what declan doesn't get
DECLAN MCCULLAGH IS A WRITER WHO WORKS FOR WIRED NEWS. HE ALSO RUNS A "listserve" that feeds to subscribers the bulletins that he has decided to forward and facilitates a discussion among these members. The list was originally called "Fight Censorship," and it initially attracted a large number of subscribers who were eager to organize to resist the government's efforts to "censor" the Net.
But Declan uses the list now for more than a discussion of censorship. He feeds to the list other news that he imagines his subscribers will enjoy. So in addition to news about efforts to eliminate porn from the Net, Declan includes reports on FBI wiretaps, or efforts to protect privacy, or the government's efforts to enforce the nation's antitrust laws. I'm a subscriber; I enjoy the posts.
Declan's politics are clear. He's a smart, if young, libertarian whose first reaction to any suggestion that involves government is scorn. In one recent message, he cited a story about a British provider violating fax spam laws; this, he argued, showed that laws regulating e-mail spam are useless. There is one unifying theme to Declan's posts: let the Net alone. And with a sometimes self-righteous sneer, he ridicules those who question this simple, if powerful, idea.
I've watched Declan's list for some time. For a brief time I watched the discussion part of the list as well. But the most striking feature about this list to me is the slow emergence of a new topic of concern—one that now gets more posts than "censorship."
This topic is Y2K—the "year 2000 problem" that threatens to disrupt much in our social and economic life as computers discover that the new millennium does not compute. As clearly as Declan's libertarianism comes through, so too does his obsession with Y2K. He is either terrified or perversely amused by what the new millennium will bring to the computer next door.
From the perspective of this book, these twin concerns—with regulation by the state and regulation by code—are quite consistent. Just as we should worry about the bad regulations of law, so too should we worry about the bad regulations of