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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
New luddism: I love the 1970s

new luddismn, refuseniks on the infobahn, information counter-revolutionaries, those for whom the prospect of getting wired is no more than syntax error. (Altern. neo-luddism)

ORIGINS: the original Luddite uprising of northern and midland England in the 1810s resisted the industrial revolution by smashing looms and other machines, in the belief that they undervalued humans.

REVIVED: new luddites have similar feelings about the new industrial revolution (but embrace modern branding, cf New Labour, The New New Thing, The All New Pink Panther Show)

ANALOGY STRETCHED: new luddism has little to do with taking sledgehammers to machines. 14,000 soldiers put down the original Luddites - perhaps new luddism would face same armed opposition if it became violent. (Consider, however, anti-globalisation demos in Seattle, Prague, London.)

EXAMPLE 1: general suspicion of computers: statements like "Shakespeare Never Lost a Manuscript to a Computer Crash" (headline of New York Times article by new luddite Theodore Roszak, in which he says: "I'd like my students to ponder the fact that by the time they have located their style sheets and selected their fonts, Shakespeare was probably well into Act One, Scene One").

EXAMPLE 2: anorak phobics - group of modern day ascetics who eschew all mod cons, such as mobile phones, personal digital assistants, ionic pet grooming brushes. Technoresistors - "We seek to expand the fertile middle ground between techno-utopianism and neo-Luddism." See also work of Kirkpatrick Sale (see Internet Links).

EXAMPLE 3: "Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace. This saddens me. I have enjoyed conversing with each of you." (George W Bush telling his correspondents that, following legal advice, he would no longer be using e-mail. He has also reportedly banned his aides from using mobile phones in his earshot.)

AVOID CONFUSION WITH: new laddism, a self-consciously stubborn attempt to pretend it's still the 1970s.

Reader C Richardson adds: This hatred of all things new has always gone on, but that doesn't mean we all have to blindly embrace every new technology because it's new. There are a lot of wonderful inventions we would be better off without... nerve gas, plastic rain-macs and europop music.

Reader G Gamblin further adds: The real motive behind the original Luddite risings was not hatred of technological advance per se, but a reaction to the way new technology deprived people of their livelihoods, deprived artisans of pride in skilled labour, and herded working people into factory servitude. Technological advance is not the problem; the problem is who owns the technology, and who benefits from the advances.

Counter-revolutionary and counter-counter-revolutionary tracts and comments can be submitted to the E-cyclopedia by clicking here.

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19 Mar 01 | Americas
Bush ditches e-mail
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