They built a god.

They’d been building a god since the sixties. 

They just didn’t know it.

I’m sure there were a few who knew, people like Genesis P,
the aging rattle and clank sex hippy of the cut and paste

I was never into the
Kit Pedler knew; though he downplayed it. For him it was
more a “Man is dead, long live the super computer.” kind of
Loebler was afraid          and Madden died before some of
his “projects” could be
I think it’s just


Read more “$uptime”

Kathy Acker Reading The Body 1991 (MONDO 2000 Issue #4)

Kathy Acker Interviewed by Larry McCaffery

When Kathy Acker smiles, her face shifts 2000 years in time, from Periclean austere to postmodern punk.

Embedded in one of her front teeth is a jagged chunk of bronze.

She is her own text, her own gallery. She’s a body builder in more than the usual way: her muscles animate spectacular tattoos. She has seized control over the sign-systems through which people “read” her.

You may also read her books. In Empire of the Senseless (1988) she systematically kills the patriarchal father, tries (but eventually fails) to imagine a society freed from Oedipal considerations and all taboos, and introduces a file of outcast myths—cyberpunk, modern primitive, pirate, motorcycle gang—to explore control over one’s life and the use of signs to create the meaning of that life. In Memoriam to Identity (1990) inhabits literary and historical materials—the work of Rimbaud and his relationship with Verlaine, Heian court writing, Faulkner—to present a contemporary version of the myth of romance.

During her expatriate years Acker became a major figure in postmodern and feminist fiction. Her novels (with spectacular Robert Mapplethorpe photographs on their covers) were attacked from right and left. Some feminists were made queasy by Acker’s depictions of emotional and sexual masochism, her obsession with obscenity. Some loathed her analyses of political and cultural repression; others, her takes on 1960’s Hippie utopianism. After a dicey decade in London, Acker moved back to the states, specifically San Francisco, where she teaches writing at the Art Institute.

Past mistress of the cunning juxtaposition and the Fine Art of Appropriation, her writing betrays a multitrack outlaw intellect. And she doesn’t shrink from mining outlaw “low culture” genres like SF, pornography, and detective fiction. The net effect of her work is not merely to deconstruct, but to decondition.

Acker is passionate and articulate, energetic and authoritative. Laughter and self-irony punctuated her rapid-fire presentations delivered in a heavy New York Jewish accent.

Larry McCaffery

Read more “Kathy Acker Reading The Body 1991 (MONDO 2000 Issue #4)”

Why Chelsea Manning and Heather Dewey-Hagborg Speaking Together Yesterday In Ann Arbor Was A Pretty Big Deal

Chelsea Manning had “A conversation with Heather Dewey-Hagborg” – On Thursday, March 15, 2018, at 5:10pm at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

ABOVE: Chelsea looking at her own portraits. BELOW: Chelsea doing the same thing in Frame 11 of the Suppressed Images comic book (at SuppressedImages.net)

This time last year, my friends Chelsea Manning and Heather Hewey-Hagborg were still depending on me in order to communicate effectively; so they could collaborate on their art and research projects together.

Heather and Chelsea’s collaborations started way back in 2015, when some folks at Paper magazine orchestrated their first collaboration. Using only the good old U.S. mail, Chelsea sent Heather swabs of her DNA and answered a number of powerful questions to start a discussion about DNA and privacy that continues to this day. Boy was it cool being in the middle of that conversation. 🙂

Heather had developed a method for creating portraits of strangers based on DNA, and was speaking around the world, explaining both the wonders of forensic phenotyping, and how the technology is inherently problematic.

Meanwhile, Chelsea, in prison, in 2013 was not being allowed to be photographed or recorded. (After a charismatic Daniel Ellsberg won over the hearts of millions in the 1970s, the Feds sure weren’t going to make that mistake again.)

The way Chelsea’s voice was being silenced angered and, ultimately, intrigued Heather. Perhaps she could turn it around into something anti-oppressive, and utilize this technology to give Chelsea the public face she had been denied, by creating portraits of her, from her DNA.

By the time I came along, they had already completed Stranger Visions and Radical Love – so I had a lot of catching up to do, at first, just to understand Chelsea’s artistic preferences. Chelsea would often have ideas that she had written up, and I would take notes and read them back to Chelsea exactly, so I could convey the information accurately to Heather. Then Heather would write back with her ideas, and I would have to make sure I understood those well enough to explain them to Chelsea the next time we spoke.

3D DNA Portraits from the “Radical Love” exhibit.


On November 23, 2016, Heather sent me an excited email with a great idea for “taking some of the writing I have been doing and working with an illustrator to make a comic book or animation bringing things to life.” This would become the Suppressed Images comic book, which tells the story about their friendship and artistic collaborations, and specifically how Chelsea learned it’s important to “Never Shut Up” when someone tries to chill your speech.

Frame 8 from the Suppressed Images comic book at SupressedImages.net. Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Chelsea E. Manning & Shoili Kanungo – Suppressed Images: Frame #8, 2017 – Limited edition poster signed by the artists – 18×24 inches, edition of 100.

Although both Chelsea and I loved the idea, we didn’t think there was enough time to complete the project, and didn’t want to pressure them. But Heather and illustrator Shoili Kanungo worked very very hard to meet their own intense deadlines, in order to finish it in time to be published during President Obama’s last week in office. (When, historically, commutations happen.) As it turned out, it was published in the morning on the same day her commutation was announced. (As the White House announced Chelsea’s commutation in the early afternoon, east coast time.)

This comic book had become our attempt to visualize a reality where Chelsea was commuted – in a world where everyone else had told us that it was impossible. (Now, amazingly, in that same world, everyone acts like it was inevitable 🙂

I was asking different people all over the world to visualize Chelsea out in the regular world with them. Playwrights visualized Chelsea sitting in the audience at their plays. Band members pictured her rocking out at their shows. DJs pictured her dancing to their beats. And now, this comic book literally provided illustrated pictures of the possibilities.

Just one month after the comic book was released — and of course — one month after we had received the good news about Chelsea’s upcoming release — in February, 2017, I got to do it again.

This time, Heather was creating their Probably Chelsea art installation, which premiered in the real world, at the Fridman Gallery in New York City in August 2017.

That project was challenging because I was often describing pretty complex ideas with diagrams, so that Chelsea could recreate them on a piece of paper, think about them, and make decisions.


Lisa Rein: My oh my Heather. Looking at these pictures. It’s just so incredible.

I can remember our deciding – against everyone elses opinions – to include your ridiculous hopeful ending: For Chelsea to be out and free and looking at her own portraits.

