Miami New Times
May 17, 2001

When E-Prophecy Fails

Fortunes and jobs are lost, but the allure of revolution remains

By Brett Sokol

[second half of article - full article here]


"There's a sense of similarity, the same latter-day messiah-ism," laughs Tuesday Network cofounder Seth Gordon at the notion of equating the SDS politicos of 1969 with 1999's dot-com vanguard. "There was the same degree of ageism: Older people just couldn't see what was really happening with the Vietnam War, and old-economy guys just couldn't get it ."

Last week's Tuesday Network meeting at the Coral Gables Omni Colonnade Hotel had just ended, and the crowd of about 150 (a quarter of its peak size) began heading for the bar, in need of a little buoyancy after hearing from several newly humbled speakers. Terra Lycos's Rafael Monteiro, for one, had uttered previously blasphemous phrases such as "eventual profitability" or at least "breaking even" — quite a change from the grand pronouncements delivered at Terra's own swanky launch party last June on the grounds of the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Still, coming only hours after the company announced it would be laying off fifteen percent of its workforce, Monteiro's guardedly optimistic words raised more than a few cynical eyebrows. Watching true believers recant is never pretty.

Twice the age of most of his Tuesday Networkers, Seth Gordon has traveled quite a way from the youthful ardor of a nineteen-year-old attending demonstrations in Boston during the fall of 1967. Now a prominent publicist and widely considered a behind-the-scenes player in county politics, he looks back on his own past with a note of bemusement.

"We saw things so clearly then, as if we were the sole possessors of the truth," he recalls with a rueful chuckle, speaking in the royal sense of a loose assemblage that gathered around the Boston underground newspaper the Avatar. Serving up a colorful assortment of pieces on draft resistance, black liberation, and astrology, the Avatar soon found no less than 50 of its street vendors arrested and convicted on obscenity charges. Although subsequently overturned, the convictions only underscored for the paper's staffers how out-of-touch was the local press, indeed the entire Boston political establishment.

"There are a bunch of dirty cocksuckers down in Cambridge who are giving us a hard time about our goddamn paper," declared the Avatar's Mel Lyman in its November 10, 1967, lead editorial, practically daring authorities to initiate another round of obscenity arrests. "Well, fuck 'em."

On that issue's very next page was one of Seth Gordon's own dispatches. It eerily echoed not only the old versus new economic disconnect three decades later but also why a young man might feel inexorably drawn to pick his camp -- regardless of conventional wisdom, or perhaps precisely to stand against it.

Previously ambivalent about the antiwar movement's aims, Gordon visited a suburban pro-war rally and soon found an angry crowd pummeling a fellow whose sole crime was holding aloft a peace sign. He wrote: "It was at this point that I decided who must be right, by comparing the type of people on both sides. On one a vicious mob, on the other a lone young man pleading for peace.... "Fight for God, Family, and Country!' stated a sign in Wakefield, Sunday. I would fight for God if I believed in him, my family if it were in jeopardy, and my country if it was worth it. My America was inhabited by Lincolns, Washingtons, and Jeffersons. The America I saw Sunday was infested with wolves, vipers, and savages."

Gordon cringes a bit as Kulchur quotes back to him some of his own prose. "Nobody should have to re-read what they wrote at nineteen," he says good-naturedly. "There's an important difference, though. Thirty years ago, with my contemporaries, there was never a single moment when we felt we were wrong." But today's dot-com disciples, Gordon adds, "are willing to admit to themselves: 'Oh shit! I believed my own nonsense!'"