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THE REALITY CLUB
"Upside, you should be ashamed of yourselves..."


John Perry Barlow, Stewart Brand, Dave Winer, Jaron Lanier, Stewart Brand (2), Dave Winer (2), Kevin Kelly, John Perry Barlow (2), Marvin Minsky, Kevin Kelly (2), Paul Keegan, John Perry Barlow (3), Paul Keegan (2), John Perry Barlow (4), David Bunnell, John Perry Barlow (5), Tim Race, John Perry Barlow (6), Paul Keegan (3), and Richard Saul Wurman sound off.


From: John Perry Barlow
To: Paul Keegan

Mr. Keegan,

I have just sent the following to the editors of Upside regarding your hatchet job on Louis Rossetto. You may be assured I will never return one of your research calls and I will advise everyone I know in the industry to do likewise.

Up yours is more like it.

As someone who shares many of Louis Rossetto's convictions and has, in fact, helped develop a few of them, I expected to feel a little defensive about your attack on him, Jane Metcalfe, and Wired. But when all I knew of the piece was the sniggering cover "photo" of your naked prey, I advised Louis to shrug it off, as I had advised him to shrug off the propaganda campaign the old media conducted against Wired's IPO.

"I've always figured that if they're picking on me, they're leaving someone else alone," I told him. Besides, I said, there is much consolation in truly believing that the future will prove you right, no matter how nuts the present may find you.

Indeed, I recommended he regard such abuse as a compliment. After all, as Chairman Mao once observed, "A revolution is not a dinner party." As revolutionary movements become real, the forces of Business as Usual usually start behaving unpleasantly. "At least they haven't shot any of us yet," I pointed out to him.

Well. Not quite. But when I actually read your special Death to Wired Issue, I beheld something as close as you can get to assassination without actually using bullets. It was, quite simply, the most gratuitously nasty piece I've ever read that was written by neither a neo-Nazi nor a New York art critic.

Without actually refuting a single one of Louis' beliefs on its merits, Paul Keegan smeared them all under a thick coat of snotty adjectives. He must have really dog-eared the old thesaurus to keep his dismissals so evenly mean-spirited. On a bad day, Rush Limbaugh extends Hilary Clinton more decency and compassion than Keegan allows Louis.

Keegan's article isn't journalism. This is little more that the schoolyard bully rallying the other kids to beat up on the new boy with glasses.

Nor were Keegan's hatchet hacks sufficient. You also felt obliged to mutilate the corpse of Wired's IPO in similarly adjectival invective. And polished off the whole delightful massacre with your end-piece whack at "Nicholas Negropompous." (Which was, at least, pretty funny.)

I kept wondering what these folks had done to deserve insults of such personal cruelty. Has optimism really become so heinous? It is now a crime to still believe anything you believed in 1969?

But then I looked back to your cover. And lo, there was the answer: "Upside, the Business Magazine for the Technology Elite." Of course! The reason you are so sanctimonious about Wired's elitism, techno-enthusiasm, shallow materialism, and general sucking up to the "top bosses" is because you mean to supplant it with your own '80's version of the same thing.

Upside is trying to destroy Wired for the same reason Cain slew Abel: fratricidal envy. It wants to take what Wired presently has and reproduce it in a form more palatable to the Powers That Were. Upside aspires to be Wired Lite, same great advertising base, no troubling new ideas. And a smart-ass put-down for anyone who might originate some.

You and Keegan may characterize yourselves as the responsible parents who, by your mature understanding of the "Real World," will clean up the mess technology is about to visit on us all, but vilifying those who warn of storms already raging in the service of your own hypocritical self-interest is anything but mature behavior.

Wired and its progeny will continue to be vital historical forces when Upside is sharing its fossil layer with the other corporate reptiles of the Industrial Period.

Sincerely as hell,

John Perry Barlow



From: Stewart Brand
To: John Perry Barlow

Well hissed, John Perry. I agree.

A rather similar hit piece on the cover of Esquire about John Lennon led directly to his murder, by the fucking way. The little shit whatshisname read it in Hawaii and felt he'd been given the final encouragement/permission to liberate the object of his fandom from his too too flawed flesh.



From: Dave Winer

It's fascinating how these ad hoc push channels go!

Seems to me that Wired dishes out lots of this kind of stuff, what's wrong with a little coming back? Isn't that the way the world works? Must be good for circulation. Wired isn't the Beatles. Wired is Esquire, on its best days. On its worst days, it's less.

Dave



From: Jaron Lanier
To: Dave Winer

As they used to say in the schoolyard, two wrongs don't make a right. The Wired pieces that you're thinking of might include the pieces on Ted Nelson and Bob Stein.

What's notable about all the hit piece on the table is that the target is largely condemned for smelling like the sixties. There's some kind of dark business about all this, a rage against our cultural "other".

Best,

Jaron



From: Stewart Brand
To: Jaron Lanier

That's perceptive and very interesting, Jaron. I see that I'm rising up before dawn in London to respond to it.

To expand on your point, Wired's piece on Paul Allen was also of the Nelson and Stein ilk. And he also was dinged for smelling like the sixties. It's as if in private we sixties survivors brag about being more sixties than each other, and in public less sixties than each other.

Still, the Upside piece on Louis was shallow, sloppy, and not even funny. The Wired articles about Ted Nelson and Bob Stein were serious and rather insightful. (The Paul Allen piece was serious but basically wrong, I think---among other things it mocked Allen's investments. If any of us had invested in parallel with Allen, we would be doing very well.)

How does one report organizational failures? I think it's extremely important that failures are examined. Mostly in business it's taboo to even discuss. Xanadu failed. Voyager failed. Whole Earth failed. VPL failed. Thinking Machines failed. Content.com failed before even starting. EFF nearly failed.

In each case the founders were in the thick of the failure. Now, was it personality flaws that did our organizations in? Hubris? (Watch out, Wired.) Wrong theories? This stuff is worth dissecting, as a warning to the others. It needs to be done with respect---maybe even humor---as an inspiration to the others.

Lately I've been reading a good book, which I'll send out to GBNers shortly. It's called THE IDEA OF DECLINE IN WESTERN HISTORY, and it's full of painful revelation, at least to me. Hoo boy, do us apocalyptoids have a sordid lineage---viciously racist, among other things.

Not long ago, the Enlightenment gave way to Romanticism---a form of objective optimism was replaced by a form of subjective pessimism. Joyously finding new species all over the world was replaced by mooning over sinking Venice. Artists bravely explored their own intestinal tracts. Over the decades Romanticism waxed and waned. It waxed in the Russian revolution, and with the Nazis. In our sixties it waxed, along with political theories so hysterically aglay that our generation venerated one of the three dominant monsters of the century, Chairman Mao.

