Americans seem all to grasp the plot of 1984 and other dystopian depictions of the omniscient surveillance state while, unsurprisingly, learning entirely the wrong lesson from them. That has contributed more than anything else to the modern dilemma of how to get the benefits of using the available technologies without surrendering our privacy to unregulated non-governmental entities.

A moron, or someone who knows what it is about but has never actually read it, uses 1984 to illustrate the point that we must be absolutely vigilant against any attempt by The Government to limit our precious freedoms. Yet these same people willingly, even eagerly, endorse the growth of an unregulated data scraping colossus dressed in the platitudes of the libertarian wet dream of a free market.

I have written many times that I don't express any outrage over things like Facebook, Google, our smartphones, etc collecting data about us because from the beginning I had no expectation that those entities would respect my privacy and information. Only a dolt would use Facebook without assuming that every single thing on the site is collected, sifted, and sold. That's how they're making money. I don't lie awake at night paranoid that my iPhone is spying on me, but I also expect that every task I perform with it is similarly creating bits of User Data somewhere. I don't enjoy or approve of it, but I recognize it as a tradeoff I am making. I reap the benefits of this technology and in return the companies behind it profit from using my habits to target ads at me or to sell to third-party marketers. Simply put, I'm not upset because I have always known it was happening.

The thing that people in general, and right-wingers in particular, have always misunderstood about the value of the sci-fi dystopia genre is that it was never going to be The Government here in real life. We'd never have a government forcing us to install listening devices in our house (as, famously, in the TVs in 1984). It was always going to be Big Business. And they were never going to force anything on us. They were going to make us want to do it, and to pay them for the privilege. So while Uncle Freedom and the middle aged patriots were putting on stupid tri-cornered hats and waving guns around to protest Big Government, the free market quietly began to do every single thing the evil government was purported to be planning.

Surveillance? No government could ever devise a system that tracks and monitors us as effectively as the one we've happily chosen for ourselves. Invasion of privacy? For the right price, every word you've ever typed in an email or anywhere on the internet has left a trace that can be unearthed. Control of the news? Look at what the President does with a simple, free Twitter account to lead the media around by the nose, or how state-sponsored propaganda networks like RT and Fox News have come to dominate the landscape.

Imagine the blood-curdling outrage that would result from the government forcing every news network to recite some kind of creed during every broadcast; yet when a company called Sinclair does it, well that's fine. Because it's not the government. And as long as it's not the government, the deluded logic goes, our Freedom really isn't at risk.

It is enough to make me skeptical that the right was ever really worried about Freedom and Privacy and Liberty at all, but merely the idea that the state or anyone else would engage in policies they didn't like. Because when the iron fist of 24 hour surveillance and propaganda comes from the libertarian or nationalist far right and free market – as it most certainly has – they don't seem to mind nearly as much. The First Lady suggests kids eat more vegetables and everybody loses their shit; one unaccountable corporation takes control of a huge share of local media in the U.S. and puts them on a propaganda script and those same vigilant patriots are either silent or downright enthusiastic.

If being oppressed by the state is so frightening, why is being oppressed by private enterprise no real cause for alarm among the fierce freedom advocates on the right? Maybe – just maybe – they're down with totalitarianism as long as there's no risk that it will express even a passing interest in advancing the public good. Perhaps the scariest part of 1984 in their reading was not the surveillance state but that the government fed everyone.

96 thoughts on “A PRINCIPLED WELCOME”

  • D.A. Madigan says:

    I think you and I both know that while this is a beautifully well reasoned essay, and you've got a lovely textual style on you, the simple truth behind all the other simple truths is, conservatives aren't logical, they aren't analytical, and they aren't reasonable. There are many ways to define the essential dichotomy between the conservative and liberal viewpoints, and most of them are accurate, but one of the most accurate and reliable is, conservatives are primarily emotional people, and liberals understand that emotions often times make no sense and usually are selfish, so we make at least a nominal effort to put our emotions aside and engage our higher reasoning centers.

    Conservatives just want stuff in an utterly infantile way. There's no thought to it. They hate whatever they've been conditioned to hate and they love whatever they've been conditioned to love and they're remarkably easy to condition as long as you never demand abstract thought from them. Or that they control their feelings for a moment. They just want to be comfortable if not rapturous all the time, and they follow the straightest line and the path of least resistance to get there. Booze? Sure. Sex? Yes please. Drugs? Fine. Scream your lungs out in a crowd of similarly groomed baboons? Baby I'm so wet for you. Condemn everyone who does any of these things? No problem, they're all assholes anyway.

    It doesn't matter if it makes sense to them. It doesn't matter if it's consistent. The only reason they don't march around chanting 'Cognitive dissonance he's our man he can do it if anyone can' is they have a dead on instinct for an intellectual catchphrase and they just as instinctively hate, fear, and loathe them. .

    So it's not that conservatives hate the government but love corporations, it's just that formulating a concept that coherent in their mind is way too much fucking work for them. They would never respond to this essay, or argue with it in any meaningful way — if the words and wisdom contained above were somehow intruded into their comfort zone in some way that they were forced to pay attention to, they'd just chant "U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" in unison until their forebrains were pleasantly sedated again.

  • Say the government really wanted to get you. And the government was the ruthless entity that the gun fetishists think their armory will protect them against.

    Facebook knows your friends. It knows your family. It knows your interests. It knows where you hang out.

    Using that data your entire family could be swept up and liquidated. Didn’t Stalin kill the grandparents, parents and children of enemies of the state? Then there’s nobody left for revenge.

    The protection that you think your gun collection gives you has one big assumption.

    You’re counting on the people coming to get you following rules and the law. If the future that they imagine comes to pass why would the government waste their time laying seige to your hideout.

