Category Archives: Poetry

“Knowledge Wins”

The U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School has released a video called “Knowledge Wins Episode 4 – Great Power Competition – Part 1

The video starts by asking for a definition of competition, and the answer is…open. There are many different and relative definitions of competition, although in my research so far I’ve found universally that knowledge competes with privacy.

The video starts with this war-time poster encouraging people to gain knowledge:

And that reminded me of these two posters that hinted at war-time issues of privacy, information and knowledge:

Death of the Dust Seeker

By Abdukhebir Qadir Erkan

Source: Uighur Poets on Repression and Exile

Building his dwelling in the winds,
gifting the grubs the sun of his skies,
he left for the roads that run dark among letters.
Thirsting for seas that flow from night drops,
living his days outside of the seasons,
sketching his cry in a blossoming chest,
he left his flower with his dark lover.
The buds of his comforting shadows
dug ever deeper in his chest
as he stuttered like a speechless man
through canyons with word-choked memories.

*

Now grant him permission
to die as gloriously as a grub.
Let the tongue that darkened as his hair grew white
be a grave in his soul’s ruined temple.
Make a coffin from the blackboard that ate his lungs,
as we mourn him let it be our wake.

—August 3, 2017

Were the WWII RAF Dambusters Racist?

Is friendly fire still fire? Yes, the Dambusters clearly embraced racism. Just look at the name of their “mascot”…

It’s been a problem for Dambusters’ story-tellers. Back in 2011 the BBC reported that the Dambuster “mascot”, a black Labrador named the N-word, in a movie produced by Peter Jackson would be instead called “Digger“:

You can go to RAF Scampton and see the dog’s grave and there he is with his name, and it’s an important part of the film. The name of the dog was a code word to show that the dam had been successfully breached. In the film, you’re constantly hearing ‘N-word, N-word, N-word, hurray’ and Barnes Wallis is punching the air. But obviously that’s not going to happen now. So Digger seems OK, I reckon.

The BBC goes on to say that decision reflected a fact of a larger story to tell where a dog’s real name is a tiny, unessential detail.

“The film is not about the dog. My big concern would be if they watered down what the Dam Busters had achieved.”

If the N-word is used in its full form, then historians must also talk about a bigger picture of the N-word being a known wrong in 1943 and allowed anyway.

The Independent for example reported seven years later in 2018 that screenings of the original 1955 movie would leave the N-word intact, and instead warn potential viewers of its offensive language.

…”send a clearer warning to parents that the film contains discriminatory language of a nature that will be offensive to many”. The name has previously been censored for TV broadcasts, while some American versions have used dubbing to edit the dog’s name to Trigger.

Digger, Trigger… Vigor, Rigor, Bigger. These codewords based on mascots or any other thing don’t have to be accurate for retelling the main story. Look at it this way, do you really care what the words in the left column are?

Codeword Meaning
Cooler Callsign for Operation Chastise
Pranger Attack Mohne dam. German word for “pinch badly” and name for a medieval torture device
N-word Mohne dam breached, divert to Eder
Dinhgy Eder dam breached, divert to Sorpe
Tulip Cooler 2 take over Mohne, Cooler 4 take over Eder
Gilbert Attack last-resort targets
Mason Return to Base
Goner Upkeep release status (1-7) with results (8-10) on target (A-F). For example Goner 1-8-A is failed to explode, no breach of Mohne, whereas Goner 7-10-A is exploded on contact, large breach of Mohne

It shouldn’t matter what a dog’s name was in the Dambuster narrative (“convincing people on both sides that the Allies were winning“) unless you also want to talk about systemic racism in the RAF at that time… which tends to undermine “winning” narratives and get lots of attention from neo-Nazis.

In other words, if Peter Jackson’s film crew had tried to use the original racist slur name in their movie, they would have needed to address racism with a lot more that just basic context setting. One can’t simply insert the N-word and pretend like all the RAF racism at the time in 1943 doesn’t also come along with it. And going into the known racism of the RAF (being Racist AF?) would have been a very different movie.

