John Perry Barlow
John Perry Barlow (3 October 1947 – 7 February 2018) was an American poet, essayist, lyricist for the Grateful Dead, cattle rancher, cyberlibertarian political activist, and a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Freedom of the Press Foundation.
My time coming, any day, don't worry about me, no
Been so long I felt this way, I'm in no hurry, no.
Rainbows end down that highway where ocean breezes blow
My time coming, voices saying, they tell me where to go.
Don't worry 'bout me, no no, don't worry 'bout me, no
And I'm in no hurry, no no no, I know where to go.
- Everyone seems to be playing well within the boundaries of his usual rule set. I have yet to hear anyone say something that seemed likely to mitigate the idiocy of this age.
- On The International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism, and Security - Personal blog from Madrid, Spain (10 March 2005)
- Imagine discovering a continent so vast that it may have no end to its dimensions. Imagine a new world with more resources than all our future greed might exhaust, more opportunities than there will ever be entrepreneurs enough to exploit, and a peculiar kind of real estate that expands with development. Imagine a place where trespassers leave no footprints, where goods can be stolen infinite number of times and yet remain in the possession of their original owners, where business you never heard of can own the history of your personal affairs...
- As quoted in Who Controls the Internet? : Illusions of a Borderless World (2006) by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu
- The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.
- Twitter comments, in regard to WikiLeaks controversies, as quoted in "Analysis: WikiLeaks battle: a new amateur face of cyber war?" at Reuters (9 December 2010)
- I support freedom of expression, no matter whose, so I oppose DDoS attacks regardless of their target... they're the poison gas of cyberspace.
The Death of Cynthia Horner (1994)
- Thoughts on the life and death of his fiancée (April 1994)
- It didn't matter what we did or where we did it as long as we were together. We knew we'd found what most people either pursue in years of futile search or dismiss as a fantasy at the outset: the missing half of ourselves. The real thing.
- I don't know that I believe in the supernatural, but I do believe in miracles, and our time together was filled with the events of magical unlikelihood. I also believe that angels, or something like them, sometimes live among us, hidden within our fellow human beings. I'm convinced that such an angel dwelled in Cynthia. I felt this presence often in Cynthia's lightness of being, in her decency, her tolerance, her incredible love. I never heard Cynthia speak ill of anyone nor did I ever hear anyone speak ill of her. She gave joy and solace to all who met her.
- With a care both conscious and reverential, Cynthia and I built a love which I believe inspired most who came near it. We felt it was our gift to the world. We wanted to show the hesitant the miracle that comes when two people give their hearts unconditionally, honestly, fearlessly, and without reservation or judgement. We wanted to make our union into a message of hope, and I believe we did, even though we knew that hearts opened so freely can be shattered if something should go wrong. As my heart is shattered now.
- Among the waves of tragedy which have crashed on me with her death is a terror that our message of hope has been changed into a dreadful warning. But I must tell you that had I known in the beginning that I would be here today doing this terrible thing, I would still have loved her as unhesitatingly, because true love is worth any price one is asked to pay.
The other message we wished to convey was one of faith in the essential goodness and purpose of life. I have always felt that no matter how inscrutable its ways and means, the universe is working perfectly and working according to a greater plan than we can know.
- Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.
Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders.
- You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.
Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.
We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.
We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.
Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.
- Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.
These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.
We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.
John Perry Barlow 2.0 (2004)
- Copyright and intellectual property are the most important issues now. If you don't have something that assures fair use, then you don't have a free society. If all ideas have to be bought, then you have an intellectually regressive system that will assure you have a highly knowledgeable elite and an ignorant mass.
- You now have two distinct ways of gathering information beyond what you yourself can experience. One of them is less a medium than an environment — the Internet — with a huge multiplicity of points of view, lots of different ways to find out what's going on in the world. Lots of people are tuned to that, and a million points of view have bloomed. It creates a cacophony of viewpoints that doesn't have any political coherence at all, a beautiful melee, but it doesn't have the capacity to create large blocs of belief.
The other medium, TV, has a much smaller share of viewers than at any time in the past, but those viewers get all their information there. They get turned into a very uniform belief block. TV in America created the most coherent reality distortion field that I’ve ever seen. Therein is the problem: People who vote watch TV, and they are hallucinating like a sonofabitch. Basically, what we have in this country is government by hallucinating mob.
- It’s a perfect set of circumstances to give us the time Yeats foretold, with the best having lost all conviction and the worst full of passionate intensity. I’m an optimist. In order to be libertarian, you have to be an optimist. You have to have a benign view of human nature, to believe that human beings left to their own devices are basically good. But I’m not so sure about human institutions, and I think the real point of argument here is whether or not large corporations are human institutions or some other entity we need to be thinking about curtailing. Most libertarians are worried about government but not worried about business. I think we need to be worrying about business in exactly the same way we are worrying about government.