    If you’re as important as you think you are a smart bomb down your chimney should take care of you with no muss or fuss.

  • @Camembert

    …pining for the plantations

    Without ever quite realizing that the bulk of them would be little better than slaves themselves. Plantation owners were the 0.001% of the day, and with slave labor doing most of the work, everyone else were pretty well screwed.

    They're like all the folks with their 'past lives' oddly all of them were someone interesting, not the peasant Bob, who lived a miserable life until he died at 19 of typhus…

  • Everyone who believes in past lives was always a great king or fantastic artist. Noone imagines they were a night soil collector.

  • Stacey Hager says:

    I’ve said for years that the thing Orwell got wrong was the notion that we would quietly, fearfully accept the telescreen as something that was forced on us. Instead, we cheerfully PAY for the pleasure of having it and whine and bitch if it’s not available for five minutes.

  • As great an author as Orwell was, J.G. Ballard, William Gibson, and Margaret Atwood (not just _Handmaiden's Tale_, but esp. Maddaddam trilogy) are much better guides to what's happening / what will happen to us this century. In their later work, there's a flatness to everything that really describes the malaise that comes with surrendering to Surveillance Capitalism, as opposed to the potential for solidarity that we might have if we rose up against Big Brother.

    And with Atwood we get a glimpse of what total environmental catastrophe will be like, as the last remaining bio-tech companies fight each other to squeeze the last profit possible out of our bodies and the earth.

    Capitalism is a system of course, not a single person or company. You'll probably die horribly in _1984_, but at least you can focus your efforts on overthrowing the dictator.

    Hell, I'd argue that Gibson's last few novels have been boring and drab _on purpose_, in order to fully illustrate the type of world we've chosen to live in.

    In a more oblique way, I recommend Jeff Vandermeer's _Southern Reach_ trilogy. At the very least, check out the film _Annihilation_ which I think was a very faithful, if not page-for-page adaptation, of his first book in the series.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    @Schmitt Trigger:

    Putting an infantile wannabe totalitarian strongman at the helm seems like the best shot at getting the sort of Big Gubmit these geniuses are supposedly so afraid of. Like most libertarians, they trust that their favorite authoritarian thugs won't put *them* against the wall.

  • A lesser-known and probably more applicable work by Orwell is Animal Farm; conservatives essentially believe that 'everyone is equal, but some people are more equal than others'. They believe the aforementioned "some people" to be themselves. The Republicans have used shameless bigotry-fueled fear mongering as the primary technique to convince white people to happily shovel all of America's wealth upwards. This has proven to be very effective.

    Conservatives are basically cool with totalitarianism because they think that they will be the "in crowd" based on their social privileges alone. They truly believe they are the Chosen Ones; why else would they benefit from prejudice? (This has been used as a justification for any type of subjugation *forever*.)

    True equality is a threat to their power. Ever notice how "Big Government" always equals "whatever remotely levels the playing field"? While libertarian, Wild West-type fantasies are framed as "freedom"? Isn't it convenient that everyone is a tabula rasa when they're born (unless you're a sub-human, and that means we don't have to be nice to you)? Conservatives don't realize that they are being lied-to. They are being told to deny others' humanity so they can be used as foot soldiers until they are eventually purged for their impurity. And they do so, because it feels good in the present moment. "Wait…maybe I don't belong to The Club…maybe I'm next?" doesn't even occur to them.

    Those who engage in the Revolutionary War cosplay bullshit and idolize the sainted Founding Fathers are like the douchey past-life fantasy types in that they long for the return of a level of privilege they they believe they would've had at the time. They idolize George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, et al. not *despite* the fact that they were a bunch of white European entrepreneurs that came to a foreign land as conquerors, raped, murdered, owned other people as livestock, committed treason against their government, formed their own military and started a successful enough rebellion that killed enough people for England to say "fuck it" and leave—but *because* of it. These bourgeois white guys were "We The People Of The United States"; nobody else qualified. Those were the Days, amiright?

  • @Mm–

    Guns are basically no more than a security blanket.

    Big Business has bought the government, the Republicans in particular, essentially treating them as shareholders. The Media enables the Republican machine, and it's one big circle jerk that leaves the American public fighting for the table scraps.

    I'm not convinced we're completely fucked (yet), if we can manage to get our heads out of our asses.

    On another note, I have no idea why anyone would ever expect that anything they type, write, or photograph anywhere would not be able to be retrieved and possibly used against them. One thing that I know from art school: while it's always a good idea to get (especially written) permission from someone to use their image, you can basically sell or use a picture you take of anyone in public because by being in public, a person has no expectation of privacy. This is why video surveillance cameras in public spaces are legal. There is a lot of information in the public record, too. License plates, tax records, the Patriot Act…Privacy is basically an illusion.

  • My guess is that many people perceive State's surveillance and private business data collection in a different way because, unlike States, companies don't have their own "law enforcement".

    People might be afraid of being arrested or having their guns confiscated by judges and policemen, not by Facebook's representatives.

  • The most charitable reading I've been able to come up with of American libertarianism is that it's based on a total failure to conceive of any type of coercion that is not direct physical violence.

    This is stupid because, obviously, almost no coercion in life takes this form, and the only people who assume it does are the ones who are subject to the least coercion available (meaning, generally, white relatively well off men hey look at that it's most libertarians).

    But if you assume that literally the only bad thing someone can do to someone else is that then view makes some kind of sense. The role of government is to hold a monopoly on physical violence. Since physical violence is the only possible constraint on liberty, which is good, it follows that the government should be involved in as little as possible aside from keeping all the violence to itself, just like you don't want your toxic waste disposal facility to also be a factory that makes Cheetos.

    In the real world this is imbecilic but, hey, that only makes this reading of them more compelling as far as I can tell.