It may be reasonable to posit that our theories and our Romanticism had something to do with our organizational failures.



From: Dave Winer
To: Stewart Brand

How does one report organizational failures?

Keep struggling with it, you'll never figure it out because we're in no position to judge something as failed or not. The best we can do is dig, learn, and report what we learned. I don't know if Nelson is a failure or not. But I remember reading the Wired piece, and I even wrote something about it, the text is at the end of this email. The Wired piece evoked something for me. That makes it good writing. No point grappling with the bigger issues.

This failure thing and its related diseases, products killing products, hero geeks saving the world, these are all myths. We die here. Before that we can find other people and play and learn. That's all there is.

I see the Upside piece as a totally positive thing. It got me emailing with Louis. He's smart man. I have a much better idea where he's at. He's taught me a lot. Many thanks!

I hear from Jaron, which is cool too. Two wrongs don't make a right? There's always another point of view. Not bad.

No heroes. Let's just play and learn.

Dave

PS: My opinion: the Upside piece was a skimmer. Not great writing. The cover scared me, it got me to open the book, but the story behind the cover didn't hold my attention. Maybe I was busy processing something else.



From: Kevin Kelly

One of the things we've been trying to do more of in Wired is write more about (and write more insightfully about) failure. This I know, it is far more difficult to write about failure than success. If you mess up the details of success, no one cares. If you mess up the details of failure, you make enemies real fast.

--K



From: John Perry Barlow
To: Kevin Kelly

I think it is critical to write about failure - and you folks *should* do more of it yourselves - but it is more important to understand that the people involved in failures are not necessarily failures themselves. And are often caught in the vortices some larger system as inexorable as Greek tragedy.

The Greeks knew the importance of understanding the physiology of tragedy, and while hubris generally kicked it off, there was always in Greek tragedy a sense of compassion for those being punished for that sin, particularly since most of them came down with hubris without even knowing what it was. And since most of us have been guilty at one point another without getting shaken and baked.

I don't believe in ignoring error, especially when it's one's own or uncomfortably close to home. It is a well-qualified cliche that you must be aware of your mistakes to learn from them. And we can learn from one another's mistakes...though in my experience, not much...

But to sneer at the afflicted, to rejoice in such schadenfreude as did Keegan and Upside teaches us nothing and devalues the moral currency.

To say - as several have in Upside's defense - that Wired deserved this for its own similar sins only demonstrates how depressed the coin of decency has already become.

Let's get back to thinking about responsibility and quit savoring these ugly pleasures of blame. Let's study the sin and give the sinner the empathy he usually deserves.

Your loyal pal,

John Perry



From: Marvin Minsky
To: Kevin Kelly

In many of the cases mentioned earlier in this discussion -- the "failures" were the result of introducing ideas too early for the larger culture to know how to absorb them at that time. For example, I couldn't convince people to build Confocal Microscopes forty years ago but now (with cheap computers and lasers) there must be a billion dollars of them.

Jaron Lanier's VR visions have already become successful -- but for other companies..

There very likely *will* be successful LISP machines again, though it's hard to guess when.

Same, probably, for Connection Machines. Same for Nelson and Bob Stein.

I think the problem is that too many writers confuse "The inventor 'failed' to make a huge personal fortune" with "The inventor failed to have the idea eventually adopted."

An excellent example of this is the frequently-repeated story that "In the 1980s, the idea of 'Rule-Based Expert Systems' was overly hyped, and the resulting disappointment led to an 'AI winter'."

In fact, yes, the public companies formed to exploit the idea did not make much money, and the investors were disappointed. So Wall Street called it a failure. But in fact it became a multibillion dollar industry, but distributed among thousands of companies. The "trouble" was that the technology became popular and did not remain proprietary to the entrepreneurs. Tough for those investors -- but for the rest of the world these ideas were extremely successful.

The trouble, in my view, is that too many reporters have unwittingly become 'tools of capitalist ideaology'. Hey, Kevin Kelly! How about a satire about Leonardo Da Vinci as a huge failure, because (1) his airplanes didn't fly, (2) he finished only a couple dozen paintings (better fact-check this) and, (3) he didn't even get a dime for his notebooks, although Bill Gates paid many millions for one (or more?) of them.



From: Kevin Kelly
To: Marvin Minsky

Exactly. This is sort of the Ted Nelson story. I think Ted is a hero. I think his ideas were success, in the way Marvin indicates. But the story was about how a hero with the right idea got caught up in such an epic failure. And what might or might not be learned from that.


From: Paul Keegan
To: John Perry Barlow

At John Perry Barlow's suggestion, I am forwarding you a copy of my reply to his email about my recent piece for Upside.

-- Paul Keegan

Dear Mr. Barlow,

Gosh. I'm (almost) speechless. Was my critique of Louis Rossetto and Wired really "as close as you can get to assassination without actually using bullets"? I pulled out a copy of my story and searched madly for "insults of such personal cruelty" that they actually conjured images of the "schoolyard bully rallying the other kids to beat up on the new boy with glasses." And that's not the worst of it: I'm an even bigger meanie than Rush Limbaugh!

As much as I'd love to defend my piece, I'm having trouble discerning from your email what exactly triggered these inspired bursts of outrage. You don't cite any of the "snotty adjectives" and "mean-spirited dismissals" that my story is supposedly chock full of -- but then again, I had the unfair advantage of using a thesaurus.

I did find a few clues about what might have vexed you so: You imply that I consider optimism heinous and that I think it's a crime to still believe anything you believed in 1969. Rummaging through my piece, however, (with the same optimism I've maintained since well before the Summer of Love) I could find no such sentiments.

I also noticed that you referred to my story as being "sanctimonious about Wired's elitism, techno-enthusiasm, shallow materialism, and general sucking up to the `top bosses.'" Since nowhere in that sentence do you use the word "alleged," I can't tell if you are challenging or agreeing with such a characterization of Wired. Please advise.

Near the end of your vastly entertaining screed, I finally unearthed a paraphrase from my piece -- the part about the parents of the world being left to clean up, as you phrased it, "the mess technology is about to visit on us all."

The metaphor of a storm on the horizon, you should know, comes not from me, but from Louis Rossetto, who both in conversation and in his magazine routinely evinces an utter lack of concern about the deleterious effects such a digital squall could have (or may already be having) in a world in which some homes are constructed less sturdily than others. In fact, Wired seems to be delighted to announce the impending chaos. You argue that my pointing this out shows a "hypocritical self-interest," which I find amusing given the fact that Wired proudly says that it both covers and champions the digital revolution. But since I'm not even on staff at Upside, I fail to see my hypocrisy or where my self-interest comes in -- unless you mean attempting to eke out a living as a free-lance writer.

