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Social Networks Government The Internet Politics

Dot-Communism Is Already Here 554

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-in-soviet-russia-jokes-i-swear-to-god dept.
thanosk sends in a story at Wired Magazine about how online culture is, in many ways, trending toward communal behavior. Sharing and collaboration have become staples of active participation on the Internet, while not necessarily incorporating a particular ideology or involving a government. "Most people in the West, including myself, were indoctrinated with the notion that extending the power of individuals necessarily diminishes the power of the state, and vice versa. In practice, though, most polities socialize some resources and individualize others. Most free-market economies have socialized education, and even extremely socialized societies allow some private property. Rather than viewing technological socialism as one side of a zero-sum trade-off between free-market individualism and centralized authority, it can be seen as a cultural OS that elevates both the individual and the group at once. The largely unarticulated but intuitively understood goal of communitarian technology is this: to maximize both individual autonomy and the power of people working together. Thus, digital socialism can be viewed as a third way that renders irrelevant the old debates."
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Dot-Communism Is Already Here

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  • Most people in the West, including myself, were indoctrinated with the notion that extending the power of individuals necessarily diminishes the power of the state, and vice versa.

    I'm not quite sure where the author got that idea. The US has always been based on the idea that the individual is paramount. In our popular culture, we have always derived our strength from the individual and his willingness to help others.

    A perfect example of this is our super-heros. Developed during a time of great uncertainty and world wars, our culture developed personas who were both empowered and selfless. Whether it be an accident of birth (Superman), a millionare who puts his own life and fortune on the line (Batman), or a scientist dealt a bum hand by fate (Hulk), they all are shown to make the most of their unique abilities in service to others.

    Such thought processes have traditionally permeated our culture to the point where every child strives to be that hero. To save the world as it were. The results can be seen in everything from local government (simply amazing small towns built out of nothing) to the larger scale of US resolve during WWII and the later Space Race. Thus the communal aspects of working together have always been a strength for us.

    The idea of a Big Brother culture is a relatively new one imported from more socialist countries. As if the population needs protection from itself. And for all intents and purposes, it's been causing more harm than good. The government has frustrated more airline passengers than they've prevented terrorists, all while trying to convince the populace to roll over when someone takes over a plane. (THAT is never going to happen again.) They've seized money from countless honest businesses and individuals in an attempt to stop drug trafficing. (Which has been more or less ineffective.) And they've generally created a situation where the populace is either looking for their next handout (excuse me, "bailout") or their trying to cheat their way out of paying their taxes.

    Our system hasn't completely fallen yet, but I think the communal internet is a great wake up call for the system. It allows individuals to aspire, self-organize, and express their individuality in a helpful way. So in that respect, I agree with the article. I just don't think it's anything new or anything to do with Communism as a system. ;-)

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:07PM (#28110829) Journal

      Our system hasn't completely fallen yet, but I think the communal internet is a great wake up call for the system. It allows individuals to aspire, self-organize, and express their individuality in a helpful way. So in that respect, I agree with the article. I just don't think it's anything new or anything to do with Communism as a system. ;-)

      Oh, I could play the devil's advocate and think of a stupid roundabout way of showing that Communism is more about empowering the individual to pursue their dreams than worry about possessions. Such flawed and impassioned exercises began to bore me long ago though--so I'll spare you the inanity.

      I thought that the majority of Americans have come to terms that absolute Communism and absolute Capitalism are both bad systems?

      I mean, even the most wing-nut conservatives believe in some sort of tax or anti-trust laws and even the most bleeding hearted liberals believe that we should be left a sizable share of our income to our own responsibility and desires.

      So why do we move back to a stupid argument between the absolutes of Capitalism vs Communism when the correct solution is somewhere to be found in the middle? And different peoples enjoy different solutions. It so turns out that corruptibility of humans by nature dictates we should be closer to capitalism that communism. If the author of this article thinks the internet has far too much communal activity, so be it. But make rational arguments and don't play on the red scare ... we're adults now, we're past that.

      I tire of the return to young idealist zealotry and yawn at the attempt to evoke fear from me of one side over the other. The absolutes are both dangerous and stupid.

      • I thought that the majority of Americans have come to terms that absolute Communism and absolute Capitalism are both bad systems?

        Who said anything about Capitalism? I was referring to the general culture of the US. The culture of individual empowerment that makes the empowerment of the greater whole possible. Of which "Capitalism" as it has been named is merely a side effect of how such a culture operates economically, not a system in of itself.

        I'm sorry you have wasted your time on such a long and pointless rant.

      • by StCredZero (169093) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:50PM (#28111493)

        > ...It allows individuals to aspire, self-organize, and express their individuality in a helpful way. So in that respect, I agree with the article. I just don't think it's anything new or anything to do with Communism as a system...

        So why do we move back to a stupid argument between the absolutes of Capitalism vs Communism when the correct solution is somewhere to be found in the middle?

        The key is that the Internet is Infrastructure. The tools we develop on it to organize ourselves are just Infrastructure. Open Source software, OSes and libraries are Infrastructure. It makes sense that individuals will sometimes collaborate in their own self interest to build common infrastructure, because ultimately it results in more benefit to individuals in the form of increased economic activity. If you're going to call the Internet Communist, you might as well also tar roads, bridges, water systems, sewage...

        Many think it should all be privatized, but this is a fringe view and the view of the majority is that some infrastructure is best implemented as some kind of collective endeavor, and that this is fine and normal. Communism is just a scare-word to make you think that this is somehow not good and normal.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by thtrgremlin (1158085)
          Very well said, thank you. While I think that the only just purpose of government is infrastructure, the only point I would clarify is that the only thing that makes government special is that they are the one company whose actions can not ever be accused of being criminal, from taking in the form of taxes, to the use of force to compel people to do things. Smith and many other Free Market supporters speak of the invisible hand of the economy. Government is often an invisible gun. In any argument that begin
      • by afabbro (33948)

        ...and even the most bleeding hearted liberals believe that we should be left a sizable share of our income to our own responsibility and desires.

