Andrew Keen: The Internet will revive fascism!

Just when you thought Andrew Keen had faded away he brings on the crazy:

On December 6, Barack Obama announced his intention to fund a massive public works program of somewhere between $400 and $700 billion which will create enough jobs to avert the economic catastrophe of the 1930s. But I fear that one element in Obama’s well-intentioned infrastructure plan—his goal of providing all Americans with broadband Internet access—might one day be seen as inadvertently laying the foundations for a return to fascism, the political catastrophe of the 1930’s.

Is it Godwin’s Law if you get to the Hitler comparison in the first paragraph?

I really can’t do this piece justice. You have to read it yourself for the full humorous effect. It is paragraph after paragraph of fearmongering about, well, how the internet will lead to fear-mongering. Apparently the traditional media, with all their “fact-checking” is all that stands between the unemployed masses with all their undirected rage and a new holocaust.

I’m not exaggerating. This isn’t some humorous restatement of what he says. This is his core argument — that broadband in every home combined with double digit unemployment will not only lead to nasty societal effects, but to the rise of “digital fascism”.

I hate to break it to him, but the lesson of history is that in times of unemployment and famine you really don’t need much technology to spread hate or instability. That’s one of the many reasons that keeping unemployment down is crucial to the survival of liberal democracies. You want to avoid the nastiness — do everything you can to keep employment within historical norms (an effort, BTW, that our media is currently trying to sabotage with their uncritically repeated Republican talking points about ‘belt-tightening’). Deal with the cause of the unrest and the rage. 

The move from print to web has nothing to do with it. In fact, Keen seems blissfully unaware that this country’s most recent lurch to authoritarianism was ably aided and abetted by his fact-checking press corps, while those loons on the net, the bloggers, were left to do the fact-checking on everything from wiretapping to weapons of mass destruction.

History can be a difficult thing that way. But the larger question, reading Keen’s article, is whether anyone in the academic community can continue to take him seriously at this point. He’s drifting from pompous kook into Ann Coulter territory here, and those that have tied themselves to his line of reasoning best take heed now and cut the ropes.

Systemantics Thought for the Day: Loose Systems Less Hostile to Human Life

From John Gall’s Systemantics:

Since most of modern life is lived in the interstices of large systems, it is of practical importance to note that:


and are therefore generally somewhat less hostile to human life forms than tighter systems.

As an example of a System attunned to the principles of Systems-design enuciated thus far, consider the system of the Family. The Family has been around for a long time. Our close primate relatives, the gorillas, form family units consisting of a husband and wife and one or more offspring. As Jane Goodall has shown, gorrillas take naps after meals (Every day is Sunday for large primates). The youngsters wake up too soon, get bored, and start monkeying around the nest. Father gorilla eventually wakes up, leans on one elbow, and fixes the youngster with a penetrating stare that speaks louder than words. The offending juvenile thereupon stops his irritating hyperactivity, at least for a few minutes.

Clearly, this is a functioning system. Its immense survival power is obvious. It has weathered vicissitudes compared to which the stresses of our own day are trivial. And what are the sources of its strength? In brief: extreme simplicity of structure, looseness in everday functioning, “inefficiency” in the efficiency-expert’s sense of the term, and a strong alignment with basic primate motivations.