Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All
Monday, October 05, 2015
Now, Behold! A wacky survey of basic income conjoined to bitcoinsanity, digital-sharecropping, and Burning Man-style good vibes on a planetary scale, man, provided by the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives. My own sooper-statist-deathist-luddite "Pay-to-Peer" argument on this subject is here.
Saturday, October 03, 2015
At the outset, I am going to simply set aside as fundamentally unserious the prevailing misreading of the Constitution popular among so-called Second Amendment absolutists (most of whom are cynical shills for gun-lobby profiteers and the unwitting dupes of their mass-mediated echo chambers): If you do not believe that the Second Amendment sanctions individual ownership of nuclear weapons then you already concede the premise that there are weapons safety bans and regulations compatible with the Second Amendment.
Once conceded, the question becomes a matter of just what gets banned and regulated according to objective determinations of harm and how best to implement these bans and regulations. I commend much of the suite of reforms familiar to gun control advocacy for well over a generation: universal background checks facilitated by waiting periods; elimination of egregious loopholes for gifts and gun-shows; refusing violent criminals, domestic abusers, certain emotionally distressed individuals from the use and possession of guns; banning of military style weapons and arsenals to private citizens; implementation of licensing regimes requiring periodic demonstrations of competence and awareness of safety rules and laws at least as strenuous as those already required of those who drive cars or operate other kinds of potentially dangerous machinery; compulsory purchase of insurance to defray the public costs of damage and disruption from gun use for all gun owners and users; sequestration of recreational shooting to public facilities with on-site storage of the weapons used in them; radical circumscription of destructiveness of weapons sanctioned for hunting; ongoing tracking of weapons and ammunition purchasing and public circulation; and so on. Again, I am going to simply set aside as fundamentally unserious, and usually as outright deceptive, the commonplace claims of gun activists and enthusiasts who declare such measures impractical or ineffective, inasmuch as nearly all of them have been demonstrated to be both practical and effective in real world practice.
None of this preliminary throat-clearing is the least bit original, of course -- important though it is to make these obvious points given the insistent ubiquity of their denial -- but nor is any of that the thrust of my post. For me, it matters that the Second Amendment guarantee of "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" is explicitly subordinated, both conceptually and grammatically (not to mention as a matter of the historical context of the harsh collective memory of military occupation by the British out of which the Amendment originated), of "a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state." I regard the Amendment as an insistence that the military and police providing "the security of a free state" be accountable to and representative of -- and hence, "well regulated" -- of "the people" in whose name they act. This imperative is also expressed, of course, in the Constitutional establishment of civilian control over the military but it provides as well, in my reading, a firm Constitutional basis for contemporary demands not only for gun safety regulations but also for accountable, representative community-based policing in the United States.
It is not an accident that gun-control activism and Black Lives Matter movements to end violent, inequitable, unaccountable, non-representative, predatory white-racist policing practices are happening at one and the same time. These movements are structurally connected, and not only in their shared aspirations, but in the interdependence of the crises they would overcome: the suffusion of public space with guns in private ownership provides an official rationale or at least inevitable argumentative recourse for ever more militarized domestic policing practices.
This is far from the whole story, however. The incessantly reported and invoked defensive, even paranoid, psychology of public policing in a gun-suffused public space materializes, or more specifically embodies, the broader, inchoate, poisonously repressed defensiveness and paranoia occasioned by the demographic diversification, secularization, and planetization of an American public displacing the white supremacy long sited and secured by policing: For not only have the police historically policed white-supremacy in the name of civil order, but the police have historically been sited in the cultural state investing racially long-marginalized populations like the Irish, Italians, Polish, Latin Americans, and so on with at first and at best probationary "whiteness," whiteness provisionally secured while provisionally securing white-supremacy.
The defensiveness, especially, of white police who do not live in the communities of color they police is a performance of alienated occupation that rationalizes its violence through the paradoxically Janus-faced recourse to, on the one hand, an historical imaginary that treats these communities as themselves an invasive, occupying force on the body politic of White (sometimes denominated "Real") America -- yes, it is obscene to figure as an alien "invasion" the violent kidnapping and enslavement of people and subsequently as an alien "occupation" a people officially emancipated but then in fact ruthlessly subordinated by Jim Crow, terrorist lynching, share cropping and wage slavery, exclusion from Progressive era and then New Deal reforms creating the White American middle class, segregation through education and zoning and election practices, and mass incarceration -- but also, on the other hand, by recourse to a futural imaginary that treats these communities as the symptom and specter of a demographic reversal in which a majority minority America now threatens White-Supremacy-qua-Occupation with all of its dirty, ugly, guilty open secrets with the prospect of factual displacement and just reparations.
