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Bad Subjects: The Bad List Reborn
Charlie posted an old email from the long-ago Bad Subjects list, and then forwarded me a response I had written, with a suggestion I continue the conversation here. So, with a deep breath, I begin ... you should probably read Charlie's post first. Mine was written August 13, 1994, and I'm cut-and-pasting-and-trimming-and-editing here, which I suspect will make Charlie kinda crazy :-).:
I worked in a factory for ten years ... I didn't like my job ... Once in awhile I would get in "trouble" for my actions, although to be honest those actions usually passed unnoticed, which infuriated my attention-seeking self.
It's worth adding that a particular irritation regarding the feeling of going unnoticed was that I was most likely rebelling in part against the humans-as-machine function of our factory jobs, and nothing made you feel less human than when you acted out and no one noticed.
When I would get in "trouble," I would get lots of sympathy from my bosses, most of whom had worked their way up from the shop floor to become white-collar workers, most of whom professed to remember "what it was like" to be on the floor 40 hours a week, all of whom had one thought in mind: getting me back to productive work.

Over time, the company, Continental Can, attempted to implement some "Japanese" management techniques. We started to have worker-management "circle" meetings, and we watched lotsa videos with Fran Tarkenton. I was encouraged to participate in these programs; it was apparent to most people at the plant that I was intelligent and alienated, a good combo if you are truly looking for someone who can see problems and invent solutions, I guess. I never trusted these people ... My "analysis" of the situation was simple: meet the new boss, same as the old boss. No matter what the technique used, it seemed to me there was only one purpose in mind: get people to be more productive, to make more cans....

Every boss, good or bad, at some point must confront a simple fact: their job is to make people more productive. If people are working at something they love, there will be little need for "bossing" ... in fact, there might be little need for a Boss under such circumstances. The Bad Subjects Collective is hopefully an example of a fairly non-hierarchical structure that largely negates the need for a "boss," good or bad.

But most of the time, what we do, at work and often elsewhere, is not necessarily something we love. At some point back in the day, the solution to a "bad worker" doing something they hated was to say, "I am the boss. Shape up or ship out." Nowadays, though, you frequently find a different version of management technique. Call it the Picard/Troi Theory. The Picard half is the New Boss: decent, concerned, caring, but not afraid to take authority when necessary. The Troi half is the New Industrial Relations Supervisor: decent, concerned, caring, not afraid to offer personal advice from a position of authority when necessary.

Picard/Troi is easier to live with than was the Old Boss. But it is not clear to me that this matters. For the purpose of Picard/Troi is the same as the purpose of the Old Boss: get people to do something they don't want to do, for the sole purpose of benefiting the "real" boss, the owner of the company/business/starfleet in question.

And so I don't trust Picard/Troi anymore than I trust the old bosses. The only boss I would trust would be the one who advised me based on what they thought was best for *me* ... and since the job of even Picard/Troi is what is good for starfleet, they are and always will be the enemy.
The Picard/Troi stuff was bouncing off of Charlie's post, so again, you should probably read that first.

I was blabbing about Star Trek, even though I didn't watch the show and had no real knowledge of whether I was correct in my assumptions about the characters.

Interestingly, though, in recent times, I have spent time watching a cult-popular sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica, and, in fact, wrote an essay that was published in an anthology about the show. I mention this because my topic was ... "legitimate authority."

It's not a bad essay ... if you want to hunt it down, the book is called So Say We All ... in it, I pointed out that Adama and Roslin, as the two highest-ranking officials in the military and government respectively when the Cylons wipe out almost all of humankind, take the lead in their spheres of influence. Adama makes the military decisions, and Roslin is sworn in as President. They are able to do this because they, and enough people below them to enforce matters, act on the assumption that previously-established chains of command still hold. If all the other Commanders are gone, Adama rightfully ranks #1. If Secretary of Education Laura Roslin is 43rd in the line of succession to the presidency, and the 42 people above her are dead, then she rightfully becomes the President. Their authority is legitimized because it reflects how things were before the Cylon attacks.

Not everyone accepts this, of course. There are rebels, for one thing. Adama and Roslin aren't always in agreement, either. They accept the existence of the other, but they assume they are first among equals. Adama acts as if the military comes first, Roslin speaks as a representative of the people and thus thinks her job is primary. They begin to argue over what legitimizes their authority.

Since BSG is an extremely complex show, it doesn't end there. Roslin begins to see herself as someone mentioned in religious literature as a Chosen One ... her claim to authority is not just civic but spiritual. Others contest her position as President, forcing elections. She loses the elections, but not before she considers stealing a win in the name of the people who she feels have made a poor decision (she is right, FWIW). She pulls back from cheating when Adama helps her understand that if she rejects the legitimacy of the ballot, she risks her own legitimate status.

Yeah yeah, what's the point. No point, really, except this: when the Cylons decide to exercise their massive firepower, it doesn't really matter who thinks what equals legitimacy. The new president, Gaius Baltar, transforms into a Galactica Pétain, his government becomes a Vichy clone, and the Cylon stormtroopers take over. Authority is claimed by the side with the biggest guns.

