Computer underground Digest Sun Sep 11, 1994 Volume 6 : Issue 80 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: J

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Computer underground Digest Sun Sep 11, 1994 Volume 6 : Issue 80 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET) Archivist: Brendan Kehoe Retiring Shadow Archivist: Stanton McCandlish Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala Ian Dickinson Urban Legend Editor: E. Greg Shrdlugold CONTENTS, #6.80 (Sun, Sep 11, 1994) File 1--Exon Amendment text File 2--Turing Test File 3-- Musicians of the World, Unite! (eye Reprint) File 4--The Process of Writing a Cybercolumn (Robert Rossney Reprint) File 5--Cu Digest Header Information (unchanged since 09-11-94) CuD ADMINISTRATIVE, EDITORIAL, AND SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION APPEARS IN THE CONCLUDING FILE AT THE END OF EACH ISSUE. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 9 Sep 1994 12:29:26 -0500 From: (Steve Barber) Subject: File 1--Exon Amendment text ((Here is the text of the Exon "Communications Decency" amendment to the Communications Act of 1994 (S. 1822) currently winding its way through Congress. Whether you think its effects would be good or bad, it's worth getting familiar with what the text actually says. Included here is the amendment text, Sen. Exon's introductory speech, and an article placed in the Cong. Record to bolster his position. -Steve Barber)) CONGRESSIONAL RECORD -- Senate Tuesday, July 26, 1994 (Legislative day of Wednesday, July 20, 1994) 103rd Congress 2nd Session 140 Cong Rec S 9745 REFERENCE: Vol. 140 No. 99 TITLE: COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1994 EXON AMENDMENT NO. 2404 SPEAKER: MR. EXON (Ordered referred to the Committee on Commerce. ) Mr. EXON submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill (S. 1822) to foster the further development of the Nation's telecommunications infrastructure and protection of the public interest, and for other purposes; as follows: On page 104, below line 12, add the following: TITLE VIII-OBSCENE, HARASSING, AND WRONGFUL UTILIZATION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS FACILITIES SEC. 801. OBSCENE OR HARASSING USE OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS FACILITIES UNDER THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934. (a) Expansion of Offenses. -Section 223 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 223) is amended- (1) in subsection (a)(1)- (A) by striking out "telephone" in the matter above subparagraph (A) and inserting in lieu thereof "telecommunications device"; (B) by striking out "makes any comment, request, suggestion or proposal" in subparagraph (A) and inserting in lieu thereof "makes, transmits, or otherwise makes available any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication; (C) by striking out subparagraph (B) and inserting in lieu thereof the following new subparagraph (B): "(B) makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communication;" and (D) by striking out subparagraph (D) and inserting in lieu thereof the following new subparagraph (D): "(D) makes repeated telephone calls or repeatedly initiates communication with a telecommunications device, during which conversation or communication ensues, solely to harass any person at the called number or who receives the communication,"; (2) in subsection (a)(2), by striking out "telephone facility" and inserting in lieu thereof "telecommunications facility"; (3) in subsection (b)(1)- (A) in subparagraph (A)- (i) by striking out "telephone," and inserting in lieu thereof "telecommunications device,"; and (ii) by inserting "or initiated the communication" after "placed the call"; and (B) in subparagraph (B), by striking out "telephone facility" and inserting in lieu thereof "telecommunications facility"; and (4) in subsection (b)(2)- (A) in subparagraph (A)- (i) by striking out "by means of telephone, makes" and inserting in lieu thereof "by means of telephone or telecommunications device, makes, transmits, or makes available"; and (ii) by inserting "or initiated the communication" after "placed the call"; and (B) in subparagraph (B), by striking out "telephone facility" and inserting in lieu thereof "telecommunications facility". (b) Expansion of Penalties. -Such section, as amended by subsection (a) of this section, is further amended- (1) by striking out "$ 50,000'' each place it appears and inserting in lieu thereof "$ 100,000'' and (2) by striking out "six months" each place it appears and inserting in lieu thereof "2 years". (c) Prohibition on Provision of Access. -Subsection (c)(1) of such action is amended by striking out "telephone" and inserting in lieu thereof "telecommunications device". (d) Conforming Amendment. -The section head of such section is amended to read as follows: "OBSCENE OR HARASSING UTILIZATION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS DEVICES AND FACILITIES IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA