MEME 2.03 Feedback
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 21:38:41 -0800
To: "David S. Bennahum" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: John Perry Barlow <email@example.com> Subject: Re: MEME 2.03
I must say, I am astonished by the ferocity of your attack on me and my "declaration" in MEME 2.03. I'm especially dismayed since, reading previous issues, I have found us in agreement on most basic issues.
Without actually quoting the entire declaration to your readers, you extract bits of it for scathing denunciation, claiming at the outset that it all adds up to this basic question:
>will we >deal with the real world or retreat into our own private delusion -- one >which places cyberspace above and beyond the realities of the physical >world?
Only the most perverse reading of what I wrote could lead one to this meaning. I assure you, and your readers, that I meant no such thing.
The realities of the physical world, whether harsh or mundane or ecstatic, will be with us as long as we have bodies. There will always be bodies starving, bodies in prison, bodies dancing, bodies making love.
Cyberspace is no more separate from the realities of the physical world than the mind is sublimely unrelated to the body. There is always a continuity between mind and body, and the same continuity extends between the physical and virtual worlds.
Indeed, the relationship between the social space that exists on, say, the island of Manhattan and the social space that exists in Cyberspace, is precisely the relationship between mind and body.
But there is also a separation between thought and action. Action is what the body does and over which physical authority may be be exercised. In Cyberspace, I might threaten to kill you. In New York, I can slit your thoat. That's a very important difference.
And this is why I said, in another part of the declaration you didn't see fit to quote, "We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies." I'm not seeking to evade legal responsibility for our physical actions.
But I've never felt anybody's thoughts should be under the control of governments, even when they could clearly define the thinkers as dwelling within their physical jurisdictions. I favor it even less now than any government on the planet can seek to confine the entire human conversation within its own local cultural norms.
At no point have I said or implied, as you charge, that Government is
>a vestige of >primitive society, will soon become obsolete, replaced by a society of >mind. So who cares what governments think? Why not just wait out these >times of troubles until the new world is unveiled?
Governments of one sort or another will go on being necessary for a long time. Some agency has to keep snow off the streets and police on them. Some collective force of society has to underwrite the physical health, welfare, and safety of the community.
I've spent a lot of time working in local governments of one sort or another to such ends as these, and I will go on doing so.
These are but a few of the many hard, unsupported, ad hominem attacks contained in your document, inspired by an animus the real source of which I can't imagine, since surely we believe and are motivated by most of the same things.
Both of us are grappling with the balancing acts necessary to assure the continued expansion of this great global conversation. Both of us are aware that it is difficult to maintain a civil society in the presence of all the different cultures here and in the absense of any clear collective authority representing them all.
We both agree that government had an important role in planting the seed that grew into the Internet, though I must point out that none of it genetic code - "things like FTP, TCP/IP, HTTP, SMTP" were set by governmental agencies. They were all standands that became generally used and eventually defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force, an entirely unofficial old boys network.
Both of are dedicated to beginning a dialog that will address such questions as:
>What [are} the limits of acceptable >behavior in cyberspace? Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium? Do >you feel the debate over free-speech in the United States is a universal >debate, which speaks to you? Do you think, as a group, Internet users can >form a community able to justly govern itself?
Indeed, I would say that my firing off that document has achieved precisely the purpose you claim for yourself. And that may be the problem.
I have been around idealistic movements most of my life and one of the many ironies I find in such work is the extent their adherents reserve their worst invective, not for their real enemies, but for those who are essentially in agreement save for some ideological coloration or element of rhetorical style.
I was hoping this would be different, but I can see that it isn't. What a pity.
Yrs, John Perry (Barlow)
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: MEME 2.03
Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 22:41:02 -0500
[let's keep my identity anonymous]
My god, David, so well said. I'm so tired of reading rant after rant about how cyberspace should secede and declare itself a soveirgn nation that I think I'm about to vomit all over by copy of the Constitution. I was born into a country with a Bill of Rights, I'll be damned if I'm going to leave it here while I retreat into cyberspace.
Even if you buy that argument, history should show you it doesn't work. It didn't work for ham radio, it won't work for cyberspace. A medium's supporters who believe that by simply retreating into our apartments and ignoring this new law we can overcome Congress has simply smoked too much of the good stuff.[...]
Mon, 19 Feb 1996 00:17:17 -0500 (EST) From: nate <email@example.com> To: "David S. Bennahum" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: MEME 2.03
dave, thx for ripping apart Barlow's utopian arguments. I'm glad you used a public forum to do it. Things aren't as "cyber-simple" as he would make them out to be.
>debate, which speaks to you? Do you think, as a group, Internet users can form a community able to justly govern itself?
Barlow was the guy trying to project monolithic ideas onto cyberspace, how can one really refer to the internet as a group, or a community? With "cyberspace" occurring on so many public and private levels, i find it impossible to make any broad statements about any supposed "community" Those who have the strongest illusions of internet "culture" or "community" are those who need your reality check the most! [...]
Subject: Re: MEME 2.03
Date: Sun, 18 Feb 1996 22:30:12 -0800
From: Phil Morton <email@example.com>
As concerned as we need to be about the policing of cyberspace with the CDA, the real harm in the Telecommunications 'Reform' Act of 1996 is the wholesale deregulation. In as far as cyberspace is like geographical territory, the legislation really opens the door for a major 'land grab', i.e. the concentration of what has been a public space into the hands a of small number of people and institutions driven more by greed than by any sense of the public well-being.