And yet it came true on the very day the comic book was released. Does any of this last year seem real to you? I’m still in dream land.

Heather Hewey-Hagborg: Yes. I know what you mean. It’s hard to believe that, almost exactly a year ago, I was standing on stage at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor as part of the same Penny Stamps lecture series Chelsea Manning and I are speaking at together today.

This time last year, it really did still fee like a dream. Chelsea was still in prison but we had begun working on the expanded installation – our collaboration on Probably Chelsea – that would mark and celebrate her release. I shared some initial rough ideas with the audience about even at the end of the talk, although they grew and changed in important ways over the next months.

I also described our graphic short story that Chelsea and I wrote together with illustrator Shoili Kanungo which advocated and envisioned her commutation – to the audience – and told them the amazing and miraculous story of publishing the comic on the very morning that Obama actually granted her clemency.

Now I am so incredibly honored, humbled, inspired, and filled with gratitude to be able to stand on the stage together with Chelsea in person to discuss art, technology, and politics — like it’s just totally normal to be here together.

Artists Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Chelsea Manning in the summer of 2017.

LR: I remember the morning we heard the news, on January 17, 2017.

HDH: For me, on the east coast, it was in the early afternoon 🙂 The comic went live early morning my time and I heard about the commutation that afternoon.The announcement of Chelsea’s commutation was one of the most jubilant and overwhelmingly emotional moments of my life, and certainly my artistic career. It was incredibly meaningful to me.

LR: It also felt important the whole time you guys were working on that comic book too. It was an incredible experience for me, as a historian and archivist, to not just meet or read about, but actually be the conduit that worked between you guys on those projects (Suppressed Images and Probably Chelsea).

HDH: Looking back, it was, and is, such a dark time. After Trump in the U.S. and brexit in Europe, Chelsea’s commutation was like a beacon of hope; a way of showing us how important it is to really incant the future you want to see, and how the power of words can be used to make the changes you want.

Of course her release was the result of a lot of different things coming together — and the comic we wrote, anticipating, asking for her release, felt like this little sprinkle of magic potion that catalyzed this reaction. To revisit that today is such a powerful reminder that positive change is really possible.

Below, Chelsea signs one of the limited edition prints from the Probably Chelsea exhibit. A limited number of prints are still available.

Chelsea signs one of the Limited edition poster signed by the artists (Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Chelsea E. Manning & Shoili Kanungo) – Suppressed Images: Frame #8, 2017 –  18×24 inches, edition of 100.


What Is The Sound of a Billion Knees Jerking?

phreakin’ the phone 1972


Lyrical cycle by R.U. Sirius with a few actual songs and videos attached

Hey Hey We’re The Punkees (with apologies to The Monkees)

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by 4Chan
Dragging themselves to the living room couch at dawn in search of an angry tweet

With your knickers in a twist
Or your panties in a bunch
William Burroughs shot his wife
Then wrote The Naked Lunch
With your panties in the closet
And your knickers in a whirl
Coming all undone cause
Dr. Who is now a girl

With your panties in a bunch
Or your knickers in a twist
I think you’re gonna punch me
As I eat my naked lunchee
Pan African mixed cuisine
Cooked up by a honky queen
Please fill out your requisition
For the latest inquisition

Hey hey we’re the punkies
People say we’re not The Ramones
We’re the 4th generation
Some say we’re conformist drones
We’re just trying to be friendly
Come and watch us tweet all day
We’re the young generation
You better watch what you say

What I Learned

A tantric master is telling me how to live
Release no jism – Just find your rhythm

A hindu guru is telling me how to die
Try not to try – It’s another high

A politician is telling me where to stand
Take no prisoners – Fuck the pensioners

A porn star Barbie is sending me her link
She isn’t there – But I don’t care

A jolly nerd is telling me what to do
Upload my brain – You’ll feel no pain

A country singer is telling me where it’s at
Let love come to you – then hit it back

I Politician

recorded by Party Dogs (1982)

Listen to I Politician

I’ve got a little think tank
I call it home
I ain’t too highly paid though
Just flesh and bone
I’ll put a little thingie out
On video cassette
And hope the Minister of Propaganda
Don’t get too upset

Still it all comes though
The United Matrix of America
Pagan rhythms out of Africa
Pagan shipments out of Kathmandu
From the Aztecs to the Ming
Genetic carnival on wings

We’ve got a little freak show
We call it “The Hunchback Squeaks”
And then I politician
I get on up and I speaks
“I got a lotta rage” he cries
“And lots of irony”
You’re baboons in a cage” he lies
“I’m going to set you free”

Still it all comes though
The United Matrix of America
Pagan rhythms out of Africa
Pagan shipments out of Kathmandu
From the Aztecs to the Ming
Genetic carnival on wings

Gotta get back to L.A. now
Got a media jones
Talking with the network boys
and taking out more loans
I get 3 minutes on NBC
Attack the ruling class
I’ve got 4 friends at NASA now
If I have to move my ass

Still it all comes though
The United Matrix of America
Pagan rhythms out of Africa
Pagan shipments out of Kathmandu
From the Aztecs to the Ming
Genetic carnival on wings

Avant God

I want an avant god
Loving perversity
Unlimited diversity

Optimized for my iPod
Totally portable
Sometimes snortable

Gendered or not
Maybe subject to rot
Why not?

The avant god is as real
As the knees on which they kneel
Try to keep it on an even keel
The kind of god you have to steal

The avant god is false
The kind of god you must report
The kind of god that misses court
The kind of god you know you want

I want an avant god
Loving perversity
Unlimited diversity

Speed and Weed

recorded by R.U. Sirius & Phriendz

watch video of Speed and Weed

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Paranoid listening to Let it Bleed
Long letters to J.G. Ballard and Chuck Manson
Kidnapped my shadow and held it for ransom

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Wide awake watching the cops retreat
Twin Peaks repeats with a bunch of crazy chicks
Midnight the Castro for some real alt dot kicks

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Be so sharp when I have to go on TV
Head back home kick it with some china white
Growing older man — it just ain’t right

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Growing older man — it just ain’t right

Surfin’ Weatherman (w. apologies to the Beach Boys, The Rivieras and Bob Dylan)

You don’t need a weatherman to know we’re toast
Shit’s getting Biblical from coast to coast
I’m moving’ to Ohio where the chicks are groovy
Surfin’ with Mike Love we’re gonna make it a movie

And they’ll be surfing in Boston
And in the ruins of Pompei
Deep in the deserts of Kashmir
L.A. has gone cra-cra
They’ll all be grabbing their children
And all their property too
Tell everybody they’re surfing
And everything is cool

