Krystian Woznicki on Tue, 23 Apr 2002 09:46:01 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Roger Clarke: Personal Notes on Computers,Freedom & Privacy Conf.

 > Closing Speech
 > Computers, Freedom and Privacy 12
 > San Francisco, April 19, 2002
 > by Bruce Sterling
 >      Hello.  The last time I saw you lot was in my home
 > town four years ago: CFP in Austin, 1998.  I also closed
 > that conference: I closed it by inviting everybody over to
 > my house for free beer.  If you weren't in Austin in 1998,
 > too bad for you.  You should have seen that user response.
 > Man, they came out of their seats in a wave!
 >      I won't pretend to match that performance here. My
 > house is half a continent away, and besides, in 1998, that
 > was a bubbly, sparkly, cheap-champagne kind of CFP.
 > Whereas this is a sober, spooky, post-9/11 CFP, with grave
 > political responsibilities.  When you start drinking
 > heavily under those conditions, the next stop is the Betty
 > Ford Clinic.
 >      You may well wonder what I've been doing in the past
 > four years, after congratulating CFP people on their
 > stellar defense of electronic free expression.  Well, I've
 > been expressing myself freely by electronic means, that's
 > what.  It's kind of the point there.  That's the game
 > plan, that's the victory condition.  So, in 2002, I've
 > got, like, an active Internet mailing list, and a couple
 > or three vanity websites, and I'm conducting a local
 > writers' workshop with some Internet aid, and I'm involved
 > in diffuse, chatty, epistolary relationships with authors
 > on other continents.  I've got a blog -- a weblog, and how
 > could I not? -- on  It's on a wide
 > range of topics -- an *alarmingly* wide range of topics.
 >     And of course, being a novelist, I've published some
 > novels in the past four years.  So, if you go to the
 > little bookstore there outside the hall, where they are
 > selling books by CFP attendees and such.... Well, mine are
 > the *fiction* books, which have *attractive covers.*  The
 > books that are actually *fun to read.*
 >      If I were to ship you all the free expression I've
 > punched up on my quivering keyboard in the past four
 > years, I could bury you all alive.  But the final speech
 > at an event like this can't be too short.  You've been
 > through a lot here.  I have pity.  I have a warm sense of
 > human solidarity for your info-burnout, and your glazed
 > eyes, and your myopia, and your carpal tunnel.  After 12
 > years together, we should know one another well enough.
 > We should be frank and confiding now.  We should be crying
 > on each other's shoulders here.  We should be
 > commiserating, and chucking each other's chins.
 >      So let me tell you all about my email.  You know, back
 > in 1990, at CFP One, I had a freshly minted Internet
 > address.  I used to get about five messages off the
 > Internet, every day.  They were all from guys with
 > engineering degrees.  Guys like Dave Farber.
 >      But the last time I took my daily look at my daily
 > email, which was just before I got on the plane to San
 > Francisco, I had 44 pieces of email. A very common ration
 > of email for me, 12 years after 1990.  And what were those
 > 44 emails?
 >       They were six pieces of spam from Korea.
 >       Five pieces of spam from mainland China.
 >       One spam from Hong Kong.
 >       Two porn spams.
 >       One marketing spam.
 >       One job spam.
 >       One music rave spam.
 >       One toner cartridge spam.
 >       One inexplicable message with a missing attachment.
 >       One message bounce.
 >       Two items related to my business as an author.
 >       Fifteen messages from various useful and entertaining
 > mailing lists.
 >       Four messages relating to a list I run myself.
 >       One weekly digest from a news website run by Indians.
 >       One issue of the "Daily Corruption," from the NGO,
 > Transparency International.
 >       And, finally, one pleasant personal message from a
 > good friend.
 >       Oddly, I got no viruses that day.  I get five or six
 > viruses a week.  In 1990, there were fewer than 500
 > viruses.  By 2000, they numbered about 50,000.
 >      So, my email is a decidedly mixed blessing.  I find
 > that I'm perfectly happy without it.  I haven't read my
 > email all week.  I feel nothing but relief.  You see, at
 > CFP One in 1990, I'd already been a published writer for
 > 12 years.  I wrote my first two novels on manual
 > typewriters.  I still own my manual typewriter -- an
 > Olympia B-12.  I was tempted to bring it here and sit in
 > on the sessions with the thing on my lap.