So, all in all, I think of CDA more as a distraction than a threat. The question I want to pose is how we can organize to continue the tradition of public discourse that we've seen on the Internet. is the many-to-many communication inherent in the electronic medium - even when Time-Warner/Netscape/Microsoft/Cisco/AT&T own the means of transportation?
Philip Morton, cybertroll
While the Internet has and is evolving to more than that, to deny its roots is to deny its history. The public does have an interest in regulating the public parts of the Internet and privacy ought to be ensured in the private areas.
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 12:56:24 PST
Subject: Re: MEME 2.03
You are, of course, quite right, in your criticisms of Barlow. I've long been puzzled by the assertion that the government should completely stay out of policing Net content (as opposed to largely stay out, which is in my view). If I send Barlow a message "Paying me $100,000 or I'll burn down your house," why shouldn't I be every bit as punishable for extortion as when I give him the same message through phone or snail-mail?
In any case, as a law professor who specializes in free speech law and in law and computer technology -- and who generally has a pretty hawkish view of individual rights generally and free speech rights particularly -- I'm happy to see people like you speaking up for common sense.
-- Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 23:01:18 -0700 (MST)
Thank you David for deconstructing Barlow's hollow "declaration", made from the safety of a wealthy man's retreat in Switzerland. His world may not be subject to oppression, but ours is. It never fails to amaze me how the educated as well as ignorant will follow famous icons. Bob Dylan, 1965: "Don't follow leaders."
>What will work?
Letting our politicians pretend to represent us, while selling out to the hyper-rich, won't. The internet community worked for a whole year against the kind of Telecom Bill we got: a petition of 115,000 signatures, 20,000 faxes and phone calls in one day, all ammounted to futile begging for mercy.
One phone call from a John Malone (TCI prez.) now can cancel the life work of millions of honest citizens.
>Computer networks and the communications they carry are products of people, and people live by geography, in physical space, under the rule of law.
Cyberspace then will be governed by people in the context of their culture.
But which people do the governing? Not "We the People".
Knowledge alone is not power. The internet (like the phone alone) can be not just a source of information, but a medium for each of us to have a legal binding vote, so we are not "misrepresented" as the Telecom Bill exemplifies. I hope people ready to share responsibility for our future find this of interest:
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 96 08:30 EET
To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (Charl Durand)
Subject: MEME 2.03
[...] I don't think that South Africa would follow the example set by the American censorhip law or fold under pressure, simply because Internet cleanliness is the last thing on our collective minds right now. I think that goes for most countries in a similar position. We need to use electronic communication for development and upliftment. And fortunately, unlike what seems to be the case with your government, ours does not feel threatened by its populace.
[...]ALthough I agree with your point that the US government has primarily been responsible for the initiation of what is now the Internet, you must remember what the original impetus behind it was -- military power. They certainly weren't in a benevolent mood.[...]
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Bonnett)
Date: Feb 20, 1996 10:59:01 -0800 PDT X-Reader
Subject: Re: MEME 2.03 To: email@example.com
>Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium?
My opinion is no, the first time that happened was recorded in the book of Genesis, chapter 11. Mankind was thwarted then, and has had trouble getting it together ever since.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Roberto Hernandez M. (UCV))
Subject: Internet and the low of gravity
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 1996 03:20:28 -0400 (AST)
Your legislators' censorship against the Internet evokes in me an ignorant and droll foreman in Brazil. Not many years ago an engineer warned him that a certain dam was impossible to build because it was against the law of gravity. "It doesn't matter," the boss said raising the authorized finger. "I forbid that law from now on." I ignore if the dam could be built after that decree.
Free greetings from Venezuela--where, as far as I'm aware, the law of gravity hasn't been abrogated as yet. Roberto Hernandez-Montoya Universidad Central de Venezuela
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 1996 01:03:21 -0500 (EST) From: "Amy N. Kapczynski" <amyk@phoenix.Princeton.EDU> To: email@example.com Subject: reply to MEME 2.03
[...]But I see innovative potential in cyberspace. The military background of the internet gives one pause; but one can also imagine it in Donna Haraway's terms (never a bad idea when you're trying to talk about technology in a socially responsible manner). Her main trope is that of the cyborg, a hybrid of machine and organism. She says: "The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illigitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchial capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illigitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential." (from A Cyborg Manifesto). Nothing can be without origins, but perhaps the Internet can still betray its family upbringing.
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 1996 11:21:08 -0800 (PST)
To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (John Lowry)
Subject: Re: MEME 2.03: Myth of Digital Nirvana
>... ... Do >you feel the debate over free-speech in the United States is a universal debate, which speaks to you?
Free speech does not come about because we make it a law. Free speech is a consequense of having an idea, and the power to express it. Civil "rights" are the great hoax perpetuated on our species. There is only power. Private property was enshrined as the organizing principle of this nation because it bestows power -- the economic security that derives from owning your own means of production is the source of the willingness to speak freely which, in turn, is the fountainhead of democracy.
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 1996 00:10:24 +0100
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Patrizio Di Nicola)
The Internet people were able to create technical standards. They developped a "netiquette". But people on the Internet did not try to create new social norms. In absence of accepted social norms the Internet is not a community (in Reihngold's terms), but only a sum of consistent, large, but individual interactions. Therefore, the norms will be imposed by people who only marginally knows what the Internet is. This is the real risk. At that point the laws will turn the net from a place "where to stay" to a "place where to buy".