OR IN INTERSTATE OR FOREIGN COMMUNICATIONS". SEC. 802. OBSCENE PROGRAMMING ON CABLE TELEVISION. Section 639 of the Communications Act of 1943 (47 U.S.C. 559) is amended by striking out "$ 10,000'' and inserting in lieu thereof "$ 100,000''. SEC. 803. BROADCASTING OBSCENE OF LANGUAGE ON RADIO. Section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking out "$ 10,000'' and inserting in lieu thereof "$ 100,000''. SEC. 804. INTERCEPTION AND DISCLOSURE OF ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS. Section 2511 of title 18, United States Code, is amended- (1) in paragraph (1)- (A) by striking out "wire, oral, or electronic communication" each place it appears and inserting in lieu thereof "wire, oral, electronic, or digital communication"; and (B) in the matter designated as item (b), by striking out "oral communication" in the matter above clause (i) and inserting in lieu thereof "communication"; and (2) in paragraph (2)(a), by striking out "wire or electronic communication service" each place it appears (other than in the second sentence) and inserting in lieu thereof "wire, electronic, or digital communication service". SEC. 805. ADDITIONAL PROHIBITION ON BILLING FOR TOLL-FREE TELEPHONE CALLS. Section 228(c)(6) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 228(c)(6)) is amended- (1) by striking out "or" at the end of subparagraph (C); (2) by striking out the period at the end of subparagraph (D) and inserting in lieu thereof "; or"; and (3) by adding at the end thereof the following: "(E) the calling party being assessed, by virtue of being asked to connect or otherwise transfer to a pay-per-call service, a charge for the call.". SEC. 806. SCRAMBLING OF CABLE CHANNELS FOR NONSUBSCRIBERS. Part IV of title VI of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 551 et seq.,) is amended by adding at the end the following: "SEC. 640. SCRAMBLING OF CABLE CHANNELS FOR NONSUBSCRIBERS. "(a) Requirement. -In providing video programming unsuitable for children to any subscriber through a cable system, a cable operator shall fully scramble the video and audio portion of each channel such programming that the subscriber does not subscribe it. "(b) Definition. -In this section the term 'to scramble', in the case of any video programming, means to rearrange the content of the signal of the programming so that the programming cannot be apprehended by persons unauthorized to apprehend the programming.". Mr. EXON. Mr. President, I rise to file an amendment to S. 1822, the Communications Act of 1994. I expect the Senate Commerce Committee to take this legislation up next week. I intend to offer this amendment at that time. Simply put, this Communications Decency amendment modernizes the anti-harassment, decency, and anti-obscenity provisions of the Communications Act of 1934. When these provisions were originally drafted, they were couched in the context of telephone technology. These critical public protections must be updated for the digital world of the future. Before too long a host of new telecommunications devices will be used by citizens to communicate with each other. Telephones may one day be relegated to museums next to telegraphs. Conversation is being replaced with communication and electrical transmissions are being replaced with digital transmissions. As the Congress rewrites the Communications Act, it is necessary and appropriate to update these important public protections. Anticipating this exciting future of communications, the Communications Decency amendment I introduce today will keep pace with the coming change. References to telephones in the current law are replaced with references to telecommunications device. The amendment also increases the maximum penalties connected with the decency provisions of the Communications Act to $ 100,000 and 2 years imprisonment. The provision requires cable providers of adult pay-per-view programming to fully scramble the audio and video portions of the programming to homes which do not subscribe to the particular program. Unsuspecting families should not be assaulted with audio of indecent programming or partially scrambled video. The amendment also prevents individuals and companies engaged in the pay-per-call services from by-passing number blocking by connecting individuals to pay-per-call services via a toll-free number. These measures will help assure that the information superhighway does not turn into a red light district. It will help protect children from being exposed to obscene, lewd, or indecent messages. This legislation also protects against harassment. Recent reports of electronic stalking by individuals who use computer communications to leave threatening and harassing messages sent chills through the users of new technologies. Recent stories about the misuse of the internet and 800 numbers also demand action. I ask that two stories related to the misuse of the information technologies be included at the end of my remarks as illustrations of the type of activities this amendment attempts to address. