Should we take the fringe seriously? : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

On an earlier thread, I wondered about the Internet and its potential impact on fringe groups. Of course, the thread has now devolved into the usual thrust and parry of personal attacks. I was interested to find my learned colleagues (Flint and McLaughlin) do not worry overmuch about fringe groups. Both make valid points, however, let me continue the discussion.

Most of us remember how some of the serious pessimists tipped over the edge late year. I, for one, observed a slavish devotion to Ed Yourdon. By most measures, Yourdon was not a charismatic figure. Oh, many people thought him a friendly and decent fellow... but watching his Senate testimony I had trouble picturing him as the leader of a "movement."

But consider what might happen if an influential and charismatic person reached out to the neo-survivalists. Might such a person unite this fragmented movement... and to what end?

Many of the Y2K pessimists were reasonable folks... just scared about the impacts of Y2K. Most have returned to their normal day-to-day lives (away from the forum), albeit eating unusual quantities of rice and beans. Y2K did seem to create small communities of disaffected. As demonstrated by EZB, these small communities continue, perhaps even abound.

This current activity comes at a time where America is unusually prosperous. Were we to fall into a recession (or worse), the ranks of the disaffected might grow... considerably.

The Internet provides a communication medium where a large number of small groups might unite under a single banner. To the extent the activities of these groups is limited to "preparation," I wish them the best. I do worry though, that some may become impatient waiting for the "inevitable" apocalypse. We know there are people who want to see the end of the Republic, as it currently exists. What might it take to bring the myriad groups to a critical mass? And does the Internet make this "nuclear" process easier?

For the record, I am relatively confident most of the serious Y2K pessimists are law abiding citizens. The vast majority are simply reacting to a complex world (and problems) by "preparing" in a rather elemental fashion. But given the interactions on TB 2000 last year... only one of many sites, is there the seeds for concern?

-- Ken Decker (, April 10, 2000



The debunkers did their job well.

"evil triumphs when good men do nothing"

-- (fringers@lost.bigtime), April 10, 2000.

Mr Decker,

Thanks for your astute observations. Indeed a point to ponder, however, while I was one of those who did prepare for some Y2K problems, given my age and location, my preparations were ongoing, and to some extent still are.

Living 16 miles out of town, flash floods could cut me off for weeks. Earthquakes are always just around the corner. Then there are the ongoing threats of brush fires, which know no season. If electricty and water are cut off 100 miles from here, I'll be out of luck.

Most everyone living in this immediate area has some type of preparations always at hand. Just common sense. Not a house in the area dosen't have at least one gun. No one "pops" in to visit after dark, without an advance call ahead. It isn't healthy. And, I am not attempting to paint a picture of some outlaw, outlandish area. This is the way life is lived here. Most of the people here are friendly, neighborly, and willing to extend a helping hand when needed. However, it's a private lifestyle. No one runs back and forth to gossip or borrow a cup of gin.

This entire area could be considered a "fringe" group of people who value their privacy and somewhat secluded life style.

I for one never put too much faith in Yourdon, North, Hyatt or any of the others who touted their products, books, or advertised survival kits,etc.

Every movement needs a leader. Even the fringe element. Since there is no leader, there is no movement. As it is this country is fractured, North, South, East and West. I have no idea what it would take to bring this nation together in a mass movement of any kind. Lets face it, the people in New York couldn't give a rodents posterior if the West Coast did sink into the Pacific, and vice verca.

While I could envision communities coming together, a mass movement in my opinion is out of the question, Internet or no Internet.

Again, thanks for your interesting observation.

-- Richard (, April 10, 2000.


I think the more militant groups who want to see the end of "modern government" will be a force to be reckoned with, considering the internet can tie all people of the same interests together. I personally think government is just too damn big. I feel "they" are trying to protect me from myself, and I, personally, don't need that. I believe there will always be that "Heaven's Gate" group somewhere on the 'net. As to what they do... well, there is no telling...

laters Ken...


The Dog

-- The Dog (, April 10, 2000.

But consider what might happen if an influential and charismatic person reached out to the neo-survivalists. Might such a person unite this fragmented movement... and to what end?

Y2K is over with. So is the chance of Y2K panic. Let's all get over this and get a life. If I didn't know better, Ken, I would think you were telling people here on TB2K spinoff uncensored that they and society need to need to prepare for a future populated by Internet crazies.

ROTFLMAO! Ken Decker is now a "doomer" concerned about the dangers of new technology...

-- The discussion has now (, April 10, 2000.

I share your concern.

The scary thing is this "disenchanted" group seems to be growing. It's no longer some guy in Iowa. They link together and find support and strength and the spread of paronia via the Internet. While these sites may not be growing as fast as "porn" sites I bet they,as a group you define, are in the top 50.

I think my family will maintain a "prudent" level of reserves and live each day as if it were our last but always expecting the sun to come up again. We will keep our "eyes" open and carry a low profile.

I hope somebody doesn't get soooo caught up in being prepared for the big one that they make it happen just so they can be right.

-- Johnny (, April 10, 2000.

Ken you asked,

"Should we take the fringe seriously?" I'd say no, take "them" seriously when they are no longer the fringe but becoming a majority.

By this I mean that in general when people are well fed and happy, they don't revolt. If the stock market crashes and the economy goes South and many people find themselves unemployed with hungry kids, then we may have to start looking around, but not now.


