you happier? Have they lived up to all their promises? All of the research says no. I tend to agree.

None of us know what the future holds. I’m Christian so I figure God is in control and it will all work out in the end. That doesn’t mean it wont’ be unpleasant for us in the meantime. It’s nothing new for Christians but it will be a new experience for those of us who have grown up in a country friendly to our faith. That may be about to change. Time will tell but I agree with Rod, it makes sense to be prepared.

#2 Comment By Dan On April 25, 2018 @ 4:49 pm

The dystopian future is here: an atheistic elite wedded to an ever increasingly invasive technology that generates their wealth, that they use to manipulate society according to their positivistic whim, and that they worship. Meanwhile their local high school (Palo Alto High) has a suicide rate that is off the charts.

#3 Comment By Nate J On April 25, 2018 @ 5:23 pm

@Shane Taylor: “We need a word for this peculiar conceit, because it shapes so much of our politics today. So many conflicts are exacerbated by eternal underdogs who resent having to answer for the power they now wield.”

– – –

Couldn’t agree more. The dominant trend in politics in 2018 is the progressive left having attained everything it ever wanted and finding itself uncomfortable with its stack of victories. The ideology of secular progressivism – and all its rhetoric – was formed at a time when they were truly underdogs and was always pointed at some vague sense of the inevitably of its own ascendency (“The right side of history”, etc). Progressivism was never meant to arrive anywhere; for as utopian as it is, it never actually wants to reach that utopia and stop there. The whole idea of liquid modernity, which I think is closely related to this progressive trend, is that people seem to be opposed to the idea of stopping – people won’t stop worrying about “moving forward” towards some undefined future and just start building something small and humble and meaningful where we are.

So, now, I think the prog SJW set has run into a few problems: firstly, that the victimhood/underdog pose no longer fits. Secondly, that the flowery language of “diversity” and “tolerance” which was always a means to power has come to be completely gutted and hollowed out (note well how quickly “We don’t have to tolerate the intolerant” has been adopted as a slogan now that the Tolerance Brigade is at the top of the hierarchy). And, lastly, and I think most importantly to all this, progressives have won virtually everything and it still hasn’t made them happier. It hasn’t solved all problems of society, or maybe even more importantly, it hasn’t solved the anxieties and discomfort and struggles they feel in their *personal* lives. It clearly hasn’t brought them to a place of peace and rest. It’s why some professor 2000 miles away from where you live can reduce you to a boiling pot of rage by merely suggesting that people should not be compelled by the state to care about your pronouns or whatever.

All this has created a deep anxiety in the SJW left. You can sense this insecurity, this feeling that they are aware of how badly they are kicking your butt, yet getting the keys to the kingdom isn’t all it was supposed to be. In the meantime, I think we’re going to see this insecurity continue to manifest as anger against traditionalists and ever more authoritarian ways of stomping out what they see as the final pockets of resistance. There’s kind of this feeling like, “Well, if I’m still not content, it must be because there are some strong remnants of the old order that must be discarded… there must still be some shadowy elements of the Christian, heteronormative Patriarchy out to get me.” And, as you say, it leads them to think that every punch they throw is thrown upwards, in justice, and not from the position of a bully. They don’t want to admit that the old “Speaking truth to power” roles have been inverted. Like good postmodernists, they don’t even believe in truth, anyway. Their only Truth today *is* power.

#4 Comment By TOS On April 25, 2018 @ 6:07 pm

…when somebody acts as if they aren’t powerful when they actually are powerful.

Great line.

This is how Dreher thinks of the left: as being in control of the culture but fighting as if they are all counter-culture warriors of the 60s.

This is also how I usually think of Christians: there have been 45 openly Christian Presidents. Consecutively. Currently, 91% of Congressmen identify as Christian. But according to Dreher, Christians are now oppressed. Republicans hold the entire federal government and the vast majority of state houses and governorships, but conservatives are now oppressed.

