Trashed electronics at recycling plant in Rwanda. | Rwanda Green Fund

The Death of Media

The planet chokes on electronic waste, and a recycler goes to prison

Trashed electronics at recycling plant in Rwanda. | Rwanda Green Fund
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“Although unjust, my prison sentence stands to serve a purpose greater than myself. I didn’t truly care about “waste” until I saw the people being poisoned from e-waste around the world. Now finding efficient solutions to stop wasteful practices is all I live for. Sometimes people need to see others suffer before they are willing to stand up for humanity. I am happy to sacrifice my fortune, freedom, and even my life—if it will help us all realize how to do what is best for one another [in] this world we share. I hope one day people will understand what I am fighting for. It’s for our future. I hope we all fight for the evolution of humanity in our own way.” 

Eric Lundgren, in an email, June 12, 2018

Part I: Plunder

By the time you read this, Eric Lundgren will be in prison. As of Friday, June 15, Lundgren became an inmate in a federal correctional institution in Oregon—and that’s where he’ll be for the next fifteen months.

In the span of those fifteen months, there’s an increasingly good chance you’ll throw out and replace whatever device you’re currently reading this on, and there’s an even better chance that device won’t be properly disposed of. Magnify that on a global scale and you can begin to appreciate what drove Lundgren to intervene in our wasteful, disastrous computer supply chain in the first place, which ended up costing him his freedom. Because the great charge that has been leveled against him ultimately amounts to criminal recycling.

Lundgren, a respected environmentalist and entrepreneur, is in prison for trying to distribute software that extends the life of your computer—software that is legally and freely available online—to people who don’t know how to access it. He is in prison for trying to reduce the amount of electronic waste (e-waste) we produce on a regular basis from not knowing how to access that software. When it comes down to it, he is prison because his efforts to keep people from needlessly throwing out their electronics would have cut into the tech industry’s model of profiting from consumer ignorance, repair prevention, and planned obsolescence.

In the time it will take Lundgren to serve out his prison sentence, the world will produce around fifty million metric tons of new e-waste. And most of that refuse will be shuttled far away from the West’s own backyard, to dystopian, city-sized dump sites in countries like Ghana, China, and India, to the mass graves of our modern world, where it will poison the air, water, soil, livestock, and human bodies.

In just fifteen months, humanity will wreak centuries’ worth of havoc upon the planet. But what else is new? If they can somehow survive in the conditions we’re leaving for them, future generations will spend their entire lives suffering and trying to mitigate the damage we’re doing right now. We know this already. Somewhere just under the bed sheets of our conscious minds we can feel the imminence of environmental disaster on the horizon. Still, we cruise toward it with homicidal calm, unflinching, caught like deer in the headlights of a car that we’re driving ourselves. We know the crash is coming. And Eric Lundgren is now languishing in prison for trying to do something to stop it.

This story is about much more than Lundgren and the circumstances that have landed him in prison. It’s about the self-destructive world we’ve created for ourselves, the kind of people we’ve become, in turn, by living and functioning in that world, and the mediating forces keeping that world in place while making it all but unthinkable for us to live another way. But if we’re going to try to reckon with the perverse dynamics of the suicidal world we’ve trapped ourselves in, Lundgren’s case is a depressingly appropriate place to start.

Garbage Out

Lundgren’s legal battle has garnered a fair amount of news coverage, at least since a judge in Miami rejected his appeal in April and sealed his fate. But you’d have to go back to 2012 to get to the start of Lundgren’s tangle with tech behemoth Microsoft and the U.S. government. As Microsoft has repeatedly noted, it was the United States Attorney’s Office in Miami that filed charges against Lundgren after customs agents intercepted a shipment at the center of everything—a shipment of twenty-eight thousand discs containing computer-wiping software that you can legally download for free.

The Los Angeles Times and Vice’s Motherboard have given solid run-downs of Lundgren’s case, although I personally think Devin Coldewey’s report for TechCrunch gives the most thorough and digestible coverage to date of all the technical details, which need to be carefully contextualized in order for lay-readers to grasp what is so goddamned egregious about all this. There’s no doubt that, in his efforts to stem the flow of unnecessary e-waste, Lundgren did commit a crime; but he was sentenced to prison (and slapped with a $50,000 fine) because prosecutors, with Microsoft’s help, convinced a judge that he committed a much worse, completely different crime, which he did not. That’s the ultimate, heartbreakingly stupid truth of all of this. And one of the crucial factors that made this nightmare a reality is the fact that our justice system is so technologically illiterate that it can’t tell when tech companies like Microsoft, whose primary concern is and always will be profit, are full of shit. 

