On Greed

“When people “become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality. In this horizon, a genuine sense of the common good also disappears. As these attitudes become more widespread, social norms are respected only to the extent that they do not clash with personal needs. So our concern cannot be limited merely to the threat of extreme weather events, but must also extend to the catastrophic consequences of social unrest. Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.”



Be careful who you engage

“I Was a Paid Internet Shill”

I am writing here to come out of the closet as a paid shill. For a little over six months, I was paid to spread disinformation and argue political points on the Internet. This site, ATS, was NOT one that I was assigned to post on, although other people in the same organization were paid to be here, and I assume they still walk among you. But more on this later.

I quit this job in the latter part of 2011, because I became disgusted with it, and with myself. I realized I couldn’t look myself in the mirror anymore. If this confession triggers some kind of retribution against me, so be it. Part of being a real man in this world is having real values that you stand up for, no matter what the consequences.

My story begins in early 2011. I had been out of work for almost a year after losing my last job in tech support. Increasingly desperate and despondent, I jumped at the chance when a former co-worker called me up and said she had a possible lead for me. “It is an unusual job, and one that requires secrecy. But the pay is good. And I know you are a good writer, so its something you are suited for.” (Writing has always been a hobby for me).

She gave me only a phone-number and an address, in one of the seedier parts of San Francisco, where I live. intrigued, I asked her for the company’s URL and some more info. She laughed. “They don’t have a website. Or even a name. You’ll see. Just tell them I referred you.” Yes, it sounded suspicious, but long-term joblessness breeds desperation, and desperation has a funny way of overlooking the suspicious when it comes to putting food on the table.

The next day, I arrived at the address – the third floor in a crumbling building. The appearance of the place did not inspire confidence. After walking down a long, filthy linoleum-covered corridor lit by dimly-flickering halogen, I came to the entrance of the office itself: a crudely battered metal door with a sign that said “United Amalgamated Industries, Inc.”

I later learned that this “company” changed its name almost monthly, always using bland names like that which gave no strong impression of what the company actually does. Not too hopeful, I went inside. The interior was equally shabby. There were a few long tables with folding chairs, at which about a dozen people were tapping away on old, beat-up computers. There were no decorations or ornaments of any type: not even the standard-issue office fica trees or plastic ferns. What a dump. Well, beggars can’t be choosers.

The manager, a balding man in his late forties, rose from the only stand-alone desk in the room and came forward with an easy smile. “You must be Chris. Yvette [my ex-co-worker] told me you’d be coming.” [Not our real names]. “Welcome. Let me tell you a little about what we do.” No interview, nothing. I later learned they took people based solely on referral, and that the people making the referrals, like my ex-colleague Yvette, were trained to pick out candidates based on several factors including ability to keep one’s mouth shut, basic writing skills, and desperation for work.

We sat down at his desk and he began by asking me a few questions about myself and my background, including my political views (which were basically non-existent). Then he began to explain the job. “We work on influencing people’s opinions here,” is how he described it. The company’s clients paid them to post on Internet message boards and popular chartrooms, as well as in gaming forums and social networks like Facebook and MySpace. Who were these clients? “Oh, various people,” he said vaguely. “Sometimes private companies, sometimes political groups.”

Satisfied that my political views were not strong, he said I would be assigned to political work. “The best people for this type of job are people like you, without strong views,” he said with a laugh. “It might seem counterintuitive, but actually we’ve found that to be the case.” Well, OK. Fine. As long as it comes with a steady paycheck, I’d believe whatever they wanted me to believe, as the guy in Ghostbusters said.

After discussing pay (which was much better than I’d hoped) and a few other details, he then went over the need for absolute privacy and secrecy. “You can’t tell anyone what we do here. Not your wife, not your dog.” (I have neither, as it happens.) “We’ll give you a cover story and even a phone number and a fake website you can use. You will have to tell people you are a consultant. Since your background is in tech support, that will be your cover job. Is this going to be a problem for you?” I assured him it would not. “Well, OK. Shall we get started?”

“Right now?” I asked, a bit taken aback.

“No time like the present!” he said with a hearty laugh.

The rest of the day was taken up with training. Another staff member, a no-nonsense woman in her thirties, was to be my trainer, and training would only last two days. “You seem like a bright guy, you’ll get the hang of it pretty fast, I think,” she said. And indeed, the job was easier than I’d imagined. My task was simple: I would be assigned to four different websites, with the goal of entering certain discussions and promoting a certain view. I learned later that some of the personnel were assigned to internet message boards (like me), while others worked on Facebook or chatrooms. It seems these three types of media each have different strategy for shilling, and each shill concentrates on one of the three in particular.

My task? “To support Israel and counter anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic posters.” Fine with me. I had no opinions one way or another about Israel, and who likes anti-Semites and Nazis? Not me, anyway. But I didn’t know too much about the topic. “That’s OK,” she said. “You’ll pick it up as you go along. For the most part, at first, you will be doing what we call “meme-patrol.” This is pretty easy. Later if you show promise, we’ll train you for more complex arguments, where more in-depth knowledge is necessary.”

She handed me two binders with sheets enclosed in limp plastic. The first was labeled simply “Israel” in magic-marker on the cover, and it had two sections .The first section contained basic background info on the topic. I would have to read and memorize some of this, as time went on. It had internet links for further reading, essays and talking points, and excerpts from some history books. The second, and larger, section was called “Strat” (short for “strategy”) with long lists of “dialogue pairs.” These were specific responses to specific postings.