Besides our elected politicians, if we want to look at culture, 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christian. Opinion polls consistently show that atheists are among the most reviled groups in America. I mean, the numbers are overwhelming.

I personally remember Christians in the 80s bemoaning their “oppression.” In the 50s Christians decried the “rock n roll culture” and the way Christians were losing power.

…when somebody acts as if they aren’t powerful when they actually are powerful…

#5 Comment By Bob Loblaw On April 25, 2018 @ 6:09 pm

““when somebody acts as if they aren’t powerful when they actually are powerful” We need a word for this peculiar conceit, because it shapes so much of our politics today.”

It’s called a persecution complex.

#6 Comment By Donald On April 25, 2018 @ 6:29 pm

“I mean, case in point: Russia. They just massively pwned us via the power of the Internet,”

I think liberals pwned themselves via the power of the internet. Whatever the Russians did was a drop in the bucket during the campaign, but the hysteria over it is far more significant. Many Democrats are absolutely convinced now that the Party did nothing wrong, so in a way the Russians did get to us by triggering liberal xenophobia and giving us an excuse to ignore our own failings. I am not sure how much to blame Tge internet for this. Mass hysteria and scapegoating is as old as humanity, but the internet may facilitate it somewhat.

#7 Comment By Darwin’s S-list On April 25, 2018 @ 6:43 pm

Good article. Groundbreaking in the sense that he’s the first white guy with dreadlocks I’ve felt bound to respect.

#8 Comment By Rob G On April 25, 2018 @ 6:55 pm

“It’s almost as though all the talk about Christian persecution in this here United States studiously ignores that the vast majority of the members of the party that supposed to do the persecuting self-identify as Christians.”

It depends on whether they prioritize their faith or their Progressivism. If the latter then their self-identification is a sham. Can’t serve both the Heilege Geist and the zeitgeist.

“So, pray tell, how come the atheistic, anti-Christian Europeans are actually way ahead of the United States in at least trying and to restrain the power of tech?”

Well, one reason is that the companies in question are American for the most part, and we tend to give passes to our own.

Another is that those countries, for better or worse, are less formally committed to corporate capitalism than we are.

A third is that modernism/secularism has already done its job there of marginalizing the traditionally religious without having to resort to direct persecution, which is something that may very well happen here as well. Somewhere Lenin wrote that the communists would not have to oppose the Church directly, because the spread of the mere practice of communism would eventually do the job. History took a different turn, of course, but there’s no reason to believe that the combination of technocratic capitalism and sexual anarchy won’t have the same effect.

If after all, all traditional religious folk of whatever stripe are looked at rather like the Amish or the Orthodox Jews (quaint, old-fashioned, grumpy but harmless) then the same result will have been achieved: opposition to the zeitgeist will have been removed.

[NFR: Another reason is that Americans are naively receptive about any and all technology. Europeans, to their credit, are not. — RD]

#9 Comment By Peter On April 25, 2018 @ 6:56 pm

In the last few years we have seen corporate America practicing an Orwellian form of leftist activism. That is a new and startling development. Even without the abuse of surveillance for partisan political purposes, I don’t want the NSA scanning all my mail and keeping a cradle-to-grave file on me and I don’t want Facebook and Google doing it either. I am eager to see how the usual free-market fanatics will rationalize the fact that it is now seen as profitable to blacklist, censor, exclude, or even orchestrate persecution of customers with unfashionable opinions.

A rationale for government interference is not hard to find. We once took privacy for granted but it is becoming a scarce good. In a welfare state, certain essential goods are made available to everyone. Why not take steps to assure that everyone enjoys a modicum of privacy? The little people are not only easier to spy on, but they are more vulnerable to abuses of power.

Even though the Silicon Valley radicals despise Republicans, it will be like pulling teeth to get Republican free-market fetishists to sign on to regulation. Republicans will defend to the death the right to exclude Republicans from the public square. And I’m sure “the big donors” are fine with a massive surveillance state since it will help them make money and keep disorderly elements at bay.

