Skip to comments.Rage Against the Machine
Posted on 01/06/2003 12:58:43 PM PST by HumanaeVitae
Russell Kirk, who may have been the only conservative in the post-war American conservative movement, forbad the importation of television sets into his ancestral manse, Piety Hill. One day, in his absence, his wife and daughters smuggled one in. Dr. Kirk discovered it, and they in turn soon discovered him, high in the tower with television in hand, pitching it off the roof.
Television, like all virtual realities, comes from Hell. (The author of this piece, having hosted several television programs, knows how difficult it is to use the medium for good; in effect, one has to do bad television.) Earlier generations of conservatives knew instinctively that machines could be Hellish, and they regarded innovative technologies with distrust.
It is perhaps a measure of how much conservatism has withered away that most American conservatives now welcome any new technology that comes along. They love cell phones, which destroy what little is left of the public space. They gush over genetic engineering, which will create weapons that bring back the Black Death. Most of all, they embrace computers and all their progeny even though, all around us, our fellow subjects of Heaven are using them to create virtual realities they can inhabit almost full-time. (Fortunately, they still have to eat.)
The first Christian principle, and the first principle of Western civilization, is that there is and can be only one reality. If there can be multiple realities, we lose both Jerusalem and Athens. If there can be more than one reality, there can be more than one God; so falls Jerusalem and monotheism. If there can be more than one reality, what is logical in one means nothing in others, where logic itself may not hold; so falls Athens and reason. All things are indeed relative where realities proliferate.
Hell has always hated reality, for in the real world, Christ is King. Old Screwtapes problem, for millennia, was that philosophy made a poor weapon against reality. Even Hells most sophisticated philosophical device, ideology, fell sure prey to reality, seldom lasting more than a couple of generations. His Wormship knew that he needed a more powerful and enduring weapon than philosophy could provide. He needed convincing but false images of the true: virtual realities.
Virtual realities existed, to be sure. Neros Domus Aurea was one; Marie Antoinettes life as a shepherdess another. Military headquarters were often wonderful generators of virtual reality. (We now flood ours with computers, making the problem worse.) But these took great power and vast resources to create and were also impossible to sustain.
If Hell were to triumph over reality and make it stickwhich comes very close to triumphing over Godit needed to find a mechanism that could create powerful, compelling virtual realities, proliferate them widely, and enable people to live in them, self-convincingly, most of the time. And then, brilliantly, Hells workshops begat the cathode ray tube and the video screen.
It is clear that many modern people live lives where the video screen, in all its many variants, is the dominating reality. (Perhaps we should borrow here from Derrida and write reality.) Televisions are on and squawking throughout the house, from rising through going to bed. The children spend countless hours with their video games; sunny days are irrelevant. The adults version is the Internet, whose most common use is for pornography. All offer alternate realities, an ever growing variety of them, all getting better and better in their ability to seem real. First they are alluring, then satisfying, and finally compulsive. Snap! Go the jaws of Hell.
If most conservatives were still conservative, they would find this troubling. Some do find the content of many virtual realities discomfiting; the Roman arena begins to pale in comparison. But few seem to see that the Reality Principle (Marcuses old enemy) is itself at stake. Is watching a Mass on television the same as going to Mass? No. Is knowing that it is a fine day in Ouagadougou the same as enjoying a fine day in the park? Again, no. Is watching people on a video screen the same as knowing actual people? No, indeed. But in more and more lives, the virtual is replacing the real.
And the image is substituting itself for the Word, the Logos. The West spent three thousand years struggling to substitute the Word for the image. The war of the Word against the image is perhaps the most basic theme of the Old Testament. Thousands of Christians gave their lives in that fight. Now, thanks to the video screen, history is running backwards because on video screens images are far more powerful than words. Not surprisingly, paganism is on the rise, beyond and within the Church.
If conservatives cannot see the danger in the thing itself, in the substitution of the false for the true, one would expect they would at least, be alarmed that all virtual realities are subject to manipulation. Today, in America, most of them are manipulated, deliberately and systematically, to serve the ideology of cultural Marxism, a.k.a. political correctness. Thus we get endless television programs and video games where men are puny and women strong (they beat up the men), muggers are white and doctors are black, and the only normal-seeming white males are homosexuals. Thanks to virtual realities, the entertainment industry has become the most powerful force in American culture, and it is largely owned by the cultural Marxists. Through it, cultural Marxism does what it is supposed to do, psychologically condition. Soon enough, in any life where virtual realities hold sway, anyone who dares think that maybe Western civilization really is superior looks in the mirror and sees another Hitler. Does the prospect of Brave New World not bother conservatives anymore?
