while mom saves pie tins, I save magazine articles

Back in 1995, as my mother was diligently adding to her collection of used aluminum pie tins (I just threw out 43 of them that were hidden in the back of her closet), my son (then AKA Slowdog; now AKA b!X) was diligently collecting signatures for his “Hands Off! the Net” petition.
I think of this today because of the death of Senator James Exon, who tried, unsuccessfully, thanks in part to b!X, to introduce the original Communications Decency Act.
The October 5, 1995 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine had this to say about Slowdog/b!X as he led off their article on “Ten Things You Can Do to Make A Difference.” There’s no link anywhere to this article; of course, I still have the hard copy, which begins:
Slowdog’s hanging out upstairs at the @ Cafe in New York’s East Village, sipping cup after cup of coffee and tap-tap-tapping into the Internet on one of the computer terminals that looms over every table like a television set. Slowdog is 25 years old, with black pants, black t-shirt, black baseball cap, black sneakers, long black eyelashes, and a face that sees very little sun.
Born Christopher Frankonis, Slowdog used to work at the New York Public Library and log on, stop at the @ Cafe and log on, traipse back to his basement flat in Brooklyn, NY, and log on, surfing the Internet that runs like a vast river through wired America.
No real point, no particular politics, just another college dropout hooked on the Net. A kid from upstate New York with a mouse and a quick wit.
Then came Sen. James Exon, D. Neb, and his Communications Decency Act. Exon introduced a bill this March that proposes to tame the Internet. This senator wanted to pasteurize Slowdog’s wild river of words and symbols, criminalize the transmission of lewd and lascivious language, make the world safe for June Cleaver.
An activist was born.
“Instead of understanding a new medium, they want to extend an old law from television,” Slowdog says. “I’ts going to chill speech, make users liable for content. I knew I had to go beyond my insular little world on the Net. Here is my shot.”
Slowdog and a half-dozen young activists worked with the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D.C., and started a computer petition. They hoped for 10,000 signatures in three days. Two and a half months later the tally stood at 121,284, with support ranging from the libertarian Cato Institute to First Amendment absolutists. “Man, we were getting 1,000 signatures an hour,” Slowdog says.
In late April a messenger walked into the office of Sen. Larry Pressler, R.S.D, whose committee was holding hearings on the bill, with a 1,000-sheet printout containing the names of the petition’s signers. “To a politician, that’s like carrying a political loaded gun,” one staffer recalls. The petition came on top of the e-mail messages and faxes that Pressler’s office had been getting for weeks.
Slowdog takes a hit of his latte and smiles. “I don’t know that I was ever political before,” he says. “But this was so severe and showed so little of understanding of something new. All of a sudden I had to put up or shut up.”

b!X has not shut up since. I’m afraid, though, if he doesn’t get some advertisers, he just might have to find another way to keep getting his words out.

1 thought on “while mom saves pie tins, I save magazine articles

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