September 11, 2006

9/11 Self-Indulgent Memoirs Fragment

"And then came 9/11/2001, and nobody was interested in censorware."

In general, nothing I say about 9/11 is going to make any difference. And I don't want to add to the noise level by writing useless political rants that will be written many times over by others. Or even technical rants, also written many times over by others, far more influential than me, and also better.

But, relevant to "an inside view of net-politics" in my description line, and as I wind down blogging, 9/11 did change, well, not exactly everything, but many things in net-politics. So this is a tiny bit of memoir which is extremely self-indulgent compared to the wider world. But it's something relevant to the readership and not duplicative of everything else.

In early 2001, after winning the EFF Pioneer Award, I decided to take a vacation from programming, to be a civil-liberties DMCA fighter, and do all the censorware activism that my supposed newfound status would support. I'll skip over other relevant aspects. But after 9/11, that world changed. The PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, "national security", etc. - these were the topics which were rightly top priority. Civil liberties is by definition unpopular even in the best of times, and a terrorized population is the worst of times.

My planned six-months "sabbatical" to be a DMCA hero then turned into two years of grinding unemployment, relentless personal attacks, and marginalization (and later, lots of wasted time blogging). But that's a long story.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in memoirs | on September 11, 2006 08:36 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Geez you are depressed and reading you isn't exactly something anyone interested in being entertained by reading blogs is likely to do repeatedly. That is unless they have some sense of empathy.

I've little sense of emotion over 9-11 other than anger and I'm not referring to anger against those in the world that would terrorize us all, though in a sense it is exactly that - those in the world that would terrorize us all for their narrow self interest. Americans in high places. But as you've pointed out, others have and will post about that though not necessarily better than I or you.

I think the key here is your self evaluation and sense of self worth or perhaps sense of injustice over value not recognized or appreciated. It's a strange world. I've only followed your "A-lister" dialog intermittently but you're definitely taking the A-lister strata too seriously (and that's knowing that gets a million bucks a year in ad revenue). In this post you've described how an abusive government abused you personally. That's not a flaw of any kind in you. It's a major flaw in a majorly abusive government. Your description might be straight from the McCarthy era. You were blacklisted for all intents and purposes. Yet somehow you give the impression that you're a loser and if you weren't things would have worked out better.

That may be so. In terms of the DMCA, government censorship and excessive controls over our lives, you were on the side of the good guys. The side of the Constitution, which used to be respected and admired, not perceived as an instrument endangering America. That Constitution is what is special about America. What is 'unspecial' about our times is how America doesn't seem to recognize that. Similarly, you don't seem to recognize what's special about you and what you do, whether it's a blog or your work, past and future.

I don't know what makes someone like Doc Searls an "A-lister" if he truly is that. I never thought of him in that sort of metaphorical term. Frankly I don't read his tech writings. I occasionally read his more personal blog. He may travel the world giving insightful talks to adoring audiences but the pictures he posts taken from plane windows on those flights often have more interest for me. And now the control freak supposedly protective government is likely going to end that. True, he won't be unemployed for two years but then his pictures and I'd guess his talks aren't as fundamentally dangerous to a control freak government as your work was. See, what you did seems more significant than what Searls does. You get the mal-attention and Searls gets the A-list.

My ADD is beginning to take over and since I'm not paid to write this there doesn't seem much point in working to make sure this post is clearly organized.

You've had a tough time with this blog. The trouble is I've followed blogs where the bloggers said they were ill and couldn't work and were out of money for rent and would be homeless soon. I'm not rolling in cash and so there wasn't anything I could do to help so a good blogger with good insights might be living on the streets right now. Not an A-lister for sure.

Yeah. Yeah. I know. This is your mom's "Finish your dinner. There are children in China going hungry." But your sense of injustice is just a fact of life for the vast majority of people. There's always someone that gets the deal with no more value basis than 'you.' Life's not fair and sometimes others ARE unfairly responsible, like those in an abusive government. But sometimes it's just luck. Good luck for some. Bad luck for others. The key is in not thinking some bad luck makes you a loser. Some woman in New York just won one million dollars in a lottery for a second time. The odds against that happening were apparently in a range that Carl Sagan would have had trouble counting the powers of ten for. So you're not a bloggery winner but you've done better than most.

And you've done it fighting the good fight not just taking pictures from a plane.

And I for one, if only one, do appreciate the effort.

Hey. I'm neither a psychiatrist nor a cheer leader. I assume you write because you enjoy it. Somehow you've lost that core satisfaction in writing, at least for this blog and apparently some other things. Take a break and rediscover what it is about writing that reached you. That gave you a sense of worth rather than destroying it. Don't let others control that in you.

Hey. Another thought. I was thinking that in your self interest you should fight for your views but you've complained that your views are expressed in any empty room while others project to stadiums of viewers. It was then for some reason I thought of Justice Louis Brandeis. His legal opinions are jewels of Constitutional interpretation, at least in terms of rights of and concerns for average Americans. But (and IANAL) weren't most of his great opinions minority views? He was a B-lister or more significantly a loser lister. He wrote in unappreciative times and circumstances and thank goodness for that.

Posted by: Amos Anan at September 11, 2006 11:43 PM


All day I wrestled with the 9/11 blog or no blog question.

If I blogged what I felt about the day I'd just hurt someone deeply impacted by the events so I elected to just let it pass.

Your memoir touches on the day as a pivot point in the tide of your life... as it was for us all. A pivot point that became a fulcrum for the neocons.

I read you blog as a simple statement of regret for these changes. It's very well written and cleartly labeled as self-indulgent... Please indulge yourself and know that your feelings resonate with many that you'll never meet or get a response from. Life is not fair and rarely easy to accept. Most don't complain but it helps people to let them know that life can be frustrating and cruel at times.

Posted by: McD at September 12, 2006 12:56 AM

Oh, I remember that feeling, or something rather like it. I was doing different activist work (mostly anti-sweatshop stuff) in 2001 and was only doing it part time, but it seemed as though it was going somewhere--and then, bam!--it had to take a back seat all the other things that had to be done. It is unutterably depressing--but, as you've noted, it's hard to say so without coming across as unutterably self-centered.

Posted by: Laura at September 12, 2006 02:09 PM

Anyone who is in doubt about their significance needs to pay a visit to the Total Perspective Vortex. ;-)

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at September 13, 2006 06:57 AM