Charlie's Diary

[ Site Index] [ Feedback ]

Sat, 30 Oct 2004

Bit rot

I haven't been posting enough lately.

Blogging started off for me as an unashamedly commercial promotional kind of thing (c'mon, tell me you haven't looked at what's at the top of my sidebar!) but rapidly turned into a diary habit. Cory Doctorow has commented that he uses blogging (his share of boingboing, I think) as a kind of collective memory for interesting memes, and so do I, some of the time: but that's an irregular use, and I think something of a minority one. More often than not it's just handy to have a venue in which I can blather anything that comes into my head, regardless of context. (It also comes in handy -- too handy, probably -- as a distraction from the writing that brings in the groceries.)

Anyway, I'm not the only person who isn't blogging as much of late. If you monitor a lot of weblogs you'll have noticed a tailing off of updates. Occasionally a moribund one will spark back to life (as has been the case with Billmon this week) but more often than not they go dark and finally 404 on you. About a third of my sidebar blogs are now in that uncertain limbo, and I've been wondering why ...

Partly, I think, it's the saturation news coverage from the US election process. The blogosphere took in a gigantic kick in the wake of 9/11, and has never really gotten over it: while weblogs can in principle talk about anything, 9/11 turned out to be a historically traumatic event, and I suppose when you live in interesting times paying attention to the events in question comes naturally. But now the whole thing has been coopted into a political process that has become increasingly polarized, so hostile and adversarial (to a degree far beyond the normal stylised posturing expected of any electoral beauty contest) that it is positively frightening.

After my initial strong opposition to the Iraq invasion, I've tried to keep off the topic -- and to keep quiet about American politics in general. After all, I'm not American, right? I don't get a vote. But this is now becoming problematic for me, because I think the outcome of this election will affect me profoundly and directly.

I write, for a living, in the English language. Like it or not, the largest English language market in the world is the United States. It should be no surprise to you, then, that about 70% of my income is paid in US dollars by American publishers. Leaving aside all issues of political or ideological affinity, or the fact that I've got numerous American friends and visit the USA a couple of times a year, the outcome of this election will influence me because the macroeconomic conditions set by the next administration, not to mention the ideological climate of fear, affect my wallet directly. Under the current administration the dollar, stable against a basket of other currencies for the past couple of decades, has slid by nearly 20%, giving me a hefty pay cut: I hope you can understand why this concerns me. So I think I do have some reason to speak out on the matter of the forthcoming election, even though I'm not a US citizen -- about as much claim as a non-naturalized resident or a non-registerable citizen.

I've been reluctant to speak out because of an inconvenient fact: anything you say on the internet will be recorded and may be held against you in future, by people or parties who don't even exist yet. Words in print are hostages to your future fortunes and as we're seeing, what you read and write can get you a visit by Homeland Security (for researching a novel, no less!) or the Secret Service (for talking about your prayers in public). Next time I step off an airliner and go through Immigration control I don't particularly want to be hauled off to one side and questioned closely about my writing, or my views, or my reason for visiting the United States -- especially in view of the fact that, as a nonresident alien, under US law I have fewer rights than Jose Padilla.

I've been watching the course of the Bush administration and the election campaign with increasing dread. If I was an enemy of the United States, I couldn't project a better outcome than for George W. Bush to be elected for a second term -- because I believe in the long term he will be, at best, a really bad President: at worst, a human disaster who will cast as long a shadow over the history of the 21st century on a global scale as Kaiser Wilhelm II cast over that of the 20th. And for much the same reasons.

Some uncontroversial facts are evident. Bush has brought in the largest government deficit in US history. He's presiding over the largest build-up of military spending in decades. Allegedly he's due to go back to Congress and ask for another $75Bn to continue the Iraq occupation ... big spender, huh? At the same time, he's taken an axe to his tax base and eliminated inheritance tax (a vital democratic defense against the establishment of a hereditary aristocracy) completely. Meanwhile, the US economy is not growing at the kind of speed it sustained during the early to late 1990's, and it has the ruinous burden of not one, but two foreign wars and occupations to support.

You don't need to discuss the wisdom or unwisdom of invading Afghanistan and Iraq to contemplate the fiscal issues. If Bush is re-elected and if he maintains his current course, he is going to need more money. And I suspect -- at this point we're talking about my personal analysis, we're off the uncontroversial territory -- he's going to thoroughly screw the US economy, to a degree that even Hoover couldn't quite contrive.

Meanwhile, there's a lot of anger out there. As noted here (and elsewhere on David Neiwert's excellent and thoughtful site) the emergence of eliminationist rhetoric into mainstream right wing dialogue since 9/11 has been very visible, and it is binging back some very unpleasant memories. The fuhrerprinzip and the dolchstoss are coming out to play and idiots (sorry!) like Karl Rove are encouraging this.

Economic collapse and unemployment breeds anger. A retreat from empire breeds anger. Racism breeds anger. There's a hideous brew out there, being pumped up by a media system that thrives on bad news because bad news -- the culture of fear -- boosts ratings. It seems that traditional adversarial democratic politics -- in which each side acknowledges that their opposition is a loyal opposition, whose ideas on how to manage the country may differ but whose loyalty isn't in question -- is itself in danger.

At this point I probably don't have to say that I would vastly prefer a clear Kerry victory next Tuesday. I really fear the alternative. Despite being critical of US foreign policy, I'm not actually an enemy of the United States: and I fear that if the political polarization continues to grow, the USA is destined to tear itself apart at the seams or decay into dictatorship and violence. (And that really will mean interesting times for us all to live through, I'll be looking for a new job ... assuming nobody comes for me in the night.)

[Discuss politics]

posted at: 20:56 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

Quick links:

RSS Feed (Moved!)

Who am I?

Contact me

Buy my books: (FAQ)

Missile Gap
Via Subterranean Press (US HC -- due Jan, 2007)

The Jennifer Morgue
Via Golden Gryphon (US HC -- due Nov, 2006)

Via (US HC -- due June 30, 2006)

The Clan Corporate
Via (US HC -- out now)

Via (US HC)
Via (US PB -- due June 27, 2006)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)
Free download

The Hidden Family
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)

The Family Trade
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)

Iron Sunrise
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)

The Atrocity Archives
Via (Trade PB)
Via (Trade PB)
Via Golden Gryphon (HC)
Via (HC)
Via (HC)

Singularity Sky
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)
Via (US ebook)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)


Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

[ Site Index] [ Feedback ]

Powered by Blosxom!