To make much the same point from a different vantage, there is nothing the least bit paradoxical in the fact that some of the first accomplishments of the gun control movement were occasioned by practical interventions and protests of violent white-racist policing on the part of the Black Panthers that took the form of Black bodies Open-Carrying defensive weapons while the consummation of gun-activism today is represented by the spectacle of White bodies Open-Carrying threatening weapons, usually in public spaces where people of color make their homes or are otherwise encouraged to feel welcome. Open-Carry, today, is a political movement to countermand ongoing American diversification by suffusing public space with white-racist patriarchal terror, and in this it is directly connected to the terrorist work of lynching as an historical maintenance of white-supremacy.
By way of conclusion, allow me to take yet another step back for an even wider contextualization of the issue at hand... Gouverneur Morris was a Founding Father who has not quite remained a household name. He wrote the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, which insists that liberty is secured through the promotion of general welfare, and he was one of the few delegates who was explicitly opposed to slavery (by the way, he was also a strong public advocate for the building of the Erie Canal to transform New York into a modern global industrial commonwealth -- on the basis of a proto-Keynesian pre-Rooseveltian understanding of stimulative public investment as general welfare in line with the thinking of another abolitionist Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton). Meanwhile, a much more famous Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Declaration of Independence, which delineates instead an individualist conception of liberty, and he was an apologist for slavery now notorious for his exploitation and abuse of slaves.
Of course, the assertively individualist, agrarian-feudalist "democracy" of Jefferson -- that is, individualist in the form of a distraction from or outright denial of social interdependence; that is, democracy in the form of plutocratic, slave-holding anti-democracy -- has long held ideological sway over the American public imaginary, especially in moments when Americans seek to rationalize their avowed democracy with their anti-democratic sins and crimes. (Given this blog's usual preoccupation with reactionary "tech" discourse and corporate-militarist futurology, allow a parenthetic reminder of the special indispensability of these Jeffersonian formulations to neoliberal venture-capitalist "tech culture" from the California Ideology, to Barlow's so-called Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, to the abiding metaphor of the Electronic Frontier.) But whatever the rhetorical priority of the Jeffersonian formulation of liberty it is the Constitutional Morrisonian formulation of liberty that has primary legal standing. And of these historically competing American ideologies of liberty, it is the Constitutional version that also seems to me by far the most philosophically sound, practically sustainable, and authentically American.
Just as the historical emergence and consolidation of the American "free enterprise" was predicated on the quintessentially unfree system of chattel slavery, so too the ongoing ideology of free enterprise depends on fantasies of voluntary contracts the terms of which are too often actually duressed by the unequal knowledge, unequal precarity, and unequal access to cultural and infrastructural affordances of the participants in the contract as also the eventual profitability of free enterprise depends on socializing the risks and costs of enterprises while privatizing their benefits.
There is a direct connection between the historical fantasy of the historically American individualist who disavows his dependencies on the ritual and material artifice of slavery, wage slavery, and unpaid domestic labor and the present-day fever dream of the white-racist patriarchal "Real American" individualist for whom the Open-Carried weapon is the ruggedizing cyborg shell that disavows interdependence to "stand its ground" on an American Homeland geography resonating with the history of native American genocide, slavery, sex-panics, anti-immigration mobs, drug-war hysteria, postwar militarism, and post-9/11 security state insecurity. The feudal Jeffersonian conception of possessive individualist liberty resonates still in the "Castle Doctrine" so cherished by gun culture, in which the individual and his gun is figuratively transformed into a feudal castle "standing its ground" on an anarchic terrain of lawless warlords -- and, no doubt, damsels in distress -- the all too familiar imaginative recourse of Confederate slave-masters of whom Jefferson was a precursor and market libertarian ideologues for whom Jefferson remains a paragon.
