Kevin Reilly on Fri, 15 Nov 2002 07:15:02 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: nettime-l-digest V1 #946

"you start out owning stuff, but then your stuff owns you."

>From: (nettime-l-digest)
>Subject: nettime-l-digest V1 #946
>Date: Sat, Nov 9, 2002, 11:23 PM

> nettime-l-digest      Saturday, November 9 2002      Volume 01 : Number 946
> Table of Contents:
>     Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes
>     Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes
>     Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes
>     <nettime> [top of the pops]1. The Thing, 2. Rhizome 3. CTheory
>     <nettime> [no subject] (portland:FTAA:ecuador)
>     <nettime> (India) Distorting History 1
>     <nettime> RIP Heinz von Foerster
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2002 13:48:25 -0800
> From: "Kermit Snelson" <>
> Subject: Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes
> "How do you argue with a network?" -- Michael Hardt [1]
> Only a few minutes after I noticed Brian saying it's "just ridiculous" to
> equate the word "multitudes" with "mob", I was very amused to discover
> elsewhere that the title of Howard Rheingold's new book happens to be
> "Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution" [2].
> Of course, the whole point of my last post was to argue precisely that
> mobs _aren't_ smart and _aren't_ revolutionary. I'm not too surprised to
> find myself in direct disagreement with Rheingold, especially since he
> features prominently on the back cover of Geert's own new book, _Dark
> Fiber_.  But I am comforted to know that at least Rheingold and I agree on
> the proper universe of discourse.
> But back to Brian.  As usual, he gets all personal and ad hominem on me
> and asks if I've ever done any political organizing.  I have, in fact.
> Enough to know that the kind of people who really need activism and
> advocacy tend _not_ to be intellectuals who whinge in their manifestos
> that '89-era new media artists have been locked out of the art world
> mainstream because '68-era baby boomers control all of the museum
> curatorships and university chairs.  Arise, ye wretched of the earth!
> Instead of that brand of activism, I prefer social movements like those
> led by Rosa Parks.  She's the courageous African American domestic worker
> who refused to vacate a "whites only" seat on an Alabama bus back in 1955,
> thereby igniting the great US civil rights movement.  I prefer leaders
> like Martin Luther King, who said simply "I have a dream."  Those are the
> kinds of Americans with "a clear sense of self, sharply honed critical
> faculties, a good background knowledge of all the issues, sound moral
> reflexes and a sense of coherency in their actions" I was talking about,
> Brian.  And theirs was exactly the kind of "marginal moral protest" that
> Geert and Florian, in point I.4 of their post, say they want to
> "liquidate."
> Brian writes that Geert and Florian are simply "trying to give fairly
> large numbers of people a possible way into political life."  I don't
> doubt that for a minute.  (I do disagree vehemently with what Brian says
> in the next half of the sentence, namely that "a riot or a hacker attack"
> is a form of debate, but that's another discussion.)  But how does saying
> things like "encode and decode the algorithms of its singularity,
> nonconformity and non-confoundability; to invent, refresh and update the
> narratives and images of a truly global connectivity" really achieve that?
> Wasn't "I have a dream" a bit more inclusive and effective?  And how much
> respect for the world's dispossessed is really exhibited by a concept of
> "swarm intelligence" (or "general intellect", if you prefer Negri's
> terminology to Rheingold's) that credits people with exactly the same kind
> of creative _potentia_ as an ant colony's?  Especially when this "swarm
> intelligence" concept, adding injury to insult, depends on the recent
> availability of video cameras, PCs, Internet, cell phones, SMS messaging,
> GPS and other advanced telematic tackle?
> Now let's move on, with Brian, from "general intellect" to IP law and the
> "vector class".  I think it's pretty clear that Geert and Florian's
> problems with intellectual property concern the word "intellectual", not
> the word "property".  I adduce as evidence the whinging mentioned above
> concerning the generational control of art world institutions by
> "traditional" intellectuals; their apparent solidarity with the indigenous
> IPR movement within some sectors of Australian academia, and Geert's
> declaration in _Dark Fiber_ that "Culture wants to be paid" [3]. Geert
> even follows this up shortly with a swipe at Richard Stallman's "free"
> philosophy, implying that it's simply more dreck characteristic of that
> favorite whipping boy, the hated American "cyber-libertarian ideology."
