Posts from November 2002

The Excedrin post: Andrew Sullivan,

The Excedrin post
: Andrew Sullivan, the crown prince of weblog triumphalism, performs a doozie of a rhetorical doubleflip off the ideological high-dive in his analysis of the letter allegedly sent from bin Laden.

As I read that letter, I kept thinking that I was looking at this millenium’s sand-soaked Mein Kampf. The more we learn about this guy and his anti-semitism and sexual ticklish spots and love of mass murder as a dark science, the more he looks like Hitler.

Sullivan makes a Mein Kamp reference, too. Great minds think alike, eh?

But then I had to laugh when the letter went on a Sullivan-like attack against Bill Clinton and own sexual ticklish spots; I thought that bin Laden and Sullivan sounded a lot alike right then; I thought Sullivan might be embarrassed at the similarity today; I thought he might even say that anybody’s who’s an enemy of bin Laden’s is a friend of his; all’s forgiven, Bill.

But no, not our Sully.

Here’s what bin Laden allegedly said:

You are a nation that permits acts of immorality, and you consider them to be pillars of personal freedom. You have continued to sink down this abyss from level to level until incest has spread amongst you, in the face of which neither your sense of honour nor your laws object.

Who can forget your President Clinton’s immoral acts committed in the official Oval office? After that you did not even bring him to account, other than that he ‘made a mistake’, after which everything passed with no punishment. Is there a worse kind of event for which your name will go down in history and remembered by nations?…

And here is what Sullivan said in response:

If a domestic member of the Christian right had said this, the Left would be all over them. But when Islamists say it, we look the other way.

What the hell? Look the other way? Who says anybody’s looking the other way? We’re too busy laughing.

This is nothing but the stock Sullivan response: Bubaplate.

Ah, there’s no better form of parody than unaware self-parody.

: Here, on the other hand, is Glenn Reynolds’ direct response to the letter.

Michael Jackson has already reserved

Michael Jackson has already reserved his
: The Observer reports that science is ready to perform full-face transplants.

Revenge of the Blog conference:

Revenge of the Blog conference
: For convenience, links to my Revenge of the Blog conference coverage here: See Cause for jealousyRebornGang reportingOverblog.

: And one more observation re the conference today as I sat in church day-dreaming: A church is constructed like old media: pulpit in front of pews, perfect for preaching. A law-school classroom is contructed like the blogosphere: a semicircle around which anyone can talk to anyone; it is built for dialogue. And that’s just what happened at the conference.

True identity: Clay Shirky has

True identity
: Clay Shirky has a fascinating essay (as usual) about DNA as our new identifier and the privacy issues that result.

Shirky says that DNA technology will soon allow us to get unique and reliable identification (call it your bioID) for under $1 and once that happens, there no longer will be a need or desire for or threat of one organization (government or business) building one big data base with everything everyone knows about us. That’s because DNA will allow every holder of information to suddenly have the first universal ID code for each of us and they can cross-reference and merge data bases easily. Personal data, like the fodder of Napster or Kazaa, can be distributed, stored anywhere and can be brought together at will without issues of technology or reliability.

This is a different kind of fight over privacy. As the RIAA has discovered, fighting the growth of a decentralized and latent capability is much harder than fighting organizations that rely on central planning and significant resources, because there is no longer any one place to focus the efforts, and no longer any small list of organizations who can be targeted for preventive action.

: At the same time, look at the NY Times today saying that Americans seems to be much more willing to let the government compromise our privacy than let businesses do it.

The answer, it appears, is that many people believe the government will invade only someone else’s privacy. Privacy for me, they seem to be saying, but not for thee.

Right. If I am not a terrorist, I do not fear what the government may gather on me in the process of getting the terrorists; I damned well want them to do it; I support all information gathering if it catches terrorists and saves lives. Easy equation. This, of course, assumes that I trust government. When it comes to terrorism, I will, because the standard, today, is easy and I know I fall outside it. In the ’60s, it would have been a different matter; I organized Moratorium marches and thus I would fear what the FBI would keep on me. When it comes to pornography, adults also need to fear what will be defined as offensive and illegal. This slope is greased, of course. But still we all need to note that data gathering in defense against terrorism is, right now, a matter of national concensus.

In terms of business, I say that privacy is overrated; today’s extreme interest in it is the product of buzz and paranoia. Glenn Reynolds said almost as much at the blog conference (below): He said that creating a weblog changed his view of privacy because he now finds that data about his readers is interesting and useful and not harmful to those readers; he likes to know who’s reading his work and how many and where they come from and what they link to. Business has similar interests in being able to sell targeted and thus effective advertising (if we cannot do that, folks, online content will die!). If Dell knows I’m in the market for a Dell and gives me a good discount, it’s even to my interest to have them collect data on me. No harm.

