What Went Unsaid at the J.P. Barlow EFF Memorial/Symposium on Saturday

 

R.U. Sirius

Internet idealism was out in full force in San Francisco on Saturday as an impressive roster of activist speakers contemplated the legacy of John Perry Barlow and his years of activism for free speech, transparency and generally good human behavior on both the internet and in life.

Barlow was the sort of character we are unlikely to see much of in our 21st Century world — a rowdy countercultural libertarianish cosmic cowboy with a heart of gold and rust roaming the world with few rules and big appetites — and yet still with some strong ethical grounding. The speakers shared loving stories about Barlow, the character (always massively late to the EFF board meetings); as well as Barlow the philosopher of total transparency, absolute free speech and the belief that humans are creating a sort-of unity of minds — a noosphere — and that this will be a good thing. The panelists spoke of participating with Barlow in organizing for free speech protection, transparency and the freedom to use and transform these tools as we wish — the programming that is being used to collect our data should be transparent and we should be able to use and alter the tools any way we choose.

At the same time, panelists shared some sharp skepticism regarding the utopian edge of the Barlowian vision, acknowledging that things have not gone entirely well — to put it mildly. Joichi Ito spoke of being in the darkest time he has experienced and wondered if those clouds would lift. He advocated bringing some counterculture flavor — a spirit of play and humor — into the powerfully growing social justice movements.

 

John Gilmore and Joi Ito

 

While the panelists referenced the dark complexities we’re currently facing, some aspects of that seemed to go unmentioned.

Allow me.

This difficult moment for free speech might have been best expressed in a conversation I ran here last week wherein Angela Nagle said, “you have a culture that seems to justify all the worst fears about what happens when you allow free speech — extreme misogyny, dehumanizing racism, and just the most cruel stuff the human mind can come up with.” (emphasis mine). This is where the rubber is hitting the road regarding speech and it doesn’t fall before easy answers.

Which brings me to another point that I raised in a piece here — the announcement by Microsoft that they will be censoring speech on a variety of their platforms (including Office… Whaaaa?) And as I noted, the pressure that these giant corporate organisms are reacting to that is causing them to sloppily attempt to gain control over the cacophony of the online world comes largely from people who demand sensitivity towards those mainly bearing the brunt of that “cruelest stuff the human mind can come up with.”

Finally, these sorts of problems call into question the fundamental Barlowian optimism. The notion that minds linked together in cyberspace would become more enlightened. And the question many of us have been asking ourselves for awhile is whether disembodied minds aren’t, in fact, uniquely cruel — more capable of abstracting the people they hurt than those who aren’t sitting behind a keyboard but roaming the actual world. Of course, there have been epic moments of monumental dehumanization of embodied (and soon to be murdered) people that has occurred for the millennia before the internet, so it’s possible that our mutual agitation at seeing what the other “tards” say on the web may prove to be less consequential than it might seem. But it’s certainly an inquiry that needs to be made before the mass casualties pile up.

None of this is meant to distract from the spirit of Barlow or his visions.  One of the panelists (I forget which one) spoke of his ideals as being like a north star to guide us through the ups and downs. I’m not so sure about the noosphere thing — seems a bit Borgian to me — but I hope his vision of an online and offline world that is both liberatory and humane comes to pass.

 

 

The Revolution Party Revisited (ReWrites & Wrongs)

 

 

Who? Right away we have this elite avant-garde ultrahipster signaling. I’m just starting to reread part one but I’m sure the entire thing is ultrahipster signaling…

R.U. Sirius 

In 2000, I started The Revolution, a political party and ran a write-in campaign for president of these here United States. Now I am annotating the foolish articles that I wrote to propagate the campaign and the party.

The Revolution was pitched at the time as a hybrid of liberal and libertarian politics, which — to use a much abused word — is extremely problematic. It was problematic. Now it’s more problematic. I will probably use that word again and again. Please kill me with opioids (from whence comes the oid? I think it was from advertisements and doctors not wanting to use the good old term opiATEs.) It’s largely today a weasel term used by weenies who can’t enjoy popular culture (or anything) without acknowledging that the fun thing doesn’t fit snuggly into Social Justice perfection. Oh yes, we’re gonna have some fun…

I’m not going to dwell on the liberal libertarian thing much right now except to say that I mostly meant Left and Libertarian and I was succumbing to the conflation of left and liberal so as to skip past the need to get pedantic with the less politically educated. Also, briefly

What libertarians were good for in the 1990s and — to a degree — today.

