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The rise of the internet and a new age of authoritarianism (harpers.org)
102 points by empath75 on Dec 21, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments



One of the deepest ironies of our current situation is that the modes of communication that enable today’s authoritarians were first dreamed up to defeat them

If you want to find corruption, then "Follow the money." If you want to find authoritarians, you can follow the flow of fundamental things in much the same way:

    - Who is doing the silencing?
    - Who is engaging in coercion?
    - Who wishes for the power to coerce?
    - Who is using violence?
    - Who is distorts the truth to push agendas?
    - Who eschews the universal for the momentarily convenient?
The answer nowadays is the same answer as in other times and places: angry, toxic parties who tend towards the far ends of the political spectrum, both left and right. It's the fringes that want discourse to end and take normal people for an excursion into chaos. It's the fringes that want to roll the dice for their chance at power.

The best thing to do is to let people have their voice. There's no authoritarian nonsense, no matter how virulent, which lasts forever and is immune to general good sense. It might take awhile, but people eventually come around.

A note of caution: there are a lot of villains who thought they were on the side of good, who turned out to be the opposite. When you've given up on convincing, and you're starting to shout, to hate, and to want to coerce people, you're probably on the wrong side of history.


Sometimes, it seems, the best outcome would be to let the fringes secede into their "dystopia" small states and allow them to re-create their hells on earth. The escapees could vaccinate society for another generation.


Sometimes, it seems, the best outcome would be to let the fringes secede into their "dystopia" small states and allow them to re-create their hells on earth. The escapees could vaccinate society for another generation.

There are those who say this is precisely what is happening with California.


> There's no authoritarian nonsense, no matter how virulent, which lasts forever and is immune to general good sense.

Hitler was only in power for a decade or so and did a lot of damage to say the least.


wades in When Hitler battled to power the Weimar Republic was experiencing hyperinflation and the economy had just shut down. I don't think Hitler's ideology was the biggest problem the Germans were facing. As the communist regimes like China and the Soviets demonstrated again after the war, a mismanaged economy is literally worse than Hitler for the people involved.

So I'll admit the situation is too complicated for me to really say this honestly, but the real issue the Germans faced was that they had lost WWI and a bunch of foreign powers were extracting large amounts of wealth from them. They eventually snapped and responded with violence. The fact that the focus when they snapped was Nazi ideology was unfortunate, but the problem wasn't the ideology - it was that foreigners were taking their wealth and the government failed to keep people fed, sheltered and employed.


Something bad, probably a big war, was indeed inevitable, but if someone with less hatred of Jews had stood up, at least we'd have avoided a disastrous genocide.


Um, public antisemitism was pretty common everywhere in the west pre WW 2. It became a socially unacceptable position in polite circles only after the Nazi genocide.

Racism was a mainstream position back then. For example, US black population got full rights only in the 60's.

The horror of nazis was not that they were some deranged mob of gangsters that only german subconscious could put up with. The horror of nazis was that they could have happened anywhere. They are a historys dark mirror showing to all societies a very bad example of what could be.


Oh, absolutely, I know antisemitism was very mainstream back then, and it could have happened elsewhere. But far from all leaders were willing to go as far as leading a nation into full-on genocide. The fact that it was someone like Hitler who rose up is a fluke of history, although one could argue that something like it would have happened sometime anyway, maybe a couple decades later; that's hard to speculate about.


Sadly lot of leaders have led their nation to genocide and suppresion of minority cultures. Hitler was not unique even in that aspect. US had a pretty genocidal tendency towards native americans, for example.

What was unique in Nazi germany was the industrialized efficiency with which the horror of genocide was implemented. IBM:s machines played a no small part in that.

The nation of Goethe and Beethoven plunged into a total inhuman batshit insanity. Another horrible aspect of this was the ease people could go on with it - "just doing my duty and following orders". Some people did the final horror of killing, but the precursor to that was the industrial labour and logistical planning of getting the people to the slaughterhouse. The system that funneled people to their doom was absolutely chilling in it's efficiency. And it could have happened everywhere as well.


> the real issue the Germans faced was that they had lost WWI and a bunch of foreign powers were extracting large amounts of wealth ... the problem wasn't the ideology - it was that foreigners were taking their wealth and the government failed to keep people fed, sheltered and employed.

This is pretty blatant Nazi apologist rhetoric. Many groups have been wronged by foreign and domestic powers for decades, and they did not all respond with large-scale mechanized genocide. The buildup and virulent spread of focused hate in Nazi Germany was unique and can't be explained by a simple external geo-political power struggle.


No, that was pretty blatant Keynesianism [0]. Although I suppose if it is possible to be a Nazi apologist in 1919 then maybe I can be one too.

I did admit it was complicated. But the state of the economy was clearly a contributer to the rise of the Nazi party. It isn't like Hitler got in because the Germans just went crazy one day and thought the dude was a great guy to lead. He got in because the country was collapsing anyway.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Economic_Consequences_of_t...


The Roman empire collapsed, the Soviet union collapsed, numerous South American, Eastern European countries collapsed, the US economy crashed in the great depression. None of them resulted in anything remotely resembling Hitler's Germany. Hate is an emotion. It can be stoked by class resentment and injustice, but it's quite a different thing. Hitler harnessed hate like few societies have seen before or since.


Did any of those have some other country sitting just outside of their borders demanding that they hand over more wealth while they starved? Unlike most other countries in collapse, Germany had a nearby enemy that really was the active, willful cause of their suffering.


Yes, Germans at that time had a very good reason to hate the French and English.

Which doesn't explain the Nazis' profound hatred of Jews, gays, and the disabled.


