The Book Club

Connection Trouble

A “plaintive” “Cassandra”? No, Richard, more a disappointed Eeyore. My last response wasn’t lamenting the end of cyberspace. It was lamenting the failure to connect. What baffles me is your refusal to engage an argument that I have made–any argument, either in this exchange, or from the book. But you won’t. You attack what I “seem” to be saying or what I must “assume.” Why not attack what I say?

For example:

You say my “first problem … is that [I] cannot distinguish between a change and a problem” and then you go on to argue that real-space law will be “carried over to the Net as needed.” But where have I ever said anything different? My argument is against those who say law won’t “be needed” and shouldn’t be used.

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You ask why “should we worry if the ACLU and the Christian right have their gates to filter information” so long as they don’t “impose their will on individuals who do not join their cause.” But it was precisely my point that the PICS architecture enables the imposition on those who do “not join their cause.” So are you agreeing with me? Or disagreeing with me? Or just not hearing me?

You say “Larry seems to think that public and private controls are the same.” Where have I ever said anything like that? Obviously they are both “controls.” Obviously they are differentially dangerous, depending upon the context. What words have I uttered to conflict with these obvious banalities?

You rightfully report my “lament” at the displacement of an embedded First Amendment, and then quote my argument about the increasing power of government to zone cyberspace. But then you chide me that the “painfully obvious answer” to my lament is that these changes won’t come “if that kind of restriction violates the First Amendment.”

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But Richard, look at what I wrote. The section you quote was not talking about the First Amendment–it was talking about the consequences of increasing identification. The point was that this affected the commons, not only, as you said, the gated communities. My argument about the First Amendment comes three paragraphs later, and about filters, not IDs. Whatever protection this (local ordinance) of a First Amendment has against filters, it has “painfully” little protection against IDs.

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And then you close by saying that your view “is that the standard set of legal techniques … carry over well to this new environment” and that “nothing about the Internet, no special brand of cyberspace liberty, changes these fundamental relationships and the problems they pose.” And I’m again just at a loss–what does this have to do with anything I said? Much of my book is about how to translate legal values from real space to cyberspace. So what do you believe you are arguing against?

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In every case, for some reason, I can’t get you to focus on arguments that I actually make, either here or in the book. I say commerce is changing the character of the Net; you say you “don’t get it.” I say it is changing the Net by changing the architecture; you say it won’t affect the commons, only the “gated communities” and “side-by-side” networks. I show three ways in which it is changing the commons, not the private networks; you respond with a string of banalities that have nothing to do with the commons, or my point. You run, but you will not hide. Instead, you say more and more that connects less and less.

I have tried to “sell” a message, it is true. I am grateful to those who have read it. I’m not sure it is right, in ways I hope it is wrong, and in the end, Richard, you might be right: It might “just not add up.” But you’d be a bit more convincing in selling that message if you actually wrote about what I wrote.

It might just make the argument a bit less “diffuse” and “hypothetical.”

Be well.

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