Like so many big events of the digital age, the February shutdown of all those major e-commerce Web sites (Yahoo, E*TRADE, eBay, etc.) didn’t make much of a dent in my real life.
Yes, we have a computer and Internet access. But the computer is not in our house; it’s in an outbuilding we turned into an office. It’s only 20 feet from our back door, but those 20 feet, and a childproof lock on the door, are enough to separate our family’s real life from the virtual one. We unlock the door for specific work- or study-related purposes and lock it again when the job is done. The only exception is e-mail for far-flung family and friends.
As it happened, the day of the great Web meltdown was very cold, and I was out late with a night class. So I didn’t even walk those 20 feet to check the e-mail, much less fire up Yahoo in search of the latest TV and movie news. (Hey, for me that’s work-related!) When I finally did hear the news, the significance (dare I say justice?) of the event was plain.
Left historian Michael Kazin told The Village Voice that the e-commerce guerrillas are the direct descendants of Abbie Hoffman, and he was right. There has not been a more perfect symbolic, made-for-media political act since Hoffman and company dumped baskets of dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.