 >      I'm sure I would have received many awestruck
 > compliments.  From an engineering perspective, an Olympia
 > manual is a far, far better-crafted machine than any
 > laptop ever made.  You can drop one to the floor from
 > waist height and it will rebound undamaged.  However, I
 > didn't have a ribbon for my manual typewriter.
 > Unsurprisingly.
 >       Still, the thought of not reading email was so
 > liberating that I decided not to bring a computer to
 > "Computers, Freedom and Privacy."  Nor did I bring a
 > handheld.  Not even a lowly cellphone.  I know this goes
 > against the grain of this event.  That was my point.  I
 > knew that I had to write the final speech here.  I decided
 > to do it with -- *a fountain pen.*  Yes!  It was a
 > Waterman "Phileas" Jules Verne memorial fountain pen, for
 > you hardware freaks in the audience.
 >      I'm not a fanatic about my abstinence.  I'm still
 > wearing my digital wristwatch.  Kind of a brainy little
 > wristwatch.  It has the storage capacity for 30 names and
 > addresses.  Of course, I had to replace its dead battery
 > last month, so all those names and addresses instantly
 > vaporized.  I haven't gotten around to the cruelly
 > laborious work of replacing them.  But -- technically
 > speaking -- I've got a computer strapped to my wrist.
 >      So, I went to my hotel room here.  Very nice,
 > perfectly acceptable.  It has a bedside digital clock that
 > was never reset for daylight savings time.  There's even
 > digital media on the hotel TV.   Did anyone else notice
 > Channel 19?  It's supposed to be showing a promotional DVD
 > for San Francisco tourist sites.  But it's a scratched
 > DVD.  So there has been a scratched record, repeating the
 > same 5 to 7 seconds of video, around the clock, in this
 > hotel, all week.  DVDs really suck.  When they
 > malfunction, the visual damage on the screen is just awe-
 > inspiring.  Why several hundred computer experts at CFP
 > never complained to hotel management about this stuck DVD,
 > that is beyond me.  I mean, it is a commercial DVD, so
 > maybe they were afraid of being prosecuted under the
 > Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  But come on!  How long
 > has this thing been malfing?  Maybe it's been screwed-up
 >      Having no laptop, I was spared a further moment of
 > distress when the hotel security guys freaked out over the
 > number of laptops at this event.  There are laptops just
 > lying in careless heaps, apparently, like stale bread
 > slices abandoned to thieving pigeons.  At every event we
 > get that customary CFP soundtrack: that dry rattle of
 > keyboards in the audience, a sound like a flock of hens
 > pecking corn.
 >      I'm not surprised that CFP people would be so reliant
 > on these devices.  Obviously they are of dubious
 > usefulness if you are genuinely interested in what the
 > speakers are saying.  But at CFP, laptops are like peace
 > tokens or protective armor.  At CFP One, twelve years ago,
 > computers were the one topic that everyone could talk
 > about.  Those were the electronic frontier days, when the
 > woods were full of owlhoots, and Comancheros, and
 > guntoting sheriffs.  "So, Sheriff, what kinda box you
 > packing there?" "Why, it's 256K, son!"  Wow!  And if you
 > asked nicely, you could even get the banditos to take you
 > up to their crash room and show you a Redbox!  "Look at
 > this!  I saved a dollar-seventy-five on long-distance
 > phone calls, and I only had to commit three state and
 > federal felonies!"  Boy, those were the days, weren't
 > they?  They were good people, but they still measured in
 > kilobytes.
 >     So I figured that, armed with my fountain pen, I'd be
 > able to offer you guys some bracing historical
 > perspective.  I might point out that some extremely fine
 > speeches have been written, on the road, with handheld
 > writing implements.  Like the Gettysburg Address, for
 > instance.  Famously written on a scrap piece of paper --
 > and a good thing, too, because there isn't any writing
 > paper in my hotel room.  Not even an envelope.  Not a
 > hotel postcard.  There's a Gideon Bible with a few blank
 > pages in it, but although I like to cite Abraham Lincoln,
 > I'd feel a little funny about trying to out-compose God.
