October 11, 2013

The “truth” about the “Illuminati”

Filed under: Books, History, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 12:34

Jesse Walker is invited to free-associate on a series of words or phrases by the staff of TNB. One of the terms they just happened to mention was “Illuminati”:

The Bavarian Illuminati — the actual historical organization, not the all-powerful cabal of legend — were founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776 and suppressed about a decade later. They weren’t the first group to call themselves Illuminati, and they weren’t the first Illuminati to appear in a New World conspiracy theory. In Chiapas in the 1580s, a bishop became convinced that some of the local Indians were “giving cult to the Devil and plotting against our Christian religion.” The secret sect’s beliefs, he added, resembled those of the Spanish heretics known as the Alumbrados, or Illuminati.

But the Bavarians were the biggies. Their alleged machinations set off a panic in Federalist circles at the end of the 1790s. The New England minister Jedidiah Morse sermonized that he had “an official, authenticated list of the names, ages, places of nativity, professions, &c. of the officers and members of a Society of *Illuminati* … consisting of *one hundred* members”; among other things, the plotters allegedly had a plan “to invade the southern states from [Haiti] with an army of blacks … to excite an insurrection among the negroes.” Another Federalist writer warned that Thomas Jefferson was an agent of the cabal. The order entered pop culture, too. In Sally Wood’s novel *Julia and the Illuminated Baron*, published in 1800 and set in prerevolutionary France, a lady Illuminatus describes their initiation ceremony: “disrobed of all coverings except a vest of silver gauze, I am to be exposed to the homage of all the society present upon a marble pedestal placed behind which sacrifices are to be offered.” She adds, “This sect increases daily. They will in a few years overturn Europe and lay France in ruins.”

In the 20th century the Illuminati became stock villains on the far right, appearing alternately as a revolutionary force and as the secret rulers of the world. In the 1960s they started cropping up in countercultural and leftist tales too, thanks partly to some pranksters who thought it would be fun to seed the underground press with stories about Illuminati activities. A couple of those pranksters wrote the cult novel Illuminatus! in the 1970s, and that helped re-inject the idea into mass culture. These days, of course, the Illuminati are everywhere. Er, I mean *stories about* the Illuminati are everywhere.

All of these theories are quite clearly mistaken or deliberately fraudulent … unlike the shadowy Council of 300!

Creating an “air gap” for computer security

Filed under: Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:13

Bruce Schneier explains why you’d want to do this … and how much of a pain it can be to set up and work with:

Since I started working with Snowden’s documents, I have been using a number of tools to try to stay secure from the NSA. The advice I shared included using Tor, preferring certain cryptography over others, and using public-domain encryption wherever possible.

I also recommended using an air gap, which physically isolates a computer or local network of computers from the Internet. (The name comes from the literal gap of air between the computer and the Internet; the word predates wireless networks.)

But this is more complicated than it sounds, and requires explanation.

Since we know that computers connected to the Internet are vulnerable to outside hacking, an air gap should protect against those attacks. There are a lot of systems that use — or should use — air gaps: classified military networks, nuclear power plant controls, medical equipment, avionics, and so on.

Osama Bin Laden used one. I hope human rights organizations in repressive countries are doing the same.

Air gaps might be conceptually simple, but they’re hard to maintain in practice. The truth is that nobody wants a computer that never receives files from the Internet and never sends files out into the Internet. What they want is a computer that’s not directly connected to the Internet, albeit with some secure way of moving files on and off.

He also provides a list of ten rules (or recommendations, I guess) you should follow if you want to set up an air-gapped machine of your own.

Jonah Goldberg on Scooby Doo

Filed under: Humour, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:53

For this week’s Goldberg File email, Jonah Goldberg ran an old piece from some time in the last few years, talking about the cultural implications of the TV show Scooby Doo:

So my daughter and I have been talking about Scooby Doo a lot. She thinks the show, in all its myriad incarnations, is riveting. She will interrupt conversations with “Oh, Daddy, did you know …” and I will expect to hear about something from school or from her daily life, and she will commence to tell me something about Shaggy or Velma or Scooby.

The show has gone through a lot of changes over the years (the Wikipedia entry is disturbingly interesting; one of these days I must remember to carve it into a great chain of toilet seats). In case you didn’t know, the show now features real monsters and ghosts quite often. Not always, but often enough. For decades, the monsters weren’t real, merely the attempts of hucksters and con men. Now the makers of the show teach little kids that there really are vampires and witches.

At first, I thought this scandalous. I always thought the point of the show was to teach little kids not to be scared of things that go bump in the night.

But this is actually the least offensive thing about the show. Bear with me.

Recently, I caught the tail end of one of the newer episodes, and I was dismayed to discover that the perpetrator of the scary hoax was not the bad guy. He was something of an environmentalist/historic preservationist who wanted to keep some greedy corporate fat cats from developing some land. It seemed like something close to an endorsement of ecoterrorism.

Obviously, I was going to turn this revelation into an NR cover story. But as I pondered it, I thought more deeply about the original series. The show starts in 1969. The kids of Mystery Inc., who seem to have absolutely no parental supervision, are clearly counter-cultural. Freddie may not be gay, but he wears an ascot, and, for anyone under the age of 60, that alone is an invitation to a beating. And given that the show was launched in 1969, he may just be dressing that way to duck the draft. (Indeed, why the heck aren’t Fred and Shaggy knee-deep in some rice paddy somewhere?) Velma, meanwhile, certainly looks like she runs a pottery shop in Burlington, Vt., if you know what I mean.

And Shaggy, well, he’s a filthy hippy who always has the munchies. ‘Nuff said.

This week in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:55

My weekly Guild Wars 2 community round-up at GuildMag is now online. The first October release is coming next week and will feature the return of some content from the original Halloween event. Blood and Madness will be released on Tuesday and we have previews of the new and updated content. In addition, we’ve also got the usual assortment of blog posts, videos, podcasts, and fan fiction from around the GW2 community.

Alice Munro’s Nobel a vote of confidence for other Canadian dissidents

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:10

The Washington Post‘s Max Fisher plays it straight with this report on the recent Nobel Prize awarded to “dissident Canadian writer Alice Munro”:

Munro has long been celebrated by Western writers. American novelist Cynthia Ozick once described her as “our Chekhov,” comparing her to the Russian playwright known for challenging Russia’s restrictive Tsar-era social codes.

State media in Canada reacted positively to the news, calling it a great victory for the Canadian nation and the state ideology. Still, Munro is expected to come under intense pressure from Canadian exile communities, who are already calling on the author to use this moment to focus greater attention on the lack of political freedoms in Canada.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International are urging Ottawa to allow Munro permission to travel abroad to accept the prize in December. Though Canadian Nobel winners have been permitted to fly to Oslo to accept the prize in years past, the political nature of Munro’s work and recent Canadian tensions with the European Union have called this into question.

In the meantime, some of Munro’s admirers in the West have expressed hope that the author’s works may finally be fully translated into English.

QotD: Political memoirs

Filed under: Books, Humour, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Any statement in a politician’s memoirs can represent one of six different levels of reality:
a. What happened.
b. What he believed happened.
c. What he would have liked to have happened.
d. What he wants to believe happened.
e. What he wants other people to believe happened.
f. What he wants other people to believe he believed happened.

Jonathan Lynn, “Yes Minister Series: Quotes from the dialogue”, JonathanLynn.com

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