The Morrisonian Preamble to the Constitution endorsed the crucial premise of the Jeffersonian Declaration that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" with the frame "We the People… in order to form a more perfect Union… ordain and establish this Constitution." After the conspicuous failure of the radically minarchist "Articles of Confederation," Morris proceeds with his fellow delegates to institute a federal form for that just and consensual government (as Jefferson hesitated to do in principle but then did with gusto in his Presidential practice, of course). Against the individualist spontaneism of the Declaration and failed Articles, the Morrisonian Preamble elaborates the public constitution of the Union from which alone can flow the "blessings of liberty," the "establish[ment] of justice… domestic tranquility… common defense… and [the] promot[ion of] general welfare." It is not until the Fourteenth Amendment ensuring birthright citizenship and universal equitable recourse to the administration of justice in principle that the Constitution doctrinally admitted (as, needless to say, it has never fully or consistently managed to do in actual practice to this day) the third plank in the uniquely American conception of liberty, that America is a nation of immigrants and the exercise of its liberty is invigorated by the diversity of its stakeholders.
It is no surprise that gun culture is connected so regularly with the politics of white-supremacy, nor that self-described patriots and even law enforcement personnel allied with this gun culture are connected so regularly with nullification strategies and secessionist rhetoric and hostility to birthright citizenship. In their specifically American form, racist white supremacy and libertarian spontaneous order are of a piece historically, culturally, and conceptually. Understanding these connections is indispensable to resisting them here, but doing so also provides uniquely American resources for hope. Just as feminist and anti-racist work are both clarified and strengthened by grasping their intersectionalities, so too gun safety advocacy and community policing work and Black Lives Matter movements are clarified and strengthened by grasping theirs. Gun safety activism both practically and intellectually facilitates activism against the drug war, the school to prison pipeline, the abuse-to-prison pipeline, for-profit prisons, police militarization, bloated military budgets, and for community policing reform, structural racism education, work to expose and end sexual violence, and all and each for the others as well.
None of the preceding is offered up to imply that the aristocratic Gouverneur Morris was without great faults any more than to deny that the radical Thomas Jefferson had his strengths, but the distinction I have drawn between them is meant to highlight an early and abiding contest between negative and positive, private and public conceptions of liberty that help elaborate connections between gun control, community policing, immigration politics today that clarify stakes and identify allies. Gun safety regulation "in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity" is also a struggle to clarify and implement the American Constitutional conception of a positive liberty indispensably indebted to accountable/consensual governance, public investment in common goods, and the critical, creative, constructive dynamism of stakeholder diversity. American gun violence today is an exceptional outrage, as our solution to it tomorrow could provide an exceptional illumination to ourselves and our posterity.
Friday, October 02, 2015
Thursday, October 01, 2015
And I have to add, that while those who advocate gun control wring our hands over the inevitable inaction that follows upon these tragedies time after time the appalling truth is that mass shootings are now occasions for gun lobby ACTION to disseminate insane "only guns stop guns" rhetoric, demolish all vestiges of gun safety regulations, and whomp up hysteria to sell more guns, to multiply private arsenals, to normalize open-carry to suffuse all public space with white-racist masculinist terror.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Saturday, September 26, 2015
By giving people access to the tools, knowledge and opportunities of the internet, we can give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless. We also know that the internet is a vital enabler of jobs, growth and opportunity. And research tells us that for every 10 people connected to the internet, about 1 is lifted out of poverty.Mobilizing the world to get everybody on Facebook would bestow the blessings of fine-grained surveillance, digtal-sharecropping, and zero-comment participatory digirocracy to all the people of earth. And "we know" how awesome that is because "research tells us" so. You know, for the poor! Incidentally, Mark Zuckerberg wouldn't do too shabbily either with a few billion more subscribers to his crappy network, yaknow what I mean?
(Hey, guess what, for every ten people who live in societies with a living wage, universal public education and healthcare, and long-term unemployment benefits and social security ALL TEN are lifted out of poverty. But, what the fuck, let's just get Mark Zuckerberg a billion more customers for his shitty software app instead.)