        Hey, that sounds good - can we go back to that?

      • The Inviasible Gun (Score:5, Insightful)

        by thtrgremlin (1158085) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:26PM (#28112967) Homepage Journal
        Maybe this only further supports your point, but I think one major issue is that people try to take all political issues and put them on one spectrum between capitalism and communism, or socialism versus free market. This is ridiculous. Capitalism is about the right for individuals to own property, and Free Market is the idea that individuals can make the most responsive efficient rational choices regarding their labor and resources, which of course quickly ties back to the idea of Capitalism. Communism claims that individuals are wasteful and inefficient, and if left to their own devices are corrosive to society; only an all powerful, all seeing state can best manage the resources and labor of a society for greatest good.

        Middle ground? There is no middle ground. What DOES exist is different questions, but not middle ground. If one tends towards a better society, than a mix of both is certain to be a failure.

        The problem I see is that people (of certain political tendencies) give government certain god-like qualities, most common believing government has perfect knowledge, or that anything the government does is "free". Government is simply a business that "we" have authorized a virtually unlimited use of force. Beyond that they have no special super powers. Government can help organize a military to protect against foreign invaders, police that can neutrally handle disputes over violations of social contract, courts to handle issues of contract law and establish statutes regarding the interpretation of contract language to help encourage mutually beneficial voluntary exchange of goods and service.

        To say "we need the government to blah blah blah..." is to say that violence is a necessary means to an end. To paraphrase Jonathan Gullible, the penalty for all crimes against government is death / loss of life. This is the difference between taxes and charitable donation or voluntary exchange; people will be most compelled to be charitable with a gun to their head, how could we ever expect to get so much from people on a voluntary basis? If it is a one time thing, I would be inclined to agree, but can you really argue maximum net production through such means? This implies that a robber could keep robbing the same home repeatedly and that their gain will be proportional to the number of times they rob the house. Does knowing which houses are the richest change much?

        To paraphrase Richard Saldman

        Let me suggest an experiment. ... For one year don't buy or use any Microsoft products. ... At the same time send the government no money, that is, pay no taxes. Then wait. Watch who comes after you for your money and how and with what weapons.

        The "problem" with the government trying to regulate the Internet is where do you point the gun, the governments only tool? The government does not do work, it only consumes, with the intent and strength to intimidate by threat do do what it desires... but it is ok because it is the will of (51% of) the people, right?

        And just because it was brought it up, got to mention something. I am really getting tired of this "finding a middle ground" / "moderate" position. Moderation is a tool of negotiation, not a principle unto itself. Take for example an accused killer. The courts have the authorization to take this persons life if convicted of the crime, so there is a burden of the court to justify both its use of force, and their authority to do so. In this particular case, it is found that the police in their enthusiasm fabricated evidence in order to make the case go faster. Unfortunately for the police as a matter of checks and balances, their fabrication of evidence and getting caught in doing so means that the accused man must be let go, because an objective measure of evidence, according to the law, is now impossible. One one side, (a type of classical conservative) people claim that unfortunately the man must be let go, and shame of the police for tainting their revered leg

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by turbidostato (878842)

          "Capitalism is about the right for individuals to own property"

          Not. Capital is not property; property is not capital. Capitalism is about giving almighty power to capital disregarding everything else.

          "Communism claims that individuals are wasteful and inefficient"

          Not. Communism claims that individuals should be liberated from the tiranny of capital as an almighty power.

          "only an all powerful, all seeing state can best manage the resources and labor of a society for greatest good."

          Not. Marx states that onl

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by DarKnyht (671407)

            Marx states that only a temporal all powerful all seeing state can crush away the minority of those few greedy individuals that control society by means of capital and use their power to perpetuate such 'statu quo'. Once the goal acomplished, such powerful state machinery would dismantle itself and vanish.

            Yeah, that worked out great for Russia now didn't it. Those crazy people holding the power of the state machinery just said, "Okay, we've crushed everyone now let's just sprinkle this power all around to them to make them feel better."

        • by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:10PM (#28113589)

          Capitalism is about the right for individuals to own property, and Free Market is the idea that individuals can make the most responsive efficient rational choices regarding their labor and resources, which of course quickly ties back to the idea of Capitalism.

          You are ignoring Market Failures: times when the free market does not produce an efficient solution. Free Markets have several problems:

          • uncaptured externalities, when an exchange does not capture all of the value or harm. Pollution is a significant uncaptured externality; companies could escape the costs of polluting others' environment.
          • free rider, when people cannot be prevented from benefiting from a good when they choose not to pay for it. National defense is an example of this. There is no way to enable the army to only protect those who choose to pay for it, and leave those choose not to pay vulnerable.
          • natural monopolies, when the nature of the good (continually declining marginal costs, or high sunk costs) enables the dominant supplier to undercut all other competitors, and eventually become the sole supplier and rake in monopoly profits.

          Middle ground? There is no middle ground. What DOES exist is different questions, but not middle ground. If one tends towards a better society, than a mix of both is certain to be a failure.

          Why? Because you say so? Because Ayn Rand wrote it down?

        • by tixxit (1107127) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:15PM (#28113657)

          To paraphrase Richard Saldman

          Let me suggest an experiment. ... For one year don't buy or use any Microsoft products. ... At the same time send the government no money, that is, pay no taxes. Then wait. Watch who comes after you for your money and how and with what weapons.

