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L'Ordre

L'Ordre

Is “Internet” spelled with a capital “I”?

posted by Harry J. Bentham

La première maxime de votre politique doit être qu’on conduit le peuple par la raison, et les ennemis du peuple par la terreur

The first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people’s enemies by terror

Robespierre


Should we be capitalizing the word “Internet” in our writing?

Could the Internet be seen as a place, or even as a body of people?

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Wikipedia has an informative article on this subject, notably explaining that a number of noted publications including The New York Times capitalize the word.

In actual fact, as explained by the Wikipedia article, the word Internet used to be capitalized by everyone – which seems an odd fact in itself because the idea of a single global Internet must have arisen after the practice of using computers to create “an internet” emerged. The article states as its only comparative case study that the Internet is much like other popular communication media, such as “telephone”, which was once apparently capitalized in many publications.

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I believe the Internet is more significant than other technologies like the telephone, and I believe that whether or not we capitalize the word is a much deeper question than it at first appears to be. I began capitalizing the word Internet after reading two of Julian Assange’s books and following the drama of Edward Snowden’s disclosures. The idea that Edward Snowden was motivated by a perception of the Internet as his home – not as a mere utility but as a place (and a sacrosanct one) – and Julian Assange’s revolutionary claims that the Internet is giving rise to a new demos or body politic transcending national borders – raise, for me at least, the idea that we should address the Internet as a place, with at least the same respect that we might show towards a sovereign state.

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On this point, however, I should note that Julian Assange himself does not bother to capitalize the word Internet, and yet I consciously decided to start capitalizing the word based on what I read into a theory largely preached by him. In Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide, which talks at length about Edward Snowden’s philosophy and the ethos of the Internet, Greenwald does in fact capitalize the word Internet, all the while showing a reverent attitude towards it, much as I believe it deserves.

I would also like to point out while we are on Beliefnet, that similar ambiguities exist about spiritual or metaphysical spaces, as we find about the Internet or the “space” of (C)yberspace. Should heaven be spelled with a capital? The King James’ Bible would seem to disagree. Its very first verse claims that God created no Heaven, but “the heavens” (we now know that as space).

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In fact, the Bible is ambiguous about whether there is a heaven at all, often speaking of “heavens” or suggesting that the word is not a supernatural reference but purely a reference to the “skies” (should it be “sky”, or perhaps “the Sky” at that?) just as it often is in everyday discourse. Hell is similarly undefined. Whether there are hells, or a single physical realm known as Hell, has never really been confirmed within the Christian religion. It is also possible that hells does not refer to anything other than its everyday usage as the states of torment that we humans bring upon ourselves while we are still alive, or the torments of conscience that gnaw upon a guilty person.

In my own view, the Internet should be capitalized, and the word “the” should be placed before it wherever possible. The Internet should be capitalized because the people on the Internet are a polity or a body politic. They are “netizens” or citizens of the Internet. Many have spoken of citizens of the world, but  no technology has made such a notion more factual than the Internet. Save for “the World”, or “Humanity”, these terms being capitalized for the same reasons in this context of human wholeness, there is scarcely any other label that can be used to represent the people and their interests than making reference to the Internet, capitalized.

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Whether this reasoning is sufficient for us will be proven in whether or not others choose to capitalize the Internet themselves, or continue to risk trivializing the single greatest revolution in human communication and encounter by reducing it to a mere utility like the telephone. The Internet is a place, as real as any library or hall of power you have ever passed through.


By Harry J. Bentham

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My work at Press TV: the end?

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Il vaut mieux hasarder de sauver un coupable que de condamner un innocent.

It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.

Voltaire


To terminate any potential speculation about my reasons for no longer contributing monthly articles to Press TV’s website, I have decided to make the following post explaining my actual reasons.

My thumbnail from Press TV, more or less

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I continue to admire the work of the Iranian government-funded channel Press TV. My reasons for no longer contributing monthly op-eds there are personal and not political, and are connected with my career and oaths I have taken that are inappropriate to discuss in public via blog posts.

As a foreign government-funded outlet, Press TV is a less appropriate place for me to publish my opinions than this eminent space of mine, the L’Ordre blog, at Beliefnet. The degree of autonomy that I have as an author here, not subject to any editorial process, is liberating and more appropriate for my own purposes than a column at a particular news outlet associated with a particular government.

It is not that I hold anything against the Iranian government, indeed I still tune in to Press TV’s streams and I celebrate Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) efforts to amplify the voices of dissidents and targeted, maligned or marginalized thinkers and ethnic minorities in the morally and democratically stunted regimes of the Islamophobic West. However, I believe the Internet is a sufficient counterweight to hegemony in its own right, a kind of superpower. Hence, the same purpose of amplifying dissident voices in the West is adequately accomplished through the hub of existing Western-based dissident outlets, some of whom I have written for, albeit that in many cases they opportunistically cooperate and deal with foreign news agencies in order to amplify their message (who wouldn’t?).