For many people who are having problems with their OS but can’t find their restore disks, the obvious answer is to just junk their computer and get a new one.

Here’s the SparkNotes version: when you buy a new Dell computer, you’re also buying a license to use the operating system (OS) software running on it. For Dells, the standard OS is Windows. When you open the box of your brand-new computer, you will typically find a restore disk in there, which can be used to reset your computer to factory settings and reinstall the OS if you should ever get a virus or your system is just running like crap. If you happen to lose the restore disk that comes with the computer, you can actually go on Microsoft’s website, download the OS for free, put it on a flash drive or burn it onto a blank CD (from your own computer or someone else’s), and use that to perform the same function. It’s free because the OS is useless unless you register it to the computer you paid for by using the license key, which is usually stickered onto the computer itself.

Simple, right? Well, as it turns out, no. Microsoft, in the great tradition of all lumbering profit-hungry monopolies, has ensured that the market for this free software fix is as opaque as any militantly useless bureaucracy can make it. To wit, Microsoft has stood by the totally consumer-friendly policy of not selling new copies of these restore disks—a policy that has only served to sediment consumers’ widespread ignorance of the fact that you can duplicate the restore disk for free. Eric Lundgren recognized that such irrational barriers to system restoration could be overcome with comparative ease. And, having toured e-waste dumpsites around the world, he saw firsthand the tremendous human and environmental costs that result from leaving those barriers in place.

For many people who are having problems with their OS but can’t find their restore disks (and can’t get a straight answer from tech support about how to solve their easily fixable problem), the obvious answer is to just junk their computer and get a new one. Add to this an overbearing desire for “upgrades” marketed by a tech economy that pumps out newer, “better” models every few months, and you’ve got a recipe for accelerating the already drastic production of unnecessary e-waste while squeezing more money out of people who are being duped into throwing out perfectly functional equipment.

Lundgren’s plan was to stock computer repair shops with duplicate restore disks he had manufactured in China, which could be sold to customers on the cheap. Lundgren himself intended to charge refurbishers twenty-five cents per disk to cover production and shipping costs—hardly a big moneymaking scheme. There would be no point in charging more because, again, the OS software on the disks is freely available on Microsoft’s website, and that software itself is useless without a valid license key to register it to. “If you don’t have a license,” Lundgren told Motherboard, “and you can’t contact Microsoft and verify that code,” then the restore disk “is basically a frisbee. It’s not worth anything.” To pretend otherwise, he added, is “like saying a gun, with or without bullets, operates the same.”

A Terrible Waste

But that is precisely what prosecutors argued, and the manifestly clueless judge in Lundgren’s case, U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley, bought it. (It should also be pointed out that, judging by the evident missteps in the defense proceedings, Lundgren really should have gotten better legal representation.)

With the help of grossly misleading testimony from Microsoft supply chain manager Jonathan McGloin, the prosecution made the jaw-droppingly disingenuous case that each of Lundgren’s restore disks was worth the cost of a new, licensed OS and that, altogether, he was on the hook for $8.3 million in damages. (This total was eventually reduced to $700,000 after prosecutors changed course, tacitly conceding that their initial charges were absurd, and argued that each disk was worth the cost of a refurbished, but still licensed OS). The prosecutors in Lundgren’s case also contended that the restore disks were loaded with “counterfeit software” that was potentially harmful to users (even though tests run during the trial revealed that the software on the disks, which—repeat after me—was freely downloaded from Microsoft’s website, contained no additional malware).

Okay, okay… let’s take a step back. I can sense that your eyes are already starting to glaze over in response to this sexy tangle of legal proceedings and software specifications. But please understand that the big players in these dumbfoundingly oafish copyright battles are continuously banking on our collective boredom and inattention to the contested details in such cases. That is, in fact, how a software monopoly like Microsoft, along with the prosecutorial mercenaries working on its behalf, continues to safeguard an industry that is explicitly designed to fleece consumers till they’re dead while doing irreparable damage to the planet and crushing people like Eric Lundgren for trying to do something about it.

No matter how you slice it, Lundgren is in prison for crimes he did not commit. And it’s because our justice system, by being so resolutely blind to (or, worse, complicit in) the fundamental business model of the tech industry’s sprawling corporate oligopoly, defers to the entities that control the industry itself—just like the rest of us do. We are entrusting our ignorance to those who profit directly from it.

