A Reality Based Community
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
– Robert Suskind, New York Times Magazine, about a conversation with Karl Rove
Reality and empires are funny things. You think you have a handle on them, like Karl Rove, quoted above in the fall of 2004, and then find yourself blindsided and comically gnashing your teeth on Fox News 8 years later insisting that Barak Obama did NOT win re-election.
It’s common, if you are a Great Man, to subscribe to the Great Man theory of history: that history is made by “history’s actors”, and that history, and the rest of us, follow the Great Man acting upon his will to political power.
But what about acting upon one’s personal conscience?
A year ago today, as I write this, Aaron Swartz killed himself. A young idealist, he’d stepped up to prevent abusive legislation, and succeeded. He hung himself last year after being hounded by the Boston Federal Prosecutor’s office for downloading academic journal articles and threatened with 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Two years ago, a young journalist named Barrett Brown was arrested by the FBI for copying and pasting a link (and for drunkenly “threatening” a federal law enforcement officer) and is now sitting in a Texas prison awaiting trial. At the time of his arrest, Brown was studying a massive trove of documents stolen by the online collective known as Anonymous and revealing many details of the intelligence-industrial complex.
A few months ago, a young intelligence analyst working within the intelligence-industrial complex named Edward Snowden leaked data about the inner workings of the NSA revealing that yes, pretty much all Americans are under surveillance and everything we say or do online is copied and stored by that intelligence-industrial complex.
The apparatus required to maintain Empire is vast, and the measures taken to stifle dissent, to “make examples of” those who step up, brutal. Say what you will about Anonymous, but they are smart to adopt anonymity as a tactic. History is full of people who step up, and who then get stepped on.
The apparatus to maintain Reality is to merely live as we see fit. And in living as we see fit, and right, we are armed with the only effective weapon against Empire, our power to say “no” and to take the consequences. This overarching surveillance, this incremental erosion of our liberties in defense of Empire, is mainly directed against dissent. Our power to say “no” to their History, our power to build our own.
I’m pissed off that Aaron is dead. I never met him or knew him but I get him, and now he’s gone.
The Captains of Empire build tools and work at making the world in their own image.
Civinomics builds tools to assist the Reality Based Community in making the world better.