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that an article be printed in the Record. There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: ((Los Angeles Times and other articles deleted)) ------------------------------ Date: Thu, 8 Sep 1994 00:10:27 -0700 (PDT) From: Robert Epstein Subject: File 2--Turing Test For Immediate Release September 1, 1994 INTERNATIONAL QUEST FOR THINKING COMPUTER TO BE HELD IN SAN DIEGO (Human vs. Computers on December 16th) In the very near future, many believe that human beings will be joined by an equally intelligent species -- computers so smart that they can truly think, converse, and perhaps even feel. To expedite the search for this new species, the fourth annual Loebner Prize Competition in Artificial Intelligence will be held at the new San Marcos campus of California State University on Friday, December 16th, 1994. The Loebner Prize pits humans against computers in what the Wall Street Journal described as "a groundbreaking battle." The first three competitions drew national and international media coverage. In the event, human judges converse at computer terminals and attempt to determine which terminals are controlled by fellow humans and which by computers. For the 1994 competition, conversation will be restricted to certain topics. This year, as in 1993, all judges will be members of the national press. The 1993 judges represented TIME Magazine, Popular Science, PBS, the Voice of America, and elsewhere. The contest has drawn media attention around the world, including coverage on CNN television, PBS television, the New York Times (front page), the Washington Post, the London Guardian, The Economist, the San Diego Union Tribune (front page), Science News, and many periodicals in the computer field, including Computerworld and AI Magazine (cover story). "Surprisingly, in early competitions, some of the computers fooled some of the judges into thinking they were people," said Dr. Robert Epstein, Research Professor at National University, Director Emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, and the organizer and director of the three previous contests. The author of the winning software of this year's event will receive $2,000 and a bronze medal. In 1995, Epstein said, the first open-ended contest -- one with no topic restrictions -- will be conducted. When a computer can pass an unrestricted test, the grand prize of $100,000 will be awarded, and the contest will be discontinued. The competition is named after benefactor Dr. Hugh G. Loebner of New York City and was inspired by computer pioneer Alan Turing, who in 1950 proposed a test like the Loebner contest as a way to answer the question: Can computers think? Transcripts of conversations during the first three competitions are available from the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies (telephone 617-491-9020). Diskettes that will play back the conversations in real time may also be purchased. A partial list of sponsors of previous competitions includes: Apple Computers, Computerland, Crown Industries, GDE Systems, IBM Personal Computer Company's Center for Natural Computing, Greenwich Capital Markets, Motorola, the National Science Foundation, The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and The Weingart Foundation. Application guidelines: Official rules and an application may be obtained by contacting Dr. Robert Epstein, Contest Director, 933 Woodlake Drive, Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007-1009 Tel: 619-436-4400 Fax: 619-436-4490 Internet: * The deadline for receipt of applications is November 1, 1994. * Applications must be accompanied by printed protocols recording actual interaction between the system to be entered and one or more humans. The protocols may not exceed ten double-spaced pages. * Applications must specify a single domain of discourse in which the computer system is proficient. The domain must be expressed by an English phrase containing no more than five words. * Each entry must communicate using approximations of natural English, and it must be prepared to communicate for an indefinite period of time. * Computer entries may contain standard or customized hardware and software. The hardware may be of any type as long as it is inorganic and as long as its replies are not controlled by humans responding in real time to the judges' inputs. * Entrants must be prepared to interface their systems to standard computer terminals over telephone lines at 2400 baud. * The prize will be awarded if there is at least one entry. Advance notice of new guidelines for 1995: The 1995 event will be an unrestricted Turing Test, requiring computer entries to be able to converse for an indefinite period of time with no topic restrictions. In 1995, entries may be required to run on hardware located at the competition site. For further information: Complete transcripts and IBM-compatible diskettes that play