  • "If being oppressed by the state is so frightening, why is being oppressed by private enterprise no real cause for alarm among the fierce freedom advocates on the right?"

    Because the gummint is the new "redskins". They are not interested in monetary profit. It is actually antithetical to their raison d'etre. All of that sweet, sweet money that can be siphoned off by private corpviduals will, quite simply, be wasted! The MurKKKan way is to co-opt those people, institutions or processes that have financial value or to destroy them and replace them with another, more efficient means of wealth extraction that is a one-way transaction.
    The only good gummint is a gummint that can be drowned in a bathtub.

    @ Schmitt Trigger:

    "Dopamine stimulant"?

    more like "Dope stimulant".

    They love that they can rile up the masses so easily with lies and mostlylies sent via Twitter, FB and Russian Today, et al. It will not occur to them that it might be a problem until the H5 TumbriHummer rolls up in their shit with it's 22" Runflats and awesome BoseSound 4KW sound system (only for the spectators and the crew; the folks in back will be secured with cable ties and shock collars and fitted with VR goggles showing replays of previous episodes of "NO Survivors/Eat the Rich.".

  • The difference between government and business in the way they, whether Big or not, seek to realize their goals, is that only the government gets to use coercion.

    Please share where you got the information that the Republicans have bought the government.

  • @BruceJ The .001% will ALWAYS need to employ overseers to keep the slaves working hard and the "militia" to keep them from organizing to escape or overthrow the masters. Those jobs are what the ammosexuals are pining for.

  • A guy I went to high school with who is the stereotypical Fox News viewer posted a video on Facebook recently about Sinclair forcing local news stations to air prepared news segments with the statement "See how the liberals force you listen to their news?" It had something like 7 likes when I saw it.

  • seniorscrub says:

    In the end, it would appear that ROLLERBALL — the original not the remake — got it right: Government of the Corporations, for the Corporations and by the Corporations.

  • I think the idea that only the government uses coercion is inaccurate. Affluent suburbs and "gated communities" often have signs reading "Armed Response".

    Also: the 1890s dream of the GOP elite relied on a lot of private coercion. Striking union members certainly felt the impact of the Pinkerton's truncheons. "I can hire half the working class to control the other half" is not predicated on the State.

    That, to me, is the biggest failing of libertarianism. It ignores private violence and coercion which is rife throughout history.

    Carrstone: I agree with you, actually. Ownership of the government is shared by the slightly less evil party of War and Wall Street, the Democrats.

  • @Brian M

    The word are 'armed response', not 'armed coercion'. And it's in defense of 'what's mine', not as part of taking 'what's yours'.

  • Die-hard fans of Richard Hofstadter will recognize The Businessman as the most revered hero in American government ever since the 19th century.

    Geezers alive in the 80s will recollect Reagan's banging the drum that government enterprises were slothful and wasteful bureaucracies, in desperate need of the cleansing that ruthless, efficient capitalists would wreak if these enterprises were privatized.

    And now here we all are…again. 60 million voters think rich people are just wonderful human beings and that corporations are their friendly neighborhood shopkeepers, just bigger.

    70% income tax for the 1% and universal basic income, anyone? [yeah, I crack myself up]

  • Major, I'm stealing this. Yoicks and away…

    A Libertarian is someone who thinks they'll get to be the guy sitting on the throne of skulls and not one of the skulls.

  • Theoretically, if private enterprise oppresses people, they could start up their own google, or amazon, or whatever, and compete with it, and then people would have a free market choice, and the world would smell like unicorn farts and everything would work out. In truth, conservatives think that they–along with everyone else who isn't rich–is an inferior being who deserves to be sat on by the wealthy. As long as the person sitting on them isn't brown.

  • "the companies behind it profit from using my habits to target ads at me"

    Do the ads ever work? Anybody, tell me your experience. It's just a purified version of what television does. With much better data to work with. But what have you bought? Am I so different from most people that I can't understand why this is the sponsorship model for mass media? Or do the money people just do it because they can't imagine not doing it?

  • Leading Edge Boomer says:

    Surveillance in the home is not being forced on us, we are jumping at the chance. Already 40% of homes have "smart speakers" that listen all the time. Do you believe the assurances that nothing is recorded until "Hey Alexa" is processed? The telecoms had massive data collection, instigated by the government; how is this different?

    We scramble to buy TVs that have cameras and microphones built in; but we don't care, we just want voice control of the device–"Uh, what camera?"

  • If you look at history, there has long been a basic conflict between three groups. There are the crawling shits who do all the work and consider themselves lucky to have enough to eat. There are the elites who want EVERYTHING even the wood from the branch they are hanging onto. And, there was the state which wants as much as it can get while still having crawling shits around to do the necessary work.

    The crawling shits have no political power. They can be used by the state or the elite, but, on their own, they are ineffective. The elite are at war with the state and with each other. Their outlook is short term, and they don't care about collateral damage. The state has a longer term view, so it needs the crawling shits and some, but not all, of the elite.

    The usual cycle starts with a relatively low population relative to resources. Population grows rapidly. There is inflation and good times. Think, Rome after the Punic War, England under Henry II, France after Louis XIV. Then the elites start growing in earnest. The crawling shits lose out, and even less effective elites can get squeezed out, but the state holds on. Then the elites start fighting in earnest, against each other and the state. Population growth stops or reverses. Elites go to war, kill or be killed, or drop out of the elite. Eventually, there is a prolonged depression with a weak state and political instability. Eventually, the elite is pruned and weakened a new central state can support a rising population again.

    The point is that our corporations are our elite, our dukes, our nobles, and they are at war with the state. We crawling shits are the pawns, so wish us luck.

  • @Kaleberg
    Your analogy isn't correct. The nobility is hereditary, business moguls are not.

