Richard Moore

Dear cj,

I've submitted the following article to an anthology called "Cyberlife"
which is being sponsored by, I believe, EFF (Electronic Frontier

It's somewhat repetitive for this list, as it's about this list, but I
thought you might find it of interest.



                   ADVENTURES OF A CYBER REBEL
               Copyright 1998 by Richard K. Moore

My first life was in the software industry in Silicon Valley.  For
thirty years I participated in each new wave of technology, from
mainframes to minicomputers to desktops, from multiplexors to private
networks to Internet, and from ascii to desktop publishing to
multimedia.  I've done programming, systems design, standards
development, and research.  I started my own company which developed
a commercially successful Eudora-like product for the PC in the mid-
eighties.  I've worked at leading edge companies like Tymshare (which
only old-timers will remember), Xerox PARC, Apple, and Oracle.

When I decided four years ago to start a new life in political
writing and activism, it is only natural that I turned to the
Internet as a medium of communication and publishing.  I'd been using
email in some form or another since the early seventies, and was well
aware of its potential for grass-roots communication and organizing.

My initial plunge into the net was exhilarating.  The scope and
diversity of viewpoints was inspiring; the fervor of the participants
was awesome; and the universe of the net seemed unbounded.  What an
incredible tool, I thought, for political activism and grass-roots

I gravitated toward places on the net where political discussion was
going on and soon encountered my first disillusionments about the
practical realities of net-dialog.  Instead of moving toward
consensus and mutual understanding, I more often encountered people
arguing interminably over minor points.  Instead of logical
discourse, I more often found ad hominem attacks and other classic
examples of sophistry.

If one's goal is argument-as-pastime then the net offers infinite
gratification.  But if one's goal is _achieving_ something through
public discussion, then the net has many pitfalls.  One of the first
pitfalls I experienced was what I call the "unmoderated-list

Unmoderated lists are great if the the participants already share a
great deal of agreement.  If they do, then the immediacy and
transparency of unmoderated mode are wonderful - the experience is
like being at a friendly gathering, only better.  Lots of people can
participate and they can all "hear" one another.

But if the people on an unmoderated list have major disagreements
regarding the topic of the list, then "friendly gathering"
degenerates rapidly into a "pub brawl".   Even if only one or two
frequent-posters are out of synch with the rest of the group, they
can easily stifle discussion and drive people away through endless
long postings and sophistic attacks on every post they disagree with.

Moderated lists too have their problems.  Subscribers get _somewhat_
frustrated with the delays in their postings, and they get _very_
frustrated when their submissions are rejected.  The line between
"moderation" and "censorship" is a fine one.

With these experiences fresh in my mind, I received one day a posting
from Phil Agre's Red Rock Eater news service: a forward from the
Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF) entitled:

                 Cyberspace and the American Dream:
                A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age

I had an immediate gut reaction to this document, one that has been
re-confirmed by subsequent developments: INTERNET IS VERY UNLIKELY TO
SURVIVE LONG AS AN OPEN FORUM.  This was clear to me from the content
and style of the PFF Magna Carta, and even more from the nature of
its source.

The document opened my eyes to the relationship between Internet and
the mass media, and caused me to contemplate the meaning of
"cyberspace commercialization".  The image that came to my mind is
that Netizens, like American Indians of yesteryear, are the "natives"
of a "virgin territory" that has _tremendous_ potential for economic
development.  And just like in the Old West, when the land developers
come along the natives will be either killed off or else herded onto

Let me clarify what I'm implying by this metaphor.  The Indians did
not believe in land ownership; they saw land as a collective human
resource.  Similarly Netizens don't believe in ownership of
information and distribution channels; they view both as collective
resources available for everyone's creative use.  The economics of
the net are strictly communal.

When homesteaders, farmers, and ranchers moved westward they pushed
the Indians out -- and it couldn't have happened any other way.
Fences and property ownership are simply incompatible with the
Indian's way of life; they _cannot_ coexist.  Similarly, when the
mass media industry starts using digital networking to distribute
their products -- and they will -- the economics of the net cannot
remain as they are.  Internet culture and media-industry economics
are as incompatible as Indians and freeways.

To the media industry digital networking is a distribution channel
for valuable products, as are cinema chains and broadcast networks.
And for the net to function effectively as a commercial distribution
system it will be _necessary_ for communal economics to be pushed

Net distribution channels, as well as net-information itself, _must_
be turned into money-valued commodities.  Otherwise the media
industry cannot operate on the net and make the kind of profits they
are accustomed to -- nor could they exercise their traditional
decisive influence over public opinion.