> All of this is mere guesswork, from the outside and based only on
> published texts.  I hope I'll be corrected if I've misunderstood.  But
> based on reading alone, I don't see how one can avoid the conclusion that
> most of Geert and Florian text isn't really about improving the lot of the
> dispossessed.  Their choice of words makes it seem to people who don't
> know them personally as if they're really more interested in improving
> their own lot as activists and new media artists.  About, in Geert's
> words, "content workers rights to get properly paid" [4].  About breaking
> into the art establishment.  About taking away control of the Internet
> from accountants and engineers and giving it to -- who else? -- "artists
> and cultural critics" [5].
> Not that there's anything wrong with such a power play, even if that's
> what it is.  As Geert has written elsewhere, altruism vs. selfishness is a
> false dichotomy.  All I'm saying is that there's actually little textual
> evidence in what Geert and Florian published to support Brian's contention
> that it's about giving "fairly large numbers of people a possible way into
> political life," unless that means content workers and not the world's
> dispossessed. And I agree with Brian in his section 4 that simply calling
> everybody in the world a "hacker" or "intellectual laborer" or "lay
> scientist" or indeed an "expert" isn't the way out.  Even if they're
> riding on the Expertbase bus. But that was exactly the point of my own
> post, wasn't it?
> One thing really does bother me, however.  It concerns the "mass
> psychology" point of my earlier post that Brian didn't address.  In his
> book _Dark Fiber_, Geert proposes a new field of studies called "mass
> psychology of the net" [6] based on the discipline "established by Gustav
> LeBon with his famous _Psychology of the Masses_ (1895)" [7] and
> "re-vitalized and applied to the Internet." [8] Well, Gustav LeBon also
> proved to be a great inspiration to Lenin, Hitler and Mussolini.  But
> that's not in itself a cause for great concern, is it?  Guilt by
> association died out a long time ago.
> But there's more.  Earlier in the book, Geert argues for the displacement
> of "American authors" by the "valuable knowledge, ready to be
> rediscovered, recycled, and mutated" that currently lies fallow in a
> "German media theory" whose founders he names as including Martin
> Heidegger, Carl Schmitt and Ernst Jünger.  He goes on to acknowledge the
> "fascist past" of these authors, but tells his readers "don't laugh" at
> their "totalitarian heritage," saying that they are still "taken very
> seriously" because "secret or unconscious fascination for authoritarian
> models" and "elitist disdain over the rituals of parliamentary democracy"
> still resonate as "fatal European passions" that the Cold War (which
> presumably means Americans) failed to "freeze-dry." [9] Geert then goes on
> to say "War is the father of all media", and advises us to "Combine all
> these elements and you have an impressive and productive research program
> for decades to come." [10]
> OK, that's too much to swallow.  Especially as the world now appears to be
> heading into World War 3 precisely because the USA's Right has finally
> convinced the electorate that a new Holocaust is imminent, due to supposed
> Islamist collaboration with the Left and with what they also claim are
> "fatal European passions" that haven't yet been "freeze-dried."  Why give
> Americans something in writing they can easily point to as justification
> for their paranoia?  There's a lot of textual evidence, both on nettime
> and in print, that could easily lead an uninitiated American outsider like
> myself to conclude that "net criticism" advanced by Geert and Florian
> simply heralds the return of a nihilistic, amoral, technocratic theory of
> power, a theory of how the Internet can be used to do what searchlights
> and loudspeakers did in 1930's Nuremberg.
> Let me be clear.  I am charging Geert and Florian with nothing more than
> publishing misleading language and treating hideous historical allusions
> with a theoretical and moral casualness that has perhaps not been thought
> through very well.  I am not accusing them or anybody else of hidden
> agendas.  All I'm saying is that as activists in an environment of
> ever-increasing repression, we owe it to ourselves and what we believe in
> to declare as clearly as we can, both to our opponents and to the
> multitudes that we claim to advocate, that our cause is freedom, not
> power; that our motivation is justice, not nihilism; that our methods
> involve community and dialogue, not warfare and agonism, and that our
> message is hope, not despair.
> Kermit Snelson
> Notes:
> [1], p.5
> [2]
> [3] Lovink, _Dark Fiber_, MIT, 2002, p.365
> [4] Lovink, _ibid._, p.366
> [5] Lovink, _ibid._, front flap
> [6] Lovink, _ibid._, p.137
> [7] Lovink, _ibid._, p.139
> [8] Lovink, _ibid._, p.137
> [9] Lovink, _ibid._, p.25
> [10] Lovink, _ibid._, p.27
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> ------------------------------
> Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2002 16:57:04 -0500
> From: Keith Hart <>
> Subject: Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes
> I always pay particular attention to messages from Kermit Snelson and
> Brian Holmes because I like where each of them is coming from.  I have
> pursued this sense of an affinity with each of them off the list. So when
> Brian takes umbrage at Kermit's last post in this thread, I feel compelled
> to enter the fray.