          That quote doesn't really work. If you don't use or buy any MS products, then there is no gain and MS has no loss, so they would have no justification for coming after you. However, your taxes are not without gain. You get roads, emergency services, an army, subsidized utilities of all kinds, etc. Just because you stopped paying your taxes, doesn't mean the police won't help you, or your military won't defend you. If you want a real analogy, it would be:

          Let me suggest an experiment. ... For one year don't buy or use any Microsoft products. ... At the same time move to another country and send the government of your original country no money, that is, pay no taxes for the country you no longer live in. Then wait. Watch who comes after you for your money and how and with what weapons.

          I don't pay tax to the UK, because I don't live there. I don't give money to MS because I don't use their products. Neither one will be "coming after me."

        • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:27PM (#28114419) Homepage

          And just because it was brought it up, got to mention something. I am really getting tired of this "finding a middle ground" / "moderate" position. Moderation is a tool of negotiation, not a principle unto itself.

          The principles on display:

          * The opinions of others have merit.
          * No one person has all the wisdom, so the best answers are usually found by bringing together a wide variety of views.
          * The ability to engage with opposing viewpoints is not just critical to a peaceful, civilized society, it is also a way of treating your fellow human beings as human beings, not as obstacles to steamroll over.

          Those principles are highly desirable. I don't think that the "add the positions and divide by two" approach is the best way to achieve them, though.

          In fact, it can achieve the opposite. Rather than listening to one another, two different sides can simply stake out more extreme positions, in the hope of screwing up the average.

    • by Andr T. (1006215) <andretaff@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:11PM (#28110885)

      Such thought processes have traditionally permeated our culture to the point where every child strives to be that hero. To save the world as it were. The results can be seen in everything from local government (simply amazing small towns built out of nothing) to the larger scale of US resolve during WWII and the later Space Race. Thus the communal aspects of working together have always been a strength for us.

      As a Brazilian bombarded everyday by USA-imported-mass-enternainment-industry, I've noticed that this is true indeed. I find it very interesting that it seems important to find a 'hero' in almost every situation - for instance, in 'the most amazing videos', there was a car with something stuck in the accelerator and the car kept moving in circles over and over. Then, a policeman came, entered the car by the window, and stopped it. The thing is: when you hear what the narrator says, it seems that the policeman saved a thousand people.

      I've recently read 'The Quiet American' [wikipedia.org], which further investigates this. As I read it, it seems that Graham Greene thought that Americans can't imagine how other people could want something different from what they have, and how could they think different from what they, Americans, think. I don't know if it's true, but it's a very interesting POV.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Americans can't imagine how other people could want something different from what they have, and how could they think different from what they, Americans, think. I don't know if it's true, but it's a very interesting POV.

        sounds more like a Christian view rather than just an American view, but I guess since a large portion of our population is Christian it may still hold up. Either that or its just easier not to try to think about other's POV. Take your pick, I'm too lazy to pick for you :P

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Temujin_12 (832986)

          Americans can't imagine how other people could want something different from what they have, and how could they think different from what they, Americans, think. I don't know if it's true, but it's a very interesting POV.

          sounds more like a Christian view rather than just an American view, but I guess since a large portion of our population is Christian it may still hold up.

          Wrong [nizkor.org] and wrong [nizkor.org].

          I would wager that you could replace the noun "Christian" with almost any other noun describing a large population of pe

      • by Aceticon (140883) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:21PM (#28111993)

        It's the good old navel-gazing which is the default in any culture and common amongst those that never lived in another culture: all that they know about, all that they care about and all their references are what they see and what happens in their cultural group (often a nation, but not always).

        The US shows more of this than other countries because:
        a) It's big, reasonably wealthy and culturally very uniform (the cultural differences between most people in California and most people in Virginia are a lot fewer than those between most people in Norway and most people in Turkey - an equivalent distance)
        b) It produces and exports most of modern media, thus while other people are frequently exposed to US culture as encoded in movies and TV series, most Americans are rarely exposed to non-US culture.
        c) The US political system strongly pushes blind, uncritical patriotism as a form of mass manipulation. Typically this boils down to "we're great because we live in a great nation" with the implicit "anybody that criticizes our nation criticizes it's greatness and thus criticizes us all". The side effect of this is to make Americans (and similarly, those people raised in nations where patriotism is overemphasized) exceptionally blind to their own social and cultural issues and closed to accept other people's social and cultural views.

        If you don't believe me, just ask any born and bred US citizen which has lived a year or more in any other country (exception being made for those that live in a-little-piece-of-the-US-in-another-land environments, such as military bases).

      • by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:27PM (#28112103) Journal
        I've recently read 'The Quiet American' [wikipedia.org], which further investigates this. As I read it, it seems that Graham Greene thought that Americans can't imagine how other people could want something different from what they have, and how could they think different from what they, Americans, think. I don't know if it's true, but it's a very interesting POV.

        Don't believe everything you read. I'll agree that this probably pegs plenty of Americans correctly enough, but I think there is still a large contingent of us which really just don't care what other people think or want. This probably comes off as either arrogance or ignorance or both, but I doubt that there are a lot of Americans running around bemoaning that others aren't like us. Unfortunately, the type of people who do make a big deal out of it are usually the narcissistic types who are going to be loudest about it.

        Myself for example, I realize that people in other countries think and act differently, and then I quit navel gazing and go about living my own life. Sure, I run across it every now and again, but it's not something which enters my consciousness all that much, nor does it bother me. Sure, I find it odd, but I suspect that they have just been shaped to think the way they do by the experiences they have had in life, just like me. And that is, perhaps, one thing which maybe should come from your reading, the pot is just as black as the kettle. Sure, I don't really understand how you think, or why you think that way. I can't, I haven't had your life experiences. But, I doubt you truly understand how I think or why I think the way I do; you haven't had my life experiences. The best we can do is try to explain our point of view to each other, using something as imperfect as language, and accept that each other is not insane, just different.
    • by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:13PM (#28110905)

      I agree with you for the most part. I'm a little concerned with the idea that not attacking hijackers by default was a bad idea.

