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Bruce Sterling:

""Centipedes" are covert conspiracies meant to drive politicians from power by creating moral panics. Centipedes have the same dynamics as modern terror-groups, but they exploit sexual scandal instead of bloody mayhem. Centipedes are a cheap, highly effective, low-risk, highly-mediated method of political destabilization.

Centipedes are new phenomena because the barriers-to-entry in media have crashed. This means that subversive efforts formerly isolated and punished as libel, slander and whispering campaigns can swiftly take on avalanche proportions.

While pretending to be about spontaneous indignation and moral values, centipedes are coolly calculated and all about power.

The asymmetrical advantage that enables a "centipede" is that the conspirators themselves are never outed. They plot, they find a sexual weakness, they accumulate data about it, they launch a scandal from out of the woodwork, and while exposing private deeds to the public glare, the conspirators themselves remain unseen.

My blog lists a host of these political events that have recently taken place in societies all over the world: India, Greece, Poland, Indonesia, South Africa, Britain, USA. (((And Canada.))) I named them "centipedes" because they are segmented, covert, and poisonous. They seem to have a remarkable commonality as a species." (http://blog.wired.com/sterling/2006/12/defining_the_ce.html)


Bruce Sterling:

"The common or garden centipede has the following canonical centipede features:

A. a prominent, powerful victim.

B. an alleged sexual partner of the victim, who may or may not be disgruntled and going public willingly.

C. Leaked illegal sex wiretaps, leaked illegal sex videos; covertly acquired blackmail material. Hackers and private investigators often show up here. Political opposition research people and intelligence agencies are likely actors here, too.

D. Partisan Internet activists: mailing lists, bloggers, online video sites.

E. Actresses, singers or models. These women may or may not be the sexual partners, but they are very useful in attracting mainstream press attention. It helps a great deal in provoking moral panic if the women are (a) already famous (b) glamorous (c) rich (d) pretty. A politician having an affair with an ugly, overweight, middle-aged proletarian woman would be pretty much centipede-proof.

F. Opposition politicians willing to act all shocked, shocked and who can demand a swift purge of the victim.

G. Digital media, tabloid press, cable TV, mainstream media (exploited in that strict order).

H. A police investigation or even just the rumor of one.

I. A ferocious and salacious public that stampedes at the thought that politicians have illicit sex just like they do.

J. Various gaudy, multicolored optional features: drug use; molested teenage boys; religious leaders (especially bluenoses and anti-porn campaigners, who are especially vulnerable to centipede attacks); voyeur-porn entrepreneurs who can sell sex-videos commercially; purloined email and recorded AIM chats; confiscated computers; stolen phonecams; wiretapping equipment; anonymous mailouts of defamatory DVDs."