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Trying to Untangle Anarchist Attacks On Scientists 333

Posted by timothy
from the when-all-the-nonconformists-look-alike dept.
bricko writes with an analysis at New Scientist of recent violence by self-described anarchists against scientists or scientific establishments, including the non-fatal shooting in Genoa in May of the head of a nuclear energy company. That attack "was the latest in a series of alleged anarchist attacks on scientists and engineers, including the attempted bombing of nanotechnology labs in Switzerland and Mexico. This wave of politically motivated violence has raised the question: why do anarchists hate science? Beyond the unsubtle threat of brute force, there are deeper issues that merit attention." The "hate science" line is just a line; the author is under no illusion that there is a single conspiracy, or that all who claim the "anarchist" mantle have identical (or even similar) views of science. "Despite the recent attacks and propaganda, anarchists actually have a complex relationship with science and technology. Some leading figures from anarchist history were scientists, notably Russian biologist Peter Kropotkin. Many hacktivists are anarchists who embrace technology; fiction authors sometimes look toward a future 'technotopia' based on anarchist ideals."
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Trying to Untangle Anarchist Attacks On Scientists

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  • by JohnFen (1641097) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:42AM (#40602645)

    Perhaps the thing they hate isn't science, but corporatism. That would seem more in character than some general "hate science" rationale.The Genoa shooting was of the head of an energy company, not a scientist. Even nonprofit research labs are often funded and influenced by powerful corporations. Corporate control of science gives corporations a great deal more power, both directly and indirectly, than many other areas of interest.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This would make more sense. It's still just a bunch of morons giving a bad name to anarchism. Proclaiming belief in anarchism and killing people just proves everyone's point that anarchy won't work. The peaceful anarchists, who are subversive through means of civil disobedience and the like, are the ones that actually act out what they preach in a realistic fashion. Most of these "anarchists" or more just obsessed with chaos, which is self-defeating anarchism and ridiculous.

      I would consider myself an anarch

    • by timholman (71886) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:58AM (#40602861)

      Perhaps the thing they hate isn't science, but corporatism.

      I'd say it's even simpler than that. People hate things they fear or don't understand, and science is definitely one of them. A corporation engaged in scientific research just provides a convenient aggregated target. The difference is that an anarchist is more likely to act on his or her fear and ignorance than your typical man on the street.

      • by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:10PM (#40603011) Homepage Journal

        I'd say it's even simpler than that. People hate things they fear or don't understand, and science is definitely one of them. A corporation engaged in scientific research just provides a convenient aggregated target. The difference is that an anarchist is more likely to act on his or her fear and ignorance than your typical man on the street.

        I'd say it's even simpler than that. It's not a fear of all science they don't understand, but a fear of nuclear research and operations.

    • Perhaps the thing they hate isn't science, but corporatism. That would seem more in character than some general "hate science" rationale.The Genoa shooting was of the head of an energy company, not a scientist. Even nonprofit research labs are often funded and influenced by powerful corporations. Corporate control of science gives corporations a great deal more power, both directly and indirectly, than many other areas of interest.

      This.

      They don't hate/fear science itself, but rather the way that said science will be implemented by the fascists who run the world.

    • And let's not forget government control of science. If a "scientist" isn't employed by a corporation, they are probably funded by the government either directly or indirectly. Even private colleges tend to run on government research grants and subsidies. There are very few Rube Goldbergs [wikipedia.org] out there anymore; doing independent research and then selling the result.

      Cheers,
      Dave

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wSLACKWAREorf.net minus distro> on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:10PM (#40603013)

      Perhaps the thing they hate isn't science, but corporatism

      Exactly. Think GMO foods - and most of the anger towards it goes towards basically one company - Montsanto. Especially when it affects something that's basically a necessity, people get really emotional about it. Montsanto basically hasn't helped their case either with their onerous licensing terms that you don't have to sign to be affected by.

      It's not anti-science, it's anti-corporation, and science just happens to be in the way because corporations stir up feelings of doing it purely to make a profit off people. And it stirs up such strong emotions because the corporations are seen as uncaring profit machines (rightly or wrongly, that's a different debate) hell-bent on turning people into slaves dependent on everything from food to luxuries.

