“Kano Are Doing Kickstarter Right The Kano Kickstarter is well and truly kicked. In sports terms, it got the round thing through the hoop or into a field goal or one of those other things where one side is really happy and the other side isn’t. The Kano guys are the happy team!”
Sent through time and space
Raised by merchants.
Great flare for trade.
Even better for warfare.
Freedom through strength.
Belief in the essential uniqueness of a given “people” –
and their inability to govern themselves.
Now, about a month ago, one of my old sources calls; a strange, wispy guy with a thick scouse accent. He says he has a story for me.
Apparently, there’s something echoing around London’s underbelly; sort of a criminal folk tale. All signals say urban legend.
But still, I submit it to you here – as best as I could understand it from this man, and in its cleanest possible form:
A London cabbie moonlights delivering corpses: the untimely whacked – in this case, those who’ve run afoul a specific South London gang, one the source won’t name.
In a sense, the cabbie is a part-time delivery man. He picks up the ex-person, puts them in his boot (as the English say), and drives them out into the woods around London. He’s a problem-solver.
But this is how he does it.
A normal passenger hails his cab, late at night – maybe after a pint or three. He gives the cabbie his home address, takes out his phone, and loses track of time as the taxi rolls north.
Suddenly, the cab stops – at the side of a road you don’t recognize, nobody in sight. The cabbie gets out, opens the boot, picks up a shovel.
He opens your door, and you see that he’s holding something else, and it’s a small gun.
He hands you the shovel and tells you to “dig.”
You rationalize and plead but he’s immovable, like a horror-movie billboard.
You finish the hole as the sun’s coming up. You make your peace, hopefully.
He tells you to turn your back to him. More begging, etc.
Eventually you do.
You hear the boot opening, a scratch, thump, and the low dirt whisper of something being dragged. Then you hear much louder thud, as something falls down the hole you just dug.
You feel him behind you just for a moment, brushing your hand with something cold.
He has hauled his cargo out of the boot. He drags it along the ground, and shunts it into the hole.
He drives off, back into London. You’re left with the shovel and an open grave.
The coppers show up 15 minutes later. He’s long gone.
Obviously I asked follow-up questions, but that’s all I get. And nothing to corroborate – no names, no further sourcing, nothing.
I also haven’t heard from him since that phone call, which was almost a month ago – though I followed up a couple times. Urban legends are interesting in how quickly they pass.
“Ye made millions Bigs made millions Ye made millions Just made millions We all made millions we all made millions.”
“Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop [unintelligible] of killing people on the basis of suspicious activity? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home. I love my country. I love the rule of law. The drones are making us less safe and keeping people in indefinite detention in Guantanamo is making us less safe.”
5 months ago
In many ways, the web has given us the first truly public sphere – the first totalitarian liberalism.
A friend of mine – an Arabist who speaks it perfectly and understands it even better – is working on a film about suicide bombers.
He reworks the audio for hours on end, and the words of the jihadis burn into his ears; they recur in his dreams.
I find this ironic.
Because this is what the web has done to the jihadis, except in reverse – and it is, in some sense, why they are saying them, and why we can hear.
The web has crawled into the world’s petro-theocracies – into its darkest, shittiest places – and revealed to its inhabitants how you and I live.
What do I mean here? Our Instagram snaps? Our Upworthy videos? All our bountiful Western excess?
No. They either don’t give a shit, or they love it as much as we do. They consume far more pornography – see Bin Laden compound, and Saudi web statistics.
It is not the web’s content (info about our sweet, sweet lives) that has crawled into the heads of the world’s fundamentalists. It’s the web itself.
The web and its intrinsic relativism have shattered the myth of pan-Arabism, and of the strict separation between private and public life.
Hypertext: the fundamentality ability to lead elsewhere.
The web speaks in a liberal tongue wherever and whenever it is accessed. It is a fundamentally neutral entity. It may be fought over, claimed, purged, salted, re-soiled, transformed – but its existence is purely liminal and transitive.
It is anti-blood, anti-soil.
Fundamentalism is decided. Authoritarians are intransitive. The Internet is a danger to any society whose laws, institutions, or economies are not those that gave birth to the Internet – liberal, and in some inarguable sense, Western.
Iran is thinking of building its own intranet to combat the internet’s influence.
I find this hilarious.
It’s not what the Internet carries that makes it powerful – it is not tainted with Americanness. It is, in a sense, Americanness – bottled and digitized.
I am not the first to observe this, I just think it’s particularly interesting to think about as legion “commentators” bang the drum on American decline.
"America is another word for opportunity."
This is how I wish people still spoke of “us.”
As ”the between” of any kind. Not as an object, but as a mode. A state of transition – like its Internet.
Lincoln once wrote that he dreamed of a day in the future when, “once again, America would be the world’s last great hope.”
That day has long since past. The web is simply Americanness with no America. The spirit of the founders sans body.
And it’s in this spirit, I think, that we should take what Western governments are doing currently to monitor what we do on the Internet.
In a sense, it makes sense. Our enemies have been foolish enough to use and love our tools. So we go after them on them. For every one of them we get, we download and sift through ten million plain-ol-normal-people Facebook messages.
The problem with this is that it it is, in fact, good for jihadists. It awakens anti-American sentiment. It makes Americans out to be hypocrites. Clearly, the Internet, as the international VC coterie seems to be saying, is no longer America’s – America won’t even defend it.
It’s gone global. “And now it’s up to us, the moneyed techno-utopian 0.1-percenters to define a new value system.” This one will look a lot more like “Boiler Room” than “Rocky.”
The Internet doesn’t carry America. The Internet just carries us, people, same as always. And of course, we’re the same as always.
It’s just “the difference” that makes a difference. “The opportunity” to “go or be someplace else.” Not to be anyone specific, or be from anywhere, at all.
The Internet is still American values – just now, ironically, under assault from the American government.
And thus, it is turning towards fundamentalism – see the influence of the web on libertarian or anarchic social movements, like the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street.
Fundamentalism is often the result of reflexive ideology: an idea that fights itself. And violence usually arises as a resolution to a contradiction.
Violence beams itself across the same social infrastructure, dissolving into the clean invisibility of the modern web – all growing as silent in their design as a phone-line.
It becomes silent to the powerful.
Or call it the remarkable ability of the web, as an interactive medium, to adjust to its messengers.
My Arabist friend dreams of jihadis, the theocrats wall their minds up and shout into the void.
I am hopeful for the future.