“Microsoft does not sell discs. It sells licenses. Lundgren did not sell licenses. He sold discs. These are two different things with different values and different circumstances.”

To be sure, in its ever-cynical bid to depict itself as a good corporate citizen, Microsoft has put a lot of PR spin on Lundgren’s prosecution, highlighting its own programs for working with refurbishers and recyclers and assuring all interested parties that Lundgren’s case is about rooting out “counterfeiters [who] seek to deceive consumers.” Scammers and counterfeiters are a serious concern, but none of this explains why Microsoft is keeping mum about the glaring difference between what Lundgren produced (restore disks with no license that contained Microsoft’s own freely available software) and what he was falsely prosecuted for (counterfeit licensed operating systems).

Devin Coldewey succinctly sums things up: “Microsoft does not sell discs. It sells licenses. Lundgren did not sell licenses. He sold discs. These are two different things with different values and different circumstances. I don’t know how I can make this any more clear. Right now a man is going to prison for fifteen months because these judges didn’t understand basic concepts of the modern software ecosystem.”

To be clear, Lundgren did commit a crime, to which he pled guilty right out of the gate. Where he fucked up was by manufacturing restore disks that, to the untrained eye, looked exactly like the ones that come with new Dell computers. Even though he was going to sell these disks for next to nothing, he still intended to sell a product that made unauthorized use of the logo and cover design of an authentic Windows restore disk. Based on the evidence, it seems clear that the purpose of copying the disk design was to allay users’ concerns that they may be putting some bootleg program with malware on their computer. Still, Lundgren’s modest breach of proprietary copyright was indeed against the law, and it opened the door for the prosecution to speculate, with Microsoft’s help, that Lundgren was peddling “counterfeit software” (he was not) that was worth the cost of a licensed OS (it was not) and that he “intended to profit” from it (it sure doesn’t look that way).

This deliberate and concerted perversion of justice and common sense feels like an all-too-apt metaphor for our time, one that poignantly encapsulates our stupid, corrupt joyride toward environmental ruin. If it were a metaphor, though, it would, by definition, need to point to something else, some other meaning or reality beyond itself. But what else could it possibly point to? The whole thing is just a metaphor for itself: a sad reality pointing to a sad reality in which a well-meaning tech geek is in prison for trying to minimize the destruction of the earth we share, in however small a way, because it may have slightly disturbed one $714 billion company’s model of duping people into throwing out good equipment and spending more money than they need to.

Eric Lundgren at recycling plant in Los Angeles. | iFixit video via YouTube

Right to Repair

Eric Lundgren would be the first person to tell you that this is about more than his freedom, let alone his efforts to make a dent in the e-waste epidemic. Knotted up in Lundgren’s case are a number of questions that will come to define life in the twenty-first century and beyond.

What, for instance, is the meaning of ownership in the digital age?

At the heart of all this is a struggle to determine what rights we have in regard to the technologies we own. This struggle has recently taken concrete form in the “right to repair” movement, which is pretty much what it sounds like.

The basic tenet of right to repair is that it is your right to improve or repair the things you own (or to do whatever else you want with them, really). If you look around and take stock of the stuff you own, this kind of seems like a no-brainer. I bought that lamp—if I need to replace the light bulb inside it, of course it’s my right to do so. I own that bookshelf—if I have to fix one of the shelves, and if I want to decoupage the shit out of the whole thing, you better believe I’m going to.

But, of course, things get thornier when we’re talking about more complex belongings. And there’s probably no better example than cars. For over a century, people have been repairing, refurbishing, and tinkering with automobiles in their garages. Those who lacked the know-how to do so could always take their equipment to others who did, or they could teach themselves by tracking down repair manuals with model specs from the manufacturers.

However, as anyone who drives a car today can tell you, the auto industry has short-circuited this long tradition of independent repair by integrating more complex, computer-based technologies that you didn’t ask for into new cars.

The increased computerization of automobiles doesn’t just undercut repair efforts by requiring new, complex kinds of technical savvy; oftentimes, it also introduces obstacles that are legally impassable. “Some companies use digital locks or copyrighted software to prevent consumers or independent repair people from making changes,” Emily Matchar writes. “Others simply refuse to share their repair manuals. Some add fine print clauses to their user agreements so customers (often unwittingly) promise not to fix their own products.” These issues came to a head in 2012 when Massachusetts passed a landmark right to repair ballot initiative, which required automobile manufacturers to make all diagnostic and repair information accessible to car owners and mechanics. In response, sensing that a domino effect would bring such laws to more states, the auto industry about-faced and capitulated to a more open policy nationwide.  