Friday, September 25, 2015
The New and Emerging Legal Framework for the Regulation of Medical and Recreational Marijuana in the State of California
Coinciding with the passage of the new regulatory framework, California's Attorney General Kamala Harris has prepared the following title and summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed measure, Initiative 15-0039
The clarity and forcefulness of the wording seem to me strongly to suggest support of such an initiative at this time. The language -- and some further analysis -- is available at the California MCLR (The Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act) 2016 website:
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Legalizes marijuana under state law. Creates commission to regulate and license marijuana industry. Applies general retail sales taxes to marijuana, unless medical or dietary exemptions apply. Permits excise taxes on certain marijuana sales, up to 15% of retail price, and storage, up to 10% of wholesale price. Prohibits discrimination based on marijuana use. Bars marijuana testing for job applicants and employees, or penalizing employees for off-duty use, unless they are in safety-sensitive occupations. Permits local regulation of marijuana businesses, including ban or cap with voter approval. Exempts medical marijuana collectives from licensing and local zoning. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Net reduced costs ranging from tens of millions of dollars to potentially exceeding $100 million annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Net additional state and local tax revenues of potentially up to several hundred million dollars annually related to the production and sale of marijuana, most of which would be required to be spent for specific purposes such as education, public safety, and drug abuse education and treatment.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive in policy discussions premised on technocratic authority rather than democratic deliberation. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive in "disruption" that amounts to the deregulatory enablement of fraud. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive about "innovation" that simply loots and privatizes public goods or externalizes public risks. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive in eugenic "enhancement" promoting conformity and docility as competitiveness and as health. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive in treated wanted human lifeways as diseased and criminal kinds of personhood demanding "cure." #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive in pretending robocalypse is an existential threat and climate change an engineering problem. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive about dreams of escaping our shared responsibilities into outer space or virtual reality. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive about identifying with robots or treating people as robots. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive about turning education into television or even into video games. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive in treating consumer fashions as activism or consumer fandoms as movements. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
There's nothing progressive in the pretense that corporate-military status quo amplification is progress. #TechProgressive— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 24, 2015
I am embarrassed to admit my own complicity in the emergence of the technoprogressive term now current in some circles of neoliberal tech talkers and "Thought Leaders." Interested readers will note the appropriated arguments and even phrases in the wikipedia entry for technoprogressivism, alluded to in the 2014 robocultic transhumanist Technoprogressive Declaration, all from my own Technoprogressivism: Beyond Technophilia and Technophobia, published nearly a decade before that Declaration. I realized quite soon after writing that rather programmatic piece that its formulations were being taken up in stealth-reactionary futurological "tech" circles seeking to sanewash eugenic, libertarian, neoliberal, digi-utopian, greenwashing, facile reductionist and determinist views about technodevelopmental politics. I soon came to believe that the susceptibility of my formulations to these deceptive and tech-propagandistic appropriations was a product of my own under-interrogated use of the term "technology" in the piece as monolithic and extricable from and hence apparently substitutable for politics in ways that facilitated what I now recognize as a host of familiar reactionary futurological gestures -- the naturalization of elite incumbent interests as a-political, the substitution of marketing norms and forms for modes of reflection and analysis, the treatment of wish-fulfillment fantasies as scientific predictions, the investment of such speculation with transcendental significance, and the transformation of these discourses into subcultural formations, identity movements and consumer fandoms. For a recent and concise elaboration of the critique eventuating in part from experience of the techno-transcendental appropriation of my early efforts I recommend Futurological Discourses and Posthuman Terrains.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Friday, September 18, 2015
When Democrats complain about the status quo they're complaining about Republican obstruction of solutions to our shared problems. 1— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 18, 2015
When Republicans complain about the status quo they're complaining about the facts of diversity and that you have to pay for public goods. 2— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 18, 2015
When pundits declare everybody fed up with the status quo they fail to distinguish these complaints or to mention only one is reasonable. 3— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 18, 2015
Thursday, September 17, 2015
"Negative" liberties are forms of positive liberty that manage to disavow, by naturalizing, their contingent and artificial affordances. 1— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
"Spontaneous" orders are forms of order that manage to deny their parochialism, history and costs through the force of their incumbency. 2— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
"Nature" derives from the Latin nasci, to be born, to appear, but it matters that labor precedes birth and preparation enables appearance. 3— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
The essential work of the discourse of naturalization has come to be its disavowal of the artifice of what passes for the natural, 4— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
...this is an accomplishment indicated not least by the treatment of nature as the contrary to artifice rather than as a species of it. 5— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
To belabor the obvious here, naturalization conduces to the maintenance or amplification of the status quo and to reactionary politics. 6— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
There is an affinity in the de-politicizing gesture through which always only some artifacts/techniques are constituted as "technology," 7— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
…and then the ready investment of some technologies so constituted with the work of a-politicizing conservatism. 8— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
Techno-libertarian ideology absolutely depends on these discursive ploys, 9— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
…as when the end-to-end principle is implicitly identified with negative liberty, then enables the advocacy of plutocracy as meritocracy, 10— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
…or when prior faith in natural, virtuous spontaneous order (confirming its advocates they should rule, naturally) transforms encryption 11— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
…from technique to world-historical force that would abolish the unnatural, vicious barriers to the flowering of that spontaneous order. 12— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) September 17, 2015
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Monday, September 14, 2015
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Friday, September 11, 2015
The focus of my work and my writing here and elsewhere has, for whatever reasons out of the strange vicissitudes of personal and professional biography, turned out instead to be mostly the critique of futurological discourses and futurist sub(cult)ural formations. I happen to think that futurology is the quintessential discourse of neoliberal corporate-militarism, and that the strange exhibitions made by robocultic futurisms are a kind of reductio ad absurdum or iceberg tip symptomizing prevailing pathologies of postwar-to-ecocatastrophist capitalism. As a democratic socialist (or social democrat, if you like) Green, all this matters to me enormously, of course.
