First assignment: John Perry Barlow’s Death From Above, written in March 1995.
Second assignment: Cory Doctorow’s Somebody Has To Die, posted three days ago.
Over the last 30 years, the American CEO Corps has included an astonishingly large percentage of men who piloted bombers during World War II. For some reason not so difficult to guess, dropping explosives on people from commanding heights served as a great place to develop a world view compatible with the management of a large post-war corporation.
It was an experience particularly suited to the style of broadcast media. Aerial bombardment is clearly a one-to-many, half-duplex medium, offering the bomber a commanding position over his “market” and terrific economies of scale.
Now, most of these jut-jawed former flyboys are out to pasture on various golf courses, but just as they left their legacy in the still thriving Cold War machinery of the National Security State, so their cultural perspective remains deeply, perhaps permanently, embedded in the corporate institutions they led for so long, whether in media or manufacturing. America remains a place where companies produce and consumers consume in an economic relationship which is still as asymmetrical as that of bomber to bombee.
The lop-sided character of this world view has been much on my mind lately with regard to various corporate projects on what they are all too pleased to call the “Information Superhighway” (evoking as it does the familiar comforts of Big Construction by Big Government in cooperation with Big Business). The cable companies and Baby Bells have a model for developing the next phase of telecom infrastructure which, were it applied to the design of physical superhighways, would have us building them with about five thousand lanes in one direction and one lane in the other. The only more manipulative consumer architecture I’ve seen is the quarter mile of one way conveyor belt which sucks the unsuspecting off the Strip in Vegas and drops them into the digestive maze of Caesar’s Palace Casino without any return route at all.
I don’t much care which one we kill off. A manufacturer who has so little respect for my business that he locks my handset gets no love from me — no more than would a restauranteur who bars the door until I agree to eat there for the next year. The record industry lost me about 20,000 lawsuits ago — they can go hang, as far as I’m concerned. And, of course, no human language contains the phrase “as lovable as a phone company,” and I’d dance on the grave of pretty much any major carrier.
Not sure biznicide is the only option here, but it’s important to note that it’s seriously under consideration.