Letters To The Ethical Spectacle

Last month's fiction issue was the most enjoyable, but difficult issue of The Ethical Spectacle ever. Writing Kazoo Concerto became an obsessive endeavor; I couldn't leave it alone after the issue was online, and kept revising the stories well into October. I found that even when I wasn't writing, I was spending a lot of time thinking about the characters, who had taken on a life of their own for me. It was hard to put them aside and go on to other things.

I plan to continue writing hyperfiction, though it is unlikely I will extend Kazoo Concerto--it is complete as it is. Two other projects struggling for attention would be a science fiction hypernovel called In The Lab, about a region of our galaxy filled with empty Earthlike worlds, where humans go to attempt utopias; and a story of brothers who found software companies, their family life and competition with each other over a period of two decades.

The most important insight I got from writing Kazoo Concerto was the smashing of the linear narrative. Obviously, I am not the first to discover this, but it was a highly interesting learning experience to tell a story free of the linear structure.

I have a book proposal being reviewed by my publisher for an analysis of the reasons humans have problems writing computer software. With my legal writing partner Michael Green, I am also starting to work up an article on ISP liability.

The third year of The Ethical Spectacle is drawing to a close and as it does so, I have learned that we are blocked in whole or part by at least five of the leading censorware products out there. In the wake of the free speech victory in ACLU v. Reno, a new age of censorship by stealth is creeping up on us; every time one of these products is purchased by a public library or school, First Amendment violations occur in silence. If you are involved with decision-making at your local school or library, please consider whether you would want to deny your patrons or students access to The Ethical Spectacle.

The piece on X-Stop had some dramatic results. Two pro-blocker organizations, Filtering Facts and Family Friendly Libraries, withdrew endorsements of the product. I'm still amazed by the efficacy of Net activism; once you set some information free on the Net, it tends to travel wherever it is needed. Every time a library considers purchasing X-Stop anywhere in the country, a local patron or parent will turn up with a copy of the article. I am confident that the majority of schools and libraries which purchase censorware have no idea what these products block, and wouldn't buy them if they knew. Another insight: you don't need mainstream media coverage to be effective. The press didn't pick up the X-Stop story; but since the media themselves count on the Net to find out what's news these days, anyone getting their information directly from the Net is one step up the food chain from anyone relying on conventional media.

I love to receive your email--and am especially interested in hearing from regular readers who have never written to me. Every month, more than 20,000 of you read The Spectacle-- so keep those cards and letters coming. My email is jw@bway.net.

Kazoo Concerto
Dear Mr. Wallace:

Your exploded novel (of which I've only read one thread) reminds me in a number of ways of Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine, but I think its focus on people and people's stories makes it a bit more artful than Mezzanine, which does the same kind of thing with ideas and objects, raising some of the same kinds of questions and impressions. I think I will suggest your novel(s) to my old high school English teacher as a possible point of comparison with some of the works he's been teaching. We did Mezzanine together with Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author which also hints at the weirdness of trying to tell stories in a linear fashion and which plays with the problems of presenting the "authoritative" version of a story. My teacher is a fan of introspective, self-referential, and experimental literature, but so far he has avoided computers. So possibly your novels can show him that there are interesting applications of computers to experimental literature. Of course, your Rating Systems piece keeps up the good work on that front.

Seth David Schoen schoen@uclink4.berkeley.edu

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just wanted to pass on my admiration for Kazoo Concerto.

Art Kleiner art@well.com

Censorware and Net Freedoms

Sent to the publishers of Cybersitter, copied to me:


I discovered your product quite by accident the other day. I came across an article written by a Nate Patrin which was highly critical of Rush Limbaugh, for whom I have much respect. Using the author's e-mail link, I backed into a webpage called "Turn Left" (www.turnleft.com). Interesting reading to say the least.

As I'm sure you're aware by now, the website contained a link to an article which labels you a "right wing censor". After researching the issue myself, all I can say is THANK YOU. I plan on purchasing CyberSitter and I will strongly urge the parents I come in contact with who are looking to screen their children's Net use to purchase Cybersitter. I support Solid Oak's attempt to help parents set and maintain appropriate standards of decency and morality in the home. If that's "censorship" then I'm all for it. The next thing I'll hear from these jerks is that by choosing not to subscribe to "Ms Magazine" or "Boy Love" that I am violating the "rights" of my wife and children. Give me a break.