the 1991, 1992, and 1993 conversations in real-time are available for purchase from the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies (tel: 617-491-9020). Sponsorship opportunities are available. ************************ CONTACTS: Dr. Robert Epstein Contest Director 619-436-4400 (fax 4490) Dr. Hugh G. Loebner Prize Donor 201-672-2277 (fax 7536) ------------------------------ Date: Fri, 2 Sep 1994 11:07:39 -0400 (EDT) From: eye WEEKLY Subject: File 3-- Musicians of the World, Unite! (eye Reprint) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ eye WEEKLY August 11 1994 Toronto's arts newspaper every Thursday ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ EYE NET EYE NET MUSICIANS OF THE WORLD, UNITE! You have nothing to lose but your labels by K.K. CAMPBELL Back in May, eye Net reported how Burlington band The Banned uploaded their single, "Karla And Paul," to cyberspace. The song, about Homolka's deal-making with the Crown, was refused airplay by radio stations. Screw them. Get it from the net. Judge for yourself. In July, Aerosmith's label Geffen decided to emulate groups like The Banned. Aerosmith's tune "Head First" was made available on CompuServe for one week. A hefty bugger of a file, almost 5 megs zipped. "Head First" is no longer available through CompuServe, but it can be found in eye's music directory -- or (You'll also find The Banned and a couple of local bands there. More to come. To store your songs/samples/bios, write or call 971-6776 x.311.) "Head First" was recorded at an unnecessarily high quality -- 22 KHz (44KHz being "CD-quality"). Most songs on the net are recorded at 8/11 KHz -- tinny AM radio quality, good enough to judge a band, shit for regular listening. The idea: if a person likes your sound, they fork over the bucks for a good copy. "I guess this scares record labels -- music getting to people immediately, without the clutter of marketing machinery, hype and demographic reports," Arizona's Keith Kehrer ( told eye -- email him for info on the MusicLink Musicians Network. Kehrer even envisions "online recording studios." Tyson Macaulay ( is setting up an indie net.distribution service in Ottawa, with Shake Records. Macaulay helped bring the federal industry ministry online. "This could completely revolutionize the music industry," he agrees. "No more signing your life away to a major label to get distribution. If the net keeps growing the way it is, a local band can get worldwide distribution. Small bands with small budgets can do big things." Denis McGrath, segment producer with CITY-TV's MediaTelevision (, says most record company people are "blissfully unaware what's happening; and those that know are so scared they don't want to delve into it any further." They placate themselves with irrational assurances the net is a fad, or digital computer files that decrease in quality when re-transmitted. James Macfarlane (, columnist for The Computer Paper, agrees the music industry is due for a shake-up, but so are all consumer products, not just music. "Direct from manufacturer to consumer. Down the road, there'll be no retail level as we understand it." Debbie Rix, publicity/promo honcho with MCA Concerts Canada, agrees the industry is nervous about what Geffen did. "Music companies have one salable item: music. Everything else is given away pretty much free: videos, in-store appearances, bios, photos, etc. If songs are given away free, what's left?" But Rix predicts people will not send money to small online distributors once a few charlatans spoil the party. Right now, it's 1967 and the Summer of Love. How long before scammers move in and paranoia kills the scene? BREAK THE MARCONI LOCK The net may also help snap the stultifying Marconi Lock, what McGrath calls the "Eric Clapton-Mariah Carey-Phil Collins-Michael Bolton-Unholy Alliance" that lords over radio. Rix agrees, to a point. "Look at Canadian radio: lots of talk, lots of classic rock. Try getting the Dayglo Abortions played." Which is why many people instinctively recoil from major-label hype. I liked Nirvana when first hearing Bleach on CKLN's Aggressive Rock. When they were picked up and subjected to ram-it-down- their-throat promotional blasts, I simply stopped listening. Some argue this is silly -- you like the music or don't. Bullshit. Rejecting hype is a healthy defence mechanism. Without it, you're a hopeless dupe. And that's the appeal of the net -- lateral cross-pollination, circumvention of verticalized/monopolized sound. I'm not alone. TV ratings fall while Internet connectivity soars. HOLY TRINITY Last week, eye Net mentioned news media's Holy Trinity of instant net coverage: pedophilia, piracy and pornography. As the net offers opportunity for unauthorized transmission of music files, Jim Carroll (, co-author of the bestselling Canadian Internet Handbook, agrees net.cops could result from an industry-fed anti-piracy media barrage. But so what? "Face it, the technology is outstripping the ability for anyone to deal