1: Helping to create develop and do the work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation — those stout defenders of privacy for the people, transparency for the companies, civil liberties and general resistance to overreactions by law enforcement towards benign-ish or at least not-too-awful hackers and the like. Also, gave us Edward Snowden (and the eventual consequent refusal of many liberals to want to know about the trillion dollar surveillance state).

2: Being against the War On Drugs (when the Democratic Party, for example, was in utter lockstep) — which was arguably the worst thing in America’s late 20th Century and is still pretty gnarly. (Much more on that to come in later annotated pieces).

3: Being among those manning (personing) the antiwar movement, particularly during Democratic administrations. Most of today’s activists brush off interventionism and the odd democrat-administered bombing of civilians like JZ brushing his shoulders in that video that Obama mimicked because he was cool. (He was cool.)

4: Actually liking civil liberties and being on it during Democratic admins, particularly during the Clinton Admin when mainstream liberals were entirely absent. We will get into the civil liberties record of the Clinton Admin in a latter entry.

5: Being part of MONDO 2000! … albeit not a dominant part, despite the assumptions of some commentators… and being mensches while they were at it. Oh I will savage libertarians some time later in this sprawling mess… but those are some briefs on reasons to be thankful.

The pieces were initially published on the Disinformation website when it was being managed by the inimitable Richard Metzger, who now runs my favorite site Dangerous Minds… some time in 1999. My annotated 2018 comments are offered in purple. Try to keep up!

ps: The following is a sort of blather-filled preamble. Future sections will look at the actual 15 point proposal from 1999 which was fairly serious and will deconstruct that and playfully offer a new set. Also, everything else weird and challenging that has punched and pulled me — and many others — over the terrible years since.

******************************************

Beautiful is the chance encounter, on an operating table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.
_ – Lautreamont_

Who? Right away we have this elite avant-garde ultrahipster signaling. I’m just starting to reread part one but I’m sure the entire thing is ultrahipster signaling… what I would call genuine hipster … or Original Hipster (OH) … or maybe better, actual FREAK. Let me pause to make a historical note. Almost nobody identified as a hippie. Everybody was a freak. True freaks dug punk.. at least the urban ones. Does any of this matter?

It stands to reason that self-righteous, inflexible, single-minded, authoritarian true believers are politically organized. Open-minded, flexible, complex, ambiguous, anti-authoritarian people would just as soon be left to mind their own fucking business.- R.U. Sirius, from ‘How To Mutate and Take Over The World’ Robert Anton Wilson and J.P. Barlow loved this and used the quote. Oh hell, they were right. The personal is political only in the sense of get out of my face about most private behaviors. Stop the pariah hunting, you pinched twats Read more “The Revolution Party Revisited (ReWrites & Wrongs)”

A Virtual Life. An Actual Death

 

A Virtual Life. An Actual Death. Photo credit: markmeadows.comb

 

by Mark Meadows and Peter Ludlow

Carmen Hermosillo (aka humdog, aka wolftone, aka Montserrat Snakeankle, aka Sparrowhawk Perhaps) died on the 10th of August, 2008. She was found in her Northern California apartment face down on her bed. Jack, her black Lab, was waiting at the door when she was found by the building manager. Her death certificate (Santa Cruz County, #08-07590) says that there was neither biopsy nor autopsy, but the official cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia and lupus erythematosus. Other factors were involved. For several years, because of the effects of her lupus, Carmen had been taking medication that kept her heart pumping. Once upon a time she said — as a joke, we guess — that if she ever wanted to die, she just had to stop taking her heart meds.

Was it passive suicide? The evidence is circumstantial, but compelling. Her online accounts, profiles, and avatars — at least 9 of them — had been canceled in the days before she died.

