Radical media, politics and culture.

Analysis & Polemic

Geeks and Spooks

Bruce Sterling

A speech at "Global Challenges, Trends and Best Practices in
Cryptography," the Information System Security and
Education Center, Washington, DC

November 20, 2001

Hi, my name's Bruce Sterling, I'm a science fiction
writer. And a futurist. You might also call me an
industry observer. If you were kind.

The reason I showed up here is to listen to you guys,
because I'm rather interested in what comes next for
crypto, and you're standing a lot closer to that fire than
I am.

I myself don't do much 'best practice' for crypto,
because personally, I don't have a dog in that race. So,
having so little to offer, and being so humbled by your
technological brilliance and all, my feeling is that I
should at least be frank. Like, very frank. Like:
painfully frank.

So: flame on. Here's the story as I see it. The
big story about crypto is a power struggle between two
American tribes: geeks and spooks. Occasionally innocent
people blunder into this situation, but they get lost,
either because they don't understand the technology
(that's what geeks say) or they're not to pry any further
into stuff beyond the reach of mere civilians (that's what
the spooks say).

Arthur Zinault writes:


Which will it be?

by Brian Oliver Sheppard


Clusters of small white domes stretch across the countryside, gleaming in rows that resemble massive, neatly laid eggs. There are over 4,300 of these "eggs," and each of them are about 40 feet tall. The impression from a distance is one of an otherworldly hatchery rather than a community of humans. But New Oroville is a city, and it does not have a mayor. Instead, it has a CEO.

The "cubicle domes," as one libertarian cyberculture journal referred to them, house human beings, shops, temples, and most importantly, places of work. The co-founders of the town call it an "information technology township," and it exists to house, train, and provide leisure for at least 4,000 high tech workers. The founders of the town are three former executives of Microsoft who left to form their own company, called Catalytic Software. They needed cheap labor, and they needed it in one place, where it could be regulated, structured, compartmentalized, and renewed indefinitely, as business needs demanded. That led to the creation of this 21st century experiment just outside Hyderabad, India. "New Oroville is our place," Catalytic CEO Swain Porter declared to Wired. "We set the rules. We enforce them. We're not going to have a lot of discontents."

A Workshop on Class Composition

by Ruhrgebiet, Kolinko


Class composition is a central notion in our search for the
possibility of revolution. We are looking for a force that is able to
change society from the bottom up. It is correct, however
general, to say that only the exploited are able to overthrow
exploitation, but how does this process of liberation actually
take place? The perception of the Marxist-Leninists is different
from our experiences: the "working class" is neither a united
object nor do we see the possibility that it just needs a political
party to overcome the class divisions and give a revolutionary
direction to workers' struggles. The analysis of class
composition can help us understand what is determining
workers' struggles, how they can turn into a class movement
and how we can play an active part in this process.

M. Arthur Zinault writes:

"A Society By the Rich, For the Rich

The Double Standards of Discussing Class in America"

by Brian Oliver Sheppard


In the USA of 2001, the notion of "class" is still suppressed in popular discourse. Speaking about any class aside from the almighty American "middle class" is generally frowned upon. To discuss the lower class, the upper class, or -- God forbid -- the working and ruling classes, is to invite accusation, scorn and derision. To even admit that such distinct classes exist might be seen as mind-blowingly radical. You are speaking from a disproven Marxist standpoint, you will be told (no matter whether you are really Marxist or not; anarchists are well-acquainted with being lumped in with "Marxists" by ignorant reporters and others). There are no real class divisions in America because here you are pretty much what you make of yourself. Or so we are told.

Everyday Life, Third Nature and the Third Class

Geert Lovink e-Interviews McKenzie Wark

The New York-based Australian media theorist McKenzie Wark and I have had a
number of exchanges over the years, ever since we came across each others
work, around 1995 when I read his first book Virtual Geography. Our topics
of conversation ranged from 'Englishes' and the role of language on the Net,
German and Anglo-Saxon media theories to the changing role of cultural
studies. Most of the material we compiled has not been published. The
following dialogue took place in January 1999, got updated recently and
centers around abstractions such as the masses (I studied 'mass psychology'
in the late seventies), the media and the position of intellectuals.

World War III Report #10

by Bill Weinberg

Dec. 1, 2001



The bloody siege of Kala-i Janghi, the ancient fortress near Mazar-i Sharif, ended Nov. 27 with an estimated 500 dead, three days after Taliban POWs being held there launched a desperate uprising. It took assaults by US Special Forces and British SAS troops backing up Northern Alliance fighters, plus repeated US airstrikes on the prison-fortress from warplanes and helicopter gunships. Both the UN and human rights groups are calling for an investigation into the bloodbath.