    In today's world all working stiffs are exposed to the vagaries of the market with the positive effect that many who started in the bottom quartile get to the upper quartile during their working life.

    The downside is that their place on the mobility ladder is not guaranteed to be permanent. But that's a good thing. If it weren't so, we could just stay home and watch soaps.

  • Dude, hate to sound foily, but Google IS the CIA, just as Booz Allen Hamilton (Edward Snowden's former employer) is the NSA. Hell, Amazon's a CIA contractor!! The internet itself is a product of DARPA!! I don't see how NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, or CIA/ DoD contractor Google hoovering up and storing my every online activity is any less a violation of my 4th Amendment rights just because they're "private companies".


  • ALSO, whenever people say, "but I don't have anything to hide", I'm tempted to ask them for their date of birth, social security number, bank account number and routing code. Of COURSE you have something to hide– everyone does.

  • If you want to get drunk in a hurry, just post random quotes from Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations on right-wing forums and drink every time someone says "Socialist!".

  • @Aurora and Kaleburg: in Orwell's 1984, the not-bright-but-very-trusting plowhorse worked himself nearly to death, and when he had nothing left to be exploited, the pigs called the knacker to take the horse away to be killed. Until the end, the horse believed he was going to paradise.

    That's a lesson that won't be heeded by the people who most need to heed it.

  • @carrstone

    Wouldn't it be pretty to believe that you are correct.

    But in the US we live in, wealth confers hereditary aristocracy for at least two generations, longer in many families. Richard Mellon Scaife didn't do squat to be wealthy. Neither did the Revlon heirs, nor most of the Kohler heirs, nor most of the duPont heirs, nor …
    Look at the Forbes 400 – by my count, over a third of them are second or third generation from the person who amassed the fortune.
    And we're rigging our laws (abolish the inheritance tax! cut the capital gains tax!) to ensure that this situation gets worse, instead of better.

    On the other end, social mobility in the US is probably the worst its ever been: if you weren't born to affluence, you have almost no chance of achieving it. Not no chance at all, but unless you have a freak athletic talent, you're not going to be able to afford good schools.

  • @Joel Hanes

    Thank you for an interesting, if somewhat misleading article. Let's not forget that we're a nation of 320+ million citizens and that basing conclusions on the Top 400 reflects only what's happening to 0.00012% of the population.

    As the researchers don't reveal whether they're using averages or means, commenting is difficult. Nonetheless, perhaps salaries in 1980 were less 'just' than they are today and that income, like water, finds its own level – and that's not necessarily at the highest point.

    The rest of the methodology used is not clear either. "The chance that someone starting in the middle of the earnings distribution would reach one of the top two earnings deciles decreased by 20 percent" Does that 'someone' therefore have an 80% chance of reaching the higher deciles? What does that 'someone' want – a guarantee?

    These types of articles always seem to blame, as does Piketty, the 'haves' for the miseries of the 'not have as muches'. Wages and salaries are paid for the same reason you buy a shovel, to get a job done. It's the yield from the task that determines the sustainability of the undertaking, not the character of the employee or the shininess of the shovel.

    Shakespeare may well have nailed it when he says, "The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings."

  • I’m sure that in your mind, there’s a connection between Martin and the state of employment in the United States, but it escapes me

  • @Katydid

    1984? Must be a typo, right?

    And you'll be aware, I'm sure, that 'Animal Farm' is an allegorical indictment of Stalinist Russia, not of capitalism. And that readers of this blog will not thank you for reminding them that their ideal's as bad as the other.

  • @ carrstone

    A fun thing that Libertarians forget is that if losing the economic “game” (winners vs losers, etc.) means that you or your children starve to death, the guillotines tend to come out eventually.

    Meanderings for others:
    Yes, you can easily be disappeared thanks to the constant tracking afforded by Facebook, google, etc. Someone mentioned plantations, I want to point out that the strategy employed post-civil war was to disappear any black peoples that showed any leadership or such qualities. Tl; Dr it’s been done successfully before.

    Secondly, never discount the destructive power of stupid people with small arms. Just because the military has drones does not mean everything would be over quickly or easily should things get that far out of hand.

  • "…one unaccountable corporation takes control of a huge share of local media in the U.S…"

    Someone should study Kern County, California. It's as closed a media market as exists in the country, probably. A deep-red county in the middle of ultra-blue California. Sole local paper in Bakersfield owned by an untra-right-wing publisher that controls all the central valley. High population there of Mexican-Americans, who look just like "illegals" and stoke the fires of paranoia in the white population. Now in her late seventies, even my sister is spouting the lies about DACA and they're-taking-all-our-benefits. She's not a stupid person, but she doesn't realize the bubble she's in. It's Invasion of the Body Snatchers with my own flesh and blood. She "hates" Jerry Brown, is appalled by "sanctuary cities," all of it, and all her friends agree so she doesn't even see how isolated are her opinions in her home state. She thinks her opinions are authoritative since she lives there and I'm on the other coast. I guess there's no larger point here, except that it hurts when it happens in your own family.

  • @safety Man

    But, as any series on Netflix or the French revolution will have taught you, the guillotiners are inevitably followed by the next tranche of retribution seekers with their own patented tools of coercion.

    C'est la vie!

  • "Do the ads ever work? Anybody, tell me your experience. It's just a purified version of what television does. With much better data to work with. But what have you bought? Am I so different from most people that I can't understand why this is the sponsorship model for mass media? Or do the money people just do it because they can't imagine not doing it?"


    I wonder about this. To me, the ads are just an annoying distraction. Especially as the consolidation and off shoring and automation make fewer and fewer people able to consume recklessly (if efficiently) I think the whole edifice is a giant bubble. There are media reports of companies drastically scaling back their internet advertising purchases because they don't work.

