A Modest Proposal

ld231782 at longs.lance.colostate.edu ld231782 at longs.lance.colostate.edu
Sat Feb 27 19:00:25 PST 1993

>[...] and we might help some people and advance the cause by
>codifying `legitimate use'.

Eric Hughes <hughes at soda.berkeley.edu>
>The only perfectly unambiguous position is that every use is a
>legitimate use.

Once again I'm very seriously disturbed at the sentiments presented by
some eminent members of this list.  I believe in free speech perhaps as
rabidly as the next guy, but many of the most rabid advocates recognize
that there are limitations on `freedom'.  Everyone, please take the
following remarks impersonally but seriously.

Let me be very clear about this: I'm highly committed to pseudonymity
and anonymity as new, revolutionary social tools. However, completely
unrestrained anonymity (which, by the way, is related to but not
equivalent to freedom of speech) is unworkable and extremely dangerous
to *everybody* (not just corrupt government officials or big businesses
that were so ignorant they didn't hire you). Anybody here that thinks
that an anonymous service can act something like a Unix pipe that just
passes the raw stuff through forever unhindered and uninterrupted is
seriously deluding himself. Whoever does is ultimately discrediting and
detrimental to the cause itself.  If you think the problem is
exclusively because of self-appointed puritannical `censors' on the net
(which, I admit, exist), you are *wrong*. It gives me great anguish,
dread and fear to read of `limitation' of anonymity misguidedly
satirized as nothing but brutish censorship.

You can submit and agree to some minor and essential self-regulating
mechanisms, such as barring illegal and unrepetant users, `convicted'
email addresses circulated among anonymous server operators
voluntarily, a complaint-and-response system, perhaps even automated,
etc. Or you can call it all the most obnoxious and insidious stab at
your true God-given freedoms ever to ooze out of the sewer. But one
exemplary and commendable somebody who posts here and has committed
superhuman energy and dedication and commitment to the ideal of
anonymity for the Usenet masses, running a server TODAY, recognizes
that certain basic limitations are unpalatable but NECESSARY and
CRUCIAL. And if you don't sufficiently protect yourselves (and
unrestrained anonymity transfers to operators the most supreme exposure
and vulnerability) you will inevitably be rudely, shockingly surprised
at your liability and loss.

``Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.'' Everybody here that
thinks anarchy is kinda neato should reconsider.  By one meaning of
anarchy, at least, you cannot have even the most basic of conveniences
you have taken for granted, e.g. longtime social contacts or clothes,
food, privacy, or whatever (and you'll not easily convince me there are
more appealing variations thereof). Enclosed, an essay by a friend of mine...

by D. Lewdud

I want net anonymity to be completely unrestrained, and anybody who
thinks otherwise is an unAmerican communist censor sleazebag Puritan
prude spy who should be ruthlessly exposed and stoned for the sheer
criminality of their ideas. 

I happen to like it when the Usenet groups I'm reading have a lot of
irrelevant junk, with the signal-to-noise ratio approaching absolute
zero.  Anonymity is great for vicious flame wars and haranging
diatribes, but anonymously posted binary files in science groups are
the best, especially if they are posted multiple times and take many
megabytes. In fact, if they crash my newsserver, that's even better. It
gives me an enviable vacation during which I can look forward to the
next assault and relish the inspiring poetry of it all.  But then the
narrowminded ignoramuses talk about shutting down some system or
excluding some users, depriving me of my sheer joy.

All this idiotic drivel about pornography and copyright violations
sanctioned by taxpayer money. OF COURSE!  That's everyone's right, to
exploit all that gushing money in our government--that's why it's
there.  Clearly our corrupted officials don't know what to do with it
besides pocket it.  Why, if some bloated bureacrat misses his snack of
caviar to subsidize this lovely GIF specimen, this masterpiece of
nudity spread before me lasciviously, posted by some exemplary
anonymous user, that's one small favor for humanity and a giant drool
for me.  Wow, think of what we could achieve and accomplish if we
completely dismantled the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, and my local pig
trough!  (Ah, but not everybody objects to pornography, so maybe I'm
preaching to the choir on that one.)

I want to be able to get mailbombed with regularity, I like it when my
system goes down and I am helpless and the cruel butt of other's jokes.
Its fun! Esp. when I know where the mail is originating from, but the
operator makes eloquent, impassioned, and irate speeches against
stopping the flow based on Constitutional rights. I've started a
collection of all the neat stuff I've received (millions of lines of
exquisite profanity and threats), and to make room for it have gotten
rid of all the other junk on my account like mail from my friends and
family and my previously-favorite programs, which pale in comparison to
records of the heights of eloquence of my tormentors. To think that
others pay for this gives me great pangs of ecstasy.

I paid good money for all my hardware, and my network connection is my
pride and joy, and finaly I'm getting a return on my serious
investment. Why, I'm so happy I'm going to buy another new computer to
replace the last three that have crashed. Rather than put in the many
hours required to repair them (which would definitely be gleeful), I've
decided they'll go up on my mantle as monumental testaments to the
grandeur of the great anonymous feats of humanity.

I want to see illegal, sinister, and evil groups like the Mafia to
flourish, using new technology like networks to perpetrate their
patriotic services.  The net is such a close-knit set of orderly people
and upstanding citizens, I'm sure they'll love to join the party. I
want them to be able to terrorize me without consequence. Anybody who
objects clearly is wholly ignorant of the beautiful social implications
wrought by this wonderful technological innovation, a blind mute living
in a black and white closet and a zealot of thin line-drawing. 

Although I haven't personally yet had the great joy of this, I can't
wait to receive an anonymous death threat or ransom notice via email,
possibly even directed at a close relative or loved-one. In fact, I'm
saving up as much digital money as possible right now for exactly this
eventuality.  Its my digital insurance fund.  That this can all be
completely untraceable with anonymity, well that's something as
exhilarating as a quivering digital orgasm.

Imagine the splendor of delivering an anonymous note to the mayor of
New York and the world that in 15 minutes a large chunk under a large
building, a symbol of international unity, will be conveniently
rearranged, at only minor risk to nearby inhabitants!  Wow, this could
really advance the cause of establishing a vast electronic
infrastructure for promoting all the splendid possibilities of digital
anonymity. Considering what's happened to the country's `real'
infrastructure, we need another! If the assurance of anonymity was
absolute, it would really encourage everyone to find similarly noble
uses of their own.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm totally free of bias for and prejudice against
various uses of anonymity (anything less, of course, would be fascist
totalitarianism).  For example, I like individual terrorists just as
much as the organized collections.  They sound like they could be
really completely uninhibited in their creative grasps of our true
freedoms, and more numerous with their stellar utilizations.  In fact,
the potential for individual, unassociated citizens to thwart the
abuses, and profoundly destabilize the foundations of frigid, faceless
bureacracies like big telephone companies, and even the government, I
find spine-tinglingly majestic---it even looks like this could soon
happen.  Imagine: nothing left but pure, omnipresent cyberspace!

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