Date: Mon, 3 Feb 1997 10:33:34 -0800
To: Sandy Sandfort <>
From: "Timothy C. May" <>
Subject: Filling Power Vacuums

At 6:57 AM -0800 2/3/97, Sandy Sandfort wrote:

>After reading through Tim's post, I don't think much would be
>served by doing another point by point response.  From Tim's
>tone, it appears he is still seething about how this all came
>about, so I'll just leave our two expressions of opinions where
>they were.  I have no wish to exacerbate any hard feelings Tim
>may be having.

Indeed, I have been seething for the past several weeks (off and on, as I
am fortunately able to usually put it out of my mind and do other things
with my mental energies....).

I think I have figured out why I'm seething.

It's about "power grabs."

You see, in any anarchic situation, where reliance on self-control and
self-filtering is emphasized, there is always a _temptation_ for some to
"fill the power vacuum" and grab power.

I learned in my years at Intel how easy it was to start bossing people
around, and as I hired engineers and scientists, I built up quite a little
empire. But I didn't like what it was doing to me, as it distanced me from
the technology and also brought out "control freak" tendencies....I started
worrying about how my people were using their time ("my" time), and I
increasingly applied my own notions of what they should talk about and what
were suitable topics for laboratory chatter. In other words, I became a
censor. (Not a government censor, but a censor in the broader definition
I've already cited.)

So I gave it up. Even before eventually retiring from Intel, I elected to
leave the management track and rejoin the "technical ladder," becoming one
of Intel's so-called Principal Engineers. No longer could I control others,
except through the example I set and the information I provided. And I was
happy I had moved away from "the dark side of the force."

(I accept the role hierarchies play in corporations. They can't be built
with just people like me. They need leaders, controllers, power freaks,
etc. But a virtual community like the Cypherpunks group is not such a
heirarchical organization, and it needs few rules, leaders, etc. "We don't
need no steenking leaders.")

As this relates to Cypherpunks, I have steadfastly refused to consider any
"management role," so to speak, in how the list is run, the formal
policies, etc. I'm not saying there has been a call for management (though
Detweiler used to rail against us for not having a management heirarchy,
for not having rules and democratic procedures for "making decisions"),
just that the power vacuum in anarchies such as ours is often an open
invitation for someone to step in and "provide structure and guidance." I
resisted any thoughts of doing this, and argued against this sort of thing
whenever the topic came up in conversation. I chose to lead only by the
posts I wrote and the ideas I worked on.

There have been frequent calls over the years for the Cypherpunks to have a
more permanent presence, perhaps even an office in Washington, D.C., such
as the EFF had, the CPSR still has, and so on. And to have an Official
Spokesman, a contact person for the media droids to contact. The calls for
this have declined in the last couple of years, as people figured out that
the Cypherpunks are not about having spokespunks for us, and that the media
will just have to deal with the "anarchy" of having to herd cats to get
information out of us.

Now, of course, the message is being sent that Sandy Sandfort is in some
sense the de facto leader, being that he determines what traffic goes out
to the main list and what traffic gets bounced into the flames list. In
fact, I'll make a prediction: The media will see that he is the chief
censor and arbiter of worthiness and will increasingly contact him for the
Official Point of View on various items they are interested in.

It distresses me greatly that Sandy Sandfort has elected to move into this
"power vacuum" to nominate himself as our Leader and Chief Censor. Foo on

(I used to hear this at Intel, where the argument for a hierarchical
structure was much stronger, to wit: "Tim, if you won't agree to manage
others, you'll have to accept that people less technically competent than
yourself are going to  elect to become managers and they'll probably become
_your_ manager in the not too distant future.")

So, I sort of thank Sandy for helping me to realize certain things that I
may not have explicitly realized before.

Namely, I realize that I don't want the karmic burdens of power myself,
preferring to lead only by the example I set and the ideas I generate. This
is why "market anarchies" (books, music, ideas, all things where "no ruler"
exists) appeal to me so much. And since I don't wish to assume the mantle
of leadership, and don't see much need for leadership or global censorship
(as opposed to locally contracted for filtering, a la Eric Blossom's list,
or Siskel and Ebert giving recommendations, or ratings of restaurants,
etc.), I am resentful and suspicious of people who _do_ step into the
"power vacuum" to lead and control.

Now I grant you that Sandy's form of leadership and control is relatively
mild, but the very notion that Sandy can reject a long essay because of a
couple of phrasings he dislikes (this was his "judgment call" point about
why he (reluctantly?) allowed my post to go out) is a step in the wrong

And given our strong ideological bias toward market anarchies, this move
toward censorship stands out like a sore thumb.

At least the issue would be clearer if Sandy passed all posts through but
deleted sections that offended him and marked deleted sections as

Yes, I'm seething. Sandy is right about that. I saw a group I helped create
and spent thousands of hours on, writing articles and developing ideas
choose--by fiat from the owner of the machine the list was being sent out
from--to embrace the dark side, the control freak side. In the name of
"comity," Sandy's term for the bonhomie he thinks he can cultivate, we lose
our ideological purity.

"Hey, even the Cypherpunks have embraced censorship."

Instead of letting the power vacuum remain unfilled, and suggesting to
people that they solve the problems it creates as best they can, Sandy
jumped in to fill the vacuum.

This is what I'm seething about. And even dropping the power grab at the
end of the "experiment" will not stop this seething.

Fuck it.

--Tim May

Just say "No" to "Big Brother Inside"
We got computers, we're tapping phone lines, I know that that ain't allowed.
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
W.A.S.T.E.: Corralitos, CA  | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^1398269     | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders aren't even speed bumps on the information superhighway."