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"WIRED": Guiding the Perplexed
from Chapter Four

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.

 

Exposing a 'selfish' tech culture
A 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.

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Valley Cats and Their Dead Rats
Excerpt from Chapter Four in SV, the Sunday magazine of the San Jose Mercury News 5/14/00

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, dont you think?

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Bionomics in your daily life
From Chapter Two, excerpted on the WNYC Reading Room website.

Early 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 skyscrapers.

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But how did this happen?
An excerpt
from Chapter 5 appearing in Boss/The Australian Financial Review (8/14/00) and The Ottawa Citzen

While its obvious, its 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. Todays 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.

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paulina b.

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