‘Total Paranoia’, Mute September 2001 Trilogy Revisited

By admin, 29 November 2016
Image: Vetruvian Man

#mute archive a triple gem! As part of the collaborative bibliographies residency at Anagram Books, Berlin.

  • Mute Magazine – Total Paranoia
  • The Metamap of Surveillance and Security (DYMAXION DREAMS)
  • Metamute Meets Echelon - A Literary Competition

The Magazine

Mute issues photo gallery

The Map

Metamute Meets Echelon

On the event of 9/11 Twin Towers attack Mute was in the last days of sending its Total Paranoia1 (Mute Vol 1, No. 21, 2001-09) issue to the printers, themed around ‘dataveillance’ which had been prepared over July and August 2001. In the issue Mute had made a map of surveillance and privacy, the MetaMap of Surveillance and Privacy 2, while at the Hackers at Large (note HAL for the 2001 movie reference)3 CCC hackfest in the summer. The map used the Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion (1938) World Projection4 and covered the activities of the intelligence services and electronic surveillance such as the Echelon5 system, but also activists in areas such as privacy, free speech and open infrastructure projects. A third component was a Echelon literary competition, titled ‘Metamute Meets Echelon - A Literary Competition’ organised to coincide with Jam Echelon Day 2001. The competition was formulated at the HAL CCC hackfest and involved a thousand euro prize money for the competition winners, which had been donated anonymously at the hackfest. The competition rules were pretty straight forward, create a written work that was attractive to Echelon and had literary merit.

In light of the Twin Towers attack the map carried an introduction ‘DYMAXION DREAMS6 written by Pauline van Mourik Broekman. This was our opportunity to re-assert the need for freedom, in the anticipated abuse of security crack downs.

‘After the day commentators scrambled to dub the beginning of the 21st century, nothing was certain. The sole exception being the drastic change the security and intelligence services would undergo – in the short term to support a counter-attack, in the long term in a preventative mode. In ways we had never imagined, ‘Total Paranoia’ characterised the public mood. We decided to publish this issue of Mute unamended: disavowing a thematic we perceived to be relevant to democratic life a week ago seemed misguided, to say the least. Instead, the more days went by, the more clear it became that the self-censorship that will no doubt continue in the wake of the disaster is precisely the opposite of what it demands.’
–Pauline van Mourik Broekman, ‘DYMAXION DREAMS, 18 Sept 20017

The ‘Metamute Meets Echelon - A Literary Competition’ was announced 4th September 2001, see the original post here on The Way Back Machine

These were the rules of the competition:

Participants should utilise words from the Echelon dictionary to produce an original literary work. Any literary genre is admissable - from short stories to drama to poetry to speeches to the epistolary form. Fictional company memos and e-mail exchanges are admissable, as are IRC and SMS conversations, or any other form. 

The work produced must not be about Echelon in any way, shape or form, and the term 'Echelon' must not appear anywhere in the work. 

1st Prize in the competition is 500 Euros, and two runners up will each receive a prize of 250 Euros each. 

Judges' criteria 
Entries will be judged against two key criteria: 1) the literary merit of the piece of work and 2) the number of words from the Echelon word list that are present in the work. 

Both criteria are given equal weight. For example, a piece with good literary merit and fewer Echelon keywords will not necessarily lose to a weaker piece that contains more keywords. Indeed, where it is felt that the overuse of words from the Echelon wordlist has actively impaired the literary quality, entries will be marked down. Simple lists of keywords in an entry will automatically disqualify it. 

'Literary merit' is decided by the judges, and their decision is final. 

The results were announced in late October that same year.

‘In September 2001, Metamute launched its Echelon literary competition to mark international 'Jam Echelon Day'. A challenge to maximise literary virtuosity and Echelon's rumoured 'key word' in no more than 2500 words, the call for entries - and its euro1000 prize - produced an impressive mine of writings. Ranging from the dazed to the macabre, they were universally coloured by the same state of mind that produces Echelon's lists. Cyberpunk, poetry and codified missives were the genres of choice. Brains melting and teeth chattering from reading all this material, Metamute is now ready to announce its Echelon winners. We thank them for their heroic efforts and invite you to read them and others online in our M-files section!’

See the original page on the Way Back Machine

The Prize Winners 

First prize: euro500
The Avatar Group with Isis
Runners up: euro250
Tessa Laird with Pink Noise in My Gray Data
Edward Lear with The Owl and the Pussycat Assassinate the EuroFeds
Special Mention for the French contribution: Laurence Comparat with Le 'RAID''RAID'.htm

- the bibliographer



1Mute Vol 1, No. 21 – Total Paranoia - The Metamap. (2001, September). Mute. Retrieved from

2The Metamap: a pull-out global map charting Surveillance and Privacy projects. (2001, September). Mute. Retrieved from

3C3TV - Hackers at Large. (2001, August). Retrieved August 10, 2016, from

4Dymaxion Map | The Buckminster Fuller Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved August 10, 2016, from

5ECHELON. (2016, August 1). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from

6van Mourik Broekman, P. (2001, September 18). Dymaxion Dreams. Mute, 1(21). Retrieved from