Anon fox3long@erols.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

While reading an article about Free speech on the internet, a thought occured to me, Wouldn't the current Software piracy laws be unconstitutional, violating "Freedom of Speech", because all computer programs are virtual in nature. And what they ammount to is a combination of 1's and 0's on a person's hard disk, so making it illegal to copy software is in effect making a certain combonaiton of 1's and 0's on a person's hard disk illegal unless they have consent from a certain company. From this point of view these laws are just wrong. I may be wrong on this, but isn't it true that you can photocopy text as long as you don't sell the text under your own name. This should apply to computer programs as well. (Understand that this is coming from the point of view of a computer programmer also.)

Tony J. arjohns@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu

Dear Jonathan:

You write:

Late in the day, some well-respected people, notably Mike Godwin of the EFF, began to take a public position that the CDA clearly referred to a national standard. While this was clearly a good fallback position for us in the event that the CDA was held constitutional, I had serious doubt whether it was what the CDA proponents really intended.

This statement is factually incorrect in most of its particulars:

1) That "indecency" was a national standard has been FCC doctrine since the early 1980s. See, e.g., Powe and Krattenmaker, REGULATING BROADCAST PROGRAMMING. See also Powe's AMERICAN BROADCASTING AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT.

2) I did not take the position "late in the day" -- I'd known this was a national standard since studying under Powe at Texas in the late 1980s.

3) It did not represent any sort of "fallback position."

4) It would not have helped us at all if the law had been found constitutional.

5) Establishing a national standard was precisely what the CDA proponents intended, as Deen Kaplan and others made clear in the September 12, 1994, issue of Christianity Today.

I'm sure that you did not mean to make your account of this challenge inaccurate, and I trust that you will correct the record as soon as possible.

Mike Godwin mnemonic@well.com

Dear Jonathan:

Re The X-Stop Files revealing that the product blocks a Quaker website, among others:

Nice to see someone has finally discovered my church's true agenda!

Actually banning the Quakers is not so far fetched. Before the pilgrim fathers (remember them) landed they wrote a little diatribe about all the sects they were going to persecute, Quakers taking pride of place.

About the same time Quaker virgins were wandering arround Oxford stark naked to demonstrate the sinfulness of the world or some such. Bunch of hooligans :-)

Its worth pointing out that as a non-hierarchical religion the idea of a single 'Quaker home page' is a bit off base. The whole point is that nobody is more important than anybody else. As such www.quaker.org is quite a good home page since it is simply a list of links to other people's pages. Fittingly it also avoids all that fonts and iconography that a lot of other religious sites have all over the place.

I can well see that some people might have difficulty seeing it as a church home page. It is not a conventional church however. Many of the causes that are closely liked to Friends are considered ultra leftist like pacifism, anti-nuclear demonstrations etc.

I guess the page got banned either because of the Gay Friends groups or possibly the incest recovery group. There are a lot of gay friends which is unsurprising when you think that there is nobody whith authority to tell them that they are unwellcome. Or maybe the anti-death sentence site?

In short don't think that this is a site that is in some way organised, authorised or whatever by the society. There simply isn't any way that that could happen nor any reason to do so. It is simply an index of sites containing material relating to the church produced by one individual. Its a pretty accurate picture of the church but it would be inaccurate to say that the "church" was somehow being censored. The church does not work that way. There is no 'top' to the church just like there is none to the Web (guess where that idea...) God is everywhere.

Phillip Hallam-Baker hallam@ai.mit.edu

Hello Jonathan --

I've just finished reading your latest newsletter regarding the X-Stop software and am, once again, outraged by yet another moral majority attempt to stranglehold the normal world! Just when you think there's enough babysitter software out there, lo and behold, another one rears its ugly head!

I share your distaste for this and any other kind of censorship software and have carried a link to spectacle.org on one of my websites for quite some time now on my "Duh Award of the Week" page which deals with censorship, encryption, women's rights, etc., issues.

With your kind permission, I would like to reprint your latest bulletin dealing with the X-Stop issue. I specifically would like to include it on my gay site with, of course, all links and direct credit given to you as the author.

Thanks for providing the more intelligent portion of society with your insightful website and bulletins!

Georgette Becker cybergal@isat.com

John (if I may call you that),

I subscribed to your newsletter recently, after surfing the Net searching for some articles that could get me started on my thesis. I have been an interested reader ever since!

I want to congratulate you on this newsletter. I think it is important that more and more people know about Free Speech, especially on the Internet. Not only people in the United States, but also around the world, since the net does not work in geographic borders as we know them. I'm glad that you do this work, and I want to let you know that it is greatly appreciated!!