You don’t need a weatherman to know we’re toast
Everybodys freakin’ from coast to coast
Going’ back to California where the chicks are pissed
They’ll kneel before my virtue when I raise my fist

And they’ll be shooting deniers
And oil CEOs
And all Republican Senators
And every Fox News host
They’ll all be grabbing their children
And all their property too
Tell everybody they’re surfing
And everything is cool

Be My Valerie Solanas

by Creosote Cowboy

Listen to Be My Valerie Solanas 

Offer her a lollipop
Offer her some gum
Offer her most anything
Don’t offer her my gun
Offer her de Beauvoir
Or offer her de Sade
Keep your shit together man
Fall to your knees and pray

If you’ll be my Valerie Solanas
I will be your Robespierre
Nothing can come between us
‘cept that thing underneath your hair
We have so much in common
Let’s get off on a tear
Bring it down Kill the clowns
We’re such a lovely pair

Offer her a role in porn
Offer her revolt
Offer her most anything
Offer her your scorn
Offer her some Tribe 8
Or offer her Genet
Keep your shit together man
Fall to your knees and pray

If you’ll be my Valerie Solanas
I will be your Robespierre
Nothing can come between us
‘cept that thing underneath your hair
We have so much in common
Let’s get off on a tear
Bring it down Kill the clowns
We’re such a lovely pair

I Wanna Be Your Radio

recorded by MONDO Vanilli (1992, partly written in 1980)

Listen to I Wanna Be Your Radio

I wanna steal your radio
Sacrifice your fingers to an electric fence
I torture you in future tense staccato
And come back home and rest in bed all day

I’ve got techniques for ecstasy
Keeping them under the hat stand
Let’s whip ’em out
And see if anything fits on your head

I wanna steal your radio
Capture you on a hard disc drive
Save you and make a million copies
Give one to each of my friends

I inverted the very color of being
But you — you weren’t there

I wanna be your radio
Sire wire fire and inspire you (cyber cyber)
Flick the switch that renders you insane
Come back home and rest in bed all day (cyber cyber)

I wanted to be Salvador Dali
I wanted to be dead and unreasonable
Let’s grieve in concentric circles
To make the night release your brain

I wanna be your radio
Now I wanna be your radio

Punters Fighting Punters (with apologies to Harry Nilsson)

Punters fighting punters
Owners sailing yachts
You can jump into the fire
You can suck a million cocks
You can smash a million statues
You can run and jump and spit
You can chant a billion slogan
And it won’t amount to shit

We can make each other privileged
We can make each other privileged
We can jump into the fire
We can scream and rave
We can beat another wage slave
We can beat another wage slave
We can beat another wage slave
But you’ll never be free whoa whoa


Read more “What Is The Sound of a Billion Knees Jerking?”

Smart Drugs & Nutrients in 1991 (MONDO 2000 Flashback Friday)

By 1991, smart drugs and nutrients were all over the media with articles appearing in the New York Times and Vanity Fair; segments on network news shows both local and national and pitchmen-and-women going on afternoon talk shows to tout their efficacy (and, of course, Pearson and Shaw had been semi-regulars on The Mike Douglas Show for years). Mondo was running at least one article an issue dedicated to the what, where and how of it — with only the addition of St. Jude’s column, “Irresponsible Journalism,” using irony to sound a slight note of skepticism.

I was using 4 Piracetam a day, washed down with a Choline Cooler and 4 cups of coffee a day.  Clearly, I liked feeling awake and the Piracetam worked for that purpose — until, after a couple of years, it started having the opposite effect. As to whether I accumulated any generalized intelligence increase, well… recalling some of my decisions during those times, I doubt it.

In some of my interviews for the M2k History Project, I ask people if Virtual Reality and Smart Drugs let us down… or did we let them down.  One interesting response came from Jim English, a Mondo 2000 friend involved — then and now — in the vitamin and nutrient business: “I think that the us part that failed were that we are a nation of fads. And smart drugs and smart drinks were a big fad, and everyone wanted to go, “Oh, I had the smart drink. I had the… I had the Ginko a Go-Go with the such-and-such. I had the oxygen cocktail. I had this…™ And people embraced the stuff, and then I think as soon as it started to become a commercial product — you started to see stuff showing up on shelves, I think you saw a concomitant backlash, which was, ˜Well, it’s not really making me smarter. I can dance harder, but, you know, I’m just as exhausted the next day,™ I think the expectations kind of combined with the sense to be the first to adopt something, and the first to reject something. That’s how you keep your credibility. You know? ˜Well, I’m beyond that…™

“The hipster crowd backed away. ˜I’m into smart drinks. Oh, now I’m into deprynil. Now I’m into heroin.’ You know, you need to keep moving the bar forward or you lose your credibility. And I think a lot of people that I worked with kind of did that.”

Despite the fact that Smart Drugs were a big thing, I was surprised — while checking out an old 1991 discussion in the Mondo conference on The Well — to discover dozens of participants (and most of them professional types, not hippies, mind you) waxing enthusiastically about trying them out.

Presented below are just some brief entries from that much longer conversation about Smart Drugs and Nutrients… some of them chosen not so much because they are representative, but because they are kind of amusing. Btw, the discussion below is uncorrected. People were much less dickish back then about things like misspelled words, which created a relaxed atmosphere for conversation, despite the overstimulating drugs.

R.U. Sirius


mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#0 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:15 PM)

I am writing a magazine story on “smart drugs,” including Hydergine, Piracetam, Choline, Vasopressin, and various nutrients and amino acids. Any experiences you would like to share for publication? Read more “Smart Drugs & Nutrients in 1991 (MONDO 2000 Flashback Friday)”

fragments of A String of Saturdays: The New Southern Romance

Illustrations courtesy Joseph Glen Daigle

by Todd Brendan Fahey

“I said, ‘Man, why don’t you come on in? I mean: we got a keg of codeine, five hundred cubic meters of nitrous oxide, a crateful of Special K—in those extra large ampoules you like.’ And Stan kind of kicks at the dirt and checks his watch: ‘Alright… But I only have fifteen minutes’.”

It is one of those delayed-megaton deliveries that pass into the cerebrum, whirl about for a bit, hit home as one is finishing the unfortunate angel food cake. And whilst speaking to the Dean.

Dr. Bryant Andersson turns his head just quickly enough, but nothing can save him—a fluffy and unnecessary concoction ridden of, flown from mouth and nostrils, so rude. But tenured, so nothing she can do about it—other than to suck her teeth, even though she gets it, too.

