Monday, October 17, 2011

On Steve Jobs and the Undersea Demon Factory that Deceives the World, with Further Reference to an Uncharted Island on which Demoniac Technocrats Invent Irreverent Devices; or, It Must Be Said

Perhaps two days after his death, I came across an extraordinary man who claimed to have esoteric knowledge concerning Steve Jobs. A popular web site on the island, Dominica News Online, had posted a story announcing the death of Apple’s cofounder, and a decent number of people had left posts expressing sorrow or their admiration for his work.
Hours after the article appeared, I came across a comment by tiny, a man I had seen post on the site before. The comment, soon followed by another, claimed that a video on YouTube by a wizard-turned-Christian held the truth about those who create technology in the world, and it was not a good truth. I should have been prepared for at least some insanity, as the website, through no fault of its own, has a significant share of lunatics. But this was madder than anything I had seen on it before.
            There is a vast factory under the sea, tiny informed his readers, in which demonic beings toil endlessly to produce machines; there is a city under there, as well. Somewhat redundantly, there exists furthermore a nefarious island somewhere in the world where the inventors of all the most popular devices assemble to create them; their sole purpose is to create addictive technologies that will turn the masses away from the Christian god. Not all scientists and technicians, mind you, but many—car designers, computer designers, etc. A high-tech plot against Yahweh of Brobdignagian proportions, all operating under the darkness of the ocean and on a strange island unknown to GPSes—unless, of course, as is probable, the inventors of those were in on it.
Had tiny discovered the abode of Lord Cthulu,
i.e., all the world's technocrats in one?
This story was so wondrous that it had to be true; and, indeed, it is, or, at least, so the YouTube video tiny got it from claims. The video does not mention Mr. Jobs, and tiny, once pressed, was quick to assert that the deceased might not have been one of the blasphemous villains. It is worth noting the “might,” as well as the fact that this extraordinary theory appeared for the first time on the site, as far as I know, under the article about Jobs. I requested of tiny proof of his claims, such as where this island is, miraculous claims requiring miraculous evidence; he told me that he does not deal with the occult and will not look for the island and that it is in fact I who should find it, since I had implied it was so easy to locate things with GPS technology.
            Greetings, and we come in peace.
            It is easy to dismiss such ideas as more lunatic than Neruda’s city where crowds of people blanche on their porches; it is easy to assume tiny or the creator of the multi-part Youtube video had simply had too much fun playing BioShock or reading Bacon’s New Atlantis; it’s easier still to ignore these claims altogether. When such ideas become the foundational beliefs of presidential candidates, it may be somewhat more difficult to ignore; but I assure you this is no—hardly a—political essay.
            Tiny, you see, cannot be ignored. It is partly because of the disturbing fact, in my view, that he can believe such a thing at all. But it is primarily because that thing I claim is so mad, so much the product of Jobs’ drug of choice, LSD, or perhaps something closer to home—yes, precisely because I claim it is so, I am forced, suddenly, to reexamine why I can claim this. It can be shocking, indeed, when you come across an argument you can’t counter because you don’t know why you actually believe what you do; but it is a good shocking, unlike most forms of electrocution, a non-sparking shocking that many a person needs many a time.
            We must allow this person to speak, just as the Holocaust-denier and the gay-bashing Jamaican dancehall artist and the Young Earth Creationist must speak—not because they are to be tolerated as equal to those with sense, but because such outlandish claims force us to reexamine the sensibility of our own claims. To do otherwise is a kind of dictatorship. I do not want to hear the words of people like Kent Hovind, the mad barbarian behind a theme park that attempts to prove not only that Adam and Eve existed but that they existed contemporaneously with dinosaurs; but the real reason I do not want to hear them is because they might deceive others who hear them, not because they can personally harm me—except for my intelligence, and that will pass. But why should he be prevented from speaking? It is unwise to compare him to, say, Copernicus or Galileo, both of whom were terrified to put forth their theories, but the comparison is instructive in one way: the authorities, a true dictatorship at that point in time, believed the non-geocentrists to be lunatics and would have silenced them—and did. And yet it moves—but we need movers to prove its motion.
            Free speech, in this context, is not the same as an abolition of rationality. Creationists can claim whatever they like under free speech, as can I, but this obviously does not extend to what categories items fall into, and creationism, therefore, cannot be taught in a science class of any kind, unless it be a course on the history of science. The history of science, after all, is riddled with the marvelous and the maniacal, the ingenious and the comical (from our vista now, of course): Newton’s obsession with injecting himself with mercury, along with his other alchemical pursuits; Lyell’s belief that dinosaurs would return one day because the Earth changes in cycles; Linnaeus’ addition of dragons, hydras, phoenixes, and manticores into his classification of life. Categories, then, will not change unless their internals do. But what we can say, far apart from what we should, will not. In a rational society, after all, few, if any, of these concerns over what should be said should—word that shines like an alchemist’s dream—exist.
            Go draw a terrible porno of Muhammad, right this moment, and do what thou will with it, and do thy will with it in public.
Or, at least, I’d like to say we should be able to do this. But we aren’t free. An oppressive regime of the easily offended, a regime distinct from political correctness, towers over us here. I’m talking, of course, about those followers of Islam who believe those who depict Mohammed should be put to death, as was the case with the infamous fatwa on Salman Rushdie’s head (that, extraordinarily, is still in effect), the murder of Theo van Gogh, and the death threats to the makers of South Park for depicting Mohammed on their show in a bear costume. This cannot be the case. No one group should be able to have a monopoly on freedom of expression like this in any society in this century. And the only way to fight it may be to take risks.
Just don’t become a martyr en route to the undersea factory, now.

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