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Anti-5Gism, worst product of 5G?

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R Totale's picture
R Totale
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Apr 21 2020 16:45
Anti-5Gism, worst product of 5G?

Just some vague ill-formed thoughts... I noticed 325 have a few posts basically cheering for the recent wave of anti-5G attacks. I definitely think they're being too uncritical there, and that it's not the first or the last time that insurrectionist types have got a bit overexcited by solely focusing on the militancy of a tactic and ignoring pretty much everything else, but at the same time I think this is one of those things, like where opposing Brexit should never mean defending the EU, where capitalist infrastructure and the introduction of new technologies is dangerous, harmful, and all the rest of it, and anyone who says that we can trust the state and tech companies is every bit as wrong and dangerous as people who think that mobile phones give you coronavirus or whatever.
So yeah, a very long rambling sentence there, but what do people think? Is there any way it's possible to "intervene" in the anti-5G conspiracy theory movement/scene/cesspit, and what would that look like if so? Something like an updated version of "how to overthrow the illuminati" or similar?

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Apr 21 2020 17:10

There's been a fair bit of research as to why people hold conspiracy theories, and denialist attitudes with regards to climate change. See here for example.

https://www.climatechangecommunication.org/conspiracy-theory-handbook/

and here:

https://skepticalscience.com/docs/Debunking_Handbook.pdf

So the first step is to understand why people believe in conspiracy theories, and then you have to understand the thinking processes that got them there.

Mike Harman
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Apr 21 2020 18:15

I don't know how much it holds up (probably won't be entirely proven either way until mass deployment), but there is a non-conspiracy theory that 5G might interfere with weather forecasting https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03609-x

https://www.wired.com/story/5g-networks-could-throw-weather-forecasting-...

On the actual conspiracy theory stuff, been quite pissed off at seeing David Icke get attention again. Also Eamonn Holmes ranting about the mainstream media was bizarre.

R Totale's picture
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Apr 21 2020 18:57

Yeah, and similarly, I don't know if there is any tech/infrastructure company that could be considered a remotely "good" or "clean" one, but Huawei certainly isn't it: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/huawei-allowed-build-uk-5g-net... But even picking apart the specific justified objections to Huawei's role in the project from racism, or double standards that see Chinese surveillance and data collection as somehow worse than other forms of surveillance and data collection, would be difficult, let alone whatever Eamonn Holmes is on about.

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Jun 6 2020 03:19

I think that this type of 'conspiracy' happens when a possible critique against capitalism goes totally wrong and turns to a conservative way that reinforce the order. A skepticism about new technologies is always needed once we know there is no such a thing as neutrality in the technology sphere. We know that the every advance in the 'forces of production' means an improvement in the capacity of control of the State and capital over the workers because everything that is produced under the commodity-form has to be able to reinforce the abstract domination by the power of the money. So we have to analyse each new innovation with critical view to understand in which way specifically it can both to repress the workers and open new ways of resistance - without being too apologist or denialist about it.

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Jul 5 2020 20:06

This article seems like a decent starting point for a critique of 5G as capitalist infrastructure, along the lines of spartakus25's suggestion above: https://anarchistsworldwide.noblogs.org/post/2020/07/04/italy-provisiona...

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Jul 6 2020 16:18
R Totale wrote:
This article seems like a decent

What did you think was decent about it?

R Totale's picture
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Jul 6 2020 18:15
darren p wrote:
What did you think was decent about it?

Well, most of it really - the analysis of how 5G functions as part of improved management technologies in the port of Livorno, surveillance technology in Genoa, and the military stuff (which is pretty much the bulk of the article) - I'd not really looked into the military aspect before, but from a quick search the issues they raise seem to be backed up by fairly mainstream, non-tinfoil-hatty sources like this TechRadar article (sponsored by Samsung!)
I'm guessing from that response that you thought it was terrible - did you not think the issues they critique are legit, or did you just hate the writing style, or what?

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Jul 8 2020 11:55
R Totale wrote:
darren p wrote:
What did you think was decent about it?

I'm guessing from that response that you thought it was terrible - did you not think the issues they critique are legit, or did you just hate the writing style, or what?