The roman empire collapsed "outwards" for centurys, hunting slaves, and rampaging through whole medieval countrysides, before collapsing inwards.


The Stalin's Soviet Union, after the collapse of Russian Empire, did resemble the Hitler's Germany (or vice versa) and not too remotely.


I love how in modern discourse, nazi apologists predate nazis.


Are there any groups pushing their agenda with strong information campaigns as opposed to resorting to coercion? Isn't a problem of everyone being able to vote a problem of people mostly being vulnerable to coercion as opposed to being open to quality information?


Are there any groups pushing their agenda with strong information campaigns as opposed to resorting to coercion?

Yes. In addition to libertarians, there are also center-left classical liberals and scientists who are concerned about politically motivated science denial.


Yes. E.g. libertarians


Just a friendly reminder: no one on the left (the actual left, not the soft-right mainstream American left) wants authoritarianism.

That's a decidedly right-wing power fantasy.

The people on the left using violence are using it to fight the extreme right directly.

E: for clarity, I am speaking from a modern left-wing position, specifically the libertarian left, which is the strongest left-wing current today. Unfortunately the so-called "left"-wing in many Western countries has drifted to the right, which is absolutely deleterious.


You'll find an equal number of people on the right saying the same exact thing about the left.

There are extremists on both sides. Anyone living in a highly developed first world country using violence to "defend" their ideals is an extremist. They're only feeding extremism on the other side and it's why political divides keep growing deeper, despite the internet and social networks theoretically allowing more people of different beliefs to come together and discuss differences.


The "both sides" claim is faulty, and lets fascists normalize their viewpoints. As we've seen countless times, the fascists want to "debate" people, because it gives them another platform and more exposure.

That's why "decorum" doesn't work. Fascism must be opposed at all turns, by all means. Otherwise they will succeed in moving the overton window even further to the right.


Isn't it very convenient though when you brand anything to the right of Marx as 'Fascist' so that you can silence those viewpoints by any means necessary? Even using violence?


Nice strawman.

That's not what we're doing. We're not silencing anyone, only fighting back when they try to spread hatred and incite violence against minorities.

It is resistance, not aggression.


That's not true though. There have been countless of instances where perfectly reasonable positions have been branded by leftists as 'Fascist' in order to justify themselves in initiating aggression - unprovoked. Then they perform Olympic level metal gymnastics to justify themselves on how they are not at fault but the other side's fault for 'spreading hate'. People are starting to see through authoritarians like those and have increasingly stop falling for that bullshit.


Authoritarian, or totalitarian tendencies are often naturally produced by absolute conviction in "us being good, them being evil". Even when one's ideology in theory insists on democracy, and compromise, it's very easy to tell "ok, we just need to save democracy/planet/nature/humanity by crushing the evil people, and then there will be bright future". This is compatible with practically any ideology, because it calls just for one exception, sort of war to end all wars. Besides, it's always possible to re-define the very meaning of democracy, and compromise to suit an urge to get rid of opponents.

Btw, your use of left-wing term is the classical No true Scotsman fallacy.


Did you just excused a whole political side by saying they only use violence to fight the bad guys?

The far right says the same.

This idea that the left are the good guys and care about the poor and vulnerable it’s their m.o. since the beginning but any serious book about the 20th century will obliterate that image.


They care about the poor and vulnerable as long as they support their power grabs. Otherwise they send them to the Gulags or execute them - and the excuse is always the same "It's for your own good".


> specifically the libertarian left, which is the strongest left-wing current today

Not sure if serious... "Libertarian left" is not even close to being the strongest libertarian current today, so to suggest that it's "the strongest left-wing current" is beyond ludicrous. Don't get me wrong I even think left-libertarianism has a lot to go for from a purely intellectual POV, but that's some serious wishful thinking.


Whoa my friend!

People from the left have practiced extreme authoritarianism in the past (Stalin, Mao, Khmer Rouge).

There's no reason to think they won't in the future.

The extreme left and right behave exactly the same way, while saying different things.

Analysing left v right is less useful than analysing authoritarian v non-authoritarian.


Um, I'm pretty sure my coyntry has had it's share of socialists who were also stalinists.

Not sure of the context you meant, but in the general context left can be bullish on authoritarianism.


So I see downvotes. I think it's a pretty dangerous delusion to think that the side one politically sides with:

a) would not have authoritarians

b) hence could not implement authoritarian power structure if it became prominent

History has shown that authoritarianism can rise in what ever political ideology.

Pretending that ones political collaborators did not include at least some potential authoritarians (even if not vocal) is politically quite naive, despite what the common accepted mainstream position in ones party is.


Fair point, stalinists are authoritarian.

They're also a relatively tiny group of ridiculous LARPers that no one takes seriously.


Except for that time in Russia when they murdered millions of people because those people were trying to normalize fascist speech.


authoritarians tend to speak in absolutes


> I am speaking from a modern left-wing position, specifically the libertarian left, which is the strongest left-wing current today.

The strongest left-wing group today is the Communist Party of China...


That's not true. The strongest leftist movement in the Western world now is Progressivism, which is statist and not libertarian at all.

Let's not forget that the Progressives lauded Hitler and his eugenics program in the 30s shall we.


Unfettered education (non-proscribed and auto-didactic forms in particular) has always been a threat to authorities. And, as always, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

And, as Engelbart predicted, it has created a race. Lets take a look on online content, and we see that - because of vested interests - there's very little in-depth content available (at any price) and plenty of superficial content to foster the dangerous. (What's there has largely not been a concern of SV.)

Television (and FM radio before it, as the creators of both complained) played a similar role (with better control-rods) before the net. Pouring out thoughtless sludge creates the expected result.


Unfettered education (non-proscribed and auto-didactic forms in particular) has always been a threat to authorities.