  • carrstone: You do realize that using French makes you an enemy of the state? Plus, what is your point? Do you really think that we do not realize that revolutions ultimately fail? How does that answer the main point that vast concentrations of wealth do not ultimately lead to blowback, even with drones? Is your answer simply "your poors should just starve because Jacobins"?

  • Alice Johnson says:

    The fundamental error in carrstone's distinction is the idea that there is a distinction in the first place. There is not. There is no discrete, indivisible entity "the government" which opposes other indivisible entities "businesses" or "individuals" in an exclusive way. In truth, society is closer to a continuous spectrum with a wide variety of social mechanisms used to achieve a wide variety of goals; what falls into the "government" bucket vs the "business" bucket is vague and ever-shifting, particularly in this kind of discussion where people choose the allocation that best suits their argument. Is it really different if the bureaucracy that decides you should be homeless has "Mortgage Underwriters" written on the side of the building or "Department of Housting"?

    If you want to witness private entities use violent coercion, just try to stop an eviction, or a repossession. Or do a little recreational trespassing. It matters not at all whether the individual agents perpetrating the violence to achieve the coercion are wearing a uniform that says "City PD" or "City Security, Inc", the goals and interests behind the coercion are those of "private" entities. As he has already alluded to, and as our glorious host already explained in plenty of detail without his comprehension, carrstone just thinks coercion is OK when it serves his perceived interests. And he's perfectly willing to create nonsense arguments about false distinctions in order to justify his choice of which coercions are legitimate and which are not.

  • @Alice Johnson

    There's a lot of words there. Are you saying that the actions of the government have the same source of origin as actions by corporations and private individuals? If you don't think there's a sharp division between the goals of government and those of the populace, don't rely on the utterances of today's academe, talk to a businessman. Or you could just take my word for it.

    Governments, and I'm not being partisan here, have no resources other than the ones they take from the populace, they give themselves powers the populace is too uninterested to forestall unless these impact them individually. Obviously government is made up by people who are individuals in their own right [which'd be why they take bribes from corporations] but as representatives they ignore the part that says 'by the people' because recognizing that would constitute a barrier to the power they seek.

    Individuals and corporations act in defense of what they think they own or hope to own. The backstories behind an eviction and a seizure for eminent domain are vastly different. Little kids being harassed by the authorities for trying to run a lemonade stand while the government, by decree, forces us to buy Obamacare is also … do I need to go on?

    Do yourself a favor, don't do that Cathy Newman thing of mendaciously putting words in my mouth. I did not say what you pretend I said viz., 'coercion is OK when it serves his [carrstone's] perceived interests'. Deflecting like that makes you appear so gnarly.

  • @Brian M

    Assigning to me a sentiment like 'your [sic] poors [sic] should just starve because Jacobins" is so infantile, that I'm amazed that you recognized French when you saw it.

    What are you, Canadian, eh?

  • carrstone: Your entire oeuvre of political comment here reflects that underlying philosophy.

    Sorry, but right wing libertarianism is based on this philosophy, ultimately. I would agree it is an infantile view of life, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

  • More seriously, though. carrstone disappeared for months from the commentariate. Now we have a "carrstone" who appears to be denying his basic view of the world. I wonder if Ed could do a ISP check?

  • @Brian M

    No need, it's the same ol' carrstone!

    I read most everything Ed and his claque wrote in the interim but there wasn't anything that interested me enough to want to comment.

    What a wonderful country. I get told off in the crassest language for contrary opinions and now it's being recommended that I be investigated by Ed's phalanx of investigators, rail and pitchfork at the ready, because I haven't done that for a while.

    Whatever happened to freedom of speech? Or were you just concerned that I might not have been well?

  • @Brian M

    My 'oeuvre'? Now you're just showing off.

    I recognize the pressing need some people have to fit those around them into little boxes and label these by employing their own esoteric system of classification. It's the only way, it appears, that some people can cope with the world.

    And now I'm supposed to be 'right wing libertarian' – who knew? I'd be chuffed if you would point out the bits that made you think so and educate me on why what I said is not true. Substantiated, of course.

  • Alice Johnson says:

    Carrstone, you're a wonderful interlocutor. I've had some interesting insights while trying to come up with words small enough to get through to you. I can't share most of them, because they involve too many large words, but I have, hopefully, found one that I can share with you.

    Coercion is a result of power. When one human has power over another, coercion is unavoidable. "Government" describes some forms of organizational structure that grant power to some humans over other humans. "Business" describes other such organizational structures. There are many others that don't generally get lumped into either category. All of them grant power to some humans over other humans, and therefor create coercion.

    If that's not simple enough for you, I don't know, I can't break it down any further. It is always possible that you simply lack the knowledge-base to follow this discussion. In which case, perhaps you could try reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy from cover to cover before commenting here again.

  • Alice Johnson says:

    > fit those around them into little boxes and label these by employing their own esoteric system of classification. It's the only way, it appears, that some people can cope with the world.

    You cannot be serious. Your whole schtick is reifying categories and then making arguments on the basis that those categories are like platonic ideals that conform to specific properties you made up. (e.g., governments have a monopoly on violence).

    Language is, fundamentally, category-based, so categorization happens. The problem comes when you believe that one system of categorization is *reality* and not just a model or map. All systems of categorization are models, none are reality, and they are all flawed. Your system is quite clearly set up to support your emotional beliefs, which is common, but annoying nonetheless.

  • @Alice Johnson

    I'm always happy to be corrected; I'm still waiting, Alice. Coercion isn't the RESULT of power, it's the exercise of force or threats.