A collective wrack of guilty pleasure. A human buckling, at least one shot-through into the pool, fistpoundings on Home Depot outdoor dining sets and the general upset of disposal kitchenware. Fuck a Shriners roast: George Carlin would have shat himself.

From across the terrace, Stan nods mildly and stands a salute; Jack Jump flips him off and at ease. Infamy, notoriety: states to which he has always held a big brass Key. Read more “fragments of A String of Saturdays: The New Southern Romance”

Do G-Men Dream Of Electric Sheep? (Flashback Friday MONDO 2000 Issue #3)


by R. U. Sirius & George Gleason

It’s no secret that mischievous young computer hackers get into trouble with the law. Occasionally, as in the case of the original legendary phone phreak John Draper aka Cap’n Crunch, they wind up in jail, although for the most part, their cyber-joyriding pranks are merely wrist-slapped. Suspended sentences. Probation. Charges dropped along with promises not to hang with the wrong crowd. Law enforcement quickly learned that it is not in their best interests to lock the hacker—and all that tricky expertise—in with a bunch of hardcore criminals. Indeed, the unmasked hacker may end up working as a security agent—for the phone company, a bank, or even some federal agency. Computer “crime” can be seen as the bush league, training for the Security Industry.

This relatively benign view of phreaking held through the first years of the personal computer industry. After all, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs gave birth to the PC partly through funds gathered by selling the “blue box,” a device for phone phreaking. And back before the digital revolution was taken over by the marketing departments, it was common knowledge that hackers were the backbone of the industry. Hacking is about exploration and access—exploring the limits of systems, finding what you need, whether to satisfy your curiosity or to complete some useful work. Proprietary concerns are not always treated with the utmost respect. Since hackers also tend to be pranksters, they can at times tend to be downright disrespectful towards authority. But a revolutionary conspiracy of self-conscious anarchists, this subculture has never been. Not quite.

Cut to 1990. A year that will live in infamy. For some unfathomable reason, agents of the law decided that this is the time to get busy stomping on self-expression. Just briefly: we had the bust of an art gallery in Cincinnati for showing Robert Mapplethorpe’s infamous photos, we had police agents entering a music shop in Florida and seizing dangerous CDs, records and cassettes, we had the 2 Live Crew busts, we had Jock Sturges —a reputable photographer—busted and all of his everything seized for daring to process photos of the young nude body, and we had the US Armed Forces invasion of Humboldt County, uprooting a fistful of the killer weed to impress the president of Colombia.

It is in this context that we come upon Operation Sun Devil and the concerted crackdown against young computer hackers by the US Secret Service.

Think of this calendar of events as a kind of scorecard that you can refer hack to as you read this section’s interviews with such Dramatis personae as Craig Neidorf, Steve Jackson , John Barlow , Mitch Kay or, et al.

Summer 1988: Hackers’ Convention 4.0. CBS News shows up with prepared script intending to depict hackers as dangerous criminals. This was particularly bizarre given that this Hackers gathering, formed by Steven Levy (author of the book Hackers) and Stewart Brand with the Whole Earth Institute, is frequented primarily by older, comfortable, relatively law-abiding computer fiends. Many of the people who were portrayed as “high in the Santa Cruz mountains plotting the downfall of the computer industry” were actually CEOs in that industry. Many more were, at the very least, major stockholders and well-paid executives in mainline companies. The dangerous-looking longhaired man seen looking at violent computer games while playing with a yoyo by millions of newswatching Americans was none other than Clifford Stoll, National Security Agency collaborator and author of The Cuckoo’s Egg. The CBS coverage was probably the first inkling for the older 60’s-generation hacker set that something might be amiss in their world.

Many who were portrayed as “high in the Santa Cruz mountains plotting the downfall of the computer industry” were actually CEOs in that industry

November 1988: The Internet Worm runs wild across many of the nations’ computer networks, shutting down an estimated 6,600 computers tied to the Internet and causing an estimated loss of 40 to 90 million dollars. The code, written by Robert Morris, was intended to map the net. In the words of John Barlow, “It was going to go around to every node on the net and report back in and tell just how big this sucker is.” But, due to faulty code, it winds up reproducing itself at a phenomenal clip, eating up all the cyberspace in its path and closing many systems. Within a day of Morris’ arrest, it is revealed that his father, also Robert Morris, is the chief computer security expert at the National Security Agency. Those who wish to conjecture about the possible meaning of this may proceed at their own risk.

December 1988: Legion of Doom member “The Prophet” downloads a Bell South document on the administration of E-911 systems, and then posts it around bulletin board systems (BBSs) such as Jolnet. It reaches Knight Lightening, aka Craig Neidorf. Knight republishes it in his electronic magazine, Phrack.

Read more “Do G-Men Dream Of Electric Sheep? (Flashback Friday MONDO 2000 Issue #3)”

John Perry Barlow Through the Lens of Lisa Rein’s Archival Memories

John Perry Barlow at the San Francisco Aaron Swartz Memorial

John Perry Barlow was a close collaborator and dear friend, since the first day I met him, in 2002. He was extremely encouraging, spoke at many of the events I organized, and was there for me generally, as I followed the breadcrumbs of my archival adventures. First as Dr. Timothy Leary’s Digital Librarian, next as the co-founder of Aaron Swartz Day, and most recently, as Chelsea Manning’s Archivist.

Barlow was a very exciting person to work with. In the beginning, there wasn’t much pressure during our meetings, while he answered questions about Dr. Timothy Leary, who he had a close and very interesting — albeit sometimes strained — relationship with. He was helping me fill in the little details between the overlapping stories I had heard from others. I often showed up with a box of artifacts from whichever specific time period I wanted to discuss that day. Although the lives of psychedelic folks in the 1960s and 1970s are often portrayed as footloose and fancy free, their real lives weren’t really like that most of the time (except when they really really were :).

I would often ask him to confirm specific facts for me, and would end up hearing completely different stories that took place around the time period in question. Being Dr. Leary’s Digital Librarian, I liked to know the story behind every artifact. Since I wasn’t alive yet, much less there, when a lot of things took place, my job, most of the time, amounted to collecting and comparing notes from everyone I could find who was there.

I would often get conflicting stories about how certain events played out, and I was usually hoping that John Perry’s account of events could break the tie. Unfortunately, his accounts did no such thing. More often than not, he would say that something different altogether had taken place, making it so the only thing I knew for sure was that the “official” story was wonky. Nevertheless, it was always quite amusing hearing his take on famous figures — Dr. Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Baba Ram Dass, Bobby Weir, Jerry Garcia -— or hear him tell (and re-tell) the story of forming the Electronic Frontier Foundation with Mitch Kapor and John Gilmore.