Using the N-word also means doing far more to set the context than tossing out “you can go to RAF Scampton and see the dog’s grave” to learn more. I understand such a sentiment, as it’s low cost to drive interested viewers to some other production. The writers suggested anyone who needs to see the original dog name could visit the grave, meaning the fuller story could be found elsewhere.

That is not an unexpected response but that particular statement no longer will fly, given how Sky News reports today that even RAF Scampton has removed the N-word from the gravestone.

It is understood the decision was taken in order to not give prominence to an offensive word that goes against the modern RAF’s ethos.

So you can’t just go and see the N-word being celebrated anymore (on a base scheduled to be closed next year).

Removal of racism is the right decision by the RAF. However, note how Sky News is itself making a subtle racist mistake.

It really should have concluded it’s sentence with “…an offensive word that goes against the RAF’s ethos.” Saying it goes against the modern ethos is problematic because it means Sky News is passively excusing a legacy of racism in the RAF.

Fortunately the BBC does a better job and reports it the proper way:

The RAF said it did not want to give prominence to an offensive term that went against its ethos.

Right. RAF should take down the distraction and when it comes up explain that unfortunate choices were made, explaining why those choices were mistakes and that they are being corrected.

Everyone should be able to agree it was clearly and widely known to be derogatory after the 1800s, as the definitive book “Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word” explains:

We do know… that by the end of the first third of the nineteenth century, nigger had already become a familiar and influential insult. […] For many whites in positions of authority, however, referring to blacks as niggers was once a safe indulgence. […] Given whites’ use of nigger, it should come as no surprise that for many blacks the N-word has constituted a major and menacing presence that has sometimes shifted the course of their lives.

“A safe indulgence” by “whites in positions of authority” seems exactly to be what has happened in the case of the Dambusters naming their dog a racist slur 200 years after it was known to wrong blacks.

The African American Registry explains how change does indeed come slowly for those in positions of authority:

No matter what its origins, by the early 1800s, it was firmly established as a derogative name. In the 21st century, it remains a principal term of White racism, regardless of who is using it. […] In 2003, the fight to correct the shameful availability of this word had positive results. Recently Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), gave a speech at Virginia Tech. There everyone was informed that a landmark decision was made with the people at Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Recognizing their error, beginning with the next edition, the word nigger will no longer be synonymous with African Americans in their publication.

While the word obviously has been harmful this whole time across two centuries, some still try to erase that fact of history by falsely presenting the Dambuster racism as innocent of motive.

It was not innocent, and it was not a different time.

Although, to be fair, during WWII general British society was less racist towards black soldiers than the British military was, and British society also was far less racist than the American military:

…when US military authorities demanded that the town’s pubs impose a colour bar, the landlords responded with signs that read: “Black Troops Only”.

Consider then how a 1964 campaign slogan used the N-word, because it was so harmful, as a weapon to attack Britain. That’s right, a politician won a competition by flouting the N-word in “the most racist election” he could. And this was just 20 years after the Dambusters raid:

Conservative MP, Peter Griffiths, had been elected in the previous year’s general election on the slogan “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.”

If anyone says that Dambuster dog name was neutral and at a “different time”, ask them how it ended up in a very public 1964 hate campaign.

Griffiths openly acknowledged his use of the term was racist. And it’s not like 1943 was such a different time from 1968; those who used the term in military campaigns then would have been voters in their 50s. Who were the Dambusters really targeting when they grotesquely indulged in racism by messaging the N-word over and over and over again?

And then in 1975 an episode of the popular Fawlty Towers comedy on BBC had their military veteran character Major Gowen (played by Ballard Berkeley) repeatedly saying the N-word.

The Major says: ‘The strange thing was that throughout the morning she kept referring to the Indians as n*****s.’ He adds: ‘ “No, no, no, no,” I said, “n*****s are West Indians, these people are w**s”. ‘ “No, no, no,” she said, “all cricketers are n*****s”.’