    It seems to me that the government has appropriated power onto itself and acts as though it's ruling us, rather than letting us get on with our lives. A landlord, evicting a tenant for cause, is not being coercive, he's securing his property and ensuring that his investment continues to provide income.

    I've noticed that, particularly amongst left-leaning folks, there is incomprehension when a conservative holds, among others, pro-choice views or is a nonbeliever. Such a person doesn't happily fit into one of the progressive's existing stock of prepared boxes I was talking about.

    You've indicated that you don't like this and then proceed to do exactly that in my case. By hook or by crook, you'll fit me into one of your boxes and then, perhaps because I don't appear to conform to your idea of a right wing ogre, you get all huffy and personal. But that's just par for the course, or should that be 'coarse'?

  • @ Alice Johnson:

    Masterful–though bereft of almost my entire working vocabulary for dealing with Carrbuncle–well played.

    @ Brian M.

    "Is your answer simply "your poors should just starve because Jacobins"?

    Troll has made it abundantly clear that he gives not a fuck about anyone that isn't in his immediate family–and, I was them, I'd not get comfy–so, "YES!"

  • democommie: I have to ask carrstone why I should care to even read and respond to HIS posts, which consist of various Am Radio talking points slightly prettied up and "fuck you, there is no society, there is only me and my bizness endeavors".

  • Dave Bearse says:

    A thing about private industry collecting and analyzing personal information is that the date and results are there for government taking when the government wants or needs it, without the hassle of collecting and maintaining it.

    Why pay for what you can get for free?

  • @Brian M

    I'm not 'posting', I'm responding to what I read in this blog and I'm not even going to pretend that I care whether you read me or not.

    I'm just doing here what you guys all do here, I'm giving my opinion and if that makes you adjust your twinset and finger your pearls anxiously, that's your insecurity manifesting itself.

  • geoff, Taibbi makes good points, but I wonder how different matters might have been without the effects of financialization? Can't really evaluate without considering the effects of leveraged buy outs.

  • Coercion is not just exercising power, it's the potential exercise of power that constrains others' behavior. And government has no monopoly on coercion. A system that permits ownership of property and enforcement of property "rights" grants te powers of coercion to owners. A government policy that limits the coercive powers of owners does not commit coercion, it permits greater freedom.

  • @Old Scold

    Now, you can alter the meaning of a word in any way you want, but some may not agree and then where are you?

    There's a difference between the use of force by government and by the citizen: the government is empowered to initiate the use of force; the individual uses force in reaction to a threat to him and his – i.e., offensive vs defensive. Can we at least agree on that?

    Your mindset really sketches a frighteningly black future should progressives ever rule the roost. The government doesn't grant the powers of coercion to owner, you've got it back to front.

    It's not the government that okays the legal framework of the nation, but the citizens. Any power that the government exercises is granted it by those same citizens. If that principle 'perishes', then the governing can use that power for personal vendettas – remember Obama and his use of the IRS?

    If you like the idea of living in a system that allows use of coercive power for personal satisfaction, then you are probably currently in the employ of the government. And it's about time that you realize who your real employer is.

  • Alice Johnson says:

    > If you like the idea of living in a system that allows use of coercive power for personal satisfaction,

    We already do. The name Harvey Weinstein might ring a bell.

  • @Alice J

    Aberrant behavior on all sides of society is not uncommon. But someone defending himself by shooting someone dead is not in the same league as Weinstein or Obama using the IRS. Or are you saying that there's some sort of equivalency?

    Note that both thought that their power would let them get away with their unacceptable behavior and Obama, so far, certainly has. It confirms to me that, in the minds of some, some think that their status allows them to live in 'a system that allows [the] use of coercive power for personal satisfaction'.

    In my eyes Obama is the worse offender because he either thought he, as POTUS, was entitled to behave as he did or, even worse, he thought he was above the law.

  • Alice Johnson says:

    So we are in agreement, then: coercion is practiced both by powerful private individuals and organizations as well as powerful members of government and governmental organizations.

  • “If being oppressed by the state is so frightening, why is being oppressed by private enterprise no real cause for alarm among the fierce freedom advocates on the right? Maybe – just maybe – they're down with totalitarianism as long as there's no risk that it will express even a passing interest in advancing the public good.”

    I think the acceptance of the Sinclair propaganda effort results not from belief in free enterprise being an unalloyed good as much as right-wingers are fiercely invested in tribal loyalty. Since Sinclair is a known right-wing entity (like FoxNews) the tribe will be OK with whatever they do no matter how Orwellian.

    To the RW set ‘Public Good’ is just another way of saying poor people getting free shit – which the libertarian and oligarch vampire #IGotMineFU types will gladly destroy even if their “I’d rather not pay taxes” attitude means millions are further immiserated. To the racists ‘Public Good’ is blah people getting free shit so they are all for destroying it. To the paranoid crazies ‘Public Good’ is how the Liberals/Lizard People/Jews are trying to ‘get you’ – so down with everything!

    Like @MajorKong says – these people think they'll get to be the guy sitting on the throne of skulls and not one of the skulls. The #IGotMineFU GOP supporting base is living in a fantasy that doubling-down on blatant totalitarianism will work out well for them, it won’t.

  • @Alice

    We'd be in agreement if I agreed with you. But I don't as you'll see if you were to read my response to the Old Soak.

    Coercion, as I see it, is the pre-planned, mendacious use of physical force or threats to compel compliance, self-defense is not that even if both end up with dead bodies on the floor.

  • @Alice

    Don't be flippant, it's disappointing after your eloquent, if confused, opening salvos.

    Otoh, if you've dried up and have no more argument to make, that's okay, I won't miss them.

  • Alice Johnson says:

    You seem to be saying that private individuals cannot coerce other individuals. Please correct me if I'm wrong there, but it seems pretty clear from your comments that you're trying to distinguish government use or threat of force as "coercion" and individual use or threat of force as something else, something different.