> Max Weber wrote two great essays called "Science as a vocation" and
> "Politics as a vocation". He argued that a scientist must privilege
> reason, but good scientists are usually ethusiasts; whereas politicians
> move people by passion, but their arguments are more persuasive if they
> are reasonable. Despite this overlap, it is hard to be both a scientist
> and a politician at the same time. Weber was chief organiser of German
> sociology, a failed Liberal MP and an adviser to the Kaiser's wartime
> cabinet. He was also a depressive who knew about the psychological
> presures of trying to unify the two sides of his personality.
> What I like about Kermit's messages is their intellectual clarity. It is
> true that there is scholarship in them, but what impresses me is their
> quality of reasoning. It does not seem fair to me to ask him to justify
> these interventions in terms of a logic of political activism. I know that
> the politics of Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin are long dead, unrealised.
> But their contributions to the ongoing human conversation about a better
> world still inspire us. Do I care about their skills in mobilising people
> to man the barrivcades? Not really. It is the quality of their thinking
> that is moving.
> Maybe that makes me an intellectual more than a political activist. But it
> is clear that the people who matter were motivated by both concerns. I
> can't imagine that Kermit would be on this list unless he cared about the
> political troubles of our day, whether or not he goes out into the streets
> to get people committed to a cause. Equally, having read and studied all
> of Brian's contributions to this list, I find his intellectual and
> political visions equally inspiring. He wants things to get better soon,
> but he has put in some spadework on how to think about that. Maybe there
> is more feeling in his posts than Kermit's. But surely there is room for
> all of us in this game. Why attack a blatant intellectual for saying that
> he sees some flaws in the arguments of Geert and Florian?
> I should add a footnote on Polanyi, since Brian brought him up, not for
> the first time. This is not just a scholastic intervention. Polanyi, in
> The Great Transformation (1944), said that land, labour and capital were
> fictitious commodities. A commodity is something produced and sold. But
> nature, humanity and society (money) are not produced and therefore cannot
> be sold. If they are, something terrible happens to the relationship
> between society and nature, as formulated by Aristotle when he said that
> man is a political animal. The self-regulating market, as an utopian idea,
> ijnevitably inflicts damage on nature, humanity and society. Particular
> classes express resistance to that general damage.
> What this has to do with multitudes and mobs I cant guess. I prefer
> English words of one syllable (expressing the idea of mobility) to Latin
> words of three syllables (expressing the poetry of an intellectual class).
> Keith Hart
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> ------------------------------
> Date: Fri, 8 Nov 2002 14:22:33 +0100
> From: "porculus" <>
> Subject: Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes
>> I always pay particular attention to messages from Kermit Snelson and
>> Brian Holmes because I like where each of them is coming from.  I have
>> pursued this sense of an affinity with each of them off the list. So when
>> Brian takes umbrage at Kermit's last post in this thread, I feel compelled
>> to enter the fray.
> being an heavy full of multitude beer earthling and dealing rather with fold
> kinda deleuzian one at chin & belly for recognizing my buds at the bar i am
> pretty amusing by some intellectual folklorik description of some impalpable
> anima who are meeting around here. yes i speak about projective body you
> have.. cause of course presently you 'see' me..& yes and see i am rather
> attracting and modeling by the apolinian lightning force, then kermit &
> brian are rather twining in some laurel & hardy brain shape ok ok ! the
> world is a vast land populated by so diverse knitting dark fiber female &
> male parishioner. but what about yourz..i would say, dark fiber made panz
> free ?
> #  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
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> ------------------------------
> Date: Fri, 08 Nov 2002 03:26:35 +0000
> From: "Lachlan Brown" <>
> Subject: <nettime> [top of the pops]1. The Thing, 2. Rhizome 3. CTheory
> 1. :) (with a bullet) Avg. Traffic Rank:  91,885th
> most accessed WWW site.
> 2. 8/ Nettime Avg. Traffic Rank:  97,319th (up from 112,00th)
> 3. :> Avg. Traffic Rank:  127,050th  up from 260,000th,
> 4.   CTHEORY
> $:)
> \:)   236,702th up from 600,000th #tabernacle!
> 5. Association of Internet Researchers
> 329,125th
> 6.    1,622,216th most accessed WWW page
> down from 1,322,000.