 >      Besides, after I bought this cheap, one-dollar
 > notebook at the neighborhood Japanese grocery, I found out
 > that my pen couldn't websurf to Google.  So I couldn't
 > find out all the particulars about how Abe Lincoln wrote
 > that speech.  I'm sure that you wireless 802.11 Pringles-
 > can characters can find that out right now, though.
 > 'Lincoln,' 'Gettysburg,' 'scrap paper,' that ought to
 > keyword it.  So, you know, just email among yourselves.
 >      I've got bigger fish to fry here than Abraham Lincoln.
 > Let me mention something rather fishy that I've noticed at
 > this CFP.  Since the beginning, people at CFP have worn a
 > lot of hats.  They never have just one job.  CFP is always
 > about the guy who's a Supreme Court law clerk, and a Linux
 > installer, and a Greek History major.  CFP people tend to
 > play both sides of every possible fence.  They had to.
 > There weren't any fences.  It was all frontier.
 >      At CFP, it's like the plot of every Hollywood Western
 > you ever saw.  First, they shove the hobbyists off the
 > tribal lands.  They bring in the railroad and the
 > telegraph.  The schoolmarm and the newspaper man show up.
 > Somebody robbed the stagecoach, and every year they bring
 > in more lawyers in those derby hats, and finally
 > STATEHOOD!  Hallelujah!
 >      Well, this was the CFP where people started sidling
 > over and telling me about their tie-ins with security and
 > intelligence.  "Well, Bruce, I don't exactly approve of
 > the Attorney General's rash actions, but I am on this, uh,
 > telecommunications security policy network thinktank...."
 > And I heard about Richard Clarke, the cyber-security czar.
 > When exactly did it become the custom to refer to this guy
 > as "Dick" Clarke?  Is he the host of "American Bandstand"?
 > Is "Dick" that swell a guy?  He sure seems to be making a
 > lot of friends.
 >      I'm rather unsurprised to see CFP people drifting in
 > this direction because, really, who the hell else is there
 > to do it?  Every network activist does seem to take on a
 > mild flavor of spy, after a while.  It's pretty well
 > beyond a mild flavor at CFP 12.  I would have to describe
 > this as the chile pequeno flavor of spy.
 >      Even the Indymedia guys...  I mean, like, even the
 > hairiest Indymedia guys, with tatts and piercings and
 > Circle-A sweatshirts...  When you really look at their
 > cool, alternative set-up, aren't they kinda running this
 > vast, independent, global, surveillance and tattletale
 > machine?
 >      I'm clicking on the ol' Indymedia site there, and it's
 > kind of hard to miss, isn't it?  "Here's the latest
 > RealPlayer videos of the cops in Genoa beating the crap
 > out of us...  It's part of a 30-part series...  Lots of
 > digital photos here, every speech, every spray of
 > peppergas..."  Big Brother, c'est moi!
 >     It saddens me that most Americans, Joe Sixpack, Jane
 > Winecooler, they still watch that capitalist slave media.
 > They miss out on the bracing spectacle of European
 > peaceniks sleeping on bulldozed rubble in Jerusalem.  The
 > only hacktivist that American TV consumers know is the
 > domesticated, mediatized, corporate sell-out, G-rated
 > version of a hacktivist.
 >      And that would be -- Steven the Dell Dude.  "Dude,
 > you're getting a Dell."  This guy has become the public
 > face of the computer consumer.  Steven has got the facade
 > of being a knowledgeable computer user... but he certainly
 > never says anything challenging or complicated.  For
 > instance, he never tells you how to get the lingering
 > venereal curse of a Microsoft Outlook virus out of your
 > Dell.
 >      Ladies and gentlemen, as you well know, I am the least
 > judgmental of men.  But I have to confess that the Dell
 > Dude is beginning to creep me out.
 >      Especially in the most recent Dell TV ad campaign.
 > That's the one where Steve is in the fancy car with his
 > girlfriend, that wardriving 802.11 phreak, or whatever she
 > is.  In this ad, we see Steve's innate sneaky dishonesty
 > clearly asserting itself.
 >      "Steven... isn't this your father's car?"
 >       But Steven the Dell Dude is trying to deceive his
 > nubile girlfriend into granting him some sexual favors,
 > who he replies "Uh.... No?"
 >      To hell with Dad's convertible!  What is Steven doing
 > with his *Dell*?  That's the operative question here.