with it. It defeats centralized control structures. What's to prevent me from being a smart hacker and taking a CD-ROM that plays music, copying the digital bits to hard drive, then uploading them somewhere?" Business Week recently did an article predicting Canadians should have the equivalent of 64-gig chips by 2010 -- compared to the 4-meg average now. "You should be able to load the entire Aerosmith discography into computer memory with that," Carroll grins. Speedier lines will decrease transmission time exponentially. McGrath thinks the music industry might engage in backroom jockeying to kill the medium, like it did digital audio tape (DAT). Right now, there are a lot of steps in using the net. Mass popularity requires a handy, inexpensive device that does it all automatically for the consumer, McGrath says then writes the digital file to a playback medium, like CD. "The music industry might very well be in a position to stall or even stop the production of just this device -- like DAT." McGrath says music companies have another motive to kill pure digital distribution, =85 la the net. "Without physical distribution of CDs, consumers will ask: how come producing a CD costs $2 yet sells for $16? It's common knowledge a CD is now cheaper to make than vinyl was. Right there, alone, record companies are in real trouble." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Retransmit freely in cyberspace Author holds standard copyright Full issue of eye available in archive =3D=3D> or Mailing list available "Break the Gutenberg Lock..." 416-971-8421 ------------------------------ Date: Fri, 9 Sep 1994 01:07:01 PDT From: CuD Moderators Subject: File 4--The Process of Writing a Cybercolumn (Robert Rossney Reprint) ((MODERATORS' NOTE: In CuD 6.79, we wrote of a cyber-death watch (in The Well's News conference, topic 1581), which included summaries of two media stories of the event. We suggested that the media missed the real story. One media piece, a column by Robert Rossney, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, also drew some criticism on The Well. In response, Rossney wrote a description of the genesis of his column, explaining the process by which an event is framed and how editorial and other constraints shape the final product. As critics of much of the media depiction of cyberspace, we often comment unfavorably on much that appears in the media. Some commentators are hopelessly uninformed, others opt for shameless sensationalism, and a few are competent writers who usually do a decent job in spite of the requisites of their medium that influence what ultimately appears in print. Rossney's commentary reminds us that even experienced writers are not always able to frame stories as they wish, and that the writing process requires a number of personal choices and confrontation of a variety of administrative obstacles (as his summary of the rejection of a proposed story on CuD archivist Brendan Kehoe illustrates). The following reminds us that writing is damned hard work, especially for conveying the complexities of cyberspace to a general audience. The post originally appeared on The Well in Media/833)). ========== Let me tell you all how this column came about. If you're already bored with this topic, don't read this response; you'll be REALLY bored by the time you get to the end. * * * One of the things that I am trying to do in my column is to cover what goes on online as though the online world were an actual society with an actual culture. A society full of real people having real experiences, even if they share those experiences through the written word. In particular, I want to illuminate something for those readers who are NOT online: however technogeeky and insubstantial and weird the world they might have heard about from less brilliant and informed sources than little me, it is, nonetheless, vital and human. I thought this story fit in to these broader objectives pretty well. Here we have a pivotal life event -- the leaving of it -- and it's causing ripples to travel through this new and strange context. What happened in news 1581 struck me then, and strikes me still, as a perfect example of the making-it-up-as-we-go-along quality, the dreaded "co-creation," that has made the online world such an exciting and fascinating place to hang over the last dozen or so years. The keyword here is ONLINE. It may have escaped notice in all the hooraw here, but that's the name of the column. I write about stuff that happens ONLINE. That's my mandate. Keep this in mind; it will be important later on. * * * Now, I had a political problem to struggle with. About six months ago, I wrote a piece about Brendan Kehoe. I thought it was remarkable and touching that you could find the story of his catastrophic accident everywhere on the net, and that his coworkers had set up a .plan for people to finger so that they could track changes in his condition. My editor killed it. Said it was "too depressing." Well, here I had another