“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
I was watching a trailer online for Deep Web when my six year old daughter walked in. I don’t watch documentaries much and this one didn’t look especially interesting, but she disagreed. I’m not sure what to make of that, but here is an article (via the author’s blog at Crooked Timber) discussing how the Silk Road turned from libertarian paradise to bureaucratic prison state, in the way familiar from Animal Farm.
Farrell’s discussion reminds me of the first season of The Tudors. The most interesting part of that show, I thought, was how it followed the court of Henry VIII as the power that initially was invested in the person of the King, Henry, gradually and inexorably was distributed to the figures around him, whether because they were his friends or because they could help him run the government in the grand fashion he’d been persuaded he deserved. The Tudors were the beginning of the end of absolute monarchy in England. Once they’d used personal power to accumulate that much power into the national government, the power itself turned against them, as it couldn’t be used effectively using the same means that had been able to gather it. (The novel Wolf Hall makes a somewhat related point.) In a similar way, the man known as “The Dread Pirate Roberts” eventually lost control of the power he’d built up into the system he called “Silk Road.” In order to protect what he’d built, he had to become, apparently, what he hated: someone who used power against other people, against people very like himself.
I did learn from the documentary and article what “Deep Web” really means. It isn’t what Thomas Pynchon says it is, in Bleeding Edge. I suppose you could assume Pynchon is hiding the subversive reality of the Deep Web behind an innocuous metaphor (the VR-type game). But I’m not seeing it. I think Pynchon is more likely borrowing a cheap hit of marginality points by mixing up criminals and freedom fighters with something that is—in reality—about as tame as tame can be. I might read it a second time and decide otherwise. But like I said, right now I’m not seeing it.