Anyway, those are all the clues I could find to back up your charge that I'm some kind of character assassin. I'd be glad to respond further if you'd care to provide more examples -- but wait! I nearly forgot. You've threatened not only to refuse to speak to me, but to blackball me throughout the industry! The note attached to your letter to Upside says, "You may be assured I will never return one of your research calls and I will advise everyone I know in the industry to do likewise."

Sounds like the fearless leaders of the digital revolution -- all those new kids with glasses running from bullies like me -- have locked the clubhouse door so they can furiously scribble their manifestos without being constantly interrupted by adults reminding them that it's time for dinner. Precisely the point of my story.

Nevertheless, please allow me to hope that your quotation of Chairman Mao does not also imply an agreement with his views about the best way to handle dissenting opinion. I'd always thought the Digerati loved to debate and never shrink from conflict. If we can at least agree on the value of intelligent discussion, you could take the constructive step of supporting your histrionic allegations. As Louis himself says, "You say you want a revolution, you're not going to get anywhere with pictures of Chairman Mao."

Sincerely as heck,

Paul Keegan

cc: Richard L. Brandt, editor, Upside magazine



From: John Perry Barlow
To: Paul Keegan

Paul,

I am still mulling over my response to your genuinely thoughtful reply.

In fairness, I should tell you that I sent my original message not only to you and Upside, but also the list of "digerati" cc'd above. I thought about forwarding your message directly on to them, but I feel that is yours to do.

And, in the spirit of open discourse, I hope you will do so.

Still hot, but cooling,

John Perry

P.S. I apologize for my bluster about advising friends in the industry against talking to you in connection with a story.

I don't think *I'll* talk to you, but I would never try to blackball anyone. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to have an audience. (Though, as Hubert Humphrey once said, it doesn't include a right to be taken seriously.)



From: Paul Keegan
To: John Perry Barlow

Dear John Perry,

Thank you for the invitation to join in the discussion you so spectacularly provoked with your howling email about my piece in the February issue of Upside. I'm glad to see you're cooling a bit and that you have removed your hex on me -- though I should admit that I hadn't ascribed supernatural powers to you anyway, supposing that the more reasonable members of your cc-club would have made up their own minds about whether shunning me is an appropriate response to my failure to agree with you.

And I accept your apology, but as for your line, "I would never try to blackball anyone," spare me the pious nonsense -- that's exactly what you tried to do before I called you on it.

Now that you've so generously allowed me to speak, I'd like to respond to some of the more outrageous comments that have ensued. What can one say about Stewart Brand's implication that Upside and I would be responsible for the next Mark David Chapman -- "A rather similar hit piece on the cover of Esquire about John Lennon led directly to his murder, by the fucking way" -- except that psychological counseling may be in order?

As for the David Winer/Jaron Lanier exchanges about whether Wiredor Upside is worse when it comes to blasting people, that seems rather beside the point. Of course magazines will trash each other out of self-interest. But since we're all fairly sophisticated about how the media works, I'd assumed that would be a given. So let's forget the cover for a moment. What about the story?

Why is it that none of the people attacking my piece feel compelled to substantiate their charges? Have they actually read it? You've already gone into apoplectic fits but still haven't really said why. Where are the factual inaccuracies? The quotes taken out of context? The specious arguments? Please name them so we can have an intelligent discussion. As for Stewart Brand: What was "shallow" and "sloppy" about my story? There's nothing more shallow and sloppy -- not to mention cowardly -- than leveling such a charge in a throwaway phrase without backing it up. Finally, if the piece was so wrong and unfair, why have we heard nothing from the subjects themselves, Louis and Jane, nearly two months after the piece first came out?

My concern, as you might imagine, is that your charges against me are then repeated or taken as true by others in the long list of people you copied your flaming email to, not to mention the readers of Upside's letters page. Before anyone else picks up the slanderous thread you've tossed into the ring, John, please explain to me what you know about me that justifies your rather serious charge that my motives were anything but journalistic. Let's be clear: Your characterization of my pieces as an "assassination" and accusing me of having some mysterious "hypocritical self-interest" is mud-slinging. What I wrote was not.

In fact, one reason Upside chose me to write the story is precisely because I have no axes to grind. Unlike many of Wired's critics, I've never written for any of Wired Ventures' media outlets, nor do I aspire to. I wrote a long piece about Rossetto-Metcalfe and Wired for The New York Times magazine in May of 1995 and I did a story about John Brockman for Details in December of 1996. That's pretty much the extent of my dealings with Wired or the Digerati. And don't even try arguing that this gives me an inherent conflict-of-interest as an Old Media guy: Your "Digerati" emailing list is full of people who earn their living from the printed page -- including, most famously, Rossetto and Wired.

I have found, however, that having a certain distance from a subject to be immensely helpful, whether it's high-school football players, corrupt cops, or Wired's Digerati. One advantage is that broad historical themes are more readily apparent than they might be to a writer surrounded by trees and thus blind to the shape of the forest. I was relieved to see that Lanier and Brand did briefly touch on one important subject that actually WAS in my piece, when they discussed the Sixties. But Lanier was flat wrong when he said that, in my article, Rossetto was "condemned for smelling like the sixties" and that there was some "dark...rage against our cultural `other'".

As would be apparent to anyone who read my piece, I attempted to trace Rossetto's intellectual development and Wired's philosophy back to an era that sheds much light on today's so-called "Digital Revolution" -- for the simple reason that many of today's most influential members of the Digerati emerged from that ferment. My story offered an even-handed analysis of how certain ideas of that time intersected to create some of the founding principles of Wired's techno-libertarian approach to the digital phenomenon, which are shared by many members of the Digerati today. My analysis was based on extensive interviews with Brand, Rossetto, Metcalfe, Kelly, and many others and their ideas are faithfully reproduced in the article.

I added my own interpretation, of course, which most of us would probably agree is a crucial part of magazine journalism. But offering a point of view is hardly the same as doing a "hatchet job," as you phrased it in your ad-hominem attack. Perhaps you object to the idea that biography is a legitimate journalistic or literary tool for examining ideas, cultural movements, and business strategies. But who knows what you really think, since you don't really explain? Obviously, I believe that looking at the key players in any movement is important and that such a biographical approach would surely involve interpretation -- after the facts have been established, of course, and the relevant ideas accurately rendered.

