SOC: "Fascists" and "Luddites"

Date: Sat Jun 17 2000 - 09:39:57 MDT

[[ I forward here a post I made in a private mailing list of my friends in
response to an essay by a friend who was chiding another poster about his
incautious use of the word "fascist" -- which has come up here -- and my use
of the word "luddite". ]]

I largely agree with what you've written here, Frank. I certainly agree
about the word "fascist" - as I've echoed your sentiments before, I think we
dilute the power of the word by applying it to the petty tyrannies people
impose on each other in our society. On the other hand, let me speak for a
moment in favor of my continued use of the word "luddite".

First, "luddite" hasn't become encrusted with the kinds of connotations that
the bloodbath of the middle of the 20th century placed on the word "fascist".
 Yes, the word has just recently been resurrected, really, to apply to
developing attitudes about the new technological revolution we are
experiencing, intentionally to invoke the context of the first Luddites. But
the historical distance from that first use of the word may allow us to
recapture it and recast it in the new context.

Second, even in the most extreme use of the word, "luddite" does have
legitimate objects in our current historical context. Ted Kascinski is a
luddite. Although he isn't nearly so frightening to most people, Jeremy
Rifkin is a luddite. Prince Charles is a luddite. And, showing why I think
it's necessary to be able to use the word more broadly, we see someone like
Bill Joy quoting Kascinski WITH APPROVAL in the mass media.

There will always be a struggle between those who would curtail individual
liberty and those who defend it. Today, very few of the opponents of liberty
deserve the appellation of "fascist", not least of which because the
struggles against Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo made the choice between
liberty and tyranny and the consequences of that choice so clear.

But there is also a struggle going on regarding technology. People like
Virginia Postrel and Max More and Eric Drexler and Ray Kurzweil have begun to
really throw some light on it with their work. But we haven't yet come to
the watershed of history in that struggle. The battle lines haven't been
drawn the way they were in the 1930s. But they will be - make no mistake.
I hope no "ultimate conflict" over technology will be necessary, the way
things worked out with fascism. I hope reason will win out over superstition
and fear. But as the policy debate begins to take shape and turn into real
political conflict, I think there's a real use for strong words. Strong
words serve as bright lights, when used judiciously. And we'll need plenty
of light as we enter into the rough water ahead.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:13:27 MDT