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I confess that I now believe that Western-based dissident outlets, as well as other predominantly Western circles that I am helping to strengthen in my own online dealings, present an opportunity for grand campaigns against injustice within the West that will not be apparently contingent on Russian, Iranian or other external blessing (which fuels wild speculations about foreign plots). Too often, journalists and bloggers in the pay of Russian or Iranian outlets are simply dismissed as propagandists, hacks or professional liars by more respected and richer professional liars of the day. Those who are most resilient against such accusations are people like Glenn Greenwald, who actually hasn’t worked for foreign channels and yet is one of the most prominent journalistic critics of US and Western foreign policy. By that same advice, I as a blogger should avoid being seen to work for foreign or non-Western organizations, as such avoidance in fact amplifies my own message and credibility.

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Those who hurled the accusations that bloggers such as I were working for the Russians, the Iranians, the Chinese, the Martians, et cetera, will come to regret it. By driving me away from foreign outlets, they have only strengthened my own hand on the blogosphere. They might have been better advised to encourage their critics to associate themselves with foreign regimes and agents, rather than discouraging such association.

For some weeks now, I have been trying to depoliticize my trail on the Internet. As I did so, I began to realize that depoliticizing has its own merits that go beyond my mere career reasons to make such revisions. The bulk of commentary on the Internet is critical of all ideologies and states and it would be foolish to tie oneself to any one of them, as such association would only create avenues of vulnerability to what we call trolling.

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For years, I associated my contributions to online media outlets, including those addressing scientific, cultural, ethical and technological subjects, with a form of online activism or hacktivism, as some have called it. However, I now believe that such terms as “hacktivism” are not appropriate in themselves because, for all its alleged faults as a breeding ground for fringe political opinions, the Internet is essentially apolitical and should remain thus. Those who engage in “hacktivism” are not fanatics driven by ideology but simply angered netizens. They could be any one of us, perhaps working for any regime, including the regimes they are attacking.

Groups that have emerged from the culture of the Internet, the most notable of which is the collective known as Anonymous, have no political agenda, no ideology, and no plan to govern any state. Ubiquity is the only characteristic that such groups claim to possess, and any loyal devotee of the “cause” of the Internet would realize that this, rather than any form of partisanship, is an essential cultural and social attribute of the Internet as an emerging technology.

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So, to crush the conspiracy theories before they begin, I have not defected from supporting Iran. I still consider Iran to be a legitimate power and have no desire to harm them or undermine the dissident causes that they encourage sympathy for within the West. I simply do not write for them anymore, for my own professional reasons, although I encourage all to continue visiting their website presstv.ir.


By Harry J. Bentham

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To master the Internet, to master nothing

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Il n’appartient, qu’aux tyrans d’être toujours en crainte.

None but tyrants have any business to be afraid.

Hardouin de Péréfixe


Has the US government managed to “master the Internet”, their favorite way of referring to hoovering up every item of information on the web?

As Glenn Greenwald explains in his book No Place to Hide, the unrelenting spying on the Internet has not made anyone safer from terrorism, having played no role in preventing any terrorist attack, and actually just wastes a lot of time and money for government employees examining irrelevant data. However, the real rationale of such spying is actually less about making people safe than about thwarting meaningful opposition to government (p. 177).

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As I quoted in an earlier post, the goal of “mastering” the Internet is based on the formulation that the Internet is a “threat” to existing nation-states. It is very perceptive of regimes to have made this identification, and good for their safety that they made it earlier on rather than waiting until it was too late. However, as I have also noted, only the security services have actually “mastered” the Internet, while the political classes are still dismally behind in that regard.

It is also telling that those who most often defend the actions of the National Security Agency (NSA) and attack Edward Snowden for exposing their treatment of the world’s Internet users as the enemy are typically those of us who know nothing about the Internet. Opinions among the younger generation, the generation of the Internet, those who consider it sacrosanct, are profusely in favor of Edward Snowden and against the NSA. I suspect that this polarization is as true among political figures as it is in the general public.

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The battle lines on this issue are overwhelmingly between those who are young and who appreciate and understand the Internet as part of a democratic political culture and those who are part of an older generation that feels threatened by new ideas and inventions. It is a division that has appeared before, and almost always concludes with the victory of the younger and more liberal generation.

Those who proclaim to have “mastered” the Internet have failed the most basic test of history. They have failed to master anything. What they do not understand is that the Internet is bigger than them and beyond their capacity to control, such that they can obtain nothing more than illusions of control by trying to conquer and pacify it. Short of actually switching off the Internet, the United States has no capability to prevent it becoming the greatest publishing medium of anti-Americanism and the greatest counterweight to American power that has even been witnessed. And the Internet has already created another generation and another body politic that now exists in its own right and cannot simply be switched off.

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The goal of “mastering the Internet” is a goal that will end in mastering nothing. It is less driven by sound security thinking than a sense of national embarrassment felt by America’s leadership that they helped bring into existence yet another tool that is now effectively used to mobilize anti-American sentiment.

