Muck and Mystery
   Loitering With Intent
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June 08, 2008
Little Dogs

Cosma points to a Paulina Borsook post that criticizes the Wired article mentioned here in Green Goblins. His gnomic comment was that the post made him nostalgic for the 90s. There's no telling what he meant by that, so I'll talk about what I would have meant by that, had I said it.

Borsook, who was involved with Wired at the time, sums up their pose as saucy, ignorant and contrarian.

The June 2008 issue of Wired magazine, which counsels “rethinking everything you ever learned about being green” (with an implicit message of “don’t listen to the pieties of the left”), and has a forward by Wired co-founder Louis Rossetto, harkens back to the bad old days of its libertarian anti-progressive politics.

When Wired magazine first hit the scene fifteen years ago in June 1993, part of its gestalt was a kind of world-turned-upside-down saucy contrarianism. Information technology is sexy! And more indirectly, pious humorless liberals are repressive and not on the side of change!

All true IIRC. The word was that Wired skimmed quickly through buzz space identifying hot spots. They didn't know much or have particularly useful things to say about the hot spots, but they were among the first to identify them. The things they mentioned often grew in significance as more in-depth commentaries by better thinkers were published. When understood this way their contributions were useful, something like the raucous screeching of birds and squirrels that alert you to the presence of predators - snakes hidden in the grass or a cougar lurking in the shadows.

Borsook takes the content of the articles too seriously.

It would be too tedious to argue with all ten of Wired’s inconvenient mistruths, so let me take on a typical example, “Screw Organic“:
As I noted in that older post:
The argument seems to be a replay or spin-off of Stewart Brand's environmental heresies position of a couple of years ago. . .

Each point has a short, airy justification article, none of which can stand much critical scrutiny. It's a puff piece not a serious discussion, but being green isn't about serious, it's fashion. There are serious arguments that support and/or undermine each of the heresies. Science is harder than fashion, and almost never yields unambiguous answers.

The value of the Wired article, diminished now that fast skimming of the buzz-space is common, is that it identifies an area of concern, even though the commentary is just bird screeches. The section Borsook chose to debunk wasn't titled "screw organic" it was "Surprise! Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier on the Planet". The arguments made to support that claim were nonsensical, as Borsook proceeded to partially reveal (making her own mistakes in the process), but the claim is the useful part. Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier on the Planet.

Careful thinkers have moved past the regressive, old world thinking of supposed "progressives". Confronted with the immanent reality of 9 billion people trying to feed, clothe and energize themselves with peasant style ag the unhelpful pieties of organic cultists no longer seem harmless and quaint. As Brand asked: where are the green biotech hackers that can deal with this reality in ways that achieve the spirit of preservation without the hide-bound regressive aspects of paleo-green cultism? The Wired article didn't support the claim - it was merely saucy, ignorant and contrarian - but the claim is significant. The case has been made by serious and knowledgeable commentators. Pay attention. Something is coming.

Posted by back40 at 10:42 AM | Media

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