Intolerant anarchists

From Jaron Lanier:

Even in the places that are called anarchistic, in fact, what happens is a new kind of order, which is often very oppressive if you don’t happen to fit in. In San Francisco you can be attacked by mobs of bicycling advocates who’ve occasionally been quite ruthless because they believe in bicycles, and they think that they’re the most enlightened, free people in the world, and yet if somebody doesn’t agree with them, then they have trouble.

Similarly, Burning Man, which people who fit in at Burning Man must perceive is the most open, accepting place in the world is, in fact, extraordinarily unaccepting of people who don’t conform.

7 thoughts on “Intolerant anarchists

  1. Some great ideas, but from his comments (and his girth), I think he knows a lot more about the internet than he does about bicycling.

  2. @cbp, what? Ignore the fat guy? There’s tolerance!

    Isn’t the point that we should be free to not know or care about bicycling?

  3. Well his primary point seems to be to take a jab at bicycling enthusiasts (and various other ‘lefties’), who he seems to hold a grudge against (for reasons made clear by his photo).

    His insult (or, ok, his analogy, whichever you prefer) falls flat for a number of reasons.

    Firstly, I can take the liberty of dismissing his claim that bicycling enthusiasts think that “they’re the most enlightened, free people in the world”, as the childish nonsense that it is.

    Secondly, the relationship between the general bicycling community and actual anarchism (as a political or philosophical ideology) is tenuous. I’m sure what he thinks are snobby anarchists are actually just young, fit cool people trying to have a good time (without him).

    Thirdly, I would wager that if he has been on the receiving end of biker-rage at some point in his life, it wasn’t simply because he politely stated he preferred a packet of potato chips to the wind in his hair. More likely he actively tried to disturb the freedom of bicyclists by one or more of: driving dangerously, polluting, lobbying, stepping into the bicycle lane and punching a cyclist (happened to me once, right out of the blue!) etc.

    There’s also a good chance he tried to dismiss the benefits of bicycling with some nutty quack scientific justifications – always a good way to start a fight!

    Fourthly, he is confusing the ideology of freedom/anarchy with that of tolerance/peace. Right-wing hacks should be the first to tell you that these two ideologies can be antagonistic. Freedom is something for which you fight.

    Plus, as far as I’m aware there’s nothing in the Left-wing Handbook that says you can’t have a raging argue with someone. Freedom and tolerance isn’t about postmodern moral relativism. It’s more difficult than that.

  4. Asus the Spanish Computer


    Somewhat to my surprise given average blog comments, your comment was pretty good (that is a compliment) – mainly point 4, which is a common conflation.

    I’m not really sure why Jaron is competent to expound on stuff. (Which is not to say he isn’t).

  5. I’ve been caught in Critical Mass bicycle protests in my own neighborhood (Greenwich Village in NY) and even once visiting London. They block traffic (called “corking” in the linked Wikipedia article) and taunt motorists and pedestrians in my neighborhood. I’m not sure what their agenda is other than showing they can organize to take over the street traffic. I could imagine it could be quite stressful to be in a car surrounded by rowdy bicyclists.

    I loved living in the Netherlands, where they know how to mix bicycles into pedestrian and motor traffic. If NY were set up like that, I’d bicycle everywhere. As is, I’d vote to eliminate bicycle and non-taxi/non-delivery motor traffic in NY. At least start ticketing cyclists going the wrong way on one-way streets and going through red lights. I’m also not keen on sharing sidewalks with bicycles.

  6. Well, pedestrians in Cambridge, MA, can be downright aggressive. At a light change, I once witnessed a crowd of pedestrians cross a sidewalk. A woman driving a large vehicle (SUV-ish) had stopped within the crosswalk. One gent when he crossed in front of the vehicle slammed the hood with his hand, and yelled, “Hey! You are in our space!”

    Majorities just need to be local. That is, the local density in time just needs to be high enough.

    On the other hand, the same can be said of fossil fuel burning people, holding a number of others hostage …

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