Dick Buchanan, that psychopath from the Nixon administration came out of right field with an upset win in the 92 election. He brought with him his holocaust denying, hyper conservative ideology and made it his mission to ‘revolutionize’ politics, dominate the political discourse and deconstruct minority rights. In the lead up to his election, there was a lot of press about the rise of the internet and what it could do for free speech. Buchanan felt threatened by this new brainchild of what he called an ‘increasingly liberalized coalition of academic institutions.’ The idea of higher education and the government working closely together made him nervous because the fruits of this partnership were antithetical to the platform he’d sold his constituents. Research posed an unavoidable threat by bringing topics like climate change, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and human rights into the public discourse. To Buchanan the internet was better suited towards other ends, in his case it was the ideal platform for a new campaign style, one that could mainline every rally and stump speech into every household in America and silence the opposition. He saw a unique opportunity in this moment of transition in the fledgling network infrastructure. Just before T3 was complete he got his hands on the political reigns and purstrings of NSFnet and took no prisoners. He cut off all regional academic networks from the backbone and implemented a new protocol language incompatible with TCP/IP, systematically eliminating any chance of transnational communication between universities. His next move was to grant mainframe contracts to a select number of private corporations that exclusively supported his conservative agenda. He poured millions of dollars of public funds into household computing terminals, distributed to the public much like minitel had done in the 80s.
What’s more, Buchanan sold his new World Wide Web as a proto-utopian catalyst that would launch America into the 21st century as a global economic heavyweight, while restoring American virtue. Market supply and demand could be monitored down to the second, interpersonal communication, shopping and business could flourish while a village of traditional conservative ideals would extend to every household in America. He made no mention of the selective privatization, advertising kickbacks and exclusion of the regional academic networks in his address and the story got buried in what was becoming a 24 hour news cycle.
Mae and her colleagues were outraged and they tried to fight it as best they could. They soon realized that the funding needed to convert their existing regional networks was more than any single institution could afford and they were met with surveillance and opposition when they tried to use private connections. The government had successfully handicapped research progress in a way that would always keep it one steps behind policymakers, and two steps behind public opinion.
If the research, information and communications couldn’t travel through coaxial cable, it had to get there somehow and the Data Transfer Specialist position was born.