 > That mischievous look on his mug, that augurs very poorly.
 >       "Steven... isn't that *Mr Eisner's movie* on your
 > Dell?"  "Uh...  No?"
 >        Steven... isn't your hard disk crammed with other
 > people's MP3s?  Oh yeah!  You bet it is!  And is our
 > Steven an academic musicologist?  Are those the complete
 > road bootlegs of Michael Tilson Thomas's classical
 > performances in there?  I find myself doubting that.
 >       Who wants to bet that what Steven has in his Dell are
 > the exact items that will make his girlfriend beam on him
 > approvingly?  Would that be vi and emacs?  RedHat Linux?
 > Stochastic analysis programs for Yugoslavian war crimes?
 > Why no!
 >      Steven has mysteriously acquired the commercial
 > products of Britney Spears, Pink, the Backstreet Boys and
 > NSync... the very items his girlfriend no longer has to
 > buy from Wherehouse Music!  Now she can have them from
 > Steven for -- let's be charitable here -- for a hug.
 >      Is Steven, our Dell Dude expert, going to buy himself
 > an audio set of ProTools, so that he can create and
 > distribute his own, original, digital music?  Uh... No?
 > Steve could also mow enough lawns so that he could buy his
 > dad's convertible.  But why would he?
 >       What's the upshot here?  One would idealistically
 > hope for a vast Internet ocean of cool free music created
 > by the Stevens of the world.  I live in a town crowded
 > with Stevens, many of them the children of Dell employees.
 > They're cool guys fresh out of high school, guys who love
 > music so much that they're sacrificing every hope of a
 > bourgeois life, waiting tables and hoping they can be Kurt
 > Cobain.  Kurt at least could sell his records and buy
 > himself some heroin.  But these poor guys live in 2002,
 > not 1990.
 >      So they have to make their music in this shell-torn
 > commercial crossfire!  This culture war, where crazed
 > monolith behemoths struggle to cut off each other's market
 > oxygen!  You innocently stick some legitimately purchased
 > music CD into your Macintosh, and the evil thing blows up
 > your RAM BIOS!  It's a suicide-bomber CD, disguised as
 > Celine Dion!  There's this anguished invisible scream from
 > the whirring guts of your Ono-Sendai Cyberspace Seven, as
 > the Black Ice takes hold of your system!  Oh my God!  It's
 > a hellish security nightmare!
 >      But it could be worse!  You could be one of those
 > trusting suckers who innocently bought a federally-backed
 > digital HDTV.  Too bad there's no product for it.  It's a
 > giant *television* that's gonna die like the Clipper Chip.
 > And for the same reason... because corporations and
 > content owners won't go there.
 >      It's the Wintel Gates OS versus Hollywood and the
 > music industry, and as elephants fight, the grass is
 > trampled.  This is one of those *new* kinds of war, where
 > the soldiers are perfectly safe and the *consumers* supply
 > all the casualties.  The hallowed halls of Best Buy and
 > Circuit City are strewn with broken glass and broken
 > promises.... The supposed explosion of digital creativity
 > on a million websites and a thousand channels... Well,
 > come 2002, it boils down to 95% market share by a single
 > ruthless feudal empire!  And you wonder where your
 > excitement's gone?  A thing like Linux...  that isn't a
 > competitive free-market innovation, that thing is like a
 > slave revolt.
 >      But it gets weirder.  The public interest in public-
 > domain intellectual property freezes dead with the humble
 > birth of a cartoon mouse on a tabletop in Kansas City. The
 > Mouse is flash-frozen in legal ice.  He's unrotting.  He's
 > undying.  He's cryogenically preserved....  In ancient
 > Rome, folks thought it was pretty decadent when the
 > Emperor Caligula made his horse into a Senator.  But in
 > the modern US Senate, there's a Senator who's a cartoon
 > mouse!
 >       I have to say I felt deeply moved when Mr. Eisner of
 > Disney-ABC complained that the rampant digital piracy of
 > his products was debasing the morals of the American
 > population.  The gentleman has a point.  The situation as
 > it stands only allows behavior that is squalid, and
 > unworthy of a free people.  It *is* corrupting.  It's
 > devious.  It's disingenuous and cynical.  What really
 > bothered me was Mr. Eisner's obvious and growing anxiety
 > to punish the public at large for the failure of his own
 > political tools.