It might be clear what had happened, but the more urgent question is why it happened, and as it turns out, understanding this requires a journey into a deep rabbit hole involving over a decade of online life, virtual relationships, BDSM roleplay, and a virtual island Kingdom. And at the end of journey, one confronts a single frightening truth:

The thing that killed Carmen was the thing she spent her entire online life warning us about.

We met Carmen Hermosillo in 1993 on an electronic conferencing system called the WELL. The WELL (short for Whole Earth ‘Lectonic Link) was spawned by Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalogue and was populated by lots of granola crunching, fattie-huffing techie visionaries ranging from Howard Rheingold to Mitch Kapor to John Perry Barlow. The official dogma of the WELL was that electronic communities were supposed to move us all into a new utopia of virtual barn raisings, thoughtful online salons, and democratic town hall meetings. Or that was the dogma before Carmen appeared under the name ‘humdog’ and called BS on the whole thing.

In an essay called Pandora’s Vox, she vented:

A Virtual Life. An Actual Death. Photo credit: markmeadows.comThe WELL occupies an interesting niche in the electronic-community marketplace. It markets itself as a conferencing system for the literate, bookish and creative individual. It markets itself as an agent for social change, and it is, in reality, calvinist and more than a little green. The WELL is also afflicted with an old fashioned hippie aura that lead to some remarkably touching ideas about society and culture. No one, by the way, should kid themselves that the WELL is any different than bigger services like America OnLine or Prodigy. All of these outfits are businesses and all of these services are owned by large corporations. The WELL is just, by reason of clunky interface, a little bit less obvious about it.

Read more “A Virtual Life. An Actual Death”

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”

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

 

VIRTUAL NINTENDO

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

 

(Excerpt) Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right

by Angela Nagle, Selections by R.U. Sirius

 

Weighing in at only 129 short pages, Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump And The Alt-Right  (KAL) is the book to read this year. Everyone who — like most MONDO enthusiasts — have been steeped in counterculture values and attitudes needs to wrestle with its complicating vision. While it’s not a pretty picture, it’s a peculiarly fun read — excessive behaviors do tend to keep us fascinated.

While the so-called “alt-right” is the main target of this books’ critique/expose, the excesses of the culture-obsessed left are also sharply assessed. KAL spreads its blame around for the ugliness currently extant online as it spills with increasing vigor into the physical political realm.

Most interestingly, for MONDO readers, KAL takes on transgression, libertinism and other tropes of hip culture and, more or less, concludes that we are not doing the right thing.

Here I present the parts of the book I underlined. They may be a little out of context, but most of you will get the point.

Thanks to Zero Books and Angela Nagle for allowing us to run these excerpts. The subheads are ours.

The Technotopian Connection

The culture of 4chan, Anonymous etc., in the pre-gamergate days of Occupy and Anonymous could have gone another way. Long before this ‘geeks vs feminists’ battle, the libertarian left had its own pro-hacker, pro-computer geek, Internet-centric political tradition, which some in the early Anonymous milieu obviously drew influence from. Hakim Bey’s idea of the temporary autonomous zone was based on what he called ‘pirate utopias’ and he argued that the attempt to form a permanent culture or politics inevitably deteriorates into a structured system that stifles individual creativity. His language and ideas influenced anarchism and later, online cultures that advocated illegal downloading, anonymity, hacking and experiments like bitcoin. Echoes of John Perry Barlow’s manifesto ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’ can be seen in this earlier period of Anon culture and in analyses that reflect a more radical horizontalist politics, like Gabriella Coleman’s work. Barlow was one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, anarchist hackers and defenders of an Internet free of state intervention, capitalist control and monopolizing of the online world. In a similar style to the rhetoric of 4chan and Anonymous (‘we are legion’), it warned: Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the home of Mind. On behalf of the future I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

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Just a few years ago the left-cyberutopians claimed that ‘the disgust had become a network’ and that establishment old media could no longer control politics, that the new public sphere was going to be based on leaderless user-generated social media. This network has indeed arrived, but it has helped to take the right, not the left, to power. Those on the left who fetishized the spontaneous leaderless Internet-centric network, declaring all other forms of doing politics old hat, failed to realize that the leaderless form actually told us little about the philosophical, moral or conceptual content of the movements involved. Into the vacuum of ‘leaderlessness’ almost anything could appear. Read more “(Excerpt) Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right”