If a poster wrote something close to “X,” we were supposed to respond with something close to “Y.” “You have to mix it up a bit, though,” said my trainer. “Otherwise it gets too obvious. Learn to use a thesaurus.” This section also contained a number of hints for de-railing conversations that went too far away from what we were attempting. These strategies included various forms of personal attacks, complaining to the forum moderators, smearing the characters of our opponents, using images and icons effectively, and even dragging the tone of the conversation down with sexual innuendo, links to pornography, or other such things. “Sometimes we have to fight dirty,” or trainer told us. “Our opponents don’t hesitate to, so we can’t either.”

The second binder was smaller, and it contained information specific to the web sites I would be assigned to. The sites I would work were: Godlike Productions, Lunatic Outpost, CNN news, Yahoo News, and a handful of smaller sites that rotated depending on need. As stated, I was NOT assigned to work ATS (although others in my group were), which is part of the reason I am posting this here, rather than elsewhere. I wanted to post this on Godlike Productions at first, but they have banned me from even viewing that site for some reason (perhaps they are onto me?). But if somebody connected with this site can get the message to them, I think they should know about it, because that was the site I spent a good 70% of my time working on.

The site-specific info in the second binder included a brief history each site, including recent flame-wars, as well as info on what to avoid on each site so as not to get banned. It also had quite detailed info on the moderators and the most popular regged posters on each site: location (if known), personality type, topics of interest, background sketch, and even some notes on how to “push the psychological buttons” of different posters. Although I didn’t work for ATS, I did see they had a lot of info on your so-called “WATS” posters here (the ones with gold borders around their edges). “Focus on the popular posters,” my trainer told me. “These are the influential ones. Each of these is worth 50 to 100 of the lesser known names.”

Each popular poster was classified as “hostile,” “friendly,” or “indifferent” to my goal. We were supposed to cultivate friendship with the friendly posters as well as the mods (basically, by brownnosing and sucking up), and there were even notes on strategies for dealing with specific hostile posters. The info was pretty detailed, but not perfect in every case. “If you can convert one of the hostile posters from the enemy side to our side, you get a nice bonus. But this doesn’t happen too often, sadly. So mostly you’ll be attacking them and trying to smear them.”

At first, like I said, my job was “meme-patrol.” This was pretty simple and repetitive; it involved countering memes and introducing new memes, and didn’t demand much in-depth knowledge of the subject. Mostly just repetitive posting based on the dialogue pairs in the “Strat” section of the first binder. A lot of my job was de-railing and spamming threads that didn’t go our way, or making accusations of racism and anti-Semitism. Sometimes I had to simply lie and claim a poster said something or did something “in another thread” they really hadn’t said or done I felt bad about this…but in the end I felt worse about the possibility of losing the first job I’d been able to get since losing my “real” job.

The funny thing was, although I started the job with no strong opinions or political views, after a few weeks of this I became very emotionally wedded to the pro-Israel ideas I was pushing. There must be some psychological factor at work…a good salesman learns to honestly love the products he’s selling, I guess. It wasn’t long before my responses became fiery and passionate, and I began to learn more about the topic on my own. “This is a good sign,” my trainer told me. “It means you are ready for the next step: complex debate.”

The “complex debate” part of the job involved a fair amount of additional training, including memorizing more specific information about the specific posters (friendly and hostile) I’d be sparring with. Here, too, there were scripts and suggested lines of argument, but we were given more freedom. There were a lot of details to this more advanced stage of the job – everything from how to select the right avatar to how to use “demotivationals” (humorous images with black borders that one finds floating around the web). Even the proper use of images of cats was discussed. Sometimes we used faked or photo-shopped images or doctored news reports (something else that bothered me).

I was also given the job of tying to find new recruits, people “like me” who had the personality type, ability to keep a secret, basic writing/thinking skills, and desperation necessary to sign on a shill. I was less successful at this part of the job, though, and I couldn’t find another in the time I was there.

After a while of doing this, I started to feel bad. Not because of the views I was pushing (as I said, I was first apolitical, then pro-Israel), but because of the dishonesty involved. If my arguments were so correct, I wondered, why did we have to do this in the first place? Shouldn’t truth propagate itself naturally, rather than through, well…propaganda? And who was behind this whole operation, anyway? Who was signing my paychecks? The stress of lying to my parents and friends about being a “consultant” was also getting to me. Finally, I said enough was enough. I quit in September 2011. Since then I’ve been working a series of unglamorous temp office jobs for lower pay. But at least I’m not making my living lying and heckling people who come online to express their views and exercise freedom of speech.

A few days ago I happened to be in the same neighborhood and on a whim thought I’d check out the old office. It turns out the operation is gone, having moved on. This, too, I understood, is part of their strategy: Don’t stay in the same place for too long, don’t keep the same name too long, move on after half a year or so. Keeping a low profile, finding new employees through word of mouth: All this is part of the shill way of life. But it is a deceptive way of life, and no matter how noble the goals (I remain pro-Israel, by the way), these sleazy means cannot be justified by the end.

This is my confession. I haven’t made up my mind yet about whether I want to talk more about this, so if I don’t respond to this thread, don’t be angry. But I think you should know: Shills exist. They are real. They walk among you, and they pay special attention to your popular gold-bordered WATS posters. You should be aware of this. What you choose to do with this awareness is up to you.



