Here, the vision of the internet as an egalitarian space where all were welcome and nobody was privileged still had currency. While dogma and censorship were condemned, an ambient spirit of progress marked these groups’ belief in the internet as a catalyst of human potential.
All that fell by the wayside after the “Eternal September.” Usenet was overwhelmed by what Delano dubs “a veritable tidal wave of assholes and Everymen” that never receded. For her, the inundation of AOL subscribers in 1993 was tantamount to a natural disaster that wiped out Usenet’s liberatory appeal. “Scam artists realized that electrons were infinitely cheaper than paper circulars, while trolls could harass or bully anyone without consequence,” Delano says. “There was anonymity with no accountability.”
When participation is universal, the culture expands to fit the audience, at which point “anything goes” and the insanity outnumbers and then overpowers the sanity. This is a process akin to cultural genocide, which later becomes actual genocide as those who depend on that culture withdraw, emigrate or cease breeding.