Twofish's Blog

September 30, 2007

Random notes

Filed under: china, chomsky, internet — twofish @ 1:48 am

Interesting article about Chomsky and Chavez

One of the big disagreements that I have with Chomsky is when he talks about turning the public into an organized force. That scares me because within the public there are lots of interest groups that disagree about some pretty fundamental things, and turning the “public” into a large monolithic block removes a lot of the diversity within the “public.” Also, having things decided by the “majority” becomes really scary when you are a “minority.”

As far as Chavez, I really have no idea what to think about him and what is happening in Venezuela. One thing that I’ve learned about the media, is that you should always be careful when the media tries to make you feel strongly about something, and whenever I hear something in the media about someone that makes them look like either an angel or a devil, I get suspicious.

Rebecca Mackinnon has done a good job talking about misconceptions about the Chinese internet, and how the internet didn’t end the Communist Party of China. I actually was one of the few people that didn’t think that the internet would bring the end of the Communist Party and that was in large part because I had read Chomsky, Gramasci, and Foucault. Google for Panopticon.

I also think that Chomsky is making a mistake when he says that the internet will be the end of corporate domination of the media. It will certainly change the mechanics of corporate domination, but people with money and power will figure out how to use the internet for their own ends (and vice versa, people who figure out who to use the internet before anyone else does will end up with money and power).

Another good like about whether NGO’s are selling their soul to be in China. Of course they are. The question that people need to ask themselves is not whether or not they are selling their souls. You *have* to sell your soul to some extent in order to do something useful in politics and economics. The real question is *what is the price you are getting for your soul*? By agreeing to do or not to X in exchange for Y, are you making the situation better or worse? That’s a tough question to answer sometimes.

One final note with relevance to getting around internet censorship in China. I’m suspicion of technical tools to do so because they may be worse than useless. A faulty anti-censorship system is *MUCH* worse than no system, because it gives people a false sense of security, in which they start doing things that they wouldn’t if they didn’t think that they weren’t being watched. The big mistake that Yahoo China made with respect to Shi Tao was to not make it clear that everything someone writes on Yahoo should be assumed to be readable by the Chinese government, and I doubt that most of the cyberdissidents would have said the things that they did if that warning had been present.

About how Yanukovich has become extremely popular due to American media strategists. Of course, this is a very funny article because I’m sure that this article is part of Yanukovich’s media strategy.

September 29, 2007

Systems of social control – How Chomsky is right — and wrong

Filed under: academia, austrian economics, chomsky, finance — twofish @ 10:20 pm

In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith asks O’Brien whether the things that Smith has read in the secret banned book are true. O’Brien’s reply is “As description, yes. The programme it sets forth is nonsense.”

I keep thinking about this in relation the writings of Noam Chomsky

who I think is a wonderfully lucid and accurate description on how the power elites in developed nations keep their control by corporate control of the media. My big difference with Chomsky, is that he assumes that there is a better system out there, and I’m skeptical. Part of the reason I’m skeptical is that I’ve been in academia. Presumably the academics that write about systems of social control want to model society in the image of academia, and in any case they have the power to model academia after their vision of a perfect society. However, my first hand experience is that the world of academia has a rigid caste system and is exploitive in a way that is unheard of in the “corrupt world of business and politics.” Let’s be brutally honest about this, academia is a world of lords (tenured faculty) and serfs (adjuncts and graduate students). The one nice thing about the academia is that academics don’t run society, and there are enough social limits to keep the dysfunctions of academia inside of academia, where they are harmless. In cases where academics have free rein to run a society, the results have invariably been disastrous. The one clear modern example where you had academics running a society was the Khmer Rouge.

Let me give you an obvious example of how the power elite in the United States maintains control over society, and why it isn’t such a bad thing. I want to invite you to a speech by Chomsky. Except that you can’t go because you have to work. Why do you have to work? Just quit your job, and join the revolution. Well, because you have this mortgage and you have car payments, and you just bought this big giant big screen HDTV and you want to catch the latest episode of Lost. Well why don’t you get rid of these things, become a hermit, quit your job, and join the revolution. Well, I just saw this commercial that makes me want to buy this bigger HDTV and I don’t want my neighbors to think that I am a “loser” for having a small HDTV or a small house. Why do you think you are a loser if you aren’t a business success and have a small television? Well, there is this commercial that I saw while I was watching Lost….. And….

So who ends up joining the demonstration. It’s people who don’t care about money and status, and these people generally have no money and connections and so are harmless. The US doesn’t have political prisoners, because anyone that wants to change the system in a way that is unacceptable to the power elite either by bought out or ignored. I’m a good example of this. I say good things about the power elite, because the power elite dumps enough money in front of me to keep me happy and controlled. If the checks stop coming, I become unhappy and uncontrolled, and seeing that I have some useful talents, the people that run the United States don’t want to see me uncontrolled. And this is true for most of the people living in the United States.

So what the hell is wrong with the system????

Personally I don’t think that there is much wrong with the system (and that’s largely because of those semi-monthly paychecks that I get from it that allow me to satisfy the urges that the system makes me thing that I have). Basically what is happening is that the rich and powerful are bribing the less rich and less powerful with wealth and goodies so that the rich and powerful can keep their wealth and goodies.

Chomsky does have a problem because he has a model of economics in which the wealth that the developed world has has to come from exploitation of the third world. That HDTV? Where did it come from? Chomsky would argue that it came from a slave labor factory in China. But that is not what is happening.

The Chinese government is bright enough to know that they just can’t stay in power through tanks and torture. There aren’t enough soldiers and police to keep control, and then you run into the problem of keeping control of the soldiers and police. So the Chinese government has copied the American government and is trying to stay in power by bribing the masses. People work in Chinese sweatshops because *they* want their goodies, *they* want to be seen as a success, and *they* want a bigger house and motorbike than their neighbors. And as long as the checks keep coming, people are too exhausted to demonstrate. If you look in situations where people *are* demonstrating in China, it’s largely because of economic issues. Their checks aren’t big enough. So people make noise, and when they get a fat enough check, they stop making noise. The system isn’t quite as developed in China, so the government has to sometimes resort to jailing dissidents, but what the government is trying to push for is a system like that American system in which the dissidents are harmless and jailing them causes more problems than ignoring them.  The ideal system would be one in which anyone who wants to destroy the system, gets to join the party.  *wink*

For this system to continue to work both the US and Chinese economic and political elites need to generate enough wealth to keep their populations satisfied, and they need to be open enough so that people (like me) that could be threat to the basic stability of the system, get bought out. That’s not a bad thing, and it’s a heck of a lot better than what the academics have come up with…….

Let be close by pointing out the fatal flaw that academics have that I think causes them create such hellish systems. Academics think that they are smarter than everyone else. The people who get a paycheck, buy a high-definition TV, and then relax to watch Lost, they are stupid sheep in the eyes of academics. They should be reading about Chomsky or joining the revolution. The trouble with this attitude is that it means that academics ignore the ideas and perspectives of non-academics, and so when they get into a position of power, they know what is right, everyone else is wrong, and this causes hell to happen…..

So now that I’ve told you all of this, are you going to go out and revolt…… I don’t think so. I think you are just going to go into the refrigerator, pull out a cold beverage and watch TV….. which is exactly what the power elites wants you to do…..

Blog at