-- Someone (, April 10, 2000.

In a word, no. I just can't see it. I can't seriously envision even the more thoughtful and organized people engaging in threatening overt acts. It's a long way out of character for fearful people who trust nobody to act boldly and in concert. Chronic whiners are precisely those who have *not* taken corrective action.

Yes, I know mobs form, but these events tend to be spontaneous and triggered by somatic presence, not anonymous kvetching on a computer screen. I think for all but a few internet addicts, the internet is a luxury that would be among the first things dropped in favor of personal damage control if (when?) hard times befall us. I strongly doubt the internet can act as a catalyst for more than a letter writing campaign. In terms of changing fundamental responses, how people spend their time and what they do with that time, the internet is more of a distraction than a nucleus for action.

I suspect the devotion to the Cult of Yourdon is mostly in the eye of the beholder, except that Yourdon was the only serious doomer to have bona fide technical credentials (and of course, he started the forum). Gary North is more charismatic, yet wasn't able to fool enough of the people all of the time to have any impact.

Maybe I just don't share your vision of how this "critical mass" is supposed to explode, even presuming a very large number of determindly anonymous people come to some dangerous agreement. What mechanism do you propose might be used?

-- Flint (, April 10, 2000.


I'd have to agree with the "full-circle" guy. WHY are you worried about this? Statistics [awful liars as they sometimes are] have indicated that only about 5% of the WORLD population seeks the internet. Of that 5%, the preponderance use it to E-mail family/friends and receive wrestling information. Pornography shows up as a close second to wrestling, so one might worry more about folks forming close-knit-world-wide pornographic wrestling E-mail rings, but I think KOS is already working on that. [grin]

-- Anita (, April 10, 2000.

I have to agree with The Dog on this matter. The Internet will become the vehicle for extremist groups to spread their agendas and recruit new members. Their ability to attract the masses and mobilize will spur them into action beyond the traditional rhetoric.

-- Sifting (through@the.rubble), April 10, 2000.

Since most of the 'neo-survivalists' at TB2000 had the sense to give up their TEOTWAWKI scenarios by the fall of 1999, I wouldn't worry about them becoming a political movement.

-- (Stay@calm.everyone), April 10, 2000.


I agree and disagree. I find it difficult to see many of the old pessimists as active members of some furtive "cell" bent on wreaking havoc. On the other hand, the technology of mass destruction becomes more available with each passing day. I imagine a few motivated souls could develop a crude bioweapon using an agent like anthrax. Most of the information required is readily available... via the Internet, of course. I really don't anticipate some sort of populist uprising, Flint. I think it much more likely we would see a very small group of determined domestic terrorists. With the right "plan," a few well placed destructive attacks could be a monkey wrench in the economic machinery, n'est pas?


I am not actively worried, but just thinking out loud.

-- Ken Decker (, April 10, 2000.

I don't know how many people are seriously influenced by things on the internet at this point. Certianly, the reaction of the vast majority of the American public to Y2K would indicate that Yourdon, North, et al, had almost no impact beyond a very small circle of people.

Although I think that this is a small threat now, I wonder what might happen 25 years from now when, if projections are to be believed, 90% of Americans will have internet access? Imagine the internet having the influence that televison has now. Hmmmm........

-- Jim Cooke (, April 10, 2000.

I would echo Flint and Anita, but I'd like to point out to Flint that "charisma" is in the eye of the beholder also. For example, to me GN was a raving lunatic to avoid, would never have thought of him as charismatic. On the other hand, Yourdon, because he "seemed" to me more balanced and reasonable in his approach and and a civil intellectual in his presentation, I would characterize as charismatic. Ofcourse, that's why I swallowed his stuff hook, line and sinker. Not being enough knowledgable in his field as he is, and IT in general. I would say that for other fields, like electricity, embededs etc., I fell for the same kind of charisma, such as with Rick Cowls, Roleigh Martin, Frautschi etc.

In my instance, "a little knowledge can be dangerous" can be said to have applied.

-- Chris (!@#$, April 10, 2000.

Since my name was invoked here with the epithet "learned", I suppose I ought to check in with an opinion. Here are my main points:

So long as a fringe group remains law-abiding, it should not be a concern. I'm all for letting everyone go to hell by their own chosen path. They can even have conventions, like the UFO groups.

Ken's concern seems to be that the Internet may provide a means for a non-law-abiding group to arise out of a bunch of fragmented individuals, who might otherwise not have had the means to get together.

My best answer to this concern is that the Internet only provides an incremental increase of the chances that such a coalition of fringe elements will form. Such groups have formed in the past, using such old-fashioned methods as pamphleting, soap-box orating, and the telephone. What brings them together is ideas and ideas have always circulated, whatever the state of technology.

There is a self-limiting factor at work, too. The more extreme the group (for example, advocating bombing government buildings), the fewer potential adherents, and the more they are in the nature of a sub-rosa conspiracy rather than a political movement. And the more physically isolated the members of this group are, the less likely they are to combine for effective group action.

The more important factor, by far, is not the means of communication by which such a group might form, but the social conditions under which the group forms. In Weimar Germany society had all but collapsed under the weight of WWI and its immediate aftermath. It was this condition that allowed a group of brown-shirted thugs to become a political force, and not the mimeograph machine.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, April 10, 2000.