      Enough so it's impossible to have a truly honest debate about such topics like GMO food, climate change, oil, etc. People are cynical - the future promised by science and technology has instead become a dystopia - they're working harder and longer for less pay which seems to be caused by all the scientific and technological progress.

    • If these people are going out and killing people... There isn't much of a "Rationale". They got to an age where they found life isn't as nice as it should be, so they want to kill the people who they think are making life less nice. Not realizing they are doing more to make their lives and others much less nice in the process.

    • by fermion (181285)
      I think it is a little more complex than this. When things are going on that we do not like, there are many ways to deal with the conflict. In the US, for instance, we have a process to deal with problems using non-violent means. We can get laws passed, we can appeal to the courts, we can have people arrested who break the laws. Of course no everyone believes in this process, and the only mean of change for them is violence, terrorism, intimidation. For instance, many religious folks do not seem to hav
  • TFA talks about establishing: "anarchist science" to make science conform more to what the anarchists can identify with.

    This sounds like having the scientific community embrace "creation science" in order to conform more to what the creationists can identify with.

  • Anarchists (Score:3, Insightful)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:43AM (#40602651)

    Could be that 'anarchist' is just one label that stupid, uneducated, violent people who are nonetheless bright enough to want to label themselves as being something better than 'garden variety scumbag'?

    I've lived in some rough inner city areas in my time, and if I had a dollar for every "bohemian", "artist", or "anarchist", I'd be a rich man.

    I've never met an "anarchist" who hasn't been a drug-fucked high school dropout.

    • Re:Anarchists (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sperbels (1008585) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:10PM (#40603021)

      Could be that 'anarchist' is just one label that stupid, uneducated, violent people who are nonetheless bright enough to want to label themselves as being something better than 'garden variety scumbag'?

      It could be that stupid, uneducated, and educated people label political radicals they don't like as anarchists.

    • Re:Anarchists (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:26PM (#40603255)

      I see where you're coming from, but you've not met many anarchists. We're doctors, lawyers, teachers, parents, and every other group you can think of. We count among our number great thinkers and speakers and writers. You may have heard of Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Noam Chomsky. All are anarchists of one stripe or another, although Thoreau never used the term for himself -- it was quite a while before Pierre Joseph Proudhon took the insult "anarchist" and began wearing it as a badge of honor, in the same way that civil rights pioneers claimed the term "black," which had been treated like a slur for many years prior.

        The worst thing about anarchism is that through various avenues, it has acquired an aura of glamor and danger that attracts young people who don't know anything about it, but think it sounds cool. They spend a few years calling themselves "anarchists" before discarding their half-baked notions of what anarchy is, and then I inevitably get stuck talking to their smug, brainless adult counterparts who casually dismiss me and the centuries of thought behind my philosophy with a sneering "I used to be an anarchist, too. Then I grew up!" (They outgrow the anarchy, but not the attachment to unformed opinions and a vague feeling that they ought to be right about things without having to think them through or discuss them with anyone.)

        These folks also color the general public's perception of anarchism, and hide us (the actual anarchists) behind a smokescreen of dumb kids who put the circle-A on their denim jacket because they think it'll get them that girl they're interested in, and our ideas get shut out without a fair hearing.

    • by ozborn (161426)
      You obviously need to meet some more anarchists - none of the anarchists I know fall into that category although I'm sure there is plenty out there that do. Try reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism [wikipedia.org] to get a better picture.
  • Least stable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by magarity (164372) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:44AM (#40602661)

    Anarchy is the least stable form of government. As soon as one person says "Hey, let's...(x,y.z)" and some others say "OK", it's broken; there is now a leader and followers.

    • Re:Least stable (Score:4, Insightful)

      by timholman (71886) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:53AM (#40602785)

      Anarchy is the least stable form of government. As soon as one person says "Hey, let's...(x,y.z)" and some others say "OK", it's broken; there is now a leader and followers.

