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Let Freedom Ring!

When I co-founded the WELL with Stewart Brand more than a decade ago, we envisioned a place where free, open, hopefully intelligent conversation could take place.

It worked. People liked it. A complex online community grew out of it. We got to "watch" babies get born, people get married, people die. Distinctions between Real Life (TM) and Online Life disappeared in the wild, untrammeled atmosphere that epitomized free speech online.

There's a Health conference on the WELL where we talk about - gasp! - breast cancer. Do policymakers really want to restrict our ability to help one another deal with life's most difficult problems?

There's even a Sex conference. It's one of the oldest conferences on the system. We have free, open, even intelligent conversation about topics that used to be considered taboo. I think that's a good thing. It enriches people's lives.

I invested a lot of my time and energy to make the WELL a flagship that would help lead our society in the direction of breaking taboos and having strong, intense relationships online. I'm really quite proud of how the experiment turned out. I have no intention of returning to the days when narrowminded hypocrites can tell me I can't talk about something that's important to me. No intention at all.

I've been an advocate of radical politics for the past thirty years. Still am. If the pols can enact legislation that so obviously restricts First Amendment rights, it's going to be time for us to get mighty active again, before our First Amendment freedoms are eroded to the point where we can't be active anymore.

The jails are full of people who "committed" victimless crimes; I happen to think that's wrong, and a violation of the basic freedoms guaranteed us by the Constitution. But restricting online speech is a much more egregious blow to constitutional guarantees. So much so that if the courts don't save us from the CDA, we're going to have to fill the jails with people who care about freedom.

Get ready. It's really important that we not let them get away with this one.

Matthew McClure
February 22, 1996

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