Attack of the Luddites?
January 23, 2002 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Attack of the Luddites? A group from my high school visited Mendocino High School in the early 1990's to see how they were implementing internet access, as we were getting ready to do the same. We were, frankly, jealous of their "fat pipe," their all-wired classrooms and their much-vaunted community support. Things are apparently much different now. "Wireless Free Mendocino has been instrumental in defeating attempts to bring cell phone and a high-speed Internet service to the town's 1,000-odd residents. Now the group is trying to force the high school radio station to remove its antenna from the school roof -- a move that could sound the death knell for the struggling student outfit."
posted by Lynsey (15 comments total)
Trying to avoid wireless? In california? Might as well try to avoid snow in alaska. Seriously, if they're that concerned, then move elsewhere. Most of the globe is wireless-free already.

It is interesting - and disconcerting - that the Telecommunication Act makes it impossible for a community to ban any radio technology due to health or environmental concerns. While I don't believe that there are health hazards to the vast majority of radio, what's to say that some new technology won't have undocumented hazards? Basically, this Act prevents communities from self-direction.
posted by yesster at 10:38 AM on January 23, 2002

The guy sounds like a Quack. He can believe whatever he wants to believe. In fact, I think he believes it so strongly that it's not really radios, phones and computers that are making him sick anymore, but rather the vehemency of his own mind (similar to outbreaks of stomach aches, head colds and the flu during finals week in college). It's a wonder what stress can do to people.

Let him move in someplace with other people like him and they can go the rest of their lives without embracing technology, they'll be happy for the rest of their days. I'm just concerned that they're raising kids this way.
posted by tomorama at 10:45 AM on January 23, 2002

These people are screwballs, but they sure are individualists. They are standing up to the most overwhelming cultural and industrial tide in the history of humankind, i.e., the continuing digitization of information. They are not basing their protest on any recognized political, religious or philosophical grounds. Just their own personal delusions. There may be something grand in it.
posted by Faze at 10:59 AM on January 23, 2002

We are living through through a modern-day industrial revolution. I can't imagine not wanting to be a part of it. You just know 40 years from now, people whose names we casually drop in conversation today will be in the history books. This is "Getting Left Behind" in the worst sense.
posted by tomorama at 11:04 AM on January 23, 2002

I can't imagine not wanting to be a part of it.

Just ask Ted Kaczynski, Tom.

Actually, the minute I saw this I started thinking of that old Sir Douglas Quintet song:

We Don't Want no 'Net in Mendocino
Luddite's make their home in Mendocino....
posted by jonmc at 11:11 AM on January 23, 2002

I'm reminded of the people that think aircraft contrails are really chemical mists, being secretly distributed by the US Govt for some nefarious purpose. Some of them actually spend their days watching for passing jetliners, so that they can videotape them & send in the "evidence" to local newspapers etc.
posted by aramaic at 11:19 AM on January 23, 2002

My only question is this: Is this Mr. Firstenberg experience any adverse side effects during a lightning storm, which can not only produce electromagnetic fields of increadible strength, but which also produces radio waves?

What a bloody shame that this quack can ruin benefits for hundreds of other people in his community.
posted by thewittyname at 11:47 AM on January 23, 2002

"You can't argue with zealots."

You can, but not rationally.
posted by bjgeiger at 12:31 PM on January 23, 2002

What a bloodier shame that there are others that are so easily influenced by an obvious nutjob.

I guess Heaven's Gate missed a few, huh?
posted by xena at 2:32 PM on January 23, 2002

This raving nutter needs to prove (in a controlled environment) his claims of being sensitive to radio emissions. Just put him in a radio-deadened room, randomly zap him with low-level fields, and have him tell a group of medical professionals when he feels discomfort. I bet he'd never agree to it, or if he did, that he wouldn't detect a single thing (that is, until someone decides to zap him with kilowatt-level microwaves.)

I don't get it. These goons can kill wireless for a whole town just by saying they get headaches, etc. from EM radiation? They're a bunch of psychotic hypochondriacs. I mean, I couldn't get L.A. to stop fluoridating the drinking water just by SAYING it gave me cancer. I'd have to have proof, and so should these luddites.
posted by phalkin at 5:00 PM on January 23, 2002

And another thing:

"This overexposure to pulsed microwaves has been a personal tragedy for me," Wagner said in an e-mail interview. "I'm left hypersensitive -– even my mouse burns my hand when I use my computer now."

Though I think it's established that this guy's pretty friggin' crazy, this just plants that assumption in the 'confirmed' column. If the EM radiation from his mouse burns his hand, his monitor must give him a debilitating dose of pain whenever he's within 50 feet of it. God forbid he's in the room when it's turned on or degaussed. Those operations cause huge amounts EM flux. Yet he does email interviews... right. The guy feels his "pain" when he wants to, and just ignores it when he doesn't.

Forget the test I mentioned above. Let's just use an industrial microwave instead. We can even stop the test when he starts to smell funny.
posted by phalkin at 5:16 PM on January 23, 2002

excellent points of contention here.
could this be some sort of placebo effect?
either way, im going to go turn on all my appliances now :p
posted by sixtwenty3dc at 5:37 PM on January 23, 2002

This is what's telling to me:

"Nowadays when Firstenberg travels, he lugs along a bevy of devices to detect radio frequencies, including a meter that gauges electrical, magnetic and microwave fields."

If he instantly reacts to all this EM pollution, why does he need doodads and geegaws to detect it? Because he's faking it, perhaps??
posted by headspace at 7:15 PM on January 23, 2002

phalkin: Maybe she has an LCD monitor (the quote was from a woman who pulled her daughter out of school after they put up the broadband antenna). Although I doubt it.

It seems like these people are trying to turn that town into an "EM free" zone or something, without regards to the people living there. Like the sciantologiests and clearwater, or Pat Buchanan and the Reform party, except they are only a really small minority (16 people!)

The non-ludites in that town need to organize, get some people elected to the historical committie, etc.
posted by delmoi at 5:16 AM on January 24, 2002

Easiest solution: proceed with wireless implementation, issue all citizenry tinfoil helmets.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:20 PM on January 24, 2002

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