Again, thanks for the great articles!


Tina Roensberg roensbe@okstate.edu


I am an avid visitor of your page and supportor of your fight against the CDA. As such, I thought that you'd be interested in hearing about a recent development in my school, Bradford District High School, in Ontario, Canada. I am a chairman of a non-denomanational youth group there known as Generation Youth. I designed an advertisment to stimulate membership and got it approved by the administration of the school. An hour after I had put it up, it was ordered down by the same administration on the basis that it had offended a (yes, one. Everyone else had no problem) teacher. To better understand the circumstances surrounding this, it is neccessary to point out the impending strike by ALL the teachers of the province due to Bill C160 (This bill will take away teacher's as well as other essential community members' rights to strike). Needless to say, our teachers are not happy with this bill and are very sensitive about current public opinion (they aren't recieving all the public support they want).

All of this however, has nothing to do with the intended message in my ad. My ad deals with a local sort of issue. In my town there is little to do as a youth and many people complain about it. In my town there are also people that create things to do and are having fun doing so, I am one of these people and thankfully so is most of the school. The people who complain that there is nothing to do, although not the majority, are still a significant amount; this ad was aimed at them. The teacher in question interpreted the ad as an attack on himself and other teachers and thought that the "We do Stuff" 'punchline' was to mean that we, as a youth group, do drugs. I believe that his interpretation is due to his 'sensativity' derived from the political atmoshpere. I thought you might find this interesting and I would truly enjoy hearing your opinion on this.

Adam Muise admuise@mail.on.rogers.wave.ca

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I'm a French student at the University of Caen writing a paper about the way pornography on the Internet is perceived by the Americans.For this purpose, I will start giving the historical background to the Internet; then, I would like to show that pornography is not a new subject of discussion and that it has always been a moot question in the United States of America maybe because of the puritan background which is still heavily felt;of course,I would also like to talk about the CDA....

I read your book entitled "Sex,Laws and Cyberspace" which was helpful but it would be great of you if you could please communicate me more information about the CDA and anything I could be interested with. At the beginning of this year, I was in your country but now from France it's been hard to carry on my paper...

Thank you very much, Edwige.

Edwige Rozier 92001773@etu.unicaen.fr

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have a question about X-Stop: In the "felony load" version, wouldn't that program's blocking of a site mean that the software manufacturer was specifically calling the site legally obscene? And if so, couldn't the owner of any blocked site sue for slander?

John Morse MorseJ@nasd.com


One of the Quaker listserv groups is presently mulling over the X-Stop press release that was passed along by Red Rock Eater. One question, how did you get the list of the sites being blocked?

I suppose that most of them are devoted to pornographic content (however you define it), but what is it that seems to characterize the other sites on the list? As best I can tell, the main fault in the quaker site is that the words Lesbian and Gay are mentioned. Or is there a theological concern? Is more than one quaker site on the list? (Is mine? -- see URL below)

Any thoughts?

Thanks in advance.

Kirk Wattles kwattles@mindspring.com

One of the most remarkable letters I have ever received. The writer says he is a student in Malaysia, a country that limits freedom of speech--and has been asked to write an essay taking a position against it:

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hi, I am from Malaysia.

I am currently in my freshman year of university and will be making a trip to America in the future to pursue the rest of my studies. I found your page because an essay topic has been given to me and my fellow classmates.

The title is `Freedom of Speech: Absurdity that sucks!' Our lecturer gave us an article on a philapino journalist who was murdered for what he had published against a drug lord. I am in a dilemma on what to write and I was wondering if you could perhaps send some material that is against freedom of speech with examples why.

Thank You.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hi! I am a freshman Education major at the University of Maryland College Park. I am writing a paper dealing with the Communications Decency Act. I have been having some trouble finding sites that deal with both sides of the issues and was wondering if you could e-mail me with some of the more informative sites that you might have on file. Your cooperation in furthering my education is greatly appreciated!!

Scott Perando spvp@erols.com

An Auschwitz Alphabet

Hi Jonathan:

I've appreciated your web site. I am currently taking a class on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. My research topic is, "Life at Auschwitz." If you have the time I would really appreciate any lead or information you could send me as far as where to look (Journals, Books, Films, Papers, etc...) Also anything else you may think of. I have found several books and Journals but would like to find as much as I can. I want to approach this subject with knowledge and sensitivity and the more research I can get, the better.

