Before she set out in her carriage to St Paul's for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, Victoria sent a telegram from the Buckingham Palace cable room: Thank my beloved people. May God bless them. It was immediately transmitted to the St Martin's Le Grand Central Telegraph Office.
By the time Victoria had been helped into her carriage in the palace courtyard, the message had reached Tehran.
As her carriage rolled past the massed cavalrymen and Londoners on the Mall, her message had reached Ottawa, all the West African colonies down to the Cape of Good Hope, every British Caribbean island and the Queen's beloved India. Before Victoria had clattered under Admiralty Arch, her message had reached Melbourne and Wellington, the edge of the empire and the end of the world.
Friends and enemies alike couldn't quite fit the empire in their heads. The New York Times wrote of the occasion, "we are part, and a great part, of the Greater Britain which seems so plainly destined to dominate this planet." Women's groups in Brooklyn sang God Save the Queen. In France, Le Figaro declared that Rome had been 'equalled, if not surpassed' and even the Germans described Victoria's empire as 'practically unassailable'.
This is an astonishing level of technological superiority for its time. No other nation came close. The Empire, at its peak, almost qualifies as a Breakaway Civilisation of the Richard Dolan type. And it was the communications infrastructure that kept the Empire and its navy unassailable.
From Jan Morris's Pax Britannica:
The British had invented submarine cables, and by the 1890s had encompassed their Empire with them. Of the inhabited British territories, only Fiji, British Honduras, Tobago, the Falkland Islands, Turks Islands and New Guinea were not on a cable at all. The several imperial cable networks, upon which the Empire depended for its intelligence and its central control, were nearly all operated by private companies, though many of them received official subsidies, and most were possessed by the ambition to be All-British Routes, running exclusively across British landscapes or under British-dominated seas. Half the cables had been laid within the past twenty-five years, some of them by Brunel’s gargantuan steamship the Great Eastern, originally designed for the Eastern service, but reduced at last to this humdrum chore: since 1870 the Colonial Office telegraph bill had risen from £800 a year to about £8,000.
To the New Imperialists the cables had a symbolic quality, and visionaries saw them developed into an absolutely British, earth- embracing system. ‘Such a perfected system‚’ wrote one commentator, ‘traversing the deepest seas, touching only British soil, protected at every point of landing by British vigilance and courage, would be as reliable for the direction of our navies, and for combined military action in time of war, as it would be useful in time of peace for the development of commerce and the interchange of thought and information on national affairs.'
And it was exactly that. A 'perfected system' of military might that was also used for unequal economic dominance. Not a lot of people know that the first shots fired by the British against the Germans in World War I happened in Melbourne. On August 5, 1914, the German freighter, the SS Pfalz was leaving Port Philip Harbour. The declaration of war had arrived in Australia within minutes of the King uttering it.The Germans had no idea. The Royal Australian Navy vessel, the Alvina, fired on and then boarded the Pfalz.
And with that, as Jan Morris writes, “The entire British Empire went to war with Germany and her allies that August, all 450 million subjects of the Crown being bound by a single declaration from the King-Emperor. ”
A privately-owned, government-funded, military communications technology used principally for surveillance of imperial threats and unequal business dealings. Stop me if you've heard this one.
And how is the internet feeling, lately?
Let's see what has changed since we were last shown a world without sin.
- Digital centralisation continues apace. Doug Rushkoff:
Uber has nothing to do with helping people get rides in towns. Uber is a business plan. It’s a platform monopoly getting ready to leverage that monopoly into another vertical whether it be delivery, drones or logistics. The prosperity of all the people who used to be in the cabbie industry ends up sacrificed to the growth of this company. Corporations are like these obese people, they suck money out of our economy and store it in the fat of share price. That’s not business, that’s value extraction. They take all the chips off the board.
- Facebook can map more of the earth in a week than we have in history. So much for reintroducing the kraken back into the wild.
[T]he social network announced that its AI system took two weeks to build a map that covers 4 per cent of our planet. That’s 14 per cent of Earth’s land surface, with 21.6 million square kilometres of photographs taken from space, digested and traced into a digital representation of the roads, buildings and settlements they show. And Facebook says it can do it better and faster, potentially mapping the entire Earth in less than a week.
To understand how the new forms of mind control work, we need to start by looking at the search engine – one in particular: the biggest and best of them all, namely Google... Google has become the main gateway to virtually all knowledge, mainly because the search engine is so good at giving us exactly the information we are looking for, almost instantly and almost always in the first position of the list it shows us after we launch our search – the list of ‘search results’.