 >      If Mickey's old enough to be preserved in Jurassic
 > amber, then how come we human beings, who are still alive,
 > are so unworthy of Mr. Eisner's creative services?  Maybe
 > we're no longer a 1920s America, but come on, Mr. Eisner
 > is certainly no Walt Disney.  It's like that weird tantrum
 > from Microsoft, when they swore they'd *stop producing*
 > Windows if the mere Justice Department didn't stop nagging
 > them.
 >      These people are supposed to be our captains of
 > industry.  How on earth did it come to this?  It's a
 > corporate lockout policy, where the entire American
 > population is pitched outside the factory gates of
 > Hollywood and Redmond.  Our wealthy and powerful moguls
 > are fed up with the behavior of the voters!  They're
 > anxious to teach us a lesson.
 >      "Where do you want to go today, Mr. and Mrs. America?"
 > "Hey, I want to cruise in Steve the Dell Dude's borrowed
 > convertible, playing borrowed MP3s!"  "But no no NO,
 > that's not what we meant!  We meant, where do you want to
 > go today, to GIVE US SOME MONEY."
 >      Since I'm an artist who spends a lot of my time
 > dangerously flirting with digital media, I suppose I ought
 > to say something tiresome and obligatory about the growing
 > likelihood of my starving to death.  But since so many of
 > you guys are lawyers, let me put this in a more
 > complicated way. When "creative acts are not
 > incentivized," there are some pecular and painful
 > consequences on the structure of media.
 >     Case in point.  I can see a thoroughly corrupt popular
 > media system in my own neighborhood. No, it's not FOX
 > News.  It is the local Indian grocery, which is an
 > absolute, decadent, Mom 'n' Pop hotbed of street-level
 > media piracy.
 >     Here we have a fine example of a movie production
 > system in which almost every sin that Mr. Eisner thinks is
 > terrible happened decades ago.  In Bombay, movies somehow
 > do get made.  Sometimes they are even made relatively
 > honestly.  But quite often, the finances for these movies
 > are supplied by swinging, with-it, murderously violent
 > Bollywood gangsters.  They are Muslim minority gangsters,
 > actually.  They spend a lot of their time offshore in the
 > Gulf States, especially Dubai, where they are intimately
 > involved in the money-laundering systems that were so
 > intensely useful to Al Qaeda.  Really, you guys with the
 > wireless laptops out there, you could look that up.  You
 > could Google it.  'Bollywood,' 'mafia,' 'Dubai,' give that
 > a try.
 >      Bollywood itself even makes movies about this.  Like
 > the recent release "Company," directed by Ramgopal Varma.
 > That Varma guy is a rather gifted movie director.  I'd
 > love to see what he could do with the budget of Disney or
 > DreamWorks, but I hardly see how he'll ever get the
 > chance.  Mr. Varma's talent and dedication are beside the
 > point, because his production system is corrupt and
 > dysfunctional.  I have a tender conscience.  When I watch
 > Bollywood cinema, my natural feelings of enjoyment are
 > muddied with guilt and dread.  It's spoiling my joy as a
 > patron of the Bollywood arts.
 >     Indulge me for a minute here.  Let me, as a working
 > American artist, make my disquiet more fully known to you.
 > Let's take, for instance, the compelling topic of my
 > favorite Bollywood actress, Kajol Devgan.  And who is
 > that?
 >     You see, India boasts about 500 million women.  You
 > techies in the audience: imagine that you do this
 > stochastic winnowing of this huge database of women, with
 > maybe some Bayesian analysis.  You find the cutest and
 > most endearing one.  That would be Kajol.  She's the star
 > of numerous Bollywood blockbuster superhits.
 >     I don't believe that a single dime I've ever spent on
 > Bollywood vehicles -- and they cost about a dime, because
 > they're pirated -- has ever reached the mehndi-patterned
 > mitts of Kajol Devgan.  I feel genuinely offended by this.