The answer to all the above, from many technology-addicted conservatives, is that computers and their ilk provide wonderful sources of information. That is undoubtedly true. But it raises a further, very conservative, question: is information itself all that wonderful?
I often lecture to young people, college grads, usually on military topics. They are adept at the information technologies, having imbibed them as their mothers milk. The problem, to put it bluntly, is that most of them cannot think. They cannot think because of information, not because of a lack of it.
An Amish friend of mine, David Klein, put it well as we talked under the trees of his Wayne County, Ohio, farmyard this past summer. Using information technologies, he said, is like trying to build a car by reaching blindly into a vast dumpster and using as parts whatever comes to hand. That is how these young minds work. They cannot grasp any sort of intellectual order or framework. All they have ever encountered are bits and pieces of this and that, spewed randomly out of some cosmic, universal vending machine. It is not simply that things do not make sense; these young people have no concept of things making sense. As Ortega warned would happen, they have become technologically competent barbarians.
Again, an earlier generation of conservatives would have understood. When life is, in effect, an endless process of interruption, thought, as we traditionally knew it, becomes impossible. Western thought is linear, but information is chaotic. More, thought requires being alone with your thoughts, something the technologically dependent can neither attain nor abide.
Just as intellectual chaos is normal to the information generation, so is their lowly status as humble servants to lumps of beige plastic. I will confess that a year ago, I was browbeaten by my office into putting a fax machine in my summer home in Ohio. It was more demanding than a cat. Unless I met its every beeped and coded wish, and they were many, it refused to work. (Even a neglected cat will still catch mice.) This summer, I realized I was the servant and it the master and resolved this inversion of the natural order in Kirkian fashion, by taking a sledgehammer to it. Its human replacement, a FedEx courier, does the same job with far less trouble.
But rebellion of this sort lies far outside the ken of those who worship the computer and its siblings. They cannot imagine lives without their machines, even though we lived such lives (quite nicely, too) just a few decades ago. No sabot in the gears for them; without their calculators, they cannot even add. Go to the bank some fine day and ask the young teller to do something that isnt in the computer, and she will look at you with great, cow eyes.
Conservatives used to know that information does not equal knowledge and that knowledge does not equal understanding. (T.S. Eliot had something to say on the matter.) The transitions require thought, and computers, in both their informational and virtual reality guises, are enemies of thought. Thought only works if it is unplugged.
The cousin-marriage article was very interesting...
Conservatives still know this. They also know when to turn their computers and palm pilots on and off, without the author's help. This author has an inflated sense of his own intellectual superiority.
I wonder if he knows that his article was laid out and sent to the printer WITH COMPUTERS. Oh, the horror.
Translation: "Waaaah! The world has gone on without me! It's not fair!"
I liked it better when I didn't have to memorize fourteen different buttons to play a video game. Things change, Get over it.
However w/o the Internet and FR, there is much I would not know. And Yes, this Paleocon has a framework to put the information in.
I'm not too sure this old fart (Lind) can think either.
Hey Billy, guess what? FedEx didn't exist until 1973, and didn't have anywhere near true nationwide coverage until well into the 1980s. And, of course, it is completely computerized from top to bottom. And, of course, it's about 100 times the cost of using a fax machine. By your logic, FedEx should be just as evil as the fax.
The transitions require thought, and computers, in both their informational and virtual reality guises, are enemies of thought. Thought only works if it is unplugged.
Tell me, Mr. Lind, why do you post things on the internet?
The last I ever heard of him, he was predicting that we'd have tens of thousands dead in Desert Storm because we relied too much on high-tech toys that wouldn't work.
Whenever I want an informed opinion on information technology, and especially the way it's similar to building a car, the Amish are among the last people I consult.
The same could be said for education, art, and a significant amount of organized religion. Yet, I don't think many conservatives would consider abandoning these institutions. They have simply been misused by the left.
Just look at the good that comes from Free Republic. Sure, some of us (myself included) may have a tendency to surf a little too long on this site. But look at how effective it is in sharing news, information, opinions, and coordinating political action.
Books and plays are also a form of virtual reality/escapism, but you don't see them criticized in this piece (or most other articles lamenting technological advancement). I wonder why that is?
It seems that Mr. Lind doesn't like the idea of people escaping the "real world" to entertainment. But if they don't do it through books or websites or tv programs, they'll just do it by daydreaming. I think people have a natural inclination to escapism and using their imaginations. It's silly to blame technology for what is a natural trait for most people.
Stupid comment, stupidly written.
Probably thinks it's a good idea if we all lived in TeePees, and toil the soil with our bare hands and oxen, and see the witch doctor when we get sick.
This is nothing but Luddism, not conservatism.
