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Katz on cypherpunks, in HotWired's Media Rant

[Background: the cypherpunk/pw:cypherpunk account used for HotWired's
Threads discussion section has been used for anonymous flaming and
attacks. --Declan]

   Linkname: The Netizen - Media Rant - Jon Katz
        URL: http://www.netizen.com/netizen/96/40/katz0a.html            
The Netizen
30 Sep 96


      In addition, the digital culture has long been demonized by the
            outside world and is inherently defensive and edgy.
     Cypherpunks give us fascinating insights into this subject, since
     their equivalent exists in no other medium, and they epitomize the
    often mindless verbal violence that characterizes some parts of the
   Net. Their original purpose - techno-anarchy and advocating unfettered
   access to information - conflict head-on with the Web's mainstreaming
              and the arrival of the newly wired middle class.
     Cypherpunks don't want real confrontations or discussions, or they
   would reveal their identities and make it possible to respond, as most
    flamers do. They are among media's rarest and at the same time most
                  easily recognized subspecies: nihilists.
   Anonymous communication makes verbal violence easy. Since most flamers
   don't know their targets and won't ever meet them, it's easy enough to
     attack individuals and question personal motives, with none of the
            social consequences of face-to-face verbal assaults.

         And Net communication also offers no filter: because it's
   instantaneous, people often don't take the time to cool off, reflect,
          or take another look at the messages they mail and post.
   When tempers flare here, it doesn't even take the time of a phone call
    to pop off. So, hostile messages are often impulsive and frequently
          regretted, apologized for, or taken back and clarified.
      Since the Net makes communication so easy, it makes corrections,
    criticism, and discussion inevitable. Nobody who writes or posts on
     the Web should expect anything less than sustained and continuous
       challenge and critique, something that is rarely permitted in
    mainstream journalism. Web writers and posters have to see these as
   integral to their work - not simply attacks - and as healthy antidotes
                to conventional media arrogance and elitism.
      Accompanying the hundreds and hundreds of personally assaultive
   messages I've gotten - as opposed to the thousands of simply critical
     ones - there is a strange and recurring phenomenon: If you respond
       quickly and respectfully, the overwhelming majority of hostile
   emailers either apologize, change their tone, or write back in a more
      reflective, serious, or friendly way. Most of these posters are
   stunned that anyone read their mail in the first place, or, even more
                        amazingly, responded to it.