These last few years, as things became more intense around my work, if I stopped by for anything, he would literally drop everything (give or take an hour 🙂 to see me and help me figure out what I needed, and quickly. Often, it seemed as if he was dealing with two or three other critical situations at the same time, and I felt quite honored to be included in his circle of intensity.

Barlow at the Leary reunion

In 2009, I worked with the Leary Estate to put on a family reunion and party for close friends. John Perry Barlow was there, and said a few words:

From that talk:

And, this archive…”will attempt to tell a complex story from a number of different points of view”… and will attempt to encapsulate Timothy Leary, who was truly the most paradoxical and vexing and inspiring and maddening of human beings. He probably had more to do with introducing people to the spiritual matter than practically anybody who wasn’t born in the desert someplace, and yet he was, for much of his life, a profoundly anti-spiritual man.


He was a very loving man, who introduced a lot of people to a greater depth of love…


I think it’s really important to decode this guy. He was one of my friends. I knew him from ’65 until he died, pretty continuously, and I loved him dearly. But it’s important to take him apart, and figure out who he really was, ’cause you can learn a lot about America, from learning a lot about Timothy Leary.”



Read more “John Perry Barlow Through the Lens of Lisa Rein’s Archival Memories”

The Annoying Internet Part 1

by John Shirley

When I’m online looking up hotels to stay at, or airlines, it used to be that you got the hotel itself first, the website with the front desk number and reservations number — reservations made within the hotel. Now you get a raft of intermediary businesses trying to get you discounts and they’re all people who can’t answer your questions. They can book you a room maybe at a slight discount but not always. Bunch of goddamn parasites.

Lots of times their URLs are deceptive — like, it’ll say the name of the hotel, Joe’s Hotel say, and then after that the name of the intermediary parasite company. JoesHotelFrontDesk dot com — the company is deceivingly called Front Desk. Wanting to talk to the hotel directly you’ve got to sift through a dozen of these and look carefully to pick out the real hotel website.

It’s deceptive and it’s inefficient and it’s irritating. I should not see these booking companies first ± I should see the hotel. If I want booking companies I can google hotel discounts or something. (When I was a boy, the damn search engines were simple and good!)

And ….try finding correct song lyrics online. When looking for song lyrics online, most of the time you get bullshit — they don’t provide the real lyrics, they provide a spazzy version with many errors. The lyric sites are often put up by people in Europe and Eastern Europe who really don’t understand the lyrics very well, even if they can hear them, and they write down the wrong stuff. Lyric sites (often with obnoxious ads) copy the badly transcribed lyrics at other lyric sites. The result is lots of new bands doing covers full of errors.

On youtube, the videos that offer “the lyrics,”,if not put up by the band or artist directly, are likely to be at least partly wrong, sometimes very wrong. And these people do not get permission from artists to put this up. Nor do the lyric sites get permission.

Some artists, like David Bowie, put up all their lyrics so people’d get it right. Lou Reed put out a really good big book of his lyrics. If you go to RollingStones dot com put LYRICS in their search bar, and you get videos where the official lyrics are available. Try that with bands and artists first before searching online.

Lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult and Iggy Pop online are often partly wrong. Sometimes they leave out passages too. I checked and some of my own lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult are misreported. Many lyric sites not only have super-annoying advertising they’re trying to put malware on your computer.

Google Music (not just the google search engine, but Google Music) seems to make an effort for accurate lyrics.  Artists should sue these other bastards for this misrepresentation.

Morgan Russell Remembering Barlow (w. Lovely Photos)

Barlow asked me about what a panic attack felt like… told him that I felt I was having a heart attack or stroke or seizure and was about to die… he said, “Well, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You REALLY do die.” mulled that one over and laughed with him… he was not afraid of death…

above photo Stefan Z., Amelia Rose, J.P. Barlow, Morgan Russell

text and photos of Morgan Russell

It was approaching January 6th, 1989, John Lilly’s 74th birthday, when Faustin Bray, who traditionally organized and performed at his birthdays in Malibu, handed me five invitations for his party. “Look, no one gets FIVE invitations but I know you’ll know whom to invite.”

Faustin was to me the Good Witch of the West Bay (Mill Valley) while Queen Mu was the Wicked Witch of the East Bay (Berkeley). I gave the first invitation to Barlow who confirmed, next Dan Kottke, next Ted Nelson, next Jas. Morgan (our music editor), keeping one for myself. “Great, I’ll rent a plane and we’ll fly there,”said Dan.

with Count Arnold von Keyserling and Countess Wilhemine “Willy” von Keyserling

He just knew of Barlow and me as passengers given the order of the invitations. Well, we met on the tarmac at the closest airport in Palo Alto and I brought Jas. with me…then Barlow arrives with a 17 year old girlwoman named Bunny and lots of luggage. We all had too much luggage and there were four seats in the Cessna (or whatever make plane) and five of us. Daniel saw no obstacle but we were jammed together… Barlow, as another licensed pilot, in the front with Kottke and Bunny and Jas. and myself in the back… Bunny on my left leg and Jas.’s right leg…we used the entire length of the runway to get off the ground and barely cleared the trees beyond and then circled and circled to gain altitude with our grossly overweight craft. I chatted with Bunny at short range as she was mostly in my lap…”Bunny” was exceedingly cute and “Bunny” was her legal name…she was a second-generation “Bunny,” her mother was Bunny as well… now, one knows that with that name she is unlikely to become a doctor or a lawyer but she was Weir’s girlfriend and she was waiting for him to divorce his wife to live with her… Kottke is meanwhile checking in by radio occasionally… I turned out to be exceptionally glad he was not incapacitated when Barlow told me he had the nickname in Wyoming as “Barf Bag Barlow” for his aeronautical stunts…

Amelia Rose reading Kafka… Kerouac on table..