Ah, Brian, consider the pedophiles. How do these folks "find" one another in society? Bumper stickers? Contact in the "real world" involves risks. Geography and inherent risk have limited many asocial activities. On the Internet, however, a anonymous admirer of young boys can post a web page, advertise... and anyone with a search engine and curiousity can find it. Suddenly, those who used to lurk in the shadows have a quasi-public meeting area, a club, if you will. This online context also provides a supportive environment. No longer does the pedophile have to feel like a social outcast in his community. He can enjoy the support and "understanding" of other predators. And what do you imagine to be the end result?

-- Ken Decker (, April 10, 2000.

But consider what might happen if an influential and charismatic person reached out to the neo-survivalists. Might such a person unite this fragmented movement... and to what end?

No more than a klansman can recruit those without an axe to grind to begin with. No one person can unite them, as their paranoia will rebel against such a leader.

These lone rangers ride alone for the most part, but the internet has become a watering hole where they can drink from the same cup. Like a petty thief that gets sent to prison -- the seeds were there, and now with hard core criminals they can learn the finer points of their trade.

Extremists of any persuasion should be exposed for what they are. It's the itchy trigger fingers that are a very real threat. They are waiting for their payback on the society/government that 'dun them wrong'. People will only wait so long. They will either crack, or do the deed. You are dealing with mentally ill people here! None of us have the qualifications to diagnose or treat their illness.

The good thing about the internet is, in their congregating they reveal what is REALLY going on in their heads. Thoughts are out there for all to see. Hopefully TPTB are taking note.

expose them, don't feed them.

-- (, April 10, 2000.


-- helen (, April 10, 2000.

>> Ah Brian, consider the pedophiles. <<

OK. You describe how the pedophiles can now meet in a quasi-public place, advertise, enjoy the support and "understanding" of other predators, and so on. Then you ask:

>> And what do you imagine to be the end result? <<

Well, I do know that the result has not been gangs of roving pedophiles swaggering down the street wearing distinctive costumes.

The way I see it, pedophiles are already actuated by extremely strong motives and emotions. A great many predatory pedophiles did not wait to find a "supportive" environment on the Internet in order to act on those desires. In fact, their extreme isolation and secretiveness has probably worked in their favor in regard to being caught.

I really do not believe that having a "club" is, of itself, a dangerous act. Nor have pedophiles become less furtive or more open as a result of the Internet. Their behavior is still illegal. I have a hard time believing that the communication between pedophiles will result in signifigantly more numerous confederacies or conspiracies among them to commit illegal acts.

The mere acts of them "supporting" one another or sharing their pornography among themselves are not acts I find immediately threatening. However, I can imagine that there could be some marginal increase in boldness or in the imitation of successful techniques.

There is bound to be increased communication between criminals when a new technology is invented that increases avenues of communication generally. Look how many criminals use the telephone to increase their efficiency today. Yet, society continues to countenance the promiscuous use of telephone technology with scarcely a second thought to the nefarious goings-on that telephones make possible.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, April 10, 2000.

Leave it to someone like Decker to consider Brian McLaughlin as "learned". BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

-- What a (, April 10, 2000.


I LOVE IT! It's not often that a post results in my laughing out loud.

-- Anita (, April 10, 2000.

Brian my good fellow you are following up your unrelenting support of the homosexual lifestyle with what sounds like a sugar coat of pedophile behavior. You sound a little scary there son.

-- Sifting (through@the.rubble), April 10, 2000.

>> Brian my good fellow you are following up your unrelenting support of the homosexual lifestyle with what sounds like a "sugar coat" of pedophile behavior. <<

The answer to your insufficiently punctuated question is no. My wife was abused by a predatory pedophile when she was 4 years old. It did her enormous damage emotionally. Each and every pedophile who acts upon his or her feelings by sexually abusing a child is a criminal. It is no coincidence that pedophiles are the most reviled criminals in our prisons, shunned equally by pimps, addicts and murderers.

So, sifting, my anonymous friend -- which part of my post were you idly wondering sounded like I was sugar-coating their behavior? It would be nice to know just how you managed to derive that particular distortion of my point of view. It would tell me much about how your mind works.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, April 10, 2000.


You're acting a bit silly about this. Can a pedophile pick up the telephone and program it to find other pedophiles? You must admit, the telephone is a somewhat different technology than the Internet. First, the 'net transcends international boundaries... going to places where the rules on, for example, child pornography are much different than here. The Internet also allows a degree of anonymity not afforded by voice communications... and a quality and quantity of data heretofore not available. Prior to the Internet (or any BBS technology), it was much more difficult (and slow) for "deviants" to locate one another.

Pedophilia existed long before the Internet. The real question, how might the technology be used for nefarious purposes? And does the technology encourage or support asocial behaviors? Do you suggest the exchange of child pornography might provide some 'innocent' outlet for the budding pedophile? Or might exposure to these images, stories, etc., might actually encourage predatory behaviors?

People who engage in the most deviant of behaviors are still social animals. Most seek communities wherein they can share their interests. If one can believe a church promotes "good" behavior, surely its antithesis can promote "bad" behavior.

This is not an argument against the Internet, Brian, which is where I see you going. It is simply an acknowledgement of the darker side of this new medium. The Internet has lowered the transactional costs of interaction. This can bring both good and evil.