PFF's Magna Carta, hidden within its net-libertarian rhetoric, laid
out for all to see a vision of net commercialization, a vision based
on monopoly ownership of the communications industry.  With monopoly
ownership, such as the three classic US television networks exercised
for decades over television broadcast channels, net traffic can be
monetized, brought under centralized control, and made immensely
profitable.  But in such a scenario Internet culture will be history,
just like the American Buffalo herds.

These ideas have developed considerably since that time, but I
understood enough of the picture even then to realize that the
upcoming Telecom Bill _must_ be evaluated in terms of its likelihood
to enable monopolization of the communications industry, of which
Internet is but a segment.  Newt Gingrich was the point-man pushing
the Telecom Bill through, and it was Newt Gingrich's PFF that wrote
and published the Magna Carta.  It is no "conspiracy theory" to
presume that the same agendas underlay both of those Newt endeavors.

I decided to "do something" about this situation -- to write an essay
that cut through the net-libertarian rhetoric and explained that Newt
was in fact proposing the monopolization of cyberspace -- that's what
his "dynamic competition" and his Telecom Bill boiled down to.  The
resulting essay was titled:

                "Cyberspace Inc and the Robber Baron Age,
                   an analysis of PFF's 'Magna Carta'"

I distributed this as widely as I could around the net, and received
a number of highly supportive responses.  It seemed to me that this
was an issue that netizens could "come together" about, an issue that
might overcome the tendency for eternal bickering over minor points,
an issue that might be amenable to online political organizing.
Perhaps netizens could rise up in effective revolt to save their
virgin land from being paved over and turned into a cyber shopping
mall.  Perhaps.

So I decided to launch an experiment in online activism.  I took the
list of respondents to the Robber Baron article and starting
encouraging discussion among them.  Someone in the group said that
"what we needed" was a Bill of Rights for cyberspace.  I rose to that
challenge and wrote a "Bill of Right in Cyberspace" which generated a
lot of interest.  My informal mailing list was growing every day.

The experiment in net activism seemed to be getting somewhere and I
decided to carry it forward by creating a "Cyber Rights Campaign"
based on the people I had gathered on my mailing list.  I got in
touch with Computer Professionals for Computer (CPSR) and they agreed
to host the •••@••.••• list for use by this campaign.  Our
original FAQ:

             Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
                       FAQ: 15 Feb 95

       The Cyber Rights Campaign is being managed as a Working Group
    of CPSR   (Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, a
    highly respected    public service organization.  CPSR has been
    effective in influencing    Federal legislation re/ the social
    impact of technology.

      One purpose of the Campaign is to educate the global public
    about the   beneficial social/political aspects of the current
    Internet   group-communications model: to make everyone aware
    that preservation of   Internet-style communities should be
    seen as global priority.

      A second purpose of the Rights Campaign is to alert the USA
    and global   communities to the intense telco-funded
    legislative campaign currently   threatening the Internet's
       o In the short term, the Censorship Bill (S.314) would require
        Internet service providers to snoop on and censor all message
        traffic: this would be devastating to current Internet usage
        patterns and a fundamental denial of freedom of speech,
        association, and privacy.

      o In the longer term, Newt Gingrich and the telcos are
        attempting to set up a regulatory framework for a new
        interactive-media infrastructure which would eliminate
        the grass-roots uses of interactive communications, and
        build instead a fully commercialized, 500-channel, mass-media
        marketplace fully as sterile as today's network TV.

The cyber-rights list became a place where constructive discussion
could take place regarding telecommunications policy and the defense
of Internet culture.  I moderated the list so as to keep discussion
on track and to minimize disruptive postings.  I periodically
intervened by summarizing threads and suggesting avenues for further
investigation.  As a newbie moderator I made mistakes, and was
sometimes too heavy-handed, but people were quick to correct me and
the list operated very effectively for many months as a discussion

Momentum was building so well on the list that I turned moderation
over to Andy Oram, who has diligently and admirably moderated the
list ever since.  I wanted to devote my energies to pushing the
activism experiment further.  Instead of just understanding the
situation and protesting the injustice of it all, I wanted us to "do
something" about it.  My initiative received a good response on the
list, and we soon reached the point where a policy consensus was
beginning to emerge, culminating in the following posting:

    Date: Thu, 28 Mar 1996 07:29:53 -0800
    From: •••@••.••• (Richard K. Moore)
    To: •••@••.•••
    Subject: Re: consensus | Regulatory CHALLENGE
    X-Comment:  CPSR Cyber Rights Working Group
    X-Info: For listserv info write to •••@••.••• with message
    X-Message-Id: <•••@••.•••>

    3/28/96, Andy wrote:
    >we have a ground-breaking purpose: to find a consensus statement.