Yeeeesss but, and it's a huge but, auto-didacticism in particular has huge risks. Misapprehension of core knowledge self acquired is remarkably hard to shift. Hence, huge numbers of ant vaxx, anti agw and like movements with self sustaining belief about science data and it's interpretation.

Monkton is a prime example. Tries to claim authority vested in his own interpretation of the science inputs.

I guess I'm agreeing.


> Yeeeesss but, and it's a huge but, auto-didacticism in particular has huge risks. Misapprehension of core knowledge self acquired is remarkably hard to shift. Hence, huge numbers of ant vaxx, anti agw and like movements with self sustaining belief about science data and it's interpretation.

Are you sure the huge risks are attributable to auto-didacticism itself and not to the decreased cost of nation-state influencers to stir the pot in any or all of those categories of bunk?

I certainly wouldn't call a lot of the anti-vaxxers I've met autodidacts.


I wonder if you're lumping auto-didacts with zealous subscribers. The auto-didacts (I think, no citation) tend as a group to be voracious life-long learners seeking unfiltered reality with diversity and discipline. Many have made -substantial- contributions in -most- fields.

As opposed to those who seize on one subject and are open to any 'evidence' that 'supports' it. Say, Bigfoot.


What is "anti agw"?


I assume it's intended to be "anti-global warming."


Apparently it stands for "anthropogenic global warming."

Never mind the documented cases of data fraud, it's because "auto-didactic."


Autodidact contrarians on this subject seem intensely vexed by data fraud.

If this were important, surely some scientist would have found holes in the theories no? This "fraud" of which you speak appears to be a non-issue amongst scientists.


>If this were important, surely some scientist would have found holes in the theories no?

That's a dangerous way to think. Isn't data fraud, particularly when in line with an alleged agenda, something that should be vexing? You don't think it's possible that the same shunning that occurs in non academic settings towards deniers might occur in the sciences? In which case perhaps scientists aren't willing to risk careers and funding to go against the grain, if they are even concious of any bias. I imagine most young people are entering into this field now treating agw as confirmed fact.

And if you combine that with the all of the ways in which the scientific institution is currently broken (p value abuse/misuse, publish or perish, reproducibility crisis), it's very possible for an artificial, or massaged, narrative to come to dominate discourse even if it isn't quite true...


I was being somewhat facetious. There does not appear to have been data fraud. OP was referring to this: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_email...

The only people I've seen who are worried about it are either propagandists or autodidacts.

Not using the term propagandiat loosely. Referring to people at industry funded think tanks. But others who thrive on being "contrarian" and self educated always seem to reference this "fraud" even though there seems to be nothing to it.

Added some quotes to my original post to clarify.


>If this were important, surely some scientist would have found holes in the theories no?

Yes, and they have. But you ignore them and slander them and then say "see, nobody has found any holes!".


You've been getting involved in a lot of flamewars on HN. That's not what this site is for. If you keep doing it, we're going to have to ban you again, so if you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and use the site as intended, we'd appreciate it. The intention is intellectual curiosity, not ideological battle.


And, as Engelbart predicted, it has created a race. Lets take a look on online content, and we see that - because of vested interests - there's very little in-depth content available (at any price) and plenty of superficial content to foster the dangerous.

This is simply the human condition. It was just as true of written language and illustration. Also, take a look at YouTube. There's quite a bit of in-depth content there in an absolute sense. 90% or more of it might be fluff, but as Theodore Sturgeon observed, 90% of everything is "shite." Yet somehow, we muddle through. Young people with almost no resources and education still manage to create marvelous new culture, seemingly whole cloth.

If we are to have a free society, that means people have to be free to make the wrong choice. Otherwise, we've empowered some entity or another to dictate to us what's acceptable and what's not, and we're no longer free.


> This is simply the human condition. It was just as true of written language and illustration.

There's a famous book, "The Revolt of the Masses" by Ortega, which claims the opposite. His conclusion is that, before mass media, common people were uneducated, but were actually quite aware of and humble about their ignorance - they did not think they understood how the world around them (incl. politics etc.) works. But after they've been exposed to the press and radio, which mostly gave them random, disjointed and poorly checked facts as well as opinion pieces (almost always with an agenda), they started to believe they understand more than they actually did. That's the "Revolt of the Masses" - masses of people started to have an opinion, and it was often ignorant and stupid.


Off-topic, but I finished reading your book suggestion "East of Eden" from this thread [1] and loved it. Do you have any other book recommendations?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18662420


Here, you're just talking about the operation of propaganda.


Not only. Haven’t you noticed how most people nowadays have opinions on subjects on which they’re (at best) poorly informed? It’s a form of “cognitive hubris”, and Ortega’s claim was that people weren’t neccessarily always like that. I imagine that, before mass media and education, people were a lot more focused on spiritual/religious things, and were leading heated debates in those areas. These were far less dangerous that ill-informed debates on real, important subjects.


There's always been propaganda and toxic levels of tribalism. The question we should be asking ourselves, is how have the uncommon societies where principles and rule of law have won out functioned?

People having parochial, uninformed opinions isn't new.


Oh, did you see 'Fiddler on the Roof'? Singing the 'Tradition song', are we?

I don't recall college being that sort of 'free society'. You learned from subject matter experts, and they indulged no nonsense. For me, my (public college) education was a revelation. I'm in favor of informed opinions, and of giving people the knowledge to protect themselves from exploitation.

My BS tuition was about $500/year. Then the US was -helping- students. Then came Reagan. Now we prey on students, encumbering them with debts they many never pay off. And trade-school curricula.

Making the wrong choices because of manufactured ignorance and consent isn't "freedom", it's the exact opposite. My god, this is Education 101 shit.

