John Hutnyk on Mon, 16 Mar 1998 18:34:04 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Technorealism and dead Comms

Dave Wakely wrote:
> Again, a statement of opinion (no problem with that at all), but ... does
> deregulation remove agendas, or is deregulation an agenda in its own right?
> Depends on whether you agree with it in principle, I guess? And I'm sorry,
> but I can't actually follow the apparent leap to the next sentence and the
> 'armed force' and 'blunt instrument' of the State keeping me in line -
> could someone to paraphrase this one for me?

Hi Dave

Thanks for your response. Sorry to be unclear - rapid responses
sometimes mean shorthand telegraphic sentences which not everyone gets
all the time. Let's move on. What I mean is that the persuasive force of
reasonableness as evidenced in polite calls for wisdom, teaching,
democracy and 'technorealism' as manifest in the minifesto are the 'good
cop' version of the bad cop State - and this latter role of the State is
the one where, should we ever question reasonableness and want to do
something *really* different, they come with water cannon, truncheons,
imprisonment, assassination - or if its the third world I guess Napalm,
smart bombs (duh) and other weapons of destruction of the masses. The
shorthand phrases here taken from Lenin, State and Revolution, and
Marx&Engels, Socialism: Utopian to Scientific: The State as the
executive committee of the bourgeoisie, as a body of armed men which
come round to beat you up if you want something other than business as
usual. Numerous examples of US and now UN exercise of force where
regional peoples try something other than business as usual could be
cited. And its a deadly game. In Joel Kovel's book 'Red Hunting in a
Promised Land' (Basic books, 1994) there is documentation of the
hundreds of thousands of communists killed by the USA or with its
backing in various liberal 'realist' states - the British and Australian
forces in Malaysia after WW2, the 60s in Indonesia, Chile, Nicaragua,
etc Not to mention the overt wars.

So the blunt instrument is the truncheon of, say, foreign policy - from
the sort of IMF/WB policies which impose starvation economics through to
support for blunt-brained puppet dictators...

Now, of course, this is hanging a whole lot of other stuff on the meagre
ramblings of our technorealist friends. The only thing I want to say is
that when we begin to invite the State to regulate our lives, we have
internalized their 'realism' and I find that to be the blunt edge of the
wedge which leads to complicity in all the rest. In the correct(ed)
version of the rant I originally sent there was a ps at the end about
the incommensurability of Malaysian PM pro-technology boosterism and his
uses of the Internal Security Act and low-technology such as whipping to
silence 'unreasonable' critics. I am not against planning and deciding
together how to do things, I am only against the cabal which decides for
us at present (and this is I guess no small thing)

> A brief question, if I may. If a majority felt that 'the State' should have
> a say in cyberspace, what then? Are we going to work on ways of asking the
> citizenry, or are we going to make a decision on their behalf?  Should

So this question comes down to the who are 'we' routine. And there are all
sorts of interesting problems here. Its for another time I guess, but my
first gesture would be again to question the privilege of the webbed up
'we', and wonder if this elevation of the international division of wealth
and privilege as reflected in the demographics of who can participate in
cyberspace isn't also something 'we' are complicit in too often without
reflection. There is of course no way that the 'majority' can vote about
anything in cyberspace until we redistribute access in wholly radical ways
('megaphones for all, not just the vanguard' goes the old chant). 

> cyberspace be an extension of 'meatspace' (why such a contemptuous term, by
> the way? I would prefer to think of myself as amounting to more than just a
> few kilos of flesh)

Sorry, its an ironic pun. Like the MUTE magazine people say, 'Proud to
be flesh'.

>, or should it seen as an entirely different entity? If
> some of us believe the latter, does this reflect our  disagreement with the
> existing governance of the physical world?

OK, does it? Do you agree or not? I for one am 'Against' the existing
Government of the world. I think 'we' should replace it with collective
decision making, redistributive justice at the highest levels for all, and
abolition of meaningless form of work so as to free up time for leisure,
during which we will occupy our fleshy brains thinking up crossword
puzzles using the names of great communist leaders... 

> Are those that are dissatisfied
> with the governance of what some have referred to as 'real life' seeking
> cyberspace as a form of refuge or escape? (And why make the distinction? -
> cyberspace surely is real life; the dead are not reknown for their facility
> with browser, mouse or keyboard, but without the living cyberspace would
> cease to grow or function.)

Yes, I agree. This is good. Cyberspace is 'real' life (hence the irony
of calling real-life meatspace).
Only sometimes I am tempted to think that parts of real life would also
be better if there was a kill-file I could set up to deal with certain
atrocities - but as I am against all forms of censorship this has to be
a personal kill-file. And much of the time needs to be spent arguing
against the disagreeable positions of others.

But also sometimes I think there are ways that the dead live and act
through my browser. The Marx archive at
still says a lot to me. <he communes with the dead!>

> How exactly does a view that free markets
> (where we can pick from the alternatives on sale or go without) determine
> what is best for us differ from the view that the State (which we can elect
> from the alternatives on the voting slip or go without) knows what best for
> us? It's not an argument we're likely to ever settle, is it?

I think we do have to settle this one. I don't think we can 'go without'
as an option within so-called democratic voting as we have it today. Tell
me where this happens? The two 'alternatives' here are false choices if
the State is seen as the excutive wing of the bourgeoisie... 

There are several registers of 'going without' here. Some people I guess
are ever so lucky to be able to go without because the market excludes
them from possibilities those of us who can go shop enjoy - like food,
shelter, internet browsers. The alternatives on the voting slips I've seen
in my short life have been pretty narrow tweedledum and tweedledum
options. But I still think its possible that things be different. Is that
unreasonable? No-one need go without if we reorganize, redistribute and
'refuse technorealisms' so as to have technological transformation of
planetary life instead. No more smile button bureaucrats with briefcases
full of weapons deals... 

> Apologies to everyone involved, but I get the sinking feeling I'm about to
> spend  time reading email that makes me feel like a spectator at a tennis
> match who is being subjected to exchanges of base-line play - and the
> sinking feeling that I'm watching an argument that may mutate but never
> actually ends.  Doesn't an argument in which one side accuses the other of
> holding beliefs or opinions that they have already freely admitted to  seem
> a little short on (trying to phrase this politely) insight?

I'm in agreement that sometimes internet discussion is like watching
Sampras versus Samprass, but what is this doing here in the middle of
yours? Is it a sort of projected kill-file? A way of closing off
discussion?  Why apologise if you need to respond? What is the threat? 

<snip of taxonomy of positions, somewhat reified and caricature>

>...Surely somone stating that 'GOVERNMENT HAS AN IMPORTANT ROLE TO PLAY
ON THE > ELECTRONIC FRONTIERS' is explicitly saying that they don't accept
an > unbridled free market approach - do we really *need* to go to the
effort of > pointing this out to them? Someone making such a statement
also expects a > free market proponent to disagree: simply disagreeing
doesn't really move > anyone forward. 

Social democracy is probably a good call here. Its the gambit of let's
regulate ourselves and offer up a portion of our lives to market and
Government because we see no alternative. I do think its important to
say something against this one dimensional thinking.

> So how can we debate these issues - which the quantity and tone of prose
> seem to indicate we consider important - without making them so ... well
> ... tedious?

I think we are able to do so and this list is a small part of it, there
are many other forums (not all in cyberspace of course) and the more we
extend the discussions the better. *For* the ruthless critique of

and so, goodnight, sleeptight...

Tennis results in the morning edition...


John Hutnyk
University of Heidelberg
Mail: Schiffgasse 4
69117 Heidelberg

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