#10 Comment By Peter On April 25, 2018 @ 7:01 pm

I agree with Carolyn that this Jaron fellow’s appearance leaves much to be desired. That’s what happens when you only hang out with people who share your blind spots. No wonder he finds “virtual reality” appealing.

#11 Comment By VikingLS On April 25, 2018 @ 7:05 pm

“It’s almost as though all the talk about Christian persecution in this here United States studiously ignores that the vast majority of the members of the party that supposed to do the persecuting self-identify as Christians.”

Are you seriously trying to tell us that the Democrat party is being run by black and Hispanic churchgoers?

#12 Comment By Tom On April 25, 2018 @ 8:08 pm

If Jaron Lanier wants to be taken more seriously, maybe he should consider washing his hair. Just a thought…

#13 Comment By Booze On April 25, 2018 @ 8:19 pm

“To me, one of the patterns we see that makes the world go wrong is when somebody acts as if they aren’t powerful when they actually are powerful.”

Not surprising that many here are thinking of the SJWs and LGBTQs and such who have all the social power, but my mind went elsewhere:

– Ninety-eight percent of the Members of the 115th Congress are reported to be affiliated with a
specific religion. Of the 98%, the vast majority (90.7%) are Christian.

– A record 111 female Members (20.5% of the total membership) serve in the 115th Congress.

Out of 352 men and 83 women in the House of Representatives:

Race Amount Percentage
White 340 78.0%
Black 46 10.5%
Latino 34 7.8%
Asian 12 2.6%
Other 3 0.7%

Out of 79 men and 21 women in the Senate:

Race Amount Percentage
White 90 90%
Black 3 3%
Latino 4 4%
Asian 3 3%

Seems like Christian white males are probably pretty powerful.*

* you’re welcome to argue they’re not “really” Christian; harder to argue they’re not white and male.

#14 Comment By Lllurker On April 25, 2018 @ 8:34 pm

RD: “It’s not about creating a utopia; it’s about learning how to survive, even thrive, in the present and coming dystopia.”

Rod there’s almost always comes a point where your analyses manage to run completely off the rails. And they always end up at this same place don’t they? This one, as in all the hundreds of others, isn’t really an analysis about the Internet, or China, or technology, or our times, or changing culture. Or even Jaron Lanier. And it certainly isn’t about Jesus or living as a Christian. They never really are, you do see that don’t you?

It’s all right out there in the open for anyone to see if they follow your writing awhile. Where do all Rod Dreher analyses end up if he doesn’t write in the year 2018, but in 1918? Or 1818? Or 1718? Or in any other time, or any other place? In every one of those scenarios you would still manage to find your way back to the same sort of dystopian conclusions and predictions.

The “present and coming dystopia” that you always manage to find your way back to isn’t something that exists out in the world, or in the culture, or the future. It’s something that you, for some reason, are carrying around inside your head.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 25, 2018 @ 9:53 pm

harder to argue they’re not white

No difficulty at all. They’re not. There is no such thing. Many of them may indulge the five century delusion that there are “white people” and that they are “white.” But there is no such thing. There are people with very light tans and a bit of pink showing through. There aren’t any black people either, just a spectrum of various shades of brown.

Whatever the Russians did was a drop in the bucket during the campaign, but the hysteria over it is far more significant.

I think that’s about right. The Russians were looking for opportunities to indulge in mischief, which is what the darker side of any national secret service has always done to its rivals, and even its allies. (Remember Hillary’s “Apology Tour” after Wikileaks revealed what U.S. officials were saying privately to each other about our “friends”?

The Russians didn’t seriously impact the results of the election, and Donald Trump hasn’t been their consistent friend. What they did was wrong, but so is all spying and espionage by anyone anywhere anytime… unless its in a good cause of course.