It was 'simply the human condition' for a very long time. Back then there was an excuse. Now the excuse is profit-taking. From our grandchildren. They will come to curse us ... if they're allowed to live.


You learned from subject matter experts, and they indulged no nonsense.

Now we have far left activists posing as fake "experts" who engage in ideologically driven science denial, and administrators who aid and abet them, while trying their best to intimidate actual experts.

My BS tuition was about $500/year. Then the US was -helping- students. Then came Reagan. Now we prey on students, encumbering them with debts they many never pay off.

A lot of this is now perpetrated by administrators in higher education who are overwhelmingly on the far left of the political spectrum. Which staff are capturing more and more of the money that goes to salaries? It's not the professors.


It's been a lot of fun for me to think about how knowledge can be conveyed 'superficially'. Make it cute, make it pretty, make it gamified. I love Wikipedia and I know many others get lost in that article forest too, but I've been trying to learn how to illustrate my understanding of something in a way that is easy to consume by others. This has led me from low-level systems programming to web development and using frameworks like d3 to create animations of what I'm describing.

I think we'll counter authoritarianism on 2 fronts:

1) Make more information freely accessible. 2) Take existing, accessible information and convey it in a friendly way for the masses.


Can you show what you’ve made so far? I’d love to see it.


Sure, but I see it more about the medium than the actual content produced. Look at the glut of superficial top-level comments right here from people who didn't seem to even read the article and instead write out the same talking points that always get voted up. Hackernews is much better than most, but even freely accessible forums have the same issues.


What would be an example of in-depth content that is missing from the web?


The problem with fascism is that its endgame always ends up with its adherents attacking each other. It always fails, it is not sustainable. Too bad its followers never got that memo. I thought the Internet would just make the next attempt that much faster to die out, but apparently I was wrong!

In related news, a relative of mine complained that he was receiving fascist posts on Facebook. Thing is, he didn't follow those groups, but one of his friends did, and Facebook's stupid algorithm thought it would share what his friend liked in his news feed, without asking.


> fascism is that its endgame always ends up with its adherents attacking each other.

Historically both fascist governments and fascist movements require external attack to collapse - or a succession crisis, which takes a while. And a lot of people can get killed along the way.


I'd read somewhere that the downfall of fascism is always on the battlefield. Fascism simultaneously requires that a large population believe they are a persecuted group in danger of extinction (else there's no reason to subjugate one's individual will & liberty to a strong leader) and that they are superior to those who oppose them (else their cause is futile and they ought to ally themselves with the superior force). The distortions in reality needed to justify these contradictory beliefs filter up into the leaders' decision-making itself, such that they eventually make stupid decisions like bombing Pearl Harbor or opening a second front in the European war.


Personally I think it is more 'they ensure they will get attacked and bite off more than they can chew'. Since the fundamentals of totalitarianism just plain aren't sustainable. I mean Hitler's economy was a conquest dependent mess and the Soviet Union ended up collapsing under its own weight.

As for ending up attacking each other I think that is a general authoritarian thing with purging to take/secure power - it happens with communism and it happened with monarchies.

One interesting outlier along the lines was Fascist Spain. It was caused by a chain of events caused by internal attack of fascists for their own cynical reasons. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Luis_Carrero_...] Combined with a secret liberal king, Juan Carlos and the power was used to restore democracy.


soviet collapse was not so simple as just economic “overweightness” as much as gorbachevs “liberalizations” causing the whole thing to spin out of control: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Soviet_Un...


>I mean Hitler's economy was a conquest dependent mess

No it wasn't. The economic recovery occurred way before the war did.


> The problem with fascism is that its endgame always ends up with its adherents attacking each other.

That's also the "endgame" of pure democracy, and of basically every other "pure" form of government. (Classical Western philosophers knew this very well, BTW - they had very detailed models of how these violent crises happen, and how they lead to different forms of government in turn, with their own inbuilt instability.) It's one reason why sustainable government is pretty much always based on a variety of institutions that enable ongoing checks and balances among different organized interests. It's why we have republics, and not pure ("direct") democracies.


Polybius, 22 centuries ago, already saw at least some of those inbuilt instabilities and a resulting cycle (sequence of anacyclosis) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anacyclosis

IMHO Leopold Kohr enlightened us about all this, "centralized political and economic structures" are the main culprits https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_Kohr#Philosophy


Historically, fascism has collapsed because free societies tend to have better economies. Indeed, democracies are very new in the grand scheme of history. The US is going 200 years strong, but slavery was part of that is still younge in the history of civilization.


It's also worth noting that all of this is a historical anomaly - it's in no way clear that our present technological civilization requires free society to keep the economy going.

Which is to say we need to be clear about our objectives: if free society and individual liberty is important to us, those need to be the goals potentially at the expense of short-term economic growth.


Do you have a source on that? It is easy to underestimate just how _stupidly_ a non-free society can behave. I'm not even talking democracy vs other (there can be non-free democracies, or notionally authoritarian regimes that are quite free in practice), I mean the really basic "if you can work to better yourself, then go for it" style liberty.

The system of corporations we have today is a super-civilised way of wresting power and control from existing structures - if you can do something better and cheaper than the company currently in power, you can displace them quickly and with minimum fuss.

The core of that mechanism in the west is if you think a companies management are just clueless you can start your own company and compete. That is a big component of what freedom is - if you think you can do it better you can try to do it better.

Non-free societies would almost certainly disrupt that mechanism as the first thing they did. Given how complicated a modern economy is, I'm not sure they'd be competitive with a free society. The inefficiencies would build up to spectacular levels.