The group spoke of some other things we might do while in LA… someone said the La Brea Tar Pits so I dubbed our journey as “the Magic Tar Pit Ride” which might have set off some humming since that is a highly infectious tune… I took another Valium… when we landed in LA and gathered our bags and were walking on the tarmac, a worker came out of a hut and looked amazed… he pointed his finger from left to right on our group and possessions and exclaimed incredulously, “ALL of you came in THAT?!, pointing to our petite plane…

with Johanna Satek

Anyway, we went to our digs that Barlow arranged with Phil de Guere in the Hollywood Hills. He was a producer whose maybe most recognizable work was Starsky and Hutch. Dan Ackroyd was the neighbor…I had a bedroom about the size of 75 square meters and the bath included a phone next to the toilet with six lines. There was a kitchen equally scaled with a huge coffee bean roaster that Bear (Augustus Owsley Stanley III) had given him… someone must have supplied him with green coffee beans…I have never been to a Starbucks, but this was another galaxy away in authenticity… a cockatoo, the same speakers that Mickey Hart used (I was in a position to confirm that) and Phil discovered that he and Kottke went to the same boarding school — Lawrenceville in NJ… he also had something closely akin to the world’s smallest piece of hash and acted like he was protecting it… ”I just fired a 10 year old girl today,” he bragged…”I just stab them in the front”… He was working on a Tina Turner special for which he would receive enough to buy the ultimate-level Mercedes… Carlos Castaneda had been with him the night before… the one he really wanted to meet was Ruth-Inge Heinze, shamanic trance induction advisor to Mickey Hart… qhen I told him she was a close friend, he was impressed…


He drove our crew to the cliffs of Malibu in his Bitter car… ”only 25 existing in the whole USA”…whatever, this is how he was… we met up with Morgana, yoga teacher to Albert Hofmann when he was in town before and Lady Anne Camilla Swadling whom I knew from a previous visit to LA… I used to have a photo with them and Barlow and someone’s iguana with a rhinestone- or diamond-) studded necklace on Barlow’s shoulder… everyone was there… Robert Anton Wilson, Laura Huxley and so on.

Taking a break from the  crowd outside the house, I went indoors into an office where I met Lilly’s brother…t here was a wall-size cork board with one photo…I went closer to see what it was… It was a picture of myself taken at the American Restaurant, a famous Italian place in North Beach…F austin must have taken the photo…but how it got there I don’t know…

So, next day Kottke and I starting walking… yes, walking… in a place with no sidewalks and looking super dorky to Phil’s teenage daughter wearing our Kulu Valley hats… I received mine from Dan K. at my birthday party the month before…all the yards had nicely inviting signs that read “ARMED RESPONSE”…

When we took off the next day in the overloaded yet trusty plane there were no trees to avoid… I asked, “where’s the dope”…” look in the bag behind my seat,” answered Dan…I rolled a fattie and lit it… all I can say is that landing in Palo Alto, we touched down, bounced and bounced and bounced our way to the very uttermost end of the tarmac that ended in grass…

note: when I last talked about Bunny with Barlow within the past year he corrected me when I mentioned Weir and said, “Bunny was MY girlfriend.” It would not be the first time that Barlow and Weir were in some competition since when they were 12 years old…

J.P. Barlow Remembers… US? Interview About MONDO 2000 (Reality Hackers, High Frontiers)

Stefan Z., Amelia Rose, J.P. Barlow, Morgan Russell


John Perry Barlow was interviewed for an oral history of MONDO 2000 several years ago. That version of a MONDO 2000 book has been displaced by something more essay/idea oriented (albeit with some memory mixed in) — and that leaves us free to use some of the interviews here on the website.

We did not, however, expect to be using the Barlow interview so soon. But now, with everybody remembering Barlow, we’re going with Barlow remembering us.

Some or all the persons and references herein may be unfamiliar but with a modicum of intuition and /or imagination, you should be able to get into the MONDOMania as J.P. Barlow recalls it.


Meeting Reality Hackers

I met Morgan Russell either at SIGGRAPH Boston or Macworld Boston (1989). But I didn’t really put it all together, I don’t believe, until I ran across Reality Hackers. R.U. Sirius was at a hackers party at the Exploratorium giving away copies of Reality Hackers and High Frontiers.

I just thought this was marvelous. I thought, this is exactly right because there had been this thing that had been gathering in my head, I thought, somewhat independently, about the relationship between consciousness in computing and psychedelics.

I knew about them and I was interested in them for a good long while before I discovered that they had this house that was kind of an artist collective — an atelier of some sort — that was gathering energy around this whole thing. And I was in fundamental agreement and even felt like part of their auto-conspiracy.

Coming to the MONDO house

I was almost certainly lured by Morgan. I thought that the house was a truly magical place. It was out of a Hermann Hesse novel, filled with these people the likes of which did not exist anywhere else. I felt like I kind of made them up. They were so perfectly aligned with something that I wanted to exist.

They were telling the story of something that was going to be a natural continuity of a thread that I’d been tracking ever since I became a teenage beatnik when I was thirteen.

I had been on that path in some form or fashion through LSD and hanging at Millbrook, and finding out that my official best friend was a member of the house band for the Acid Test and all these kinds of things through college and subsequently.

I was re-engaging with something that I had been out of the loop of. I mean, I’d gone off to Wyoming for seventeen years where I’d been a cattle rancher. And yeah, I’d been writing Grateful Dead songs on the side but I actually didn’t feel myself to be at the core of that movement or any kind of countercultural movement… and I very much felt like I was re-engaging what seemed to be my life’s work that night, meeting those guys and becoming part of whatever it was that you were up to.

Read more “J.P. Barlow Remembers… US? Interview About MONDO 2000 (Reality Hackers, High Frontiers)”

The First Virtual War by J.P. Barlow from MONDO 2000 #5

photo by Bart Nagel

“What I had seen of the war had been a computer generated simulationJ.P. Barlow

by John Perry Barlow, introduction by R.U. Sirius

After the confident declarations of inevitable cyberpunk youth takeover in the first edition of Mondo 2000 and the philosophically trippy and mostly utopian read on Virtual Reality in #2, it was inevitable that affairs in the world would bring us crashing down to earth… at least a little. The third edition revolved largely around the hacker crackdown that was called Operation Sundevil — a situation in which a confused and clueless law enforcement establishment pursued crimes they didn’t understand on a terrain they hadn’t realized existed.

Issues #4 and #5 found us, meanwhile, reacting to Operation Desert Storm — the first full-on return to American Triumphalism since the Vietnam war turned sour in… what?… 1968?  We weren’t watching much TV at the Mondo house/office but I remember CNN being on as a sort of background phenomenon during the run-up to the war.

This was the first time the media’s inevitable participation in the sort of unquestioning jingoist war propaganda that we’re always treated to during the run-up to a major intervention was ginned up by computerized special effects. And prideful current and former military leaders sharing technical details about shiny new weapons systems would bring irresistible frisson to certain types of technophiles —  Smart bombs! —  Wowee! Well, as John Fogerty sang, “It ain’t me.”

President George H.W. Bush even enunciated the idea of a “New World Order” spawning a million new byzantine conspiracy theories that have iterated and turned into ever-weirder and more complex alternative realities since.