#16 Comment By Gus Nelson On April 25, 2018 @ 10:32 pm

Booze: Your underlying assumption is that Congress has significant power. Congress is always downstream of social trends – it’s always reacting to what it perceives the public wants. When’s the last time Congress really did something that made you think “wow, that was really forward thinking and helpful to the citizens?” The mob in Silicon Valley has significantly more power than Congress and it’s not necessarily white males and it very certainly isn’t Christian.

#17 Comment By redfish On April 25, 2018 @ 11:07 pm

@TOS,

“This is how Dreher thinks of the left: as being in control of the culture but fighting as if they are all counter-culture warriors of the 60s.”

IMO it goes deeper still. In the academic world, they still talk as if they’re trying to overturn the Victorian bourgeoisie.

#18 Comment By redfish On April 25, 2018 @ 11:11 pm

Booze,

* you’re welcome to argue they’re not “really” Christian; harder to argue they’re not white and male.

The real point is that power isn’t divided on racial lines anymore. A white farmer in Georgia has more in common with black farmers in his state than with some tech CEO in Silicon Valley.

Doesn’t stop people from dismissing that white farmer’s concerns because he’s white, so is privileged.

#19 Comment By kevin on the left On April 26, 2018 @ 12:09 am

““It’s almost as though all the talk about Christian persecution in this here United States studiously ignores that the vast majority of the members of the party that supposed to do the persecuting self-identify as Christians.”

Are you seriously trying to tell us that the Democrat party is being run by black and Hispanic churchgoers?”

1. It’s the Democratic party. For someone who spends half his time on the board complaining about liberals not respecting you, and, unless I’m mistaken, claims to have supported Bernie in the primary and Obama in 08/12, it would be nice if you didn’t use Hannity’s verbal ticks.
2. Are you seriously arguing that white Democrats are not majority Christian, or that, besides a sizeable Jewish contingent and a Muslim or two ( I hope they doesn’t offend your sensitivities) , there are any notable open and public non-Christians among the party’s upper ranks? If so, could you name one?**
3. Now, I’m sure that there are in fact plenty of people in upper echelons of the party who are in fact atheists and agnostics, but pretend to be Christian for political reasons. But I think this is not exactly an argument for the coming Christian persecution.

** As a matter of fact, there is only one openly agnostic or atheist politician I am aware of: Kyrten Sinema, a a congresswoman Senate candidate from Arizona. Which makes us by far the most politically under-represented group in America. Also, according to public opinion surveys, we are by far the least popular group in America: below both Muslims and evangelicas. But at least on this comment board, we are America’s totalitarian rulers.

#20 Comment By kevin on the left On April 26, 2018 @ 12:17 am

“This was my thought, the Chinese are trying to make their billion person country operate like a small town where everybody knows who everybody is and already has a fixed idea of what kind of person they are and what they are capable of. This fits pretty neatly into Chinese culture and philosophy already, in order to take hold in the US it needs to sneak in through capitalism”

One of the most brilliant academic works I’ve read is a study of how the Soviets established social control in Estonia when they invaded it within a matter of months. All they needed was a small number of native speakers, the card catalogs of the national archives and the police, and a relatively small number of arrestees and “volunteers” they could use as snitches. Technology is a vastly overrated as a tool of social control: where there is (political) will, there will be a way.

#21 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 26, 2018 @ 2:03 am

And now the government will require the last five years of your “social media” account records at the border.

Uncle Sam as Kim il Jong. Ugh.

Yeah, almost all bad, just so you can share a few photos with friends? You could always email them.

I feel the same, and I pioneered BBS systems, designed computers and implemented internet communication before it was commercial. I also worked in Silicon Valley and did well monetarily, but the dream became somewhat of a nightmare of greed and deceit, so now I live in internal exile elsewhere in the USA.

#22 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On April 26, 2018 @ 3:02 am

Rob G says:
It depends on whether they prioritize their faith or their Progressivism. If the latter then their self-identification is a sham.

