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A Declaration of The Independence of Cyberspace

June 10, 2011

This is a little half-sheet booklet I put together for the SF Anarchist Bookfair on a lark.  We ended up passing out over 200 copies and being fairly well received.

Cribbing a tad from Cee Lo, I got the idea when John Perry Barlow’s powerful preamble to the 1996 Declaration recently wandered into my head.

Yesterday, that great invertebrate in the White House signed into the law the Telecom “Reform” Act of 1996, while Tipper Gore took digital photographs of the proceedings to be included in a book called “24 Hours in Cyberspace.”

I had also been asked to participate in the creation of this book by writing something appropriate to the moment. Given the atrocity that this legislation would seek to inflict on the Net, I decided it was as good a time as any to dump some tea in the virtual harbor.

After all, the Telecom “Reform” Act, passed in the Senate with only 5 dissenting votes, makes it unlawful, and punishable by a $250,000 to say “shit” online. Or, for that matter, to say any of the other 7 dirty words prohibited in broadcast media. Or to discuss abortion openly. Or to talk about any bodily function in any but the most clinical terms.

It attempts to place more restrictive constraints on the conversation in Cyberspace than presently exist in the Senate cafeteria, where I have dined and heard colorful indecencies spoken by United States senators on every occasion I did.

This bill was enacted upon us by people who haven’t the slightest idea who we are or where our conversation is being conducted. It is, as my good friend and Wired Editor Louis Rossetto put it, as though “the illiterate could tell you what to read.”

Well, fuck them.

Indeed.  Would that those words haven’t continued ringing true with every new attempt they’ve made since.

As the internet’s boundaries have expanded a lot of the militant geek culture that was so noticeable at its inception has gotten drowned out by more aspirational conformity and haughty moderatism.  It can be painful reading the flurry of liberal technocrats monopolizing sites like reddit these days that claim to be geeks, yet recoil in horror at things as basic as the struggle to abolish all intellectual property.  But a few more bourgeois idiots shouldn’t drive us to the mistake of despair.  We are anything but in remission.

Let us never forget that this is a long fight, with deep roots and aspirations, not a disparate set of struggles and flashpoints.

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