tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
[personal profile] tim
'There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.'

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

When people call out abuse, microaggressions, or macroaggressions (the last one also being known as oppression) within your community, some people are going to want to defend that abuse because they like the way things are and don't care who gets hurt or excluded. This is the "fuck you, got mine" approach. One way for them to do this is to position themselves as being more authentic or more central members of the community than the dissenters are. It's the "fake geek girl" strategy, weaponized to gatekeep people interested in social change out of the community.

Geek culture, specifically, isn't a majority group (although it's complicated, since geek culture also controls access to the most elite jobs within what's essentially the only remaining accessible middle-class profession). But when dominant groups intersect with non-dominant groups, people in the dominant/non-dominant intersection tend to win. For example, you can be a Christian engineer and no one will think less of you as an engineer, no matter how much you display your Christian identity in the context of being an engineer, hacker, or geek. The same is true about an atheist engineer, because what engineers value is being dogmatic and doctrinaire, not ideological fine points. However, accusing somebody of being an "SJW" can, if you play your cards right, delegitimize them as an engineer, or hacker, or geek. This is because "SJW" is shorthand for having a marginalized identity or believing that marginalized people shouldn't have to subordinate themselves to powerful people in order to be accepted. In geek culture, if you start a campaign to give somebody a reputation of "just caring about politics" (which is to say, political interests that aren't aligned with the dominant group's interests), that can be a very effective way of taking away their professional credibility. The Christian engineer never has to worry about this form of pollution-of-agency attack, at least not with respect to their religious beliefs.

While the details are most certainly not the same as the trajectory of the civil rights movement in 1960s America, there is a common strategy: the consolidation of power by othering people who demand the redistribution of power. If you can convince people that someone who wants a more equitable distribution of power is automatically not authentic, not real, not one of us, you've convinced them that the only way to be part of something, to be accepted, is to accept abuse and oppression.

To say, "It doesn't have to be this way" is to expose yourself and your reputation and credibility to every kind of attack possible, because "it doesn't have to be this way" are dangerous words. They inspire fear in those who find it more comfortable to believe that it does have to be this way, that all women should stay indoors at night (instead of men learning not to rape), that people who don't like being verbally abused should "just grow a thicker skin" (instead of everyone learning not to be abusive), that children should patiently wait until they're big enough to hurt smaller people (instead of parents respecting their children's boundaries). What those using the "outside agitator" / "fake geek girl" defense wish for is making "it does have to be this way" a self-fulfilling prophecy by scaring everyone who can imagine a different reality into silence and submission. But as long as we recognize that, they won't get their wish.
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(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-16 08:20 pm (UTC)
juli: chornobyl power planet (fear)
From: [personal profile] juli
There are some deep truths in this that I find remarkable and worth saying in the way you said them. I think this well captures the thing you and I have talked about in the past about the sense of promise that tech and computers for a moment seemed to have at some point in the past. Not just that it was fun, but that it was actually disruptive, and not in the way that tech!bros use that word. At one point tech's deficiencies I think maybe were merely reflective of society's, but now it does so reify them, and disruptions are limited to simply changing which rich white guy benefits from providing yet another shitty and incomplete platform for people to consume others' content and gawp at others' lives.

The religious parallel is hard to not drag out too far, but I think: the trouble is that the apostles who went out to transform the world by uplifting it once, by empowering people all over the world, by sharing the Gospel in a local way and context, have been replaced by centralized missionaries whose job is simply to grow in number but not in substance the Church, and to make sure that anything threatening elsewhere is extinguished. Too much of teenagers on mission trips, and not enough of St. Thomas' mission in India, and eventual martyrdom.

Or to put it another way: well-off white guys are happy to go work for Facebook and think they're changing the world because their bank account is getting fatter. OLPC and such are expressions of the same style of missionary zeal — we know what these poor sods should be doing, and how, and to what end, and in a way which doesn't threaten us.

Big digression: tech also increasingly suffers from something like the Latin legalism that says that doctrine is meaningful because of who pronounced it, and that things are valid because of their lineage and legality. [My half-assed understanding of] Lossky's articulation of mystical theology says on the other hand that doctrine is meaningless if it does not reflect the [mystical] experiences of practitioners of the faith, and that the integrity and belonging of the whole are what make things, well, not even "valid", but part of a shared and common pattern. We learn from tradition, but the imprimatur of Linus or Stallman or Zuckerberg doesn't mean shit if those tools aren't doing the job. The fact that Facebook is run a certain way, or is implemented a certain way, does not much matter. If people all over the world can't develop systems, networks, whatever, that work for them from the shared tools, then what value do those tools have? It's a big digression, lots of leaps and sloppiness around the edges, but perhaps some vague, useful connection between ecclesiology/structure and doctrine/code.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-16 11:10 pm (UTC)
juli: 21 Novinskiy (america)
From: [personal profile] juli
Well, here's where the hierarchical, institutional model does hold up though: they want people putting things in the offering plates, not involved in leadership. It's not that geek culture isn't a xenophobic mystery cult, as you suggest, but that there's also a profound interest in material success which means finding people to consume or otherwise pay for its cultural product.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-16 11:14 pm (UTC)
juli: hill, guardrail, bright blue sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] juli
Or to put it another way, it's like a "dual reality" in stage magic or mentalism. The people all on stage are all invested in their social performance as an act of collegiality, ideas, freedom, egalitarianism, interesting things, etc. However they are engaged in the act before an audience, who the actual magician(s) mean to have consume and observe something which provides them with entertainment and distraction. It's like front-end vs. back-end. And very much like a mystery cult which really doesn't like initiation. I guess a bit like fraternal organizations and secret societies: look at all the good work they do in public, but for many who join it's about the fun and knowledge behind the scenes. Differences in the exoteric and esoteric nature of the thing. If you let everyone in the Lodge, there wouldn't be enough beer for us all to get blitzed!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-16 11:21 pm (UTC)
juli: hill, guardrail, bright blue sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] juli
Well, the people involved may not know any better, so I'd hedge on "attempts", but I'd say that they mostly only succeed or get funding to the degree it's true. The question is whether the programmers are really the ones directing the action, or are just duped into playing a different and perhaps more satisfying (and definitely more profitable) role than the audience. I think we're probably inclined to place the line a little differently there, but the divide seems to exist. Not everyone got rich from PayPal, and those people have a disproportionate impact on what is (or at least appears to be) possible.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-17 10:29 pm (UTC)
graydon2: (Default)
From: [personal profile] graydon2
I think the "keep as many people as possible in the dark" part here is inaccurate; most of these folks will talk all 4 legs off a table expounding their beliefs and means if given the opportunity. I know Meredith, she's the last person who'd hide her intentions or try to protect secret knowledge.