So you can plainly see a BBC comedy in 1975 was highlighting, as I am here today, how the N-word in Britain was treated by the “old fossil” military types — a hateful word used for a very long time.

That is why by 1943, during the raid that gave the Dambusters their famous name, there should be no question the N-word was known to be racist, as it has been widely documented widely as such before and after.

Its use in fact undermined the fight against Nazism — like dropping bombs all over black neighborhoods of the British Empire — as friendly-fire that was entirely unnecessary and easily prevented.

Again, friendly fire is still fire.

The best case for the Dambusters would be claiming weak leadership — despite public condemnations of racism — as they allowed unfortunate wrongs against their own citizens to continue unchallenged; even that doesn’t change a fundamental fact the N-word was known harmful and use of it by the Dambusters means RAF has to deal with a legacy of racism.

British racism goes bigger than just this one word, of course, given how the N-word is a reference to slavery in the military of a country that used to enforce slavery practices. Keep in mind how a push for abolition of slavery is as old as slavery itself, and the 1700s was when the British experienced mass condemnation (thus leading to its widespread abolition in the early 1800s).

We can’t say in context of this early 1800s abolitionism that because some whites in WWII found that their position of power and privilege conveniently allowed them to indulge in harms without consequences, therefore let’s erase the black experience and instead comfort whites taking the immoral luxury of perpetuating slavery and it’s associated language.

That is very wrong analysis as leaving the N-word prominently displayed without context legitimizes wrongdoing.

Quite clearly there was racism in British ranks, and quite clearly it should be treated as such if their racism is repeated in the open. We even have documentation of the problem from those who suffered it.

…In 1939, the peacetime recruiting regulations…restricted entry into the RAF to men of “pure European descent”. Under the Act, all “men of colour” were automatically debarred…. […] …a Guyanese man…in 1941 was recruited by the RAF. Grant wanted to be a fighter pilot…. Years later after being shown Air Ministry records researched by Roger Lambo be was to painfully learn of the racism with informal Air Ministry policies.

And again, even more to the point:

As Robert Murray, who left Georgetown, Guiana to join the RAF, recalls: “I never heard of racism until I got to Britain.” …there is now a desire to celebrate the achievements of those such as Flight Sergeant Jimmy Hyde, the much-decorated Trinidadian piolt, there has been little recognition of the isolation they felt in the RAF. […] There is an official RAF photograph of Hyde, from 132 Squadron, with his Spitfire and holding “Dingo”, the squadron commander’s pet dog. Hyde, while forcing a smile, looks uneasy: it is unclear which one is the mascot.

[Source: Caribbean Air Crew in the RAF – Imperial War Museum (IWM) Reference CH11978]

However, rather than go too far down the complicated paths to explain motives for systemic racism in the military, we really should keep focus on consequences here.

Given the term was known harmful from the 1800s onward, and given that most blacks who heard the term would consider it harmful, with many first-person confirmations of being wronged, historians must conclude:

POSTING OR USING THE DOG’S NAME WITHOUT RACISM CONTEXT ERASES THE BLACK EXPERIENCE.

Perhaps this clarity to me comes from unique experience that makes the right answer more obvious versus those casually looking at the problem?

I spent many hours deep in the UK government’s military archives for my graduate degree in history from the London School of Economics. In those papers and secret memos I found an excessive amount of racism of an almost unbearable level, especially in the war-time Colonial Office correspondence on the North African campaigns (as you might imagine from the office name).

The intolerance and hate is all still there if you want to open the folders, but it most certainly should not be paraded or celebrated. And if someone pulled that racism from the archive and built a gravestone or monument to it for celebration, I would ask them frankly why they are trying to erase history (ignore the black experience) by trying to elevate and apologize for a particular racist tangent.

