John Perry Barlow on 9/11

As I watched the Twin Towers collapse on September 11, 2001 I wrote this in my diary: “We can kiss goodbye to civil liberties from this day onwards. There’s nothing that democracies won’t do to prevent this ever happening again”. As ever, John Perry Barlow was both more articulate, and more perspicacious. This is what he wrote that day to those on his BarlowFriendz list. (Courtesy of SpiekerBlog.)

This morning’s events are roughly equiv­a­lent to the Reich­stag fire that pro­vided the social oppor­tu­nity for the Nazi take-over of Ger­many.

I am not sug­gest­ing that, like the Nazis, the author­i­tar­ian forces in Amer­ica actu­ally had a direct role in per­pe­trat­ing this mind-blistering tragedy. (Though their indi­rect role deserves a much longer dis­cus­sion.)

Nev­er­the­less, noth­ing could serve those who believe that Amer­i­can “safety” is more impor­tant than Amer­i­can lib­erty bet­ter than some­thing like this. Con­trol freaks will dine on this day for the rest of our lives.

Within a few hours, we will see begin­ning the most vig­or­ous efforts to end what remains of free­dom in Amer­ica. Those of who are will­ing to sac­ri­fice a lit­tle — largely illu­sory — safety in order to main­tain our faith in the orig­i­nal ideals of Amer­ica will have to fight for those ideals just as vig­or­ously.

I beg you to begin NOW to do what­ever you can — whether writ­ing your pub­lic offi­cials, join­ing the ACLU or EFF, tak­ing to the streets, or liv­ing vis­i­bly free and fear­less lives — to pre­vent the spasm of con­trol mania from destroy­ing the dreams that far more have died for over the last two hun­dred twenty five years than died this morn­ing.

Don’t let the ter­ror­ists or (their nat­ural allies) the fas­cists win.

Remem­ber that the goal of ter­ror­ism is to cre­ate increas­ingly par­a­lytic total­i­tar­i­an­ism in the gov­ern­ment it attacks. Don’t give them the sat­is­fac­tion.

Fear noth­ing. Live free.

And, please, let us try to for­give those who have com­mit­ted these appalling crimes. If we hate them, we will become them.

May God — or What­ever you want to call It — bless us all. We’ll need it.


John Perry

And here’s what he wrote the other day:

The answer to ter­ror­ism is not fear. Nor is it vio­lence. Nor is it trans­form­ing our coun­try in the very ways Al Queda wished, thus betray­ing every­thing Amer­ica stood for and becom­ing an arbi­trar­ily vio­lent and sur­veil­lant nation that rou­tinely tor­tures per­ceived ene­mies and incar­cer­ates them indef­i­nitely with­out due process.

If only we’d had the courage and self-assurance to say, “Nice shoot­ing, Ass­holes, but we have lots of tall build­ings.” And left it at that. If only we’d had the courage to respond to ter­ror­ism with a stead­fast unwill­ing­ness to be ter­ror­ized. If only we’d rec­og­nized the trap we were being led into. But we didn’t.
Now Amer­ica is a par­ody of what it was that day 10 years ago. We have bank­rupted our­selves and slaugh­tered tens of thou­sands with point­less wars of reac­tion. We have gut­ted our enlight­ened guar­an­tees of civil lib­erty and gov­ern­men­tal restraint. We have lost our way. And we have become the very mon­ster Osama bin Laden per­ceived us to be.

This is a sad day indeed. Not merely because it refreshes the tragedies of that ter­ri­ble day, but because it also reminds us of all the tragedies — most of them far worse and more per­ma­nent in effect — that we sub­se­quently inflicted upon our­selves and on count­less inno­cents here and abroad in reac­tion to those events.