The printing press was a wondeful invention... but let's not forget there were a few tomes of evil along the way.

-- Ken Decker (, April 10, 2000.


Brian isn't being silly, you are. Or you're playing dense to steer discussion. Certainly the internet is a tool. The telephone analogy was excellent -- new tools permit new activities. Brian was in no way trying to say the internet is "just like" a telephone -- if it were, we'd call it a telephone!

The internet greases our access to both people and information, and places no filters to weed out bad instances of either. As an enabler of increased scope and power, technology has been an arms race between the good guys and the bad guys since the caveman's club. I don't see the the internet tipping the balance from the eternal draw anymore than any other advance. Sure, we'll have new problems and new methods of dealing with them.

You seem to view human nature through dark lenses. Why?

-- Flint (, April 10, 2000.


So many questions!

>> You must admit, the telephone is a somewhat different technology than the Internet. <<

No argument there. If it replicated the telephone, it wouldn't have caught on.

>> Prior to the Internet (or any BBS technology), it was much more difficult (and slow) for "deviants" to locate one another. <<

I suppose my point (such as it was) was that it is pointless to ask whether deviants are locating one another, but more to the point to ask what that accomplishes. Once they have located one another, do they conspire to abuse children together? Do they increase their efficiency or success rate? I can imagine that such a criminal conspiracy is possible.

But how does the availability of high-quality digital data exchange facilitate actual incidents of child sexual abuse? I just don't see the connection that clearly.

>> The real question, how might the technology be used for nefarious purposes?

How it might be used for nefarious puposes is limited only by the imagination of the criminal user. Same with screwdrivers, which can be used as weapons and for breaking and entering.

>> And does the technology encourage or support asocial behaviors? <<

What can I say? Water runs downhill. Humans run in all directions.

This is just a variation on the "guns don't kill people" argument. This technology encourages and supports the wide exchange of high-quality digital data. The data can be damn near anything.

>> Do you suggest the exchange of child pornography might provide some 'innocent' outlet for the budding pedophile?<<

No. Never crossed my mind. I simply believe the exchange of pornography is not an "immediately threatening" behavior. So, that's what I said.

>> Or might exposure to these images, stories, etc., might actually encourage predatory behaviors? <<

Perhaps. I don't know. Do you? This has been argued around and around for a long time in regard to pornography in general. Studies on the subject are many. Answers are few.

>> If one can believe a church promotes "good" behavior, surely its antithesis can promote "bad" behavior. <<

And if we agree this is true this, what do you conclude should be done as a result? Does this discussion lead anywhere?

>> This is not an argument against the Internet, Brian, which is where I see you going. It is simply an acknowledgement of the darker side of this new medium. The Internet has lowered the transactional costs of interaction. This can bring both good and evil. <<

Now that you have recast the dialogue in these non-commital terms, one is tempted to ask, so what? But what I really would like to know is slightly different:

So, what do you think, Ken?

Do you have a position on whether the Internet has brought some unique capacity to do evil into the world? Or do you think humans can turn anything to an evil purpose and the Internet is just another turn in that road?

-- Brian McLaughlin (, April 10, 2000.

>> The answer to your insufficiently punctuated question is no. <<

BTW, before sifting gets around to crowing about my mistake, I admit I misread his statement as a question. Mea culpa.

Perhaps I unconciously believed he would not be so audacious as to assert what he did, rather than merely to insinuate it. My mistake. He doesn't lack for audacity.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, April 10, 2000.

Flint and Brian,

Agreed. The Internet is a tool. It is, however, a relatively new tool... perhaps as revolutionary as the printing press. New tools, like the ability to split the atom, can be used for purposes good and evil. You two seem to take the tack... "the atom... it's like fire only bigger. Why worry?" (chuckle)

I'm not sure if we should worry... but I think we face questions worth asking. It was certainly worth asking a few questions when we were pushing the Manhatten Project to its logical conclusion.

I am undecided, but I have the sneaking hunch we haven't grasped the full power of the Internet... for good or evil purposes. And I'm a little nervous about the notion that I, and a few other bright fellows, could cook up a batch of anthrax and give a major urban area a very bad day. This is quite different than sharpening a spear a jabbing your neighbhor, young Flint. (Or using a screwdriver, Brian.)

The world, gentleman, is of static size. Our dynamic destructive capacity has far outgrown our smallish planet. With progress, all technology, including the destructive, becomes more accessible. We have suitcase nuclear warheads. How long before they fit into your ditty bag?

There have always been lunatics. For the most part, the mass of humanity has limited their destructive powers. What happens when the technology of mass destruction is easily obtained... by a terrorist, a fanatic, by a mad man?

I am not suggesting technology is good or evil. The tools are simply becoming more powerful... and I am a little concerned about who might be wielding them. As a shooter, Flint, you enjoy the right to keep and bear arms. What happens when the rifle is capable of destroying a city block? A city? A state?

I doubt the the Internet has opened some gateway to Hell. But I'd sleep a little easier if the planet were growing as fast as our technology.

-- Ken Decker (, April 10, 2000.

Free speech is good. (Not talking about sex nuts & etc.) Let all the crazies and not-so-crazies speak their piece and I'll choose who I'll listen to. Sometimes people on the 'fringe', anti-slavery, women voting, equal rights, & etc., occationally have something to contribute. Todays 'fringe' may be tommorows norm if history teaches anything.

