Close window  |  View original article

Expecting the Suddenly Possible Impossible

The ruinous powers of modern technology exceed our instinctive expectations.

By Petrarch  |  July 8, 2021

If there's a single quote that explains 2020, it's the infamous yet profound observation by Rahm Emanuel, Clintonite apparatchik and former mayor of Chicago:

You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.

Three years ago, it would have been inconceivable that an American government would even try to shut down entire industries and force people to wear particular apparel, much less that the vast majority of Americans would quietly go along with such obviously tyrannical orders.  Yet, simply spread mostly-false news reports about a disease that, for all but the very elderly or those with comorbidities such as obesity, averages no worse than the ordinary flu, and suddenly our world can be turned upside down with nary a squeak.

It's easy, and perfectly appropriate, to blame the complete collapse of Constitutional liberties on power-mad psychopathic politicians, mostly but not exclusively Democrats, and their sycophantic enablers in the media.  But there's more to be learned from this experience than just "how we got here" - we can also consider "where we're going" by considering Mayor Emanuel's wisdom even more deeply.

The Meaning of "Possible"

Another oft-cited quote is that "politics is the art of the possible."  We usually think about this in terms of the politically possible, such as the Overton Window of political discourse.  But our modern technological world is making all kinds of things possible that simply weren't just a few short years ago.

For instance: States issued (unconstitutional and impoverishing) stay-at-home orders, because they could, thanks to Amazon and the Internet.  In 1980, even if we'd had the genuine Black Plague doing the rounds, lockdowns would have been impossible because folks would starve.

Today, anyone can summon supplies with a few clicks - ok, maybe not every last thing you might want, as with the infamous toilet-paper shortages, but at least enough to keep body and soul together.  We now find, to our befuddlement, a surprising number of people who seem well content to stay living the life of a hermit indefinitely, sustained by the good graces of one or the other of Jeff Bezos' companies, while misinformed and propagandized by a different one.

Speaking of propaganda, in 1980 there were certainly chokepoints of national dialog - the Big Three networks ABC, CBS, and NBC were run and occupied by center-leftists, as were the major national newspapers and newsmagazines.  But all were much smaller and less pervasive then; or, put another way, there were an awful lot more second-tier newspapers, magazines, and local news sources with wider political perspectives.

Today, in contrast, there is only one national news organization that can even be remotely cast as conservative, Fox News.  The powers wielded by the Tech Lords over social media allow them to effectively shut down any national conversations on disallowed topics between private citizens, something that would have been impossible, unimaginable, and utterly intolerable across the political spectrum in 1980.

Likewise, in 1980 there were largish bookstores - your humble correspondent recalls eagerly anticipating the latest Barnes & Noble catalog in the mail.  As a percentage of books sold nationally, though, B&N was quite small; there were countless millions of small, independent bookstores hither and thither across the fruited plain, each with its own proprietor with his own tastes and contacts.  It was physically impossible to keep points of view, no matter how kooky, entirely out of the public conversation and even of libraries.

Not so today - if a new book isn't listed in Amazon, for all intents and purposes it does not exist.  Amazon's well-known political blacklisting of intolerable conservative thought has a large crippling nationwide effect of hampering public discourse.  In decades past, the Left simply did not have this power because the technology didn't support it, which is why even more controversial tomes like The Bell Curve became national bestsellers despite their best efforts - so much so that, we note with amusement, Amazon hasn't bothered to delist it.  That particular ship has sailed, but they've taken strong action to ensure there will never be another.

In short: modern technology has made many things possible that previously weren't, but many of those things are harmful and bad, both politically and socially.

For decades, it was possible, though unlikely and costly and therefore rare, for teenagers to snap nude photos of themselves using a Polaroid camera to give to their current crush; it was similarly possible, though awkward, inconvenient, and even more costly, for the recipient to go to a photography store and have copies made for his friends.  It was simply impossible for anyone to post those nude shots to literally everyone in the entire world; now it's trivial, and those photos can never, ever be removed from public view.

The same goes for something said or written in a moment of anger.  We all can recall a cruel "Dear John" letter or mean joke we wrote, read, or heard decades ago, that we're glad is lost to the mists of time.  Today's youthful indiscretions or bad judgments are never lost, always available, and will be life- and reputation-destroying forever even after the death of all involved.

In other words, it is now possible to utterly ruin anyone who catches your fancy to do so with a few hours' careful research and tech-hacking, from thousands of miles away.  The Left does this routinely, with "cancel culture"; the Right is starting to use the same weapon in return.  There'll be nothing left but a smoking hole in the intellectual ground if this doesn't stop, but the Right is understandably unwilling to be the only side beaten to death without responding in like manner.

What else is not impossible anymore?  The current sudden explosion of evidence that the Chinese Communist Party was using American tax dollars generously provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci to research that selfsame coronavirus that decimated Western economies and, not coincidentally, knocked Donald Trump out of office, is revealing even greater horrors:  According to an official scientific paper submitted by China submission to the international biological weapons conventions,

Thorough study of systems biology in the body can systematically analyze differences in genes and susceptibility to disease in the population and lay the theoretical foundations for an across the board improvement in levels of human health, but it can also create the potential for biological weapons based on genetic differences between races. Once hostile elements grasp that different ethnic groups harbor intrinsically different genetic susceptibilities to particular pathogens, they can put that knowledge into practice and create genetic weapons targeted at a racial group with a particular susceptibility.

Lovely... Up until now, if you hated people of a particular race, you and your henchmen had to go out, physically find and round them up, and bludgeon them to death as in Rwanda. No more - thanks to Chinese Communist research, it will soon be possible to release a targeted virus that simply wipes out, say, all redheads.  Or fill in whatever other genetic discriminator might come to mind.

Fortune Favors the Prepared Mind

Occasionally, the government gets ridiculed for paying science fiction writers to dream up wacky ideas, but there's actually good reason to do this - the job of a science fiction writer is to scheme up things that are impossible but may not always be, perhaps not even for long.  They can't predict the future, but they can certainly give generals and leaders new things to worry about.

The trouble is, our current batch of leadership seems to be reading science and other dystopian fiction as instruction manuals, not cautionary tales.  What recently-possible new infringements on our rights and liberties are we overlooking?