1996-02-10 - Black DaveMail: I Promised My Grandfather

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From: rah@shipwright.com (Robert Hettinga)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 69537be3936e50b73de503bd05c11d827b572f42b4d55e8d25a82bd88b6214f9
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UTC Datetime: 1996-02-10 03:39:27 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 10 Feb 1996 11:39:27 +0800

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From: rah@shipwright.com (Robert Hettinga)
Date: Sat, 10 Feb 1996 11:39:27 +0800
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Black DaveMail: I Promised My Grandfather
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Mime-Version: 1.0
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 1996 08:53:06 -0800
To: haeberli@apple.com (Martin Haeberli -- Apple),
        rmiller@telematica.com (Richard Miller), davenetworld@wired.com,
        mquinn@netcom.com, idig@nbn.com (David Biedny),
        rick_lepage@macweek.ziff.com, jlg@be.com (Jean-Louis Gassee),
        alecs@microsoft.com (Alec Saunders),
        combee@techwood.org (Benjamin L. Combee),
        pmcq@utxvms.cc.utexas.edu (Pam McQuesten),
From: dwiner@well.com (DaveNet email)
Subject: I Promised My Grandfather
Sender: owner-davenetworld@wired.com
Precedence: bulk

Amusing Rants from Dave Winer's Desktop
Released on 2/9/96; 8:46:03 AM PST

  I said: "I'm voting against Clinton in November."

  Kyle D. Skrinak, kylesk@nando.net, said: "Perhaps I missed it, but
  may I suggest you declare who you intend to support. Outside of a
  libertarian candidate, I am unfamiliar with which presidential
  candidate would be against this censorship.

  Fair enough. A lot of people asked that question. And Mr. Skrinak
  asked it with respect.

  My answer: I don't know!

  I can say I'm going to vote against Clinton without saying who I'm
  going to vote for. That's my right as a US citizen.

  It's only February. The US presidential election is in November.
  There's lots of time. Between now and November the web will grow by an
  order of magnitude. Try to remember what it looked like in June 1995.
  It was a sleepy backwater then, even though it looked like a boom. We
  still have spring, summer and fall before we have to make a choice.
  Perhaps even Clinton can get my vote. But he's got a bunch of digging
  (and explaining!) to do.

  People have also questioned my use of the term "crime against
  humanity" to describe the attempted censorship of the Internet.
  People say I'm off here, not in direction, but in scale. They ask how
  can you compare this act with the other acts that have been called
  crimes against humanity?

  I have two answers. First, it's a felony to leave the scene of an
  accident, and it's a felony to blow up a Federal courthouse in
  Oklahoma City. Scale has nothing to do with it. If this isn't a crime
  against humanity, who is it a crime against? Do we hold our
  politicians accountable for their actions, especially if they're
  on a global scale? Are just US citizens offended by their attempt to
  shut down free speech on the Internet? No. The mail has been coming in
  from all over the planet. And rightly so. This act has global

  Second, I made a promise to my grandfather to oppose this kind of shit.
  I'm a first-generation US citizen. Both sides of my family left
  Europe, fleeing Hitler, for their lives! I listened to my parents and
  grandparents. I've read about this stuff. How did Hitler start? How
  many people said "It can't happen here!" And how sorry were they
  later, when they couldn't do anything about it but run for their

  Well, it's still early, we *can* do something about it. These ideas
  must meet our resistance. I think it's our obligation, if not to
  humanity, to evolution and peace.

  ***It Can Happen

  Saying it's unconstitutional is like saying it can't happen here.
  You're trusting something that might not be trustworthy.

  A year ago, when the Exon amendment was first discussed, did you think
  that Congress could pass such a bill? It can happen. Did you think that
  Clinton would sign it? It happened. Could the courts go along with it?
  Hmmm. Could people go to jail? What do *you* think?

  The opposition is incredibly well financed and organized.
  According to the EFF they're distributing kits to federal
  prosecutors all over the country, teaching them how to prosecute
  under the new censorship law. They're going to make hay while the sun
  shines. Maybe the law is unconstitutional. Maybe the courts will say
  so. But for now, it's on the books, it's the law of the land. Can you go to
  jail for your opinions in the USA? According to the law -- yes. Some of
  us will go to jail. I think we know that now.

  Hey -- I'm pissed when I get a jury duty notice. Imagine how it would
  feel to get arrested for speaking my mind, for writing DaveNet? How
  would it feel to get convicted and sent to jail? I don't want to find
  out! I like my life. I want to be free. I don't want to be a prisoner!