On Nov. 28, Oliver August, Mazar correspondent for the London Times, wrote that Johnny (codename 'Mike') Spann, the CIA agent killed in the uprising, "triggered" the violence with an unsubtle interrogation of Taliban "foreign legion" volunteers, the most fanatical Taliban troops. Spann and a CIA colleague, "Dave," were dressed in Afghan robes, spoke Persian and had grown beards, but apparently failed to fool the captives. When Spann asked one, "Why did you come to Afghanistan?", the captive responded, "We are here to kill you," and jumped at Spann. Spann and "Dave" both pulled their guns, shooting three prisoners dead before losing control over the situation. Spann was "kicked, beaten and bitten to death," while "Dave" fled.

shoplift writes: "Although video visitation deprives prison inmates of face-to-face contact with their visitors, the technology has the potential to strengthen ties between the incarcerated and the outside world. Most visitation systems are set up on a Local Area Network to allow for remote court arraignments, meaning that, at the metaphorical flick of a switch, any appropriately equipped personal computer in the world could receive a video transmission from prison. So far, inmate class-action suits have only demanded less video visitation, not more. Prison activists have largely relied on civil rights arguments, saying video visitation makes illegal surveillance easy. But as the inmate population becomes socialized to accept video visitation, it is quite possible that future inmates will demand that these Wide Area Networks be activated and visitation portals be made available to their families at public places such as libraries. It could be done tomorrow, saving families from having to bus or drive for hours to prisons in remote locations. In addition, prison officials who claim to want to strenghten ties between prisoners and the outside world could prove really mean it, because none of the usual counter-arguments about contraband and disruption apply. Many prisoners already favor video visitation, particularly those who don't want to expose their families to prisons. Such inmates could soon demand increased access to the technology already in place. Moreover, the security electronics industry would eagerly back them up."

.... this is an incomplete and inadeqaute rant, but I couldn't go to sleep withiout writing it. Night-night.


The decision has come down in the DMCA appeal in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. 2600 lost. Bad news for free thinkers, programmers, researchers, budding independent artists, media mavericks and the kids, who will soon (and some already do) get courses in respecting copyrights and how it's bad to share knowledge and culture.

The text of the decsion is available in PDF format here, and a much cleaner and intelligible HTML version at the 2600 website.

A synopsis of the court's main findings can be found below. First however it is important to set the scene for those who may not be familiar with the case. This is not arcane stuff and affects us all.

Readers have found Newell's essay both entertaining and amusing. For that reason we've posted it to the front page.

"Postmodern Jihad:

What Osama bin Laden Learned from the Left"

By Waller R. Newell

MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN about Osama bin Laden's Islamic fundamentalism; less
about the contribution of European Marxist postmodernism to bin Laden's
thinking. In fact, the ideology by which al Qaeda justifies its acts of
terror owes as much to baleful trends in Western thought as it does to a
perversion of Muslim beliefs. Osama's doctrine of terror is partly a Western

To see this, it is necessary to revisit the intellectual brew that produced
the ideology of Third World socialism in the 1960s. A key figure here is the
German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), who not only helped shape
several generations of European leftists and founded postmodernism, but also
was a leading supporter of the Nazis. Heidegger argued for the primacy of
"peoples" in contrast with the alienating individualism of "modernity." In
order to escape the yoke of Western capitalism and the "idle chatter" of
constitutional democracy, the "people" would have to return to its
primordial destiny through an act of violent revolutionary "resolve."

hydrarchist writes: "This story is taken from the site Not Bored, and is published in the most recent issue of the 'zine of the same name."

On 3 October 1992, the Irish rock singer Sinead O'Connor was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. For her first song, Sinead performed the title track from her most recent album, Am I Not Your Girl? with a full backing band. For her second, she went with "War," a song by Bob Marley that had once been banned for its apparent advocacy of violence. In a very risky move, musically speaking, Sinead performed the song a capella. Dressed all in white, surrounded by candles and (as usual) shaven-headed, she was a riveting sight. With NBC-TV's cameras focused in-tight on her, Sinead ended her "War" by crying for another one to begin. "Fight the real enemy!" she called, and, out of nowhere, produced a copy of a photograph of Pope John Paul II, which she ripped into pieces. There was stunned silence, and then the station went to a commercial.


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