That ordered list is so good, in fact, that about 50 per cent of our clicks go to the top two items, and more than 90 per cent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed on the first page of results; few people look at other results pages, even though they often number in the thousands, which means they probably contain lots of good information. Google decides which of the billions of web pages it is going to include in our search results, and it also decides how to rank them. How it decides these things is a deep, dark secret – one of the best-kept secrets in the world, like the formula for Coca-Cola.[..]
Google has a near-monopoly on internet searches in the US, with 83 per cent of Americans specifying Google as the search engine they use most often, according to the Pew Research Center. So if Google favours one candidate in an election, its impact on undecided voters could easily decide the election’s outcome.
So, the fact that they are entirely favouring Killary in this current dystopian farce? Or the fact that the DARPA seed-funded founder is now heading up the Pentagon's innovation board? Nothing to see here? Well, read on.
- Killary's email leaks show Google assisted in the attempt to overthrow Assad:
"Please keep close hold, but my team is planning to launch a tool ... that will publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from," Jared Cohen, the head of what was then the company's "Google Ideas" division, wrote in a July 2012 email to several top Clinton officials.
"Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition," Cohen said, adding that the plan was for Google to surreptitiously give the tool to Middle Eastern media."
It's not just Google and it's not just the US though, is it? The platforms upon which we spend the majority of our waking hours are really leaning into this frictionless world without sin.
"In order for users to feel confident expressing themselves “freely and safely,” Twitter is debuting a new advisory group dubbed the “Trust & Safety Council.” But a quick glance at its membership roster suggests the council is almost as Orwellian as it sounds—and overwhelmingly biased in favor of speech suppression.[..]
[D]espite the press release’s claim that the council includes a “diversity of voices,” virtually none of the council members are properly classified as free speech organizations... [T]the vast majority are certainly more concerned about allowing too much speech rather than too little."
And this is precisely what managed conversations look like. Embarrassingly, we are also self-policing and self-managing discourse:
Does this not mean that freedom of thought and expression are crucial to our struggles? That we should always defend our right to question what we’re taught, our right to be different? As Noam Chomsky put it: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
We have the right to challenge other people's speech, but what many people are seeing is the shutting off of dialogue entirely for the purpose of “safety”. What could possibly be safe about censorship? What could possibly be safe about a group of people who claim to be freedom fighters dictating who can speak and what can be said, based on whether or not we agree with them? Study any kind of history and you will find that censorship has never been on the right side of it.
As for Europe? Ahhh, Europe. Well...
- Google is bumping Brexit sites down its listings, for a start:
Google has demoted the site EU Referendum to “below the fold” in searches for the term “EU referendum”, where it isn’t visible to most web surfers unless they scroll down.
The political site, which was founded by author and researcher Richard A.E. North in 2004, was the top search result for the topical expression across all the major search engines for a decade.
At Google, the site has been demoted to 10th (or 13th, depending on how you count it) for the search term, with links to the BBC and the pro-EU Guardian newspaper ranking higher. North’s site still ranks No.1 for the same term over at Yahoo! and Bing.
Which presumably makes it difficult to find out about the EU's play for total digital Orwellism, like...
- Requiring all Europeans to log into social platforms using state-issued ID cards?
The paper outlines that: “In particular, online platforms need to accept credentials issued or recognised by national public authorities, such as electronic ID cards, citizens cards, bank cards or mobile IDs… for every consumer to have a multitude of username and password combinations is not only inconvenient but becomes a security risk.”
This draft document entitled ‘Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market’ is dated 25 May this year, and urges the log in policy on the basis that fake user reviews are misleading European consumers.[..]
“In 2013, the European Parliament spent almost £2 million on press monitoring and trawling Eurosceptic debates on the internet for “trolls” during euro-elections amid fears that hostility to the EU was growing.”
They claim that “institutional communicators must have the ability to monitor public conversation and sentiment on the ground and in real time, to understand ‘trending topics’ and have the capacity to react quickly, in a targeted and relevant manner, to join in and influence the conversation, for example, by providing facts and figures to deconstructing myths.”
- They're also forcing major publishing platforms to remove what the state defines as illegal hate speech within twenty four hours:
The European Union (EU), in partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft, has unveiled a "code of conduct" to combat the spread of "illegal hate speech" online in Europe.
Proponents of the initiative argue that in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, a crackdown on "hate speech" is necessary to counter jihadist propaganda online.
Opponents counter that the initiative amounts to an assault on free speech in Europe. They say that the EU's definition of "hate speech" and "incitement to violence" is so vague that it could include virtually anything deemed politically incorrect by European authorities, including criticism of mass migration, Islam or even the European Union itself.
Some Members of the European Parliament have characterized the EU's code of online conduct — which requires "offensive" material to be removed from the Internet within 24 hours, and replaced with "counter-narratives" — as "Orwellian."
So here is the global build-out of our world without sin:
- Connection of all your devices -including your fridge and kettle, soon enough- to a single state issued ID.