I'm certainly with you there. But it is, after all, the liberals (sociology and litcrit majors) who hit the tech support lines with broken "coffee cup holders" and mice that are useless because they're at the edge of the mousepads...
But I've no patience with the fellow above. Every great work of literature is an alternate reality, and I defy him to characterize, say, Paradise Lost as a tool of the devil...
The author is really bringing up the ideas that Thomas Hobbes' did in 1668 with Leviathan:
Part IV. Of the Kingdom of Darkness
Chap. xlv. Of Demonology and other Relics of the Religion of the Gentiles.
 Another relic of Gentilism is the worship of images, neither instituted by Moses in the Old, nor by Christ in the New Testament; nor yet brought in from the Gentiles; but left amongst them, after they had given their names to Christ. Before our Saviour preached, it was the general religion of the Gentiles to worship for gods those appearances that remain in the brain from the impression of external bodies upon the organs of their senses, which are commonly called ideas, idols, phantasms, conceits, as being representations of those external bodies which cause them, and have nothing in them of reality, no more than there is in the things that seem to stand before us in a dream. And this is the reason why St. Paul says, "We know that an idol is nothing": not that he thought that an image of metal, stone, or wood was nothing; but that the thing which they honored or feared in the image, and held for a god, was a mere figment, without place, habitation, motion, or existence, but in the motions of the brain. And the worship of these with divine honour is that which is in the Scripture called idolatry, and rebellion against God. For God being King of the Jews, and His lieutenant being first Moses, and afterward the high priest, if the people had been permitted to worship and pray to images (which are representations of their own fancies), they had had no further dependence on the true God, of whom there can be no similitude; nor on His prime ministers, Moses and the high priests; but every man had governed himself according to his own appetite, to the utter eversion of the Commonwealth, and their own destruction for want of union. And therefore the first law of God was: they should not take for gods, alienos deos, that is, the gods of other nations, but that only true God, who vouchsafed to commune with Moses, and by him to give them laws and directions for their peace, and for their salvation from their enemies. And the second was that they should not make to themselves any image to worship, of their own invention. For it is the same deposing of a king to submit to another king, whether he be set up by a neighbour nation or by ourselves.
 An image, in the most strict signification of the word, is the resemblance of something visible: in which sense the fantastical forms, apparitions, or seemings of visible bodies to the sight, are only images; such as are the show of a man or other thing in the water, by reflection or refraction; or of the sun or stars by direct vision in the air; which are nothing real in the things seen, nor in the place where they seem to be; nor are their magnitudes and figures the same with that of the object, but changeable, by the variation of the organs of sight, or by glasses; and are present oftentimes in our imagination, and in our dreams, when the object is absent; or changed into other colours, and shapes, as things that depend only upon the fancy. And these are the images which are originally and most properly called ideas and idols, and derived from the language of the Grecians, with whom the word eido signifieth to see. They are also called phantasms, which is in the same language, apparitions. And from these images it is that one of the faculties of man's nature is called the imagination. And from hence it is manifest that there neither is, nor can be, any image made of a thing invisible.
 It is also evident that there can be no image of a thing infinite: for all the images and phantasms that are made by the impression of things visible are figured. But figure is quantity every way determined, and therefore there can be no image of God, nor of the soul of man, nor of spirits; but only of bodies visible, that is, bodies that have light in themselves, or are by such enlightened.
 And whereas a man can fancy shapes he never saw, making up a figure out of the parts of divers creatures, as the poets make their centaurs, chimeras and other monsters never seen, so can he also give matter to those shapes, and make them in wood, clay or metal. And these are also called images, not for the resemblance of any corporeal thing, but for the resemblance of some phantastical inhabitants of the brain of the maker. But in these idols, as they are originally in the brain, and as they are painted, carved moulded or molten in matter, there is a similitude of one to the other, for which the material body made by art may be said to be the image of the fantastical idol made by nature.
In relation to the article, also consider these ideas:
Part IV. Of the Kingdom of Darkness
Chap. xliv. Of Spiritual Darkness From Misinterpretation of Scripture
Besides these sovereign powers, divine and human, of which I have hitherto discoursed, there is mention in Scripture of another power, namely, that of "the rulers of the darkness of this world," [Ephesians, 6. 12] "the kingdom of Satan," [Matthew, 12. 26] and "the principality of Beelzebub over demons," [Ibid., 9. 34] that is to say, over phantasms that appear in the air: for which cause Satan is also called "the prince of the power of the air";[Ephesians, 2. 2] and, because he ruleth in the darkness of this world, "the prince of this world":[John, 16. 11] and in consequence hereunto, they who are under his dominion, in opposition to the faithful, who are the "children of the light," are called the "children of darkness." For seeing Beelzebub is prince of phantasms, inhabitants of his dominion of air and darkness, the children of darkness, and these demons, phantasms, or spirits of illusion, signify allegorically the same thing. This considered, the kingdom of darkness, as it is set forth in these and other places of the Scripture, is nothing else but a confederacy of deceivers that, to obtain dominion over men in this present world, endeavour, by dark and erroneous doctrines, to extinguish in them the light, both of nature and of the gospel; and so to disprepare them for the kingdom of God to come.
