[ExI] L'Affaire Bradbury

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Apr 5 08:24:48 UTC 2009

      L'Affaire Bradbury, or how the Extropians Drove Out
          One of their most Insightful, Technically
              Sophisticated, and Bold Thinkers.

Alas, I was not on the list when it happened, and so have
only second hand knowledge. These are just impressions
that I've gathered. Corrections welcomed.

Some time, surely between 2001 and 2005, the at-the-time
well-known Extropian pundit Robert Bradbury offered a
modest proposal concerning American and Western difficulties
in Afghanistan, only, unlike Swift whose own modest proposal
was entirely satirical, this was made quite seriously.

It was to carpet bomb all of Afghanistan (or perhaps just
the mountainous parts inaccssible to conventional conquest),
and to do so with nuclear weapons, in order to destroy all
resistance past the point of merely driving them into the
stone age, but to crush Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and
all their allies.

The U.S. was still recovering from the 9-11 shock, and
the anger of a wronged nation was still in the saddle
(as evolution is so wont to equip survival-oriented

If you feel a profound revulsion towards that wanton
slaughter of tribal people, and your every instinct
warns against the taking of such extreme steps, what
is the proper reaction? What should people have said?

Sadly, most reading this know the answers to those questions,
but they cannot admit it to themselves. The answer are *not*
to engage in personal attack, vilification, statements of
outrage, heartfelt depictions of how "disgusted", how
"revolted", and even, tellingly, how sublimely embarrassed
to even be on the same list one is.

While one may not be able to *help* feeling this way or
that, and most probably has utterly no desire to cease
feeling that way, surely I don't need to remind you that
these do not constitute arguments. This is *not* the
stuff of rational discourse. And since when has the
Extropian list ceased having rational, polite, and
temperate logical discussion?

Well, perhaps since Robert Bradbury felt compelled to depart,
never to return except for a very occasional post here and there.

It's sad that I have to say this, but *please* don't imagine
for a moment that I embrace in any way his extreme suggestion.
Yet I *must* say that, for Voltaire's principle that "I
disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death
your right to say it", while familiar, is hardly practiced
a whole lot here. Really sad. It baffles me that this simple
idea is so beyond so many people's behavioral repertoire.

The worst part is that when people resort to name-calling,
personal defamation, obloquy, and emotional brow-beating,
it's most often in part out of FEAR.

They fear that rational argument may not go their way. They
value, in decreasing order,

      1. prevailing in an argument, especially anything
         touching on values
      2. prevailing with reason

      3. finding and speaking the truth

Now none of us can claim that he or she always puts number three
first, but if we find that we are engaging in sheer calumny,
or merely expressing our feelings and loathings, then for
sure you know we are elevating our desire to prevail over
everything else, including both rationality and a desire to
get at the truth.

For it's also true that the real reason to engage in such
remarks is censure! To publicly proclaim one's own infinite
disgust or revulsion at something that has been said,
or to chime in with meaningless "me too" posts when most
people are already on your side, is to in effect express
a wish for censure.

It's the mob psychology at work: "We don't like that, and
you should shut the fuck up!", with a barely concealed
"or else". The shunning instinct, alas, is as old as man.

Well, it sure worked for (or rather against) Robert Bradbury.
You shut him up but good. Happy?


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