English Addicts and Saudi Gamers

  1. Boys in the Virtual Attic
  2. The Kinder Gap
  3. The Joy of Publishing

“I get mail from people in the Eastern bloc saying how much they appreciate PGP... When I’m talking to Americans about this, a lot of them don’t understand why I’d be so paranoid about the government. But people in police states, you don’t have to explain it to them. They already get it. And they don’t understand why we don’t.”--Phil Zimmermann, PGP author

The electronic frontier--that’s something else the infobahn has been called. A frontier expands the edges of our experience. The electronic frontier does away with some edges entirely. The net is a world in its own, a world that joins viewer to presenter, blasting away the border that separates customer and provider, “client” and “server”. It is also a world that transcends national and state boundaries.

Electronic mail and Internet discussion groups are my eyes on the world. I have a friend in China, in a city whose name I cannot spell. We can participate in the same discussions, send private mail to each other instantly, (!) and do most anything except slap each other on the butt and share a beer.

I’ve discussed gaming with Saudis (where gaming is illegal), and I’ve discussed marijuana with a Spaniard, where personal use is legal, and with a Dutchman, where personal use is tolerated. The press releases from Holland describing the success of their marijuana decriminalization policy are sitting on my ‘Gopher site’, Cerebus the Gopher, an electronic bulletin board, where anyone else in the United States or the world can read them. When the German and Colombian high court decriminalized ‘soft’ drugs for personal use, it was on the net in hours, and on Cerebus the Gopher shortly thereafter.

I’ve talked with heroin addicts in England, where being an addict is not illegal, and addicts can maintain a useful--and socially productive--life. They don’t understand why we spend so much effort and money trying to arrest and jail their counterparts here, and I have to confess I’m unclear on the subject as well. I’ve talked with cigarette smokers in Canada, who described the results of over-taxation of cigarettes: the creation of a violent black market in cigs with the result that the Canadian government backed down and reduced the tax.

I’ve talked with folks from the Eastern United States who don’t understand my objections to gun control laws that don’t do anything against violent crime--agreeing that, in fact, they are ineffective, but “we ought to do something, even if it’s just for show”--and I’ve talked with Eastern Europeans who know damn well what it really means when a government tries to ‘control’ firearms in the hands of its own citizens.

Newsgroups: talk.politics.guns
From: [d--m--y] at [NeoSoft.com] (David Ramsey)
Subject: Re: Jews and gun control.
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 1994 04:38:33 GMT

At that time I was working in the Washington, DC area and was employed by a firm owned by an Orthodox Jew. This gentleman frequently hired other Orthodox Jews. After working at this company for several months, I received a new office mate who was young, a recent college graduate, and who was an Orthodox Jew. He, a close friend of mine, and I all frequently talked about the right to keep and bear arms. And all this young man would say was “I’m not very sure about all this.” Well, our discussions went on for several months and eventually he told us that he was going to discuss this whole topic with his rabbi. So he left work that Friday and promised to tell us what his *rabbi* said on Monday.

Monday arrived and my friend, my Jewish office-mate, and I all found a few minutes to discuss the verdict from the rabbi. My Jewish acquaintance said that he told his rabbi all that we had told him and then asked the rabbi what was correct in this situation. His rabbi, an elderly gentleman who had survived the concentration camps just looked at him and said, “Irwin, you live in America and you don’t own a gun?” Irwin told us that he had completely changed his mind about guns and gun control because of this.

There’s even an entire organization, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, which seeks to educate America about the dangers of gun control, and much of their information is on the net. This is the sort of point-blank postings they put out, from an interview between JFPO leader Aaron Zelman and holocaust survivor Theodor Haas: (?)

Q. Did the camp inmates [Dachau] ever bring up the topic, “If only we were armed before, we would not be here now”?

A. Many, many times. Before Adolf Hitler came to power, there was a black market in firearms, but the German people had been so conditioned to be law abiding that they would never consider buying an unregistered gun. The German people really believed that only hoodlums own guns. What fools we were. It truly frightens me to see how the government, media and some police groups in America are pushing for the same mindset. In my opinion, the people of America had better start asking and demanding answers to some hard questions about firearms ownership, especially, if the government does not trust me to own firearms, why or how can the people be expected to trust the government?

