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Interesting Links: June 9, 2017

June 9, 2017 4 comments

A few months ago, I came across another author/ journalist whose posts many of you might find interesting. Sam Kriss writes on a wide variety of issues and in a number of outlets. He also has a personal website.

Here are three of his articles that I found to be especially interesting.

Link 1: The Long Slow Rotten March of Progress

Desperation is everywhere; exhibitors make lunging grabs for any passers-by wearing an “INVESTOR” lanyard, proffer stickers and goodies, scream for attention on their convention-standard signs. These do not, to put it kindly, make a lot of sense. “Giving you all the tools you need to activate and manage your influencer marketing relationships,” promises one. “Leverage what is known to find, manage, and understand your data,” entices another. The gleaming technological future looks a lot like a new golden age of hucksterism. It’s networking; the sordid, stupid business of business; pressing palms with arrogant pricks, genuflecting to idiots, entirely unchanged by the fact that this time it’s about apps and code rather than dog food or dishwashers.

Capitalism doesn’t know what to do with its surpluses any more; it ruthlessly drains them from the immiserated low-tech manufacturing bases of the Global South, snatches them away from a first-world population tapping at computer code on the edge of redundancy, but then has nowhere better to put them than in some executive’s gold-plated toilet. This soil breeds monsters; new, parasitic products scurry like the first worms over the world-order’s dying body. The “Internet of Things” is meant to be the future, but it mostly looks like a farcical recomplication of what we already had: a juice press that needs to scan a QR code and connect to your wifi before it’ll exert functionally the same amount of pressure as a pair of human hands, a wine bottle that connects to the internet and only dispenses proprietary wines, light bulbs that burn out or flicker maniacally if you haven’t installed the drivers properly.

Link 2: Village Atheists, Village Idiots

The madman in this story is Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the frustrated punter is the rapper B.o.B. Near the start of this year—heralded by Tyson with the announcement that January 1 has no astronomical significance—B.o.B. began insisting (on Twitter, of course) that for centuries a vast conspiracy has existed for the purpose of convincing people that the world is a sphere, when it’s actually flat. And for some reason, Tyson immediately jumped in, skittle-bowl flapping noisily against his ass, to repeat endlessly that no, it’s round. He even helped create a genuinely unlistenable rap parody—“B.o.B. gotta know that the planet is a sphere, G”—that borrowed not only its backing track but its entire lyrical structure from Drake’s “Back to Back.” (See what I mean about rationalists and repetition?)

In the time of Kierkegaard and Marx and Parallax, there was still some resistance to the deadness of mere facts; now it’s all melted away. Kierkegaard’s villagers saw someone maniacally repeating that the world is round and correctly sent him back to the asylum. We watched Tyson doing exactly the same thing, and instead of hiding him away from society where nobody would have to hear such pointless nonsense, thousands cheer him on for fighting for truth and objectivity against the forces of backwardness. We do the same when Richard Dawkins valiantly fights for the theory of evolution against the last hopeless stragglers of the creationist movement, with their dinky fiberglass dinosaurs munching leaves in a museum-piece Garden of Eden. We do it when Sam Harris prises deep into the human brain and announces that there’s no little vacuole there containing a soul.

Link 3: Why won’t you push the button?

Imagine if a politician openly promised, during a campaign, that they would be willing to burn people alive. They come to knock on your door, bright and smiling in a freshly crinkled rosette: unlike my opponent, who doesn’t care about your security and the security of your family, I will personally subject someone to sixty million-degree heat, so that their fat melts and their bones are charred and their eyeballs burst and their bodies crumble into toxic dust. I will torture other people by burning their skin, I will torch their flesh away and leave them with open wounds bubbling with disease. They will die slowly. I will poison others; their organs will fail and they will shit out their guts in agony. I will do this to people who have done nothing wrong, to families, to children, to their pets; one by one, I will burn them to death. For you. For your security.

It’s striking how sharply the inhuman vastness of nuclear war contrasts with the pettiness and finitude and awfulness of the people who demand it. The first question on nuclear weapons came from one Adam Murgatroyd, who looks exactly how you’d expect, some simpering Tory ponce with his slicked-back hair and his practised raise of an eyebrow. ‘It’s disconcerting,’ he later told the press, ‘that we could potentially in six days’ time have a prime minister who wouldn’t be prepared to protect British lives over someone else’s life.’ Imagine the air poisoned, the soil dying, the biosphere eradicated, the grand flailing tragedy of humanity and its aspirations put to an abrupt stop, the families huddling their loved ones close as the shock wave hits, knowing they’re about to die – and all because some limp umbrella of a man wanted a leader who’d make the right kind of nationalistic hoots about defence. Now I am become Adam from the BBC studio audience, destroyer of worlds.

Enjoy! Comments?