And here’s a sad example of a historian of Dambusters who fails miserably at this. He both acknowledges the catastrophe of the N-word and also falls victim to the false trope of “said things differently then”. From the 2020 edition of Operation Chastise.

…I have been repeatedly asked whether it is an embarrassment to acknowledge the name of Gibson’s dog, which became a wirelessed codeword for the breaching of the Mohne. A historian’s answer must be: no more than the fact that our ancestors hanged…and imprisoned homosexuals. They did and said things differently then. It would be grotesque to omit Nigger from a factual narrative merely because the word is rightly repugnant to the twenty-first-century ears. […] Yet in the twenty-first century it also seems essential to confront… the enormity of the horror that the unthinking fliers unleashed upon a host of innocents.

This is a clumsy section of the book, which has to be read very carefully. He is saying he leaves in the N-word as evidence of a wrong. Does he call it out effectively as a wrong?

No, it appears he gives far more careful consideration to the wrongs the RAF may have committed against Nazis, than the wrongs against blacks (or against homosexuals) in the RAF who were fighting against those Nazis.

Note the UK after the war coldly tried and executed their own war hero Alan Turing, for example, simply because he was gay. That narrative is almost never told correctly, given how the government today tries to elevate his name in spite of unjustly killing him.

Interesting data point: given this author of the 2020 Operation Chastise book says historians ought not to omit references to the dog’s name, he makes only 2 mentions in all its pages. And I am sure if he had gone to zero mentions, it would have done nothing to change his narrative.

If anyone believes that erasing history is harmful, then they should see removing the N-word is a restoration project (like cleaning graffiti or pulling down fences). Don’t believe anyone who claims the N-word was acceptable at the time, or that it didn’t get a reaction from those it slighted. Again, as I can’t say this enough, presentation of it without context erases the black experience.

To post such a word believing it to be “factual” without thinking of its factual consequences, is an act of erasure. It erases history and continues to promote severe and lasting wrongs, by failing to acknowledge mistakes as such. The RAF is right to correct the mistake, acknowledge the bigger story and fuller history, and move the racist name to where it can be studied appropriately for being racist.

As Randall Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School and author of the definitive history of the N-word, puts it:

“Given the power of ‘nigger’ to wound, it is important to provide a context within which presentation of that term can be properly understood.

What would context look like for the 1943 Operation Chastise? That’s fairly easy to answer.

The BBC three years earlier on May 16, 1940 responded to an angry letter and issued a public apology for its use of the N-word on air, acknowledging it as “sincerely regretted”.

My attention has been drawn to the fact that one of your announcers, when interpreting some records on the 11th inst., made use of the offensive term ‘nigger’. There is no need for me to remind you that this is one of the unfortunate relics of the days of slavery, vexatious to present day Africans and West Indians, and an evidence of incivility on the part of its user. I hope, sir, as a public corporation, you will take some steps to repair the damage done. I shall be glad to be advised as to what steps you take so that I may be able to inform my Committee accordingly.

======

From the Director, Secretariat of BBC to the President of the League. 16/5/40–

Following my earlier letter, I find that our announcer was at fault. The point raised on your letter is fully appreciated, and is one which the BBC is at pains to keep constantly in mind. It was unfortunately overlooked on this occasion, and a reminder on the subject is being given to announcers. I hope that your Committee will accept the BBC’s apology for this slip, which is sincerely regretted.

And speaking of the BBC, here’s an even better contextual reference from one of their own broadcasters ten years earlier…

The following poem by Una Marson (celebrated war-time broadcaster in the ministry of information, and a noted poet), published in 1933, can be found in the British Library:

Source: The Keys, Una. M. Marson, The League of Coloured Peoples, July 1933. Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board

She warns very conclusively, a full decade before Gibson so wrongly named his dog, that without any doubt the N-word was considered racist and harmful. Gibson chose the name in spite of these public protests against. Even worse, he chose to use a racist slur as a codeword in spite of known harm to the “RAF ethos” then and into the future.