The thing to keep in mind when interpreting the political-economic behavior and speech of cypherpunks and the security/hacker community is that they literally believe markets oppose, on balance, the interests of power. I've worked with enough of these folks over the past 20 years to be convinced that they are earnest in that belief. Regardless of how much you or I might think it's quackery. They honestly think there's a meaningful and correct political position to denote as "anarcho-capitalist". They believe that more unregulated markets means more social equality -- because "efficiency" and perhaps also "regulatory capture" -- or at very least that more unregulated markets means higher mean social prosperity, even if wealth winds up being distributed unequally in the process.
Edited Date: 2015-03-17 10:29 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-18 10:37 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] neelk
Speaking as one-time libertarian[*], the emotional logic of libertarianism is that it supplies a way to oppose some of the worst tendencies of the engineering mindset, without having to surrender the values of that mindset. That is, when I became an engineer, I felt I was joining a culture that valorized rationality and technocratic efficiency. The trouble was that this logic didn't heed the idea of consent: the trouble was that if efficiency is rational, then anyone who objected to their lives being reorganized was irrational, and hence their objections could be ignored.

This was obviously dangerously immoral, but since I valorized rationality and technocratic efficiency, too, it was hard to argue against. The attraction of libertarianism was that it supplied a way of saying, screw you, consent IS important, and in fact we can *mathematically prove* that ignoring consent is inefficient. Basically it was a way to oppose bureaucratic control by claiming the mantle of rationality.

The trouble is that this position is very fragile: once you concede the importance of market failures, you lose the efficiency argument. Since high modernist planning is genuinely awful for its victims (see James C. Scott's Seeing Like a State for a left perspective on this), egalitarian-minded libertarians are very strongly motivated to keep denying it. Not all libertarians are genuinely egalitarian, though: like every other major American political movement, there's a lot of racism at play, too. (However, it seems like racist libertarians have recently started switching to pure quill fascism, sorry, "neoreaction".)

But if you do have a genuinely egalitarian-minded libertarian you want to persuade, you need to simultaneously supply an argument about market failure couched in rationalistic terms, and to supply a policy proscription that will help protect people from being regulated without their consent. Eg, you might argue that markets composed of firms can't clear because of Holmstrom's theorem (a market analogue of the various voting impossibility theorems), and then suggest a basic income as a way of giving people independence (perhaps pointing to A.O. Hirschman's triad of exit, loyalty, and voice).

[*] These days my politics has contracted to mere civil libertarianism: I'll vote for any politician willing to pretend embarrassment over arbitrary police power and torture.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-19 11:33 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] neelk
Back when I was a hard core libertarian, I would have disagreed with you on the first point (because freedom of association), but I would have agreed with you on the second point. Then I would have started telling you how even analytical Marxists like Erik Olin Wright were basically libertarians who wanted a basic income (so that you get his favored formulation of "capitalism between consenting adults"), and how Milton Friedman was in favor of a basic income, too, and so the actual policy differences between us were actually smaller and more bridgeable than they looked at first glance.

Then I would have told you that (a) I was totally okay with putting off cutting Social Security until *after* the Pentagon's budget got the axe, and (b) the war on drugs was the post-Civil-Rights-Act technology to perpetuate structural racism and authoritarian police practices, and how getting the police state under control before Moore's law made total surveillance affordable was the most important thing to prevent the complete eradication of democracy, and maybe we could both work together on that?

It's actually kind of fun remembering how I used to think; I was a lot more optimistic before Moore's law made total surveillance affordable and we had a decade+ of failed illegal wars which taught our ruling class absolutely nothing except that they could bring the black sites home. :/

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-19 06:05 am (UTC)
graydon2: (Default)
From: [personal profile] graydon2
"Being duped" implies a dup-er duping the dup-ees. The problem with religions is that everyone's under the same spell; the more high-ranking, the worse they're in its grip.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-19 06:20 am (UTC)
graydon2: (Default)
From: [personal profile] graydon2
I suppose. Perhaps there's private from the world and private from yourself? Depends if one must make room for cognitive dissonance. I don't think Milton Friedman would be able to accept, much less admit aloud, that his policy influences served to consolidate power for the capital class.

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