      Until recently, hijackers did not hijack in order to blow up buildings and commit suicide. Hijackers in the 1980s were very much looking to make a point. You *could* die or be wounded in a hijacking, but for the most part, you would live through it. They might be willing to die for their cause, but it wasn't a foregone conclusion.

      Of course, after 9/11, that strategy has changed. And perhaps the government should have known to change their story. But lets be clear here. When the people fought back over Pennsylvania, they still died. I would have been fighting with them, because I know I'd be dead either way and I wouldn't want to let them get away with that, but it didn't help them.

      What that story shows is that it's never been a case of us simply being sheep and letting them blow up our buildings and take us hostage. These people are armed and trained how to take over aircraft and to hold hostages. They have little or no fear of death, and their family members are back in the Middle East instead of sitting right next to them on the plane.

      On the other hand, I am not trained to take on armed combatants in an enclosed cabin. I'm willing to do it with little regard to my safety, but when it means that others get hurt because of my lack of training and experience, I would think twice. And you should think twice.

      Chances are, if this happens again, there's really going to be no choice but to attack. The terrorists have upped the ante and now the equation favors fighting back. Indeed, you may well be racing against time to either dodge a suicide attack or a Sidewinder up your plane's intakes. But that does not mean that the day has been saved, it just means that the stakes are higher.

      • by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:44PM (#28112357) Journal
        I agree with you for the most part. I'm a little concerned with the idea that not attacking hijackers by default was a bad idea.

        Until recently, hijackers did not hijack in order to blow up buildings and commit suicide. Hijackers in the 1980s were very much looking to make a point. You *could* die or be wounded in a hijacking, but for the most part, you would live through it. They might be willing to die for their cause, but it wasn't a foregone conclusion.


        This seems to be a shirking of the responsibilities of a free citizen. It's important to keep in mind that The Authorities cannot possibly protect everyone, it's just a flat physical impossibility. There will never be a cop everywhere at once. Even with a surveillance state the best that will happen is that there will be evidence of a crime after the fact. And this seems to be something we have lost in our country, the understanding that the police are a reactionary force, they do not prevent crime, the do not stop crime, unless by serendipity. The police exist to investigate crimes after they have happened, collect evidence and hand it off to the State to seek redress for the aggrieved.

        The only people whom you can guarantee will be at the scene of a crime, when it happens, are the criminal, and the victim (theft by stealth not withstanding). This means that, as a free citizen, the victim is the first responder. It is up to the citizen to protect himself and his society. Certainly, there is a value judgment to be made, if the criminal has the drop on you, give up your wallet; dieing doesn't help anyone. On the other hand, if you have a reasonable chance of stopping the crime in progress, or it's a crime in which you or others are going to die anyway, you should be fighting. Moreover, we have fallen into the bystander mentality, we love to stand around in groups and watch crimes happen, but not get involved; because, we might get hurt. That needs to stop, the only people that is empowering are the criminals.

        Should people have fought on planes before? Absolutely, I don't care how well trained a couple of hijackers are, against several hundred people, from all sides, they will lose. Flight 93 was doomed, in part, by the "be a victim" mentality. The people started fighting far too late, the hijackers were already in control of the aircraft. Were the scenario to go more along the lines of the hijackers starting trouble, and the people on the plane immediately giving them a beat-down (or maybe even shooting them) the plane would be far less likely to crash as the pilots will always be in control of the aircraft.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Patch86 (1465427)

          Maybe you don't understand the GP.

          In the '80s, hijackers didn't blow up planes and commit mass murder. It just wasn't what the game was all about. Some did it for ransom money (always popular). Some did it to make a political point, the same as waving a banner at a protest rally (only more so). The usual way these things went is that the plane would land somewhere, all the hostages would be safely released, and the hijackers would be rounded up by the police/CIA some time later.

          Encouraging people to fight b

          • by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:38PM (#28113961) Journal
            Encouraging people to fight back in this game is stupid. All you do is make people risk their lives needlessly. If they don't fight, everyone survives and the authorities can catch the criminals on safer ground. If you do fight, you risk having a gun fired in a crowded, pressurised cylinder 20,000 feet up.

            I have to disagree with you here, the reason to fight back at this point was to make the risk/reward assumption of hijacking not worth the effort. When the people on the plane don't fight they are putting their lives and well being in the hands of people who have already shown a disregard for those people. And "everyone survives" is not true, granted the majority tend to, but this didn't stop the hijackers from killing people. Additionally, this demonstrates to potential hijackers that this is a viable method of extortion and encourages more hijackings.

            By comparision, with the current "fight back" mentality, hijacking is much harder and not as useful as a tool for extortion. We have had plenty of stories of people doing stupid stuff on planes not accomplishing much because the passengers weren't going to be victims anymore.

            As for having guns fired in a crowded pressurized cylinder at 20,000 feet, I don't see that as that as particularly scary. First and foremost, this myth of lawful gun owners firing willy-nilly and shooting bystanders just doesn't happen. It's a bullshit canard used by anti-gun activists. The data just doesn't support it. Seriously, go try and find stories of lawful permit holders shooting bystanders while stopping a crime in progress. I'll wait.