Thank you, Andrew Rushin anjrushin@sprynet.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

As a teacher educator, I was most interested in your work on the alphabet. I am seeking your permission to reprint it for use with my graduate students. It would, it seems to me, be excellent for discussion. I assure you that it would not either be claimed as my work, nor generate monetary profit. These are New York City teachers from culturally diverse backgrounds, who are charged with teaching about these events in a developmentally appropriate way.

Thanking you in advance,

Dr. T. Duboys ARAL7677@aol.com


Dear JW:

This is really scary, but I concur with virtually every word you expressed in the past two issues regarding Israel and the Palestinians. I see no end to the conflict possible unless the Israelis (who have the power in this conflict) either treat the Palestinians with more respect, or kill every last one of them-a prospect that some Jews apparently feel is a justifiable solution. You, quite correctly point out that this ambition is not in the spirit of Judaism. Your moral "high ground" approach to this issue (in spite of your Jewish heritage) demonstrates an admirable consistency I rarely find in liberals.

Bob Wilson

Bob is an Arizona businessman who writes regularly for The Spectacle.


I am working on the french Paperclip Operation. From 1945 to 1950 (and later), about 6500 german ingeneers and technical staff have been involved in french programs (Ariane, Mirage, etc.). I am looking for chemical warfare information, and of course, France is a typical country of "you don't need to know" in this topic (we need to wait about 120 years to declassify !!!). I need also information in industrial (Loreal, Rhone Poulenc, Saint Gobain, etc.), institutionnal (university, psychology, medecine, etc.), and miscellenaous branchs.

If you got information, and if you accept to help me, do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you
Didier Dufresnoy dufresn@mail.club-internet.fr

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just read About Jonathan Wallace... On May 6, 1970, I stood in my high school's cafeteria in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and watched in horror the Shaker Heights' armory of the Ohio National Guard drive by on their way to Kent State. Jeeps and armored vehicles nearly blocked both lanes of US Rte 422.

That next Sunday, my brother, sister and I traveled to Kent State with my father, a journalist. Using his press credentials, we were permitted onto the campus. My father showed us the beautiful and tranquil campus which sharply contrasted with the news footage of the previous days' events. I still remeber the serious tone of my father's voice as we drove home that day. "Don't ever forget what can happen when people think they can take away your rights."

Kim Danaceau Wagner RKJKLM@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I would like to comment that while you make a very persuasive argument about the difficulty in "justifying" violence, you argument is lost in the last paragraph of the article when the declaration is made that "men who have engaged in violence aren't fit to rule us." I believe that you are confusing men who have engaged in violent acts with men who are violent by nature. Men who have engaged in war are typically the men who hate it the most. They are the men who are least likely to involve a democracy in another war.

A violent act in and of itself is just that a violent act. A man who defends his home or family against a threat by the use of a violent act isn't necessarily a violent man by nature. Even Darwinism teaches us that if we didn't defend ourselves our family line would cease to exist. What would be achieved by pacifism? The pacifists would be dominated by others. Freedom and liberty would be lost. What would be achieved by that? Nothing.

Just my opinion.

Bill haley@cyberramp.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Your review of Interview With The Vampire showed up under a free speech listing...I couldn't tell if it was supporting your piece as a demonstration of how Hollywood is so much worse than the porn people try to censor (and the case could be made), or as an assault on free speech and artistic expression (and the case could also be made).

I don't know how much of the mail you've received you replied to but I don't want to weary you. :) I just wanted to put forth a few thoughts, and maybe you can stop me if I'll be retreading old ground.

I think you do have a point about the film's portrayal of women. My reaction -- partly fuelled by my appreciation for the book and its sequels -- was a "yes, but" one. I think Neil Jordan's film (from Rice's screenplay) was appreciably different from the books, so I may get mixed up, but here's a quick touch on the points I wanted to make.

Originally the story is considerably more homoerotic. Since much of this is stripped out in the film, one is left with a more traditionally misogynistic impression and with the sensuous chemistry between Lestat and Louis almost reduced to the effeminate Nazi stereotype you invoked to describe them. One example of this is that Armand in the books is a child of eighteen at most, beautiful, with flowing red hair and a choirboy's face. In the movie he is played by the also beautiful but otherwise very different Antonio Banderas. This destroys Rice's characterization (and is IMO the worst miscasting next to Stephen Rea's) utterly, and you can imagine how it changes the scene in the Theatre des Vampires to have Banderas collect the nude frightened girl in his arms instead of an angelic child apparently offering salvation.

