Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the by LEE SIEGEL

By LEE SIEGEL

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They soon announced B A I T A N D S W I T C H / 45 their engagement on the WELL. But shortly after that, Syndicus fell ill with cancer and Mandel abruptly withdrew from her. Wounded by his behavior, Syndicus privately broke off the engagement. She then took up with another man, whom she also had met on the WELL. Mandel retaliated. Ensconced alone before his computer, Mandel began persecuting Syndicus online, stalking her at online conferences and posting venomous comments attacking her. Finally, he found a way to delete all of Syndicus’s posts as soon as she made them.

And when Brand and his partners thought that the electronic conversation lacked excitement, they simply posted provocative entries to mix things up and keep the subscribers’ money coming in. For all their stated commitment to the online community’s privacy, decency, and integrity, the WELL’s owners never failed to put people last. Consider the case of Tom Mandel and Maria Syndicus. Mandel, one of Brand’s colleagues at the Global Business Network, met Syndicus online at the WELL and the two of them proceeded to have an affair.

As Hafner says about the episode, “Mandel’s erratic behavior attracted members of the WELL’s community like bloodhounds to the scent. ” Mandel, who died in 1995, had mastered the art of packaging his interiority, an innovation that would become the driving engine behind Web culture. The counterculture had sought 46 / A G A I N S T T H E M A C H I N E to practice the idea that creative personal expression was the essence of an authentic existence. The WELL, drawing strength from the Internet culture’s belief that the market contains all values, put personal expression up for sale.

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