I do often make the point that futurological "scenarios" are in my view the definitive literary genre of the neoliberal epoch -- which really amounts to the truism that marketing norms and forms disastrously suffuse postwar public discourses -- and this observation also often leads me to joke that these futurological "scenarios" are actually just impoverished forms of science fiction, but, you know, entirely bereft of clever plots, interesting characters, or sustained themes. Indeed, most futurological “scenarios” amount to little more than stipulated settings of a scene (hence their name) and then filled with dystopian/utopian wish-fulfillment fantasizing. Again, I daresay the connections to advertising are obvious. Hilariously, these settings are themselves inevitably borrowed from actual science fiction writers, and given the plausibility that attaches to the familiar, futurologists tend to recycle those conceits real writers would disdain as cliches.
I will also say that I regard the familiar pretense that science/speculative fiction is an essentially or even primarily "predictive" genre to be a vulgar futurological fallacy. Works in any literary genre can be accidentally or incidentally predictive -- but sf, like all great literature, is constitutive of and responsive to living, earthly polyculture. It is the open futurity inhering in the diversity of stakeholders contending and collaborating in the present, in their presence, that provokes the allegories, commentaries, myths, testimonies of science/speculative fictional futures. It will perhaps seem paradoxical from the vulgar futurological vantage that has come so much to define the sfnal in the neoliberal epoch, but for me it is because it is so exquisitely the genre not of the future but the future anterior tense that sf is indeed a prophetic literary form.
Another vulgar futurological gesture is embodied in the periodic policing of science/speculative fiction for "positivity" -- and this impulse seems to me equally in evidence in the recent facile Stephensonian call for cruelly optimistic can-do science fiction as well as in the ugly racism and sexism of the Sad Puppies who also fancy themselves to be defending the civilizational citadel. To clarify, in each of these cases a gesture that would reduce sf literature to consumer-capitalist or white-supremacist or patriarchal (that is, sexist/heterosexist/cissexist) agitprop -- which would be bad enough -- but actually amounts to the even worse, but by now completely conventional, subsumption of sf literature into the prevailing deceptive, hyperbolic, triumphalist, apocalyptic, eugenic, techno-fetishistic faith-based norms and forms of neoliberal corporate-militarist marketing, promotion, self-promotion, advertising as public discourse.
As I always insist, every futurism is a retro-futurism, inasmuch as "The Future" is always a parochialism rationalizing and reassuring elite-incumbents of forever ongoing status-quo amplification. "Disruption" usually amounts the deregulatory dismantlement of democracy in the service of plutocracy, "innovation" usually amounts to the promotional re-packaging of stale and discarded commodities as novelties, "resilience" usually amounts to exploiters congratulating those who manage to survive their exploitation to be exploited still more, "accelerating change" usually amounts to the increasing precarity of majorities as experienced by minorities who either benefit from that precarity or foolishly identify with those who do. Again, the only thing more typical of postwar capitalism than compulsory "positivity" about our soul-wrecking planet-wrecking extractive-industrial-consumerist corporate-militarism is to add the insult to these injuries that we testify endlessly to the progressive productivity of this wreckage.
Benjaminian angel of history, smh.