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Kill Your Internet

By Annalee Newitz

THE END IS NIGH! The Internet might be gone in mere weeks! In fact, if you don't go out RIGHT NOW and buy a bunch of stuff from some etailer like Amazon, you personally will be contributing to the destruction of the fabulous technology which brings you email and pretty websites and live streaming whatever.

But luckily there's a new hero who can rescue us from a fate worse than spam. His name is Michael Tchong, he's the CEO of Iconocast.com, and he's just launched a campaign called Back the Net! (www.iconocast.com/crusade/index.html). Formerly the well-respected industry insider who advised Apple, founded MacWEEK, and created popular E-biz resource CyberAtlas, Tchong appears to have gone off the proverbial deep end in the wake of the Internet industry recession.

In 1929, capitalist fat cats who lost everything in the crash threw themselves out of windows, but their fat cat counterparts in 2001 just hang themselves out to dry by creating suicidally stupid websites. Citing a "viral lack of confidence" about the Internet, Tchong's electronic call for action includes a proposal that April 3 be declared "Back the Net Day," a 24-hour period where we ought to thank the great Internet deities by buying things or donating money online. (Did you notice a groundswell of support for Tchong's cause on April 3? No, I thought not.) Oh, and we can also celebrate the Internet by using Tchong's site to send spam--ehem, I mean alert letters--to 10 of our closest friends.

For this, the dapper Mr. Tchong has officially earned our Clueless and Psychologically Unstable Pundit of the Millennium award. Not only has he already been flamed by Philip Kaplan of FuckedCompany.com, he's also been rightfully skewered in a web parody (www.ringosoft.com/news/) which urges potential activists to support the Internet lifestyle by fucking their employees over and handing out stock shares instead of tips to caddies at the golf course.

I'm fairly certain that Tchong is blissfully unaware of great gaping depths of hatred he has unleashed in the "Netizens" he tried to organize with "Back the Net!" Otherwise, he never would have started an auction on eBay in which you can buy--hold your collective breath, Netizens!--dinner with the Tchongster himself. Starting at just $200!

This guy really has lost his marbles. Anyone who knows as much as Tchong does about the web can't possibly have forgotten what happens to dorks who arouse the ill will of Netizens. All I've been hearing about for the last several days are various ways that people are planning to hack, crack, mangle, strangle, and utterly, totally NUKE Tchong's online life. But hey, he got what he wanted: he's mobilized a bunch of people around a common cause.

Perhaps the most brainless part of Tchong's "Back the Net!" campaign is its underlying premise that the Internet will fail when online businesses fail. The Internet has been around in some form for almost four decades and it survived most of that time without any commercial investments at all. Many of us who remember the commercial-free Internet would welcome the death of Tchong's Internet, a polluted "information superhighway" jammed with consumers in big cars and lined with ugly billboards advertising objects and services which have no value whatsoever.

Tchong tries to fill us with fear about the future of the Net by asking us to "Imagine the Internet without Excite, Yahoo! or Amazon.com." I personally--along with millions of other disgruntled Internet users--can easily imagine this. The Internet was not built on E-business, and the Internet can survive without it.

Sure, I like to buy crap online sometimes, but that's not what the Internet is about. Tchong's campaign is almost as ridiculous as a telemarketing executive organizing a protest to raise awareness about how telephones are in danger of extinction because telemarketers aren't able to sell as much stuff anymore. Instead, people are using phones to--gasp!--call their friends! Phones might die any day now! After all, what would the telephone be without telemarketing?

I wish Tchong were right and the Internet was about to become a land without marketing, business and direct-mail advertising. Sadly, however, E-commerce will be with us for years to come. Tchong's consulting career may be dead, but the Internet itself blunders on. Hooray for us.

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who wishes to thank the SF Cacophony Society for everything they've done or may do to destroy the Internet. She can be reached at [email protected].

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From the April 5-11, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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