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This is from Walter Jon Williams, in his novel "City On Fire":

Theocracies, when they are not corrupt, are always vicious, always trying to impose their moral absolutes on an imperfect humanity. But they always *sound* attractive -- their language seduces, like ecclesiastical architecture, music... Why *not* form a government of godly, disinterested people? Why not let them direct society in harmony with divine inspiration? Why not make people good?

And so, on this promising moral premise, we find the coercive powers of the state united with the coercive powers of faith -- people must be *made* good, the *state* must make them so when religion cannot; and if one is *not* good, one is not merely disobeying a custom or law made by mortals, one is defying the universal Truths behind the operation of the universe, one is opposing *all that is true, all that is divine*, and so the penalties must be savage for such willful perversity, such obstinacy in the face of Revealed Truth...

-- Flint (, March 05, 2000


An excellent topic! To digress, temporarly, with apologies: The coercive powers of the media, united with the coercive powers of the mediocre: Mediocracy. A more immediate threat.

-- Normally (, March 05, 2000.

Sounds like the charter for the War on Drugs.

-- Wine-O (, March 05, 2000.

I say throw 'em all to the lions.

-- Saint (Peter@the.Gate), March 05, 2000.

Is that a quote from Mao?

-- kritter (, March 05, 2000.


I must strongly disagree that the media have coercive power per se. Where the media are an arm of the state and freedom of speech does not exist, it is the *state* and not the media exercising the coercion. The media in that case are simply one instrument of policy.

Where more freedom of the press exists, we can see that a LOT more variety exists, many radical viewpoints, although this variety is subject to certain constraints. TV outlets must be licensed from the state, and their continued operation is subject to the whim of the state. Newspapers used to be much more common, and most even modest towns had several. Today, they compete with TV, which appeals to a lower common denominator (you don't have to know how to read). The few remaining newspapers must conform to the standards of news and editorial content TV presents.

The internet is changing things, but it'll take a while to shake out. While you can find just any viewpoint you want somewhere on the net, what you don't find is any feedback mechanism, any accountability for what is presented. So I view TB2K and other fora as primitive classrooms where we learn by trial and error the value of viewpoints not found, perhaps not permitted, elsewhere.

And the y2k feedback, seeing that nothing of any consequence happened despite all the effort made to create the opposite impression, is a wonderful phenomenon in its very clarity. It shows that given the opportunity to present what we *want* to see, without any personal or organizational responsibility, is pretty damn useless so far.

-- Flint (, March 05, 2000.

Definition of big trouble: A Theocracy Definition of hell on earth: A Theocracy with Gary North as 'Pope'.

-- Craig (, March 05, 2000.

Flint, the functioning of the internet was the topic of this rather long post over on c.s.y2k back in January:

Y2k and the Internet


I think one of the more interesting aspects of Y2k that should be explored is the functioning of the internet as a vehicle for information and research.

In essence, what failed? Many intelligent people spent an enormous amount of time "researching" Y2k, for the most part on the internet. Why did they come to the conclusions they did?

I've lost count of the number of posts on forums such as TB2000, especially prior to the rollover, with the main gist being "I spent thousands of hours researching Y2k. I can't believe that I would be that far wrong." Well, they were. The question is, why?

The answer may be somewhat simpler for forums such as TB2000. The inherent bias was plainly evident. They *recognized* the bias; even proudly *proclaimed* the bias, in their numerous attempts to rid themselves of those with more optimistic views and opinions. Yet they failed to realize the *effect* that bias had on their views and flow of information.

To be honest, that bias was one of the main factors in my posting there. The role of "Devil's Advocate" I believe is important. No, I didn't try to fill that role; but I did use the forum as a "Devil's Advocate" of my opinions and views.

This was something those on the forum were adamant to avoid. Having your views challenged is integral to forming more accurate conclusions.

For all its faults, c.s.y2k was somewhat cleaner in this respect. Due in large part to the efforts of Brad, Don Scott, and others, anonymous BS hardly ever went unchallenged.

But here, TB2000, and virtually all Y2k forums failed wildly in anticipating the actual impacts. The "PR" produced by corporations, routinely written off as "spin" here and elsewhere, was in actuality far closer to the end results than anything produced here or elsewhere. And again, the question remains: why?

Again, part of it may be the inherent bias. Those participating here, Polly or Doomer, were already a small self-selected sample of the overall population, with the underlying common concern of the effects of Y2k. As was pointed out many times, most labelled "Polly" here would in "real" world be considered "Doomers".

But the internet, as a medium for information and research, in my mind failed its first true test. Y2k was the first wide-ranging issue that has hit, since the internet exploded into a large percentage of homes. People now have the ability to "publish" their own thoughts and ideas, a thing I think is *good*.

But it has also allowed the growth of the "Internet Expert". How, for example, did a Paula Gordon become an "Embedded Systems" expert in the mind's of so many? A Jim Lord? How was his vaporous "Mr CEO" given credence, when the published statements of organizations such as NERC were dismissed as "spin"? How was a Michael Adams able to establish a marketing venture such as "Y2kNewsWire", and have it considered a true source of journalism?

One answer I believe is Accountability, or lack of same.

Be they PR releases, statement on corporate web sites or SEC filings, corporations have an accountability for their words. Y2k Disclosures or not, had the actual situation been grossly understated, or dangers downplayed or denied, there would have been an accounting. Indeed, even now that accountability is raising its head, as to why the situation apparently was *overstated*.

