The information superhighway.
History has a lot of examples of where common trade routes used by lots and lots of people to get around the world became, basically, places to exhibit conquests. One of the more famous stories from the Roman Republican period is the Spartacus revolt.
It’s a revolt which led thousands of men against a legion of regular troops under Marcus Licinius Crasus. Upon Crassus defeating the mercenaries and rebellious gladiators, the Senate ordered that the defeated captives—roughly six thousand of them—that remained alive be crucified at intervals along the major highway of the time: The Appian Way.
None shall defy Rome, is what they said.
Passers-by would have had to walk through a forest of the dead or dying, nailed to trees and posts and left to fade away in the sun. Each person, nailed up to subsume, would have been a testament to Marcus Crassus’s victory. By extension, the dying rebels were examples of what the Roman Republic were willing to do to people who do them wrong by disobeying the law, or revolting, or just about anything else counter to their aims.
Roman justice was known to be brutal and iron-fisted, but I’ve always thought of this act as a step toward savagery. The fate of the Spartacus revolt is not unique. Later in history, in living memory, there was another example; Nazi armies counter-attacking on the Eastern Front occasionally reconquered villages which the Soviets had overrun in east Germany in 1945. They would find naked women nailed to every conceivable wall-type surface, in cruciform position. Many had been raped to death.
That’s just one example. The scene would be repeated over and over throughout the human march through time.
None shall defy Rome, indeed.
So what happened, here? What is being done here, in terms of larger reach? In terms of influence and message?
Violence was used to dissuade further crimes against the state. Any state.
Were there actually crimes against the state? Well, as far as Rome is concerned, of course there was. Rome can’t risk fragments of its population deciding to leave and find their own fortune, can it? Especially on a whim, and especially whilst armed. That challenged the Roman state, carved away parts of their tax-farmable population, made them look silly, as well as occupying a bit of Italy. It inspired banditry, crime, and a wide array of cutting remarks and raised eyebrows; all bad things when applied against a powerful entity like the Roman state—it creates doubt about that power’s legitimacy.
People have been executed for satire and “dissident speech” throughout history for making the odd cutting remark, or raising a disdainful eyebrow at the wrong moment.
So if you haven’t read my post on what wars are, you should. I’ll give you a quick synopsis so you can finish this article first. Essentially, wars are forms of persuasion which aim to convince the enemy to concede to your point of view by depleting their resources until they have no other realistic choice but to do so (credit to Scott Adams for this thought).
It made me begin to wonder what, exactly, characterises not a war but just violence for us in the Information Age. If you read the title of this article, you can probably begin to guess what I’m going to suggest, here.
Since wars can’t be international anymore—any conventional conflict, it is currently taken as a rule, will result in nuclear war if it should happen between superpowers—wars for domination have turned toward ideologies and domestic politics.
Capitalism versus Communism, Muslims versus everybody else (keeping in mind the Islamic view that every non-Sharia government is illegitimate) and so on and so forth. Since these conflicts are occurring in realms which can entertain such conflicts—developed powers whose populations have the time, space and agency within which to worry about ideology—we have a more genteel form of violence that we need to worry about.
It is turned toward your resources. Your property, your employment, your livelihood. People no longer knife you in the back-alleys; we’re not in Lucius Cornelius Sulla’s Rome. Instead, they attack you on the Internet, in the media, and mostly? In the minds of the audience.
Put another way, of course, we are in Sulla’s Rome, because discourse and rhetoric is as powerfully effective as it has ever been. It can lead to your name appearing on lists where your livelihood will be acted against; a modern version of Sulla’s Prescriptions.
How many times over the last few years of the Obama administration did you see the hue and cry go up of “racist”? And rapidly, that person had to step down from their position, or leave their job, or somehow could not continue to function and get paid. Their reputation took a hit, their lives became a disaster.
Let’s look at the controversial one, because #GreyLayer.
Treyvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in Florida. The state reviewed the situation. It was investigated. It went through the system, and the verdict came down that the policeman had acted in the right. There is a lot of disinformation surrounding this case, but it’s old, propagandistic literary technique. The fact of the matter is that if you are not attacking your government directly, you must tacitly agree with the state. This is particularly true of anyone who is taking money from the state—anyone on any description of welfare or social aid. The key, though, is that barely any evidence was needed. Zimmerman’s name appeared on the list because he was a white man with power (as a member of the police force) who “murdered” a black man who had no power at all.
After all, how can your name show up on Lucius Sulla’s list of people to be executed unless you had committed a crime against the state? The evidence must be there, right? Otherwise your name wouldn’t be on this list! You can very nearly picture the people around who realised that a) they could get paid for offing the people who belonged to those names and b) not doing so might raise suspicions about their sympathies with condemned criminals.
Eventually, of course, people who question why some people are on that list, themselves wind up on the list. Consequently, people are eventually and en masse, persuaded to stop asking questions.
I know a lot of pundits and thinkers consider this cowardice. But actually, surrendering to more powerful militaries when you don’t really have a chance just saves lives—most principally, your own, and what more could you ask people to do?
Really, all you are is property, aren’t you?
So when a larger group wages a war on your resources to get you to knuckle under and accept what they’re selling, it’s just part of a larger war of domination. Ideological, domestic, and ostentatiously peaceful, yes, but also with its casualties.
So we return to the New Appian Way. What’s the best metaphor for an ancient trade road which linked together the entire empire? Well, we have a much better example of a highway which has the potential to connect literally everybody, ever.
In our age, the Appian Way is the Information Superhighway. People are crucified on the Internet, and left there to die. They can be swallowed, cross-analysed, and close read, every action scanned without context, then interpreted according to the viewer’s ideology. This is not a politically-one-sided attack routine; both right and left have hands covered in blood by this relentless, gossipy filth.
People lose their jobs. People are pepper-sprayed or beaten, driven by all these corpses which litter the Internet. People are deluded by the propaganda of force into believing that force is okay to use on one’s own.
What’s the root problem? It’s something Milo Yiannopoulis and Stefan Molyneux have both talked about previously. While they both believe this root problem is a leftist phenomenon, my contention is that there are more factors than just political alignment.
In a world with so much restriction and regulation, and in a world where any physical force applied tends to result in massive jail sentences—see the UC Berkeley rioters getting ten years apiece (appropriately)—where else are people going to go to satisfy the basic human need for blood on the sand? Both voyeurs and “gladiators,” politicians and Legionaries with the ambition to become consuls are now drawn into the endless social media echo chambers to fight like they used to fight in Gaul, or Numidia, or Carthage, or in the Colosseum.
The root problem? It’s that words have become the only force you’re allowed to use anymore, and so there are a lot of people getting really good at it. And yes, it is leftist governments which have generally applied strict punishments to physical violence, so in that way, I think you could say it’s a product of the left? But what would the right, had it been in power for that long, have done in the face of creeping scientific study seeming to prove the extreme medical impacts of a lot of forms of violence which used to be acceptable?
It’s another example of our C-average Great Mass pushing things in the obvious direction, and now dealing with the consequences. So what do they do now?
They begin to outlaw certain forms of speech, because words are now equated with violence.
You have to remember, though, that words are not violence. Words do not hurt. There are words, then there are concerted, public, and politicized campaigns which lead to crucifixions on our New Appian Way.