Have you heard of Una Marson?

Every time someone falsely claims the N-word was somehow accepted, or normal for 1943 in the RAF, they actively are erasing her from history despite her very prominent role and the black community opposition to the term during that exact time.

The History Behind Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up”

There’s a line “do not obey” within the famous Curtis Mayfield song “Move On Up”.

Take nothing less than the supreme best
Do not obey for most people say
’cause you can pass the test
So what we have to do is
move on up and keep on wishing
Remember your dream is your only scheme
so keep on pushing

What might “do not obey” refer to?

To start, let’s look all the way back at Woodrow Wilson’s racist “America First” campaign of 1916, which manifested in years of organized white mobs committing widespread violence and terrorizing black neighborhoods.

Historians, for example, might point to the NYC 1917 Silent Parade meant to protest that in America “black skin was death warrant”, or the Chicago 1919 massacre that was part of a “Red Summer” of white supremacist terrorist acts.

This frightful condition continued such that by 1921 all of Tulsa’s black neighborhoods and “Wall Street” were burned to the ground by planes dropping napalm.

Here’s an eyewitness account published by Smithsonian:

I could see planes circling in mid-air. They grew in number and hummed, darted and dipped low. I could hear something like hail falling upon the top of my office building. Down East Archer, I saw the old Mid-Way hotel on fire, burning from its top, and then another and another and another building began to burn from their top…

The side-walks were literally covered with burning turpentine balls. I knew all too well where they came from, and I knew all too well why every burning building first caught from the top… ‘Where oh where is our splendid fire department with its half dozen stations?’ I asked myself. ‘Is the city in conspiracy with the mob?’

Such attacks literally pushed Americans into mass graves, followed with construction of a KKK convention hall on top of cities ruined by white nationalist terrorism (an early form of racist “urban renewal” politics made famous by Nixon, although he more subtlety used dynamite and bulldozers instead of napalm and planes)…

All of this still is rarely if ever taught in American schools.

Blocked from upward mobility by systemically violent white supremacist mobs — meaning police offered the opposite of help — you perhaps can see exactly why black community protection groups emerged.

In other words, ethnic-based “gangs” were started as a way to enable the kind of peace needed to prosper, by defending American communities against organized white supremacist domestic terrorism.

Although some black gangs likely formed to counter the aggressive white youth, the unorganized black youth were no match for the well-organized, all-white gangs that were centered in their athletic clubs.

Wherever white oppression tactics were found, and police failed in their duties, a gang was likely formed to defend against injustices and thus enable a degree of protection to help enable gains in health, wealth and prosperity.

Catholic (Polish, Irish, German, Italian), Chinese, Jewish and black gangs all were established to protect against American domestic terrorism. These ethnic gangs also fundamentally depended on fund-raising and community support events. It is a fine line obviously between donations and extractions/taxation, given a lack of transparency or legal representation possible in gang systems.

A story from Milwaukee, for example, involves a fund-raising event on a huge boat in Lake Michigan. A violent storm caused a collision that sank the boat and decimated that community by drowning the “Irish Union Guard” abolitionist militia leadership. So many leaders of that one community died in just one fund-raising tragedy, it has been said the entire balance of Milwaukee’s political power abruptly shifted on that day towards German militia running the city.

Another story, this time from Minneapolis, is how Jewish gangsters violently attacked any German “Silver Shirt” militia (Nazi) rally, calling it a “patriotic duty as Americans” to shut-down pro-Hitler influence operations.

Berman learned that Silver Shirts were mounting a rally at a nearby Elks’ Lodge. When the Nazi leader called for all the “Jew bastards” in the city to be expelled, or worse, Berman and his associates burst in to the room and started cracking heads. After ten minutes, they had emptied the hall. His suit covered in blood, Berman took the microphone and announced, “This is a warning. Anybody who says anything against Jews gets the same treatment. Only next time it will be worse.” After Berman broke up two more rallies, there were no more public Silver Shirt meetings in Minneapolis.

