I was startled to see a headline in the Industry Standard, "Nightmare on Main Street: If Silicon Valley ran the country":
Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and Steve Poizner are just the beginning: The merchant princes and princesses of Silicon Valley are sure they could do a better job running the country.
Says tech writer Bill Snyder:
Whether they're Republicans, Democrats, or Tea Partiers, Silicon Valley execs should stay out of politics. Sure, most of them are plenty smart, but the skill sets, temperament, and -- yes -- empathy needed to govern are beyond them.
He believes that executives in Silicon Valley don't have the understanding of ordinary people to emphathize, and he's right.
But if that were a reason to bar people from elections, it would be hard to find any candidate who could qualify.
I was just reading an old 2002 article by Comrade Larry Lessig about the war between the North of California, the bastion of the technocommunists with their big IT corporations and boostering of "Free Culture", and the South of California, with Hollywood and the promotion of capitalism and protection of intellectual property. It's a funny way to put it, North and South, like North and South Korea or something. Larry's back making ahistorical and false comparisons of other "disruptive technology" like the player piano and sheet music (sigh) to the modern day problem of rapacious technocommunist business schemes disrupting entire industries and millions of people's livlihoods in ways that the Luddites couldn't imagine in their worst nightmares and which no sheet-music composer ever had to address on anything like this scale and velocity.
When there really is a revolution of "disruptive technology" that appeals more to the masses and ordinary people, who aren't harmed by it by having it lose their jobs but whose lives are enhanced, when there is something like the Apple i-pad, the geek enclave screeches with anger that their power base is disrupted, and people may no longer have to depend on them so much as gatekeepers and gurus and fixers on the Internet. The New Class of API engineers endlessly rants if they don't have maximum access to every big platform that comes along like the i-phone or Facebook (or for that matter, Second Life, with its third-party viewer debate)
In that respect the recent rant by a tekkie against Steve Jobs for not being "revolutionary" enough (the comrades are never happy!) was SO instructive. The guy accused Jobs of making a product with no freedom, i.e. no freedom for him to hook in with his opensource loveliness or his APIs on an accessible platform, something the techosphere is ranting about everywhere. Says Jobs:
Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin', and some traditional PC folks feel like their world is slipping away. It is.
Go, Steve! Honestly, it is SO refreshing to read this coming from Jobs.
Of course, he can point to 200,000 APIs in the API store and rightly point out "they must be doing something right". The guy persists with his QQing. Jobs retorts:
Gosh, why are you so bitter over a technical issue such as this? Its not about freedom, its about Apple trying to do the right thing for its users. Users, developers and publishers can do whatever they like -- they don't have to buy or develop or publish on iPads if they don't want to.
Yes! You don't have to be a prude to appreciate getting porn taking out of your field of vision where it intrudes constantly. You don't have to be "against freedom" if you appreciate ease of use for the common user. All of this is applicable to SL, of course.
Or let's take this OUTRAGEOUS government-funded study of BDSM photographs in SL, found by this researcher as a "source of innovation". Um, I guess he missed how this sub-culture is a source of coercion, violence, and slavery that is setting back the achievements of women's rights for the last 50 years -- and for that matter, all human rights. I really loathe researchers that go into virtuality with this faux meta stance that acts as if it is "neutral" and merely "observers emergent phenomena" blah blah but in fact is a stealth-march with a very decided extremist agenda, trying to legitimize collectivism and coercion, and trying to undermine and natural revulsion to such totalitarianism as "puritanical". It's downright creepy.
Or how about this whopping grant of $378,644 given to study why virtual communities fail, but World of Warcraft and Wikipedia don't -- without the slightest relevant value judgement about insidious collectivism -- again, from that faux meta stance of supposedly scholarly "objectivity" and with a built-in bias that groupism is a positive phenomenon, and when groups "fail" this is a "bad thing".
A fan wrote in last night and said he loved my blog, said I had helped clarify his thinking about the Open University and what he found wrong with it, too, and noted that all this was reminiscent of "God and Man at Yale" by William F. Buckley. It's been ages since I've picked up that book and I probably didn't understand it back then and would appreciate it more now, so I'l get it to read.
So while I'm circling around the topic of "Why Geeks Are Unfit to Rule," let me note another immoral creature in the news now, the founder of Limewire. I do wonder how this Harvard-trained man made his fortune. Probably on all of clicking on ads or trying software or diet powders for 30 days and getting recurring billing (like the MySpace fortunes were made). I think of Limewire as a total pestilence. I kept trying to remove it every time I caught my kids with it, and one time I found that it had caused a virus. Before I saw the effects of the virus, a funny thing happened. I clicked on a song mp3 that had some popular song title on it. But what popped up instead was a chorus of adults in suits singing a sort of operatic song about copyright theft -- I guess this was something that record companies seeded into Limewire. But then my browser was hijacked and nothing I could do would fix it -- maybe those companies seed the viruses, too? In any event, the attempts to get rid of it only got my computer into worse trouble and finally I took it to a geek guru who pronounced it DOA. So I really don't like Limewire.