Well it starts "The reasons for opposing the 5G network are many, often overshadowed by the predominant (and absolutely legitimate) concern driven by an extremely noxious technology that will invade bodies and spaces with grave consequences from the point of view of health and environmental pollution." which, as far as I understand, is just plain false.

Then it goes on to talk about surveillance, control through urban planning etc which are things that already exist before, and can exist without, high speed mobile internet. Then it says "opposing the 5G network means opposing an idea of the world" - I'm sure people opposing 5G are doing that, but I reckon their 'idea of the world' is of more of a conspiracy theory than a communist one.

Sure, we can talk about how technology facilitates social control and how and why certain technologies get developed, and others don't. But as far as I'm concerned "opposing 5G" specifically is just chasing a shadow, it's unproductive if not counterproductive - there's more to be gained criticising the conspiracy theories that are centered around it.

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Jul 9 2020 09:09

Out of interest, do you agree with spartakus' point above? I thought they summed things up pretty well, but I'm not sure if you would also disagree with them.

I also wasn't that keen on the opening bit about health risks, although on reflection I can't say that I actually know enough about the subject to be confident saying that 5G is totally safe - obviously all the stuff about it causing coronavirus or whatever is nonsense, but at the same time it wouldn't be the first time a new technology had been rolled out without sufficient attention to health and safety, and none of us really know what happens after, say, a decade or so of exposure.

But that bit's just the introduction, the bit I was interested in was where "it goes on to talk about surveillance, control through urban planning etc which are things that already exist before, and can exist without, high speed mobile internet." Of course they do, but that doesn't mean that new techniques to develop and intensify these things further aren't worth analysing and discussing, which is why I thought this article was interesting.

I also think we should critique the 5G conspiracy theories and not just cheer for or try and associate ourselves with every act of sabotage carried out by conspiracists, but again, I don't think we should be doing that from the perspective of "this is all wrong, the government and tech companies are totally trustworthy and would never do anything to hurt you", but instead try to develop an independent position that tries to switch the discussion from the imaginary problems to real ones like surveillance, military technologies, etc.

(It is possible here that I may be falling into that kind of ultra-left both-sideism which thinks that the height of wisdom is to look at any situation and says "there are two sides here, and they are both bourgeois, and all we need to do is denounce both of them". It is also possible that I might just have read stuff like Angry Workers and so on and come away with my muddled brain thinking "proper grown-up communist analysis is when people talk about logistics and ports, and the more they talk about ports and logistics the more grown-up and communist it is", and so be overly impressed by the article on that basis. Maybe.)

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Jul 9 2020 13:53
R Totale wrote:
Out of interest, do you agree with spartakus' point above?

Yes I agree with it more or less, but with some quibbles over the semantics of "neutral".

I'm lazy so this quote from Ken Knabb might explain

Ken Knabb wrote:
When people say that technology is neutral, they mean that most technologies are not inherently good or bad, it depends how they’re used (a murderer can use a knife to kill you, a surgeon can use it to save your life). When technophobes declare that technology is not neutral, they mean that technologies are inherently bad and cannot be put to good uses (or at least that any good use is inevitably outweighed by bad side-effects). That is, in effect they are saying that technology is separable from society, because it is bad regardless of the society. But Zerzan also states that technology “always partakes of and expresses the basic values of the social system in which it is embedded.” If this is true, then technology is not inherently bad: a liberated, nonexploitive society will naturally create liberating, nonexploitive technologies, just as the present alienated social system naturally produces alienated forms (or uses) of technology.

http://www.bopsecrets.org/CF/primitivism.htm

In capitalism, high speed mobile internet (which is all that 5G is) will be used for purposes that aid capitalism. But in socialism such a technology could be used to help with the distribution of goods according to communist principles, amongst other things.

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Jul 9 2020 18:28
darren p wrote:
R Totale wrote:
Out of interest, do you agree with spartakus' point above?

Yes I agree with it more or less, but with some quibbles over the semantics of "neutral".