The same applies to organizations such as power companies and NERC, as well as the FAA and government organizations. People plowed through the fine print of these statements, looking for any excuse to dismiss them out of hand. But they disregarded the larger picture.

That professional accountability extends lower. If management feels that IT spent unnecessarily, there will be an accounting. It also extends to places such as GartnerGroup, and consulting organizations such as Cap Gemini.

But these will held accountable professionally. The statements were issued as part of their professional assessment, and will be dealt with accordingly.

In order for the internet to serve as a more reliable vehicle in the future, this accountability must extend to the "internet expert" as well.

I wrote an Open Letter to Ed Yourdon, expressing these views. Ed Yourdon is a special case. His professional assessment, through vehicles such as Cutter or his ComputerWorld articles, was *never* as dire as his internet essays. As such, his *professional* accountability may be limited. But his accountability as an "internet expert" should not be limited. Even now, he attempts to shrug off that accountability. If the internet as a medium is to improve, this should not be allowed.

The same can be said for Jim Lord, Michael Adams, Michael Hyatt, and others as well. People should not be allowed to set themselves up as "experts", then be immune from the accountability for their statements and actions.

No, I'm not talking of witchhunts. I'm talking of an open accounting of their statements and actions. These should be laid out for inspection. If they choose, they should be allowed every opportunity for explanation. But they should not be allowed to merely walk away, to perhaps do the same in the future.

Corporations, governments and officials have a professional accountability to answer to. It may be imperfect, but it is there.

If the internet is to grow as a medium of information and research, some form of accountability must also evolve.


-- Hoff (, March 05, 2000.

Flint, I agree with the original quote starting this thread. Theocracies may sound good to anyone unversed in history, but their history has been a sad one to anyone who embraces the values of the Enlightenment. The theocratic experiment has been repeated often enough to be called a failure by those measures. They always become corrupt.

>> [The Y2K experience] shows that given the opportunity to present what we *want* to see, without any personal or organizational responsibility, is pretty damn useless so far. <<

Personal responsibility is pretty unavoidable. If you do not take it seriously ahead of time, it will sneak up and bite you on the *ss as soon as someone holds you accountable for the consequences of your actions. That is why reputation means something in any real community. It is one of the defining marks of community.

As for the "coercive" nature of the media, I also agree that the media in the USA do not coerce, perse. They do have a strong tendency to drown out all other competing voices through sheer omnipresence and volume. It takes a very determined person in the USA today to tune out the manic babble and chatter of the media and still retain a working knowledge of events in the larger world.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, March 05, 2000.


Thanks for bringing that to my attention. You obviously both anticipated my nascent ideas, and carried them further. But I don't see any mechanism of accountability evolving. Instead, the net for better or worse demonstrated a strong trend to divide and compartmentalize ideas rather than blend or test them.


I'm not a McLuhanist. "The world is so full of a number of things, I think we should all be as happy as kings." The good news is, no matter your interest you can find some form of media source to accommodate it. The bad news is, this gives you the *option* to tune out what you're not interested in. Sadly, what most people seem *least* interested in is conflicting opinions. And the more irrational your opinions, the more irrational your rejection of disagreement, in a positive feedback loop.

As Hoff has argued, Yourdon did all he could to create and sustain this loop, and carefully avoided ample opportunity to correct it. Under those circumstances, the question of motivation becomes critical. Hoff thinks that motivation is financial, and I tend toward the opinion that it's largely theological.

-- Flint (, March 05, 2000.

Ah, the seductiveness of the Philosopher-King; the good and just ruler who will right all wrongs and make the trains run on time. And we citizens won't have to do a thing except knuckle-under.

-- (, March 05, 2000.

>> Sadly, what most people seem *least* interested in is conflicting opinions. And the more irrational your opinions, the more irrational your rejection of disagreement, in a positive feedback loop. <<

Thus was it ever, don't you think?

When I was in high school we used to call it a "mutual admiration society". The same mechanism works equally well for creating religious splinter groups or cults. This human flaw is what makes propaganda work so well and is the root cause of both nationalism and UFO groups.

Apparently, the idea of pluralism is not native to the human mind. And a remarkably small number of people seem to grasp the process of scientific inquiry to the point where they could accurately describe it.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, March 05, 2000.

Again I say!!Throw 'em all to the lions!!!

-- Saint (Peter@the.Gate), March 05, 2000.

Flint, is that excerpt a fair indicator of the quality of the novel as a whole? If so, then I shall order it immediately. Thanks.

-- David L (, March 05, 2000.

David L:

I'd say that's a good example of nearly ALL of his work. One of my favorites is "The deluded are always filled with absolutes. The rest of us have to live with ambiguity." from his novel Aristoi.

City On Fire is an excellent examination of the nitty gritty of pluralist politics, where everything has a cost and if YOU don't pay it, someone worse will. Highly recommended.

-- Flint (, March 05, 2000.

Sounds dynamite. Thanks.

-- David L (, March 05, 2000.

Sometimes it seems to me that the greatest evil always poses as the greatest good.

I like the sound of the book Flint, so I'll read it. To me a theocracy is about the scariest scenario that could happen. That's why I fear the religious right so much; they *do* have an agenda.

"There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance." Socrates And look what Socrates got for disseminating knowledge and battling ignorance.

-- gilda (, March 05, 2000.

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