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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    Responses to lectures, discussions, and debates.



    At 10:00 Julian Assange states that the principle behind Wikileaks is to create a historical record based on a truthful reality, not one manipulated to serve the interest of power. The presentation of truth allows citizens to best decide their future. One may argue that facts must be guarded to protect citizens. This issue is raised around 32:00, along with the common charges from American politicians against Assange. Read by Amy Goodman, the charges include putting the lives of American soldiers overseas at risk with the release of Bradley Manning’s documents. I searched for any evidence that Bradley Manning’s documents have resulted in the deaths of Americans and could find none.

    Still, if one accepts the potential of losing lives was there, then Assange’s actions require a thorough defense. In the discussion I believe Assange’s defense is limited. He brings up the speed that politicians resorted to a McCarthian mindset to turn public opinion against him, a fair critique and certainly worthy of analysis, but there’s another point I’d raise, which deals more directly with the issue. Before a soldier enlists to fight, it’s appropriate to ask if fighting will result in a greater good. Of course, one may rely on the politicians to provide the answer, but as seen in history, politicians don’t always have the people’s best interest at heart, nor will their lives be on the line. Therefore, the open sharing of information is required for potential soldiers to independently make the decision.

    In response to Assange’s principle behind Wikileaks, Slavoj Zizek remarks on China’s prohibition of stories dealing with time travel and alternate realities. Apparently, the nation doesn’t want its citizens concluding that history can be altered. Obviously this a problem, Zizek says, but even bigger problem is the western world’s acceptance of alternate realities as an economic necessity (?). Honestly, I’m not exactly sure where’s he going with the idea and felt this way about other ideas he presented. But to his credit, he has an intriguing ability to create metaphors related to pop-culture, i.e. “There Will Be Blood,” and the television show “24,” which is a pertinent way to tap into the collective conscious, because after all, what we view and listen to says a lot about us.

    There is also a noteworthy, albeit brief, point he makes around 1:20:30 about a difference he has with Chomsky who, according to Zizek, said that “today, all the obscenities are so clear that we don’t need any critique of ideology, we just need to tell people the truth.” Zizek responds that truth must be contextualized within our overarching beliefs. Therefore, what we accept as truth will conform, as a necessity, to the systems we ascribe to, moralistic or economic. So, for example, if I choose to kill one innocent person to save five, then I’ve demonstrated principles found on utilitarian truths, as opposed to say, leaving the decision in God’s hands, which is founded on the existence of God.

    In summary, I’d recommend 1:35:00-1:34:00, if not the whole discussion. Here, Assange speaks on the power of public opinion and the important function of bloggers. He comes across perceptive, well spoken and certainly worth taking seriously. Admittedly, I was uncertain of this before.
    Last edited by Makers!*; 06-26-2014 at 05:35 AM.

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    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    Thanks - I actually watched all of it.

    I actually found Slavoz Zizek's points most interesting as I hadn't heard of him before and have, at least superficially, pondered Assange.

    To me a powerful point he made was about us already knowing something but not having to respond to it because there is no real proof, that those in power may even use this cynically to innoculate or inure public opinion to accept something on the sly that they would not normally accept if given a clear choice. Then some critical event (such as in Egypt) can forment a phase transition.

    This has happened in the US with the Tea Party - even if this has astroturf roots it still wouldn't get traction if it didn't tap into core beliefs of many people. On the other hand, OWS might have influenced some thinking but didn't seem to reach this phase transition. Perhaps we in the states collectively just aren't terribly anarchistic or anti-authoritarian or whatever OWS was about.

    I can hear the conservative voice in my head saying none of this outing of backroom telegrams or combat incident reports helps runs a large society which must be herded like a bunch of cats in some direction. The revolution in Egypt seems to have failed for example when the people's will had a phase transition. The public elected the guys who the military feared all along and so the military stepped back in with repression worse than ever, paying particular attention to suppressing journalists so they didn't have the same sort of problems again. Likewise, we haven't heard much from Assange of late as he seems to be as effectively contained as Saddam after the first Gulf War.

    The progressive voice in my head notes that the recent book 'Capital' shows the best way to make money is to have money (as opposed to working hard) which leads naturally to an increasing concentration of wealth and power and (my addition) an increasing corruption and rent-seeking in business as usual.

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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starjots View Post
    Thanks - I actually watched all of it.

