"It is evident to all alike that a great
democratic revolution is going on amongst us; but all do not look at it in the
-- Alexis de Tocqueville --
The life of the vCity sometimes crosses over into and
affects the real world. I'm not referring to anything like the co-mingling of
reality and fantasy portrayed in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo.
It just often happens that what transpires in the vCity is political, by
definition. It is a purer form of politics than we who are stuck in the real
world are accustomed to witnessing. Since it is political, it is in our minds,
and because it is in our minds, it is real. And because it is real, it makes
leaders nervous. They never really know which route the parade intends to take
next, and so they must constantly look over their shoulders to figure out where
to lead the march of civilization.
Late in the day I'm sitting at my desk gnawing on a snack
of biltong when the phone rings. It's my boss, the head of the company.
Number Six in the corporation.
("Who is number one?" "YOU are number six")
This is very unusual; anything she has to say would
normally be said over e-mail. I swallow quickly -- which, considering that what
I am eating is tougher than dried shoe leather, is a feat in itself.
"What the hell is going on?" she says curtly.
"In reference to what?"
"I've had three calls today from reporters asking about our
policy on virtual reality pornography."
"Do we have one?"
"Hell, I don't know," she admitted. "Are we selling virtual
"Then why am I getting phone calls about it?"
"There's a site linked to the city simulation that
"Is that legal?"
"In the Bahamas, it is. That's where the money goes, and
that's where the site is located."
"But aren't we culpable by the act of linking to it?"
"No. It's not illegal to refer to an IP address."
"Still." She mused. "We probably shouldn't. It could be
misconstrued as advocating pornography, which we don't."
"We don't really have a choice."
"What? Just remove the link!"
"We can't do that. First of all, if we do that, we admit
that our corporation is refusing to transmit a reference index of digitized
content based on the content itself. It would be like pulling a 900 number from
the business listings of the Yellow Pages because the business offers phone
sex. Once we do that, we open the door to being sued by anyone for almost any
offense, real or imagined. Secondly, we'd lose a lot of business, because the
simulation wouldn't be simulating anything except what we think should be
simulated, which isn't much of a marketing tool, is it? And thirdly, it would
be a public relations nightmare."
There was a short pause. "It's a First Amendment
"Actually more of an Equal Access issue."
"Christ. So, what are you doing about it?"
Now I pause. What am I doing about it. Not what
should we be doing about it. There is a subtlety there that cannot go
unnoticed. The Wheel turns.
"I have asked our customers to decide whether they
wish to continue to receive the link as registered. If a simple majority
chooses to change the registry, then we can pull the link. The act of putting
it up for a public referendum satisfies legal criteria that the change was not
done for arbitrary reasons, restraint of trade, or any of a dozen possible
"But...wouldn't that be violating freedom of
"No. Because if we pull the link, the site is still there.
People can still go to it by the Internet. Just not through our
"Have you checked with OGC on this?" She meant the Office
of General Counsel, our law division.
"Absolutely, years ago. The case of Jurgen v. ADCI
Network clarified this in '99."
"Oh. Well, good. Let me know when the link is pulled."
"It may not be."
"People may vote to keep it where it is."
"Fucking infodemocracy!" she fumed, then added, "You didn't
"Hear what?" I replied.
"Good answer. Well, what's the solution? I've got reporters
to call back and I don't want this to blow up in our face. And I don't
want trouble from Family Rights activists, those lunatics are timebombs with
fuses shorter than my ex-husband's dick."
"Don't worry Mamsahb," I told her. "I've got a secret plan.
It's all in the timing. Meanwhile, tell the reporters the truth. Sometimes that