Except ... the Cylons have religion, too. And they believe they are fulfilling the destiny their God has assigned them. They don't see their guns as their authority, they see their guns as a tool towards exercising the authority God has given them. So, as always with BSG, it's more complicated than it seems.

And where am I in all of this? In real life, I'm just another dip shit, but when I watch stuff like this, I tend to romanticize my role. And so, of course, I picture myself as Starbuck, the brilliant but recalcitrant pilot who has serious problems with authority figures. As the stormtroopers march by, Starbuck is asked what should the people do? "The same thing we always do," she replies. "Fight 'em until we can't."

Current Mood: rebellious
Current Music: "All Along the Watchtower," of course

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First, it's great to see some old BS list names popping up in the members list. I hope it continues to grow.

So here's my question. I don't exactly know what the fuck web 2.0 is, but we're supposed to have it now. And it's supposed to be better than web 1.0 what with all the enhanced social networking, interactivity and connectivity options. Yet I know I feel like I'm missing something from the Web 1.0 days but I don't know what it is. Exclusivity? Smallness? That frontier feeling Joe Lockard so nicely critiqued? Discursivity? Prose? Collectivity? Grad school? (I am DEFINITELY nostalgic for grad school even though I know that my nostalgia is bullshit).

I shouldn't be posting right now because I'm so tired it's like I'm writing when I'm drunk but there you go.

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I am trying to start a new thread, one which will be boring because its purpose is only to see if I know what I am doing. I have chosen "Post as: masoo" but "Post to: badsubjects."

Maybe I should say something substantive. A few minutes ago, a circus-like parade went down my street. My cats were a bit spazzed ... I looked out the window, and as far as I could tell, it was some partying "extremists" with signs about voter fraud and, I think, "Gus for President." (Is Gus Hall still alive?) There were marching drums and clowns and such. I'm sure someone out there is thinking "only in Berkeley," although we're mostly too busy here arguing over the presence of the Marine Corps recruiters in our fair city to squabble over presidential elections.

Those cats, by the way, are named Starbuck, Boomer, and Six. Anyone have a pet named Laura Roslin? It's a presidential primary day, after all ...

Current Location: 94702
Current Mood: confused confused
Current Music: Gogol Bordello, "American Wedding"

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This community represents an attempt to revisit and revive the "Bad List," a listserv run by the pioneering internet publication Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life. For a number of years, starting in the fall of 1993, the Bad List provided a forum where progressives and those interested in progressive politics -- otherwise known as the Left -- could freely debate the intersection of politics and culture without worrying about political correctness or the need to maintain a "party line." As the editor's column written by Annalee Newitz and Joe Sartelle for the publication's first issue, playing off of philosopher Louis Althusser's description of "good" and "bad" subjects, declared, "The purpose of a Bad Subjects article is to take a stand, preferably one which is defiant of conventional leftist wisdom in the service of leftist politics; principled defiance is part of what it means to be a 'bad subject.'" That spirit animated the Bad List from the beginning. Indeed, the listserv lived up to the injunction to promote "principled defiance" so well that its members consistently and creatively called its founders and their publication to task. And that was precisely what needed to happen. As the sadly limited samples of Bad List conversations compiled in the publication as "Voices From the Collective" -- look here and here and here -- indicate, it was a place for exchanges that it was hard to find anywhere else

Over time, unfortunately, as use of the internet spread to a wider swath of the population and phenomena like spamming and jamming became increasingly prevalent, the unmoderated freedom of the Bad List started to feel like a perverse form of bondage. As the ratio of thoughtful contributions to angry screeds decreased and as the percentage of postings having nothing to do with the Bad Subjects mission dramatically increased, the Bad List's guardians decided, not without complaint, to shut it down.

A decade later, the experience of everyday life on the internet has changed, in some cases radically. Unmoderated listservs and comments are rare, with their biggest antagonists now machines. While it is tempting to see whether the Utopian aspects of the original Bad List's unfettered freedom could be duplicated in the present, the time constraints facing its former participants are too great to expect that this experiment would amount to much more than a state of "constant vigilance" where gatekeeping became the principal and perhaps only focus. To that end, some former Bad List members and contributors to the publication Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life have decided to see whether we can simulate what was best about the Bad List in its first and best years by creating a social networking forum that takes advantage of Live Journal's capacity to create a "safe space" where intellectual roughhousing can take place without risk of injury.

We aren't sure how this effort will turn out. But we're going to try to make it worthwhile. To some extent, this community will proceed on the basis of nostalgia for those heady days that preceded the Dot Com boom, with the opportunity for participants in the Bad List to rediscover each other over a decade after they first "met." Over time, though we hope to develop this community into a place where the desire for new experiences trumps the longing to relive old ones. Ideally, this community will end up being a forum where those interested in progressive politics can once again come together to elaborate on a future where freedom doesn't get reduced to the free market and where solidarity never means having to say you're sorry for disagreeing with your comrades.

As this is a moderated community where membership must be approved, please write us to make a case for yourself. We aim to be welcoming. And we welcome people who have never heard of either the publication Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life or the Bad List. But we want to be sure to grow this community slowly and carefully, so that it remains a community instead of devolving into acrimony and chaos.

[NOTE: This is a reposting of the statement composed for this community's Live Journal profile]

Current Location: 94720

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