story that I really wanted to cover, only it was about something even more depressing, something that ended with an actual dead person at the end. Plus it happened on the WELL. I try very hard to avoid writing about the WELL too much; it would be easy to slip into omphaloskepsis and end up being boring and parochial. All of that was true, but the story I was watching happen was, from the perspective that I described above, too good to pass up. Fortunately, the WELL is famous at the moment. A piece in the Washington Post, a blurb in Time magazine, and now I had something that outweighed the depression quotient, as far as the people standing between me and the newspaper were concerned: a breaking story that had been covered by someone else. It was this that gave me the handle to get it into the paper. * * * At this point, I had two other problems to deal with. The first was that the obvious way to write this piece was dead wrong. The obvious way is the inspirational and uplifting story of the good people that all pulled together and supported kj, each in his or her way, in her final days. A COMMUNITY RALLIES IN THE FACE OF DEATH. There were at least four things wrong with this angle. First, it wasn't the whole story. There were MANY other currents going on besides that one: there was the flaming, and the blank postings, and the poetry, and all the other things that people were doing that had nothing at all to do with bringing aid and comfort to a dying woman. Second, it wasn't what was happening online. What people that followed this story online saw was how the direct, physical, offline community response, the one that actually meant something to kj, was described after the fact by tigereye and ralf and others. The act of going to someone's deathbed and offering aid and comfort is one thing; the act of coming back from someone's deathbed and bearing witness is another. It was the latter act that was occurring online. This is a troublesome distinction, and I'll revisit it in a bit. The third problem with writing that story is that it could not help but sentimentalize kj. Now, kj and I loathed one another. I thought she was unprincipled on her good days and batshit crazy on her bad ones. I don't know exactly what she thought of me, but I'd bet folding money it wasn't good. Nonetheless, however much I disliked kj, I didn't dislike her enough to write a warm piece about the glowing positive energy that coalesced about her in her final days. I found the idea distasteful, and I bet she would have too. Whatever else I can say about her, she was about the most fundamentally unsentimental person I ever met. I wasn't going to dishonor that. The fourth problem is that such a piece would be predictable and boring. * * * The approach I adopted instead was doomed from the start: ethnography. Take a complex society and pull apart one of its rituals, examining how the different consituents of the society participate in it and respond to one another. The traditional ethnographic essay, like, say, Clifford Geertz's "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight" or "Thick Descrip- tion," is about forty pages long. I had eight hundred words. Also, I am not Clifford Geertz. Nonetheless, it's a way of thinking that I'm comfortable with, and so I set to work. I discarded obvious aberrations, like 's appalling response. (If you're looking for something in that topic that I actually disapproved of, that's it.) I read through the topic three or four times, cataloguing the major divisions that the responses seemed to fall into. I came up with ways to characterize these divisions that I thought would make sense to the readers. (Remember them?) And I decided that, in accordance with the kind of analysis that I was trying to do, I needed to adopt a detached tone. When I was done with this, I sat back to figure out what I thought about the whole thing. There were a couple of ideas that I explored and then abandoned. One was the idea that kj was, essentially, a placeholder for the proceedings. This wasn't at all true for what was going on offline, and it wasn't completely true for what was going on online either, but there was substance to the idea nonetheless: it was very clear to me that many of the people who were responding -- and, I guessed, the vast majority of those who were reading -- had only the vaguest idea who kj was. It could have been me, or you, who was dying, and while the topic would be completely different it would still have a lot of people in it who posted "I didn't know rbr, but I find this incredibly moving." I didn't like this idea because there were many, many counterexamples, and the counterexamples were some of the most interesting and affecting stuff that was happening in the topic. So I dropped it. Another idea that I rejected was the notion that there was a lot of grandstanding going on. This had been my impression the first time through the topic. I felt that here was a place where people came to talk about their feelings, and