> The system of corporations we have today is a super-civilised way of wresting power and control from existing structures - if you can do something better and cheaper than the company currently in power, you can displace them quickly and with minimum fuss.

Which means that the avenues for practical freedoms are somewhat limited outside of the corporate/mercantile paths.


Genuine question - how does China fit into this narrative?


Well China is building up its inefficiencies even as it makes other advances. They created quite a few time bombs for themselves.

1. They have set themselves up massive health time-bombs with their pollution and ineffective regulations. Not to mention prevalence of smoking. 2. China's Social Credit plan is creating a turn-key rebellion as the newly created lower caste has nothing to lose but their chains and the high social credit scores means they have a purge list for when bloody repression begets bloody revolution. 3. They have enough people laundering money for 'emergency escape hatches for when they fall out of favor' that they are blowing up real estate prices internationally in major cities. Optimistically it could just be fallacious beliefs that real estate is a foolproof investment but that doesn't make things much better. 4. The party leadership flat out know that they cannot survive a recession and try to prop things up constantly.

They may be the most viable example but they are still vulnerable to collapses - not a guarantee by any means but there is definite precedent.


In a sense, what is happening in China is unknowable. Their reported statistics are probably not so trustworthy and more governed by their political realities than their physical realities. I know that their country has the word "Communist" in the name and not much more.

How free are they? How do I compare that to another country? How much of my view is tinted by not speaking Chinese? I dunno. As a statement of principle, there is no evidence that the top-down economy nut has been cracked, so if they are trying to do that it will fall apart in messy fashion at some point. You can't take your best and brightest, tell them what to study & where to work, then expect a central planner to get the numbers right. There aren't enough geniuses for that to work. You have to let the smart ones figure out what the best use of their time is, like the West has been doing for the last few centuries.


Would be interested in your explanation of China.


Fwiw, I realized rather late that the South African apartheid government was actually a surviving axis power... With full on Nazi sympathizers at the helm through the eighties. Unchecked, fascist governments can certainly hang on for quite a while.


Eh? South Africa was in the British Commonwealth in WW2. I don’t understand your conclusion, please elaborate.


Apologies, I had certainly badly misremembered some basic facts...

From Wikipedia: "In 1930 the Hertzog government worked to undermine the vote of Coloureds (South Africans of mixed white and non-white ancestry) by granting the right to vote to white women, thus doubling white political power. In 1934 Hertzog agreed to merge his National Party with the rival South African Party of Jan Smuts to form the United Party. A hardline faction of Afrikaner nationalists led by Daniel François Malan refused to accept the merger and maintained a rump National Party called the 'Gesuiwerde Nasionale Party' (Purified National Party). The Purified National Party used opposition to South African participation in World War II to stir up anti-British feelings amongst Afrikaners. This led to a reunification of the Purified Nationalists with the faction that had merged with the South African Party; together they formed the Herenigde Nasionale Party (Reunited National Party), which went on to defeat Smuts' United Party in 1948 in coalition with the much smaller Afrikaner Party. In 1951, the two amalgamated to once again become known simply as the National Party."

So the NP wasn't actually in power during ww2, but came to power fairly shortly afterwards, and enforced ethnic nationalism. Way back when I read Mandela's biography it struck me that this wasn't a historical coincidence, and that the leadership of the NP were very likely Nazi sympathizers, with a pretty long leash to carry out the white nationalist agenda that had been stopped on the global north.


China seems to be doing fine. Having survived the Culutural Revolution, the Party seems quite wary of the failure mode you describe.


>I thought the Internet would just make the next attempt that much faster to die out, but apparently I was wrong!

That's how politics work, it's a pendulum. It has swung too far to liberalism, we're almost at Weimar republic now. Now it's time for the pendulum to swing back. If anything, the Internet is going to accelerate it.


Strongly disagree with any theory of history based on analogy to Newtonian mechanics. History simply isn't that predictable. History is stochastic. History only happens once. Read Popper.


Author proposes the solution to authoritarianism is more laws and more government intervention. That's not the solution, that's the definition!


> That's not the solution, that's the definition!

A legislature passing laws is not authoritarianism, but is instead the normal functioning of a legislature in a representative democracy, whether or not one agrees with the laws themselves.

From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authoritarianism

"1. Limited political pluralism, that is such regimes place constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties and interest groups"

Authoritarianism is, among other things, about the head of government constraining the legislature from performing oversight of the head of government.

It's about the head of government being effectively above the law, either by the law itself being changed to codify that, or by the non enforcement of laws against the head of government when they break them.


That is the problem, what author thinks as ways to freedom, would probably viewed as means of slavery by the people on the other end of the spectrum.

That is why while I am interested to read such article, it will never work: the author is talking to him/herself, while instead he/she supposedly should talk to people who disagree with him/her in the first place.


> That's not the solution, that's the definition!

Whether its the problem or the solution depends on the legitimacy of the government.


[flagged]


We also need to make sure tens of millions of people don’t die this time around.


It’s almost like a bunch of people in the 60s dropped acid and decided it’d be a great idea to connect every person on the planet to every other person on the plant. Oh wait...

Kidding aside, this brings back memories of Clifford Stoll’s book, “Silicon Snake Oil.” I’d love to read it again. I know, he’s been panned for making really wrong predictions (“no one’s gonna use a credit card over the internet”), but I’d love to read it again standing on the other side of the internet experiment. I feel like for all the stuff he got wrong, he got a lot right when it comes to there being more to being human than the internet has ever been able to deliver.


Clifford Stoll, I suppose, had a certain amount of skepticism, seeing as he was the person to help track down and prosecute the first recorded case of computer hacking. A large part of the Cuckoo's Egg was about how there simply weren't systems for dealing with hacking--he'd go to the police, and they'd be like, "Cool..." and do nothing.