I'm lazy so this quote from Ken Knabb might explain

Ken Knabb wrote:
When people say that technology is neutral, they mean that most technologies are not inherently good or bad, it depends how they’re used (a murderer can use a knife to kill you, a surgeon can use it to save your life). When technophobes declare that technology is not neutral, they mean that technologies are inherently bad and cannot be put to good uses (or at least that any good use is inevitably outweighed by bad side-effects). That is, in effect they are saying that technology is separable from society, because it is bad regardless of the society. But Zerzan also states that technology “always partakes of and expresses the basic values of the social system in which it is embedded.” If this is true, then technology is not inherently bad: a liberated, nonexploitive society will naturally create liberating, nonexploitive technologies, just as the present alienated social system naturally produces alienated forms (or uses) of technology.

http://www.bopsecrets.org/CF/primitivism.htm

In capitalism, high speed mobile internet (which is all that 5G is) will be used for purposes that aid capitalism. But in socialism such a technology could be used to help with the distribution of goods according to communist principles, amongst other things.

This is an interesting line of argument, but I think what it shows is the need to distinguish between "technology" as an abstract concept, which I think is not very helpful to talk about, and specific technologies. So, I think we can all agree that there's no liberating, non-exploitative use of nuclear weapons, and the majority of communists would probably agree that we wouldn't want nuclear power at all, that there's no way such a thing can be separated from its capitalist development and use.

Obviously, high-speed mobile internet is not a nuclear weapon, but it's still worth questioning what assumptions are built into it - does it include the assumption of a smartphone, or something like it? What about, say, a society that decided that instead of smartphones, if people needed to consult the internet when out and about, it would be better to have technology more along the lines of phone booths or library computers, would that society still have much need for mobile internet, or see it as being a priority?

Beyond that, I think that my communist utopia would almost certainly have trains in it, probably more trains than our current society has, and some of them might well be high speed ones. My willingness to accept some potential role for high speed train travel in a liberated society has little or no impact on my critique of HS2 as a project here and now.

Spikymike
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Jul 10 2020 11:15

But R.Totale, You forget about the potential of high speed travel through space and time by the process of molecular decomposition and re-composition. I mean 'Star Treck' was made decades ago and times must have moved on since the filming of 'The Fly' so must be a sure bet! Of course depends on our assessment of the possibilities of us achieving world communism, without relying on a dangerous detour via some version of the more easily sold Trotskyist style transitional society, in the near future. My bet in my current mood is that we are a long way off and unable to make many sensible bets on how technology might evolve over the longer period. When I'm in a better mood I try to take on board some of the more practical thoughts put out by the comrades of the 'Angry Workers' group but until we see a more radical and class conscious mass struggle emerge such discussion will not take on any popular resonance or effect any material changes. The increasing spread of 5G and other conspiracy theories does not bode well.

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Jul 12 2020 20:17

Oh, of course when the posadist aliens turn up to save us all bets are off.

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Jul 13 2020 08:23

A lot of these conspiracy types who "oppose 5G" view it as this terrible instrument of control over people (e.g. "the coronavirus vaccine will contain nanochips developed by Bill Gates and remote controlled via 5G"). When in fact it will be used as a terrible instrument of control over people – but mostly at work, through the "internet of things", where all kinds of equipment will now be able to send real-time data about performance. This will be used to discipline workers and intensify work through speedups. The handheld scanners already in use at warehouses are just a taste of what will be possible and may become the new norm under "Industry 4.0" in other sectors. The wider (greater bandwidth) and more flexible (because wireless and portable) connectivity will enable more detailed monitoring of performance beyond what had been possible. So while I agree with Darren that "surveillance" already exists (also at work), we shouldn't underestimate the new possibilities this will bring.

Obviously, I don't think it makes sense to "oppose 5G" as such. However, points like this could perhaps be a way of confronting conspiratory discourse and changing the focus from (((lizards))) to real issues of everyday workplace control and misery.

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Jul 13 2020 15:39

Side note: I have recently discovered that Posadists still exist, and maintain a website; here is their analysis of COVID.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 13 2020 23:30

Coincidentally, the current issue of the SPGB's Socialist Standard has a book review of "I Want To Believe: Posadism, UFOs and apocalypse communism" by A.M. Gittlitz

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2020/2020s/no-139...