> Lachlan Brown
> T(416) 826 6937
> VM (416) 822 1123
> - --
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> ------------------------------
> Date: Thu, 07 Nov 2002 16:32:34 -0500
> From: Brandon Keim <>
> Subject: <nettime> [no subject] (portland:FTAA:ecuador)
> article#31089  Portland Indymedia
> 1:37pm Sat Nov 2 '02 (Modified on 3:28pm Sat Nov 2'02)
> following is a report from the ecuador actions at the ftaa summit.
> Friends
> Please accept this [unedited] bulletin from the edge of consciousness.
> I don't know whether I feel like crying because I am so moved by what I
> saw today, because my mucous membranes are all shot to hell from too much
> tear gas, or out of sheer exhaustion. But I want to get this out while it
> is still fresh in my mind, and tomorrow will be another insane day.
> Tonight I watched some of the most oppressed people in this world confront
> some of the most influential. Tonight I watched a group of poor farmers,
> indigenous people, and workers speak, shout, sing truth to power. Tonight,
> I think, I think, although we will not know for a few days, I watched the
> terrain of hemispheric politics shift before my eyes. I feel so inspired,
> and so humbled.
> When the day started, I was 20km south of Quito with maybe 300 indigenas,
> one of two protest caravans that had crossed the country spreading the
> word about the protest against the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit
> in Quito. As we crowded into buses to head north, I called the other
> caravan, who reported that they had 80 people. And this is how it ends, I
> thought. 4 months of work, promising reporters, funders, countless
> activists in North America that thousands of people would come to disrupt
> the FTAA ministerial meeting. And we were going to end up with 500 people
> rallying in a park. But soon after we got down off the buses and began a
> 15km trek to Quito, the number of people seemed to mysteriously increase,
> as buses from the South caught up with us and disgorged fresh groups of
> protesters.
> The procession was a riot of color, filled with red and blue ponchos and
> hundreds of rainbow flags (the symbol of the Andean indigenous and
> campesino movements). People lined the street to watch as it passed by.
> One shopkeeper explained to me that the indigenous people were like
> burros, dragging along the rest of the country, who were also opposed to
> the FTAA because it would devastate the Ecuadorian economy, but who let
> the indigenous movement carry the torch for their opposition. Old women
> chanted ceaselessly for four hours, No queremos, y no nos da la gana, ser
> una colonia, norteamericana, (We dont want, and it doesn't do us any good,
> to be a North American colony). One group of Bolivians, led by Evo
> Morales, the coca-grower who almost became president there, marched with
> coca leaves taped to their foreheads.
> When we finally reached our destination in Quito, we rounded the corner
> and found not 80 but somewhere between 2 and 6,000 people waiting. As the
> two groups approached each other, people on each side were visibly
> stirred, and some began to run. At this point, I realized that after 4
> months of frantic organizing, the mobilization was a reality, that
> whatever happened we had already won, that thousands of campesinos and
> indigenas had come to Quito to unequivocally reject U.S.-style free trade.
> And I simply began to bawl.
> Our group didnt even pause, but continued straight toward the Marriott
> Hotel, where the 34 trade ministers from North and South America were
> arriving to negotiate a treaty that promises to wipe out small farmers, to
> hand corporations a sweeping new set of tools to evade environmental,
> consumer and labor laws, to force the privatization of water, health care,
> education, culture, and biodiversity. In other words, a really crappy
> treaty.
> As we headed north we were joined by large groups of campesinos, students,
> trade unionists, and international activists who had already been fighting
> running battles with the police, who were attempting to turn everyone back
> several kilometers from the Summit.
> The march was led by a line of campesino and indigenous leaders
> (dirigentes), walking arm-in-arm, preceded by a Shaman conducting rites to
> improve the success of our efforts. Soon we were stopped by several
> hundred riot police. The dirigentes asked to send a elegation of civil
> society groups in to the summit to present a giant letter made up of the
> proposals and demands of thousands of people who had joined the caravans
> along their route. They were soundly refused. So the dirigentes
> deliberated and decided to head west toward the Volcan Pichincha. As we
> rounded the corner we saw a thousand or more people ahead of us. More
> groups drifted in from the sides, and soon la Avenida Colon, one of Quitos
> widest streets, was packed for perhaps 8 or 10 blocks, with more people
> out of sight. There must have been between 8 and 15,000 people. There were
> giant puppets, a smattering of black-clad anarchists, a surprising number
> of international activists and lots and lots of campesinos: 75 year-old
> women, small children, 20 year olds who wanted nothing to do with
> traditional dress, mothers and teenage sons marching together. And they
> were all psyched.
