March 08, 2003

John Young poetry criticizing chilling effect fear

John Young is an architect, a 60's-thinking radical, and the maintainer of the volunteer government-security watchdog site Cryptome. He's also an accomplished amateur poet. He's a good poet, typically writing in complex, James Joyce, style of language and imagery (sometimes called "Younglish"). Not "Roses are red/Violets are blue/John Ashcroft is bad/And the Patriot Act too". I've occasionally remarked to him that his material is so demanding that almost nobody understands it, especially not in his audience. So he'd do much better in terms of having readers, if he un-baroqued a little. But I suspect he doesn't care about this.

Some months ago he wrote me a poem (posted to a public mailing-list) criticizing me over concerns of being sued over the DMCA and my feelings about the legal risks of activism (see, that's his skill, he can write poems about such topics, and they are even decent poems _qua_ poems). I was thinking about that material today, and since I occasionally annotate his poems, I decided to do that one. Even if it is attacking me, I still like it as a literary work, and again, it was in my mind today.

[My annotations in brackets]

Subject: Re: O'Reilly: DMCA demonstration goes out with a whimper
From: John Young <jya@PIPELINE.COM>
Date: Sat, 27 Jul 2002 11:33:23 -0700

Seth, you are right to warn of the risks of exceeding socially approved civil liberties. This will get you pats on the butt from those who benefit from such cautionaries. HP keeps a valuable employee, Bruce can forever talk about what he almost did but wisely pulled back. Not quite having it both ways but what passes for righteous hectoring and puling.

[This was in the general context of an anti-DMCA action which was called off because of jail fears. I pointed out I was not the only one experiencing a chilling effect.
"puling" is NOT a typo for "pulling", but is defined:
"puling - crying or whining weakly and detestably; plaintive"
Also note
"hectoring - intimidation or bullying"

Even so, we must be grateful to those who do not obey social pressure, even more those who disobey and keep it quiet.

[Resistance is good - quiet resistance is even better. The above is an allusion to the "cypherpunky" idea of Internet revolutionaries hidden by remailers and anonymity, so the authories can't reach them. At least for myself, I find that more a fantasy than a workable strategy overall]

For without such quiet courage millions of peasants of the colonies would still be serving a tiny band of ignorant pigs who inherited the appratus to impose fantasies of porcine superiority with masterful force, if force be needed when the cowardly, loud-mouthed comfortable intellectuals were not able to induce slavish obedience by tongue and quill confecting fearful warnings of the majesty of authority.

[Without courage, Americans would still be subjects to the King, because of the force of the King's army. And the army was only needed when the preachers and intellectuals weren't able to make the populace be obedience by talking about the power of the King.
The image: "ignorant pigs ... porcine superiority" is 60's-style language of the police/army/goverment-in-general as "pigs". ]

Vile allegations are that some of those unbrave hearts had the fear of erasure put in their skulls by a tap of the sword. And, with great relief at only a tap discovered turning tail gave birth to wisdom. Then advanced their brilliant career by essaying obedience as enlightened social justice, nay, more ingratiatingly, as essential orderliness for the authorities' benevolent protection of the commonweal.

[There's a rumor that some cowardly intellectuals were made to fear of death by raids designed to intimidate them. And when they weren't killed, they decided to advance their careers by writing that the King's peace was a good and necessary order for the protection of society.]

Yes, keep yourself employable above all else. Love those chains as if metal of honor.

[This mocks my concern about making a living. The image "metal of honor" is a pun on "medal of honor" and the metal in chains - more prosaically, "You wear your chains of slavery as if metal/medal of honor"]

[He didn't convince me differently - indeed, such attacks by respected people tend to have the effect of driving me away from free-speech activism. But it sure is different from the typical flame!]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on March 08, 2003 03:04 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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