 > Really, I do.  Because of a fundamentally dishonest, badly
 > maintained, commercial media system, against my own will,
 > I have been coopted into a conspiracy to exploit this
 > woman and harm her interests.  Now, if this were Fox, or
 > AOL Time Warner, or ABC Disney, or some other universally
 > loathed and feared corporate arm of American cultural
 > imperialism, really, the urge to rip them off would speak
 > for itself.  I scorn to do such a thing, but I understand
 > the impulse.  But people: I'm am American fan of Bollywood
 > movies who is ripping off artists who live IN BOMBAY!  In
 > Mumbai, where whole families sleep on the pavement!  We're
 > moving into the realm of blood diamonds and sweatshop
 > sports shoes here.  It's unethical.  It's creepy.  I feel
 > soiled by it.
 >     Now, Kajol isn't perishing of a vitamin deficiency.
 > She's a movie star, so unless she's shot by the mafia,
 > she's probably going to live.  But I have to say -- as a
 > fan of a major actress -- this offends my sense of
 > masculine gallantry.  Practically speaking, what am I
 > supposed to do about this?  PayPal?  Should I fly to
 > Mumbai, knock on her mansion door and slip her a nice
 > crisp fifty?  How come I know her, and her art, and her
 > actions, so well -- yet our economic relationship is so
 > crazy? It's bad!
 >      Then I read, in my favorite tell-all Bollywood gossip
 > website, that Kajol's disgruntled chauffeur has looted her
 > house and driven off in her car!  This poor woman must be
 > experiencing some genuine sense of Spenglerian cultural
 > decline!
 >      I'm pulling for you, Kajol, okay?  I get it about the
 > problem.  I'm complaining aloud to informed people who
 > should take a coherent interest.  I hope you're ego-
 > surfing the web.
 >      Now, it's easy to say that India is a crooked country
 > with deep, endemic corruption.  I lived there once, and
 > yes, it definitely is.  You don't need personal, local
 > experience to tell you these things.  You can read them
 > every day in the global headlines from the "Daily
 > Corruption," from Transparency International, the German
 > NGO.  I read that e-publication with great interest.  I
 > recommend it highly.
 >     But!  As a necessary consequence of globalization,
 > Bollywood is finding a growing audience inside the USA.
 > I'm one of them.  Nothing odd about that -- it's like my
 > wife's fondness for Hong Kong costume dramas, or my
 > daughter's ferocious need for anime cartoons.  The
 > question is: as we globalize, is India Westernizing, or is
 > America Indianizing?
 >     Just maybe, you live in a nation of arrogant maharajas,
 > sinister influence peddlers, dubious elections and corrupt
 > accountants.  With big software industries, and alarming
 > gaps between the privileged and the underclass.  Where
 > multi-generational political dynasties reign over
 > Congress, in a center of government bedevilled by Moslem
 > terrorists.  Is that your country?  Really, pick any two.
 >     So.  After having expressed my partial sympathy for Mr.
 > Eisner's point of view, I'd like to add to your cognitive
 > dissonance by saying some warm and supportive things about
 > the Bush Administration.  Because, like a lot of CFP
 > people, I too have been hanging out in Washington with
 > spooks, lately.  I've been covering the war.  I saw the
 > Pentagon.  I saw Ground Zero.  By my nature,  I'm a
 > whimsical, paradoxical sort of fellow.  Those two sights
 > didn't make me a happier guy.
 >     So:  John Ashcroft.  Yes, I know that Attorney General
 > Ashcroft is our designated Beast of the Apocalypse.  But
 > people: it is one of the oldest rules in politics to
 > distribute rewards yourself and punishments through a
 > subordinate.  Complaining about John Ashcroft is like
 > biting the whip.  John Ashcroft is the lightning rod for
 > American popular discontent.  He's the designated heavy of
 > this Administration.
 >     I get it that Ashcroft, as a bogey, is useful for
 > partisan maneuvers on both sides.  But really, do we at
 > CFP have to get all bent out of shape about this guy?
 > That's like hissing uncontrollably when the melodrama
 > villain parades on stage.  I've got no stomach for it.
 > People with a serious interest in governance shouldn't be
 > reduced to this behavior.  It's sappy.  It's naive.
 >      Let me level with you here.  John Ashcroft didn't have
 > to cover himself with villain's greasepaint just so the
 > likes of Cheney and Condi Rice can look moderate.  He's
 > doing it because he has no genuine political base of his
 > own, because he lost an election to a corpse.  He could
 > have gone home to some trailer park to eat banana chips
 > and watch Bollywood movies.  Instead, he decided to be the
 > heavy Enforcer inside the Beltway, most likely because he
 > was asked by the President, and he thinks it's his duty.