On The Pleasure Of Hating

Thank you William Hazlitt
“On The Pleasure Of Hating” (c.1826)

THERE is a spider crawling along the matted floor of the room where I sit (not the one which has been so well allegorised in the admirable Lines to a Spider, but another of the same edifying breed); he runs with heedless, hurried haste, he hobbles awkwardly towards me, he stops — he sees the giant shadow before him, and, at a loss whether to retreat or proceed, meditates his huge foe — but as I do not start up and seize upon the straggling caitiff, as he would upon a hapless fly within his toils, he takes heart, and ventures on with mingled cunning, impudence and fear. As he passes me, I lift up the matting to assist his escape, am glad to get rid of the unwelcome intruder, and shudder at the recollection after he is gone. A child, a woman, a clown, or a moralist a century ago, would have crushed the little reptile to death-my philosophy has got beyond that — I bear the creature no ill-will, but still I hate the very sight of it. The spirit of malevolence survives the practical exertion of it. We learn to curb our will and keep our overt actions within the bounds of humanity, long before we can subdue our sentiments and imaginations to the same mild tone. We give up the external demonstration, the brute violence, but cannot part with the essence or principle of hostility. We do not tread upon the poor little animal in question (that seems barbarous and pitiful!) but we regard it with a sort of mystic horror and superstitious loathing. It will ask another hundred years of fine writing and hard thinking to cure us of the prejudice and make us feel towards this ill-omened tribe with something of “the milk of human kindness,” instead of their own shyness and venom.
Nature seems (the more we look into it) made up of antipathies: without something to hate, we should lose the very spring of thought and action. Life would turn to a stagnant pool, were it not ruffled by the jarring interests, the unruly passions, of men. The white streak in our own fortunes is brightened (or just rendered visible) by making all around it as dark as possible; so the rainbow paints its form upon the cloud. Is it pride? Is it envy? Is it the force of contrast? Is it weakness or malice? But so it is, that there is a secret affinity, a hankering after, evil in the human mind, and that it takes a perverse, but a fortunate delight in mischief, since it is a never-failing source of satisfaction. Pure good soon grows insipid, wants variety and spirit. Pain is a bittersweet, wants variety and spirit. Love turns, with a little indulgence, to indifference or disgust: hatred alone is immortal. Do we not see this principle at work everywhere? Animals torment and worry one another without mercy: children kill flies for sport: every one reads the accidents and offences in a newspaper as the cream of the jest: a whole town runs to be present at a fire, and the spectator by no means exults to see it extinguished. It is better to have it so, but it diminishes the interest; and our feelings take part with our passions rather than with our understandings. Men assemble in crowds, with eager enthusiasm, to witness a tragedy: but if there were an execution going forward in the next street, as Mr. Burke observes, the theater would be left empty. A strange cur in a village, an idiot, a crazy woman, are set upon and baited by the whole community. Public nuisances are in the nature of public benefits. How long did the Pope, the Bourbons, and the Inquisition keep the people of England in breath, and supply them with nicknames to vent their spleen upon! Had they done us any harm of late? No: but we have always a quantity of superfluous bile upon the stomach, and we wanted an object to let it out upon. How loth were we to give up our pious belief in ghosts and witches, because we liked to persecute the one, and frighten ourselves to death with the other! It is not the quality so much as the quantity of excitement that we are anxious about: we cannot bear a state of indifference and ennui: the mind seems to abhor a vacuum as much as ever nature was supposed to do. Even when the spirit of the age (that is, the progress of intellectual refinement, warring with our natural infirmities) no longer allows us to carry our vindictive and head strong humours into effect, we try to revive them in description, and keep up the old bugbears, the phantoms of our terror and our hate, in imagination. We burn Guy Fawx in effigy, and the hooting and buffeting and maltreating that poor tattered figure of rags and straw makes a festival in every village in England once a year. Protestants and Papists do not now burn one another at the stake: but we subscribe to new editions of Fox’s Book of Martyrs; and the secret of the success of the Scotch Novels is much the same-they carry us back to the feuds, the heart-burnings, the havoc, the dismay, the wrongs, and the revenge of a barbarous age and people-to the rooted prejudices and deadly animosities of sects and parties in politics and religion, and of contending chiefs and clans in war and intrigue. We feel the full force of the spirit of hatred with all of them in turn. As we read, we throw aside the trammels of civilization, the flimsy veil of humanity. “Off, you lendings!” The wild beast resumes its sway within us, we feel like hunting animals, and as the hound starts in his sleep and rushes on the chase in fancy the heart rouses itself in its native lair, and utters a wild cry of joy, at being restored once more to freedom and lawless unrestrained impulses. Every one has his full swing, or goes to the Devil his own way. Here are no Jeremy Bentham Panopticons, none of Mr. Owen’s impassable Parallelograms1 (Rob Roy would have spurred and poured a thousand curses on them), no long calculations of self-interest — the will takes its instant way to its object, as the mountain-torrent flings itself over the precipice: the greatest possible good of each individual consists in doing all the mischief he can to his neighbour: that is charming, and finds a sure and sympathetic chord in every breast! So Mr. Irving2, the celebrated preacher, has rekindled the old, original, almost exploded hell-fire in the aisles of the Caledonian Chapel, as they introduce the real water of the New River at Sadler’s Wells, to the delight and astonishment of his fair audience. ‘Tis pretty, though a plague, to sit and peep into the pit of Tophet, to play at snap-dragon with flames and brimstone (it gives a smart electrical shock, a lively filip to delicate constitutions), and to see Mr. Irving, like a huge Titan, looking as grim and swarthy as if he had to forge tortures for all the damned! What a strange being man is! Not content with doing all he can to vex and hurt his fellows here, “upon this bank and shoal of time,” where one would think there were heartaches, pain, disappointment, anguish, tears, sighs, and groans enough, the bigoted maniac takes him to the top of the high peak of school divinity to hurl him down the yawning gulf of penal fire; his speculative malice asks eternity to wreak its infinite spite in, and calls on the Almighty to execute its relentless doom! The cannibals burn their enemies and eat them in good-fellowship with one another: meed Christian divines cast those who differ from them but a hair’s-breadth, body and soul into hellfire for the glory of God and the good of His creatures! It is well that the power of such persons is not co-ordinate with their wills: indeed it is from the sense of their weakness and inability to control the opinions of others, that they thus “outdo termagant,” and endeavour to frighten them into conformity by big words and monstrous denunciations.
The pleasure of hating, like a poisonous mineral, eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands: it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the actions and motives of others. What have the different sects, creeds, doctrines in religion been but so many pretexts set up for men to wrangle, to quarrel, to tear one another in pieces about, like a target as a mark to shoot at? Does any one suppose that the love of country in an Englishman implies any friendly feeling or disposition to serve another bearing the same name? No, it means only hatred to the French or the inhabitants of any other country that we happen to be at war with for the time. Does the love of virtue denote any wish to discover or amend our own faults? No, but it atones for an obstinate adherence to our own vices by the most virulent intolerance to human frailties. This principle is of a most universal application. It extends to good as well as evil: if it makes us hate folly, it makes us no less dissatisfied with distinguished merit. If it inclines us to resent the wrongs of others, it impels us to be as impatient of their prosperity. We revenge injuries: we repay benefits with ingratitude. Even our strongest partialities and likings soon take this turn. “That which was luscious as locusts, anon becomes bitter as coloquintida;” and love and friendship melt in their own fires. We hate old friends: we hate old books: we hate old opinions; and at last we come to hate ourselves.
