Guiding the Perplexed
The libertarian politics of "Wired" during its pace-setting first five years
of under the direction of its founders was as integral to its presentation
as its whack use of color and its insistence that what was geek, was chic.
Whatever "Wired" turns into under its new ownership by Advance Publications,
it will be remembered for what it was in this earlier epoch --- good and bad
but never ugly.
Most readers don't pay much conscious attention to the politics of a
magazine, unless they are reading it explicitly for its politics, as with
"The Nation" or "The Washington Times." But think of how "The Playboy
Philosophy" was both implicit and explicit: while never fully fleshed out
all in one place, it was enumerated all the time and all over the place in
"Playboy". The tone and content of the magazine made its political
philosophy apparent. The message of (1) enjoy the sybaritic cosmopolitan
cultivated good life, particularly as expressed in suave things to buy (2)
be sex-positive and pro civil-liberties (3) be daring but not mean or
intolerant, rippled through the magazine both directly (in the advice of the
Playboy Advisor) and indirectly (in the choice of articles printed, people
profiled, writers published). Because "Playboy" was such a saucy good read,
while still being fun to look at, and was slightly more culturally
avant-garde than its readers, but not so much as to be inaccessible, its
readers went along for the ride with its philosophy, whether consciously or
not. So it was with "Wired," with its downtown/global aesthetic, it's I'm-so-cool-I-can't-stand-myself appeal, perfuming the air and seducing its
readers with its philosophy of libertarianism.
"Wired"'s packaging of its libertarian mix (so compelling, so maddening)
consisted of fine old-school I.F. Stone-ish government muckraking, classic
ACLU-type outrage, reports of infringements abroad on what would be Bill of
Rights issues if those countries has such a thing, and, more insidious,
general-purpose free-market/privatize-it-all rantings. As an old hippie with
artistic pretensions, I too was seduced by the magazine (yes the government
is capable of supremely bad things; yes wonderfully artful and original
combos of text and image are only to be wallowed in). It took me awhile to
realize how tunneled the vision of all digital culture "Wired" was selling.
'selfish' tech culture
Short excerpt from the Introduction in
USA Today 4/11/00
The most virulent form of philosophical
technolibertarianism is a kind of scary, psychologically brittle, prepolitical
autism. It bespeaks a lack of human connection and a discomfort with the core of
what many of us consider it means to be human. It's an inability to reconcile
the demands of being individual with the demands of participating in society,
which coincides beautifully with a preference for, and glorification of, being
the solo commander of one's computer in lieu of any other economically viable
behavior. Computers are so much more rule-based, controllable, fixable, and
comprehensible than any human will ever be.
here to read the article
Cats and Their Dead Rats
Four in SV, the Sunday magazine of the San Jose Mercury News
ONE DULCET spring afternoon in the late 1980s, I was out for a drive on a first date with a guy much enmeshed in Silicon Valley (house: one of those scarily
overpriced-by- the-standards-of-the-rest-of-the- world bungalows in Palo Alto; friends: folks who had really made it big there then). As people do when they are trying to display who they are and where they came from to a potential Love Thing, I talked to him about what it was like to have lived in Manhattan before the stock market crash of 1987 and how one day, at rush hour, I saw a young black man, looking clearly country and not at all like a hardened urban dweller, sitting in front of the McGraw-Hill building, with a sign that read, ‘‘I need money to go home to North Carolina to get some food.’’ I was telling Mr. Possible about the midtown beggar because he represented to me how hard and how heartless life had been during the years of my captivity in New York. Yet all the sleek accomplished male who was driving us both in a BMW along Skyline Boulevard had to say was, ‘‘a long way to go for groceries, don’t you think?’’
here to read the rest
Bionomics in your daily life:
From Chapter Two, excerpted on the WNYC Reading Room website.
one evening in mid-1993, I was having dinner with a
friend, Dan Lynch, at San Francisco's Embarcadero Center.
Created in the 1960s to be the Rockefeller Center of the
West, the Embarcadero Center is a nouveau prestigious
white-collar address close to the Financial District (the
City's equivalent to Wall Street/midtown Manhattan) and to
the wharves, San Francisco's ancestral source of commerce.
The happy background thrum of knowledge-worker money
aside, the setting for our meal was fitting because
Embarcadero Center's particular form of celebratory
Christmas decoration every year-outlining the buildings
with electronic lighting devices-makes them look from
across the Bay in Berkeley like CAD/CAM schematics for
here to read the rest
how did this happen?
from Chapter 5 appearing in Boss/The
Australian Financial Review (8/14/00) and The
While it’s obvious,
it’s worth restating that, however unwittingly and unconsciously, we all do
participate in the culture of our own times, calling down ideas that are
floating in the troposphere. Today’s high-tech world came of age,
post-Watergate and post-Vietnam, with all the anti-government cynicism those
cultural markers telegraph. Anti-government attitudes revved up even more in the
anti-government, anti-regulatory Reagan decade of the eighties.
here to read the rest
Back to Top