Take all the time you want, John, to think hard about how you want to respond to my emails. If you have an ounce of courage you'll either apologize for calling me a character assassin or offer something of substance to support your irresponsible, slanderous screed. If you indeed do care, that is, about being taken seriously.

As for the threaded discussion you've begun, if we're all just hanging around a dinner party trading bon mots, fine. But, please, let's not pretend it's a serious debate. I don't have time for the vapid posturing of such gatherings, so I certainly wouldn't join one in cyberspace, where I'm assured of not even getting a decent meal.

Sincerely,
Paul Keegan



F
rom: John Perry Barlow
To: Paul Keegan

Paul,

Very well, then. Once more into the breech...

I will try to explain to you why I found your piece and the issue in which it appeared so offensive. I don't expect I'm going to change your mind or your style, but you seem genuinely puzzled by my outrage, and I think it is the responsibility of anger to explain itself.

Of course, I'm not merely angry at you. This has been brewing for awhile as I observed ordinary decency being gradually transformed from a virtue to a vice in the ethical canons of journalism.

I've watched with dismay as catty put-downs, insinuative quotation frames, and cool bitch barbs inserted into the infobodies of strangers gradually came to be considered the hallmarks of effective journalism. And this little tempest makes a fine study in how that came to pass. And how it will continue to worsen unless we examine it more clearly.

So. To respond to your responses..

And I accept your apology, but as for your line, "I would never try to blackball anyone," spare me the pious nonsense -- that's exactly what you tried to do before I called you on it.
Listen, as somebody who co-founded an organization dedicated to assuring that no one in the digital future can be silenced, I think my record speaks for itself. You may well think that I've dedicated my life to a bunch of pious nonsense, but I believe as much in your right to treat people like shit in print as I believe in my own to warn others that this appears to be your primary stock in trade. And a growth stock it is. What smart magazine can survive these days without the tonic of malice?

As for the David Winer/Jaron Lanier exchanges about whether Wired or Upside is worse when it comes to blasting people, that seems rather beside the point. Of course magazines will trash each other out of self-interest. But since we're all fairly sophisticated about how the media works, I'd assumed that would be a given.
Really? Is that a given? Has the mag trade become so nakedly Darwinian (in the 19th Century sense of the term) that it is now considered a sign of sophistication to believe that the primary mission of journalism is to increase market share by belittling the competition?

If that is really so, then we have little to discuss. But I think there is a noble challenge - rewarding in many ways when actually accomplished - in the effort to compress reality into precisely such words as will decompress into an accurate perception of that reality among distant thousands who never experienced it. While this achievement is somewhat less gripping than malicious gossip, just as the ballet is less gripping than a good dog-fight, there remains enough appreciation for it that most of what appears in both Wired and Upside is more discursive than derisive. But the future of non-adversarial journalism doesn't look promising.

Why is it that none of the people attacking my piece feel compelled to substantiate their charges?
Because the article itself substantiates them so effectively on its own. But since you genuinely don't seem to understand how you've given offense, I will try to take from the piece a few examples of what triggered my particular apoplexy.
Where are the factual inaccuracies?
To me, the piece was so long on atmospherics and so short on facts that accuracy wasn't even an issue. The adjectives weighed far more than the nouns. And they were nearly all of the same derogatory flavor. I mean, in first few paragraphs we are told that Louis' entire universe (as opposed to yours or mine) is so "bizarre" that it disorients most who encounter it. In what way? Who cares.

We're told his magazine is "frenzied," and his Website "even more hyperactive." He is, furthermore "a self-styled avatar of hipness" - a phrase that takes me back to Lester Maddox or George Wallace talking about "so-called intellectuals." Like those pointyheads, he has a version of reality that is "peculiar" to such regular joes as the Gentle Reader and Paul Keegan. His views are "extreme." He is a "hard-core" ideologue dedicated to the destruction of all society's ordering institutions whether it be public schooling or federal government.

And this is just what you find on the first page. If I were to cite each of your sneers, it would require a longer response that the piece itself.

But I can no more imagine that you don't know what I'm talking about than I can imagine your radio relatives like Imus, Liddy, or Reagan believe they are just presenting the facts, Ma'am.

You ask, "Where are the quotes taken out of context?" It's not what they're taken out of. It's what they're put into. For example, when Louis says that Gary Chapman displays a fervor in his attacks on the wired that borders on racism, you claim this indicates that Louis regards his readers as a "separate race." Now *there* is a leap.

As for specious arguments you'd like cited, here's one from your response: "if the piece was so wrong and unfair, why have we heard nothing from the subjects themselves, Louis and Jane, nearly two months after the piece first came out?"

Perhaps it's because they were hustling to recover from the failed IPO's, put out a magazine, and deal with the strains of being nine months pregnant. Perhaps it's because they've found, as I have, that reading one's own press, whether it vilifies or lionizes, will make you crazy eventually and therefore they avoid either reading or responding to it.

Perhaps it's because they know that if someone calls you a fanatic, a fool, an anarchist, a failure, a paranoid, a tyrant, an elitist, a relentless exploiter, a hypocrite, an idea-snitch, a zealot, a sexist, a spin-doctor, a spoiled adolescent, a greed-head, a nihilist, and a liar, it doesn't leave with much of a come back.

What are you to say? "No, I'm not?" "So's yer old man?"

It's all of the "are you still beating your wife?" school. There's no way for them to engage you without wrestling the tar baby. They didn't respond because they knew they'd just get you all over them. And they had trouble enough already.

You ask what axe I think you're grinding. Frankly, I don't give you that much credit. People grind axes because they believe in something. You seem only to be exploiting the fact that a large part of the population is scared to death by the confusion and self-doubt technology has injected into their world and will support anyone who raises an accusatory finger and cries, "There they are! There are the weirdos who delight in making your life unrecognizable to you! There are the witches! There are the smart-ass pseudo-intellectuals who think they're better than you. There is the Other which we of the Self must crush." It's cheap. It's easy. Where there's fear, there's always a large and ready market for hate, growing larger by the nanosecond. You're not grinding an axe. You're just a practical man who understands his market.

Perhaps she's referring to your characterization of my piece as an "assassination" and your accusation that I have some mysterious "hypocritical self-interest" in writing about Wired. Once again, John, before anyone else picks up the slanderous thread you've tossed into the ring, please explain to me what you know about me that justifies the rather serious charge that my motives were anything but journalistic. Let's be clear: That's mud-slinging. What I wrote was not.
I didn't claim that your self-interest was hypocritical. As I say, there's nothing covert about it. The hypocritical self-interest is Upside's, who would use your easily manufactured moral indignation to take Wired out of a niche they covet for themselves.
In fact, one reason Upside chose me to write the story is precisely because I have no axes to grind. Unlike many of Wired's critics, I've never written for any of Wired Ventures' media outlets, nor do I aspire to. I wrote a long piece about Rossetto-Metcalfe and Wired for The New York Times magazine in May of 1995 and I did a story about John Brockman for Details in December of 1996.
 