Hmm, I read a book a few months ago where the author spent a lot of time discussing the intellectual background for Silicon Valley and why he thought these guys ruined journalism and probably lot of other stuff. It was called “World Without Mind” I believe.


Personally I feel "journalism" (read: media companies) ruined itself by going for profit at the expense of fundamentals - a recipe for downfall in any business. Now it is now shooting the messenger. Just like the corrupt blaming destruction of trust on the whistleblowers instead of their misdeeds.

Actual journalism is doing better than ever - just look at the state of the art of fact checking and detailed refutations of the tripe published in comments.


Something's missing here.

Computers have conquered scale. Before cheap computing and networking, large companies had trouble getting out of their own way. There were inefficiencies in companies that got too big. Most of those problems seem to have been solved, and the intrinsic limits to corporate growth have been removed.

So now the US has three big banks. Three big drugstore chains. Three big delivery services. Three big cell phone companies, if Sprint and T-Mobile get to merge.

Big companies don't have to have regional subsidiaries any more. In the Bell System days, AT&T had about ten regional operating companies, each with somewhat independent management. Today, they don't bother. Amazon is run as one big company.

In the US, government hasn't really gotten into this in a big way. Too many governmental units with their own local authority. China, though, or the UK, where the central government has total authority...

(This is not about Trump. He's an old guy who does things the 20th century way - broadcasting to large numbers of people and hands-on project management. When we get someone who's similarly authoritarian but understands modern scaling technology, we'll have a real problem. Peter Thiel, maybe.)


In the US, government hasn't really gotten into this in a big way. Too many governmental units with their own local authority. China, though, or the UK, where the central government has total authority...

I used to think that China's central government would say "jump" and everyone else would ask "how high?" But after several years of reading about central government initiatives being hobbled by provincial/local officials[1], I'm not so sure. It could be that the central government is just better about preventing knowledge of their relatively weak control circulate abroad (limited press freedom, plus language barriers that prevent most Westerners from reading what ordinary Chinese people might be writing about.)

[1] Like the central government trying to reduce air pollution while local officials try to keep as many coal workers as busy as possible.


I spent a year in southern China ten years ago, and it seemed like lots of people had a brother or sister. I asked about the one child policy, and their answer was "Beijing is very far away"

(although I'm sure it's more complicated than that)


> Big companies don't have to have regional subsidiaries any more. [...] In the US, government hasn't really gotten into this in a big way.

It is a mistake to assume that the solution which works in industry is equally applicable in government. Businesses and governments are very different institutions. They have different missions, different stakeholders, different legal obligations, and different responsibilities.

Surely, things would be more efficient if we just had one large uniform, monolithic state institution, but a (small R) republican state cannot exist without extensive delegation. It is only though the process of delegating power to states, counties and municipalities, that we can even attempt to execute the will of the people.

This all comes with tons of redundant infrastructure - thousands of city councils, mayors, police departments, courts, and school systems. 50 governors, 50 state cabinets, 50 independent boards of elections, 50 different state legislatures - but each community has its own needs and its own ambitions, and nobody knows those needs better than the community itself.


The main issue I have seen with the smaller divisions is that they manage to do thing worse while not providing any true accountability because they are too small to be watched effectively and lack the oversight infrastructure of larger organizations - which is really saying something given how infamously ineffectual the watchers are at watching themselves.


That's the US. Many countries have much more centralized governments. French and Japanese public schools are run by the national government and are highly standardized. Germany and Switzerland, on the other hand, have powerful regional governments.


When we get someone who's similarly authoritarian but understands modern scaling technology, we'll have a real problem. Peter Thiel, maybe.

We've already had a high elected official praised for his understanding of technology, who advocated for legislation mandating how people should spend their money and took other actions on executive authority to bypass legislative processes.

Peter Thiel seems pretty sincere in his libertarian bent. What has he advocated for which is authoritarian?


He may be, and while he's a great investor, he's pretty easily duped when they're selling something he wants to be true.

> I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. And so when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment or things like that, the question is not ‘Are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China?’ or, you know, ‘How exactly are you going to enforce these tests?’ What they hear is ‘We’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy. -- Peter Thiel, October 2016


I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. And so when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment or things like that, the question is not ‘Are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China?’ or, you know, ‘How exactly are you going to enforce these tests?’ What they hear is ‘We’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy. -- Peter Thiel, October 2016

I see no evidence of his being duped. That's a pretty good analysis of how many perceived the Trump immigration message.


Maybe. What isn't seen isn't taken into account: what would have happened if the internet hadn't been. Maybe things could have happened that didn't. It's hard to tell, but it's quite possible.


I wrote a response to this article that ended up being way too long:

http://txti.es/technorealism

tl;dr: Like every other long-term and protracted crisis, people predicted it was going to happen, but everyone acts surprised when it actually does.


That seems worthy of posting as its own article.


Thanks, I really appreciated this.


This article is mostly political, and not very technical. I don't think it is appropriate on HN. But as that is not my call...

The Data & Society report by Rebecca Lewis (quoted in this article as a source) is very poorly done. It brands people who are clearly on the left as "alt-right" because they have either once spoken to an alt-right person, or even (in one case) simply been at the same event (not an alt-right event) with an alt-right person (Tim Pool, evidence in his YouTube videos on the subject).

I'm defending the 4/5 people who have been labelled "alt-right" by groups like Data & Society and by articles like this one, who believe in equal opportunity, legal immigration, individualism, and principles of the enlightenment. Most of them are progressives and several of them are jews. Lumping them in with "fascists," "racists", "nazis", or people who yelled "Jews will not replace us!" is factually wrong, morally wrong, and has done real-world damage to them. This includes people such as Jordan Peterson, Tim Pool, Eric Weinstein, Dave Rubin, James Damore, Ben Shapiro, Joe Rogan, and yes even Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad).