As for me, I organized a radio show called “New World Disorder” on KALX fm in Berkeley with Don Joyce from Negativland and wrote an editorial in #4, also titled “New World Disorder.”

In issue #5, John Perry Barlow took up the antiwar banner identifying Desert Storm as the first Virtual War in the layout and text provided below.

Don’t get me wrong.  Mondo wasn’t freakin’ Mother Jones or something. The rest of the edition featured an erotic quantum physics limerick; newer smart drugs; the cyber-surrealism of Mark Leyner in the immediate aftermath of his incomparable Et Tu, Babe; a gigantic section on industrial music; Mark Dery deconstructing machine sex and sex machines; a much criticized spread with lovely ladies with their bare nipples shining through microchips; and speaking of smart bombshells, that cover you see is Dr. Fiorella Terenzi who talked to us about her music of the galaxies.  I was told later that every male in the building — except me — stopped work that afternoon to gather in the art room where the interview took place. Was I noble?  No,  I was shut in my office working on something completely unaware.  I was the editor-in-chief and nobody told me a damn thing.

Oh it might also be worth mentioning that we scrambled the names of two avant-garde guitarists on the cover, leading to embarrassment followed by some theorizing about “Art Damage” in the next edition.

Anyway, here’s “Virtual Nintendo” by John Perry Barlow from issue #5 of Mondo 2000. 

R.U. Sirius

Below the scan of the actual magazine, you will find a purely textual version of the article.


Mondo2000 Issue 5



by John Perry Barlow

It is precisely when it appears most truthful that the image is most diabolical.
-Jean Baudrillard

Like most Americans last February, I was hooked on the new CNN sports series War in the Gulf. It didn’t sound strange to me when a friend said he didn’t know whether he wanted to watch the War or the Lakers game that evening. They were fairly indistinguishable. Both commentated by fatuous men well removed from the action. Indeed, in the case of the War, one wondered if there even was any action. The closest one got to that was the occasional footage of people scurrying around in the darkness following a Scud warning, followed by a blurry flash of distant fireworks as the Patriot took out the Scud.

Which was, in a way, a perfect metaphor for the abstraction and bloodlessness of this new form of combat. A missile would emerge without any tangible point of origin, its senders anonymous and devoid of human characteristics. A machine would detect it, another would plot its trajectory, and a third would rush out to kill it. It was like an academic argument. Flesh and bone were miles away from anything that might rend them.

Finally, after weeks of this shadowboxing, it was determined that the map of Kuwait had been sufficiently revised that it was now safe to send in live Americans. Personally, I still had such fear of the Republican Guard that I thought we should soften them some more. What I thought we faced was an army as large as ours, toughened by almost a decade of the nastiest combat since World War I, comprised of Muslim fanatics, each convinced that death in battle was just a quicker trip to Paradise. Certainly more than a match for a bunch of rag-tag American kids who’d joined the military because they couldn’t get a job at the 7-11. Read more “The First Virtual War by J.P. Barlow from MONDO 2000 #5”

John Perry Barlow – MONDO 2000 Contributing Editor RIP

Photos by Bart Nagel

Comment by R.U. Sirius


John Perry Barlow by Bart Nagel


John Perry Barlow by Bart Nagel



On rare occasions, a (social) angel appears among us who appears to have unlimited energy and generosity to offer to thousands of friends and collaborators; and who is able to engage authentically with them about their lives and projects long after the rest of us would have curled up into fetal balls from too much peopleness. Barlow was one of those angels. I hope he’s having a unique and trippy out-of-body-and-brain experience and — if there be afterlife rewards — he’s getting back the Good Lovin’ he gave us.

R.U. Sirius


Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement

“I noticed that all but one of them did a version of ‘White Rabbit.’  Jeff Mark

by Jeff Mark & R.U. Sirius

While I am currently working on a book about MONDO 2000 that will be primarily about the ideas that drove the magazine, I have a lot of memoir-ish materials collected from my own writings and interviews with — or writings by — various participants in the project. Jeff Mark was the first person I met through ads in local newsweeklies in 1983 looking for project participants… albeit I wasn’t sure what the project was yet. Just that you should dig RA Wilson, Leary and Bill Burroughs to join in.

These notes — a fragment from the original planned book — from myself and Jeff Mark are about a trip to L.A. to cement our friendship with neopsychedelic movement fellow travelers there. At the time, our magazine was called High Frontiers.

R.U. Sirius


R.U. The “Neopsychedelic renaissance” continued apace, with major features in High Times, as well as several long forgotten zines, radio interviews and so on — usually with High Frontiers touted as the reigning representation. It seemed that I was blabbing to someone in the media about it at least a couple of times a month. Soon word hit us that people on the L.A. garage psychedelic scene were being drenched in high quality LSD and diggin’ High Frontiers. Greg Shaw’s Bomp Magazine was at the center of that scene and he sent us his back issues (which we were already buying, anyway) and suggested we come for a visit. Jeff Mark and I arranged to go down there

Jeff Mark: Winter Solstice 1985, R.U. and I took a trip to Los Angeles. The “Neopsychedelic Revival” was by then a real phenomenon. Newsweek had even done a feature piece on the L.A. manifestation, focusing on Greg Shaw who was putting together some L.A. neopsychedelic ‘zine. R.U.’s intention was to make contact and build a bridge. We hung out for a while with Greg. I think we did a little sightseeing, and then that night we went to see some bands being promoted by him.

The space the bands would play in, around the corner from Hollywood & Vine… well, you couldn’t call it a club. It was just… a room. The entrance was at the top of an external staircase, from which I could see underneath the building, noting with some trepidation that the second floor was supported by a bunch of those steel jacks that builders use to keep a weak ceiling from collapsing. And this would be holding up a couple of hundred dancing humans.

There were maybe four or five different bands, each doing 30-45 minutes or so, and I noticed that all but one of them did a version of “White Rabbit.” I also noticed was that the bands each seemed to be made up of the same seven or eight people in varying combinations of four or five.

Anyway, the building didn’t collapse, and we retired after to some other location lost to history for a party. Everyone was high on MDMA, of course. As the evening progressed, I engaged in conversation with several very nice people, and by way of introducing each other, the usual “so what do you do?” kinds of questions arose. Now, I had a straight job at the time; civil service, thoroughly boring. But the people I spoke with described themselves as “make-up artists” or “costumers” or writers or artists of one flavor or another. I began to realize that vocationally, each of these people depended on all the others, networking (another not-yet-coined-term) to get to work on someone’s project about something; their livelihood depended on their social contacts.