      Not to mention the fact that our own evolution has programmed us to be followers. We are behaviorally predisposed to follow a charismatic leader, because doing so provided enormous survival advantages for the tribe (if not necessarily for individual members) in human pre-history.

      Anarchists have always struck me as a bunch of frustrated closet leaders who are all operating under the implicit assumption that things will be run their way one day. The only thing that unites them is their desire to tear down the existing power structure. If they ever succeeded, they would immediately turn on each other.

      • Re:Least stable (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Sperbels (1008585) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @01:09PM (#40603913)

        Not to mention the fact that our own evolution has programmed us to be followers. We are behaviorally predisposed to follow a charismatic leader, because doing so provided enormous survival advantages for the tribe (if not necessarily for individual members) in human pre-history.

        Evolution has also permitted us to pummel our charismatic leader to death when he abuses his position or leads us to ruin. Now, when power is abused, you can do nothing. You are no longer following a charismatic leader. You're following a master. You're an unwilling servant...a slave.

      • Anarchists have always struck me as a bunch of frustrated closet leaders who are all operating under the implicit assumption that things will be run their way one day. The only thing that unites them is their desire to tear down the existing power structure. If they ever succeeded, they would immediately turn on each other.

        You're making the logical error that all Anarchists have the same political philosophy.

        What you write may well be true of Bakunanites, but wouldn't hold up for Rothbardians. Understandin

      • Similar to libertarians, I think they all imagine that if not for the awful government holding them back they'd each become billionaires and live like dystopian sci-fi villains (minus the end where they are defeated).

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Anarchy is the least stable form of government. As soon as one person says "Hey, let's...(x,y.z)" and some others say "OK", it's broken; there is now a leader and followers.

      It's not a government until some others are forced to participate. People work together better when there is consensus instead of coercion. Anarchism is simply this observation writ large. Nothing about this prohibits organization or leadership.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I don't know where people come up with these kinds of claims. Anarchy isn't an opposition to organization (in fact anarcho-communists are all about organization). Depending on the form of anarchism it's about the opposition of violence and coercion or hierarchy all together.

      Those in the former group oppose the state (what is commonly referred to as the government) because it is necessarily violent. Everything it does is backed by the threat or actuality of violence. For example, failing to pay your taxes wi

  • Not Anarchists (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:45AM (#40602671)

    Because they're Luddites, not anarchists. They call themselves anarchists because it sounds cooler and they probably don't know what a Luddite is.

    • Do you really know who the Luddites actually were and what they wanted? According to the fact that almost everyone here seems to believe that "anarchists hate science" I have my doubts...

      Hint: the answer is not just "they hated machines"....

    • Exactly and there's nothing political about their actions either. From their point of view it's as practical as destroying an enemy weapons designer.

  • by dingo_kinznerhook (1544443) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:50AM (#40602757)
    In "The Man Who Was Thursday" by G.K. Chesterton, a detective infiltrates an anarchist meeting and finds out that he is a more persuasive anarchist than the anarchist leaders, and gets elected leader. He goes on to find out that most of the other anarchist leaders are also undercover cops, trying to infiltrate the organization.

    So... since fiction is always true, I contend that anarchy is probably just a bunch of people who are trying to infiltrate anarchy.
  • These illiterate fools just don't know what anarchist means.

  • Anarchists thrive on chaos. Therefore, they don't like science. Apart from chemistry of explosives, of course, but this is an example of science that is designed to bring forth chaos anyway.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Anarchists like order just as much as anyone. We only recognize that order enforced by violence is no order at all.

  • He got it. He just missed the other ingredient: capital. Welcome to the era of techno-economical enslavement. Another thing: the man who got shot in Italy is a manager for a company (Ansaldo) tied to Finmeccanica (weapons). He's not a scientist despite his technical background. Again: people who shot the guy claimed themselves anarchists. Is it true? Or there's a message between the lines, considering the importance of the soon-to-be privatized companies?
    • There's another message between the lines: The need for a pan-european police state to bring down the "Euro-Anarchist" terrorist threat that mostly Italian law-and-order-feaks keep hallucinating about...
    • Welcome to the era of techno-economical enslavement.