I am NOT defending Richard Spencer, Stephan Molyneux or Milo Yiannopoulos. I've listened to them, I disagree with them, and I think "alt-right" is an appropriate for them.

There seems to be a mass delusion going on here. Folks on the left talk about the boogy-man "alt-right" and label people at whim, and then everyone is scared to actually go and fact-check lest they be discovered watching "alt-right" material. The predictable result? The set of people labelled "alt-right" just gets bigger and bigger.


All of the people you mentioned are working to further fascism and inflame hatred and division. Don't just believe what they say, do some actual digging.

Contrary to what you believe, we lefties do actually fact check, and it's not looking good for Jordan P. et al.


‘working to further fascism’ Examples please!


By normalizing alt-right and trad right rhetoric, and by creating distrust of minorities.


Please give examples for creating distrust of minorities, specifically for Jordan Peterson.

Also, how does "normalizing trad-right rethoric" equal "working to further fascism and inflame hatred and division"? Where do traditional right values equate fasism, hatred and division?


Jordan Peterson repeatedly and strongly denies the existence of any white hetero cis male privilege. He also refuses to acknowledge trans people and gay marriage, he somehow ties feminism to Muslims because "women desire strong men", and he lashes out against any art that challenges traditionalist perceptions of the world and society, tying it all into his "cultural marxism" conspiracy theory.

His list of absolutely nonsense racist, bigoted and misogynistic statements is basically endless, it's in everything he says.

He leans on the MRA/MGTOW side of things, which has a clear and documented link to the alt-right right, a neo-fascist movement.

Regarding trad right, that is simply an ideology of exploiting the working class for the benefit of capitalists, to the overall detriment of society and life in general.


> He also refuses to acknowledge trans people

Have you listened to him? He specifically speaks that he's been in good contact with trans people, who often thank him for his actions. As for the rest of the items you listed, they look like your opinions on him, not facts. I was hoping for direct quotations from Peterson. For example, how do you back your claim that he's speaking "absolutely nonsense racist and misogynistic statements"? I've listened to probably about 100 hours of Peterson and I haven't ever heard any. Please give citations.



I started reading these, but they are so full of misrepresentations that I couldn't stomach the whole list. You can't judge someone by reading second hand opinions. From the first link: * Accusations of mysogyny and bigotry without quotations as evidence. Immoral. * Claims Peterson thought bill C-16 was a violation of free speech; in fact he was only concerned about "compelled" speech. Immoral misrepresentation. * Author purports to understand what Jung meant better than everyone else who supposedly have all misinterpreted Jung, with no humility or self reflection whatsoever. Immoral. * Suggests indirectly that differences between men and women come from "questionable data". While literally anything could be questioned, misleads. Immoral. I've only gotten through 3 paragraphs, but my instincts tell me to stop reading this trash. It's clearly not honest.

My impression is that Jordan fears dystopia. He has studied the psychology of totalitarianism, both on the right and the left. He has concluded that the atrocities could not have been committed were it not for the failings of individuals, a failure to remain true, to remain moral. As a result, Jordan is very careful to remain as moral and ethical as humanly possible. He very carefully choses his words so as to not accidently say something that isn't quite true. People are drawn to him because his ethics and morality are many levels higher than anything anybody has seen in generations, and it is striking.


All of these critiques are full of actual quotes from Peterson. The Reddit thread is even full of direct Twitter links to posts made by him, on his verified account.

The man is a fraud and a charlatan, and you exhibit the clear signs of having been taken in by a convincing speaker, with little regard to what he's actually saying and preaching. A so-called "True Follower", with a complete lack of understanding for criticism against the Adored Idol, in this case Peterson.

I do see the appeal. He's positioned himself as a father figure to disaffected young white men, and he says things they want/need to hear (stand up straight etc.). Unfortunately he also uses that platform to spread old-fashioned misogyny and fear of the Other, and some outrageously wrong-headed nonsense. I suggest you review the Reddit thread I linked.

As per a previous thread, you also thought Gab was entirely above-board, and not an alt-right/white supremacist hideout with the very thinnest veneer of legitimacy haphazardly added on top.

More critical thought about the "hidden" agendas of notorious online presences would be very good practice.


I probably should stop replying to you. But you seem to have a few misconceptions. I am not a follower of Jordan Peterson. I've never bought his books or sent him any money or seen him in a speaking engagement. I'm not a young man. I'm not a disaffected young white man, nor do I need guidance from a father figure. I'm a successful, retired, independent libertarian. I disagree with Jordan on a lot of things. I'm an athiest. I don't think symbolism is anywhere near as important as he does. I'm not so keen on boundaries, but I appreciate understanding the right a little bit better through Jordan as he describes how the right care about boundaries.

But your critiques are bad. Really bad.

Gab IS entirely above board. Do you know what that term means? It means not doing anything illegal.

I'm going to assume you are young, and I apologize if I'm wrong. But what you young tikes are getting very wrong is this idea of parallel justice, mob justice, as if you can rewrite everything about justice that we have learned over the centuries and draw up entirely new rules where gab is considered not above board, where saying "women aren't men" is considered hate speech, where people are presumed guilty, innuendo and accusation are taken as conclusive evidence, any offence requires a lifetime permanent ban, and ideas themselves are crime (hate, racism, misogyny... are not crimes for some very good reasons). The idea that racism is infectious is ridiculous -- racism comes from a natural suspicion of outsiders, and is cured by multiculturalism, not deplatforming. Misogyny is mostly rejected men not taking ownership of their own failure, and blaming women instead. You can't cure that by rejecting them yet again. Sometimes I think I must be dreaming; the world can't have gotten this crazy this fast, can it?

