Cryptoid Anarchies

By Stewart Home, 10 December 2001

Stewart Home reviews Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias

As is evident from its title, the perspectives to be found in this book are skewed by a tendency to treat the state as a fetish. Cyber manifestations of opposition to commodity culture, such as the Luther Blissett Project, have been rigorously excluded. The most ‘progressive’ piece is a social democratic polemic by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, who claim operations like Wired magazine synthesised leftist counter-cultural and rightist Reaganite currents (see Mute 3). However, the leftist contribution to this confusionist stew is overstated. We are told: ‘The radical hippies... championed universalist, rational and progressive ideals...’ This is problematic when applied to phenomena such as the Yippies, let alone the Manson Family. David R. Johnson and David G. Post write: ‘A web site physically located in Brazil... has no more of an effect on an individual in Brazil than a web site physically located in Belgium or Belize that is accessible in Brazil.’ The influence of local factors is being overlooked here, and online events guides illustrate this. Likewise, in places where English isn’t the dominant language, I often have to explain what Amazon is to people asking me how they can buy my books. Most ‘individuals’ in Brazil are Portuguese speakers, and consequently much of what is put online in Belgium won’t be comprehensible to them. Easily the most unpleasant of the many rightists included in this book is Hakim Bey, who opines: ‘...I want to meet other humans for consensual but illegal acts of mutual pleasure (this has actually been tried, but all the hard sex BBS have been busted - and what use is an underground with lousy security).’ Bey is well known as an advocate of what he disingenuously calls ‘man-boy love.’ Power inequalities between adults and children mean that sex between them cannot be consensual: it is necessarily abusive. Ludlow’s anthology repackages low-grade material that has been knocking around for years, and it’s of no interest to anyone who already knows that anarchism is stupid.

Stewart Home <> is, among other things, author of Neoism, Plagiarism & Praxis and The Assault on Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to Class War (both AK Press).

Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias // edited by Peter Ludlow // MIT Press, Cambridge & London 2001 // £16.95 paperback – £41.50 cloth