Part III. Of a Christian Commonwealth.
Chap. xxxviii. Of Eternal Life, Hell, Salvation, and Redemption.
 And first, for the tormentors, we have their nature and properties exactly and properly delivered by the names of the Enemy (or Satan), the Accuser (or Diabolus), the Destroyer (or Abaddon). Which significant names (Satan, Devil, Abaddon) set not forth to us any individual person, as proper names do, but only an office or quality, and are therefore appellatives, which ought not to have been left untranslated (as they are in the Latin and modern Bibles), because thereby they seem to be the proper names of demons, and men are the more easily seduced to believe the doctrine of devils, which at that time was the religion of the Gentiles, and contrary to that of Moses, and of Christ.
 And because by the Enemy, the Accuser, and Destroyer, is meant the enemy of them that shall be in the kingdom of God, therefore if the kingdom of God after the resurrection be upon the earth (as in the former Chapter I have shewn by Scripture it seems to be), the Enemy and his kingdom must be on earth also. For so also was it in the time before the Jews had deposed God. For God's kingdom was in Israel, and the nations round about were the kingdoms of the Enemy; and consequently, by Satan is meant any earthly enemy of the Church.
(Bold added for emphasis.)
So you're FR homepage says you like to debate atheists?
Well, based partly on the above Thomas Hobbes:
As an atheist, I maintain that the societal practice of abortion is ritual mass murder upon the altars dedicated to idolatrous vanities, a collective human sacrifice to pagan idols.
Do I have a Catholic argument from you to counter my atheist position on abortion?
Conservatives used to know that information does not equal knowledge and that knowledge does not equal understanding.
This statement is pure BS. Real conservatives STILL know this.
Russell Kirk, who may have been the only conservative in the post-war American conservative movement, forbad the importation of television sets into his ancestral manse, Piety Hill. One day, in his absence, his wife and daughters smuggled one in. Dr. Kirk discovered it, and they in turn soon discovered him, high in the tower with television in hand, pitching it off the roof.Are we begging for attention, or is this just moronic? Russel Kirk was the "only conservative" of the last sixty years? Mr. Lind, eat my copy of Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution." It's not autographed by Kirk, so it is unofficial? I didn't realize I had to live before 1941 to read it. Or, perhaps Mr. Lind hasn't run across those Kirk-autographed copies of the Goldwater platform of '64 that are going for $14 a pop on E-Bay...
Kirk ought be applauded for heaving the tellie off the roof, but not because of any statement of its stupidity, or depravity. With the act, he launched Rock 'n' Roll. I'm writing the Hall of Fame with the news, and I damned well expect a monument to this first television launch.
Nevertheless, one wonders what Mrs. and Miss Kirk had going for the television? Was it Milton Berle? Or, perhaps, Russ was upset that Mr. Television stole a line or two? I doubt the female Kirks found anything more enjoyable in the flying tellie they couldn't find in pulp. Did Russ fling copies of "The Merry Widow" from the chimney, too? I'm thinking that the aerodynamics of vinyl disks were more successful in flight than early televisions.
Oh, and this business of the Amish Klein clan: would it be this same Thomas Klein who's attempted pirating of a Yahoo domain upset the company to litigation? Yahoo! Inc. v. Thomas Klein ?
I've always wondered about the Amish: is theirs the leading technology of the 12th 17th or 19th centuries? That rubber on their carriages sho weren't found c. 1750. What's the cut-off date?
I say it is a stupid and unnecessary summary execution of a truly innocent human being, a ritual murder for the sake of vanity (individually and societally).
Just saying it is evil and not illustrating your reason(s) is intellectually lazy (slothful) and shows no real conviction to others about your commitment to such a position. This is antithetical to accomplishing a goal of changing the minds and/or hearts necessary for ending the grisly pagan practice.
Obscurity of doctrine is of no help and actually assists the Enemy (earthly or otherwise, if you so believe). Walking in obscurity of doctrine, in your Christian terms, is like kneeling before Beelzebub.
Tell me, Sir Dashwood, why is abortion a "pagan practice"? Pagan as opposed to what?
Why is human life sacred if we're nothing more than animals?
Go back through my previous posts and check out my "intellectual laziness".
You asked for it...