> As the most important social movement dirigentes approached the Avenida
> Amazonas, the police opened fire with a LOT of tear gas. They shot it at
> the crowd and over the crowd, so that as people ran away, they ran into
> more gas. I walked until I couldnt see or breathe, then began to run, then
> someone grabbed my hand and led me away (Why do I never carry goggles to
> these things?) The president of the National Judicial Workers Union was
> hit with three tear gas cannisters and taken to the hospital. Several
> young kids passed out and almost asphyxiated. One woman fell on her baby,
> who was injured and taken to the hospital. A reminder that free trade can
> only proceed via brutal repression, which is now so commonplace at trade
> summits that it hardly elicits comment.
> And so people retreated to the south to regroup, and I retreated to the
> communications center to try to get the word out about the success of the
> mobilization, and its repression.
> At 6 PM, folks decided to try once more to deliver their giant letter,
> this time at the Suissotel, where the trade ministers were meeting with
> assorted CEOs and trade lobbyists at the 7th Americas Business Forum. As a
> strategy to boost legitimacy and head off disruptive protests, the
> government had already made offered to allow a couple civil society
> representatives to address the ministers. On these terms, the indigenous
> and campesino groups had refused. But tonight, 2000 people marched up to
> police barricades, where they demanded that a much larger delegation be
> allowed in to deliver the letter. Clearly hoping to avoid the kind of
> confrontations that have occurred in past uprisings here, the government
> allowed 40 people from across the hemisphere to come in and meet with the
> ministers.
> Hearing this was going on, I ran to the hotel, easily passing through
> several police lines because I have press credentials for the summit. In
> the lobby I simply asked Where are they? and several people pointed down.
> Once in the basement, I followed the shouting until I reached an
> auditorium where 25 or so trade ministers sat uncomfortably on stage while
> 40 campesinos chanted that they had no desire to be a U.S. colony. Peter
> Rossett of Food First stood up, his arm in a rainbow colored sling thanks
> to a protest injury. He yelled to Bob Zoellick, the U.S. Trade
> Representative, that he should be ashamed for pushing an agreement that
> would impoverish Latin Americans, not to mention many U.S. citizens.
> Zoellick stared fixedly at his shoe. It was a scene that is, I think,
> pretty much unprecedented in the history of trade negotiations.
> Soon the civil society presentations began. A line of people fanned out in
> front of the ministers (and TV cameras) holding signs that said Si a la
> vida, No al ALCA (Yes to life, No to the FTAA). Behind the podium stood an
> indigenous representative holding a beautifully painted inca sun with
> North America and South America, and the words Si Una Integracion
> Solidaria Con Respeco a la Soberania de los Naciones (Yes to an
> integration based on solidarity, with respect for the sovereignty of
> nations).
> The first speakers were representatives of an international meeting of
> parliament and congress members from across the hemisphere. They condemned
> the FTAA process, and called for an alternative integration, one that
> respects the needs and particular situations of the people of each
> country.
> Next came several representatives of a civil society forum organized by a
> number of pro-neoliberal NGOs with close ties to the government. Their
> proposals were generally tepid, but they were for the most part drowned
> out by the crowd. (When one speaker asked that the FTAA process be opened
> up to include civil society observers, the whole crowd responded by
> chanting, Plebiscito, Plebiscito).
> Finally, the social movement representatives spoke. Leonidas Iza, the
> President of the CONAIE (the Ecuadorian indigenous federation), stated the
> social movements clear rejection of the FTAA and of neoliberalism in
> general. We are in desperate shape, he told the ministers. You couldnt
> possibly understand, you who were born in golden cradles and have never
> suffered (at this the ministers looked even more uncomfortable). But we
> dont have food to feed our children. Our markets are flooded with cheap
> imports. Imported milk is dumped in Ecuador for half of what it costs to
> produce it, but transnationals [mostly Nestle] sell it back to us at $1.80
> per litre. We have no way to live, and the FTAA will only make it worse.
> When we complain, the U.S. government calls us terrorists. We are not
> threatening anything, but we are hungry and tired and things have to
> change. In the wake of widening protest throughout Latin America, the
> message was not lost on anyone.