I have found, however, that having a certain distance from a subject to be immensely helpful, whether it's high-school football players, corrupt cops, or Wired's Digerati.

Distances come in different flavors though, Paul. There are horizontal distances, as between reasonable but differing view points. Then there is the distance down one's long, disapproving nose. And there are vertical distances. These are pernicious, whether they are the distance down to the clueless or the distance up to the oppressors.
One advantage is that broad historical themes are more readily apparent than they might be to a writer surrounded by trees and thus blind to the shape of the forest. I was relieved to see that Lanier and Brand did briefly touch on one important subject that actually WAS in my piece, when they discussed the Sixties. But Lanier was flat wrong when he said that, in my article, Rossetto was "condemned for smelling like the sixties" and that there was some "dark...rage against our cultural `other'".
Nope. I don't think he was wrong. In all the propaganda campaigns since then, whether conducted by the DARE program or the Moral Majority or your article, it has been considered a fatal belittlement to accuse someone of having his philosophical roots in the "discredited" movements of the 60's.

But my belief system is not simply a function of that decade any more than yours is of the 80's. Yes, I'm an old hippie myself, proudly announced, and I've been fighting the same cultural battles for a long time. Even though many of my kind have been reviled, jailed, and even killed, I have maintained a set of principles that I personally formed in the 60's but extend their tap-roots as deep as Jesus or Lao-Tzu.

I am still propelled by optimism, a faith that the universe is working perfectly (according to its unfathomable specs), and a belief that human beings are essentially good when they have the courage to be so.

This perspective has not yet prevailed in America, partly because it has been sufficient for folks like yourself to dismiss it so summarily as symptomatic of a failure to grow up, a failure to embrace the natural beastliness of life, and to become, like any realist, a resigned (though thriving) participant in that beastliness. As you seem to be. As Upside is becoming.

But I knew this was going to be a long struggle when I undertook it. And I think we're finally starting to get someplace. And I think we'd get there a lot faster without such screeds as your own.

Sincerely,

John Perry



From: David Bunnell

UPSIDE published this story because our readers are interested in the Wired story. We have gotten a ton of mail which only validates this. It seems to me that the main criticism of the story from some of the "digerati" is that they don't like the point of view of the writer. Certain points of views, it appears, should be abolished in cyberspace. John Perry Barlow's note to Paul Keegan proves my point.

Unlike all the other technical magazines, UPSIDE takes a critical look at the companies and people who make up the so-called Digital Revolution. We've been doing it for seven years now and there's nothing stopping us.



From: John Perry Barlow
To: David Bunnell

David,

Certain points of views, it appears, should be abolished in cyberspace. John Perry Barlow's note to Paul Keegan proves my point.
To say I believe that "Certain points of view...should be abolished in cyberspace" is not only profoundly insulting, it is, given what I've dedicated my life to doing with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ludicrous to the point of surreality.

Obviously, I don't wish to abolish *anyone's* point of view, in Cyberspace or anywhere else. I will even defend anyone's right to express themselves spitefully, cruelly, and even without factual basis. Indeed, I believe everyone has the right to be an asshole. That doesn't make it ethically proper, though, and one should always be prepared for the social consequences of his actions.

I am merely saying that selling magazines through the cheap expedient of spreading malicious gossip is not something I expect from someone like you, for whom I have previously had only the greatest respect.

Unlike all the other technical magazines, UPSIDE takes a critical look at >the companies and people who make up the so-called Digital Revolution.
Very well. But criticism works a lot better when unaccompanied by gratuitous insults.

Your former admirer,

John Perry


From: Tim Race

I'm really glad that nobody is taking any of this personally.


From: John Perry Barlow
To: Chuck Karish

(Chuck Karish wrote:) Um, John? Has your perspective returned yet?

As I read the discussion on Brockman's site, you're still stuck in a position where you don't belong:

- In the heat of a well-justified righteous rage you threatened to blackball Paul Keegan.

- He called you on it.

- You said "I'd never do that!"

- He said "I accept the apology, but don't bullshit me - you just did it."

- You said "Look at all I've done for online freedom!"

I know I'm not the only one who finds it disturbing that you seem to be using your past good works to justify actions that are directly opposed to the principles you champion.

Your other remarks in the thread (and Stewart's) are right on, and they emphasize that it's important to accept responsibility for the consequences of what one publishes. In the State of Cyberia it's reasonable to consider the threat of shunning to be equivalent to the shunning itself.

Keegan and Bunnell are right. You did it. Please own up to it and take back the moral high ground.

I know you have a lot more class than you've been showing for the last few days. Jaron Lanier is right that it doesn't matter how little class the other guy is showing, it's still up to you to maintain your own.

You're right. I did it. And hiding behind my record is a coward's refuge. Anger never brings out the best in anyone.

I will still make one mild defense of myself though... It does seem there's something of an ethical dilemma here. If it appears that someone has it in for you and others of like mind - many of them close friends - is warning them of his trajectory an act of shunning or something more like what the Better Business Bureau does?

This is, after all, not the first time he's done this. His piece on Brockman for Details was, if anything, even more toxic.

Still. I think you make an interesting and probably accurate point that threats are tantamount to actions in Cyberspace.

And I'm sorry I ever went off at all, really.

Malice is, after all, its own punishment.

And thanks for the kick under the table.

Yrs,

John Perry


From: Paul Keegan
To: John Perry Barlow

Dear John Perry,

Thanks so much for finally taking a few moments to attempt to explain your apoplectic email about my piece on Wired. You're very kind, indeed, to take pity on my puzzlement, and as I began your latest missive, I felt grateful to have a correspondent who believes in "the responsibility of anger to explain itself." Otherwise, discourse would be reduced to -- well, to calling people's works "hatchet hacks" and "assassinations" and just leaving it at that. Which, it seems we agree, just won't do.

I was also glad to learn that it's not just me you're mad at -- but also "ordinary decency being gradually transformed from a virtue to a vice in the ethical canons of journalism." I couldn't agree more -- and found myself saying, "Hear, hear!" at your condemnation of "catty put-downs" and "cool bitch barbs."