But more than a destructive virus caused by this service, I loathe the "California business model" at play here -- first make your fortune off the undermining of musicians' rights, by enabling the sharing and attracting the ad clickers, and then coyly suggest that you are "working with" record companies to get licenses and selling some legitimate products but still enabling a vast system of illegitimate copying. I hope this guy gets the book thrown at him. And his funding of bicycle paths or whatever other happy do-good stuff he does to throw up smokescreens about his essentially criminal behaviour rooted in technocommunist "expropriation of the expropriators" just doesn't impress me.
The New York Times gave Mark Gorton loving treatment, praise for his "innovation" and and exhibited penis-envy for his degrees, his income, his fancy apartment, his lifestyle. A judge ruled that he had violated copyright and must pay a $450 million judgement, yet the Times is "troubled", trying to "see his side" of it.
All along, Mr. Gorton said, he thought he was following the law, despite
a series of earlier lawsuits that ended badly for file-sharing services
like Napster and Grokster. And where there were doubts about the
legality, he said, he tried to remove them.
I mean, look at how the Times unwittingly reveals how he made his fortune:
The Recording Industry Association of America, the industry group that managed the lawsuit on behalf of 13 record companies, said it thought he had willfully skirted the law, motivated by the money generated by the millions of users of LimeWire. Total revenue increased to an estimated $20 million in 2006 from $6 million two years earlier, according to the court ruling, much of it from a paid service that allowed for faster downloads.
I'll bet! I hope that he has to pay the fine, and that he is unable to go on green-washing himself by donating some of his millions to environmental causes. And again, *people like this can't be allowed to govern*. Not because they have "no empathy" -- although they don't, for people's property rights -- but because they are criminal-minded, and apologetic about being so.
There are two other big reasons why geeks shouldn't be allowed to rule:
1. They hate representative democracy. Nothing undoes the cabal of power that geeks represent like the election and the running of candidates. They try to manipulate it, as they have done in the last election, but the fix doesn't stay in (they didn't anticipate the Tea Party and now they can't stop it). Time and again, I read ill-informed, even outright retarded rants on blogs and forums about "evil corrupt politicans" and how they need to be "removed" and the people need to "vote directly" -- or not at all (they can just hum, like they do in ITEF). These kinds of statements are spoken by people who have likely never tried to lobby government, or work with government officials, or known people who have gone into government. Government inevitably involves compromises, and inevitably requires a positive and "constructive" approach that has to ignore obvious negatives and at some point flatten criticism -- but if goes too far off balance, people rebel. And that will be happening. Even so, the problem isn't representative democracy, or less-than-perfect democratic politicians. The problem is that the extreme left, and the geekocracy, which can just as often consist of extreme right loonies loving up Ron Paul or brands of Libertarianism or Extropianism, are not able to persuade *their fellow Americans* that they are right. They hate that. They want to do an end run around those people they believe are "blighted" by "guns and religion". They think that if only they were directly in power, without any checks and balances, they would "do good". They are truly selfish and pig-headed about realizing that they themselves are only one ideology, one constituency, one interest group or a cluster of interest groups that have no special right to power than any other -- and they don't have a notion of how to forget compromises and forge policies across ideological lines.
2. This brings me to my second point, which is the curious belief that geeks have that the facts of all issues are knowable, that they possess tools to know them, that they have the critical intellectual faculties to know them, and that those who disagree are "in error" or "incorrect" or "need to be tutored" or are "ignorant", etc. This arrogant certitude is very well exemplified by the figure of Jon Stewart, who has grown more and more rabid, intense and vengeful as time goes on and he faces not direct and instant power, as perhaps he dreamed he had if Obama, his chosen candidate came to power, but sees a country filled with a lot of static against Obama-mania.
I was trying to put my finger on why Stewart isn't funny, and why he always comes across to me as leering, nasty, even sinister. And that is because he relentlessly goes after finding the facts about this or that perceived idiocy on the right or by the Tea Party people, and then maybe finds a fact, but then mercilessly pillories these people on some smaller point, without seeing the larger issue.
Example: some conservatives believed some staging in a conference where the president spoke had a "Muslim symbol" or something in it. And it turned out it was just some design or something. So Jon Stewart portrays these critics as the same ilk as those obsessing about whether Obama is Muslim or not, rather seeing the larger issues -- that many people feel Obama is soft on Iran, Egypt and other Muslim regimes and doesn't have a plan for how to counter the ideology of terrorism effectively. Stewart simply brushes that all aside. You can watch episode after episode. And he just rants on and on, making all those cunning facial expressions of exasperation and malicious glee, and you can't really find fault with the "facts," you can't really say anything is wrong, but it's just context and tone and omission.
So he'll say about Palin that she has a "little box of crazy" she keeps under her bed. That gets a lot of laughs, but I can only say in the same spirit -- like the little box of socialism he keeps under his bed. See, that would be "wrong," but impugning actual "crazyiness" to a politician whose views and persona he just doesn't like
Every day, the left comes up with some zealous obsession like this, screeching with more and more indignation about some perceive or actual factual error. Like today on Twitter, you see many outraged geeks sarcastically bashing Palin for reading a poem of a veteran, but not crediting the poem to him -- like you can see in this series of parrots all mining the same meme. But, why would it matter? It doesn't. That is, sure, people should be credited for their work. But since when are geeks such gatekeepers of copyright?! These are the same people giving Limewire a pass and telling us we must all share and mashup. This meme is repeated on and on all over the blogosphere. And...what is the point? To show *error*. To show *incorrectness*. To show *a crime*, even. But...is it relevant to any substantive issues?
