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Ed Webb

The Sci-Fi Roots of the Far Right-From 'Lucifer's Hammer' to Newt's Moon Base to Donald... - 0 views

  • Strong leader Senator Jellison (who is white) then asks former Shire founder Hugo Beck what went wrong, and Beck says his fellow hippies just never realized how great technology and laissez-faire economics were, and now all his old friends are dining on human flesh under the thumb of a scary black communist.
  • Today, Lucifer’s Hammer reads as a depiction of a post-apocalyptic war between Trump counties and Clinton counties, simultaneously promising American renewal even as it depicts unavoidable catastrophe. The comet acts as a cleansing, wiping away so much dead wood of civilization. (Feminism, too, comes in for repeated knocks.)
  • SDI was only one part of a larger right-wing techno-futurist project. SDI historian Edward Linenthal cites a 1983 interview with Newt Gingrich in which the young conservative Congressman predicted that SDI would not just destroy Russia’s Communists but liberalism, too. SDI would be “a dagger at the heart of the liberal welfare state” because it destroys “the liberal myth of scarcity,” leaving only “the limits of a free people’s ingenuity, daring, and courage.”
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  • Gingrich subsequently secured a job for Pournelle’s son with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in 1994, who like Gingrich is now a stalwart space booster and Trump supporter.
  • What Trump does is less important than the fact that he kicks over the table, strengthening America’s military state while demolishing bureaucracy and ignoring niceties. Democracy and law matter less than security and innovation
  • with communism a fading threat by the late 80’s, Gingrich shifted his focus to the specter of a new enemy, arguing in 1989 that “Islamic extremism may well be the greatest threat to Western values and Western security in the world.” Such fear-mongering—Islamic extremism remains a fraction as destructive as the nuclear Soviet Union—may seem ill-suited to optimism in mankind’s future, but as a political project it can be uncannily effective. Pournelle wrote that Islam demands adherence to a principle of “Islam or the sword,” and that an aggressive military response is not only justified but demanded: we are at war with the Caliphate.
  • Gingrich and Pournelle’s enthusiasm had less to do with Trump’s particular ambitions than with his capacity for destruction of the status quo. Much of the chaos Trump foments is, to Gingrich and Pournelle, a key feature to induce the future they want—the one where the feminists and “eco-terrorists” and university professors are soundly defeated
  • In their science fiction as in life, Gingrich and Pournelle shared an optimistic belief in power of technology—and an equally powerful insistence on the inevitability of conflict. They believed this required a robust, authoritarian state apparatus to preserve order and bind citizens together. Indeed, while backing Reagan, Gingrich had promoted a techno-futurism that was less conservative than it was authoritarian: he called for pruning inefficiency while aggressively promoting expansion and military technology. For his part, Pournelle published anthologies of science-fiction and techno-military essays through the 1980s under the name There Will Be War.
  • No science-fiction writer since has exerted as significant a political influence as Pournelle. But Pournelle does have a spiritual successor in Castalia House, the independent science-fiction publisher run by white nationalist Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day. Beale, like Gingrich, has said that his job is to save Western Civilization—and that it is in dire need of saving. Beale, however, is far more explicit about race.
  • Pournelle has dissociated himself from Beale’s politics, but Castalia House’s republishing of Pournelle’s 1980s There Will Be War series (as well as publishing a new volume 10) is no mere coincidence. Rather, they are indications of a shared worldview. To these writers, civil rights, equality, and civil liberties are irritants and impediments to progress at best. At worst, they are impositions on the holy forces of the market and social Darwinism (“evolution in action”) that sort out the best from the rest. And to all of them, the best tend to be white (with a bit of space for “the good ones” of other races). If there has been a shift in thought between the 1970s and today, it’s that the expected separation of wheat from chaff hasn’t taken place, and so now more active measures need to be taken—building the border walls and deportations, for example. Trump is an agent of these active measures—an agent of revolution, or at least the destruction that precedes a revolution.
  • Trump was far from the first to eliminate the line between right-wing thought and outright bigotry.
Ed Webb

Why the Islamic State is the minor leagues of terror | Middle East Eye - 0 views

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    "The sole advantage the Islamic State has when it comes to this country is that it turns out to be so easy to spook us."
Ed Webb

Americans on the future of science and technology: meh | Bryan Alexander - 2 views

  • our expectations are generally unexcited and restrained.  The bold imagination of 20th-century American visions seems to have gone for a nap.  As Smithsonian’s article notes, “Most Americans view the technology- driven future with a sense of hope. They just don’t want to live there.”  We’re actually less excited than that
      • When it comes to specific emerging technologies we often greet them with broad, deep skepticism and fear, including human genetic engineering, robotics, drones, and wearable computing:

        • 66% think it would be a change for the worse if prospective parents could alter the DNA of their children to produce smarter, healthier, or more athletic offspring.
        • 65% think it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health.
        • 63% think it would be a change for the worse if personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace.
        • 53% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them. (emphases in original)
  • The heroic days of NASA in the popular imagination are long flown: “One in three (33%) expect that humans will have colonized planets other than Earth.”  Indeed. a few more Americans actually see teleportation happening.
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  • Overall, Americans look at the future of science and technology with some hefty amounts of skepticism and dismay.  Health care improvements do appeal to us, unsurprisingly, given our ageing demographics.  Classic futures themes of space and travel have withered in our collective mind.  I’m reminded of Bruce Sterling’s aphorism about the rest of the 21st century: “The future is about old people, in big cities, afraid of the sky.”
Ed Webb

BBC News - US Secret Service seeks Twitter sarcasm detector - 0 views

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    Internet Explorer?! Really?
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