            Second, a bullet hole in a passenger plane at 20,000 feet (or higher even) is not really a cause for concern. Despite what Hollywood tells you, the plane will not fall out of the air, it will not explosively decompress, in fact it's decompression will be rather slow. At worst, the pilot will get a light on his console telling him that there is a loss of pressure, he will put his mask on, descend below 10,000 feet, declare an emergency and land at the nearest airfield which will handle his aircraft. And the passengers might have to put their masks on too. Even a dozen bullet holes are not going to cause a problem. Here, read about Aloha Flight 243 [wikipedia.org] and consider for a moment that the aircraft involved lost the entirety of it's roof, actually did suffer explosive decompression, and the pilot still landed the airplane. The only loss of life was one flight attendant who was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

            As a free citizen, you are the first response to a crime as it happens. You have the choice to get involved and stop it, or you can sit by and encourage criminals by making it seem like they won't face resistance. That choice has been around a lot longer than the last 8 years. It's sad that the US Government seems to prefer encouraging criminals, but we the citizens need to realize that it's not helping anyone to stand idly by and let criminals take over our society. And the government is certainly doing us no favors by trying to take away from us the tools to do so.
    • by nostriluu (138310) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:44PM (#28111399) Homepage

      That all sounds very rah rah, but please do contrast your caped and cloaked "superheroes" with philosophers, who try to lay out the biggest problems people face, and the most significant of whom come from outside the US. (I'm not going to try to explain manga here).

      US dominance in technology and business comes from the ashes of WW II, where the rest of the world was in ruins, particularly Russia after losing millions to Germany.

      This is not an anti US tirade, just trying to bring some balance...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by postbigbang (761081)

      If you change the semantics just slightly, you can get rid of the boogeyman of 'communism' and instead, understand what's really going on: we behave like tribes. We are tribes, we will always be tribes, herds, or whatever you want to call them. This kind of behavior underlies most of what we do, mostly on a subconscious level. We're social beings, and that's how we've evolved when we're not killing each other.

      Government is also somewhat natural; there are alphas, betas, just as there are in bird, dog, and o

    • US != West (Score:3, Informative)

      by Roger W Moore (538166)

      I'm not quite sure where the author got that idea. The US has always been based on the idea that the individual is paramount.

      I think you answered your own question. He got that idea from the US and, as is unfortunately rather stereotypical, forgot that there are more countries than the US in "the west". In most of those countries there is far more of a balance between the individual and the state. In fact even in the US this seems to be rapidly becoming the case because power is held increasingly by corporations and while US laws seem to regard these as individuals of some description they are in fact communal groups with rigid

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nightsweat (604367)
      Superheroes were nothing new when they were introduced. They were the pop-ification of polytheistic religions. Hercules and Superman, Batman and Achilles - all the same thing.
      They're certainly not uniquely American. American superheroes dominate
    • Encouraging? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357)

      "I'm not quite sure where the author got that idea. The US has always been based on the idea that the individual is paramount. In our popular culture, we have always derived our strength from the individual and his willingness to help others."

      Those ideas are being smothered and weeded out of society today. Seat belt laws came about because big brother (primarily insurance companies) knows better than the individual. The "proper" use of Personal Protection Equipment isn't an individual choice (either for t

  • by geoffrobinson (109879) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:51AM (#28110573) Homepage

    Adding an -ism to the end of a word completely changes the concept. Doing something communally and sharing is not the same as being forced to share by the government.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:57AM (#28110657)

      Not necessarilly. Bullshitism would certainly make a nice name for the topic the article could be filed under.

    • by LifeWithJustin (969206) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:09PM (#28110867) Homepage Journal

      geoffrobinson is correct here.

      Think about it this way.

      When you choose to help your fellow man you are happy. You feel a kinship with them.

      But when I'm taxed or forced to help in another way... I get no joy from this. Most of the time you feel put out. (Get off your and do something to better yourself ! -- for example)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:28PM (#28111115)

      Adding an -ism to the end of a word completely changes the concept. Doing something communally and sharing is not the same as being forced to share by the government.

      This is a common misconception. A Communist society does not have a government.

      Being forced to share by a government is Socialism, not Communism. Communism is a society where everybody pitches in together so that nobody is in need and private ownership not only does not exist, but is not needed. It's a nice idea, and actually works very well in small groups where all members can police each other, but breaks down on any type of larger scale.

      Unfortunately many people still think that the USSR was a Communist country, even though the name itself says "Socialist" not "Communist", and it's to the point where the term is horribly misused. Kind of along the same lines as most people thinking the USA is a Democracy when in fact it is a Republic (or a "representational Democracy" if you prefer more politically 'correct' terminology).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by damburger (981828)

        t's a nice idea, and actually works very well in small groups where all members can police each other, but breaks down on any type of larger scale.

        More correct to say, it has historically broken down at different scales in different times and places, and has never successfully been implemented on a national scale.

        Technology has changed the size and structure of informal, voluntary communities and made them stronger and more productive. Based on that observation alone, I don't think you can definitively say

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tnk1 (899206)

      Agreed. Commun-ism as presented by the Marxist-Leninist-Maoists is a particular form of communalism that is mandatory and top-down. It advocated class warfare and violent revolution. At the very best, it was entirely amoral. And today, it is entirely discredited.

      Having said that, it was a reaction to some pretty terrible stuff that was going on at the time. And certainly, when they weren't indoctrinating their students with propaganda, you could get a damn fine education in many of those countries for

  • no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:53AM (#28110599) Homepage

    Socialism is state control. What we have on the web is anarchy. Fun, friendly anarchy.

    • Re:no. (Score:4, Informative)

      by tygerstripes (832644) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:57AM (#28110647)

      Which - to quote the tragically overlooked Star Cops [imdb.com] - means "without ruler", not "without order".

      I'm sure you knew that, but it's frustrating how many people don't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gurps_npc (621217)
      Techincally, Communism it the political structure, socialism is the economic structure. As such, socialism can be anarchy.
      • Re:no. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:29PM (#28111159) Homepage Journal

        economic man and political man are the same man. If you must dictate a man's economics to him, you've dictated his life and his politics as well.

        Challenge: implement economic planning without the coercive power of government. a plan is useless if people won't carry it out.

        the real issue is statism vs. individualism. communism and socialism, to the extent that they are different, both lead to suppression of the individual.

        • Re:no. (Score:4, Informative)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:12PM (#28114245) Journal

          the real issue is statism vs. individualism.