Planet JH Weekly interview (2005)
- "John Perry Barlow: Wyoming's Estimated Prophet" - interview with Aaron Davis in Planet JH Weekly (28 July 2005)
- I'm a free-marketeer. I believe in free markets, but... sometimes you have things that look like free markets but aren't because of artificial reasons. I'm not very happy with the current state of what calls itself free market economy in the world because you've got all these grotesque monopolies that are able to game the system in a way that's to their advantage by virtue of their power, and that's not a free market. A real free market has some kind of countervailing influence from the government to keep a monopoly in check, but this government... it's not about free marketing principles, it's about greed pure and simple. And this government wants to assure that the other people that they went to college with get just as rich as they do. This country is going to make Mexico look like Sweden inside of ten years in terms of wealth distribution, because there are no countervailing forces. They've eliminated tax basically for the ultra-rich, they've eliminated any control over monopolies, the greedy have free reign and its just going to be the super rich and the peasants.
- I was always raised to think that Republicans were about limited government, about individual liberty, about fiscal responsibility, about balanced budgets, about a wariness of military adventures abroad, about responsible encouragement to business. There's a whole list of things I thought the Republican Party was all about, and these guys that presently occupy the White House, are categorically against every single one of those things. So if they're Republicans, I'm not. But I'm really not a very comfortable Democrat. I mean the Democrats in the last elections proved themselves to be a bunch of dithering pussies... and it was pathetic. So I'm just waiting until one party or the other actually gets a moral compass and a backbone.
- I wasn't tempted to vote for Bush, but I understand why people did… because he obviously had integrity. It was a terrible kind of integrity, but he does what he says and he means what he says. And what he says is terrible and what he does is terrible, but he's consistent. So I think a lot of people in Wyoming who care so much about integrity that they're willing to choose somebody that has a monstrous willingness to do any damn thing as long as he's up front about it — but that's not really quite enough for me. I mean I look forward to the day when I can be Republican again. I'm an Alan Simpson Republican.
- Polyamory — that's where you're freely confessed that you have more than one lover at a time. And actually I'm less that way than I used to be, but I was trying to make people understand, that at least for some folks, this was a fairly natural state. And instead of skulking around about it that we'd all do better to avoid the deceit and be honest.
Quotes about Barlow
- The world lost a true hero today, a Renaissance man who was a relentless warrior for our freedom.
- It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.
Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity's problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth. Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: "I knew it’s also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls 'turn-key totalitarianism'.”
- “Estimated Prophet,” words by John Barlow, music by Bob Weir, has always worked a special kind of magic. Barlow captures that whole slightly (or very) deranged or tripped-out Deadhead vibe so well, but the song’s character transcends that little box over time — both over the time the particular rendition might take, and over the time from when we may have first heard it played or performed to the most recent rendition we have heard. That character stands there in my mind’s eye, calling down the thunder, and he seems so sure, so devoted to his vision, that he stands for everyone who was ever caught up in a transforming belief, who gave in to delusions of grandeur, who believed himself the center of the universe — but wait — haven’t we all done that, at least to some degree? It’s human nature to consider oneself the center of the universe. … Barlow calls on plenty of biblical imagery for the lyrics, with the sea parting before the singer, and fire wheels burning in the air, etc. Pretty much your average run-of-the-mill vision for an experienced Deadhead. The interesting thing, for me, is the notion that this character is a prophet. And therein lies a more subtle biblical reference, not at all overt, but hovering in the back of our minds, perhaps, if we have any biblical training. Namely, the notion, expressed by Jesus in three of the four gospels, and therefore likely to be something he really did say, that a prophet has no honor in his own country. … This is one of those songs, and there are quite a number of them in the Dead’s repertoire, in which a not-entirely-sympathetic character is brought to life, and, in the course of being brought to life, is made more sympathetic.
- This life is fleeting, as we all know — the Muse we serve is not. John had a way of taking life’s most difficult things and framing them as challenges, therefore adventures. He was to be admired for that, even emulated. He’ll live on in the songs we wrote...
- Personal blog
- EFF homepage
- "John Perry Barlow 2.0" by Brian Doherty at ReasonOnline (August 2004)
- This American Life the story (at minute 37) of how Barlow met his fiancée Cynthia Horner and of her tragic death.
- "John Perry Barlow: Wyoming's Estimated Prophet" - interview with Aaron Davis in Planet JH Weekly (28 July 2005)