The idea that the news media is not, in fact, a perfectly reliable source of information on politically divisive or sensitive subjects, even in societies we broadly consider to be free, is not a new one. Criticism of mainstream media has long been a feature of the unruly left in the old western block. Manufacturing Consent, by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, is a full book going to great lengths to elaborate on structural elements contributing to this.
In the past few days there’s been a lot of argument over things that should be a lot simpler. A government with all the hallmarks of fascism took power in the United States, immediately followed by protests from a lot more people than celebrated. This is the good part. The bad part is in how some people have reacted to some of the protest.
You see, an out-and-out neonazi was punched.
I am a perfectionist. What’s worse, I’m the sort of perfectionist that really
should know better. The title here is a reference to a well-attested, old
phrase: “The perfect is the enemy of good.” It’s a phrase that’s been used in
countless variations. Its basic message is simple. If you always wait until
something is perfect, it will never, ever be finished. You might have done
something good, but won’t. Because it’s never good enough.
“Chirality” is a fancy way of saying “handedness”. It describes something that, when mirrored, can’t be made to fit with itself. Like so many other inordinately precise terms for everyday things, it springs from mathematics. The easiest example to name – indeed, the example that gives it its name – is your hands. Left and right, almost the same, but not exactly.
A friend of mine recently used the phrase “post-chiral politics”.
Social science is, at present, divided into a bunch of different disciplines, all pretending their particular branch of human behaviour can be understood quite apart from everything else. (Well, some of them *cough*economics*cough* seem to think everything else is just a variant of their own, but that’s a different story.) This is the model for academia at the moment. Economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology (to an extent). Then you have historians raiding the whole lot to build their funny little narratives about the past.
About a year ago, I planned a sequence of blog posts on the subject of intelligence organisations. Not in the usual “that’s the CIA and that’s the NSA and that’s GCHQ and over there you have ГРУ” way. (Although, admittedly, ГРУ tends to be scary enough that people avoid mentioning it at all.) No; my plan was more ambitious: A theoretical look at the work an intelligence organisation did, the different parts such an organisation needed to function properly, and what the operational requirements were.
First thought: Probably best I stop thinking of this as a place to get more-or-less well-formed ideas into the open. It’s not like anyone reads it, so I should be safe throwing out half-formed nonsense. I think. The real problem is a psychological block I need to deal with.
Second thought: “International Relations” as a distinct discipline makes so little sense it’s not even funny. Or maybe that’s not entirely accurate.
The origin, structure and development of the institution typically known as “the state” is my chief interest. This is not because I consider the state to be a particularly worthy institution; quite the contrary. Every indication is that the state arose from violence and represents nothing whatever except the efficient organisation of exploitation. It is not necessary, and its abolition is vital for the progress of humanity. This is not a view shared by the mainstream of academics, whether their discipline of choice is history, sociology, economics (although they will claim otherwise, the bastards), or something else relating to studying the social structure we live in.
Hooo-boy. There’s a term that gets the blood boiling in most cases. Who’s rich and who’s poor; aren’t we all middle-class? Isn’t the industrialised west as a whole the global rich, while the south of the globe gets the short end of the stick? Can we talk about a class-divided society without invoking the spectre of class warfare?
One interesting thing about class is that people tend to claim, today, that it doesn’t matter in western societies.
Everyone gets the revolution they deserve.1
A curious statement, if ever there was one. It was made shortly after references to the lawyer from Arras and the (very real) threat of a western uprising going very wrong indeed. Now, as it happens, I have an interest in revolutions; both generally and particular ones. And though I say so myself, I’m not the worst-informed about the French Revolution, the appearance of the Terror, and the roles played by Robespierre, Danton and Marat.
I did not say that I do not want rules and regulations. I said to you that I don’t want a Government, and by government I mean a power that makes laws and imposes them on everybody.1
Anarchists have a somewhat … tense relationship with the concept of the rule of law. Depending on how you understand the concept, its applicability in an anarchist society ranges from non-existent to being an absolute prerequisite for any just society.
The Internet is the single largest artificial construct ever built. In its current form, it encompasses virtually the whole of the globe’s telecommunications infrastructure, a vast digital computer network. TV is probably the largest hold-out, but the way things are developing it won’t remain so for long. It took a while, but today the Internet Protocol suite lies at the heart of a technical system that is vital for developed societies.
Yes, it’s a dry title. It captures the main point of my argument, however, and so it will stand.
I am a historian, but I also have a fair background in computer technology and the physical sciences. This is, it seems, a rather unusual mixture. That’s a messed-up situation, because my experience is that awareness of both “fields” (as it were) enables you to approach things in a much more powerful way.
I’m going to see if I can get some sort of bloggery going here. Essentially, I’m first and foremost an analyst who hasn’t been doing much analysis in the last year or so. For reasons that should be perfectly clear, I’m going to try and stay away from talk about WikiLeaks and OpenLeaks here.
Instead, the focus will be on fairly high-level political analysis, from the level of what such analysis does and can revolve about to the level of abstract theories on state structure and development, which is my main interest.