          Correction: the issue is collectivism vs individualism. Collectivism doesn't necessarily imply statism - that's why there are anarcho-socialists/communists, and libertarian socialists/communists. On the other hand, statism, of course, necessarily implies collectivism.

          You are correct, however, in that collectivism inevitably leads to suppression of the individual to some degree.

      • Re:no. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:31PM (#28111195) Journal

        Not that political and social structures are on completely distinct axes. If you're oppressed after all, it doesn't matter much whether your oppressor is a government or corporation.

    • Re:no. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:36PM (#28111277) Homepage

      Socialism is state control. What we have on the web is anarchy. Fun, friendly anarchy.

      Capitalism, socialism, and anarchism are ways of structuring an entire society. The web isn't a society, it's a tool. This is the same fallacy as talking about "netizens." You can't be a citizen of the net. That would be like being a citizen of your screwdriver.

      The main thing that makes anarchism different from, say, libertarianism, is that anarchists are against private property. The typical anarchist analysis is that the accumulation of private property leads to social inequality, the runaway concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people, and war. The Microsoft monopoly, for example, is something that's definitely completely antithetical to anarchist ideals of how society should work. Given that microsoft.com is part of the web, and that they'll take your money in return for their software, I don't really think the web qualifies as an institution that would be typical of an anarchist society.

      Since copyrights, trademarks, and patents are generally thought of as a kind of property, I really doubt that an anarchist society would have them. And yet I guarantee you that the computer I'm using, the computer you're using, and the computer that runs slashdot.org are all full of copyrighted software. For instance, my computer is running Linux, x.org, and Firefox right now. All that software is copyrighted, and the only reason it was legal for me to copy them off of the internet was that I was offered an opportunity to do so under licenses like the GPL. Doesn't sound very anarchistic to me.

  • Not important (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:56AM (#28110627) Journal
    Change the world. Let other people put labels. You'll be called a liberal, a communist, a nazi, a heathen, a bigot anyway...
    Open Source (I think that is what it's about) is not communism, it is open source. Putting labels or trying to over-simplify things hinders correct thinking.
  • by chatgris (735079) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:56AM (#28110645) Homepage

    "Most people in the West, including myself, were indoctrinated with the notion that extending the power of individuals necessarily diminishes the power of the state, and vice versa"

    What? Western culture has been about empowering the individual, about heroes. Conversely, communist nations such as Russia and China are less about individuals, and more about "the good of many outweighs the good of the few".

    Additionally, the "free" software you see isn't an affront to free market principles, in fact it is an application of "when a product has an infinitely increasing returns to scale, cost tends towards distribution costs", and since distribution costs are free, well, hello open source.

    Open source is very much a product of western, capitalist countries that PROMOTE the power of the individual.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sockatume (732728)
      What? Western culture has been about empowering the individual, about heroes. Conversely, communist nations such as Russia and China are less about individuals, and more about "the good of many outweighs the good of the few".

      Actually you've just beautifully illustrated his point. He was saying that we're indoctrinated with a false dichotomy that either it's the state or its the individual, and there's no compromise. He's arguing that in actual fact the greatest benefit to both comes somewhere in the midd
    • by jadavis (473492) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:25PM (#28111079)

      Western culture has been about empowering the individual, about heroes. Conversely, communist nations such as Russia and China are less about individuals, and more about "the good of many outweighs the good of the few".

      I think that's a simplification. The one thing that stands out to me about Western society is the rule of law, rather than the rule of man (I know that's a simplification as well).

    • "Most people in the West, including myself, were indoctrinated with the notion that extending the power of individuals necessarily diminishes the power of the state, and vice versa"

      What? Western culture has been about empowering the individual, about heroes. Conversely, communist nations such as Russia and China are less about individuals, and more about "the good of many outweighs the good of the few".

      The internet works because in many cases empowered individuals will choose the good of the many because it aligns so nicely with the good of the few/themselves. Some of these cases happen naturally, and some are the result of government setting a proper framework for interaction (so, extending the power of individuals by extending the power of government).

      There is no "conversely" here.

  • Sokal hoax? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:59AM (#28110673)
    Did anyone else get a flash of Alan Sokal's genius upon reading the quote from the summary? So many words, so little content.
  • by flaming error (1041742) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:59AM (#28110679) Journal

    ... is that the word no longer means communism. Now it means oppressive government, ala Soviet Union, China, North Vietnam. But these places show no sign of following the idealist philosophy people like Karl Marx set forth.

    The concept of owning resources in common isn't anti-individualistic - having neighborhood parks or sharing roads and pipes and cables is just smart resource usage. Probably few people want absolutely everything to be publicly owned and managed, but most slashdotters probably like software and the internet that way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brian0918 (638904)

      The concept of owning resources in common isn't anti-individualistic

      There's nothing wrong with owning a resource in common - for example people in certain states resort to owning "shares" of a cow in order to legally get raw milk (you know, the stuff your grandparents drank without worry). But that's not the same thing as being *forced* to give up your property to a communal share. That is anti-individual and anti-man.

      having neighborhood parks or sharing roads and pipes and cables is just smart resource usage

      Well, that is obvious. I doubt anyone would disagree with you on that. So why the need to force it to happen through a government-backed monopoly?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SQL Error (16383)

        There's nothing wrong with owning a resource in common - for example people in certain states resort to owning "shares" of a cow in order to legally get raw milk (you know, the stuff your grandparents drank without worry).

        My grandparents are dead.

        Coincidence? I think not.

      • by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker&gnu,org> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:20PM (#28111979) Homepage

        So why the need to force it to happen through a government-backed monopoly?

        Because, NOMINALLY, the government is accountable to the people and will not abuse its monopoly. A private enterprise owning all the roads will. The market will converge to a monopoly due to network effects.

        "Oh, you have a road, how nice. It's a real shame it costs consumers 1000$ to cross the roads adjacent to yours."

        Judge for yourself whether that's reality.