-- brock gannon (, April 10, 2000.


Can we stop considering the pedophiles now? If we don't, I'm going to start whining and I won't stop until we get out of the car!

-- Brian McLaughlin (, April 10, 2000.

Ken and everyone who diss Brian, instead of wringing your hands idly about pedophiles on the internet, why not join and volunteer your time to the Cyber Angels Organization? It's the largest self-organized (by a group of concerned people like you) online crime fighting organization that started out 5 years ago going after pedophiles.

-- Chris (!@#$, April 10, 2000.

>>What happens when the technology of mass destruction is easily obtained... by a terrorist, a fanatic, by a mad man?<<

Why, Ken, you've become quite the technophobe. Future Shock expressed as well as any doomer. How embarassing for you.


-- LBO Grise (LBO, April 10, 2000.


So you see the internet as a library, that some nutball can use to access information of great destructive power. Yet the information available on the internet isn't greater than the information in physical libraries, albeit it takes less effort to look it up. In exchange, it tends to be a lot less accurate. The internet doesn't create new information, it merely affords simpler access.

Apparently what's troubling you is the lack of any formal information control -- there's no benevolent government creating and enforcing rules and procedures to keep sensitive or dangerous information out of irresponsible hands.

You seem more in agreement with the original American founding fathers, who set up complex procedures to make direct popular action more difficult. You'd like to see an "informational electoral college" sitting somehow between the id's urges and its overt acts. You'd certainly make the opposite decision made by Gully Foyle in Bester's book The Stars My Destination. Foyle handed the Great Unwashed an explosive rivaling the Big Bang, and detonated by nothing more than Will and Idea. One wrong thought, we're all history.

And while I lack Foyle's faith in the mature consideration of the common man, I don't fear lack of restriction on knowledge. Some will misuse it and others will suffer the consequences. Maybe a LOT of others. But right now, I don't see this great threat. Let's wait a decade or two and see what happens.

-- Flint (, April 10, 2000.

Three words on the organizational effectiveness of the Internet:



Seattle II (coming soon to a national capitol near you)


"It will be as fleeting as a cool breeze upon the back of one's neck"---Joseph I. Guillotin (1738-1814)

-- (, April 10, 2000.


I believe in free speech... but I am not so naive as to think it comes without a price.




We were using pedophiles as an example. Thanks for sharing about the charity.


There are real threats "out there." Y2K just didn't happen to be one them. If you predict a storm every day, Grise, an occasional rain doesn't make you a good weatherman.


Actually, the Internet is a synergy of information and interaction. You'd hardly walk into a room in the local library and find a meeting of the anarchist's club. Information is only part of the equation. Motivation is an important element. People made life changing decisions based on lunatics like Paul Milne. Intelligent people like Steve Heller were utterly fooled about Y2K... and belligerent about it. (chuckle) It gives me pause.

Your assumption about information control is incorrect. For example, I oppose gun control... however I realize the "collateral damage" of widely available firearms. Prohibition doesn't work. Never did. Information should be free... but this "freedom" comes with a price. And perhaps this price will grow higher with time.

I see the technology of destruction becoming smaller, cheaper, easier. The power once wielded by nations, will be held by individuals. The Internet is simply another force making this happen. I'm not not sure I want to pick up the check when they drop it at my table.

-- Ken Decker (, April 10, 2000.


Your post is somewhat cryptic, and could be interpreted in different ways. Care to cast a bit more illumination?

-- flora (***@__._), April 11, 2000.


I think Hallyx is referring to the WTO riots in Seattle. The police were badly out-manned by the protesters, and admitted as much in a recent public report. The activists conducted almost all their preliminary organization via the Internet, and during the WTO proceedings itself, they worked via cell phones and email updates. People were mobilized via the internet all over the world, and came to Seattle from several diverse nations to participate.

It is almost solely due to Internet technology that the protesters were so successful in their stated aim to shut down the WTO conference. The Internet effectively propelled a large city into complete disarray.

-- Celia Thaxter (, April 11, 2000.


Thanks for your input and clarification. I remember appreciating your reflections on the events in Seattle.

I must admit {sheepishly} that this is the first I think I've been aware of the acronym MAI. The cohesiveness and training must be impressive within this group. It was my impression that there were several different groups protesting that event, am I mistaken?


I think I'm really interested to know how the term fringe might've tripped off your response.

And for a possibly dumb, yet sincere question:

Was the thug or anarchy factor overplayed by the media?

-- flora (***@__._), April 11, 2000.

>>There are real threats "out there." Y2K just didn't happen to be one them.<<

That must depend on your personal definition of "real threat," Ken. Y2K just didn't *turn out* to be one of them. Prior to the event, it was nonetheless a threat. No one knows the future.

>> If you predict a storm every day, Grise, an occasional rain doesn't make you a good weatherman.<<

What on earth is this supposed to mean? You seem to be the one doing the predicting, the implication being that your doomsday scenarios are inevitable. Doesn't that make you the weatherman?


-- LBO Grise (LBO, April 11, 2000.


I should have clarified. The "threat" of Y2K was greatly exagerated for a wide range of reasons. Reasonable analysis indicated the probability of catastrophe was exceedingly small. Anticipating your response, the State Department and CIA analyses were not reasonable. They were CYA reports.