Now, when you think about it, this was Hollywood; that’s how Hollywood works, that’s how creative communities, particularly those in collaborative crafts, operate. That’s how they produce. Obvious to many, but news to me. The pattern-recognition subsystems of my mind began to assemble what I would come to call my “Theory of Scenes”.

A few months later, we returned with (High Frontiers Art Director) Lord Nose to participate in an event that featured a couple of local bands, and somebody wheeling out Sky Saxon  from the Seeds (“Pushing Too Hard”). And it struck me that the 200 or so people at that event, which included almost everyone we’d met in December, comprised the whole of the “neopsychedelic scene” in L.A. That was it. 250 people tops; and they were getting all this media attention. And I realized that’s how it probably was in ’65 as well. There was the Whiskey á Go-Go scene; one or two other places; a dozen or so bands with some duplication among their personnel, various friends and hangers on. In the Haight, the same thing. There was the Fillmore and the Matrix, the Diggers, the Oracle, and it was all the same… what, 300 people? It applies elsewhere also. There’s the NYC comedy scene (which in the 70s gave us SNL, and is now focused around The Daily Show), the Boston Harvard/National Lampoon scene, the L.A. Conception Corporation scene (whence came Spinal Tap). All of these basically, at least in the beginning, were not much more than groups of friends. Even in politics. One of my disappointments as I’ve gotten more sophisticated about politics is the realization that so much of what happens in a place like Washington D.C. takes place in what appears to be a social environment, which is why it reminds us so much of high school. And this was, largely, how MONDO functioned within the context of the Berkeley “scene.” Read more “Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement”

Reality Hackers Soapbox 1989 Information is True Capital

by Jas. Morgan and Accomplices (intro by R.U. Sirius)

This piece, written and published in 1989, ran in Reality Hackers, the forerunner of MONDO 2000. It rather states a premise of the digital revolution that was one of the guiding lights of the MONDOid experience, particularly in its early days. Now I am writing a book that discusses many of the memes and assumptions that undergirded both MONDO and the digital idealism of those times.

Do these ideas still hold up? Please share your thoughts.

R.U. Sirius

Information is true capital. Grain rots, you can’t eat gold, you might not need medicines. All of these commodities, capital, have been used for centuries as barter. But what makes doctors, genetic engineers and, for that matter, plumbers, wealthy? Knowledge, information, data. You can learn to grow crops, mine gold, practice alchemy. Proudhon stated the crux of the matter in three simple koans: “Property is theft. Property is freedom. Property is impossible.” Information equals property.

Property is theft. All that we know, we have learned. All that we have discovered has been extrapolated. We have simply stolen and built upon the ideas of those who have gone before us, from language to the lever, from agriculture to the atom bomb.

Property is freedom. No one can steal your ideas. While others may utilize your concepts for their own gain, you can still profit from them as well. Einstein articulated the concept of General Relativity and atomic theory, which much to his chagrin was used to develop nuclear weaponry. Nobody owns ideas and nobody can control them.

Property is impossible. Information is free. In fact, information is taken for granted, as we daily communicate with symbols and concepts developed by people other than ourselves. We build the tools to build the tools to build the tools. The Zen meditation on Proudhon’s concepts is left to the reader.

The personal computer revolution has vastly empowered the individual. Yet it is a fragile and vulnerable system. Individuals have at their command the means to capriciously misuse the technology. Those who hoard, damage, or destroy signals are committing a crime against Species Intelligence. The hackers are true Prometheans and the guardian of personal liberties. Yet the hackers must forge a new ethic to guide them or they’re in danger of being scapegoated for what is mostly intercorporate sabotage. The communication of ideas is the very essence of this magazine. We promote and endorse maximum neural fluxibility. A continuous stream of data allows you to integrate new models into your self-created reality, and discard outmoded ones. There are those who cling tenaciously to the security of their present belief systems. And there are the intellectual faddists who will exchange their current model in favor of any new model. Reality Hackers believes the best model is what works — more importantly, what works for you.. But be aware. We attempt to widen the bandwidth and present as many and varied ideas as possible. We are willing to entertain nearly any notion provided that it’s resonant and interesting. So don’t believe everything you read. Think for yourself.

by Jas. Morgan and accomplices


From Anonymous To Pursuance — Barrett Brown in Conversation with Steve Phillips

Conversation with Steve Phillips, lead developer and Project Manager of The Pursuance Project edited by The Doctor. Also, thanks to Barrett Brown for reviewing the transcript for errors and to Lisa Rein for final proofs.

This article and its sequels constitute a somewhat edited and condensed transcript of a discussion between Barrett Brown and Steve Phillips at the San Francisco Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon in 2017.  We’ve tried to trade off informality for clarity, and refer the curious reader to the original source material in the spirit of transparency.  Any emphasis and hyperlink references are ours.

In 2012, Barrett Brown was arrested for his role in the Anonymous hack of Stratfor, a global intelligence company that serves corporate and government interests around the world. The hack revealed an apparent insider trading relationship between the company and Goldman Sachs, among other dubious business activities.  Brown won the National Magazine Award for his work while in solitary confinement.  While in prison, Barrett had some ideas for a software project, the democracy-building project called Pursuance.

From the Pursuance homepage

“Pursuance exists to amplify the efforts of activists, journalists, and non-profits by (1) creating open source collaboration software and (2) building a powerful network of talented, reasonable individuals around it…

“Our free, open source, and secure Pursuance System software enables participants to: create action-oriented groups called “pursuances”, discuss how best to achieve their mission, rapidly record exciting strategies and ideas in an actionable form… receive social recognition for their contributions, and to delegate tasks to other pursuances in this ecosystem in order to harness its collective intelligence, passion, and expertise.”

Read the full statement


Steve Phillips

STEVE PHILLIPS: I read a Wired Magazine article that said that Barrett Brown was out of jail and doing awesome stuff again, an encrypted environment where you can collaborate with other activists and journalists and people who are trying to change the world, and I thought that sounded ultra-compelling. So, I immediately reached out to him in several different ways — snail mail and Twitter and email, like all in parallel, and got through, and then I jumped on a plane and flew to Texas to meet Barrett.

[Barrett Brown], let’s talk a little bit about your background. You won a National Magazine Award, but let’s go back to 2010. You had the sense that we should be using the Internet for activist-type things. Even if it’s just a small percentage of people who really care about issues, there are billions of people online so that could be quite the force. Take me back to some of your thinking around that time, right before you started doing work with Anonymous.

Read more “From Anonymous To Pursuance — Barrett Brown in Conversation with Steve Phillips”