      Working for a paycheck and having technology everywhere is not the same as being enslaved.

      It's a meme to say "X is slavery", but that really diminishes the plight of real slaves, especially the ones who actually are slaves today.

  • And yet he uses it, adding the myth that all anarchists hate science to the myth that all anarchists advocate violence.

    "Why are are journalists jerks?" Don't be offended: I am under no illusion that all journalists are jerks. It's just a line.

  • for governments killing off scientist who are solving real world problems, so governments can continue fabricating their own dictatorships technology is undermining.
    Or that's one facet of application of the abstract word/term anarchist. For others see MSM

  • These people don't know what Anarchy really means, and they're just using it as cover for their own ends.

    If they would just describe themselves as Republican, they'd be a lot more accurate.

    Think of all the grief we hackers have taken over the past 30 years because of self-described "hackers"

  • I always thought scientists *are* anarchists. I mean, science is set up with small groups or individuals coming together to do stuff and then breaking up and doing other interesting things. Occasionally they come together to do big cool stuff (LHC), occasionally they lurk around doing wacky research into nonsense (philosophy (joke)), occasionally they do wacky research into nonsense that turns out to be useful (lasers)...
    • by tomhath (637240)
      Except that science depends on a very structured and hierarchical bureaucracy, be it university, government, or corporate. Scientists don't just hang around doing science with no goal, resources, or self-interest.
  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:22PM (#40603191)

    Came for the nanotechnologists,
    And I did not speak out because I was not a nanotechnologist.
    Then the anarchists came for the computer scientists,
    And I did not speak out because I was not a computer scientist.
    Then the anarchists came for the machinists,
    And I did not speak out because I was not a machinist.
    Then the anarchists came for the blacksmiths,
    And I did not speak out because I was not a blacksmith.
    Then the anarchists came for the farmers,
    And I did not speak out because I was not a farmer.
    Then the anarchists came for the people who whittled pointy sticks,
    And I did not speak out because I did not whittle pointy sticks.
    Then the anarchists came for the people who used rocks,
    And I did not speak out because I did not use rocks.
    Then they came for me,
    Which was okay because my cold dark cave was getting kind of boring anyway.

  • was the late 1800s. this was a period of workers demanding rights, as the gilded age saw the plutocrats consume all of the productivity of society

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_anarchism#The_First_International_and_Collectivist_Anarchism [wikipedia.org]

    so now we see another uptick in anarchism, in a new gilded age, as worker's rights sink lower and lower and the predatory make off with vast sums of money

    it's a pendulum in history, swinging back and forth

    the next step, if we see historical parallels, is the rise of communism again

    of course, social darwinistic capitalism, and communism, are both absurd brutal ideologies, on either end of a spectrum. the intelligent ideology is the middle road: socialism with capitalist engines attached, or capitalism with social safety net. but the communist see any sort of capitalism as a vile evil, and the free market fundamentalists see any sort of common sense social policies: healthcare, education, etc., as a vile evil, and so the middle road does not prevail, depending upon the politics of the day. either one or the other extreme leads to suffering, and the pendulum experiences pressure to swing back the other way

    so, if the historical parallels play out, anarchism is really just the initial indicator of a change in direction of the pendulum, a sort of groping for some sense, what is the point of civilization? the point according to the predatory corporatists: enrichment of a moneyed class, is obviously not a valid meaning of existence. anarchists don't have the right answer, but they do have the right sense to know what is happening now as plutocrats gobble up everything is not right, the plutocrats enabled by this ridiculous quasireligious faith of free market fundamentalist fools who are blinded to the simple fact that markets without rules leads to dominance by a monopoly/ oligopoly, and society and the common man suffers

    the ideal would be a society that locks in some simple rules: social darwinistic capitalism, and communism, are two extremes that both destroy society. therefore, economic and social policies must always hew to a middle road. but we will never get this common sense, as long as the fools who fervently believe in the extremes of capitalism (on the upswing now, in the past dormant) or communism (dormant now, on the upswing in the past, and perhaps the future) are allowed to exert influence. until the fools on either end of the pendulum are clamped down on with governmental rules about the kinds of economic and social policies that can be passed, we will constantly suffer this historical pendulum swing back and forth, back and forth, creating nothing but pain for us all

    • the last time anarchism was on an uptick [in Anarchism] was the late 1800s

      Wow, did you miss the 60s? You might want to reassess your theory there, because it seems to be based on facts that aren't quite true.....there have been other times as well.