Most would probably say that their faith informs and drives their progressivism just as many conservative Christians say that their political stances are derived from their faith. How much that is actually true certainly varies within both groups.

#23 Comment By galanx On April 26, 2018 @ 6:40 am

NSDAs, no-fly lists, arbitration agreements so you can’t take a company to court, at-will employment, private companies allowing government agencies access to search customers (Greyhound, ICE}- those are from the dreaded SJWs of the Left?

#24 Comment By JonF On April 26, 2018 @ 6:41 am

Re: The mob in Silicon Valley has significantly more power than Congress and it’s not necess

No, not Christian– but Silicon Valley is very much white male dominated.

#25 Comment By Oakinhouston On April 26, 2018 @ 6:43 am

“A white farmer in Georgia has more in common with black farmers in his state than with some tech CEO in Silicon Valley.”

I agree that that’s objectively the case, but the white farmer votes for those that would gut the services he needs, like Medicaid, public education, or SS, while the Silicon Valley CEO votes for those that will raise his taxes to support these programs which support the farmer.

So even though culturally and economically white and black working and middle class are similar, the White working and middle class vote for the policies of the 1%

In the meantime the 1% personally vote for policies tgat favor the 99%, a feel good vote, safe in the knowledge that the White middle class have their back.

#26 Comment By Rob G On April 26, 2018 @ 7:18 am

“The mob in Silicon Valley has significantly more power than Congress and it’s not necessarily white males and it very certainly isn’t Christian.”

Progressives claim to hate corporate power (remember “Occupy”?) but don’t seem to get too het up by that very same corporate power when it’s furthering progressive interests.

(Yes, and before the whataboutism even begins, many on the right take a similar stance w/r/t state power. Guess what? They’re wrong too.)

#27 Comment By MFBonner On April 26, 2018 @ 7:43 am

“A rationale for government interference is not hard to find. We once took privacy for granted but it is becoming a scarce good. In a welfare state, certain essential goods are made available to everyone. Why not take steps to assure that everyone enjoys a modicum of privacy? The little people are not only easier to spy on, but they are more vulnerable to abuses of power.”

Perhaps we should be thinking about voting for folks who will actually behave and legislate as if there is a “right to privacy” and regulating businesses to respect that right, says this “leftie.”

I don’t expect to see much of that from this congress or this administration.

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 26, 2018 @ 2:31 pm

the white farmer votes for those that would gut the services he needs, like Medicaid, public education, or SS, while the Silicon Valley CEO votes for those that will raise his taxes

That’s a rosy paradigm. Do you have any evidence that it is true?

#29 Comment By redfish On April 26, 2018 @ 3:31 pm

@Oakinhouston

I agree that that’s objectively the case, but the white farmer votes for those that would gut the services he needs, like Medicaid, public education, or SS, while the Silicon Valley CEO votes for those that will raise his taxes to support these programs which support the farmer.

The typical Silicon Valley CEO votes for those who support free trade and open borders, which harms American farm workers. Including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The white farmer will also typically support Southern conservatives who are more in favor of social and infrastructure spending, while the black farmer will typically support Southern liberals who are more conservative on social issues and on border security.

#30 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On April 26, 2018 @ 4:39 pm

redfish says:
The typical Silicon Valley CEO votes for those who support free trade and open borders, which harms American farm workers. Including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The white farmer will also typically support Southern conservatives who are more in favor of social and infrastructure spending, while the black farmer will typically support Southern liberals who are more conservative on social issues and on border security.

I dunno, there is pretty strong argument that free trade helps American farm workers (open borders probably just helps agribusiness). Also, who are the southern conservatives that support infrastructure and social spending? Do you mean congress or local government?