So you can imagine my shock as I read on and found you perpetrating the very unfounded attacks that you profess to despise -- hurling yet more insults at me without support. What is a line such as "your radio relatives like Imus, Liddy, or Reagan" except a "catty put-down"? And what is a statement like "treat(ing) people like shit in print÷appears to be your primary stock in trade" but a rather serious ad-hominem attack on my character offered without any supporting evidence? What do you know about my stock in trade, John Perry? Please elaborate so I may properly respond.

Until you back up these charges, I'll have to assume that you're talking strictly about my story in Upside. But before I respond to the few examples you've finally provided, I'd like to remind you that not once have I questioned your motives during this exchange. Nor will I. "You may well think that I've dedicated my life to a bunch of pious nonsense," you write, but you are curiously defending yourself against a charge I never made. What I said is that your comment in a previous email -- "I would never try to blackball anyone" was pious nonsense because that's precisely what you tried to do before I called you on it. There's a rather crucial difference that I hope you can appreciate.

The reason I don't speculate about what you have or have not dedicated your life to is because, although we've met once or twice, I know very little about you. And I presume you know little about me. That's one reason Cyberspace is such an extraordinary place: People like you and I can converse without knowing much about one another. But it's also why -- contrary to the prevailing logic behind email "flames" like yours -- we should be extra careful, not less so, to avoid making scurrilous, unsubstantiated charges. Especially since we're using a technology that makes our comments easily replicable and distributed globally in a flash. Since you're an optimist who believes that "human beings are essentially good," why do you find it so difficult to use this wonderful tool to begin our discussions with the assumption that I'm operating with the best intentions, rather than the worst?

I mention this because it touches upon a crucial principle at stake here, which makes this discussion about much more than about you and me: that accusations should be supported by fact and opinions should be well informed. And even the most well-supported accusations and informed opinions are often best left unsaid unless something important is at stake.

Clearly, my article about Louis Rossetto and Wired Ventures is full of opinions and takes a strong point of view. But it was hardly undertaken lightly. It was based on dozens of interviews, including many hours in tape-recorded conversations with Rossetto, and months of research and writing. It touches upon some critical social and cultural issues that made it much more than just a profile of a CEO and his media company. That's responsible essay journalism. What you are practicing is a smear campaign, conducted under the absurd banner of "ordinary decency," in which you defend Rossetto and Wired by attacking my character and journalistic integrity. And that's a real shame.

Now to your comments about my piece, which I appreciate because they finally reveal what this fuss is really all about, the point I've been trying to make all along:

You simply disagree with me.

By your own admission, my story has no wrong facts ("accuracy wasn't even an issue"), no quotes taken out of context, and no specious reasoning (though you do allege that my last email had one instance of specious reasoning). You do object to the contexts I've placed quotes into, but isn't that just another way of saying you disagree with my point of view? That's hardly the same thing as an "assassination" or "hatchet" job, now isn't it?

But let's start with what you call my "atmospherics," your recurring problem with my choice of adjectives. You dislike the word "bizarre," which I used to describe the universe Rossetto inhabits. So here's my question: Does that word describe the following outlook on the future, as my story paraphrases Rossetto: "digital machines will empower individuals so dramatically that the result will be an evolutionary leap -- Ok, go ahead and laugh, all you Luddites -- to external brain appliances that will create a new global consciousness and beehive-like forms of social organization"?

Not only do I find that bizarre, but I think Rossetto fully expects me to feel that way. The same is true for the feeling of "disorientation" I got when spending time with him. The phrase "reality distortion field," I should remind you, comes not from me, but from a former staffer who knows Rossetto much better than I do. The term, however, describes well how it felt to be in his company at certain moments that are fully explained in my piece.

I don't think it's an insult to use adjectives like "peculiar" to describe Rossetto's views. In fact, I believe Rossetto and Wired proudly offer these beliefs to the world as something profoundly strange, odd in the way that McLuhan is sometimes considered odd. This very strangeness is part of what has made Rossetto and Wired such a hot commodity today, offering, in sharp contrast to the mainstream media, a startling new vision of the future.

This vision can also found in Wired's famous design, which I would say is nothing if not "frenzied" (How would you characterize it? Becalming? Somnambulant?) And how can anyone read Wired with its regular discussions of what's "Tired" and what's "Wired" and conclude that it's not run by "a self-styled avatar of hipness." (when nobody nominates you to be an arbiter of chic, you earn the moniker "self-styled.")

Not only are these adjectives accurate, but I used them deliberately to set a tone that explains how Wired has positioned itself today. The same goes for words like "extreme" or "hard-core," which I used to describe Rossetto's belief, as I paraphrased it in my story, "that today's technological revolution will cause hierarchical, oppressive institutions such as the nation-state, public-education and the mass media to crumble."

Could Rossetto or anyone who considers himself on the vanguard of a cultural movement that sees itself overthrowing the existing social order REALLY be surprised that anyone would find such views extreme? Please. Would Rossetto consider the word "extreme" an insult? I doubt it, since Rossetto's views, by his own account, are completely off the current spectrum of political debate (which still has the annoying habit of assuming that government exists).

So I guess I'm still "genuinely puzzled" as to why you'd find these passages so insulting, especially since I'm not even talking about you. In your first email, you said that you share "many of Louis Rossetto's convictions" and have "in fact, helped develop a few of them." Perhaps, then, you can tell me: do you feel that holding such beliefs places you swimming happily in the mainstream?

Certainly, there's an element of sarcasm in my tone with regard to Rossetto and Wired because I'd have to be a fool not to see the business imperatives at work here. Anytime someone begins claiming a new social order is dawning, elementary logic requires one to begin looking at what the futurist in question stands to gain. In Rossetto's case, it could be the creation of a significant media empire, not to mention personal wealth that could have been $71 million had Wired's first IPO succeeded and $35 million in the second. That in itself does not refute Rossetto's views, but it's an important factor to keep in mind as we consider what any "revolutionary" leader says about what the future ought to look like.

Even all this wouldn't be such big news unless the media company in question in some way represents a larger cultural movement and speaks for a group of people (which Wired likes to call the Digerati) who are not only achieving increasing wealth and power in modern America, but are having a profound influence on the way we think about the future. This influence is in no small part because Americans are only just becoming aware of the implications of the new technology and are searching for voices to help them sort it all out.

