I think there is something wrong with us. I think we have a problem with power, and with our fantasies about power. Just a few weeks ago, I would have said I was an evangelist, a person who believed in the power of technology and entertainment to teach us things, and to be good for us. Now it’s as though a cord has been yanked from my back. I’ve been decommissioned, it feels like. I would like to write something optimistic, I really would, but those words won’t come.
Even before the election, the “criticism” element of my work in technology writing was difficult. If you don’t look toward the future with the dreamlike optimism of a new day, you might be a Luddite. You can be skeptical of products only inasmuch as your skepticism serves the consumer — beyond that, you’re ruining the fun.
It’s a possibility space, people say. You might not like, say, virtual reality right now, but you’re going to like it. It’s not there yet, but it’s going to be. Do not, for any reason, try to tap the brakes. The future is coming and there is nothing you can do but open your arms.
But to whom have we been promising possibility? Whose future is coming, and with what will they be armed?
My bros I have been doing a lot of
reading about Wacky WWII Hijinks lately and I want to tell you a
story because I love it okay
once upon a time there was a dude in
Spain named Juan Pujol Garcia. Pujol was a chicken farmer. Pujol
hated him some goddamn fascists.
See Spain had recently ended its civil
war, with the fascists taking power. So when WWII broke out in
Europe, Spain technically remained neutral but in practice was buddy
buddy with the Nazis. Juan Pujol Garcia thought this was pretty
so soon after war breaks out Pujol
travels to his local British embassy and goes “hey I wanna spy on
the Nazis for you”
“who the fuck are you?” say the
British, and kick him out
but Pujol is not deterred! He still
wants to dunk on some fascists, so now he goes to his local German
embassy instead. “hey” he
says, “I wanna spy on the British for you, I sure do hate them”
okay” say the Germans “that seems pretty legit”
just like that Pujol now officially works for the Abwehr, the German
intelligence agency. They hand him some spy gear (invisible ink and
such) and instruct him to travel to Lisbon, and from there make his
way into the UK. So Pujol heads to Lisbon, and a little while later
writes to his German handlers telling them he’s made it to England
had not made it to England. He had, in fact, made it to the Lisbon
public library, where he checked out a number of English guide books
and set about just wholesale making shit up
is slightly complicated by the fact that, for example, he completely
did not understand British currency and all his expense reports were
basically gibberish. He also reported things like bribing Scotsmen,
because the people of Glasgow would “do anything for a litre of
wine” (an actual quote) because, hey, people in Spain like wine so
that’s probably the same right?
is where it starts to get really crazy, because the Abwehr loves
this. “wow this dude is a
great spy” they say, because apparently none of them had ever been
the England either. In fact, they are so pumped about this new
awesome spy that the British start to get worried
see, by this time the British had cracked German’s supposedly
unbreakable Enigma code and were totally dunking on the Nazis by
reading basically all of their ~super top secret~ radio
transmissions. And, crucially, they’d become so good at breaking and
reading traffic that there were literally no German spies in England.
The Germans would set up a spy drop (usually dropping dudes in by
parachute in the middle of the night), the British would intercept
the message and then just scoop the dudes up as soon as they landed
in a move that must have been SUPER embarrassing to the spies
there are no German spies in the UK because they’re all sitting in a
prison run by MI5 (although some are being run under supervision as
double agents, feeding Germany bullshit). But suddenly MI5 is picking
up all this traffic from the Germans talking about their super great
spy- a spy the British do not have in their jail
shit” says MI5, and starts rereading all the transmissions they
have to and from this mysterious super spy.
wait” says MI5, upon actually reading the shit the spy was sending.
“someone is playing silly buggers, pip pip cheerio”
this point, Pujol, still in Lisbon, had actually been approaching the
British embassy again, repeatedly, but apparently “I am literally
an Abwehr agent and would like to offer you my services” wasn’t
interesting enough, because he was repeatedly turned away, again.
It wasn’t until MI5 started
asking around that one of the embassy staff was like “oh yeah we
know that guy”
1942 the British finally make contact with Pujol and he officially
becomes a spy for MI5. They move him to London and assign him a case
officer so he can start making up even better bullshit
does. Once actually in London, Pujol reports to the Abwehr that he’d
recruited a whole slew of informants- from a bunch of Welsh Aryans to
disaffected army officers. He ends up with a network of 20+
sub-spies, all feeding him information from around the UK
none of these people actually exist
just straight up invented like 20 people, keeping careful track of
their fake personalities, names, and activities. With the help of
MI5, the information he sends becomes even better- a mix of true but
ultimately useless facts and actually important intel timed to arrive
in Germany just slightly too late to be of any use. He and his “spy
network” become the Abwehr’s most trusted agents
now codenamed Agent Garbo (for his acting skills), ends up playing a
huge role in the run-up to D-Day, where the Allies mounted a huge
intelligence campaign to convince Hitler that the planned site of
attack was going to be Calais and not Normandy (this was Operation
Fortitude and you should absolutely look it up for more Wacky WWII
Adventures). Obviously you know how this ended
enough, the Abwehr never figured out that Pujol was a double agent.