American leaders are motivated by delusions of spreading “freedom” that don’t align with the actual actions of their regime to suppress freedom around the world. The result is that they preach and advocate the very same technologies that they later have to think of ways to “master”. American leaders talk of nothing but toppling repressive regimes, but their own regime reeks of repression as it tries to balance its own monstrous, grotesque weight on its strained tiptoes. Incompetence and a deeply unstable relationship between government and the governed thus becomes the price, as hypocrisy is not merely ingrained in American speech but translates into policy that can only be called schizophrenic, based on contradictory claims about America’s role in the world as both the greatest guarantor and the greatest “controller” of our freedom.

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Since it rose to a position of super-power prominence by accident in 1945, the United States has stumbled throughout the world, repeatedly tying its own shoelaces together, saying one thing and doing another, emptily preaching peace and liberty while spreading wanton destruction. There is not a single calamity, terror or defeat that came upon the United States, from the debacle of the Vietnam War to the 9/11 attacks, that was not created by the United States and provoked upon itself. To people who understand its history for what it really is, there is little surprise that the US has spent billions of dollars trying to “master” a technology that it created and spread in the first place. It is little different than the confused thinking that led the United States to pump money into Islamist terrorist groups as a way of thwarting the advance of Soviet influence in the Middle East and Asia in the Cold War, only to later have to fight the same terrorists they supported.

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The enemies of the United States need do very little to eliminate this bumbling and inept regime, but wait for it to once again and finally fall to its death in a hole it dug for itself.


By Harry J. Bentham

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Should Julian Assange face “justice”?

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Tyran, descends du trône et fais place à ton maître.

Tyrant, step from the throne, and give place to thy master.

Pierre Corneille


I won’t acknowledge and certainly won’t discuss the criminal accusations against Julian Assange. The true criminal in this instance is the accuser.

Anyone stupid enough to think Assange has actually committed a crime should hang his head in shame. You are a dog, a slave, a puppet, a fool. You are utterly, deplorably, insane.

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Yes, more interesting than the details of any charges accusations against Assange, is the fact that they were invented for the sole purpose of arresting a dissident. It is a story that has been heard so many times that I don’t know why everyone can’t recognize this farce immediately. Dissident criticizes government, dissident suddenly has some strange and elusive criminal charges like embezzlement or sexual assault to answer for.

Should we, even for a brief moment, overlook our scumbag politicians – who consorted with pedophiles and tried to cover up their crimes – and instead look at the supposed moral deviations of one dissident who tried to subject them to greater scrutiny? If someone accuses a top politician of being the pedophile he is, the result will be libel charges being brought against the accuser. If some liar accuses of Assange of rape, the result is a case being brought against Assange.

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In reality, the only ones who deserve to be on trial are not Assange but his accusers and, ultimately, the regime that has fabricated this case against an innocent man. They are, each and every one of them, liars, fabricators, and vicious enemies of democracy who deserve to suffocate in their own filth and hypocrisy just for consenting to be part of this offensive spectacle.

Many people have long suspected that criminal charges are fabricated by regimes in order to attack dissidents, with the usual charges being embezzlement or sexual crimes of some sort (we are told that such fabrication is obviously the case when the person in question is Alexei Navalny, with the offending regime being Putin’s Russia). What they fail to realize is that the most effective regime at this kind of repression is the United States, and that European countries are so servile that they will go along with whatever fabrication, repression, and mockery of justice that an incompetent and failing regime is demanding. It is likely that this atrocious slavery results because they are under as much tyrannical pressure from this US regime as its own citizens are.

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Denounced in Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide are the farcical and outrageous arguments made against Julian Assange by both journalists and government officials. Many people today foolishly believe that the accusations of a sexual offense made against Julian Assange are a separate affair from his publishing. But the truth is exposed, ironically, by the very disclosures by Edward Snowden that were a vindication of all that Assange had said and done. The charges against Assange had nothing to do with sex offenses and were pushed by the US long before he had been accused of anything specific, as the US was already telling its European allies to look for any arbitrary excuse to lock Assange away because his publishing embarrassed and threatened their regime (p. 188).

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Further, a state capable of fabricating anything, and under punishing orders by a monstrous and violent regime to fabricate anything, will fabricate anything to imprison or exile dissidents. The US is exactly such a regime, as is exposed by further information made available by Edward Snowden explaining the tactics available to the rogue security services to arbitrarily attack or destroy anyone (and almost never a single terrorist) that they have a grudge against.

The rationale of total surveillance has always been about stifling democratic processes and effective opposition (p. 177) as the rationale of total fabrication is to arbitrarily arresting anyone for having a dissenting opinion. Neither the prevention of terrorist acts or the desire to ensure justice are part of that rationale.

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The only thing anyone has to do to be blacklisted as a “threat” by the current repressive regimes of the West is to have a dissenting opinion. We are brainwashed by a servile and lower-than-scum media to believe that anyone who defies authority by leaking embarrassing information on public officials must be psychologically unstable or strange, but the opposite is true. The promiscuous courtiers of power who appear on television shows are servile to an incompetent regime, and this fact alone makes them insane (p. 230).


By Harry J. Bentham

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