Wired Ventures was the first media company to discover this market, which my article points out was a brilliant achievement. But now that the magazine has reached a circulation of over 325,000, and now that Wired Ventures is beginning to branch out into books and television, and now that the company in two IPOs last year asked ordinary investors for millions of dollars in exchange for a piece of Rossetto's vision, a fascinating new phase of his "digital revolution" has begun. "For his company to grow," my story says, "(Rossetto) must increasingly venture beyond the cozy futuristic bubble he lives in and face a messy, complicated world with little use for rantings about hive minds and exo-brains. Unless Rossetto can adapt to the outside world -- and address the real problems it faces -- his role in the digital revolution may be over before it's really begun."

This analysis is based on the laws of supply and demand -- that Rossetto's small media empire cannot expand beyond a certain point unless the editorial content he's producing addresses the concerns of a wider audience, whom you prefer to call "Regular Joes." Maybe I'm wrong, and there are tens of millions of closet techno-libertarians out there itching to see the nation-state dissolved, public education abolished, and wants everyone to embrace each new technological advance without stopping to consider the consequences. But my guess is that unless Rossetto is able to create some new media products -- Wired Lite perhaps -- the demand for a more reasonable and less ideological approach to the many vexing dilemmas raised by the digital phenomenon will be met by somebody else.

Your letters also fail to mention how much credit my story gives Rossetto and Wired for what they have accomplished in just over four years. I show in great detail how Rossetto proved all the big media moguls wrong, from Newhouse and Murdoch to Eisner and Hefner, all of whom passed up the chance to invest in Wired when it was just an idea. Rossetto's "magazines and web sites have, in a breathtakingly short time, become a vital part of American culture÷" my story says, adding later that "÷Wired and HotWired have earned their influence by trouncing the rest of the media over the past few years when it came to reporting about copyright law, encryption, privacy, electronic money, cyberdemocracy, the Internet -- you name it -- not to mention setting standards for the finer cultural points of language and styles."

My piece also talks about what I consider an important obstacle facing Rossetto and the Wired crowd, which this email exchange is a perfect illustration of: Their inability to adapt to the outside world, and their way of seeing any point of disagreement as a kind of personal assault: "÷anybody who's not part of the revolution is an enemy," my story says, "a counterrevolutionary, as the Black Panthers and Chairman Mao used to put it."

The question of how emblematic Rossetto's and Wired's views are within the Digerati is a fascinating question, which I'd enjoy hearing more about during discussions like this. My own observation is that, as the digital phenomenon grows and matures, other points of view are increasingly being heard among the Digerati that contradict the Wired worldview. Upside's challenge of Wired magazine is a good example of this, as are the writings of Paulina Borsook, Jon Katz, and others. I'm not just talking about left vs. right here, or libertarians vs. statists, but a wide range of views.

The fact that Upside is going after Wired's readers doesn't mean that a story containing observations like mine are by definition wrong -- especially since at no time did the editors of Upside ever tell me what to write. In fact, I'd never even heard of Upside until they called asking me to write a story. The fact that Fortune magazine is going after the same readers of the Wall Street Journal does not mean that its recent expose about a rift in the Bancroft family that controls Dow Jones wasn't a brilliant piece of journalism. Sure, it may have provided Fortune with an added incentive to do a story that no other media had bothered with. But I think that's a good thing, since the story needed to be told. And I would have thought libertarians would agree that free-market competition for the hearts and minds of readers is a healthy thing, not something to be discouraged or censored.

On this subject, you say that your initial comment that charged me with "hypocritical self-interest" was directed not at me, but at Upside. But if you'll check, the sentence clearly begins with "You and Keegan÷" This is what I mean by how important it is to be careful about how you phrase something, especially when the charges are as serious as suggesting that I may be acting out of anything but journalistic or literary motivation. And especially since you began this as a very public discussion.

You also cite from my story Rossetto's response to Gary Chapman, who wrote a piece critical piece of Wired in The New Republic in 1995: "Chapman attacks technologically advanced people with a fervor that borders on racism."

My story goes on to say: "Wow. Now THAT's an editor so devoted to his readers that he considers them a separate race of people. Wired has often tried to suggest as much; Alvin Toffler was once quoted as a calling the magazine's readers `an entirely new civilization that's still in its infancy.'"

You say I'm making quite a "leap" here. I agree that it's quite a leap, but I'm not the one making it. I've merely cited two examples of what Rossetto and Wired often try to suggest. My way of handling an editor's preposterous suggestion that his readers are a separate race of people is to employ the language of irony and humor. But this is an instructive example because that idea also raises some rather serious issues, which are most properly seen in the larger context of Wired's "evolutionary" view of technology. This notion carries the clear Social Darwinist implication that those who get Wired will survive and those who don't may just die out.

Besides the moral issues raised, it seems to me a self-fulfilling, not to mention self-interested, prophecy. It's summarized most concisely on the magazine's cover each month: "Get Wired." "The line is brilliant because it works on so many levels," my story says. "Not merely as an exhortation to buy the magazine and the digital equipment featured inside, but by doing so, covert to his radical ideology that promises to finally change the world."

Along these lines, I find it amusing that you accuse me of "exploiting the fact that a large part of the population is scared to death by the confusion and self-doubt technology has injected into their world÷" Anyone who reads Wired would know that the magazine routinely capitalizes on this very fear and confusion, not only with its frenetic design (sorry, there I go again), but also with its choice of stories and images that can make readers -- especially newcomers to the digital trend -- feel that "Getting Wired" is the only way to avoid being swept away by a phenomenon that Rossetto characterized in the first issue, as "whipping through our lives like a Bengali typhoon." If a line like that is not designed to scare people to death, I don't know what is.

It's true that I concern myself with people who might be confused and afraid about what's happening, but not to appeal to "a large and ready market for hate," as you so venomously suggest. Rather, I'm simply trying to explore other ways of looking at the digital phenomenon besides the Wired way, which until recently has dominated discussions of our digital future.

You also refer at one point to "malicious gossip" in my story, but once again you don't back it up. I can only guess what you're referring to. Perhaps you're talking about the references to turmoil on the set of the Netizen or about Borsook's book contract with Hard Wired being cut back sharply after she criticized Rossetto. I believe these stories are directly relevant to the subject at hand and my story explains why. I would have loved to have had Rossetto's version of what happened in each case, but, apparently because of a previous rift with Upside, he declined to speak with me for this piece.

That raises your point about why Louis and Jane haven't joined this discussion. Of course, I respect anyone's decision to remain quiet about a story written about them, and I understand why they may have made such a choice. But asking the question was not specious on my part. For one thing, having them join conversations like this one would give them the chance to prove me wrong about how isolated they can become.