 > He's gonna go to his own grave as this hissable villain
 > figure for the Left, this arrow-riddled scarecrow.... His
 > real problem is that the US Senate, where he used to work
 > and have some dignity, is harassed by vicious anthrax
 > mailers and he, John Ashcroft, can't find them.  Now
 > *that* -- that is a genuine problem.
 >      Now, without particular enthusiasm, let me say a few
 > kindly and supportive words about the Bush Cabinet.  It's
 > true that their behavior often seems secretive, erratic,
 > and peculiar.  It's easy to read sinister overtones into
 > this.
 >      My belief is that there is a central motivation in the
 > Bush Cabinet.  It doesn't get much press play, but this is
 > the enlightening, analytical key to most of the vagaries
 > of their behavior.  The key is that the Bush Cabinet does
 > not want to get killed.
 >      You see, there are marked peculiarities in America's
 > New Kind of War.  It's a war whose center is nowhere and
 > whose circumference is everywhere.  If you are going to
 > wound a superpower in a war without battlefronts, you
 > might as well shoot it in the head.
 >      To attack the military nerve center in a nation's
 > capital shows a distinct taste for decapitation.  Al Qaeda
 > has had enough of killing diplomats and sailors.  The Bush
 > Cabinet expects Al Qaeda to try to kill the American
 > command structure.  In other words, them.  If they were Al
 > Qaeda, that's certainly what they would do:  they would
 > bunker-bust.  If they, the Bush Cabinet, have to take out
 > Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, that's certainly what they
 > will do.  They're redesigning nuclear missiles to bust
 > government headquarters bunkers right now.
 >      This is what the Cheney "undisclosed location"
 > business is all about.  This is what the Cheney "secret
 > government" is all about.  I don't know where all those
 > midranking officials are going, with their toothbrushes
 > and their pyjamas, but I can promise you one thing: it's
 > out of nuclear blast range of downtown Washington DC.
 >     This is what the "Axis of Evil" is about.  Of course
 > they're not actual allies.  North Korea isn't a radical
 > Moslem state.  Iran and Iraq hate each other's guts.  What
 > these nations have in common is nuclear ambitions and the
 > fact that they manufacture Scud missiles in large numbers.
 >     They don't have to imagine a way to destroy Washington
 > and its imperial ruling class.  They can read Donald
 > Rumsfeld's own pronouncements in his "Commission to Assess
 > the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States."  You
 > put the Scud inside a tramp freighter -- probably hiding
 > it under several convenient tons of heroin -- and you park
 > it in international waters.  You launch a nuclear-tipped
 > warhead into Washington.  In the resultant horror and
 > confusion, you act just as surprised as everyone else.
 >      That is the source of the Bush Cabinet's discontent
 > with the Axis of Evil.  They don't want to be killed en
 > masse with surreptitious, cheap, covert, untraceable,
 > weapons of mass destruction.
 >      They're not making a big public deal over this
 > likelihood of Washington DC getting incinerated.  That
 > would definitely put a crimp in tourist visits to the
 > cherry blossoms.  But add up what we've seen in the past
 > year.  Congress subjected to a biowar attack.  The
 > Pentagon blown up.  In India, Moslem carbombers raided the
 > national Parliament and did their level best to kill every
 > lawmaker they could find.
 >     The decapitation scenario is a hard thing to keep a
 > level head about.  Once you've gotten it about this, and
 > internalized it as a likely enemy initiative, it makes
 > everyone else seem quite childish, and very poorly-
 > informed.  The Bush clan are paternalistic, noblesse
 > oblige, right-wing aristocrats with an intelligence
 > background.  They think they know more about global
 > realpolitik than the American public can face.  That's why
 > they treat us like idiots.  They expect us to panic.  They
 > are trying to spare us that.
 >      Here is the proof of their sincerity.  The Bush
 > Administration has a secret, back-up government, in case
 > they get killed.  It's parked outside Washington, with a
 > spare-tire Vice President to run it when and if the
 > President is turned to glassy slag.  Does AOL Time Warner
 > have that?  Or Disney, or Microsoft?  How about you?  Does
 > your law firm have a strategic action plan for what to do
 > when the Supreme Court is turned to ashes?  How about you
 > NGO activists?  Who's the first guy you plan to email when
 > you hear that Washington has had a nuclear, biological, or
 > chemical strike?  *Can* you email them, without routing
 > the traffic through Washington?