    What, then, do you prefer to call it when Harvey Weinstein threatens the use of force against individuals in order to get something he wants from them? What do you call it when he succeeds in getting what he wants by that means? And what fundamentally separates that from when governments or their agents threaten the use of force and get what they want by that means?

  • @Alice
    Semantics now, is it? Who do you think you're talking to, Samuel Johnson?

    Well, Cathy Newman, I didn't say that 'private individuals cannot coerce other individuals'; coercion to me, however, is more in the bailiwick of government. When they put on their Kevlar vests and pack their guns you know that they're going coercing and blood will likely flow.

    What Weinstein did is also premeditated but not at a level of armed force. I would call it slimy behavior, reprehensible overreach and, if there's ever a court case, I'll use their definition to describe his offense.

    I would say a father berating his child is 'parenting', a child running around a sports-field is being chased by a 'coach' and a man arguing with a woman in a restaurant I'd call 'married'. Could you argue these are all forms of coercion? Sure, and there would be a label with that name on the box you keep them in and the only bit of vocab you'd ever need would be that word.

    The fundamental separation issue has already been asked and answered. Weinstein didn't threaten force, he threatened with a glittering career or with familiarity with the unemployment line [I'm told]. Only the government initiates coercive tactics through its agents in the knowledge that they are unassailable. Which, of course, is why the second amendment should be sacrosanct.

  • Alice Johnson says:

    Ok, please bear with me, carrstone, I believe I am close to understanding your position.

    What I’m hearing you say is that Harvey Weinstein was not coercing his victims if he didn’t threaten force, which I take to mean in this case physical harm. Is that right?

    I am further hearing you say that the difference between a government official acting coercively and a private individual acting coercively is that the government official is immune from any possible retaliation or consequences for undertaking a coercive act, while the private individual may be subject to retaliation or other consequences for undertaking a coercive act.

    Are those reasonable summaries of your position on whether or not Harvey Weinstein acted coercively and what the distinction is between government and private coercion, respectively?

  • @Alice

    This thing started with my saying, 'The difference between government and business… is that only the government gets to use coercion.' I haven't changed from that view.

    I may be wrong, but it seems to me that particularly progressives have a penchant to group events as manifestations of a single semantic concept/idea. This pooling of faintly similar concepts in one 'box' with a single label, is groundwork for making dealing with a specific opposite view, 'easier'.

    Examples of 'another take on the issue' can be introduced into the conversation at will which, although not quite the same as the original, can, at a push, be said to belong within that group. Equally promising appear to be variations on 'so you're saying …'. As a tactic, both might be called 'deflection by analogy' because the unwary opposing interlocutor may be tempted go off on a tangent. Which, of course, is what Cathy Newman so ineptly tried to do to Prof Peterson.

    And here you are,trying to do the same to me. Mentioning Weinstein's behavior and Obama releasing his IRS hounds in the same breath does not an equivalency make. Even if you could argue successfully [and you haven't yet] that the actions of these two men originate in the same place psychologically, the aftermath must give you pause. Why is Weinstein being pilloried when Hillary Clinton is still free to plan her future? Why were her protectors merely removed from office when testimony would suggest that the FBI was lying to the FBI? Why are they not in jail with Alex van der Zwaan?

  • Alice Johnson says:

    When you say “only the government gets to use coercion”, do you mean that coercion (defined as “pre-planned, mendacious use of violence of physical force or threats to compel compliance”) is literally unavailable to businesses in the sense that businesses are incapable of planning to use violence or threats to compel compliance? Put another way, businesses couldn’t threaten or enact violence in pursuit of their goals even if they wanted to do so? Or do you mean that businesses are penalized for using coercion and so are themselves coerced (penalties being a form of “threats to compel compliance”) by some other entity? Or something else?

    I’m also a little curious how “mendacious” ended up in your definition. Is a threat or enactment of violence to compel compliance not coercion if the actor enacting it is honest about it?

  • @Alice

    Remember when I said, 'Equally promising appear to be variations on 'so you're saying …'…..? But I'm having too much fun not to put my wrist in your cuff.

    I'm saying that force, as a tool of,for control and persuasion, is available to everyone – whenever they wish to employ it. If I want to commit murder, who's going to stop me, fortuitous intervention excepted? Only me, the person who wishes to do the deed. What may stop me are the risks inherent in being 'caught', i.e. the aftermath.

    In Weinstein's case, I'll bet that, by the time he was in his fifth slimy year of imposing his will, he thought he was untouchable. Similar thoughts must have gone through Obama's POTUSpower-filled head before he called the IRS.

    So why is Weinstein hated and Obama enjoying his retirement? It's my contention that Obama is protected by power only available to the government. And for that we need a special word which, for me, is 'coercion'.

    If we should now, as you seem to suggest, also want to use this word for a father chastising his son for not doing his homework, the gravitas of the government's offense will tend to become bagatellized.

    The converse is also true and manifest in such memes as feminism, BLM, pro-life, disapprobation of white males, fake news and, I guess, others, all of them seeking to pass a vague blame onto people to whom
    such a passing comes as a surprise.

    'Mendacious' ended up in my tirade because, when the government uses coercion, it's doing it with malice aforethought. That's why they wear Kevlar vests on house calls. Businesses do not initiate force – if they did, their executives would go to jail. Religious institutions, too, will use a threats/rewards system to compel certain behaviors but I don't suspect mendacity, just arrogant selfishness and gross ignorance about Bastiat's 'unforeseen consequences'.

  • The meat puppets have been programmed by corporatism to fear and loathe their own government. It is the government, after all, that is tasked with preventing infections like Sinclair Broadcasting and it's head virus.