    I actually found Slavoz Zizek's points most interesting as I hadn't heard of him before and have, at least superficially, pondered Assange.

    To me a powerful point he made was about us already knowing something but not having to respond to it because there is no real proof, that those in power may even use this cynically to innoculate or inure public opinion to accept something on the sly that they would not normally accept if given a clear choice. Then some critical event (such as in Egypt) can forment a phase transition.

    This has happened in the US with the Tea Party - even if this has astroturf roots it still wouldn't get traction if it didn't tap into core beliefs of many people. On the other hand, OWS might have influenced some thinking but didn't seem to reach this phase transition. Perhaps we in the states collectively just aren't terribly anarchistic or anti-authoritarian or whatever OWS was about.
    To me the failings of OWS amounted to not having clear desires or leadership, however much they flouted these things as strengths. It's great for a bunch of people to come together for positive change, but ultimately, the change has to work with the system. The Tea Party recognizes this. They have senators for christs sake, and what does OWS have? nothing, I'd say. Even after months of tremendous protesting.



    Hubert Dreyfus is a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, who uses his knowledge of philosophy to analyze Western literature. He has written several books, including “All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age,” which I’ve read and found very enlightening. The attached audio-lecture seems to be part of a larger series. I can’t seem to find the other segments, but I’ve still posted it, because I think it’s good introduction for anyone interested in Dreyfus and his interpretation of, arguably the greatest American novel, “Moby-Dick.”

    Dreyfus begins the lecture by addressing the main character’s name, Ishmael. It’s a fitting way to start on account of Moby-Dick’s famous opening line, “Call me, Ishmael.” The name comes from an Old Testament character who is consigned to wander a desert after being banished from Egypt. Moby Dick’s Ismael is also a wanderer, one who sets out to sea, although he can’t explain why he sets out; rather, it seems the decision is based on his mood:

    “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

    Dreyfus reasons that Herman Melville’s emphasis of moods, as a directing force, has roots in the polytheistic tradition: think, Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Just as the God’s in “The Odyssey” determine Odysseus’s path, so do Ishmael’s moods, which are evoked by the different worlds that he encounters during his wandering. Sometimes the mood evoked is reverence, as when the pagan, Queequeg, offers Ishmael a tiny idol to praise. Ishmael takes the offering very seriously and honors the idol with respect. This act demonstrates his post-modern adaptability to other cultural traditions and makes the case for worship, so long as it’s not restricted to any one God.

    In Melville’s own words to Nathanial Hawthorne, “I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb.” This statement follows from Moby-Dick’s anti monotheistic message. Indeed, Dreyfus argues that Moby-Dick rejects any philosophy that offers a singular explanation for the world. There is a moment when Ishmael spends a great deal of time trying to interpret a whale painting in a tavern; although, the painting is obscured by smoke and looks different from every angle, which is to say, reality is unrepresentable. It’s based on our individual interpretations.

    Captain Ahab’s character is an example of the dangers that becoming too attached to any one interpretation can cause. He is adamant Moby-Dick is malevolent creature that needs to be destroyed and convinces his crew, of which Ishmael is apart, with such fiery conviction that he leads them all to disaster.
    Last edited by Makers!*; 06-26-2014 at 07:01 AM.

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    Senior Member Tetris Champion notdavidlynch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Makers!* View Post
    To me the failings of OWS amounted to not having clear desires or leadership, however much they flouted these things as strengths. It's great for a bunch of people to come together for positive change, but ultimately, the change has to work with the system.
    That's not how I see it. I think it failed because we as Americans have been conditioned to believe in the "power" of non-violent protest. What OWS was against was in effect capitalism itself - the ability of an elite to exploit lower classes and to gain control of the vast majority of the nations wealth. This system theoretically could - but almost certainly won't - change through legislation or voting or anything peaceful. I see two things that can defeat it: #1 itself - it continues until it's clear that it's unsustainable, becomes progressively unstable, and deteriorates with people and assets being sucked in to competing systems - perhaps a brief period of anarchy, and #2 direct, violent intervention, i.e. revolution, war, terrorism, whatever. It could also, of course, be a mix of #1 and #2 .

    OWS was up against a Medusa and didn't even know what to do about the snake heads (local infrastructural establishments). Burn them down, close them, just camp outside and hope someone will give a shit? Ha.