Y2K was a one-time event. The threats I suggest on this thread are much more diverse and constant. Of course, the probability of a terrorist bioweapon attack is still quite small... at least at any one point in time. What I am asking on this thread; does the emergence of the Internet change the probability of some of these threats.

Sorry about the poetic digression. My comment was meant for the Club of Rome types who ALWAYS predict doomsday. They just change the reasons. Gary North is a good example. I am not predicting doomsday... but simply expressing a concern about the static size of our world and the increasing size (and availability) of destructive capacity.

-- Ken Decker (, April 11, 2000.


After some more thought, my sense is that the internet *will* change those probabilities, for the better. In general, communication is a good thing and better communication is a better thing. No, we're not likely to decrease or destructive ability unless we drop the big one. But I view the internet as likely to produce much more good than harm, and I look forward to it. Of course, as you probably know, I'm an advocate of arming everyone (*with* training, from an early age). I consider it a bad tradeoff to characterize any technology by focusing on possible abuse by the lowest common denominator. As the Old Italian said in Catch 22, better to live on your feet than die on your knees.

-- Flint (, April 11, 2000.

Sorry, Flora, about being cryptic. I was shooting for terse or pithy. I guess I overshot.

The MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments MAI) was a rather complicated attempt by international financial and corporate interests to unburden themselves of any government control or supervision. They, themselves, credit the Internet as having been a valuable tool of their opposition in preventing it from being consumated. Of course, most of the MAI protocols were then bundled together under the umbrella of the WTO.

I can only infer that Ms. Thaxter is a major corporate investor. How else account for her bitter little rodomantade which I would here like to restate from a Peoples' point of view:

I think Hallyx is referring to the WTO protests in Seattle. The peaceful protestors were badly outgunned and outgassed, and brutallised by the police, who admitted their lack of preparation and its resultant over-reaction in a recent public report. The activists conducted almost all their preliminary organization via the Internet... It is almost solely due to Internet technology that the protesters were so successful in their stated aim to shut down the WTO conference.

Just as it was solely due to the telephone and the US Post that protestors were so successful in organising against the Vietnam war. Just as it was solely due to mounted couriers and homing pigeons that the protestors were able to win their freedom in 1776.

As to the media portrayal of the small number of anachists and their behavior, "If it bleeds it leads." You aren't naive enough expect an accurate presentation from the American media.

Of course I was attracted to this thread by the word "fringe." I've always been one. How about you?


"Whenever you find you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform." ---Mark Twain

-- (, April 12, 2000.


Thanks for the response. I figured that I was missing puzzle pieces, and appreciate the clarity.

As for the fringe factor - 'fraid so.

OT for this thread: I caught a brief exchange between you & the Flintster last night. My 'better half' is an avid sci fi buff, as are several friends. I can't for the life of me see how we'll survive long enough as organisms to make life 'out there'a reality. Must be the doomy gal in me, or you guys know {or hope} much more than I do. Think I belong back at the wacky time thread.

-- flora (***@__._), April 12, 2000.


Hallyx missed the memo about the 60s being over. I believe the affectation of capitalizing "people" ended then... at least domestically. I note, with some irony, the folks most intent on praising the proletariat have never done an honest day's labor. I doubt we could find a callous on Hally's hands... lest it be from turning pages of pre '48 Marx. (chuckle)

You belong in a modern Bloomsbury Group, where the intellectual effete prance and mince and pontificate about the teeming masses... all while enjoying the fruits of modern capitalist economy. Do me a favor, Hallyx... come down from Olympus and share with us your economic theories. Explain how the "People" can shape your Brave New World. I'll light some incense and wait for you....

-- Ken Decker (, April 12, 2000.

This sounds like Ken is challenging Hallyx to defend her position against the WTO, and for freespeech. I hope Hallyx takes it, but I hope she doesn't bite to Ken's hardballing.

-- Thinking out loud (, April 12, 2000.


Im afraid you are quite mistaken. I was on the streets during the WTO riots and barely missed being directly gassed myself. My own neighborhood (Capitol Hill) turned into a miniature war zone the following evening when police helicopters incessantly flew over our apartments from 7 p.m. until well after 3 a.m., and when exhausted and angry cops shot rubber bullets at pedestrians and sprayed tear gas that wafted into the living rooms of my peaceful neighbors.

As for the Internet, the protesters publicly stated that they relied upon it to mobilize and organize. I am simply repeating what they themselves reported.

You clearly have no idea what my friends and I experienced those few days when our city shut down early every night and people were denied the right to peaceably assemble. Your breezy assumptions about my personal politics might be offensive if they werent simply ignorant.

-- Celia Thaxter (, April 12, 2000.


I am not sure Hallyx has a "position" on the WTO. It seems more like he/she has simply chosen to take some pot shots at Ms. Thaxter using the usual double-talk of the radical left. As for the free speech issue, I have no problem with everyone from the religious right to wild-eyed Marxists exercising this liberty and assembling in a peaceful manner. Ransacking the local Starbuck's is not free speech or peaceful assembly.

Ms. Thaxter,

You are wise not to take offense at Hallyx. His/her glib comments are the product of theory absent any real experience. To him/her, the WTO disruptions are something for a coffee house debate with other prima donna intellectuals. For you, it was reality.

-- Ken Decker (, April 12, 2000.