The tech industry is another story.

The Only Genius Bar in Town

Eric Lundgren is merely one of many victims of Big Tech’s efforts to suffocate the right to repair movement. Right to repair (or “fair repair”) legislation has been introduced in eighteen states where, following the logic of the 2012 Massachusetts bill, advocates are pushing tech companies like Apple to make available to consumers parts and information that are currently accessible only to the companies themselves, their commercial outposts, and “authorized service providers” who pay those companies handsomely. But things are looking bleak, and Big Tech appears to be winning.

Strangely enough, for the past two years the momentum for “fair repair” was being carried not by a bunch of computer geeks trying to find replacements for Apple’s demonic pentalobe screws, but by farmers in states like Nebraska and Vermont. In Nebraska, state senator Lydia Brasch had introduced legislation on behalf of farmers who have been suffering yearly from the monopoly John Deere has on the computational means for diagnosing and repairing newer model tractors. For these farmers, a broken tractor during harvest season can make or break their livelihoods; loading and hauling their multi-ton machines to authorized servicers, sometimes hundreds of miles away, means lost time, lost harvests, lost money. A number of farmers have even resorted to using bootleg software to hack into and repair their own equipment

The key question is: If we are collectively dependent on the technologies marketed by Microsoft, Dell, Apple, John Deere, etc., and if these technologies are not a “luxury” but a necessity for working people in the twenty-first century—if they are, that is, pretty much an indispensable utility—and if we are regularly and repeatedly shelling out hefty sums of money for them, then should it be permissible for the means and secrets to repair these technologies to be entirely beyond the reach of consumers?

The corporations certainly think so. It should come as a shock to no one that John Deere was joined by companies like Apple and Case IH in a massive and expensive lobbying effort to kill the proposed legislation in Nebraska. Echoing Microsoft’s justifications for grinding down Eric Lundgren, these companies cited “security” and “safety” concerns for consumers who might try to repair their own equipment. Such lobbying efforts have plagued legislative pushes for right to repair in other states. And, in Nebraska at least, they have been successful. The “fair repair” bill died on the table in early March this year.

We’ll just have to wait and see what this will mean for the right to repair movement, but any forward momentum will really depend on how much traction that movement can gain with the public and how much people are willing to go to the mat and counter corporate lobbying efforts. More than this, though, it’s going to take a sea change in how we view ourselves and our lives in relation to the technologies that we depend on—not to mention the giant corporate entities that control them and, to a large extent, us.

If for no other reason, the right to repair movement is significant for setting out to disrupt the purely consumptive relationship we have to the technologies we “own” and to break our mouths-open subservience to the top-down directives of Big Tech. It is significant, that is, for trying to reorient how we think and act and live with (and through) technology itself—as “users” and, in fact, as humans. Such a reorientation can’t come too soon, at least if we want our species to survive.


Part II: A Beautiful, Dying Thing

On the surface, all the way down to the most elemental level, this is a story about media. From the computers in all those new John Deere tractors, to the iPhone in your pocket with a busted screen you can’t fix yourself, to the software that sent Eric Lundgren to prison, the media in question here are undeniably new—products of the digital age. And the injustice served in cases like Lundgren’s is the dismal result of a world failing to keep up with the perpetual newness of the new media landscape and everything that comes with it.

But this is, after all, the real endgame of tech giants like Microsoft, Apple, Google, HP, and Facebook. Theirs is a mission to maintain and expand their monopolized role as dictators of the meaning of “progress,” insinuating their technologies into more and more spheres of daily life, sucking more and more of the world into the position of playing catch-up. Theirs is a utopia from which there is no way out, where life itself waits for “upgrades” and adjusts to new formats, functions, restrictions, and protocols that are crafted in secret, delivered from afar, and serviceable only by those technical support outposts that bolster their bottom line and solidify their market dominance. Theirs is an aspiring dominion over the impenetrable “black box” of wires, codes, signals, servers, laws, natural resources, etc., underwriting our reality.

What’s playing out right now, then, is a multi-tiered struggle to determine who we are, where we stand, and what kind of agency we have with respect to the media technologies that increasingly shape our world. But that is also, when it comes down to it, the story of all media. It is, when it comes down to it, the story of human life.