#31 Comment By Jones On April 26, 2018 @ 4:59 pm

“All this has created a deep anxiety in the SJW left. You can sense this insecurity, this feeling that they are aware of how badly they are kicking your butt, yet getting the keys to the kingdom isn’t all it was supposed to be. In the meantime, I think we’re going to see this insecurity continue to manifest as anger against traditionalists and ever more authoritarian ways of stomping out what they see as the final pockets of resistance. There’s kind of this feeling like, “Well, if I’m still not content, it must be because there are some strong remnants of the old order that must be discarded… there must still be some shadowy elements of the Christian, heteronormative Patriarchy out to get me.””

Well said. But more than that, they need us.

Why? Well-known facts about the “hedonic treadmill,” which is modern psychological jargon for facts about human desire already well understood by the ancient Stoics. And by every major religious tradition.

Once you actually get to do whatever you want, it’s not sexy anymore. Life without rules is not free. It’s just meaningless. The libidinal excitement you get from being freed from the rules is a one-time deal.

So what’s the solution?

Go find more oppression somewhere to be liberated from, or make it up if you have to.

Rod linked to an article from NYMag, a reliable sinkhole into the wide world of contemporary degeneracy. There was a review of a movie called “Disobedience,” something about hot sex between lesbians who are supposed to be Orthodox Jews, one of them married to a bad patriarchal man.

Why this plot? Why are you interested in Orthodox Jews all of a sudden? Well, you have no choice. Now you have to go back to the site of the original act of defiance — of sexy “disobedience” — and imagine it back into existence. Notwithstanding the fact that the word “disobedience” no longer has any meaning in our society. Disobedience to what?

See also the new season of “Handmaid’s Tale,” a show I refuse to watch but that I’ve read reviews of. The oppression of women depicted there is comically, laugh-out-loud absurd. We should troll leftists by looking them in they eye with total seriousness and saying, “yeah, I think we’re in real danger of ending up in the Handmaid’s Tale for real. This is America under the Pence administration!”

So, you see, they’re not going to leave us alone. They need to pretend that we have power so that they can re-experience the sexiness of disobedience . . . . but they’re flogging a dead horse. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to be like the first hit . . . it never is. We will soon have some restless junkies on our hands.

Their methods are extremely effective at destroying things — culture, norms, morals, civilizations. You can’t deny them that credit. But they are utterly impotent to create. Certainly, they are impotent to create order.

Eventually people will tire of this and they will beg for order, for rules, for norms. Open question, though, how much damage will be done by then.

#32 Comment By redfish On April 26, 2018 @ 6:03 pm

Thomas Hobbes,

I dunno, there is pretty strong argument that free trade helps American farm workers (open borders probably just helps agribusiness). Also, who are the southern conservatives that support infrastructure and social spending? Do you mean congress or local government?

Southern conservatives typically are more paleo-conservative in disposition, which means they’re less about “the free market” and are more friendly to New Deal type policies. Its why when Gingrich was running for President he went around the South state by state promising them all sorts of infrastructure projects; something that Romney zinged him on during a debate as pandering.

The ivory tower argument for free trade isn’t the issue, its the real world fact that in the South many small farms (as well as industry) have had to shut down because of NAFTA, something that is well documented. (And big agribusiness isn’t their friend.)

#33 Comment By grumpy realist On April 26, 2018 @ 6:36 pm

Jones–I think it’s similar on the other side as well. If Soros and Hillary didn’t exist, the conspiracy theorists on the right would invent them.

Ah yes, the paranoid mindset. If it isn’t people on the right darkly muttering about how All Is Lost and traditional America is about to go down under a stampede of lesbian Marxists, it’s the SWJ people on the left screaming about the white male hordes bent on masculinist oppressing. In other words, both sides getting their jollies out of a good stiff immersion in whining self-pity.

Sometimes I just want to slap both sides and tell them to Grow UP, dammit! How in the heck did we ever make it to the Moon with such whiney thumbsucking?

