owner-nettime-l on Sat, 17 Feb 96 07:48 MET

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(PP);Tue, 13 Feb 1996 19:29:38 +0000
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From: richard@hrc.westminster.ac.uk (Richard Barbrook)
Subject: nettime: cyberspace should not be independent of real life
Cc: andy@hrc.westminster.ac.uk
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 19:30:14 +0000
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I've just read the copy of the 'Cyberspace Declaration of Independence' by
John Perry Barlow - here's some initial comments on it...

First, I was particularly amused that the text supports its arguments by
mentioning Washington, Jefferson and Madison - who all were slave-owners! As
Andy and I pointed out in 'The Californian Ideology', this is no accident as
Barlow's neo-liberal conception of freedom means that liberty for the few is
bought at the expense of oppression for the many... 

Secondly, opposition to mindless censorship by Christian fundamentalists 'n'
the like isn't aided by the promotion of anarcho-capitalist utopias. There
ARE legitimate concerns about child-molestors and fascists using the Net -
and the democratic republic has a duty to persecute these evil-doers both
on- and off-line. The disciplining of social miscreants is an integral part
of the 'social contract' of all citizens mentioned in the text! What is at
stake is not the legitimacy of any state regulation of the Net, but its
extent and nature. It is a fantasy to believe that cyberspace is somehow can
separate itself from the public laws governing 'real life'. The PCs, wires
and servers are veritable tangible goods operated by flesh 'n' blood people
living in specific geographical spaces. Instead of trying to reject all
state regulation (which is a necessary precondition of capitalist commodity
production), it would be better to campaign for greatest possible freedom of
speech consistent with the protection of other political and social rights,
such as freedom from racial persecution or sexual violence. Under article 11
of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, the right of
freedom of speech was protected except in cases of abuses determined by the
law. Maybe we should take this analysis as an inspiration - especially as
the French revolutionaries abolished slavery while Washington, Jefferson and
Madison lived in luxury off the forced labour of others... 


Dr. Richard Barbrook
Hypermedia Research Centre
School of Design & Media
University of Westminster
Watford Road
Northwick Park


+44 (0)171-911-5000 x 4590

"...the History of the World is nothing but the development of the Idea of
Freedom." - Georg Hegel

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