Go look into pre-WWII Germany and see how the holocaust came about. It all started with pretty much exactly what social justice warriors are doing today... the willful erosion of human rights. Back in 1933 everyone was cheering Hitler on as the right to free speech was taken away. I'm afraid history is repeating.


I have to amend my statement here somewhat. I hadn't really looked into Milo, I just assumed based on what everyone was saying about him. Turns out he's not alt-right either. You see? I was duped by the label-everyone-alt-right mob. Makes my point even stronger, I think. As for Stephan, I've listened to about 8 hours of his stuff and I can't find any direct racism, but he is strangely fascinated with the connection between race and IQ, and not in a provocateur way either.


I appreciate the courage it took to write this comment on HN.


I think this author has a really odd definition of authoritarianism. People who you don't agree with politically being allowed to have a voice isn't authoritarianism, quite the opposite actually.

They spend a lot of time focusing on Richard Spencer which is really strange because there's always been fringe white supremacists out there and I don't see how the internet has made Spencer any more relevant than the Nazis Geraldo used to have on his show in the 80s.


The internet has allowed him and his ilk a bigger voice, platforms to more efficiently spread their ideology and organize.

In the past, neonazis and fascists had to lay low and work in the shadows. But the internet has a hell of a lot of shadows, and they're all accessible from everywhere. They are also getting better at hiding their true intent behind "identity" and "heritage" and other "soft" forms of their ideologies.

That is precisely why fascism is now a real actual threat to millions of people, and the reason why we must never let down our guard, we have to root them out and expose them for what they are.


> The internet has allowed him and his ilk a bigger voice, platforms to more efficiently spread their ideology and organize.

This sounds like speculation and doesn't match what I've seen in real life. Do you have any data to back up that white supremacy is more popular now than it was in the past?


This is not something I'm simply making up, this is verified by countless sources, who keep an eye on white nationalists and white supremacists, and related far-right groups.

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/02/22/number-white-a...

https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/...

https://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/15/politics/hate-groups-spik...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/lens/documenting-rise-whi...

It is also blatantly obvious to anyone who spends any time at all on social media or forums. White supremacist and alt-right viewpoints are sneaking in, hiding under banners such as "appreciating heritage" or by trying to co-opt historic traditions and symbols as ethnically exclusionary.


> The internet has allowed him and his ilk a bigger voice, platforms to more efficiently spread their ideology and organize.

And that's parent commenter's point: for all the "efficiency" of modern social media, these groups are still as fringe as they always were. And "identity and heritage" were always a part of the appeal too, so there's nothing new in that either - but let's not pretend that there aren't plenty of genuinely "softer" ideologies that appeal to the exact same things.


>The internet has allowed him and his ilk a bigger voice, platforms to more efficiently spread their ideology and organize.

But again, that's not authoritarianism. Quite the contrary, the left demanding that people like him not be allowed to speak, and in many cases demanding he be attacked or even killed, that is authoritarian.


We must not tolerate intolerance, because that kills tolerance overall.

When an ideology is built on intolerance, it must be opposed and deplatformed at every turn.


>We must not tolerate intolerance, because that kills tolerance overall.

I see people repeat that, but I don't see anything to indicate it is true. Quite the contrary, it would appear that one of the main factors in the growing white nationalist population is censorship and other attempts to silence people (calling them some thought terminating cliche like "racist" or "bigot" when they aren't saying anything racist or bigoted). When you say that someone's words are dangerous and they must be silenced, you imply that their views are so overwhelmingly convincing that large numbers of people will be swayed if they hear them. Since you can't actually silence them, all you do is cause them to move somewhere you don't control and then point to your censorship on platforms you do control as evidence that you know they are correct and fear the truth. You end up portraying yourself as the evil authoritarian empire, and the people you are trying to silence as the valiant freedom fighting rebels. People are sympathetic to the rebels, not the empire.

>When an ideology is built on intolerance, it must be opposed and deplatformed at every turn.

But that very ideology is built on intolerance. I presume you are going to delete your account so as to "deplatform" yourself?


So we must use the power of the state and/or big business to crush thier speech? Do you know how to define fascist?


Nowhere did I state that.

Rather we must expose the fascists for what they are, drive them back to their hiding holes. We're not forcing anyone, simply showing social media platforms etc. that the presence of hate-spewing and minority-oppressing fascists is not wanted. They react by simple mechanisms of capitalism, by removing them, in order to not lose ad revenue.

The fascists are free to find other platforms, no one is censoring them.


>that the presence of hate-spewing and minority-oppressing fascists is not wanted.

But the bulk of the people being targeted are none of those things. What the average person is seeing is that anyone who dares to state a fact that far left ideologues don't like gets attacked and called racist. And if twitter doesn't censor them, twitter gets attacked too, and called "a haven for white supremacists and nazis". In reality, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are wanted, it is only a small group of vocal objectors that insist they are unwanted.

>The fascists are free to find other platforms, no one is censoring them.

The former does not support the latter. People moving to an uncensored platform does not mean the censored platform is not censored.


[flagged]


It is not a matter of "being afraid", it is a matter of those people propagating an ideology based on the subjugation and extermination of minorities, and calling for violence and direct action against said minorities.

When one side is literally Nazis, there is no middle ground and reasoned dialogue, because they've already shown countless times that they cannot be reasoned with. They simply use any talking time to further spread their hate.


The overlays totally ruin this site. Help!


The solution to this 'authoritarianism' then is banning opinions the author disagrees with (Milo, Trump etc). Bravo




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