(I swear, if the US were ever invaded by slimy alien hordes from Venus and the only way we could win would be by stretching a huge tarp across the entire country we’d still be falling flat on our asses because we’d all be arguing over what color the tarp should be…)

#34 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On April 26, 2018 @ 8:49 pm

redfish says:
Southern conservatives typically are more paleo-conservative in disposition, which means they’re less about “the free market” and are more friendly to New Deal type policies. Its why when Gingrich was running for President he went around the South state by state promising them all sorts of infrastructure projects; something that Romney zinged him on during a debate as pandering.

I’m not doubting that white southern conservative voters want infrastructure prodjects, I’m doubting the congress critters they vote for do (which was the original argument). Can you point me to an actual southern Republican congressman that is currently in office that has a voting record that indicates that they generally support increasing infrastructure funding rather than decreasing it?

As for free trade and farm workers, we will see what effects Trump’s attempts at starting a trade war will have. I don’t know about the south (I know absolutely nothing about modern southern ag), but the arguments that NAFTA killed small farms in the midwest always seemed pretty weak to me, as appose to agribusiness and coorperate welfare. There are lots of individual examples of specific crop producers that benefit dramatically or lose out dramatically due to NAFTA, but the year to year variation inherent in agriculture will always give agribusiness a huge advantage over small farms without explicit favoritism by the government.

#35 Comment By Josep On April 26, 2018 @ 10:04 pm

I’ll second what Jon (2018-04-25 @ 11:03) said. As much as I believe in freedom of speech and know about the advantages of Internet, it makes me wonder who had the idea of marketing the Internet to the unwashed masses in the first place.
I’m a Computer Science major at WSU. At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, there used to be a time when, not only did people read real books and talk with real people face-to-face, but owning a smartphone, Internet connection, or computer were optional. Now all three have been foisted on the general public to the point that one’s life would be in jeopardy without them, let alone either one.

Disclaimer: I was born in 1999, so I have no experience with a time before Internet became mainstream, and was too young to remember when it was optional. I’d be grateful for any anecdotes of how people behaved then compared to nowadays.

#36 Comment By JonF On April 27, 2018 @ 10:38 am

Re: I’d be grateful for any anecdotes of how people behaved then compared to nowadays.

Well, you had to use a pay phone if you needed to make a call when you were away from home. These were not always in good condition and sometimes they were hard to find. And unless people knew where you were you were uncontactable when away from home, which sometimes was a good thing. (Some people like doctors and drug dealers carried beepers to get around that limitation). Job hunting was a local thing carried out via the local newspaper classified ads or perhaps an employment agency– you were not generally in competition with people from parts distant. And the classifieds also did the job of CraigsList, but only in the local newspaper distribution area. There were a lot more jobs doing things in a distributed way that would now be done by computer at a centralized office. A friend’s mother, e.g., was the bookkeeper at our local KMart, preparing and sending all; the store reports by mail each day– something that would not be necessary today. Bills had to be paid my mail, or in person, with checks or even cash– and sometimes bills or payments got lost in the mail, which could be a headache. Phone systems were more primitive so your chance of getting through to a real human rather than an endlessly looping idiot-savant phone tree was much better. Travel reservations had to be done by phone, and people who traveled a lot paid a travel agent to take care of it. Stores carried a greater variety of goods, and if you couldn’t find some niche appeal item in person, your alternative was a catalog, like the big books from Sears or Pennys. It was much harder to comparison shop though. Everything proceeded slower, at the speed of the mail. Background checks were hard to do, and somewhat pricey, so there was a lot less of that: our past did not necessarily follow us around dragging behind us like a ball and chain. Of course that did facilitate a certain amount of flim-flammery. I can even recall people who lost their DLs due to DUIs in Michigan who would just go down to Toledo and get an Ohio license (mailed to a local friend’s address there) because the two states had no way to cross check with each other. And of course deadbeat parents who owed child support could easily skip out on it. At the extreme anyone who wanted to start over could move to parts distant under an assumed identity and likely would not be caught (as some 60s radicals did). Rumors and gossip were generally just local– “Did you hear about the mayor’s kid in that pot bust?” rather than “Did you hear about the President and the stripper?”. “Fake news” simply didn’t have a way to travel, and paranoid kooks like the old John Birch Society were widely seen as paranoid kooks since they didn’t have the ersatz authority of the Internet rendering their nonsense credible. Authority figures– political, religious, corporate, academic, etc.– were a lot more trusted since it was hard for dissenting voices to be heard. Though the abuse of authority (Vietnam, Watergate) did lead to distrust eventually.