Millions of people sleep hungry every night because of the depredations of the WTO and IMF, and Ms. Thaxter whines about a whiff of pepper spray and that she can't visit her local Starbuck's...poooorrr baby.

It is embarrassing to watch a fervid fundamentalist economist, red-eyed and drooling onto his keyboard. So I must once again renew a promise made last year not to post to any of Master Decker's threads. I would appreciate reciprocal courtesy from him.


"Capitalism is the system of accounting that does not account for social costs."--- Carl Quigley

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." ---Thomas Jefferson

-- (, April 13, 2000.

If we can perhaps sidestep the Ken/Hallyx debate for a moment (BTW, Hallyx, I enjoy your posts to Jay's energy list), Ken raises an interesting view of the role of the internet. It seems to me that every major social change -- women's vote, US revolution, civil rights, even the Reagan Revolution and the personal computer -- has arisen from the edge, the fringe that Ken speaks of. The internet allows isolated member sof the fringe, whether they be Goth teens or raving racsists, to communicate, develop their philosophies, and recruit new members far more effectively than at any time in the past. The Committees of Correspondence and Ben Franklin's postal service helped create the American Revolution. Those were fringe groups that, at any time before the postal service, would have remained ineffective local characters muttering in individual tavern corners from Boston to Georgia. As a modern example, the Libertarian Party owes a huge part of its current growth (and it is growing by leaps and bounds) to its internet presence Q and substantive change IMO comes from the edge toward the center, almost never vice versa.

Ken, you raise the image of a more violent result of internet communication, and I would say that is a distinct, though low-probability, possibility. A leader who, for example, combined GN's fanaticism and web savvy with EY's reputation and intelligence in a fringe movement that didn't have a definite (Y2K) deadline would be far more influential today than at any time in the past. And the odds only go up as we move into an increasingly wired future.

This rambling is rather more confused than I like to offer, but Ken raises a large question with a lot of different aspects to it. Perhaps we need a couple of different threads to explore them.

-- Cash (, April 13, 2000.


Thanks for rescuing the conversation... and I think we'll see more threads on the subject.


Please... your posts and your Malthusian web site make me chuckle. I find you an entertaining character. I'm sure you admire the antics of the faux radicals at the WTO. I doubt we'll see any further meetings within driving distance of Eugene, OR or Amherst, MA. (chuckle) Bottom line: The disruptions made no difference in the world economy.

In the mean time, Hally, I don't mind if you avoid my threads. As for yours, I only occasionally find one worth commenting on... though your web site is a rich source. Some days, I just enjoy the irony of your use of tools and medium provided by the terrible capitalistic system. It wasn't a Marxist that designed your PC... or an anarchist who built the software. Radicals did not create your ISP nor did a socialist government regulate the 'net.

Escape now, Hally. Turn your back on the evils of modern society and return to a primitive tribal lifestyle. After all, it was you who thought life was not "nasty, brutish and short." Since you seem quite convinced the world is disintegrating... why not enjoy your remaining days far from the corrupting influences of capitalism? I would be delighted for you to experience the life you so idealize, arms deep into the soil of Mother Earth. Spending this time on the 'net amusing me will only keep you from perfect oneness with Gaia, higher levels of consciousness and actualization. Or, if you have more neo-Marxist leanings, just live a good, sound factory worker life with the Proles... bending an elbow at the local pub after eight hours of canning fish or assembling cars. Join the struggle! I'm sure the great unwashed have been deprived of your presence too long. (laughter)

-- Ken Decker (, April 13, 2000.

Really Decker, how do you really feel?

Observing your derogatory style with women (me and Hallyx in particular) is revealing. Your slip is showing, Kenny

Cash, you make an interesting observation. Paraphrasing Andy Ray on another thread who just pointed out again, as he's done many times in the past, that "doomers can be explained by one word: meme"

Definition of meme: Etymology: alteration of mimeme, from mim- (as in mimesis) + -eme

: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture

Perhaps there is validity to the fact that the internet enables fringe groups and fosters the rapid spread of their "meme".

But then again it all depends on one's views as to what is considered "fringe", "extremism", or good for society. Take your mention of the Libetarian Party for example. Who is qualified on this forum to say that it is "fringe" and "dangerous"? If the Libetarians gain more popularity and endorsement because of the internet, is that neccessarily a bad thing? Could it not mean that the "masses" are becoming more enlightened as to the philosophies of life in general and the philosophies of each major political party? (These are purely philosophical questions, I am not involved in American politics, I'm not a citizen.)

-- Chris (!@#$, April 13, 2000.


You flaunt your ignorance by trivializing what was an extremely frightening and distressing experience to the people of my city. If you don't think it was traumatizing, come to my neighborhood and talk to the people who had to endure it. I'll introduce you to plenty of folks who were sweeping rubber bullets off the sideswalks in front of their homes and businesses the next morning while inhaling the residual stench of tear gas.

Tell you what, Hallyx. If your backyard is ever run over with police helicoptors, fire-setting youths, and out-of-control cops, give me a call, and I'll return the favor by characterizing how you felt about it in painfully stupid political bromides.

-- Celia Thaxter (, April 13, 2000.


I do not know that you or Hallyx are women... and to me, it makes absolutely no difference. Talk about projection... (laughter)

-- Ken Decker (, April 13, 2000.


rollin' on the floor...

