Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Primitive Processes on the Internet

In continuation to the previous posting, an article by Prof Robert M Young, Professor of Psychotherapy and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Sheffield, makes two insightful points:

1. "One of the most striking features of email forums... is that people can experience almost no impediment to expressing themselves — for good or ill. They can say something which they would be very unlikely to say on the phone or write in a letter, largely, I think, because it all feels as if it its happening in the head. You do not even have the other person’s voice cues; no piece of paper, envelope, stamp or trip to the post is required. Cyberspace has a fantasy quality. As a result, people say the most intimate thing and the most horrid things with considerable ease....

...It is also the case that one is in a private space and alone while writing, inside the head. No other face or voice is in the room. It can seem like reflecting, with no external consequences. People are usually unaware as they compose email postings that messages are archived by the recipient or automatically by the forum. There is no sense of a permanent record. It can all seem like passing thoughts, of no long-term consequence. A computer file does not feel like a permanent record. Even though it can be printed out its reality is experienced as virtual."


2. "...where people can be whomsoever they like. They change their genders, their degree of assertiveness, their sexual predilections at will. Anything goes... On the net it is easy to split into idealised and denigrated part-object relations... People are also much more generous and helpful on the net in scholarly matters than I have found them to be in the rest of life. On the other hand, people can project violently and utterly denigrate another or a whole forum and have tantrums...

...I think cues are important here. The coinage of email communications is the written word, usually composed quickly, often in haste. The keyboard is one’s palate. There is no eye contact; there are no nuances of intonation, no instantaneous chance to measure and correct misunderstandings, as there are in the feedback loops of face-to-face conversation or even a phonecall. There is no necessary space for reflection."

In context of the forum I was refering to, this makes a lot of sense.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Group-Think in Online Chat Groups

Internet is a great democratic medium. But I stumbled on an interesting "real"(/virtual)-life event - a particular online discussion forum - during last few days. Searching for an explanantion about what was happening in this forum (what would look to be a case of collective pathology), led to some interesting resources about what can happen in an Online Community.

Gordon Graham in his book, The Internet: A Philosophical Inquiry [see summary], makes an interesting observation about the online groups, and their "pure confluences of interest".

Graham says that the internet is a medium which enables people to seek out exclusively kindred spirits and to avoid ever being exposed to views which are contrary to their own. He claims that... "the self-made philosopher with a grand but completely vacuous 'theory of everything' will sooner or later find a coterie of people whose knowledge and critical acumen is even less, but who are willing to be impressed."

The Symptoms of Group Think are:

1) Illusion of Invulnerability
2) Belief in Inherent Morality of Group
3) Collective Rationalization
4) Stereotypes of Out-Groups
5) Self-Censorship
6) Illusion of Unanimity
7) Direct Pressure on Dissenters
8) Self-Appointed Mind-Guards

Give the nature of the self-selection in most online chat groups, these symptoms are quite likely to emerge.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Planting WMDs, So That We can Find Them

It fits to logic that you can find something, only if it has been kept there. This was one of the missing links - noone thought of keeping the WMDs in Iraq for the coalition to find!!!

So now, US seems to be doing it for itself - so that the WMDs can finally be found in Iraq.

U.S. Trucks Carrying Radioactive Materials Intercepted In Iraq-Kuwait Border

TEHRAN (MNA) -– The UAE-based daily Al-Khaleej reported on Monday that Kuwaiti tariff officials have intercepted a truck loaded with radioactive materials in the Iraq-Kuwait border.

The daily quoted informed sources as saying that the radioactive control team from Kuwait’s Health Ministry discovered that one of the trucks belonging to the U.S.-led coalition forces was carrying heavy radioactive materials trucks. The trucks were headed for Iraq.

The daily said that such materials could only enter a country when there is permission from related bodies while the materials were secretly being carried to Iraq.

Security forces stressed that no contamination had been caused by the material.

The MNA reported for the first time the coalition forces’ suspicious transfer of WMD parts from Kuwait to Southern Iraq by trucks.

The possible presence of WMD in Iraq and its likely nuclear programs were the main U.S. pretext for attacking the country.

However, their failure to find weapons of mass destruction in the country and the continuing turmoil in Iraq questioned the legitimacy of the U.S. war against Iraq and their presence in the country.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Bushido: The Way of the Armchair Warrior

[brilliant piece of satire]

"Knowledge is not important. The armchair warrior strives to attain a state beyond knowledge, a state of deep, non-knowing connection to the universe: in particular, to that portion of the universe which is rich, powerful, or related to him by blood.

The unenlightened speak of “failures of intelligence.” But the armchair warrior knows that “intelligence”—the effort of the mind to observe facts, apply reason, and reach conclusions about what is true and what ought to be done—is a delusion, making the mind turn in circles like an ass hitched to a mill. The armchair warrior feels in his hara, or gut, what ought to be done. He is like a warhorse that races into battle, pulling behind him the chariot of logic and evidence. When the people see the magnificent heedlessness of his charge, they cannot help but be carried along.

The warrior spirit resides in the hara. It is this spirit, and not any deed, that is the mark of the true warrior. Thus, a man who has avoided military service may be a greater and braver warrior than a man who has served his country in battle, sustained grave wounds, performed “heroic” deeds, and been honored with clanking, showy medals pinned to his garment.