I have observed that few of those whom I have formerly known most intimate, continue on the same friendly footing, or combine the steadiness with the warmth of attachment. I have been acquainted with two or three knots of inseparable companions, who saw each other “six days in the week;” that have been broken up and dispersed. I have quarrelled with almost all my old friends’ (they might say this is owing to my bad temper, but) they have also quarrelled with one another. What is become of “that set of whist-players,” celebrated by Elia in his notable Epistle to Robert Southey, Esq.3 (and now I think of it – that I myself have celebrated in this very volume4) “that for so many years called Admiral Burney friend?” They are scattered, like last year’s snow. Some of them are dead, or gone to live at a distance, or pass one another in the street like strangers, or if they stop to speak, do it as coolly and try to cut one another as soon as possible. Some of us have grown rich, others poor. Some have got places under Government, others a niche in the Quarterly Review. Some of us have dearly earned a name in the world; whilst others remain in their original privacy. We despise the one, and envy and are glad to mortify the other. Times are changed; we cannot revive our old feelings; and we avoid the sight, and are uneasy in the presence of, those who remind us of our infirmity, and put us upon an effort at seeming cordiality which embarrasses ourselves, and does not impose upon our quondam associates. Old friendships are like meats served up repeatedly, cold, comfortless, and distasteful. The stomach turns against them. Either constant intercourse and familiarity breed weariness and contempt; if we meet again after an interval of absence, we appear no longer the same. One is too wise, another too foolish, for us; and we wonder we did not find this out before. We are disconcerted and kept in a state of continual alarm by the wit of one, or tired to death of the dullness of another. The good things of the first (besides leaving strings behind them) by repetition grow stale, and lose their startling effect; and the insipidity of the last becomes intolerable. The most amusing or instructive companion is best like a favorite volume, that we wish after a time to lay upon the shelf; but as our friends are not willing to be laid there, this produces a misunderstanding and ill-blood between us. Or if the zeal and integrity of friendship is not abated, or its career interrupted by any obstacle arising out of its own nature, we look out for other subjects of complaint and sources of dissatisfaction. We begin to criticize each other’s dress, looks, general character. “Such a one is a pleasant fellow, but it is a pity he sits so late!” Another fails to keep his appointments, and that is a sore that never heals. We get acquainted with some fashionable young men or with a mistress, and wish to introduce our friend; but be is awkward and a sloven, the interview does not answer, and this throws cold water on our intercourse. Or he makes himself obnoxious to opinion; and we shrink from our own convictions on the subject as an excuse for not defending him. All or any of these causes mount up in time to a ground of coolness or irritation; and at last they break out into open violence as the only amends we can make ourselves for suppressing them so long, or the readiest means of banishing recollections of former kindness so little compatible with our present feelings. We may try to tamper with the wounds or patch up the carcase of departed friendship; but the one will hardly bear the handling, and the other is not worth the trouble of embalming! The only way to be reconciled to old friends is to part with them for good: at a distance we may chance to be thrown back ( in a waking dream) upon old times and old feelings: or at any rate we should not think of renewing our intimacy, till we have fairly spit our spite or said, thought, and felt all the ill we can of each other. Or if we can pick a quarrel with some one else, and make him the scape-goat, this is an excellent contrivance to heal a broken bone. I think I must be friends with Lamb again, since he has written that magnanimous Letter to Southey, and told him a piece of his mind! I don’t know what it is that attaches me to H—so much, except that he and I, whenever we meet, sit in judgment on another set of old friends, and “carve them as a dish fit for the Gods”. There with L [Leigh Hunt], John Scott, Mrs. [Montagu], whose dark raven locks make a picturesque background to our discourse, B—, who is grown fat, and is, they say, married, R[ickman]; these had all separated long ago, and their foibles are the common link that holds us together.5 We do not affect to condole or whine over their follies; we enjoy, we laugh at them, till we are ready to burst our sides, “sans intermissions for hours by the dial.” We serve up a course of anecdotes, traits, master-strokes of character, and cut and hack at them till we are weary. Perhaps some of them are even with us. For my own part, as I once said, I like a friend the better for having faults that one can talk about. “Then,” said Mrs. [Montagu], ” you will cease to be a philanthropist!” Those in question were some of the choice-spirits of the age, not “fellows of no mark or likelihood’; and we so far did them justice: but it is well they did not hear what we sometimes said of them. I care little what any one says of me, particularly behind my back, and in the way of critical and analytical discussion: it is looks of dislike and scorn that I answer with the worst venom of my pen. The expression of the face wounds me more than the expressions of the tongue. If I have in one instance mistaken this expression, or resorted to this remedy where I ought not, I am sorry for it. But the face was too fine over which it mantled, and I am too old to have misunderstood it!…I sometimes go up to —–‘s; and as often as I do, resolve never to go again. I do not find the old homely welcome. The ghost of friendship meets me at the door, and sits with me all dinner-time. They have got a set of fine notions and new acquaintances. Allusions to past occurrences are thought trivial, nor is it always safe to touch upon more general subjects. M. does not begin as he formerly did every five minutes, “Fawcett used to say,” &c. That topic is something worn. The girls are grown up, and have a thousand accomplishments. I perceive there is a jealousy on both sides. They think I give myself airs, and I fancy the same of them. Every time I am asked, “If I do not think Mr. Washington Irving a very fine writer?” I shall not go again till I receive an invitation for Christmas Day in company with Mr. Liston. The only intimacy I never found to flinch or fade was a purely intellectual one. There was none of the cant of candour in it, none of the whine of mawkish sensibility. Our mutual acquaintance were considered merely as subjects of conversation and knowledge, not all of affection. We regarded them no more in our experiments than “mice in an air-pump:” or like malefactors, they were regularly cut down and given over to the dissecting-knife. We spared neither friend nor foe. We sacrificed human infirmities at the shrine of truth. The skeletons of character might be seen, after the juice was extracted, dangling in the air like flies in cobwebs; or they were kept for future inspection in some refined acid. The demonstration was as beautiful as it was new. There is no surfeiting on gall: nothing keeps so well as a decoction of spleen. We grow tired of every thing but turning others into ridicule, and congratulating ourselves on their defects.
