Paulina Borsook to Eric Raymond: Don’t you Kakutani me!

The author of "Cyberselfish" takes issue with Raymond's screed defending libertarian geek culture.


TO: Eric Raymond
FROM: Paulina Borsook
RE: ABENDS in The Program You Compiled on 6/28/00

Eric — Thanks for the great work at such short notice. Alas, there were some bugs you obviously didn’t have time to patch, so here’s a quick and dirty list of the ones most apparent by inspection. Cheers!

1) There seems to have been a subject-object confusion going on. My name is not Michiko Kakutani, I do not work for the New York Times, I have never written for the New York Times and I was just as much subjected to her critical gaze as you were. I am sure she would be as puzzled as I am that you equate her ideas and writing with mine.

2) I only wish I had the power of punditocracy. The closest I have ever come to being part of the old-media elite was back in the 1980s when I was on staff at the now-defunct technical trade, “Data Communications,” which routinely contained a level of technical detail about on a par with an IEEE publication and had about as much glamour as another McGraw-Hill publication, “Modern Plastics.” You would have no way of knowing this, but I actually also ghostwrote the first chapter of a reference book on Apache last year. I am quite aware of the importance of open-source software in geek culture.

3) I think there is also something of a reversal of causality in your documentation of political blinders and free markets. It’s precisely because I see the political blinders in the technology culture that surrounds us (Quiz: Where would you rather create a start-up, in Chechnya/Sierra Leone or in Northern California where the roads are good and the food and pharmaceutical supply is untainted and bandits don’t lurk around corners on Skyline Boulevard and houses mostly won’t fall down after they are built and work-study exists and libraries are free and the Arpanet/Internet had 20 years of slow, commercial-free development? All due to the fine invisible hand of government …) that I ask the questions I do and take the positions I hold.

4) Some of my best friends are technolibertarian. How many of yours are bookish lefty feminists who hold the heretical notion that not all of what matters in life should be monetized and marketized? It’s always a risky proposition to assume that only one kind of person with one kind of worldview and one kind of skill set has an exclusive purchase on virtue, value and human worth.

Paulina Borsook is the author of "Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-tech."

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