Because human beings are prone to illusion, the sounds and sights of battle—the groans of the wounded, the maimed bodies of one’s comrades—may remain in the mind for many years, like a cloud that confuses judgment. Hence, a man who has fought on the battlefield and has later risen to high office may be fearful of leading his people to war. Such weakness does not afflict the armchair warrior, who at all times is firm in his resolve.

The armchair warrior does not fear death, especially not the death of other people.

The unenlightened mind is easily swayed by pictures. Since it fails to grasp that life and death are illusions, the sight of the flag-draped remains of those slain by the enemy may make it susceptible to weakness and feelings of pity. Therefore, the armchair warrior does not let the people see such images, except in settings that can be properly controlled, such as his own campaign advertisements.

Luxury is the enemy of Bushido. It saps the strength of the people and makes them weak and complacent. Therefore, the armchair warrior strives to take wealth away from the poor and the middle classes and give it to the wealthy, who are already so weakened that they are beyond help.

So-called wise men complain that the armchair warrior is producing “deficits,” emptying the coffers of the state and sinking it ever deeper into indebtedness to usurers and foreign moneylenders. In their “wisdom,” these so-called wise men are like the scholar who came to speak with Nan-in. Pretending to ask a question, the scholar flaunted his learning for ten minutes while Nan-in, attending politely, brewed a pot of tea. When the master filled the scholar’s cup, he kept pouring until the tea overflowed the cup, ran onto the table, and dripped to the floor, forming a great puddle.

The scholar, astonished, asked the meaning of Nan-in’s action. “The mind is like this cup,” said Nan-in. “If you do not empty yourself, how can you expect to be filled?” The coffers of the state, too, are like the cup. If they are not frequently emptied, how can they be filled? Thus, the warrior takes it upon himself to empty the coffers of the state into the pockets of his friends, his relations, and other members of his class. Knowing well the corrupting power of luxury, he distributes these treasures with reluctance. They are accepted with equal reluctance. Yet not one among his fellows shirks his duty.

The goal of life is awareness; the goal of awareness is freedom. If the people of a foreign land do not wish to be free, it is the duty of the armchair warrior to force them.

The warrior strengthens his resolve and that of his followers by chanting sutras, mantras, or other strings of words, such as weaponsofmassdestruction or linkstoalqaeda or bringingdemocracytotheworld. It is not important that these words bear any relation to reality or even that they have any definite meaning. All that matters is that they be chanted repeatedly and with great urgency.

The Chinese word for “crisis” combines the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” For the armchair warrior, the significance of this is clear. Every crisis is an opportunity, and the lack of crisis poses a grave danger. In crisis, the people turn to the warrior for guidance. Hence, if a crisis has not occurred, the warrior creates one. If a crisis is subsiding, the warrior inflames it. The seventy-third hexagram of the I Ching is interpreted as follows: “Two towers fall. When smoke fills the people’s eyes, they can be led anywhere.”

Once, a group of travellers were on a perilous journey, in the course of which they had to cross a river. Unluckily, their guide forgot the location of the bridge, so the party had to ford the river, which, at the place they then found themselves, was shallow but very wide. After several minutes of wading through the icy water, the travellers began to grumble, “This guide is worthless! Let us abandon him and find another!” Sensing the discontent of his charges, the guide cleverly led them into a deeper part of the river, where the current was stronger and the footing more treacherous. “Help us!” the travellers cried. “Esteemed guide, do not abandon us!”

The unenlightened believe it to be the height of felicity to have no enemies. The armchair warrior knows, however, that only a steady supply of enemies can assure him the loyalty of his friends. When so-called wise men warn him that in rashly slaughtering his enemies he is merely manufacturing more of them, he smiles."

Manufaturing the "Iran Crisis"

This is almost a replay of the Weapon's Inspection for WMDs that preceded the invasion of Iraq.

Just one day apart, there are these two news items about the supposed Nuclear Program of Iran:

IAEA admits mistakes in report on Iran’s nukes:

VIENNA/TEHRAN, JUNE 17: The UN nuclear watchdog was forced to make an embarrassing admission on Thursday, that it had wrongly accused Iran of withholding information about imports of potentially weapons-related technology.

Iran seized on the admission as proof that it is providing full and timely information on its atomic programme, which it says is purely for generating electricity but which the US believes is a front for developing nuclear weapons.


IAEA Adopts Resolution Criticizing Iran:

Vienna, June 18, 2004: The International Atomic Energy Agency has adopted a tough resolution, rebuking Iran for concealing the full extent of its nuclear program. Tehran says its program is for peaceful purposes, but delegates to the United Nations agency are concerned by reports that Tehran is clearing up nuclear sites.

The I.A.E.A. is looking at intelligence that some experts believe shows Iran has bulldozed an entire restricted area next to a military complex on the outskirts of Tehran. A Vienna-based western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, called the allegations serious and deeply troubling. The diplomat said this looked like further Iranian efforts to cover up a nuclear weapons program.

The reports came as delegates passed a resolution calling for Iran to step up its cooperation with the I.A.E.A.