    >Does something like the following draft work better for Martin and
    >Glen and perhaps still carry Richard and others?

      We, the 500 members of the cyber-rights email list, agree
    by consensus   that:

      1.  Email is the communication/cooperation superhighway,
    completely   distinct from the information/entertainment

      2.  Email is the backbone of grassroots online organizing
    and holds   great promise as a democracy-enhancer.

      3.  Email demands a miniscule amount of resources delivered
    at low   priority compared to information/entertainment
    applications.  Any   scheme that bases price on resources
    used and makes entertainment   affordable will render email
    almost free, as it should be.

      4.  If a[n inappropriate] minimum charge per session or per
    transaction    is applied, only email will be [adversely]
    affected and it will be   [felt] as a direct attack by
    government on online democracy.

      Therefore, *if* the government regulates the price of
    internet access,   the regulation must guarantee continued
    [widely affordable] access to    email.

     I support this effort to achieve a consensus statement, and
     appreciate Andy's leadership toward that goal.  I'm willing to
     endorse the above tatement, and wouldn't even add to it -- for
     what it covers, it seems clear, concise and comprehensive.  I
     did suggest a few slight refinements [in brackets] above...

What we were trying to do was identify an objective that might be
politically attainable and which would erect a defensible territory
for Internet culture against the encroachments of commercialization.
Our aim was to establish a "Cyber Rights Consensus" and then as a
group approach other groups on the net and try to build a larger
coalition around that consensus that might actually be able to wield
some political clout, and possibly even achieve its objective.

But at that point all disaster broke loose, and as a consequence the
cyber-rights list has never again made any attempt to seek consensus
or to act collectively in the pursuit of objectives.  It's still a
good list, as lists go, but that was the end of cyber-rights role in
my net-activism experiments.

What brought about the demise of the consensus efforts on cyber-
rights was, in retrospect, my own fault.  When I handed the list over
to Andy, I had already given posting privileges to several other
people, and so Andy was wasn't given the control that a moderator
needs in order to avoid the disruption that can arise from what I've
been calling the "unmoderated-list syndrome".

It turns out that one of the people who had posting privileges was
dead-set against not only the above proposed "declaration", but
against _any_ attempt to seek consensus on "his" list.  He began to
deluge the list with abusive postings that ridiculed people, offered
flippant rejections of people's comments, and generally managed to
completely disrupt the endeavors that most of the rest of the list
were engaged in.

If the disrupter didn't have posting privileges, Andy could have
easily kept the situation in hand.  He would never have blocked the
guy from the list, but he could have, and I'm sure would have,
insisted that his postings remain civil.  It wasn't the guy's
_arguments_ that messed up the list process, it was his _incivility_.
You just can't have a good conversation in a pub, to return to an
earlier metaphor, if someone at the bar is shouting insults.  It's
too unnerving.

The consensus-thread devolved into a "debate" over the likelihood
that cyberspace is destined to be taken over by the mass media
industry.  I put "debate" in quotes because it continued to be
incivility and ad-hominem attacks that served as the "rebuttals" to
the arguments I presented, arguments which I summarized earlier in
this article.

I was happy to ignore this ongoing abuse because I knew how to get
some value from it.  I simply played the straight-man and kept
responding with better arguments every time I got one of the stock
dismissive "rebuttals".  As a consequence I was able to develop my
thesis into an effective article which has been published in print,
presented at conferences, and distributed widely around the net:

                        "Democracy and Cyberspace"

Meanwhile, my political endeavors have been moving forward on another
list CPSR has been gracious enough to provide me with:
•••@••.••• (cj).  I set this list up as "my journal" in
the sense a small-town editor might refer to "his newspaper".  It is
explicitly not for everyone, it is only for those who like it.  This
gives me the freedom to develop the list in a way that I find useful,
and those who agree can subscribe and join in.  There are currently
some 1,058 netizens from around the world who subscribe.

What typically happens on cj is that I forward some news items of
interest to the list, accompanied by my own analysis and commentary.
People then write in with their own comments, and I batch these
according to topic and post them with yet more commentary of my own
in response to points brought up by cj readers.