We take a dislike to our favourite books, after a time, for the same reason. We cannot read the same works for ever. Our honey-moon, even though we wed the Muse, must come to an end; and is followed by indifference, if not by disgust. There are some works, those indeed that produce the most striking effect at first by novelty and boldness of outline, that will not bear reading twice: others of a less extravagant character, and that excite and repay attention by a greater nicety of details, have hardly interest enough to keep alive our continued enthusiasm. The popularity of the most successful writers operates to wean us from them, by the cant and fuss that is made about them, by hearing their names everlastingly repeated, and by the number of ignorant and indiscriminate admirers they draw after them: – we as little like to have to drag others from their unmerited obscurity, lest we should be exposed to the charge of affectation and singularity of taste. There is nothing to be said respecting an author that all the world have made up their minds about: it is a thankless as well as hopeless task to recommend one that nobody has ever heard of. To cry up Shakespear as the god of our idolatry, seems like a vulgar national prejudice: to take down a volume of Chaucer, or Spenser, or Beaumont and Fletcher, or Ford, or Marlowe, has very much the look of pedantry and egotism. I confess it makes me hate the very name of Fame and Genius, when works like these are “gone into the wastes of time,” while each successive generation of fools is busily employed in reading the trash of the day, and women of fashion gravely join with their waiting-maids in discussing the preference between the Paradise Lost and Mr. Moore’s Loves of the Angels. I was pleased the other day on going into a shop to ask, “If they had any of the Scotch Novels?” to be told – “That they had just sent out the last, Sir Andrew Wylie!” – Mr. Galt will also be pleased with this answer! The reputation of some books is raw and unaired: that of others is worm-eaten and mouldy. Why fix our affections on that which we cannot bring ourselves to have faith in, or which others have long ceased to trouble themselves about? I am half afraid to look into Tom Jones, lest it should not answer my expectations at this time of day; and if it did not, I would certainly be disposed to fling it into the fire, and never look into another novel while I lived. But surely, it may be said, there are some works that, like nature, can never grow old; and that must always touch the imagination and passions alike! Or there are passages that seem as if we might brood over them all our lives, and not exhaust the sentiments of love and admiration they excite: they become favourites, and we are fond of them to a sort of dotage. Here is one:
—“Sitting in my window
Printing my thoughts in lawn, I saw a god,
I thought (but it was you), enter our gates;
My blood flew out and back again, as fast
As I had puffed it forth and sucked it in
Like breath; then was I called away in haste
To entertain you: never was a man
Thrust from a sheepcote to a sceptre, raised
So high in thoughts as I; you left a kiss
Upon these lips then, which I mean to keep
From you for ever. I did hear you talk
Far above singing!”
A passage like this, indeed, leaves a taste on the palate like nectar, and we seem in reading it to sit with the Gods at their golden tables: but if we repeat it often in ordinary moods, it loses its flavour, becomes vapid, “the wine of poetry is drank, and but the lees remain.” Or, on the other hand, if we call in the air of extraordinary circumstances to set it off to advantage, as the reciting it to a friend, or after having our feelings excited by a long walk in some romantic situation, or while we
—“play with Amaryllis in the shade,
Or with the tangles of Neaera’s hair”—
we afterwards miss the accompanying circumstances, and instead of transferring the recollection of them to the favourable side, regret what we have lost, and strive in vain to bring back “the irrevocable hour” – wondering in some instances how we survive it, and at the melancholy blank that is left behind! The pleasure rises to its height in some moment of calm solitude or intoxicating sympathy, declines ever after, and from the comparison and conscious falling-off, leaves rather a sense of satiety and irksomeness behind it… “Is it the same in pictures?” I confess it is, with all but those from Titian’s hand. I don’t know why, but an air breathes from his landscapes, pure, refreshing, as if it came from other years; there is a look in his faces that never passes away. I saw one the other day. Amidst the heartless desolation and glittering finery of Fonthill, there is a portfolio of the Dresden Gallery. It opens, and a young female head looks from it; a child, yet woman grown; with an air of rustic innocence and the graces of a princess, her eyes like those of doves, the lips about to open, a smile of pleasure dimpling the whole face, the jewels sparkling in her crisped hair, her youthful shape compressed in a rich antique dress, as the bursting leaves contain the April buds! Why do I not call up this image of gentle sweetness, and place it as a perpetual barrier between mischance and me? – It is because pleasure asks a greater effort of the mind to support it than pain; and we turn after a little idle dalliance from what we love to what we hate!
As to my old opinions, I am heartily sick of them. I have reason, for they have deceived me sadly. I was taught to think, and I was willing to believe, that genius was not a bawd, that virtue was not a mask, that liberty was not a name, that love had its seat in the human heart. Now I would care little if these words were struck out of the dictionary, or if I had never heard them. They are become to my ears a mockery and a dream. Instead of patriots and friends of freedom, I see nothing but the tyrant and the slave, the people linked with kings to rivet on the chains of despotism and superstition. I see folly join with knavery, and together make up public spirit and public opinions. I see the insolent Tory, the blind Reformer, the coward Whig! If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, “to every good work reprobate.” I have seen all that had been done by the mighty yearnings of the spirit and intellect of men, “of whom the world was not worthy,” and that promised a proud opening to truth and good through the vista of future years, undone by one man, with just glimmering of understanding enough to feel that he was a king, but not to comprehend how he could be king of a free people! I have seen this triumph celebrated by poets, the friends of my youth and the friends of men, but who were carried away by the infuriate tide that, setting in from a throne, bore down every distinction of right reason before it; and I have seen all those who did not join in applauding this insult and outrage on humanity proscribed, hunted down (they and their friends made a byword of), so that it has become an understood thing that no one can live by his talents or knowledge who is not ready to prostitute those talents and that knowledge to betray his species, and prey upon his fellow- man. “This was some time a mystery: but the time gives evidence of it.” The echoes of liberty had awakened once more in Spain, and the mornings of human hope dawned again: but that dawn has been overcast by the foul breath of bigotry, and those reviving sounds stifled by fresh cries from the time-rent towers of the Inquisition – man yielding (as it is fit he should) first to brute force, but more to the innate perversity and dastard spirit of his own nature which leaves no room for farther hope or disappointment. And England, that arch-reformer, that heroic deliverer, that mouther about liberty, and tool of power, stands gaping by, not feeling the blight and mildew coming over it, nor its very bones crack and turn to a paste under the grasp and circling folds of this new monster, Legitimacy! In private life do we not see hypocrisy, servility, selfishness, folly, and impudence succeed, while modesty shrinks from the encounter, and merit is trodden under foot? How often is “the rose plucked from the forehead of a virtuous love to plant a blister there!” What chance is there of the success of real passion? What certainty of its continuance? Seeing all this as I do, and unravelling the web of human life into its various threads of meanness, spite, cowardice, want of feeling, and want of understanding, of indifference towards others, and ignorance of ourselves, – seeing custom prevail over all excellence, itself giving way to infamy – mistaken as I have been in my public and private hopes, calculating others from myself, and calculating wrong; always disappointed where I placed most reliance; the dupe of friendship, and the fool of love; – have I not reason to hate and to despise myself? Indeed I do; and chiefly for not having hated and despised the world enough.