that the will to attention that drives most of us to post led people to rage against the dying of the light a little too loudly and too long. It seemed to me that people were preening their sensitivity. But on rereading the topic the three or four times I did, I found that this idea just didn't hold up. Read carefully, the topic looked much less facile than it had when I was skimming over the new postings every day. Even the strange sunflower thread, which I had thought was pretty ridiculous the first time through, proved to have a great deal more integ- rity than I had originally thought. * * * The only idea that I came up with that seemed to be solid came out of the fact that there were so many different kinds of responses to kj's dying. Some, like the blank postings, were all but totally opaque. There was selflessness to be found, and self-centeredness. There was a certain amount of shock and despair. There were people who were inarticulate and people who were glib. This was, essentially, much like any other topic online: full of the chaos that attends a group of independent minds who are far from unanimity. And it was a topic that didn't have the we've-all-done-this-before character that many topics that we see tend to develop. Because we HAVEN'T all done this before. Only three WELL users have made their deaths known to the WELL over the last ten years. This is a new world for us here. We haven't yet developed the language that we'll be using when it happens for the tenth or twentieth time. We're still figuring out what to say. No clear picture of the right way to respond emerged from this topic. So that was my handle for the column: bewilderment. And at this point, I think you can see how it goes together and why. Graf 1: the note that convinces my editor not to kill it. Grafs 2-4: Americans aren't good at dealing with death. Everything up to the conclusion: here's the story, emphasis on the contradictory ways that people online are learning to deal with death. Conclusion: this kind of response is new right now, but ten years from now as people develop more familiarity with it we will see traditions emerge. There was some careless stuff in there that I regret. I wish I'd gotten the numbers right; that was just dumb. The bit about "stammering inco- herently in the face of the void" is cute, but it was dumb too. I could have avoided using "peculiar" twice. But really, I've done lots worse, and I don't know any columnist who hasn't. * * * Now, for the last week I've had to listen to a lot of remarkable stuff. (Not all of it came from people who disagreed with me, either. A number of comments, like chuck's and humdog's, were, while supportive, utterly baffling to me. I still can't see how someone can read this column and come away from it with a sense of who kj was, except insofar as the column is unsentimental and so was she. It wasn't *about* kj.) Mostly, the negative response here just makes me uncomfortable. Not that people would disagree with Lofty Me, but that people could find something to disagree with in a column so utterly flensed of actual opinion. By the time I was done with this column, about the only opinion that I still had about news 1581 was that xxxxx's response was really creepy. (And it really is. "I'm so sorry you're dying, you're one of the few people that backs me up." There's a fucking comfort to the afflicted for you.) Most of tigereye's ire, I think, comes from a fundamental difference of perspective. Her interest lies, as it ought to, with the dozens of people who provided aid and comfort to kj, and she's concerned that their story not be shortchanged. I don't disagree with that. But I was telling a different story. My story was about what happened online. That's my *job*. The grim truth is that the only reason kj's death appeared in the paper at all is the online developments that accompanied it. I think that's pretty stark, and if kj had been my friend it would make me bitter, but it's true. The REAL story, the one that was happening in real life 24 hours a day and not just when the reporters were logged in, that story never saw print, and probably never will. From my perspective as a cog in the media machine, I'm standing pretty firm. I had good reasons for choosing this story in the first place, good reasons for taking the approach to it that I did, I described what I saw accurately and fairly, and I drew my audience towards an overall sensibility that I think is good for us all. Apart from one factual inaccuracy, and a certain walking-on-eggshells tone that I couldn't get rid of, I'm not unhappy with it. I sure am tired of hearing about it, though. ------------------------------ Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1994 22:51:01 CDT From: CuD Moderators Subject: File 5--Cu Digest Header Information (unchanged since 09-11-94) Cu-Digest is a weekly electronic journal/newsletter. Subscriptions are available at no cost electronically. 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