‘The nation-state badly needs a heritage narrative’: Sterling


This came up in Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowski’s annual State of the World chat this year.

“…the nation-state badly needs a heritage narrative. If you don’t have one that compels respect, then you’re not a nation-state, and you get turned into a [laundry money].

“In 2017 a lot of heritage narrative started to appear within the post-Brexit Europe. Pro-EU guys, who used to be very colorless, technocratic, as invisible and as function-centric as possible, started raising their heads over the parapet and talking about World War II. About historic missions, ever-greater union, mistakes that would be regretted for a generation — a very temporal, linear narrative, asserting that the EU is an advance, that it must move forward, that heretics and dropouts from Europe would be abandoned, like deadbeats kicked off a moving train.

“So the EU, which was about market regulations, turned into European history again. Some tautly argued history, too: this happens, that happens, this happens because of that. ‘Atemporality’ is a lot more loose, emergent, and multi-causal than that. Atemporality is like an open-source, flat-world, marketplace of meaning where people place meme-bids.”

I have been thinking something similar – and about what a challenge a bigger, lasting meta-narrative is in the current media environment. I have something written about this but haven’t had time to publish. Eventually…

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WikiLeaks takes aim at Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, posts link to manuscript

Radical transparency site WikiLeaks has gone after author Michael Wolff following the publication of a controversial book that puts the Trump White House in an unflattering light.


​The Twitter account for the organisation published the link to the book by the New York-based media critic which has created a firestorm for US President Donald Trump over the past week…

Such moves to undermine the financial viability of the highly anticipated book echo the North Koreans’ hacking of Sony Pictures in 2014, when vast amounts of the company’s intellectual property was posted online in an act of aggression.

Read the full story here.


Cyber security vs information security – just saying (*)

From the British government’s response to General Assembly resolution 71/28 “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” in July 2017.


An articulation of the difference between cyber security and information security:

The United Kingdom continues to reiterate it will use its preferred terminology of ‘cyber security’ and related concepts throughout this submission. ‘Cyber security’ denotes efforts aimed at the preservation of confidentiality, availability and integrity of information in cyberspace, including the internet and other networks and forms of digital communication.

The term ‘information security’ may cause potential confusion as it is used by some countries and organisations as part of doctrine regarding information itself as a threat against which additional protection is needed. The United Kingdom does not recognise the validity of ‘information security’ when used in this context since it could be employed in attempts to legitimise controls on freedom of expression beyond the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right (ICCPR).

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What Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘personal challenge’ with foreign interference really means

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s declaration that he would fight foreign interference by nation states as a “personal challenge” for 2018 has elicited some groans.

But in publishing his short statement, Zuckerberg inadvertently points toward a bigger challenge for Western democracy today.

The loss of a sense of public duty.

To even somehow cast this fight against foreign influence as his own personal fight undermines the value of a democratic society.

It’s hard to imagine an American in another age casting this challenge to their nation in
such a personal way.

And yet the culture of Silicon Valley is one that saw personal computers first, then the
internet, as vehicles for personal liberation. So Zuckerberg’s declaration should not come
as a great surprise.

When did Silicon Valley acquire this view? At the end of the 1960s, when some seminal
figures migrated from the San Francisco-based counterculture movements into the nascent world of computing. They brought with them the communitarian ethos which eschewed the larger society they had failed to change – and focused instead on fulfillment through personal experience.

A similar abandonment of public culture occurred throughout the US in the 1970s, as the legacy of Watergate and Vietnam prevailed.

In a different context, one of pop culture, look at this quote from A Cultural Dictionary
of Punk:

The difference between 1967 and 1977 is that all sense of duty had been obliterated: Duty to nation in the form of social protest had become duty to self in the form of having fun.

And not just the duty to nation in the form of social protest: duty in the form of public stewardship of the nation and its institutions, in the form of civic responsibility, in articulating our consistent values.

And so we find ourselves without the language to defend democracy from foreign interference in 2017. And so Zuckerberg’s statement is revealing.


It’s moments like these that make me think part of the nostalgia for the Kennedy era isn’t perceived glamour or nostalgia for bygone days. It is also, I believe, Kennedy’s call for Americans to be prepared to sacrifice for their nation – a concept that actually unifies society.

That is what has been missing since the 1960s.

The 1970s formed a kind of transitional period, a looking inward and away for society. And when Ronald Reagan was elected president, there was a crystallization of the values of individual less concerned about the drift of society as a whole.

One that extended for decades until now.

(Of course, the situation is worse in the US. In Australia, for example, they never fully bought the denial of society in the same way many in the US political class did – and this is a good thing. )

Nevertheless, if democracies want to regain some of the possibility of the Kennedy era, their citizens would do well to turn again – this time, away from the narcotic of a personal liberation, which is proving toxic in the time of Donald Trump.

While I don’t doubt Zuckerberg’s intentions, his statement shows the flaw of this personalized, over-atomized view of the shared good.

It’s simply not personal. It’s public.

Citizens in democracies everywhere should turn again to the sense of public duty to defend their values and system online in the 21st Century. They should speak this language again if they want to combat authoritarian meddling.

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