[1] Panopticons was the name given by Bentham to a proposed form of prison of circular shape having cells built round and fully exposed towards a central well, from which the jail keepers could at all times observe the prisoners. Robert Owen was the first in a line of 19th century socialists who in fact carried out experiments at his cotton mills at New Lanark mill where he erected a block of buildings in the form of a parallelogram to house the workers.
[2] Hazlitt refers to Edward Irving (1792-34), the Scottish divine and mystic who took over the Caledonian Church, Hatton Garden, London, and where he enjoyed a phenomenal success as a preacher.
[3] Lamb’s Epistle to Robert Southey, Esq., was published in the London Magazine, Oct. 1823. See my page on Robert Southey.
[4] “On the Conversations of Authors” by Hazlitt and which first appeared in Sep. of 1820, and which was in his book of essays, The Plain Speaker (1826).
[5] Hazlitt seems to be referring to most of those who gathered at Lamb’s house, c. 1808, more Lamb’s friends than Hazlitt’s: Captain Burney, Martin, his son; Wm. Ayrton, musician; James White, treasurer at Christ’s Hospital; John Rickman, clerk to the speaker; Edward “Ned” Phillips, another clerk and Rickman’s successor; Geo. Dyer; Joseph Hume; et al. One could have seen them at the residence of Charles and Mary Lamb where they met every Wednesday night; for discussion, cribbage and whist.