You minimized the role of Louis's guilt, and perhaps I'm importing it from the book when I say that it's the most important aspect of the story and the most pervasive. The later books are very different, but Interview is clearly a highly moral tale of Louis and his struggle with what has become of him. We lose a vital setting detail in the film; in the book, it was Louis's holy brother (not his wife and child) that dies and plunges him into despair. This works out all right, but it originally set up his relationship with Lestat. Anyway, the good vs. evil conflict could not be more clearly delineated. On the one side is Lestat, tempting Louis (surprisingly unsuccessfully) into vampirism. On the other is Louis, killing animals instead of humans, refusing to play Lestat's games, adopting the child Claudia and later taking a "wife." The vampires of the Theatre are plainly, hideously evil and represent moral void. They set Louis's "child" and "wife" to the sun in order to punish Claudia and him for attempting to kill Lestat. In response, Louis burns the Theatre to the ground. Louis flies into a rage when Daniel (Christian Slater) expresses the desire to be a vampire as well.

The implication is that this undeathstyle is much more attractive than Louis thinks it is, but structurally the film could not be much more clear about who the villains are and what one should think of their behavior. It is in the nature of a horror film to titillate with the very activity it condemns, but Interview is hardly the most egregious example. I felt a good deal of pity for the vampires' victims, not indifference or lust; the girl taken in the Theatre looked emaciated and frail, not sexual to me (though in fairness I'm sure most men were supposed to find her attractive).

The question of what value one must place on human life (as opposed to vampiric) is a major theme in the Vampire Chronicles. It's not fair to bring it up, since there is only one movie in question and it's not in great evidence there, but I thought I'd mention it.

The most misogynistic movie I've seen in recent years has been SPECIES, which left me utterly nauseated and repelled. INTERVIEW had a strong moral consciousness, and while I thought many of your criticisms were valid to some extent I thought the film undeserving of condemnation, and I thought the article presented a limited view of the themes involved.

Thanks for your time,
Drew wyrd@bi.org

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Could I use the wonderful gif showing the two caged prisoners on my web-site? It includes a page on game theory (which already has a link to that issue). The site is at http://www.geocities.com/athens/olympus/2178/. (Add "games.html" at the end to see just that page.)


Rob Bass roberth@bgnet.bgsu.edu

F Mr Jonathan Wallace:

I'm not selling anything. I thought I'd tell you that right from the beginning.

Based on specific criteria, you have been chosen by the Aircooledmind to be listed as this week's "No pix of the dog" web site.

I'm including the code near the bottom of this email, so if you choose, you can put the Weekly Pick banner on your web site. A link to your site is on mine, regardless.

I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but it took me a while to figure out the real purpose of those little awards that you see on so many sites. In case you haven't thought about it, I'll tell you what's probably obvious: Those awards exist as a link, to get people to visit the site that sent out the award. When one site awards another the "Totally Righteously Cool Site of the Minute" award (by whatever name) the recipient usually will proudly display that link back to the originator for months, maybe longer. Anybody could do it. Obviously, there's no W3 committee that passes judgement on these awards. (You have to admit, however, it can be a way to get a few hits.)

Anyway, you can go look through my site, if you've got the time. (I obviously think it's cool. It's got my stuff on it.) You can confirm that it well and truly has a link to yours at , and do as you see fit with the code below.

These awards will be going to the (mostly) personal sites that I run across, because these are the publishers that need the exposure the most, and because what they FTP up into cyberspace doesn't reflect the corporate "I'm for sale" mentality as much as a domain name that's also a recognizable Fortune 500 company. If you have the time to read through some of my editorials, you'll probably have a better grasp of a whole plethora of my opinions.

The criteria for winning this award is simple: A. The author has opinions about something that is important to him/her. B. The author successfully expresses those opinions. C. I can tolerate the author's opinions, and possibly even agree. (It's my award, right?)

D. The site itself is well organized, easy to navigate, and neat looking. E. And of course, there are no pictures of family dogs. (Another personal preference.)

Besides the award and the link, which may or may not mean anything to you, a check mark next to all five criteria means (in my opinion) that your site is an asset to the W3, and not just more crap taking up bandwidth and drive space. I could go on forever about that. After all, I'm a writer.

You can quite obviously play around with the code surrounding the image and the link itself. In fact, I suggest you do so if necessary, so the award looks like it fits into the design of your site, rather than some add-on blob of graphic stuck where it doesn't fit. Whatever works is best, of course.

The work you've done on your site is appreciated by someone, namely me, and I hope you continue it. Thanx for your time.

-jim mcgill cadgodde@pophost.micron.net

Jim's "German UFOs" page is a hoot.