> Then a woman worker from Nicaragua spoke powerfully of the details of the
> FTAA, of the privatizations and poverty and social exclusion it would
> bring, particularly for women. Don't think you can simply take your
> picture with us and push forward, she told the ministers. We will stop the
> The meeting ended and, unable to contain myself, I stood up and shouted in
> English and then in Spanish that never again could Bob Zoellick claim that
> the people of Latin America were clamoring for free trade, because today
> they had unequivocally rejected it. Then Peter Rossett chimed in that
> polls consistently showed that the majority of U.S citizens oppose free
> trade, and that the Bush administration had no right and no mandate to
> push forward with the FTAA. There were loud cheers, and the moderator
> hurriedly announced that the ministers were leaving and could we please
> sit down so they could leave. NO! screamed the civil society folks in
> unison, and they pushed out the door, leaving the ministers sitting on
> stage.
> And, at that moment, I felt something shift. I realized that (unless the
> media bury this entirely despite our best efforts to get the word out,
> which is always possible) the FTAA has in 24 hours gone from something
> whose praises its proponents sing, to something they have to defend. Like
> the WTO before it, the FTAA has become the treaty that has to be sold to
> an America that doesnt want it. Or so I hope. I hope I hope I hope. This
> is how it feels here. But it may be different elsewhere.
> If I am right, the hemispheric resistance to free trade and the FTAA has
> taken a huge step forward, even if this is but one day in a long struggle
> in which many more battles will be fought. Tonights show of force may also
> strengthen the resolve of poor countries in the negotiations that follow
> here, which will piss off the U.S. and make it harder to reach agreement.
> In any case, it was a beautiful day for some of the nations most powerful
> social movements. Not to mention a shitty day for Bob Zoellick and his
> buddies in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
> We marched out of the Suissotel, reached the police barricades and were
> greeted by hundreds of cheering protesters, who had been dancing to
> traditional Kichwa music while we were inside. Then the partying began,
> and it is still going 5 hours later (these folks are not lightweights when
> it comes to cane liquor). I just said goodbye to a companera from one of
> the rural provinces of the Sierra, a woman I met when I was giving
> workshops on the FTAA several months ago. I asked her what she thought of
> the days events, and she said, I am happy. Very happy. This was the first
> time I have ever done this, and I think today we achieved something
> important, something that will improve our lives. And now I can go back to
> my children.
> I am so proud, so proud and amazed by the incredible work people have done
> here over the last few months, so moved by their commitment to this
> struggle, so humbled by the generosity, patience, tolerance, and trust
> they have shown me. I am so honored to be part of this fast-coalescing
> hemispheric movement for a new economic and political order, one based on
> reciprocity and social justice, on true democracy and respect for human
> and natural diversity And Im so happy to be going to sleep.
> In solidarity,
> #  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
> #  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
> #  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
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> ------------------------------
> Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2002 12:44:08 +0530 (IST)
> From: Frederick Noronha <>
> Subject: <nettime> (India) Distorting History 1
> Distorting History 1
> November 8, 2002
> Who killed Mahatma Gandhi?
> Five years from now, few students of class 9 might know the answer --
> because the new textbooks released by the National Council of Educational
> Research and Training mentions neither Gandhi's assassination nor the
> assassin, Nathuram Godse.
> The standard 9 textbook, titled Contemporary India, is about India in the
> 20th Century and covers the Freedom Struggle, developments in the world,
> and aspects of the Indian Constitution up to 1950.
> The omissions and uncalled for statements in the book have shocked
> academics. For instance, while dealing with the party system in India,
> page 99 of the book reads: "In the 1996 general elections, BJP emerged as
> the single largest party at the centre and formed the
> government. Unfortunately, BJP could not prove its majority in the house
> within the given time, and it had to withdraw."
> The new textbook is smaller in size, printed on good quality paper, and
> looks better than the previous textbook. History and geography are
> combined in the new book -- tp lighten the burden of school-going
> children, according to the NCERT.
> But what stands out are the factual errors. For instance, the section
> 'World: Some Developments', contains a sentence that reads: "In 1600 AD,
> English East India Company was established in India".
> The East India Company was established in London.
> A few paragraphs later is a reference to Madagascar island as the transit
> point between India and France for ships of the French East India
> Company. Quote: "Madagascar, an island in the Arabian Sea..."
> Madagascar is in fact in the Indian Ocean.
> Besides the factual errors, there are mistakes that give the impression
> of political prejudice. The book states for instance that the Munich Pact
> was "the first pact signed between Hitler and Stalin". Page 9 reads: "It
> is interesting to note that Stalin was the first European leader to enter
> into a peace-agreement with Hitler, maybe to buy peace for some time."