- This ID connects with your entire financial footprint as the last effective step in rolling out a fully digital currency that I know some of you don't think is coming but, let me assure you, it is.
- Your ID connects your online activity to your financial and insurance information (never search for medical info on the open web lest your insurers find it), allows for AI processes to categorise you based on your webs of association and 'interests' into groups that this regime considers subversive.
It is a fully realised science fiction nightmare. And then in April I got this notification from Google:
The post in question that no longer appears in search results is, of course, an Archonology post. Interestingly it is the one that mentions Killary and Bill's murder count.
I got this notification within two days of my darling Catherine Austin Fitts opening her Q1 Wrap Up by quoting The Chaos Protocols. Which suggests that she still has some pretty powerful Washington subscribers.
Whatever is to be done, then?
Announcing The All Red Line
This is not even a Cyberpunk world. Cyberpunk tends to romanticise the danger of digital/communications infrastructure a little too much. Make it sexy. If anything, our world is much more banal than that. But the word still speaks to the online-to-offline trend I have been banging on about for the last few years. Your goal is to have sufficient analogue nodes in a network so that your user table in the shadow state's relational database is permanently incomplete. In order to defeat the cylons we must cyborg ourselves, we must lean into the meat.
And it is the First World Without Sin that provides the most poetic metaphor in the end. The imperial communications infrastructure came to be known as the All Red Line. Jan Morris:
All over the world Englishmen were at work laying or maintaining these cables, or operating booster stations along the line. In every British colony the local cable manager was an important member of society, and in remoter parts his cable station became a focus of nostalgia, so evocative were the clickings of its Morse keys from across the oceans.
So we shall have our own All Red Line.
This is to be, starting next week, a weekly newsletter that will provide a space to further discussions that would -just to pluck an example out of the air- get one of my more popular posts de-indexed for unknown keywords (Hillary Clinton) in an unknown number of countries (all of them covered by the law).
Inside The All Red Line:
- Something fun I'm not going to disclose
- A weekly video from me where I answer questions sent in to either the blog or The All Red Line. I've actually got a backlog of questions (sorry everyone!) that I'll start with but I won't use anyone's name. That will be the default unless you specifically request me to say your name bitch. Just hit reply to the newsletter and put 'QUESTION' in the title.
Some things to know:
- Rune Soup will always be about its three mission words: magic, culture, paranormal. None of that will be hoovered up into The All Red Line.
- If you subscribe to this blog via email, you are already subscribed to TARL. I would have liked to make it fully opt-in from the start but it's not possible given I only have your email address. When you get the first All Red Line, just click into your preference centre at the bottom and unsubscribe if you're not interested in TARL. Again, sorry.
- For you champs that still use RSS you are not automatically subscribed to TARL and need to manually do so. This won't change your RSS subscription to the blog, although we will be moving off feedburner (which Google no longer supports) to WordPress RSS but I'll do all that in the background.
- The podcast is unaffected.
- Obviously I will never sell, share, rent or roll around in your data. And if you unsubscribe at any stage your information will be permanently deleted.
The name is deliberately evocative. An analogue network technically has spatial restrictions. ie we all need to be in the same place. But we are not. We are spread out. We are disparate. There is a beauty in that:
The central station of the Overland Telegraph was at Alice Springs, the first nucleus of that famous little town. It was a clump of shacks and a stone bungalow above the springs, themselves named for Alice Todd, wife of the chief engineer. This was one of the loneliest places in the Empire. It was a thousand miles north to Darwin, a thousand miles south to Adelaide—the nearest towns. For company the little group of cablemen had only themselves, their animals, the odd incoherent bushman, and the occasional grazier or overlander dropping in for a beer in a country where the hospitality of the pioneers was still a rule of life.
At night especially the Alice cable station must have seemed a properly epic outpost. Then the wind rustled off the desert through the eucalyptus thicket, armies of frogs croaked in the fringes of the pool, the air was heavy with dust and gum-smell, and the horses stood silent beneath the pepper trees. Oil lamps shone through the windows of the huts, and sometimes a sudden chatter of the Morse machine miraculously linked the Alice, for a moment or two, with Calcutta, Malta and the imperial capital on the other side of the world.
Clearly a weekly newsletter is still digital infrastructure. However it is necessary infrastructure upon which to build a post-digital network. You all are required to be metaphoric cable managers in your own lives. Forward TARL if you like but definitely talk about its topics using your actual mouth with actual humans in your life.
What does a post-digital, online-to-offline analogue network look like? No fucking idea.
Care to find out?
(POSTSCRIPT: As I hit publish, Microsoft announces it is acquiring LinkedIn. And so the relational database that underpins our world without sin grows.)