Totally defeated on the streets the Silver Shirt members then became the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) to gain an unfair advantage over their targets, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Gangs typically dissipated as they become assimilated by mainstream opportunities (upward mobility) in America (even a catholic has been elected President). However America has such high levels of continued oppression of blacks (1950s White House urban renewal was encoded race warfare) it is no wonder black gangs have lingered.

See the film “Rubble Kings” for an excellent look at the socio-economics of how and why New York gangs were formed in the 1960s and what helped them dissipate in the Bronx. Hint: upward mobility through opportunities in music and art, the foundations of today’s rap and hip-hop markets.

With that in mind, let’s look at what Mayfield may have been writing about in his lyrics. The year was 1970 when he released his debut album Curtis, and also when one of the Chicago gangs (Blackstone Rangers) tried to pressure Mayfield to fund them.

He did not obey. Instead he offered them a concert and used his platform to drive a “move on up” message.

He was pushing hope for equality and justice of assimilation that other the races in America were allowed to achieve, leaving behind the need for paying for gang protection from the systemic violence of white power groups.

The Atlantic has described the situation as “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.”

To make an even finer point on the social power of this song, by 1975 a popular TV show about black “nouveau-riche” prosperity in America, called The Jeffersons, created a theme song called “Movin’ On Up“.

Poetry by Яolcats

These poems haven’t been updated for years, so Яolcats’ English Translations of Eastern Bloc Lolcats are starting to look like classics:

-The air is crisp, like fresh spring leaves.

-Do you know the time in Zurich?

-It is you! no one believed you would survive.

-We have little time, you must get these microfiche of the sub plans to Moscow

Very funny.

And now for an actual translation of the Russian phrases:

я по глазам твоим всё вижу: // I see everything in your eyes:
Расстерян. Выкинули что ль? // Distraught. Do you feel loss?
Иди ко мне,-я не обижу. // Come to me, I will not hurt.
Разделим холод,голод,боль… // Share the cold, hunger, pain…

This Day in History: 1812 Luddites Attack a Zoom Mill

“Luddites confined their attacks to manufacturers who used machines in what they called ‘a fraudulent and deceitful manner’ to get around standard labor practices. ‘They just wanted machines that made high-quality goods and they wanted these machines to be run by workers who had gone through an apprenticeship and got paid decent wages. Those were their only concerns.’ The British authorities responded by deploying armed soldiers to crush the protests.
On this day in 1812 a group of a hundred or more (some say thousands) Luddites near Manchester attempted to enter Burton’s Mill in protest. Armed guards of the mill as well as British soldiers fired live rounds into the crowd, killing up to a dozen people.

So why were these Luddites protesting and why were they murdered for it?

There’s a common misnomer among those who say Luddites were an anti-technology group, which the Smithsonian fortunately has tried to dispel.

The label now has many meanings, but when the group protested 200 years ago, technology wasn’t really the enemy.

Let me put it like this. To say Luddites were anti-technology is like saying Robin Hood was anti-technology.

Does anyone say “that Robin Hood really hated the bow and arrow”? No. That makes no sense. His story was about the moral use of bow and arrow (disruptive technology of his day, as proven in the 1415 Battle of Agincourt).

Robin Hood was a folk hero who popularly protested the misuse of technology by elites.

Similarly to the legend of Robin Hood, a powerful Ludd character rose out of the Sherwood forest area of Nottingham to fight for morality as a crucial factor in use of technology; Luddites then demanded quality and expertise in tech to be valued above exploitation.

The Luddites therefore were experts at using technology who disliked owners using machinery in ways known to increase death and suffering.

Think of these heavily armed mill owners in 1800s, targeted by Luddites, as the Sheriff of Sherwood Forrest from 400 years earlier. Then ask who really was on the side of the Sheriff in Robin Hood’s time?