 >      The Bush Cabinet isn't afraid about the danger.
 > Rumsfeld is not a jittery guy.  Wolfowitz is a little
 > pocket Bismarck.  Condi Rice is scary.  Colin Powell is a
 > general, and he's the softie of the group.  Bush himself
 > is ticked-off.  He's personally insulted.  He's got a dead
 > cop's badge in his desk drawer and he looks at it every
 > damn day.  Their courage is not the problem here.  The
 > problem is that they consider the rest of us to be
 > children.  Like the Congress, for instance.  The Congress
 > are children.  Today, I noticed that the Congress is
 > getting around to building themselves a backup Congress.
 > Saw it on the news just this morning.
 >      I don't consider myself a child.  I've got my own
 > children.  When I'm at CFP, I tend to be in my journalist
 > mode.  That means I'm in the Danny Pearl contingent.  If
 > Al Qaeda had any idea who I was or what I most enjoyed
 > doing, they'd be eager to cut my head off. I'm a major
 > league Salman Rushdie fan.  You ever read that novel,
 > SATANIC VERSES?  You should go home and read that book
 > right away. That's a much better book than you think.
 >      I can remember, back in the old days, when the cops
 > and prosecuting lawyers at CFP used to warn us about the
 > "Four Horsement of the Infocalypse."  Those would be
 > Terrorists, Mafia, Drug Dealers, and Pornographers.
 > Supposedly, if computer law and order ever failed us,
 > these four guys would be all over the Internet.  Well,
 > here it is, 2002, and Al Qaeda is using Yahoo and hotmail.
 > They're terrorists.  They're mafia.  They grow poppies and
 > sell heroin.  They're Drug Dealer Mafia Terrorists.
 > Obviously there's been a certain amount of industry
 > consolidation here.
 >      So far so good -- except the part we didn't get is
 > that the Taliban are also the cops.  They hang people from
 > lampposts.  They insist on imposing Koranic Sharia law,
 > som that makes them the lawyers to boot!  They're a Lawyer
 > Cop Drug Dealer Terrorist Mafia.
 >      I finally got that figured -- but what's in it for me?
 > That's my question.  Well, I kinda like Bollywood
 > actresses.  I admire and appreciate women. I encourage
 > women to shed those stifling burqa robes and take a public
 > role in public life.  So, I'm probably a pornographer. I'm
 > glad we've got ourselves an order of battle here.  If this
 > is netwar, bring the noise.
 >      Let me tell you what bothers me most.  It's when we're
 > in a war, and the government does childish things.  Pretty
 > soon, this speech of mine will be over.  I'll be going
 > home, to face my 900 pieces of email.  I'll be seeing my
 > abandoned computer, and I'm not going to be falling on it
 > with glad cries of glee, because I have to work there.
 > You know what I'm really missing right now?  I'm missing
 > what everybody here is missing, except maybe the native
 > San Franciscans.
 >     I"m missing my Swiss Army Knife.
 >      What's that about?  They're banning a 3-inch length of
 > edged steel?  That's eyewash.  It's hokum.  It's banal and
 > stupid.  It's got nothing to do with our security.  Nobody
 > is every going to hijack an aircraft with tiny knives,
 > ever again.  They used that stunt up. It's over.  Why am I
 > deprived of a corkscrew and a nailfile?
 >      I can live at CFP without a computer.  Look, the gig
 > is over, I did it.  I had a pretty good time here.  I
 > wrote you a speech.  But your speaker has brushed teeth,
 > combed hair, and ragged, dirty fingernails!  I'm an
 > inkstained wretch because I wrote with a fountain pen, but
 > really, is there any affront more intimate than the tips
 > of your own fingers?  The same must be true of conferences
 > all over America!
 >      Cruise missiles, we got.  Daisy-cutters, we got.  Nail
 > files, we don't have.
 >     Our security people are going nuts over kids' toys.
 > Could we shape up and be a little less juvenile, please?
 >     I'm going home now.  Thanks for listening.  Have a safe
 > flight.  Long live Victorinox.  And long live the Net.

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