> The Munich Pact was signed between Hitler and Britain and France in 1938,
> a whole year ahead of the Hitler-Stalin pact.
> Sins of ommission are equally numerous. Thus, one of the most important
> events of world history, the Holocaust, is completely missing. Further,
> Page 10 states: "Nazism and Fascism were a sort of counterpart of the
> dictatorship of the proletariat imposed upon the Soviet Union by Joseph
> Stalin."
> The bias is more pronounced when it comes to the famous Quit India
> Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942, which led to India's
> Independence.
> The NCERT textbook for standard 9 blandly states: "The Indian Communists
> and followers of Jinnah [Muslim League] were perhaps the only political
> groups who did not support such a strong and widespread movement."
> Historical records however show that besides the Communists and the
> Muslim League, the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh and the Hindu Mahasabha
> also did not participate in the movement.
> The omission of the RSS [which is closely affiliated with the Bharatiya
> Janata Party, the largest party in the National Democratic Alliance
> coalition government at the Centre] and the Hindu Mahasabha [whose
> political views are close to that of the RSS] is being seen as a
> deliberate attempt to hide the role of the RSS in the Quit India Movement
> while seeking to show the communists in poor light.
> Fumes eminent historian Professor Mridula Mukherjee, "Why have they
> forgotten the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha? It is not an omission but a
> deliberate attempt to hide the role of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha."
> Mukherjee reasons that the book's authors have omitted Gandhi's
> assassination in order to avoid mentioning Nathuram Godse's links to the
> RSS and the Hindu Mahsabha, and the subsequent banning of the RSS after
> Gandhi's murder.
> Mukherjee is also angry that the textbook dismisses the first phase of
> the Indian National Congress history. "These books refer to the leaders
> of this 40 year phase starting 1860 as mere petitioners. It is an attempt
> to subvert the history of Indian National Movement," she states.
> Adds historian Arjun Dev, who had authored one of the NCERT's earlier
> textbooks, "Reading this kind of stuff can be good fun but not when you
> know that this book is meant to be compulsory reading for school
> students."
> Differing with most authorities on ancient history, the NCERT textbook
> describes the Harappan civilization as "Harappan", "Indus", or
> "Indus-Saraswati" Civilization. "Apart from a few known pro-RSS
> historians, nobody accepts the theory of the Indus-Saraswati
> civilization," remarks Professor Mukherjee.
> Moreover, the textbook describes the area of the Harappan civilization as
> 12 times that of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations
> combined. However, renowned historian Professor Irfan Habib says that as
> per internationally accepted history, "It was less than double the area
> of Mesopotamia."
> In dealing with the economic life of the Vedic civilization, the
> reference to the cow being the most important animal is in bold
> letters. Also in bold letters is the punishment for injuring or killing a
> cow: by expulsion from the kingdom or the death penalty.
> An apex body of historians, Aligarh Historians Society, has accused the
> books of being casteist in approach. "The textbooks black out the whole
> question of Dravidian participation in the Indus Civilization and of
> Dravidian influences on both Vedic life and later, on Sanskrit. Then, a
> neutral stance has been taken in the books over the caste system. It
> would appear as if Dalits were never a part of our society, and that the
> shudras never received any ill-treatment," states Professor Habib, who
> heads the society.
> In his foreword to the Class 9 book, NCERT director J S Rajput says, "I
> hope this book will help the learners to become well informed, rational,
> and responsible citizens who will participate effectively in the process
> of development and nation-building."
> But Rajput has outraged rational historians and, according to them,
> earned Indian history a comparison with the distorted versions of history
> put out in Nazi Germany and, more recently, in Pakistan.
> "The new NCERT textbooks are not about rewriting or updating history but
> communalising history. The authors are not using new methodologies but
> going by 19th century interpretations of history, where religion played a
> very important role," comments Professor Bipin Chandra, one of India's
> best-known historians.
> During the 1977 Janata Party government, the Jan Sangh -- the predecessor
> of the BJP -- had demanded the removal of the NCERT history
> textbooks. The demand was rebuffed.
> When the BJP assumed the reins of power in 1998, Murli Manohar Joshi,
> known for his right-wing views, took charge of the Human Resource
> Development Ministry, which oversees education. It was decided to revamp
> the entire curricula for schools and Rajput, who earned his doctorate in
> physics under the supervision of Joshi, was placed in charge.
> Many see the claim or revamping as an excuse to remove the present
> history textbooks, which were mostly written by left-leaning historians.