This is the sort of cul-de-sac that most political debate finds itself in on the wars. It's like the rabid -- and rigid -- obsessiveness about many online arguers with the meme of "Bush lied, people died," and the declaration of the fact that gosh, there were no weapons of mass destruction. And so? Yeah, that was already trounced a zillion times as a bad thing. Sooooooo what's your plan for ending outrageous terrorist attacks, sponsored by Iran and other bad actors, on civilians in Iraq? Did you have one?
And then there is the still, small voice that keeps coming up in these cases and saying, but wait. In fact, Sarah Palin didn't claim she wrote this poem. It was a tweet, for God's sake, without room for a full text and twitter. How many people have written "the road not taken" or "ours is not to wonder why" on Twitter, but not credited the poems and the authors from which these phrases, part of the idiom, have been taken? It's just an insane level of hypercritical nastiness to go on about this "plagiarizing' in a twitter *fair use* (remember...fair use? 140 characters is fair use!) and to hyperventilate about the lack of a credit, when...the sentiments expressed aren't in fact addressed by the legion of geek correctionists.
I often get the feeling that there is just a small cadre of people who sit around coming up with these memes every day, and then disseminating them (on either the right or left). Every leftwinger is dutifully ranting about this in person, on Twitter, or in the blog. But...do they realize that veterans fighting wars that protect freedom in fact really do protect freedom? Do they draw any conclusions from this, after they get done piously denouncing Palin's "plagiariasm"?
See, this is why such trolls and Fiskers can't be allowed to rule. They're not able to see the essence of the issue, and speak the larger truths, but are willing to carp and cavil about non-essentials merely to bully and silence and discredit. Here are people willing to call Palin a "lying cunt" for "plagiarizing" when...hello people, all she did was paraphrase a poem that she'd hear on Twitter. Who's the lying cunt, the person who does *that* on Twitter, or the freaks that think such bullying on a minor issue at best is a good substitute for authentic politics?
Honestly, we have legions of these kinds of smug, arrogant, bitter -- and often insecure and looserish -- geeks unleashed on the public discourse these days, and they invade every discussion and prevent the articulation of more substantive and real issues.
"Ankle-biters" is what I believe Crap Mariner calls them.
Another example of this "just the facts m'am" literalism is this interchange I had on Twitter, which I think is self-explanatory. It starts with a retweet from Craig Newmark, founder of Craig's List, one of the great card-carrying technocommunist leaders of the Creative Communism:
(this is some conference he's retweeting).
So I say:
@craignewmark geeks assume falsely that all information is knowable and rational decisions can always be made on its basis.
@craignewmark @strategy_samba exactly. And yet geeks assume falsely
that all information is knowable. Singularists. Dataminers. etc.strategy_samba
@catfitz You are being obsessive, generalistic and condescending. There's not a factory in Los Gatos stamping out geeks. cc @craignewmark
@catfitz i'll see
what I can do...
I wish there were better tools for capturing Twitter convos than are out there (and yes, I've seen some and they are disappointing). These tweets don't come in the right order, necessarily, but you get the gist, Craig Newmark, in response to me telling him that he doesn't run the Internet yet, says "I'll see what I can do.."
But it's a very *typical* exchange in the absolute, 100 percent overconfident assertion that people "make wrong decisions" or "have bad ideas" because they "don't have the facts". They have "wrong data". Why, if only collect all the data, we can "set them straight". This pervaded in the health care debate, where every speculative and incomplete Congressional Research Service computation based on putative costs would be seized as "the facts" and if anyone criticized anything they would be witheringly told they hadn't read some 432-page document. (The right is using this technique on the Arizona law, telling anyone who complains, like little parrot soldiers, that "they must not have read it".)
When a reader on Twitter retweets concern of a lawmaker about Craigslist facilitating child porn, @craignewmark has to say "check the facts first!". It's always about *other people being wrong*. It's always about their "lack of facts".
I have no idea what is the case in that particular story, but I highlight it to show a method, a pattern, a technique:
"You dont' have the facts"
"We geeks can possess all the facts."
"Facts can all be found by machines online now".
"You need to be corrected by the facts from our machines."
And ultimately, whatever facts someone might actually present about a story like this, say, two underage girls claiming they got clients for prostitution via Craigslist, there are more "server truths" to be had, as a spokesman from Craig's list tells us, with typical geek overkill:
"With 50 million Americans engaging in billions of human interactions each month, the overwhelming majority of which are well-intentioned, the incidence of crime on Craigslist is exceptionally low. However, our tolerance for crime is zero, and we welcome suggestions from US Attorney Russoneillo, and any other concerned party, for further preventing misuse."