Peter Lunenfeld on Sat, 27 Sep 1997 21:13:30 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Re: The User is the Content

Wading into a Donnybrook

In the past week, we've had major posts on neo-liberalism and its
discontents from Herbert Schiller, Drazen Pantic, Luis Soares, and John
Horvath. I can't say that Schiller's rehashing of tenured academic
posturing added much to the debate, but I do value the less hidebound
contributions from nettimers. Nonetheless there is much that concerns me in
both Horvath's and Soare's postings.

Horvath writes:
>As long as one person remains offline against their will -- either through
>political or economic means -- then the promises that are being made about
>digital media are clearly false

What kind of numerical absolutism is this? There's no discussion possible
after a statement like this, all we can do is bow our heads in awe of such
piety. Just before this dismissal of those who would discuss the promise of
the Internet, Horvath trumps all comers with his statement that "free and
unhindered access is a basic human right." At what particular moment did
access to telematic technology become a "basic" right, and would he specify
browsers and modem speeds to be written into the UN's declaration?

While I'm at it, in another post Horvath discussed "the poverty of North
American basic education" and the way that public schools in the US
"produce dumb kids." If Horvath is not already aware that anti-public
school, pro-(Christian) private education forces have a vested interest in
promoting these kinds of sentiments, he should be. The American right and
their libertarian co-travelers have been decrying K-12 education in the US
for more than a generation, not to improve public schools but rather to
destroy them. It's distressing to see the left in Europe take up their
claims as fact. The state of inner city education is indeed horrendous (see
any of Jonathan Kozol's heartfelt work for confirmation of this), and there
are some major structural problems with American primary and secondary
education (as there are in all countries), but one doesn't need to wear
rose colored glasses to see that there is also much that works and even
certain aspects of the North American educational system to be lauded.

Moving on to Soares, this list offers the opportunity to participate in the
development of a truly post-'89 political and aesthetic theory. But it
becomes wearying to wade through critiques of North American policy and
culture that mimic the "Yankee Go Home" rhetoric of the pre- and post-'68
era. The culpability of the United States for the sins of the neo-liberal
agenda is indeed a major issue, but I was surprised to find Soares invoking
"values of culture, democracy, freedom based on the comunity" and claiming
that these values are somehow more "European" than they are
"american-west-coast." Soares seems to be posting from Portugal, which
under Salazar vied with Franco's Spain to be the longest lasting, most
strongly authoritarian-corporatist country in post-war Western Europe. I
live in Los Angeles, so perhaps I've been so thoroughly inculcated,
interpolated and victimized by the Californian Ideology that I am incapable
of understanding the superiority of European values, but on the other hand
it may be that phrases like "freedom based on community" are no less
dangerous over the net today than they were over the radio sixty years ago.

I suppose that one of the only benefits to starting arguments with both
sides of an ongoing dispute is that the previous combatants will form bonds
with each other to dispute my positions, if only on the grounds that the
enemy of their enemy is their friend. So, here's hoping the road to world
peace is paved by fierce disagreement and the occasional donnybrook.

Peter Lunenfeld

The Donnybrook Fair was a yearly event, held near Dublin, during which
there was much brawling and rowdiness. The word "donnybrook," connoting a
fight that anyone can join, is dying out in the US with the full
assimilation of Irish-Americans, but perhaps we can resurrect it for
service within the English dialect emerging on <nettime> and across the

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