Jai Poretsi via facebook
11 hours ago
Who would like to create a sensible fund raiser for Yemen Zoo in Taiz…

*******Latest: (13/2/16) – Arabic Leopards: 8 males, 12 females one of them pregnant! Lions 14 males 1:2 females plus two cubs are alive………..11 lions and 6 leopards have died

This place is a mess and no Western animal organisation dare get involved due to the war. The Yemen’s are great it is not their fault they are over ridden by rebel forces. I know Four Paws are stretched with saving lions in Gaza…Born Free cannot either or many others due to not wanting to be involved with a conflict area.

However…..I have spoken with and introduced eminent professionals in Yemen who actively are trying to resolve the situation…one is an MD of Yemen Education another a wildlife conservationist with the Foundation for Endangered Leopards in Yemen and Endangered Wild Animals…they are visiting the zoo tomorrow with a vet and one will be recording an assessment of their well being and taking “photos”; plus, feeding and watering. (This is an old photo now and the male is dead….plenty others that are not).

It is a very tricky situation for them as the UN do not like to involve themselves in these situations, and there obviously is conflict and rebels at major road checkpoints.

If money is raised there are people in Yemen that you can trust to do the right thing……..they are currently utilising their own money and supplies, but this cannot continue for long. Also the leopards may be taken to Abb Zoo ….and Sanctuaries across the border (Oman..Ethiopia ..elsewhere in Africa) could take some animals that are fit enough to travel.

I will be contacting Four Paws again tomorrow to get an up-date on any funding……….plus I will contact a few further Foundations.

Can anyone who is connected with a bona fide affiliation or fundraising contact me urgently to help fund people on the ground in Yemen….or is in contact with a Sanctuary

Please Urge Atlantis Resorts to reconsider their decision to enslave dolphins


Please sign this petition

source: sustainable leader
An Embarrassing Situation: New Hawaii Resort to Have Captive Dolphins
Recently Atlantis Resorts unveiled a plan to build a $2 billion resort on Oahu’s west shore. This resort will have everything from time shares, condos, restaurants, and shopping. It will be the largest resort in Ko’Olina, which sounds like every vacationers dream! They will even include an aquarium with sharks and dolphins to tow tourists around for that perfect vacation photo. But does Oahu need a new Dolphin park? We already have two of them, and dolphin parks don’t exactly have a good reputation for being animal or environmentally friendly.

At one point we needed to keep dolphins in captivity. It was much easier to study them, their echolocation capabilities, and their basic life history when they were kept in one place. Lately, we have been moving away from keeping dolphins in captivity, as documentaries like Blackfish and The Cove reveal how inhumane and horrific captivity is. Even the scientific contributions made during the early days of dolphin captivity are minimal compared to what we have learned from studying them in the wild.

While it may be much more convenient having dolphins and other marine life in one place, questions about the treatment of the animals and the purpose of their captivity remains questionable. Most dolphin shows insist that their animals are ambassadors for their wild counterparts, but how accurate of a representation can they be when the wild population is often in the ocean right outside of the park? The conservation education which these parks offer doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what the animals lives are like in the wild.

Most marine parks are situated near the ocean – mostly due to cost. Keeping marine life in captivity can be expensive. Being located nearby the ocean helps reduce costs for things like water quality. Pipes bring in ocean water, which is then filtered to prevent bacteria from making the captive whales and dolphins sick. This water is then circulated through the tank and is emptied out again- something easy to do with the ocean nearby.

It might be easy, but is this smart? Why not just promote whale and dolphin watching tours which embark close to the park? If people spend thousands of dollars to go on a vacation to a marine park near the beach, why bother looking at dolphins swimming around in a obnoxious fish bowl when they can experience the real thing by simply joining a whale-watching tour or dolphin excursion minutes away.

So now that we have the broad issue touched on, let’s look at what had me stand up on my soap box to begin with. If people in general, are moving away from captive dolphin shows, why is Atlantis Resorts building a $2 billion resort in Ko’Olina on Oahu’s western shore with a dolphin encounter? Not too far up the road there are dolphin watches and even some companies that will put you in the water with wild dolphins. If people really want to see dolphins in captivity, there are two Sea World-like facilities which have captive dolphin shows. Building more of these just doesn’t make sense. And why was this approved by the government of Hawaii?

Being curious about all of this, I started digging. What permits are required to even have a dolphin on display to the public? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requires only three criteria be met to satisfy having captive animals, despite the animal protection laws on the books:

Offer an education or conservation program;
Be open to the public on a regularly scheduled basis; and
Be licensed or registered by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) required by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
NOAA even states on their website, “No. Permits are not required to maintain marine mammals in public display facilities, such as aquariums.” All that is needed then for any person in the US to keep a marine mammal is to make sure they build the appropriately sized tank, ensure the public can see the animal regularly, and talk about it. You don’t even have to offer detailed information, and in some cases you can even lie to the public by twisting scientific facts to suit your needs. This seems too easy, and definitely not beneficial to the captive animal whose owner may not know the first thing about its mental, emotional, or physical care. Even the Animal Welfare Institute has some things to say about dolphins in captivity.

Why would Oahu, and the state of Hawaii for that matter, be open to this plan? They are set to host the IUCN World Conservation Congress – dubbed “the Olympics of Conservation” – this year, and yet they want to put more animals in captivity? Something smells fishy.

Keeping animals in captivity is not a sustainable practice as many die at very young ages, are often bored and stressed, and are unable to be true ambassadors of their species when jumping through hoops. The process of capturing dolphins is brutal, their health suffers, their emotional well-being suffers, and overall their life span and quality of life drops. You can read more about that here.

If we are truly trying to move to a more sustainable future, we need to find better alternatives to keeping dolphins and whales in captivity. The science contributed from these facilities is minimal, at best, and has not provided any new information since approximately the 1970s. Even then, much of the scientific papers written were focused on how to take care of captive animals and how best to breed them.

I get it. Atlantis doesn’t want people to go to the local whale watching tour or the already established sea parks. Their dolphins would be conveniently located right there for everyone’s enjoyment and Atlantis’ profit. If you really scratch the surface this resort, like so many others, appears to be trying to prevent its guests from actually experiencing Hawaii. Instead, they want to keep vacationers in their walled gardens so they spend their money there and only there. It is not a representation of Hawaii, nor will their dolphins be a representation of the true beauty of the species.

It also looks really bad on the State of Hawaii and the County of Honolulu to be promoting the captive dolphin trade – often times a brutal and violent act – when the IUCN World Conservation Congress is just around the corner.

