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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: anarchism, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. WikiLeaks, Anarchism, and the State

By Elvin Lim


WikiLeaks affirms on its website that “democracy and transparency go hand in hand.” This may be true in the abstract, but in the world in which we live, it is not, because the only democracies we know of operate within the confines of the nation-state, and nation-states are not comfortable with transparency. That is why the campaign by the nation-states of the world to shut the site down is proceeding with such ferocity.

Individuals – at least those who live in states committed to the rule of law – enjoy a presumptive respect for our privacy. There is no reason why anyone or any institution should have access to details of our private life. We do not owe anyone a transparent account of our lives.

WikiLeaks believes that nation-states should not enjoy a similar presumption because it believes that under the cover of secrecy, states are more likely than not to engage in nefarious activity. WikiLeaks rejects the “need-to-know” operational norm of the nation-state because it rejects its monopolization of the legitimate use of force and therefore its monopolization of the legitimate use of information.

And this is the disagreement between anarchists and realists. Realists believe that nation-states are the way to run what would otherwise be an even more anarchic world. If it weren’t the American, German or any other government dealing with each other, it would be multinational corporations, sub-national groups, and transnational organizations (some of which are terrorist groups) determining the agenda and contours of global politics. Realists assume that the disorder between entities other than nation-states would far exceed the disorder between nation-states. Anarchists believe that the disorder between nation-states – most notably, war – is the source of global friction, not its solution.

The anarchism of Julian Assange (WikiLeaks’ public face) is not so far removed from other strands of anti-statism. Assange rejects all nation-states in a plenary fashion. The American Tea Party movement does not challenge the American nation, but it does reject the American state when its focus is directed internally (rather than externally). Like Assange, the movement believes that whereas individuals do not owe to others a duty to be transparent about ourselves, states owe a duty of transparency to those who are burdened by their authority. Osama Bin Laden rejects only Western nation-states and their support of the Jewish nation-state, but he is no anarchist because he wants to create a Palestinian state. Bin Laden believes in transparency too – just not his own. The interesting point that emerges from these comparisons is that whereas the anarchist is universally and without exception against the state (and believes that all nation-states, if they exist, should be transparent in their dealings with each other), both non-state actors like Al Qaeda and sub-state actors, like the Tea Party movement, are only selectively in support of the state and the virtue of transparency when they further their perceived interests but not otherwise.

What the last three examples force is a question that will come under increasing scrutiny in the decades to come: under what conditions do we need the state? Reasonable people can and will disagree, but what is clear is that very few people are completely against the state without reservation or exceptions. Anarchists, like all purists, are a lonely b

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2. Readercon Reflections

Readercon 21 was, for me, exciting and stimulating, though this year in particular it felt like I only had a few minutes to talk with everybody I wanted to talk with.  I think part of this is a result of my now living in New Hampshire rather than New Jersey, so I just don't see a lot of folks from the writing, publishing, and reading worlds much anymore.

Before I get into some thoughts on some panels and discussions, some pictures: Ellen Datlow's and Tempest Bradford's.  Tempest asked everybody to make a sad face for her, not because Readercon was a sad con (just the opposite!), but because it's fun to have people make sad faces.  The iconic picture from the weekend for me, though, is Ellen's photo of Liz Hand's back.  I covet Liz's shirt.

And now for some only vaguely coherent thoughts on some of the panels...

I actually missed my own first panel, "Interstitial Then, Genre Now", with John Clute, Michael Dirda, Peter Dube, and Dora Goss, because the battery in my car died because of absent-mindedness on my part the night before.  Luckily, I have a car battery charger, but charging took just long enough to make it so there was no physical way I could get to Burlington, MA in time for the panel.  (Andrew Liptak wrote a recap for Tor.com.)


My Saturday panel, "The Secret History of The Secret History of Science Fiction", with Kathryn Cramer, Alexander Jablokov, John Kessel, Jacob Weisman, and Gary K. Wolfe went pretty well, I thought, though as so often happens, it felt like it was just getting going when it was time to end.  The panel allowed John to talk about the motivations for the book, some of what he thought it accomplished, etc. -- a lot of what he said parallels what he and Jim Kelly told me when I interviewed them about the anthology.  Gary Wolfe offered probably the best line of the panel: "An anthology is, inevitably, a collection of the wrong stories."  (This, of course, from the critic's point of view!)

I'm not very good at inserting myself into conversations, so I did a lot of observing during the panel, piping up only to offer a sort of counter viewpoint from Gary's -- where Gary was in some ways agreeing with Paul Witcover's assertion that writers like T.C. Boyle are just using science fiction as "a trip to the playground".  I was hoping we'd be able to discuss this idea a bit more, but time didn't allow it.  Had it, I suppose I would have tried to say that to me the resentment of writers not routinely identified with the marketing category of "science fiction" or the community of fans, writers, and publishers that congregates under the SF umbrella -- the resentment of these writers for using the props, tropes, and moves of SF is unappealing to me for a few reasons.  It's a clubhouse mentality, one that lets folks inside the clubhouse determine what the secret password is and if anybody standing outside has the right pronunciation of that password.  It is, in other words, a purity test: are the intentions in your soul the right ones, the approved ones?  Had we had time, I would have tried to make some sort of connection between this attitude toward non-SF writers with an attitude I've seen within the field from people toward writers of a younger generation who haven't read, for instance, e

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