    Basically, it was just a bunch of idealists who didn't quite understand what they were up against. Thankfully, there are some people out there who have the right idea. Hopefully we'll see more of them in the near future.

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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by notdavidlynch View Post
    That's not how I see it. I think it failed because we as Americans have been conditioned to believe in the "power" of non-violent protest. What OWS was against was in effect capitalism itself - the ability of an elite to exploit lower classes and to gain control of the vast majority of the nations wealth. This system theoretically could - but almost certainly won't - change through legislation or voting or anything peaceful. I see two things that can defeat it: #1 itself - it continues until it's clear that it's unsustainable, becomes progressively unstable, and deteriorates with people and assets being sucked in to competing systems - perhaps a brief period of anarchy, and #2 direct, violent intervention, i.e. revolution, war, terrorism, whatever. It could also, of course, be a mix of #1 and #2 .

    OWS was up against a Medusa and didn't even know what to do about the snake heads (local infrastructural establishments). Burn them down, close them, just camp outside and hope someone will give a shit? Ha.

    Basically, it was just a bunch of idealists who didn't quite understand what they were up against. Thankfully, there are some people out there who have the right idea. Hopefully we'll see more of them in the near future.
    We need a strong and regulatory state to dismantle corporate control over media, energy, and industry. We need important issues, like climate change and human rights abuses, to remain in the public discourse. We need progressives elected to office. And we need educated individuals to put them there, rather than throwing their vote away over some abstacted ideal. We certainly don't need every hillbilly and gangbanger in America loosed upon the street with their guns.

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    Senior Member Tetris Champion notdavidlynch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Makers!* View Post
    We need a strong and regulatory state to dismantle corporate control over media, energy, and industry. We need important issues, like climate change and human rights abuses, to remain in the public discourse. We need progressives elected to office. And we need educated individuals to put them there, rather than throwing their vote away over some abstacted ideal. We certainly don't need every hillbilly and gangbanger in America loosed upon the street with their guns.
    What I think we need I want to see is a little more feasible.

    A strong, regulatory state with power over corporate America simply can't be achieved through our current system. Corporate America has a stranglehold on the government, they literally write the bills that are to be passed and, while it's unclear if they decide who wins elections, they certainly decide who runs. How would it be possible to release their power long enough to enact legislation against them to further limit their power? It would be illegal. It would require either someone coming in from the outside and enacting force on the system, or systemic decay. As for having an educated populace, that's just not going to happen either. There's too much money involved in keeping us stupid and docile. It's only going to get worse. You can refer to Polemarch's predictions/extrapolations for one possible future.

    What we can have, however, is a small group of educated individuals willing to take drastic action. The people in the article I linked were clearly not hillbillies or gangbangers, they were informed and knew what they were doing, and were very nearly successful at knocking California off the grid in the heart of Silicon Valley. I'm sure you can imagine the ramifications of that. We need more people capable of taking (relatively) small actions capable of large scale, disruptive change.

    America jumped the shark a long time ago. Anyone who is still ideologically on board needs to wake up.

    Our best hope might actually stem from the continued development and expansion of the internet. I'm not convinced that the technology could ever be completely controlled by government or corporate interests.

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by notdavidlynch View Post
    What I think we need I want to see is a little more feasible.

    A strong, regulatory state with power over corporate America simply can't be achieved through our current system. Corporate America has a stranglehold on the government, they literally write the bills that are to be passed and, while it's unclear if they decide who wins elections, they certainly decide who runs. How would it be possible to release their power long enough to enact legislation against them to further limit their power? It would be illegal. It would require either someone coming in from the outside and enacting force on the system, or systemic decay. As for having an educated populace, that's just not going to happen either. There's too much money involved in keeping us stupid and docile. It's only going to get worse. You can refer to Polemarch's predictions/extrapolations for one possible future.

    What we can have, however, is a small group of educated individuals willing to take drastic action. The people in the article I linked were clearly not hillbillies or gangbangers, they were informed and knew what they were doing, and were very nearly successful at knocking California off the grid in the heart of Silicon Valley. I'm sure you can imagine the ramifications of that. We need more people capable of taking (relatively) small actions capable of large scale, disruptive change.

    America jumped the shark a long time ago. Anyone who is still ideologically on board needs to wake up.

