Tag Archives: Geoff Manaugh

weapons of mass distraction

Geoff Manaugh / knows the score*. Your outrage is exactly what they want:

… an endless landslide of trivial distractions has been steadily eliminating the ground needed for systemic political change. People who might once have been an opposition—or, even better, people who might once have been leaders capable of articulating a clear way forward, rather than a muddled, shy, often weirdly apologetic way to resist someone else’s initiative—are left genuinely believing that if only Mike Pompeo could be forced to admit that an NPR reporter knows where Ukraine is, then some sort of symbolic, magical goal will be achieved.

Remix as necessary for non-USian contexts. Note that he’s not saying you shouldn’t get angry; he’s saying that taking your anger to the birdsite and performing it to your siblings-in-anger is not just useless, but actively counterproductive.

Note also that he’s right.

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BLDGBLOG is of the blogs I’m gladdest to see fire back into life this year; Manaugh was always something of a blogging hero to me back in the day, someone to emulate. He has a deceptively simple “beat” or home topic, often approached from a more-or-less science-fictional angle; he writes clearly and regularly; and he can be quite concise. I am much better at two of these things than the third one yes ok no prize for pointing that out thankyouverymuch. Prolixity is my signature move; other blogs are available!

[ * There is a prize for identifying this cultural reference in the comments, but receiving the prize is contingent on your managing not to make me feel old in the manner of your mentioning it. So good luck with that! ]

Red Planet Blues

A fine piece of speculative journalism from the redoubtable Geoff Manaugh: crime and policing on the off-world colonies. Full of chewy gems and story-starters, alongside the existential stuff that proponents of such neocolonial projects either ignore or lack the imagination to consider:

In the precarious Martian environment, where so much depends on the efficient, seamless operation of life-support systems, sabotage becomes an existential threat. A saboteur might tamper with the oxygen generators or fatally disable a settlement’s most crucial airlock. When human life is so thoroughly entwined with its technical environment, we should not consider these sorts of acts mere petty crimes, he explained to me. In a literal sense, they would be crimes against humanity—even, on a large enough scale, attempted genocide.

“I think the fact that tyranny is easier in space is a foregone conclusion,” he explained to me, precisely because there is nowhere to escape without risking instant death from extreme cold or asphyxiation. In other words, the constant presence of nearly instant environmental lethality will encourage systems of strong social control with little tolerance for error. Orders and procedures will need to be followed exactly as designed, because the consequences of a single misstep could be catastrophic.

This is, I’ve always felt, the point that Chairman Bruce was trying to make in Schismatrix: once human beings start living in habitats other than the one they evolved in, they effectively stop being “human” and become something else — a difference marked not only by the technological/biological adaptations to said environment, but also (and perhaps more so) by the social adaptations. As such, the notion of “crimes against humanity” might look like a useful precedent for Martian policing from an Earther’s perspective, but Martians would likely consider themselves to be beyond that jurisdiction, if only implicitly.