MEME 2.03 Feedback

MEME 2.03 Feedback

In MEME 2.03 I asked readers to send comments on:

I see this as the start of an essential and self-defining discussion. I am extremely interested to hear from readers who do not live in the United States, especially those living under laws separate from the traditions of secular democracies. What is your impression of the limits of acceptable behavior in cyberspace? Can we reach a consensus, as a global medium? Do you feel the debate over free-speech in the United States is a universal debate, which speaks to you? Do you think, as a group, Internet users can form a community able to justly govern itself?

My intention is to gather these comments, and make them available to everyone in a future issue of MEME. If you wish to keep your identity confidential, I will do so. Your thoughts matter, because only through dialogue can we reach consensus.

Here are the responses:

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 21:38:41 -0800
To: "David S. Bennahum" <>
From: John Perry Barlow <>
Subject: Re: MEME 2.03


I must say, I am astonished by the ferocity of your attack on me and my "declaration" in MEME 2.03. I'm especially dismayed since, reading previous issues, I have found us in agreement on most basic issues.

But, to hear you tell it, the greatest threat to the Net at the moment is not the Communications Decency Act, nor similar initiatives arising among industrial governments around the world, but me!

Me and my dangerous idea that Cyberspace is not within the obvious sovereignty of any terrestrial government and that it is a very different social space from the physical world, requiring different methods of obtaining order.

Without actually quoting the entire declaration to your readers, you extract bits of it for scathing denunciation, claiming at the outset that it all adds up to this basic question:

>will we >deal with the real world or retreat into our own private delusion -- one >which places cyberspace above and beyond the realities of the physical >world?

Only the most perverse reading of what I wrote could lead one to this meaning. I assure you, and your readers, that I meant no such thing.

The realities of the physical world, whether harsh or mundane or ecstatic, will be with us as long as we have bodies. There will always be bodies starving, bodies in prison, bodies dancing, bodies making love.

Cyberspace is no more separate from the realities of the physical world than the mind is sublimely unrelated to the body. There is always a continuity between mind and body, and the same continuity extends between the physical and virtual worlds.

Indeed, the relationship between the social space that exists on, say, the island of Manhattan and the social space that exists in Cyberspace, is precisely the relationship between mind and body.

But there is also a separation between thought and action. Action is what the body does and over which physical authority may be be exercised. In Cyberspace, I might threaten to kill you. In New York, I can slit your thoat. That's a very important difference.

And this is why I said, in another part of the declaration you didn't see fit to quote, "We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rul