    Our institutions ought to be able to end this shit. I hope they're strong enough, soon enough.

  • Alice Johnson says:

    Thanks for the clarifications, carrstone. I appreciate your continued engagement on this. I am curious about a couple more things though.

    If a situation arose wherein a business initiated force, and then was able to avoid responsibility for having done so, what would that mean for your understanding of force, coercion, and the distinction between business and government?

    Likewise, if there were any examples of government leaders or representatives acting coercively and then later being penalized for doing so, would that have an impact on how you see the world?

  • @Alice Johnson:


    "I need to make a correction. I have never pretended that I intend to do anything but comment on the absurdity of the progressive delusion. Hence, I don’t think I have ever attempted or proffered solutions."

    is Carrstone from back in October. He's a troll.

  • @ Alice

    'Troll'. Not a word I'd use to describe me. But I seem to have struck a chord, somehow – he's been keeping my words since October last year? Pretty obsessive. You'll judge that for yourself, of course, but you'll have seen through the progressive trick of quoting out of context.

    Unless, of course, you'll rely on and conform to progressive group-think in which case I'll be mightily disappointed in you. The chanting has just started under cantor demicommie, the choice is yours.

    But if hauling stale opinions across the coals, thus upsetting the peasants, is trolling, then yes, I'm a troll. And with one bound we're back in our exchange in which I've been at pains explaining the need for precision in speech, all based on your interpretation of 'coercion' as some sort of catch-all word.

    No trace of didacticism on my part, just opinion.

  • @Alice J

    So far, I feel as though I've been doing all the talking as you deftly extracted various opinions from me, but what do you think? Would more precision in the language we use not improve communications? Aren't you exasperated at soundbites, phone messaging, truncated news flashes, misleading headlines and, yes, twittering? Not that precision alone would necessarily improve things but at least I'll have my fears about 'you' [generically] confirmed.

    In the case of a business using force? It depends on context but as a general comment which includes individuals as well, I'd say that, if the only solution to protecting what's theirs is force, then have at it e.g. whether resisting Somali pirates or muggers, retaliation with 'extreme prejudice' is totally acceptable. Not desirable, just acceptable.

    You seem to be expecting some black and white responses; each case of violence has its own backstory, which is why mens rea considerations are part of any court case and if a business or a person is to 'avoid the consequence' of having acted violently, he needs to be found not guilty. Public opinion and kangaroo courts are never suitable forums for deliberating matters of responsibility or guilt.

    The status of the 'accused' doesn't matter, whether corporation, individual, government or private sector employee, rich or poor, elected or appointed, male or female – 'all are equal under the law'. Problems arise and our human rights are violated if someone manages to bend that dictum to his own will. We don't need a constant barrage of new laws, we just need to use the ones we've already got more. consequentially.

  • Alice Johnson says:

    I don't know what you mean by "precision", exactly, so I cannot agree that it would improve communications, but I would instead proffer that mutual understanding is the primary reason for engaging in conversation, and should be prioritized.

    Of course, not everyone who engages in conversation has mutual understanding as their primary goal; there are other reasons to engage in conversation.

    Some people like to use false dichotomies[1], emotional manipulation[2], straw arguments[3], misdirection[4], personal insults[5], hypocrisy[6], and other bad-faith conversational tactics whose identification I leave as an exercise for the reader.

    I'm sure you would agree that tactics like these do not improve mutual understanding, and instead damage it. If clarity (or, if you like, precision) is what we are aiming for, it would behoove us to avoid them.

    1: "You'll judge that for yourself, of course, but you'll have seen through the progressive trick of quoting out of context.

    Unless, of course, you'll rely on and conform to progressive group-think"

    2: "in which case I'll be mightily disappointed in you. The chanting has just started under cantor demicommie, the choice is yours."

    3: "If we should now, as you seem to suggest, also want to use this word for a father chastising his son for not doing his homework,"

    4: "I'd say that, if the only solution to protecting what's theirs is force, then have at it" [and similar refusals to address the actual question "what if businesses do initiate force"]

    5: "Well, Cathy Newman," & "if you've dried up"

    6: " fit those around them into little boxes and label these by employing their own esoteric system of classification." [while trying to define "coercion" differently than it is commonly used & engaging in aforementioned falsely dichotomous classifications as in [1]]

  • @Alice

    Given that it's on this blog that you first trailed your coat, I'm not that surprised to find that you had hidden motives. Disappointed maybe, but not surprised.

    But your concession that you do now agree that precision enhances communication makes up for the linguistic lap-dance you led me. Concession because, instead of just berating me for inept composition, you did exactly as I might have done – you unpacked your box and showed me six individual style infringements, each with their own name, where you could have just referred me to Strunk.

    Why couldn't you have been as insightful on 'coercion'? What prevented straight dealing, even with someone with whom you'd never agree, did you 7: have your own agenda and 8: march to a different drum?

  • @Alice

    I knew that and nor am I likely to.

    You leave me wanting the courtesy of a reply, but hey?

  • @CrappStain:

    "'Troll'. Not a word I'd use to describe me."

    Well, that's true but the guy who bites heads off of chickens at the carney sideshow prolly wouldn't call himself a "geek". You'd both be wrong.



    "I need to make a correction. I have never pretended that I intend to do anything but comment on the absurdity of the progressive delusion. Hence, I don’t think I have ever attempted or proffered solutions."

    was written by you, homey. You're a troll. Fuck off.

    @ Alice Johnson":

    "You’re a treasure, carrstone."

    In the sense that he's a gilded turd.

    He likes to present as a reasonable sortaguy.

    He's not. To him, everyone who ISN'T CrappStain is a bumbling fool at best and a criminal in all likelihood. He's a complete fucking waste of time.

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