The Dog

-- The Dog (, April 13, 2000.

Chris, I don't think I meant to describe the Libtertarian movement as extreme or dangerous, and if you interpreted my earlier post that way I apologize for clumsy phrasing. Given my own neo-Libertarian leanings, that would be the farthest from my mind.

I cite Libertarianism as an example of a "fringe" (meaning outside the mainstream) political movement that has taken much of its energy from its 'net presence. The Green Party in the US might also be seen as an example, altho I think it's fair to say they haven't been able to capitalize on it as much given their propensity for creative disorganization. Even Hallyx, with her web site and her postings here and elsewhere, has certainly been able to reach more people and communicate her beliefs than would have been possible even ten years ago pre-net.

I think an argument can be made that the internet will allow an increasing number of groups once considered marginal to grow and acquire influence (note I did not say power). Libertarianism likely will never become a major political force in the US, but the traditional purpose of third parties hasn't been to supplant the Ds or Rs. Rather, they influence the major parties to adopt some of their ideas. And I use politics only as an example here -- the same dynamic could apply in other areas. As I said earlier, real change and new ideas overwhelmingly flow from the edge to the center in society, and I think the web will increase that phenomenon in both numbers and speed.

-- Cash (, April 13, 2000.

I had been meaning to post something on this thread.

Take a look at and see what they think about fringe groups and the internet. They are The Southern Poverty Law Center.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), April 20, 2000.

Future -

Actually, is the "Student Press Law Center". Southern Poverty Law Center (home of "We define hate as anything we fundamentally disagree with") is at

By the bye, if you are a White (or even beige) male who identifies yourself as a Christian and has expressed profound disappointment with what America has become in the past 20 years, SPLC classifies you as a likely member of a "hate group". Jeez, and here I thought I was just concerned about the fact that my kids can't attend school without fear of getting mugged. Who knew?

-- DeeEmBee (, April 20, 2000.

Wow, was I out to lunch on that url! Sorry.


perhaps you have given this organization more thought than me. I just remembered reading something about the atmospheric rise in h ate groups, and how the internet has accelerated this rise.

In all earnestness, could you give me a sample of a misclassification that they have done? I would really like to know. I thought this org was one of the good guys. Oh well.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), April 20, 2000.

Future -

I was being a bit facetious, though I do get a bit weary of the facile way in which the label of "hate" is being used as a blunt instrument to eliminate debate. SPLC has done much good, but they too often err on the side of 60's-style rad-lib orthodoxy for my taste.

Re labelling:

Here are a few quotes from SPLC's brochure, False Patriots - The Threat of Antigovernment Extremists:

The Patriot movement is a potpourri of the American right, from members of the Christian Coalition to the Ku Klux Klan - people united by their hatred of the federal government.


Patriots come from all regions of the country and all walks of life. Among them are real estate agents, preachers, commodities traders, elk ranchers, electricians, and retired military officers. They include tax protesters, millennialists, survivalists, Populists, Freemen, constitutionalists, neo-Nazis, skinheads, Klansmen, Identity believers, Christian reconstructionists, secessionists, militant abortion foes, radical anti-environmentalists, and gun enthusiasts.

They all share a few characteristics: they are overwhelmingly white, almost entirely self-described Christians, and predominately male. And they are bitterly disappointed in what America has become.


They express their disappointment in a variety of ways. They might study the Articles of Confederation, practice wilderness survival skills, school their children at home, refuse to pay income taxes, collect weapons, or practice guerrilla warfare. They are voracious readers who use mail-ordered books and Internet discussions to immerse themselves in arcane theology, conspiracy theories, explosives chemistry or common law.

Interesting, no? Being active in the Christian Coalition, survivalist, homeschooling, and/or "radical anti-environmentalist" (whatever that is) movements may get you labelled as a potential Patriot and a member of a "hate group".

Consider those stats you mentioned about the increase in membership in "hate groups. If one continually broadens the definition of "hate group", membership almost by definition increases.

-- DeeEmBee (, April 21, 2000.


How's this for a scary definition of a hate group?

They are voracious readers


-- Someone (, April 21, 2000.

This is the kind of PC BULLSHIT that turns my guts sour.Yea I guess they should ALL be afraid of the fringe if this is their line of thinking,it includes allmost all of the citizens of the US.

What they better hope is that when they start imposing their belief system on the rest of us,is that we are not pissed or armed.

-- capnfun (, April 21, 2000.

I just realized that by posting those critical remarks about the SPLC, I'm now likely to get labelled as a member of a "hate group." Darn, and here I was so looking forward to getting a Christmas card (sorry, Winter Holiday card) from "People for the American Way".

Wait a second! We're all using the Internet right now to "immerse" ourselves in what-they-said. Now we're ALL in for it!

Ken, you started this. I expect you to send the SPLC an urgent communique informing them that this discussion is all in fun and we're all just kidding around and we're really very, very nice folks and we wouldn't dream of criticizing the gubmint and so forth. You're a far better writer than me, so I'm sure you'll be able to allay their concerns without too much trouble.

Woody Allen's advice to paranoids: "About those people who are following you around: try to think of them as talent scouts."

-- DeeEmBee (, April 21, 2000.


YOU, a member of hate group? Naw, ROFLMAO....

-- consumer (, April 21, 2000.

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