Of course, there are limits to privacy. I do not want people to limit my free speech or those of others or chill either side of that equation by making me or my readers fear what either of us are reading or writing. That is a limit. I do not want companies or the government to know about my personal life.

But when it comes to safety, I will gladly give you data to (a) make my life more convenient at the airport and (b) support efforts to gather data to gather terrorists; it is a patriotic act. When it comes to advertising, I don’t mind if you target me.

Privacy is overrated.

: By the way, if you care about privacy from any aspect, I recommend my friend Janice Abrahams’ blog, PrivacyParts.

Aw, Canada: I like Canada

Aw, Canada
: I like Canada for the same reason Canadians do: It’s not America. That’s what makes it interesting, charming, eccentric, entertaining.

The truth is that Canadians spend too much time worrying about how they’re not American.

Robertson Davies, one of the greatest Canadians, used to deflect this national identity crisis by saying that in fact, Canada had less in common with America than with Scandinavia. And he had a point. Scandinavia combines the convenience of America with the deep roots of Europe. I’d say that’s true of Canada, too.

But I’m coming to think that Canada’s real inferiority complex is not directed at America but at England. Canadians keep complaining that they don’t have their own culture or that what they have is overshadowed by ours.

Well, the truth is that America doesn’t have its own native culture, either. Our culture is the product of all our people and our people come from everywhere. Our nation is a melting pot (or actually a think, chunky, steaming stew) and so is our culture.

Canada needs to admit that it, too, is a melting pot/stew and so its culture will have elements of the many, many ethnic immigrants who now call it home. No, Canada does not have a Shakespeare to brag about like Mother England; it’s too young. We don’t have one either. Doesn’t bother us. Keeps bothering them.

Note, then, this essay by Brian Johnson in Maclean’s, the Canadian newsmagazine [via Zoombafloom], complaining about culture and about cultural complainers as well.

Canada is a fiction, a make-believe nation. We have the all trappings of a modern state — our parliamentary floor show, our sad little army, and now our very own poet laureate. We have a few precious sacraments: our health care, our hockey, our beer, our news. But as much as we might like our country, we don’t love it, at least not with the Biblical devotion that seems hard-wired into the American psyche. A passion for Canada requires a delicate suspension of disbelief. We’re not just post-colonial, we’re a post-modern nation held together by speculative patriotism, a country forever trying to make cultural ends meet as it debates its own existence. A necessary fiction.

That is what I love about Canada: that national sport of icy self-deprecation (though one could argue that this is actually a national self-obsession, since one does hear Canadians talking quite a bit about what Canada isn’t or is). In any case: Listen to the angst: “We’re not real.”

Yes, you are, Canada. You have great literature (though there’s a complaint in the essay that so much of the literature is by immigrants and “our authors have become world-famous by setting their novels anywhere but in Canada”), great comedy, great musicians, greatly livable cities, damned good beer, and nice people. What’s not to love? Why can’t Canada love Canada? Beats me. I do.

Anyway, Johnson tries wisely to redefine Canadian culture not as stuff about Canada in Canada starring Canadians but, instead, a Canadian viewpoint: the Canadian perspective. It works.

What if real national maturity means that Canadian content can’t be measured by tallying up local references? Perhaps there’s such a thing as a Canadian point of view, and what makes it Canadian is its lack of national ego, and the transparency with which it filters the rest of the world, America in particular. That’s why we export so many comedians and journalists. Mike Myers deals in farce, Peter Jennings in news, but both mediate the world from a bemused distance. That same playful approach to the chemistry of communication is what made Glenn Gould, Norman McLaren, Pierre Trudeau and Marshall McLuhan so much more than simply a pianist, an animator, a politician and an academic. They were all media visionaries, transforming the art of communication….

McLuhan, of course, was the ultimate media guru, a prophet of globalization at the dawn of the computer age. Envisioning the “global village,” he asked this pointed question: “When everybody becomes totally involved with everybody, how is one to establish identity?” Canada has found a self-effacing identity as the Media Nation. Sitting backstage of America, we comment from a safe but intimate distance, with no need to applaud.

: As an aside, Johnson makes one very odd comment that I’m hoping is the product of wry irony only members of the Empire would understand; if it’s not, it is deeply offensive and stupid.

We’re not American. We can’t believe Letterman keeps making racist cracks about Manhattan taxi drivers in turbans without seeing the connection to planes flying into buildings. We’re onto that.

: Update: Marc Weisblott has more to say on the Maclean’s story and suggests the Canadian government would be wise to encourage Canadian Blog Content with a Canadian Blog Fund.