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Bruce Sterling

Filed in: politics, SXSW2004, Tue, Mar 16 2004 20:45 PT

This is my first SXSW, so apparently this talk is a yearly phenomenon. Bruce Sterling holds forth on basically anything that is interesting to him at the moment. It’s a roller-coaster ride that takes you from politics to software to geography to bioterrorism and back to politics again. So my notes are, well, not as good as the others. Sorry.

“Job 1 in the Bush administration is to get it spun… If you get it spun, then you don’t have to get it done.”

Bruce says that India is having a hell of a year. They’re getting rid of diseases, industry is firing up, they’ve got New Bollywood movies like Kalho Naho, baazee.com selling actors’ clothes online.

He pumped up Gilberto Gil. “He’s the weirdest politician in the world right now.” Touring all over the place, getting third-world people wired, trying to “preside over the tropicalization of digitization.” Brazil is setting a lot of trends.

He segued into how the Internet is “falling apart at the seams” – “spooks” finding new ways to spy on us, people getting exploited just to send spam to others, and Microsoft email clients. “Outlook? This is like a flaw with a mailer attached to it.” Imagine what it’s like, he says, to be in China, and find all of this filth and dishonesty. The officials are incompetent to clean up any of it, and “it makes me indignant. I’m angry about it.”

He mentions Scott Ritter: “He was 100% Cassandra” when he shouted about finding weapons in Iraq. He ended up being buried in public (I’d have said “assassinated”) even though it turns out he’s probably right.

People are tired of being fed lies… it’s a dismal business.

Sterling was talking about khat, a drug popular in Somalia (I think he said it’s a “fuck-you-up narcotic”) that Americans wouldn’t touch.

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