    Our best hope might actually stem from the continued development and expansion of the internet. I'm not convinced that the technology could ever be completely controlled by government or corporate interests.
    Except little, isolated disruptive actions like that don't have much of a track record of success, either. 19th century anarchists were kind of notorious for this--thinking that if you just set off a few bombs, or assassinated a couple of business magnates, you'd demonstrate that the system was vulnerable and next thing you knew the masses would be clamoring to overthrow it. It doesn't really work that way, and if you don't generate a secondary response of that sort, then your little isolated action is pretty much a meaningless drop in the proverbial bucket. Look at the Earth Liberation Front for a more contemporary example of this.

    I'd say OWS got a few things right, and was probably a step in the right direction. (One step, not the be-all/end-all.) Its main weakness was not being organized around one clearly articulated agenda, but in a sense it didn't need to be to have some degree of the desired effect. It demonstrated that you can get thousands upon thousands of people out for what was, more or less, a protest against capitalism--or think of it as a generalized protest against the basic economic regime the US and by extension much of the world currently operates under--which a lot of people would otherwise have said was probably impossible. The mass sentiment is there, now clearly evident and waiting for someone to come up with a plan that all those people can throw the weight of their numbers behind. It might be nice if this were a little more cleanly and conveniently done within the procedures of the existing system for producing 'results,' but I think part of the salient point of the whole thing was that the existing system is unlikely to produce solutions if everyone does goes along trying to play the game the way they're supposed to play it.

    It was a fairly simple and straightforward point (in the broad strokes, if not the particulars), and one that probably couldn't have been made without cutting through all the partisan, procedural crap which is basically built into the system specifically to neuter mass movements seeking straightforward paradigmatic changes in how the system works. (You're not supposed to just have mass demonstrations saying "yo, look, here's the shit we want fixed"--you're supposed to expend all your energy on all kinds of convoluted, divisive crap about trying to win specific elections in specific districts of specific states and then horse-trade your way to getting some small part of your agenda enacted, or other such bullshit hoops that probably wouldn't be there to jump through if the people who designed the US system of government were actually trying to create a real democracy.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

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    Senior Member Tetris Champion notdavidlynch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Mexico View Post
    Except little, isolated disruptive actions like that don't have much of a track record of success, either. 19th century anarchists were kind of notorious for this--thinking that if you just set off a few bombs, or assassinated a couple of business magnates, you'd demonstrate that the system was vulnerable and next thing you knew the masses would be clamoring to overthrow it.
    We don't live in the 1800s anymore, and I'm certainly not talking about small scale violence and domestic terrorism like you saw with the Weather Underground in the 1900s. A well placed series of strikes on our technological infrastructure, which we rely on more and more everyday, would do a tremendous amount of damage, enough to grind our information economy to a halt. If the men in San Jose had finished their job (which they very nearly did), then they would have caused blackouts throughout Silicon Valley and most of California in the 21st century. Who even knows what kind of other opportunities this would open up. Furthermore,

    a FERC analysis found that if a surprisingly small number of U.S. substations were knocked out at once, that could destabilize the system enough to cause a blackout that could encompass most of the U.S.
    and

    "physical damage of certain system components (e.g. extra-high-voltage transformers) on a large scale…could result in prolonged outages, as procurement cycles for these components range from months to years."
    It's not an issue of convincing people that "the system is vulnerable". Such attacks wouldn't need "the people" at all to be successful, since "the system" has the potential - with the right plan and the right people to carry out - to be toppled outright.

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    The reason OWS failed is because, unlike the tea party, it didn't have significant money. Money equals power, and it always will. Young people yelling on the street is a minor annoyance to the established powers that be. And, your individual vote is statistically trivial. If you want to make any difference at all: acquire, raise, and/or influence the spending of money, retain your values, and fund the politics of your choice. Cynical, yes, but realistic. Like it or not, money is behind everything.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thevenin View Post
    The reason OWS failed is because, unlike the tea party, it didn't have significant money. Money equals power, and it always will. Young people yelling on the street is a minor annoyance to the established powers that be. And, your individual vote is statistically trivial. If you want to make any difference at all: acquire, raise, and/or influence the spending of money, retain your values, and fund the politics of your choice. Cynical, yes, but realistic. Like it or not, money is behind everything.
    True. And then there is force also. Let's be honest the official arm of the state sanctioned violence in the US, the police, are generally more sympathetic to the good ol' time boys Tea Party than a bunch of OWS hippies.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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