After the war he received both the Iron Cross Second Class (which
require personal authorization from Hitler), and a
Member of the Order of the British Empire (from King George VI)
to resist being totally fucking ridiculous,
Pujol turned down MI5’s post-war offer to continue spying, but this
time against the USSR. “no,” he said “just help me fake my own
death and then I’m moving to Venezuela”
that’s exactly what he did. Juan Garcia Pujol died in 1988, at the
age of 76
I want this movie so bad I can TASTE IT
This feels like something @jaybushman would get up to.
I would definitely do this for a litre of wine.
When we place our faith in hard work, we’re wishing for the creation of character; but we’re also hoping, or expecting, that the labour market will allocate incomes fairly and rationally. And there’s the rub, they do go together. Character can be created on the job only when we can see that there’s an intelligible, justifiable relation between past effort, learned skills and present reward. When I see that your income is completely out of proportion to your production of real value, of durable goods the rest of us can use and appreciate (and by ‘durable’ I don’t mean just material things), I begin to doubt that character is a consequence of hard work.
When I see, for example, that you’re making millions by laundering drug-cartel money (HSBC), or pushing bad paper on mutual fund managers (AIG, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Citibank), or preying on low-income borrowers (Bank of America), or buying votes in Congress (all of the above) – just business as usual on Wall Street – while I’m barely making ends meet from the earnings of my full-time job, I realise that my participation in the labour market is irrational. I know that building my character through work is stupid because crime pays. I might as well become a gangster like you.
That’s why an economic crisis such as the Great Recession is also a moral problem, a spiritual impasse – and an intellectual opportunity. We’ve placed so many bets on the social, cultural and ethical import of work that when the labour market fails, as it so spectacularly has, we’re at a loss to explain what happened, or to orient ourselves to a different set of meanings for work and for markets.
Paris told Luke and Lorelai to check her reviews on Yelp. But there wasn’t anything there. So I fixed that.
The Panthers used to ride around and follow the police.
So the cops would pull over some sorry black person, and get ready to rough him up, but then there were the Panthers right behind them. Watching, armed to the teeth, and citing legal statutes. It’s inspirational.
Bring it back.
Bring this back.
That’s why the FBI broke them up, isn’t it ?
That among other community initiatives. They had weapons training, self defense, their free breakfast program and ran a newspaper. They raised money to pay for bail and legal funding for people. And they used to notify the community of their rights and encourage people to know the laws and protest the one which were unjust. That type of shit irked the local police and damned sure struck a nerve with the FBI. They were taking back the streets and providing the protection the police were never interested in bringing to their neighborhoods from the very start. So it’s always fuck the FBI for me.
Also let’s be starkly clear about this: under COINTELPRO the FBI raided the homes of Black Panthers and outright murdered them. They conspired with local police forces to harass, assault, and concoct false evidence against anybody affiliated with the BPP. And they didn’t keep their operations confined to the black community directly. When a white woman working in civil rights was killed by the KKK (they were aiming at her black passenger) the FBI excused the KKK by claiming that she was a communist and slept with black men. They refused to accept the reports of white agents who said that the BPP were no threat and demanded that the agents falsify information to paint the BPP as violent domestic terrorists. The FBI was determined to quash revolutionary black movements that were chiefly devoted to community protection and development and they stopped at nothing in their attempts to reach this goal.
One thing we don’t talk about even in our own retellings and reclaimings of BPP history is that a large part of the reason the government worked to break them up wasn’t because of armed action, but because they provided so many necessary social services and programs: free breakfast for children, walking the elderly to and from banks safely to cash their social security checks, free medical centers, door-to-door sickle cell testing, blood drives, raising money for bail, clothing donations, legal aide, busing people to and from prisons to visit, commissary for prisoners. Not only did they fight back against state violence in their confrontations with police, but also by resisting the forced conditions of poverty, criminality and scarcity created by the state to further destroy their communities. J. Edgar Hoover genuinely wrote in an FBI memo that:
“The Breakfast for Children Program B represents the best and most influential activity going for the BPP and, as such, is potentially the greatest threat to efforts by authorities B to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for.”
When I need a good example of the antiblackness that is fundamental to this country’s history and how it persists even now, I remember that the BPP were viewed as a threat to national security, not because they were armed, but because they wouldn’t allow black children to die from starvation and malnutrition.
Excerpt from the seminal miniseries Eyes On The Prize, which belongs on every list of the most important American TV programs
We are hyperanalytical cost-benefit maximisers. There is no charity so pure that we can’t criticise for wasting money; no non-profit too noble to snipe at for using the wrong tech stack; no institution too valuable to be explosively disrupted.
Whether it’s journalism, healthcare, transportation, social security, or politics, we could do better, if we tried. But we don’t care to try, because we’re too busy trying to make shit tons of money, and you don’t make money by working in non-profits or journalism. So fuck anyone else for trying and failing to attain perfection, and what’s more, fuck them for having the temerity to ask us for our hard-earned cash.
The time for that attitude is well and truly over. We cannot afford your perfectionism any more.