There is no doubt in my mind that millions of lives could have been saved if the people were not “brainwashed” about gun ownership and had been well armed. Hitler’s thugs and goons were not very brave when confronted by a gun. Gun haters always want to forget the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which is a perfect example of how a ragtag, half-starved group of Jews took 10 handguns and made asses out of the Nazis.

Individuals can be quite as eloquent as organizations, even if they don’t speak English as well as most other people on the infobahn. In a discussion about loosening gun control legislation in Germany, Michael Czollek responded:

From: [m--c] at [glasnost.glasnost.de] (Michael Czollek)
Newsgroups: soc.culture.jewish,soc.culture.german,talk.politics.guns
Subject: Re: Jews as hostages by the Police Trade Union
Date: 17 Jun 1994 23:44:43 +0200

[s--li--r] at [cs.umd.edu] (Oliver Seeliger) schreibt:
>Michael Zeleny <[z--le--y] at [oak.math.ucla.edu]> wrote:
>>[s--li--r] at [cs.umd.edu] (Oliver Seeliger) writes:
>>>Self defense: yes. But guns: no. There must be other ways
>>Let me guess -- jackboots and armbands?
>Nope, try again: peaceful demonstrations against violence against foreigners
>and Jews for example!

That’s all well and good. But I live in the Federal Republic. And Neonazis phoning me. That they want to rape my girl-friend to kidnap my son and to kill men. I am full of fear. Please, tell me something you would do as you would be in my situation.

Can you heare the cry of my son? Now he sleep. But he is always afraid to lost me.

In front of his school are standing sergants with strong weapons. I am very afraid if they on strike...

Can you help?


The Internet has expanded my horizons so far that I’ve turned virtually inside out since I came aboard, going from a rabidly anti-drug and anti-gun liberal to a rabidly pro-individual rights libertarian--who still considers himself a liberal. Physical borders aren’t the only borders that get broken down on the net. One of the most outspoken groups of Democrats on the net are Democrats for the Second Amendment. They even have their own electronic mailing list. And there are a large number of NRA members on-line who support the “liberal” right to keep and use illegal drugs.

There are no borders on the net. Imagine there’s no countries? It’s not hard: imagine the net. When you take it down to basics, its just a bunch of people talking, people who wouldn’t otherwise find each other because they’re in different towns, provinces, and countries. Which means that people who would otherwise think they were alone in their opinions can find someone from across the country who feels the same way. And so we get card-carrying members of the NRA who are also card-carrying members of the ACLU. A world without borders is strange place indeed.

What are “community standards” when individuals define their own community?

“‘Deviance’ loses its meaning, when communities of the like-minded are formed entirely by consent. Freedom of association is so complete in cyberspace that traditional limits on freedom of speech become almost impossible to justify constitutionally.” (?)

It’s not so much that it loses its meaning. It loses any force. When there’s only one person in town who likes to ramble on about his shoe fetish, it’s pretty easy to marginalize that person. But how many other outspoken shoe fetishists are there in the United States? A few thousand? In the world? Ten thousand? Out of six billion that isn’t very much. But that guy you’re trying to marginalize can get on-line and start a mailing list just for the discussion of shoe sex. He now has ten thousand people to share his reality. How many do you have?

Now who’s marginalized?

  1. Actually, going between the bottlenecks that hook countries together--especially countries we don’t necessarily like--can result in mail taking hours to get to its destination. Big hairy deal. Try that with airmail.
  2. Hoodlums Own Guns , www.hoboes.com.
  3. Peter Huber, Forbes, 7/31/95 p.110, quoted in EduPage 7/23/95.
  1. Boys in the Virtual Attic
  2. The Kinder Gap
  3. The Joy of Publishing