  I made a promise to my grandfather, but I also made a promise to myself.
  I thought we had cleansed this kind of crap from our society after
  Vietnam. We lost a whole generation on that one. Let's not lose
  another one.

  Yes, it can happen here.

  It can happen anywhere, anytime.

  All it takes is your silence.

  Wake up!

  ***What a day!

  Yesterday was a day of great growth for me. It started at 4AM, writing
  my ode to Rick Smolan, entitled "Holding Hands in Cyberspace". Then
  it turns out I was wildly and unrealistically optimistic. I look at
  Rick's website, there's Al Gore, talking about the fucking
  environment! I want to believe Rick is a good guy, but the evidence
  indicates otherwise. I leave him a voicemail, explaining that our
  thirteen year friendship is in jeopardy. No answer. I feel I've
  misled my readers. So I retract my support for his project. A few hours
  later a blue ribbon shows up on his site. Click on it. Nothing happens.

  Is this good enough? No.

  I think Rick truly has a good heart. He wants to do the right thing, deep
  inside. But he didn't do the right thing.

  I can't support him. Can you have a friend who you can't support? No.

  I said in an email that this is the first time in my life that I didn't
  sell out for friendship. That's where the growth came from.

  In the early evening, I spoke with Howard Rheingold, hlr@well.com.

  He encouraged me to work something out with Rick. His magic words were
  -- "eventually Rick will thank you for doing this." That gets inside
  of me, it resonates.

  Howard is a great writer! I asked him to write something for DaveNet. I
  asked him to write about his day, yesterday -- his 24 Hours --
  something for Rick and others to think about.

  Here's what Howard said.

  ***Howard Rheingold speaks

  I got up this morning and headed for Planet Hollywood, a place I never
  would have stepped foot in otherwise, to do a panel with Paul Saffo and
  Esther Dyson. Illustra got this big to-do together weeks ago, as
  self-promotion leveraged on Rick Smolan's self-promotion.

  I thought Rick was doing a pretty cool thing, bringing people's
  attention to some of the pleasant and beneficial things happening in
  cyberspace. God knows we need as much of that as possible to counter
  the hysteria whipped up by Ralph Reed and buddies. Illustra seems
  like a cool product. Empowers people to publish. And they paid me.

  This morning turned out, through one of those weird accidents that
  history hands you, the day of the Web blackout. I blacked out my main
  page before I headed out this morning.

  The Illustra thing, frankly, was one of the biggest wasted
  opportunities I've ever seen. They did a great job getting a couple
  hundred interesting people together and then put on a boring
  blah-blah for hours.

  Then came the panel. I always take the opportunity to seize the
  subject and wrench it over to how the fuck are we going to look our
  children in the eyes ten years from now when they ask us what we were
  doing while a bunch of tiny-minded puritan fascists shat on
  liberties that Americans have died for. I think some people woke up.
  At least they said so. I hope I gave them something to talk about. I feel
  fine about the bux I took from Illustra to do the gig. And I felt fine
  about helping Illustra promote 24 Hours promote Illustra. Until I
  read my Davemail tonight.

  Rick. Be a journalist. You are the last hope on an ugly day.

  American journalists, with a few exceptions should hang their heads
  in shame. I'm one of the guys who gets the calls for the quotes and
  soundbites. For years. Ever since this Internet stuff started
  heating up. I've done ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, BBC, NHK. I've done German,
  French, Austrian, Italian, Australian TV. I've given the quotes to
  the reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times,
  and a hundred podunk papers. And every goddamn sound bite about
  democracy hits the cutting room floor and is replaced by the same
  idiotic shtick about cyberporn or sexual predators in chat rooms.
  Over and over again. For years.

  I have asked reporters whether they care about the kind of country
  their children grow up in. I literally got down on my knees and begged
  the last CBS crew that came out here. The reporters and field
  producers are sincere. There is some asshole sitting in LA or New York
  whose job it is to kill the stuff that isn't as shallow as a tin pan full
  of cold dogpiss, and substitute some off-the-rack sleaze.

  There is a code of ethics for journalists, and right up there at the top
  is a reminder that the press in a free society has an obligation to
  inform citizens about events that affect our freedom. Well,
  journalism is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of entertainment, and
  these journalists have loaded the shotgun, handed it to their
  enemies, dropped their trousers, bent over, and put the muzzles in
  their own asses. I believe most of the editors and producers who
  failed us so miserably have done it out of cluelessness more than
  malice or conspiracy or craven sucking-up-to-the-owners.