Nottingham Forrest Sheriff, known for being “completely unsympathetic to the poverty of the town’s people, using immoral ways to collect taxes”

Or in today’s terms, think of this like people protesting Zoom’s immoral practices. Those (including myself) calling for Zoom usage to be ended immediately until their ethics show signs of improvement… we are not rejecting technology by holding it to a higher bar!

Luddites today would be the ones calling for and end to Zoom’s obviously deceitful and harmful business practices, to make technology safer for everyone.

Those who have been taught that Luddites didn’t like technology have been misled; don’t forget the entire point of a group who righteously protested against technology used immorally (wielded selfishly by owners and with obvious harms).

Even more tragically, people often leave out the fact that Luddites were ruthlessly murdered by factory gunmen and hanged for daring to defend society under a concept of greater good.

In truth, they inflicted less violence than they encountered. In one of the bloodiest incidents, in April 1812, some 2,000 protesters mobbed a mill near Manchester. The owner ordered his men to fire into the crowd, killing at least 3 and wounding 18. Soldiers killed at least 5 more the next day.

Earlier that month, a crowd of about 150 protesters had exchanged gunfire with the defenders of a mill in Yorkshire, and two Luddites died. Soon, Luddites there retaliated by killing a mill owner, who in the thick of the protests had supposedly boasted that he would ride up to his britches in Luddite blood. Three Luddites were hanged for the murder; other courts, often under political pressure, sent many more to the gallows or to exile in Australia before the last such disturbance, in 1816.

At least 8 killed in just one protest. Some estimates are double. But in all cases the government was using overwhelming force.

To be fair, Luddites reportedly also did commit violent acts against people, even though it ran counter their overall goals of social good.

Some claims were made that Luddites intimidated local populations into sheltering and feeding them, similar to charges against Robin Hood. That seems like dubious government propaganda, however, as Luddites were a populist movement and “melting away” was again a sign of popular support rather than violent intimidation tactics.

Indeed, more often there were accounts of Luddites sneaking into factories at night and cleverly taking soldiers’ guns away to destroy only the machines as a form of protest. People were set free and unharmed.

An exception was in the case above where a mill owner “boasted” of murdering Luddites and was arming guards and calling in the military… escalation unfortunately was set on a path where Luddites stepped up their defense/retaliation.

Don’t forget 1812 was a very violent time overall for the British, with tensions rising around inequality (food shortages) and protracted European war (1803–1815), including rising tangles with America over its relations with France.

Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who extremely opposed the Luddites, was assassinated May 11, 1812 by a merchant named John Bellingham.

Bellingham walked up and shot Perceval point-blank, then calmly sat down on a bench nearby to wait his arrest. Conspiracy theories soon circled, suggesting American merchants and British banks were conspiring to end trade blockades with France.

A month after the May assassination was when the War of 1812 began with America.

All that being said, if you want to ensure technology improves, and doesn’t just exploit unsuspecting consumers to benefit a privileged few, read more about the populist Luddite as well as Robin Hood stories from Nottingham.

These legends represent disadvantaged groups appealing for justice against a tyranny of elites.

Also, consider how “General Ludd” was another fictional character of the Sherwood Forest by design. Here’s a quick Ludd rhyme that was turned into a ticket to entry for meetings.

“This simple stamped ticket with its message showing support for General Ludd would have allowed entrance to one of the local meetings.”

It was his (and Robin Hood’s) inauthenticity, as a face of the very real populist cause that made them impossible to kill.

The legend of Ludd kept “his” cause of justice alive despite overwhelming oppositional military forces. Allegedly British authorities invoked “posse comitatus” (it’s a thing Sheriffs are known to do) and deployed more military soldiers domestically to stop Luddites than during war with Napoleon.

Nottingham took on the appearance of a wartime garrison… authorities estimated the number of rioters at 3,000, but at any one time, no more than 30 would gather…

In American history we have similar heroes, such as the inauthentic yet also real General Tubman. She fought plantation owners in the same sense that Ludd fought mill owners; targeting the immoral use of machinery.