      We aren't going to see another rise in communism unless you can find a way to do it without taking away people's liberty. And you can't do that.

      • well, you can take away people's liberty by putting them in grinding poverty so the moneyed class can make even more $. that's where our current political climate is headed

        in a society where there is no route to get ahead, because somebody with lots of cash wants to make more, the sting and sourness and unfairness of that is going to lead people to believe in ideologies with communist principles. might i note, communism is just as bad as rapacious capitalism, and just as essentially stupid. the point is to

  • Who says they're anarchists? The dude in Genoa could easily have been shot by his wifes secret boyfriend. The only way to get ALL the money is if he's killed... but they needed to make it look like some crazy people killed him... oh, I know... anarchists!
  • Why not, it would make as much sense (except it doesn't serve a current political agenda).

    If you want to read what actual anarchists think, try here [whiskeyandgunpowder.com].

    Personally, I think it's a stupid term, but there are some who cling to it.

  • by khipu (2511498) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @12:51PM (#40603641)

    Bakunin pretty much lays it out for you:

    Science in the true sense of that word, real science, is at this time within reach of only an insignificant minority. For example, among us in Russia, how many accomplished savants are there in a population of eighty million? Probably a thousand are engaged in science, but hardly more than a few hundred could be considered first-rate, serious scientists. If science were to dictate the laws, the overwhelming majority, many millions of men, would be ruled by one or two hundred experts. Actually it would be even fewer than that, because not all of science is concerned with the administration of society. This would be the task of sociology – the science of sciences – which presupposes in the case of a well-trained sociologist that he have an adequate knowledge of all the other sciences. How many such people are there in Russia – in all Europe? Twenty or thirty – and these twenty or thirty would rule the world? Can anyone imagine a more absurd and abject despotism?

    It is almost certain that these twenty or thirty experts would quarrel among themselves, and if they did agree on common policies, it would be at the expense of mankind. The principal vice of the average specialist is his inclination to exaggerate his own knowledge and deprecate everyone else’s. Give him control and he will become an insufferable tyrant. To be the slave of pedants – what a destiny for humanity! Give them full power and they will begin by performing on human beings the same experiments that the scientists are now performing on rabbits and dogs.

    We must respect the scientists for their merits and achievements, but in order to prevent them from corrupting their own high moral and intellectual standards, they should be granted no special privileges and no rights other than those possessed by everyone – for example, the liberty to express their convictions, thought, and knowledge. Neither they nor any other special group should be given power over others. He who is given power will inevitably become an oppressor and exploiter of society.

    (NB: I'm not endorsing Bakunin, just relating what one of the first anarchists had to say about it. Keep in mind that he was reacting to communism, a political system that claims to use scientific principles as the basis of government.)

  • There *might be* more [wordpress.com] than [wordpress.com] one scientist [wordpress.com] in the bunch.

    Yes, there are violent people who call themselves anarchists. There are anarchists who oppose a caricature of science (in my experience, they're much-confused about the history of science, especially the Enlightenment). Ask yourself these questions: How much violence has been done by self-proclaimed Christians and capitalists? How many Christians and capitalists have tried to attack or twist science?

    Although "anarchist" has become a byword for "
  • The full name of the Nazi party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei.
    So if you imply that because a group claims to be an Anarchist cell attacks one specific person who is NOT a scientist should taint all people who present themselves as anarchist of with anarchist sympathies you can just as well hang the shoah on:
    - All nationalist (called patriots in the US)
    - All socialist (from "new labour" to "North Korea")
    - All German (even the one born 50 years after the period and whose parents where opp

To err is human -- to blame it on a computer is even more so.

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