And, strictly from a selfish point of view, I'd like to know what facts I may have botched, ideas I may have misconstrued, or points of view I may have overlooked. Which would serve their interests as well. But once again, there's something larger at work here: Having now been attacked by you, John Perry, I'm all the more aware of how important it is to set the record straight. This is especially important in cyberspace, of course, where ideas can zip around the world in a flash and errors can take on a life of their own through the ease of digital duplication. With this very exchange, we're experiencing some of these issues. That's why I want to hear what Louis and Jane think: If I'm indeed guilty of the sins that you've accused me of (but have still provided little support for), I'd like to hear it from the subject at hand, not some third party.

This is especially important because you continually misrepresent my piece. I performed a search of my story could find not a single occurrence, in any form, of the following words that you say I apply to Rossetto: "fanatic, fool, failure, paranoid, tyrant, hypocrite, greed-head, and spin-doctor."

As for the other words, "anarchist" is defined in my dictionary as someone who believes in "the theory or doctrine that all forms of government are oppressive and undesirable and should be abolished." I think that sums up Rossetto's views pretty well. So, I believe, does the word "elitist," which as you well know is hardly a dirty word among the Digerati. As Wired Contributing Editor Stewart Brand once famously said, "I think elites basically drive civilization," and Wired media kits clearly state their market is nothing less than "the most powerful people on the planet."

My article does use the words "relentlessly" and "exploits" to describe how Rossetto plays to "the arrested emotional development and juvenile language of the emerging digital culture." I think this would be obvious from a cursory reading of even one issue of Wired. I don't use the phrase "idea-snitch" though I do repeat what Rossetto told me, that his ideas come from a wide variety of sources, from McLuhan to Buckminster Fuller to Kevin Kelly to, by your own account, John Perry Barlow. I don't use the word "nihilist" to describe Rossetto, though I do use "zealot" in one instance, as follows:

In one scene, Rossetto tells me that he neither has religious inclinations nor is he an atheist. He says he's "gone beyond" all questions about religion. My story goes on to say, "Rossetto remind me of religious zealots (which, of course, drives them crazy). If you debate an anarchist long enough, you'll drill down to a core-belief system that explains why, for example, Rossetto morally equates politicians with bank robbers. Anarchists generally start with the conviction that they own their bodies and possessions, and nobody has a right to take them away; that every action should be voluntary, not coerced. Therefore, taxation is theft. That's not an argument; it's a system of beliefs based on a moral precept. An anarchist like Rossetto can't prove his faith anymore than a Jehovah's Witness who pounds on your door can. But he shows just as much zeal to win converts and lead us to the promised land."

I don't call Rossetto a "sexist," but I could see how one might come to that conclusion after hearing him explain that there are so few women among the Digerati because "women are biologically different than men," by which he means they are genetically predisposed to be "more social; they prefer to spend their time interacting with others rather than solitary quests." It's not because "they have been disadvantaged in some way and haven't had a chance to make it into this field," he says. Whatever outrage existed in my piece over those comments was not expressed by me, but by his partner Jane Metcalfe, who argued precisely the opposite point of view to me during a phone interview. When I read her Rossetto's quotes, she said, "Oh, God!"

Nowhere in the piece do I call Rossetto "a spoiled adolescent," though near the end of my piece I do say he "seems to have seems to have retreated into his familiar role as the kid who runs outside as the darkening clouds approach, spreading his arms wide, feeling the wind whip across his body and roaring to the world that some major shit is going down. `You know the storm's going to radically change the landscape,' he says excitedly, `but you don't know how.'"

I don't call Rossetto a "liar" or accuse him of lying, but I do quote Mike Godwin saying that Godwin was "lied to more in two days on the set of Netizen TV ... " Godwin declined to elaborate during an interview with me on this remark, which he said he'd posted on The Well. This was just one of many instances that I wished Rossetto had agreed to be interviewed so I could get his side of the story.

Which brings me to my final point about why the exchange we're conducting is important, and why my replies have been so lengthy and detailed. Responding to such charges, though they do consume a great deal of one's time and energy, seem to me a healthy antidote to a widespread form of cynicism in cyberspace, which your emails are a perfect example of. Because we are all disembodied in this world, perhaps there is an inclination to believe that ideas don't have consequences, that we're all "infobodies," to use your curious term, not flesh-and-blood human beings. This can lead to a lack of accountability, a sloppiness, a sense that you can make something true just by saying it's so.

For example, you say that you're upset about the decline of "ordinary decency" and you talk about your lofty principles that "extend their tap-roots as deep as Jesus or Lao-Tzu." But then what you do, in the very same email, is hurl the kind of unsupported accusations that would make Joseph McCarthy blush -- calling my piece a "propaganda campaign" like the Moral Majority's and alleging that "treat(ing) people like shit in print÷appears to be your primary stock in trade."

Which raises the following question: Why are criticisms of the Wired crowd always taken so personally? Why do they so often respond to critics, as you have done with me, in such a personal manner? The theory advanced in my article, which this email exchange vividly supports, is this: When the Wired world's orthodoxy of belief is questioned, the first impulse is not to engage in rational debate, but to brand the dissenter a heretic, a dangerous threat, someone with mysteriously evil motives, someone who should be shunned or blackballed at any cost -- apparently, in your case, at the expense even of your own principles. How strange and how sad.

How else to explain Stewart Brand's twisted implication, which to my knowledge has yet to recanted or explained, that Upside and I would be responsible for the next Mark David Chapman? And how else to explain your inability to view this exchange as a simple disagreement, from which rich and enlightening discussions could ensue?

The truth, John Perry, is there's no enemy out there waiting to "revile, jail, or even kill" you or anybody else for their beliefs. It's just us out here, a bunch of ordinary people trying to make their way through a world that's changing at a dizzying pace. This exploration can be exciting, confusing, or troubling, but I think it would be helped tremendously by bringing some good faith, encouraging a free exchange of ideas and constructing tents large enough to include everyone.

That would mean including people who may not agree with you that "the universe is working perfectly," especially if they happen to have found themselves on the wrong end of the Darwinian implications of that idea, which "embraces the beastliness of life," to borrow your phrase, with a disturbing coldness.

Ultimately, attempting to punish and exclude people like me based on my opinions won't work, anyway. The biggest effect would be to marginalize you. If you are indeed "propelled by optimism," as you say, I invite you to take the constructive step of clearly acknowledging a simple fact that could quickly bring these discussions to a higher level: That there's no hidden agenda here and no ulterior motives.

That you and I simply disagree.

Sincerely,

Paul Keegan



From: Richard Saul Wurman
To: J.P. Barlow

ELEGANT/HUMAN/CLEAR/USEFUL BACK & FORTH DISCOURSE THOUGHT PREVOKING FOR ME


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