t byfield on 16 Mar 2001 16:06:33 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Armor, Amour

pit@klubradio.de (Thu 03/15/01 at 01:57 AM +0100):

> the absurdity in this missile defense shield is not only that it
> just continues with a republican reaganite dream of space warfare
> like nothing has happened over the last 12 years. the true novelty
> is that the plan of an us-american evernet, the angelic endless supply
> of bandwidth anywhere, anytime, can only economically exist with
> an outside, of lower priviledged netizens. a territorialized,
> protectionist 'good internet for good americans' consumer paradise,
> surrounded by sinistre terrorist-states, competitors, script kidies
> and mp3 hungry hackers.
> the GDR called it the anti-imperialistic 'schutzwall', the roman
> called it 'limes', according to fractal theory the chinese wall
> was infinitly long, 

this must be what happens when you turn on your theory faucet
but only a drip-drip-drip comes out because your downstairs 
neighbors had a leaky discourse network and the plumber's come 
to fix it.

>                     what this *wall* does in popular imagination
> is to establish a *we and the rest* worldview which is contrary
> to the one-world-view of the mansonic clinton administration.

SDI has never been 'popular' in any meaningful sense: it's the 
dream of a very small and very greedy network of people in the
USG and a few companies. to the extent that it's been 'marketed'
at all, it's always been in a very top-down way; the main face
that has been presented to the public is that of presidents who 
advocate it. in that regard, 'reading' its cultural dimensions 
as you have is pretty problematic, particularly if you want to 
issue a pronunciamento like 'what [it] does in popular imagina-
tion'; it'd be more accurate, i think, to say that it doesn't do 
anything at all in the (or a) 'popular imagination.' this 'fail-
ure' to catch on publicly is one of the curious things about SDI.

but clearly it does something in this imaginations of the small
coterie of people who aggressively support it. i'm not sure what
you mean by 'establish,' and i don't want to pick on that term
too much, but i think it's safe to say that SDI doesn't 'do' any-
thing imagination-wise that wasn't already 'being done.' and in
describing it as...

> it is an atavistic, nationalistic and pre-modern concept, to

...you seem to acknowledge that, indeed, it's part of a cultural
apparatus with an unfortunately long genealogy--and not just in
america. that's an important point to consider, because things 
like nationalism are in fact plural: there are different kinds.
it's hard to imagine, say, austrian nationalists cooking up an
idea like SDI; the terrain just doesn't support it. obviously,
the terrain of the US is more amenable to an idea like SDI. (but
only if you make very specific assumptions about canada and mex-
ico, which the US--including in its 'popular imagination'--does.)
so (imo) that means that hallucinatory rants in which the ribbon
of the chinese wall unfurls to reveal script kiddies etc aren't
very helpful, because they don't address specifically *american* 
configurations of atavism, nationalism, and pre-modernism. and,
in fact, those kinds of hallucinatory modes are counterproductive
in a pretty funny and 'complicit' way, because they continue the
long and exalted tradition of citing china in an entirely imagin-
ary way. and the nuclear relationship between the US and china
is a very strange business; but with SDI it becomes a very real

i think if one wants to 'read' SDI and its spoor, one of the best
ways to do so is to: (a) acknowledge that even after *eighteen* 
years of amazing advances in the relevant fields, notably computing,
it's still technical nonsense; so (b) think about it as somehow
imaginary. you and jordan have sort of done that (emphasis on 'sort 
of'), but it'd be better to ground that kind of analysis in more 
detailed historical circumstances. but since SDI's advocates con-
sist of a very small bunch of gangsters and insiders, those circum-
stances definitely include the specific history of *technical*
nuclear discourses--the myriad niggling details that preoccupy 
arms negotiators.

that is supported, i think, by the fact that *the* main public 
debate about SDI/etc is whether it violates the ABM treaty, which 
of course it does: stopping things like SDI was the whole *point* 
of the ABM treaty.

but the 'architecture' of nuclear discourse is very slippery stuff,
which involves (for example) seismic shifts that take place when
the techniques for hardening missile silos outpace the destructive 
potential of nuclear bombs, thereby forcing nuclear powers to find
new targets for their missiles--cities. these kinds of subcurrents 
are so common that instead of hypostatizing nuclear logic into a
simplistic 'architecture,' you can almost think of it as a boat 
tossed on a rough sea. 

> try to fence-in the US cyberspace, and it is a mission impossible
> because so much of the us economic activity is already spread all
> over the planet. by territorializing the internet along national
> borders, it will get literally split into parts and other states
> will follow the example, a renationalization and reoccupation of
> a space which is no space can only lead to serious misunderstandings.
> but maybe its more like a media campaign, to americanize cyberspace,
> side effect is lots of money to be spent. like an apollo program
> for the recession ridden tech industry. government r&d programs, anti-
> hacker technoloy, large scale realtime signal processing networks,
> complex software tools with high reliablity, and of course the dream
> of every control freak, laserbeams and non-lethal warware out of the
> orbit.

my byzantine history prof pointed out that if the only trace of US 
culture was monetary evidence--coins--one would have to conclude 
that americans were bilingual: english and latin ('e pluribus unum').
but obviously there are other ways than history to arrive at foggy


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