Hence the list is a dialog between myself and the cj community.  In
terms of my ongoing political objectives, what I've endeavored to do
with cj is encourage the ongoing dialog to move in directions that I
think could be politically effective.  Recently I posted the
following declaration to the list:

    Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998
    From: •••@••.••• (Richard K. Moore)
    To: •••@••.•••
    Subject: cj#770> * shift of focus for cyberjournal *

    Dear cj,

    Cyberjournal has been around for close to three years now.  Some
    of you have been around from the beginning, and some are very
    recent subscribers - by last count we are 1061 altogether.  This
    would  be a good time for everyone (including lurkers) to send in
    feedback  comments; I'd be especially interested in any reflections
    on how  the  list has evolved over time, how it has been useful to
    you, and  whether you regularly forward postings elsewhere in

    The focus of the list thus far has been INVESTIGATION and
    ANALYSIS of GLOBALIZATION in its various aspects, and I think
    this has been reasonably successful -- indeed I feel like the  point of
    diminishing returns has been reached in this endeavor.

    A recent thread has been devoted to the topic of a democratic
    response to globalization, and I've gone so far as to "announce"
    that  The Revolution has in fact begun (in Canada) and that an
    example  exists of a functional democracy (Cuba).  This thread has
    included  INVESTIGATIONS into democracy, activism, building
    bridges  across ideological gulfs, revolutionary prospects,
    reactionary  counter-measures, and a Revolutionary Leadership

    What I propose to do is shift the list to an ACTION focus --
    democratic counter-revolution.  Other threads will continue, but
    the emphasis will be what we can DO, based on a reasonable
    understanding of how things ARE.  In particular, I'd like to  declare
    the intention to proceed to planning and organizing the first
    leadership conference.   This will hopefully be sited on Prince
    Edward Island and will involve participation by anti-MAI
    organizers.  The agenda, tentatively, will be "understanding
    globalization", "First-World counter-activism", and "global

    There are two already-scheduled conferences on globalization
    coming up this spring and summer, one in Liverpool and another
    in Baltimore.  I'll be giving a paper in Liverpool and Carolyn
    Ballard (my co-author on the globalization book) will, I believe,  be
    giving essentially the same paper in Baltimore.  We'll use those
    opportunities to pursue networking for the PEI conference.

    I welcome suggestions of organizations and individual to invite  to
    the PEI conference.  Still more critical are suggestions for  people to
    help organize the conference.



This declaration was responded to by several people interested in
activism, most of whom were already doing something political.  We
now have a team of some half dozen, and growing, who are devoting
significant time toward the organization of the conference alluded
above.  We will be coming on line any day with our own server and
domain.  We plan to provide a world-class site in support of "a
democratic response to globalization".  There will be extensive and
accessible background material, annotated links to other useful
sites, and up-to-date information on global political activities and
events - both "theirs" and "ours".

When we're up and running, I'll put a link to the new site in the cj
home page, so interested readers can easily track it down.  We are
still deliberating over the language of our outreach material, but
the following is very close to what will be the brief version of our

    * Excessive corporate power and its sovereignty-destroying
      globalization agenda are leading the world to disaster and
      something MUST be done about it.

    * The very success of corporate globalism in subjugating everyone
      to its agenda has created the potential for a massive counter-
      movement, a peaceful democratic counter-revolution on a global

    * Political activists must rise to the challenge of this
      strategic opportunity -- it is time to move beyond our special-
      interest causes and find a path to solidarity and the collabora-
      tive pursuit of shared objectives.

    * Overcoming corporate globalism calls for more than protest or
      resistance -- it requires a different vision for the world, a
      coherent agenda which can provide sustainable prosperity and
      avoid chaos in the changeover.

    * That vision and agenda must be based on the establishment of
      healthy democratic processes in our individual nations and on
      the realization that sustainable economics and respect for the
      environment are not just good ideas, but are rather necessities
      for human survival.

So that brings you up to date on the adventures of one cyber rebel.
If you want to keep on developments, see below.


        Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful
        committed citizens can change the world,
        indeed it's the only thing that ever has.
                                 - Margaret Mead

     Posted by: Richard K. Moore | PO Box 26, Wexford, Ireland
  mailto:•••@••.••• | http://www.iol.ie/~rkmoore/cyberjournal
    * Non-commercial republication encouraged - with this sig *

        To join cyberjournal, simply send:
                To: •••@••.•••
                Subject: (ignored)
                sub cyberjournal Jane Q. Doe  <-- your name there