Julian Dibbell on 20 Sep 2000 20:49:24 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Reality check on Sundevil.

Taylor McLaren <paste@interlog.com> goes:
> MEEP! Julian Dibbell <julian@mostly.com> wrote:
> >And I'm only mildly

Maybe I should have been more precise: It wasn't hysteria that marked the
Reuters piece for me. It was its truly colossal squareness, which is what
it shares with Sgt. Joe Friday and his ilk. The most hilarious moments of
antidrug propaganda, after all, have always come from its attempts to
project a knowing, on-top-of-it-all, unhysterical pose in the face of a
subculture it's basically clueless about. And cluelessness is the only
excuse for publishing with a straight face a quote like, for instance, OSU
police Lt. Steve Altman's "The computer specialist feels ['feels'!] there
may be in excess of a thousand files." Impartiality in fact would have
dictated that this ominous-sounding statement be balanced by the
observation that having a thousand MP3s on your hard drive is about as
remarkable, in this day and age, as having a Zip-Loc baggie full of pot in
your freezer.

I could go on pointing out the howlers in the piece, but never mind. My
point is that it deserves attention as a sign that the culture of the copy
now officially has its very own culture war. Sure there have been lots of
skirmishes in the last year, but things are never really complete until
authority figures start making statements that come off like high camp. So
read, have a laugh, and then buckle down. Because if the history of the
drug wars is any indication, this is the part where things stop being much
fun anymore. These Fabulous-Furry-Freak-Brothers days will more than
likely be followed by the familiar long dull night: gradually escalating
state/corporate attempts at control and repression, universal flouting of
the laws in private life, few real effects other than collateral damage to
the integrity of public discourse, to the fined and imprisoned, and maybe
to recording artists who could be making handsome livings off of
unrestricted copying if the current corporate regime weren't so bent on
marginalizing the practice.

Right now there are only two real consolations. The first is the fact
that, as the Reuters piece shows, the Man still hasn't quite figured out
how not to make himself look ridiculous. And the second is the hope that
the copy wars may yet have a happier ending than the drug wars. I wouldn't
expect the first to last much longer, and I'm holding on to the second by
a thread.

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