        In economics, there's something called a Vickrey Auction, where you have n distinct goods and m players, each valuing each subset S of {1..n} at different levels.

        (having 23 volumes of a 24 volume encyclopedia is worth less than 23/24 times the value of a full encyclopedia; having a million apples is worth less than one million times the value of one apple: they rot)

        It's possible to solve a Vickrey Auction for maximal social benefit (IIRC), and each person ends up paying their externality---that is, how much "damage" they cause to the other participants.

        I wonder if microeconomics 101 (supply curve crosses demand curve at the market clearing price) can be derived from this.

        But I assume it's the reasoning behind green taxes on gas (you pay for the damage you cause to others due to pollution) and weight taxes (since your heavy car wears out the roads more than other cars, you pay for the repair work in proportion to how much you cause it).

        In some economic games, government intervention is preferable to anarchy (in theory). ISTR network construction and/or routing being among those games.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fish_in_the_c (577259)

      three simple examples of 'communism' come to mind.

      1) the communal lives of monk and nuns ( from various faiths in many cultures).
      2) the communal lives of certain religious communities ( ex: Amish)
      3) neighborhood contracts, condominium boards.

      all three have worked. It is interesting that the 3rd works the least well from what I've seen.
      If people are acting in common because they want to believe it is of value to do so , communism works well. If people are sharing and acting in common because they are force

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vlm (69642)

        all three have worked. It is interesting that the 3rd works the least well from what I've seen.
        If people are acting in common because they want to believe it is of value to do so , communism works well. If people are sharing and acting in common because they are forced to by a contract or a government , it doesn't seem to work as well.

        A good fourth example is the US military, of which I was a part of in the early 90s. It's all teamwork, everyone shares, no one owns the hummvee (although is gets weird where one individual signed responsibility for it, yet does not "own it"). This is by no means my unique idea, I heard it all the time when I was in the military, the irony that our military forces exist to save us from the commies but ironically here we are with our military as the only really successful communist society....

        A pretty good

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmorris42 (1458) *

      > ... is that the word no longer means communism. Now it means oppressive government,

      No, it ALWAYS meant 'planned economy' and that implies a planner. To make that work requires force, and the only entity which can use force is the State.

      And that is why the Internet is about as far from .communism as you can get and the article is either idiocy or pushing a political agenda. There is no central planning on the Internet, which is why it works so well. Voluntary cooperation is as American/Capitalist/etc

    • by butlerm (3112) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:58PM (#28111623)

      I hesitate to break it to you, but *the* distinguishing characteristic of Marxism is the advocacy of the *violent* overthrow of the bourgoisie. Marx would be a footnote in history if he did not advocate that course of action and have half the world take him up on it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nicopa (87617)

        Absurd, Marx was a "hit" well before any revolution happened. And there were lots of other "revolutionaries" in the XIX century that nobody care about now. Marx is relevant because the amazingly sharp analysis of capitalism.

  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:03PM (#28110763)
    The "power of working together" comes from shared individual resources and individual insights. There is no collective consciousness, no collective ideas. Voluntary collaboration is capitalistic and leads to progress. Communism/socialism, on the other hand, demands forced collaboration.
  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:05PM (#28110779) Journal
    Once I had a friend from China who really liked to talk about politics. He told me about the Chinese government, and how they are mostly becoming capitalist, even though they keep the name of Communism.

    Once he heard about open source, and so I explained it to him, finishing off with, "so in reality America is more communist than the Chinese." He got this shocked look that quickly turned into a bitter vengeful sort of look, and said nothing.
  • communism? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by at_slashdot (674436) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:06PM (#28110807)

    "He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."

    Quote from one of the biggest Communists: Thomas Jefferson

    • Re:communism? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Flavio (12072) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:41PM (#28111347)

      Quote from one of the biggest Communists: Thomas Jefferson

      That statement made me cringe, because it contradicts the whole body of knowledge that exists about Jefferson.

      Thomas Jefferson's quote merely shows that he was opposed to an inventor or discoverer gaining a monopoly over an idea. This is consistent with his defense of liberty, minimal government and free market capitalism.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hansamurai (907719)

      I'm not really familiar with Jefferson's communist tendencies (especially since he was greatly in favor of a weak federal government, personal liberties, and against nationalized banks), but your quote really has nothing to do with communism either. The freedom of ideas is independent of communism or democracy, it has more to do with what rights the individual has. But I guess it just goes to show how lame this article is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by anaesthetica (596507)

      Right on. It seems that this author is profoundly unfamiliar with his own heritage, and so is grasping out for the label 'socialism,' even though it doesn't make much sense. Tocqueville investigated what he found to be the peculiarly American tendency toward association.

      Better use has been made of association and this powerful instrument of action has been applied to more varied aims in America than anywhere else in the world. Apart from permanent associations such as townships, cities, and counties crea

  • Web vs. Meat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:14PM (#28110919) Homepage
    Communism did not work in meat-reality for several basic reasons.

    1. "...To each according to his needs." ignores luxury items, which no one needs, but people want. The existence of them makes people happy, and encourages work.

    2. It discourages individuals from working hard, as you gain nothing by doing so. Only those with a huge altruistic streak, or similar need for approval have incentive to work.

    3. "From each according to his capability". One of the major problems people have always had is to determine who is actually capable, as opposed to simply satisfactory. Capitalism, by offering HUGE incentives, tends to accurately discover who has capacity beyond minimal, while communism does not, resuolting in mediocre people being thought capable, thereby giving them authority.

    When you look at the web as opposed to meat-world, certain realities appear.

    First, everything on the web is at heart a luxury item. So what is going on is not "to each according to his needs", but instead "To each according to his desires."

    Second, The work at heart is realtively easier and ENJOYABLE to some. Anyone that has spent an hour digging a hole and an hour writing code will tell you that. So you don't need to actually encourage people to work hard.