  The most important piece of legislation in the past fifty years took a
  year to work its way through Congress and is now law. A multi-trillion
  dollar industry has been divvied up. Do any of us know who really won
  and who really lost? Does anybody know about any of it except the
  cyberporn stuff? It was a sideshow, a juicy piece of meat to distract
  the watchdogs of our minds, while the real action took place

  I've been writing columns about this since 1994. So has Brock. Wired
  has been on the case. And very few others.

  It isn't just the politicians who deserve our wrath, the craven
  cowards. It's the journalists and their bosses.

  But history handed us this delicious opportunity. After a year of
  failure to get the attention of the New York Times and CNNs of the
  world, Rick Smolan, media lubricator extraordinaire, managed to
  get a lot of attention focused on something happening on the Net that
  *isn't* sinister.

  And now Dave Winer tells us that Rick isn't going to acknowledge the
  Web blackout.

  Rick, it's this simple. You are a journalist. You chose February 8 as
  your day to cover. To ignore the anti-CDA protest that is one of the
  biggest stories on the day you chose to cover months ago is to abrogate
  the right to ever call yourself a journalist again.

  It isn't too late. I know this is a headache you didn't ask for.
  Sometimes history asks people to make a judgement call at a bad time.
  Sometimes people regret the decisions they failed to make. We have an
  opportunity here to use all the attention you have masterfully
  focused on this event to shed some light. You gotta do it.

  Acknowledge the protest.

  ***One more screed

  The following story has been floating around the net, attributed to
  Charles Phillip Whitedog. I don't have an email address for Mr.
  Whitedog. His signature reads "Charles Phillip Whitedog, Ojibway
  and Network Man; Multimission Ground Systems Office (Mission
  Control); Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

  "About 1966 or so, a NASA team doing work for the Apollo moon mission
  took the astronauts near Tuba City where the terrain of the Navajo
  Reservation looks very much like the lunar surface. With all the
  trucks and large vehicles were two large figures that were dressed in
  full Lunar spacesuits.

  "Nearby, a Navajo sheep herder and his son were watching the strange
  creatures walk about, occasionally being tended by personnel. The
  two Navajo people were noticed and approached by the NASA personnel.
  Since the man did not know English, his son asked for him what the
  strange creatures were and the NASA people told them that they are
  just men that are getting ready to go to the moon. The man became very
  excited and asked if he could send a message to the moon with the

  "The NASA personnel thought this was a great idea so they rustled up a
  tape recorder. After the man gave them his message they asked his son
  to translate. His son would not.

  "Later, they tried a few more people on the reservation to translate
  and every person they asked would chuckle and then refuse to

  "Finally, with cash in hand, someone translated the message: 'Watch
  out for these guys, they come to take your land.'"

  ***I felt sorry for him!

  I did eventually talk with Rick, and at 10:30PM I drove to San
  Francisco to get my picture taken by him, and to chat with some of the
  people doing the "24 Hours in Cyberspace" project. Rick had been up
  for 36 hours. You could tell. Look in his eyes. He's barely standing
  up. I felt sorry for him!

  We don't understand each other. Yes, there is a blue ribbon on the 24
  Hours website, <http://www.cyber24.com/>. Cooool -- kind of. But
  it doesn't go anywhere, it's not a link. It's just a picture.

  And in that I think we have the perfect metaphor for Rick's project.

  Smolan could be an online journalist if he wants to be one. By an
  accident of history, he could have been a *great* online journalist.
  In a real sense, the first one. Welcome Rick! I said in "Holding Hands
  in Cyberspace".


  Imagine running CNN on the day of a big plane crash.

  And not covering it. (That sounds like an Alanis Morissette song!)

  You have the co-pilot of the plane on camera.

  And he talks drivel about the global environment.


  Rick was asleep during his 24 Hours.

  But, as Howard says, there's still time.

  For me, I've had to take a stand against a man I admire.

  And I hate that!

  So what?

  Dave Winer

  PS: The most eloquent rant I've seen on this stuff so far. Read it all
  the way thru. Be patient. Now you understand what's really going on.

Webmasters: <http://www.hotwired.com/userland/theblueribbon_489.html>

--- end forwarded text

Robert Hettinga (rah@shipwright.com)
e$, 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"Reality is not optional." --Thomas Sowell
The e$ Home Page: http://thumper.vmeng.com/pub/rah/