#37 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 27, 2018 @ 12:44 pm

Reading the Lanier interview made me (for the first time) stop and think about Wikipedia. Just as Lanier says:

“Before Wikipedia, I think it would have been viewed as being this horrible thing to say that there could only be one encyclopedia, and that there would be one dominant entry for a given topic. Instead, there were different encyclopedias. There would be variations not so much in what facts were presented, but in the way they were presented. That voice was a real thing. And then we moved to this idea that we have a single dominant encyclopedia that was supposed to be the truth for the global AI or something like that. But there’s something deeply pernicious about that. So we’re saying anybody can write for Wikipedia, so it’s, like, purely democratic and it’s this wonderful open thing, and yet the bizarreness is that that open democratic process is on the surface of something that struck me as being Maoist, which is that there’s this one point of view that’s then gonna be the official one.”

I fault myself for not seeing this before–for needing this interview to begin to see the pernicious, negative implications of Wikipedia.

#38 Comment By redfish On April 27, 2018 @ 1:03 pm

Thomas Hobbes,

Any policy that favors cheap labor will inherently favor agribusiness and hurt small farmers; small farmers lost out in Mexico too, due to NAFTA.

At any rate, I’m not aware of current Congressmens’ voting records and its sort of moot until an infrastructure bill comes up. I know how the situation has been in the past; today, I’d have to do a tally of current Congresscritters. But I suspect when Trump gets around to pushing one, a lot of Southern Republicans will feel pressured into voting for it.

The thing is in the South, Democrats and Republicans are often in competition on the same issues, so the Republicans don’t want to lose ground to the Democrats on this. There’s also a competing dynamic where they’re afraid of national conservatives who would hold them accountable for being “liberal” on economic issues. However, if a bill has Trump’s backing and gets the support of conservative pundits like Hannity and Ingraham, who’ve shown support in the past for that type of approach to national policy, I suspect they’ll be a big help in getting an infrastructure bill through despite objections from libertarian-leaning Republicans.

#39 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On April 27, 2018 @ 4:12 pm

redfish,
Any kind of direct competition favors agribusiness over small farms. If there is going to be a resurgence in small farms it’s gonna come from either massive incentives from the government or yuppies that care about where their produce comes from and how it was harvested. NAFTA increased the demand for certain Mexican and American crops and decreased the price for others. Any renegotiation will just slide the scales a bit on those same variables.

You are much more optimistic about infrastructure than me. It seems to me like congressional Republicans (and I haven’t noticed any difference in the southern ones) have just been using Trump as cover to do what they always do (lower taxes for the rich and corporations) and ignoring what his voters wanted. Do you think Ryan or McConnell (Kentucky is the South, no?) is actually gonna work on bring an infrastructure bill through congress? When Trump first took office he said he wanted infrastructure to be the first priority and look what happened. Best chance for any kind of infrastructure bill IMO is if Republicans lose control of both houses and infrastructure is the only thing Trump and Democrats can agree on.

Josep says:
I’d be grateful for any anecdotes of how people behaved then compared to nowadays.

In addition to JonF’s description, people had much more intermittent communications without txts, emails, and cell phones. If you wanted to meet up with somebody someplace you had to agree on a location and time before hand. If you wanted to go somewhere new you had to look at a map or get detailed directions in advance.