    Third, capability on the web is easier to detect. More of it is one-person projects, and those are often signed. Software can be measured for speed, GUI can be easily be examined for ease of use.

    Fourthly, most of what is offered on the web is relatively low value, not high value. Honestly, we use socialism a lot in the Meat world - for low value things. People don't pay money for a better subway seat. We use socialism to assign movie theater seats - people in wheel chairs get the wheel chair seats for free, they are not forced to pay more for them - even if they are in prime spots.

    The web is not the meat-world. What works in one place will not work in the other.

    That said, I find that capitalism still tends to triump over socialism even in the web for most areas where money, the requirement for capitalism, exists. No socialist effort is going to make a web site that beats Google, Apple's itune Store, or Amazon.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by harry666t (1062422)
      > Anyone that has spent an hour digging a hole
      > and an hour writing code will tell you that.

      Dunno. I've seen people on the 1st year of a CS course who'd be better off digging holes than being let to touch a computer.
  • Yeah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChienAndalu (1293930) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:15PM (#28110931)

    I wonder how North Korean Slashdot readers would respond to that.

    Oh, wait..

  • by Mishotaki (957104) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:16PM (#28110949)

    Communism doesn't fail, people who had power failed communism...

    Every political ideology is right.... the people who have power, uses that power until they overuse it to their own profit so much that the majority of the people use their personal power ot overthrow them...

    The only good thing that democracy has right now is: it's not crooked enough to have the population revolt against it.

    I'm sure there will be one day that the people will wake up and know that their system is so corrupt, that the elected officials are only idiots who are popular and that the majority of the electorate refuse to vote because they know that no choice they can make will the right one, when every choice is a bad one...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pecisk (688001)

      Well, interesting that you said that, because I am quite tired of black/white view of ideologies. Most of people don't want to know and don't care, but even smartest ones gets into ugly flamewars which leads nowhere.

      Said that, most interesting thing is to research weakneses of Communism as real ideology behind society. Again, junk science and capitalism woodoos says that Communism doesn't work because of human nature. Fail. It does, but it does in *microscale*. Problems arises when you scale it for larger s

  • from the no-in-soviet-russia-jokes-i-swear-to-god dept.

    In soviet Russia, god swears to you?

  • Ummm no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:24PM (#28111071)
    "Thus, digital socialism can be viewed as a third way that renders irrelevant the old debates."

    No it doesn't. Why? Because on the one hand you're talking forms of government and on the other you're talking digital collaboration. Try comparing apples to apples and your analogy rings truer. What may work for pooling resources within a piece of technology may not fair well in societies at large. The main reason being that there are very real political differences not only between groups of individuals but individuals themselves. At the risk of being as guilty as the author, you see the same things within collaborative technologies as forking is prominent. Furthermore, even within companies there is such collaboration so "collaboration" need not equal "communism."
  • by philipkd (528838) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:26PM (#28111085) Homepage

    Just add "on the Internet" to the key sentences and it all makes more sense.

    The frantic global rush to connect everyone to everyone, all the time, is quietly giving rise to a revised version of socialism.

    ... on the Internet

    These developments suggest a steady move toward a sort of socialism uniquely tuned for a networked world.

    ... on the Internet.

    he aim of a collective, however, is to engineer a system where self-directed peers take responsibility for critical processes and where difficult decisions, such as sorting out priorities, are decided by all participants.

    ... on the Internet.

    I wonder if these shocking cultural changes aren't as big of a deal as the Wired article makes it out to be, in that they're scoped only to the online world. The offline world may barely change in response. Then again, if everybody is more and more conducting most of their activities on the Internet, that's a different story.

  • by psnyder (1326089) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:54PM (#28111585)
    Capitalism may be the quickest way to get to the true communistic ideal, not like the totalitarian states of the USSR, East Germany, North Korea, etc. Those were/are mainly dictatorships run by elite groups hiding under the veil of fairness and community.
    • Lightly regulated capitalism has shown to be the quickest "means to the ends" of technological progress and efficiency that the world has seen so far. The more efficiently we can satisfy our survival needs, the more time we have for altruistic endeavours.
    • The fact that there ARE still problems gives a motive to want to change those problems.
    • The idea that we can make a difference, without an oppressive, "overlord" state calling the shots, allows the motive to be put into action.

    The Open Source community exemplifies this.


    Despite its many flaws, capitalism is the quickest breeding ground for altruistic communal endeavours. When computer communication became efficient, an Open Source community was inevitable.

  • The author has kind of missed the point. Communism is an economic system. It is not about communal behaviour at all. Communism is an alternative to Capitalism or Socialism. It is not an alternative to democracy.

    Most of the systems the author speaks about are new social systems that operate within a Capitalist framework. They could not exist in a communist framework, unless sanctioned by the politburo, because in a communist everything is owned by the state.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@geekazon . c om> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:10PM (#28112731) Homepage

    Whether you work for a small startup or a megacorp there's always an emphasis on the importance of teamwork, cooperation and selflessness -- but only within the organization. Those attitudes seem to be great as long as they serve one business, but somehow they become evil when they aren't helping one business compete against another. The business world's combination of cooperation and competition has produced great things, but it doesn't always. For example, competition is paramount even in the face of a superior product. Better products often disappear because of bad marketing, lack of advertising money, or because of short-term price pressure introduced artificially by competitors with deeper pockets who want to keep their own inferior products on the market. The competitive spirit of capitalism can certainly show a lot of gumption and drive, but there's a peeing-in-the-pool aspect to it that just doesn't appeal to me. I think the reason it usually wins over cooperation is that it dangles the carrot of fabulous wealth in front of people's faces, like a Golden Ticket, and more people are drawn to that particular carrot than the wouldn't-this-be-cool carrot.

When Dexter's on the Internet, can Hell be far behind?"

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