Surely slave owners would have called Tubman an anti-technology radical at war with their manufacturing if they could have made such absurd accusations stick (instead of her being remembered rightly as an American patriot, veteran, abolitionist and human rights champion).

Sadly people incorrectly brand Luddites as anti-technology, when in fact they very much were in favor of proper and skilled use of technology. Hopefully someday soon this chapter in history will stand corrected.

Murder Your Darlings

Despite my best efforts to stop the practice of using such a phrase, I find people sometimes still say cloud computing is all about “cows not pets”. What they mean to say is in the harsh world of cloud you shoot the vulnerable instead of caring for them.

The truth about cows is the opposite, however. Ranchers spend a ton of money on veterinarian science and care about cattle health improving because if they can fix one they can translate that to tens or hundreds of thousands of others saved.

It’s a lot of money on the line when looking at cattle health because typically there are many cows to one owner, just like cloud but not in the way expressed.

The economics of investing to keep cows alive is very unlike pets where most people have a few at most and put them down before they’d spend $500 on care.

It’s a harsh truth but proof of it is in how little is actually known about domestic cat health.

Unlike cattle health being rigorously studied in universities around the world and funded for obvious macro economic reasons, researchers rarely if ever find a pet owner willing to pay for science studies that would improve the lives of cats… owned individually by other people.

Anyway, while the cows not pets saying drags on incorrectly in tech circles, I ran across a Cambridge lecture by Arthur Quiller-Couch in January 1914 (“On the Art of Writing”) that has a particularly famous phrase in it:

If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.

Suddenly a thought occurred to me… instead of trying to untangle economics about cows and pets I should instead propose people adopt this Quiller-Couch phrase to explain cloud.

COVID19 Security Slogans

Years ago I won the TSA competition for security slogans.

I’m not proud, especially because I didn’t enter it and nobody told me my slogan had won until an external investigator pointed out that someone borrowed it from my 2006 blog post and claimed the prize for themselves.

Anyway I’ve written a little here about the strange dearth of security slogans, a missed opportunity, during COVID-19.

Now I’m really getting curious why US officials are trying to encourage things like mask wearing, yet nobody has come up with basic jingles to promote it.

A quick search has only turned up a 1918 example from San Francisco.

Obey the laws, and wear the gauze. Protect your jaws from septic paws.

Seems applicable today. If I don’t find posters of this soon I may just start making them myself. With luck, someone at TSA will notice and then submit to their next competition as their own.

Speaking of being owned, while reading the news about security flaws in popular video conferencing my mind wandered onto the rhyme… gloom and doom for a chat room vacuum. How soon could it ruin the zoom boom?

Not quite “loose lips sink ships” but maybe if I work at it a little I could get closer with chat room vacuum ruins zoom boom. The problem is it’s too specific to one company, but hopefully you get my drift.

Speaking of drift, the US Naval History Blog in 2019 posted a very graphic warning about pandemic risks, and it starts by quoting a 1918 children’s rhyme:

I had a little bird,
And its name was Enza.
I opened the window
And in-flu-enza.

Ok, I couldn’t resist. Here’s a simple security education poster from WWII, which I’ve updated simply to reflect COVID-19:

It’s become infuriating to me every time I hear someone say they’ve seen 0 deaths so far, or who ask why worry if they don’t know someone personally affected. Education campaigns are sorely missing here.

Security professionals ought to be good at predicting likelihood and severity of harms. Prediction is what the industry is supposed to be doing in order to put controls in before it’s too late (as well as clean up afterwards, but let’s not go there). So let’s have some slogans going and get word out maybe?

A simple viz shows why the 0-deaths-so-far-crowd need quickly to get a clue, but it doesn’t make for a pithy phrase or poster.

Let me know if you can think of any good way to condense that graphic into a rhyme…