> The changes are not confined to history. In December 2000, the BJP-led
> government brought in a raft of proposals for changing the curricula. The
> proposals called for the teaching of Vedic mathematics (an ancient form
> of math with few modern applications), and herbal and ayurvedic medicine,
> as they are "examples of India's contribution to world thought".
> Joshi also emphasised on inculcating "Indian values" as a vital part of
> teaching history.
> Incidentally, many private schools and the West Bengal, Delhi, and Bihar
> governments have refused to introduce the new textbooks.
> Tomorrow: Distorting History 2
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> ------------------------------
> Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2002 16:24:23 -0100
> From: "nettime's_roving_reporter" <>
> Subject: <nettime> RIP Heinz von Foerster
>      [via <>]
> <>
>    The New York Times Obituaries November 9, 2002
> Heinz von Foerster, a Leading Information Theorist, Dies at 90
>    Heinz von Foerster, a physicist and a philosopher who was an early
>    leader in the field of information theory, died on Oct. 2 at his home
>    in Pescadero, Calif. He was 90.
>    In the 1940's and 1950's Dr. von Foerster was a participant in a
>    series of scientific meetings in New York City that became known as
>    the Macy Conferences. Sponsored by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, the
>    conferences brought together an influential group of scientists and
>    thinkers including Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, Gregory Bateson,
>    Margaret Mead and John von Neumann. Dr. von Foerster became the editor
>    of the proceedings from the gatherings, which ultimately laid the
>    groundwork for much of the future research on a diverse range of
>    sciences, from biological physics to computer science.
>    A native of Austria, Dr. von Foerster came to the United States in
>    1949 with his family and took a position as head of the Electron Tube
>    Laboratory in the department of electrical engineering at the
>    University of Illinois. There he did research in high-speed
>    electronics and electro-optic switching devices.
>    In 1958 he founded the Biological Computer Laboratory at the
>    university. The laboratory would become an international and
>    interdisciplinary center for work in various related fields including
>    biophysics, mathematical biology, computational technology, cognition
>    and epistemology.
>    Dr. von Foerster was born in Vienna in 1911. His family had deep ties
>    to Europe's intellectual culture. In an interview in the Stanford
>    Humanities Review, he recalled sitting under the family piano as
>    adults discussed politics, art and science. Relatives included the
>    painter Erwin Lang, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the
>    playwright Hugo von Hoffman. His great-grandfather Ludwig Foerster had
>    been one of the chief architects of the Ringstrasse in Vienna.
>    During his high school years, he came in contact with the group of
>    philosophers and scientists known as the Vienna Circle.
>    He studied physics at the Technische Hochschule in Vienna and at the
>    University of Breslau, where he received a doctorate in 1944. Although
>    one of his grandfathers was Jewish, Dr. von Foerster was able to work
>    in radar laboratories in Berlin during World War II. He hid his
>    ancestry with the help of an employer who chose not to press him for
>    documents on his family, Dr. von Foerster's son Thomas said.
>    After the war, he did research in biology, writing a paper on the
>    possible molecular basis for memory.
>    At the Biological Computer laboratory he was involved in pioneering
>    work on parallel computing, which breaks problems into multiple parts,
>    speeding computation. With support from the Office of Naval Research,
>    the laboratory developed the first parallel computers. The first
>    machine was known as Numa-Rete, an array of photocells attached to a
>    series of computer circuits that was capable of recognizing multiple
>    objects.
>    His interest in the computational aspects of biological systems led to
>    a more general interest in the study of the nature of knowledge
>    itself. He formulated a set of philosophical ideas that would later
>    become known as constructivism.
>    He had a wide-ranging set of scientific interests that included an
>    excursion into demography. In 1960 he was co-author of a paper in the
>    journal Science on population growth that proposed a doomsday date
>    when the earth's human population would become infinite. The paper
>    touched off a lively debate.
>    In the 1970's, he refined his thinking on cybernetics, the science of
>    information theory, and in 1974 set out to develop a theory,
>    explaining the challenge of understanding the impact of an observer on
>    the system that is being observed.
>    Dr. Von Foerster was a Guggenheim fellow (1956-57 and 1963-64). He was
>    named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of
>    Science in 1980.
>    He is survived by his wife, Mai, whom he married in 1939; a sister,
>    Erika de Pasquali, of Sidney, Ill.; two sons, Andreas, of Neskowin,
>    Ore., and Thomas, of New York City; and three grandchildren.
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