Is this really something we need in Ko’Olina or can we find a better alternative? Atlantis has the opportunity to be the first multi-national billion dollar company to end the captive dolphin displays at their resorts. They can then promote more sustainable and truly conservation-minded presentations to their guests. Perhaps this should be discussed at the IUCN meeting to raise awareness and promote healthier alternatives and true ocean conservation education. At a time when Hawaii is trying to position itself as a champion of sustainability and conservation, do we really want the blemish of yet another captive marine life park? With the world watching, that might be embarrassing.

Whether your are against or in support of captivity, it is not wise for Oahu to allow a third dolphin park in any form. Instead, we need to set the example and tell Atlantis that this is not what Oahu, and the rest of the State of Hawaii, needs or wants. This is the most opportune time as construction of the resort has not started yet – but if we do nothing it will.

If you care about this (and if you’ve read this far, I bet you do), you can do something about it by adding your voice by signing and sharing this petition. It’s in your hands.

Please sign this petition

How Many Calves and Lambs Must Die?

animal ownership and exploitation must be seen the same way slavery of blacks are looked back on, it is the same, all life is equal and deserves the same respect, thought, love, courtesy, rights, #alllivesmatter

Armory of the Revolution

howmanyHow many innocent animals must die before we recognize that what we are doing is not stopping, or even reducing, the Animal Holocaust?

Baby calves, lambs, piglets, are murdered every hour of every day. They are born into slavery, torn from their mothers, abused, tortured, terrified, and slaughtered.

We object, we commiserate, we try to recruit vegans, we educate, we share memes, we post, donate, email, and sign petitions.

Nothing changes. And nothing can change as long as the law permits animal ownership and exploitation. Nothing can change as long as the government protects, enables, and subsidizes the slaughter industries.

Nothing can change so long as Wall Street owns most members of Congress, controls most government departments and regulatory agencies, and whose lobbyists write most of the laws.

The very system under which we live is the enemy of animals. The enemy of change, the enemy of activists in general…

View original post 554 more words


Orangutans are considered as pests by the palm oil industry

Often orangutans are run over by logging machinery, beat to death, buried alive or set on fire… all in the name of palm oil.
notopalmoil (1)
”Did you know that each and everyone of us is fueling one of the world’s biggest ecological disasters and acts of primate genocide in history?

Borneo and Sumatra are two of the most bio-diverse regions of the world, yet they have the longest list of endangered species. This list includes the magnificent orangutan. These two South-East Asian islands are extremely rich in life, containing around 20,000 flowering plant species, 3,000 tree species, 300,000 animal species and thousands more being discovered each year. Despite this amazing biodiversity and delicate web of species, an area the size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour in Indonesia and Malaysia to make way for the production of one vegetable oil. That’s 6 football fields destroyed each minute. This vegetable oil is called palm oil, and is found in hundreds of the everyday products, from baked goods and confectionery, to cosmetics and cleaning agents… many of which you buy in your weekly shopping.Due to the massive international demand for palm oil, palm oil plantations are rapidly replacing the rainforest habitat of the critically endangered orangutan; with over 90% of their habitat already destroyed in the last 20 years.

Orangutans are some of our closest relatives, sharing approximately 97% of their DNA with humans. Orangutan means ‘Person of the jungle’ in the Indonesian language. It is estimated that 6 to 12 of these ‘jungle people’ are killed each day for palm oil. These gentle creatures are either killed in the deforestation process, when they wonder into a palm oil plantation looking for food, or in the illegal pet trade after they’ve been captured and kept as pets in extremely poor conditions and provided with extremely poor nutrition.

Orangutans are considered as pests by the palm oil industry. In the deforestation process, workers are told that if wildlife gets in the way, they are to do whatever is necessary in order to dispose them, no matter how inhumane. Often orangutans are run over by logging machinery, beat to death, buried alive or set on fire… all in the name of palm oil.

Government data has shown that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades. Experts say that if this pattern of destruction and exploitation continues, these intelligent acrobats of the jungle will be extinct in the wild within 3 to 12 years (as early as 2015). It is also thought that their jungle habitat will be completely gone within 20 years (approximately 2033).

Around 50 million tons of palm oil is produced annually; with almost all of that being non-sustainable palm oil, that replaces 12 million hectares of dense, bio-diverse rainforest. That’s the equivalent landmass of North Korea deforested each year for palm oil alone!

Palm oil is also having a shocking impact on our planet. The production of this one vegetable oil is not only responsible for polluting rivers and causing land erosion, but when the plantation workers set fire to the remaining trees, shrubs and debris to make way for the oil palms, it produces immense amount of smoke pollution that is toxic to planet earth. This has been found to be the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gas in the world.

By purchasing products that contain crude palm oil, you are helping destroy ancient, pristine rainforest, wipe out species like the orangutan, and create a large-scale ecological disaster. Think of the consequences next time you do your weekly shopping; the consequences not only for orangutans and other animals, but for us as the human race; for we cannot survive without the rainforests either. We have a choice, orangutans do not.”

 Partial list of other names for palm oil-derived ingredients:*

  1. PKO – Palm Kernel Oil
  2. PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein (PKOo)
  3. PHPKO – Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil
  4. FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil
  5. OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil
  6. Palmitate – Vitamin A or Asorbyl Palmitate (NOTE: Vitamin A Palmitate is a very common ingredient in breakfast cereals and we have confirmed 100% of the samples we’ve investigated to be derived from palm oil)
  7. Palmate
  8. Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
  9. Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
  10. Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
  11. Elaeis Guineensis
  12. Glyceryl Stearate
  13. Stearic Acid
  14. Chemicals which contain palm oil
  15. Steareth -2
  16. Steareth -20
  17. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
  18. Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
  19. Hydrated palm glycerides
  20. Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)
  21. Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate (names with palmitate at the end are usually derived from palm oil, but as in the case of Vitamin A Palmitate, very rarely a company will use a different vegetable oil)