We are currently coming to terms with a market order in which specific types of media dominate the making and maintenance of our world, shaping larger and larger swathes of life. It would be a mistake, though, to believe that our time is any more mediated than others in our history. Because “media” is not simply a modern category restricted to certain kinds of technologies that have become central to our lives. Rather, media are, and always have been, the technologies of living.

That probably sounds like lofty nonsense, but bear with me. Because without an expanded sense of how we live with and through media, there’s really no way to grasp how our limited understanding and acknowledgment of media has created a situation in which we are unable to save ourselves.

Certain forms of media have undoubtedly come to dominate the world we’ve built for ourselves in the twenty-first century. But media have been there with us from the beginning. They are, in fact, the means with which we’ve built any and all of our worlds. They are the forces that structure and maintain and mediate a certain kind of life at any given point in history. And the big point I’m trying to make here is that the media holding together the kind of world we’ve built for the present have acclimated us to a kind of life that is marked for death.

Trump Media

We think of media in limited terms. Even so, I get the sense that we understand the basics of media at a deep level. This has become more apparent than ever in the Trump age.

It’s no secret that Trump and his cabinet goons have largely defined this administration by its bald hostility to “the media.” And the trickle-down effect has been enormous. From the everyday drone of mainstream pundit patter to classroom discussions with my students, questions and concerns about some singular entity known as “the media” have flooded what’s left of our common discourse. This is by no means a new concern for people, but the Trumpian era has markedly and palpably raised the stakes of what we perceive to be the ulterior motives, ideological biases, and corporate manipulations shaping whatever “the media” is supposed to be and do.

Forms of media have been with us from the beginning. They are the forces that structure and maintain and mediate a certain kind of life at any given point in history.

I won’t venture into the fraught terrain of trying to pin down who or what we’re referring to when we talk about the media. Doing so would miss the point, anyway. Because the most definitive quality of what we call the media is probably the fact that it has no agreed-upon meaning. At base, it generally signifies the apparatus of a corporate news industry that plays the world to us through a number of communication platforms (TV shows, newspapers, radio, social media, etc.). But even this leaves us fumbling to find some coherence in the varied, selective, and often contradictory ways we invoke “the media” today. Because, at this point, it’s not so much a descriptor as it is an insult, a weaponized abstraction that, like ideology itself, only ever seems to apply to one’s opponents. That Sean Hannity—the red-faced, belt-slapping embodiment of self-servingly corrupt, ideologically warped, corporate media—can un-ironically call out “the media” on his hugely popular show on Fox News is a painfully instructive case in point.

The important thing is that, in our growing suspicion and partisan griping about “the media” today, we are confronting the essential core of mediation itself. Whether tacitly or explicitly, we understand that media are technologies of the middle. (Medium, after all, is a Latin derivative of medias, meaning “middle.”) Media are the connective tissue bringing together what is separate: the here and the there, the then and the now, you and everyone else. In the here and now, whenever and wherever that may be, media connect us to what is not here, not now, not us.

We understand that media connect. And it would appear that, if nothing else, the Trump era has made such connections more visible than ever. When Trump repeatedly attacks “the dishonest media,” he is drawing everyone’s attention to the fact that their connection to him and “the truth” of what his administration is doing is, well, mediated.

Between the world and us, between Trump and “the people,” there exists a seemingly endless network of mediating forces: the machinery in your phone or computer or television; your internet or cable connection; the websites you’re accessing; the algorithms that sort what you see on your social media feeds; the corporate entities in charge of channeling images and sounds and information from wherever Trump is to you; the writers and producers and pundits who integrate and narrate that information into polished content that can be fed to all of us; the political motives and money-making interests of the people running these enterprises; and so on. And, at each step of the way, Trump encourages us to be infinitely suspicious of all the ways these mediating forces distort “the truth” as it makes its journey from him to us. Unless, of course, those mediating forces produce a positive image of him.

In some sick and twisted way, Trump’s takeaway message echoes two things scholars and philosophers of media talk about all the time: (1) all these layers of mediation—all these things and forces in the middle—affect whatever content is being mediated through them; (2) all these layers of mediation affect us (how we think, act, perceive, and communicate) and the ways we understand and live in the world. For better or worse, Trump has given us a tighter, if destructive, grasp on what media can do. Clawing our way out of this bleak world, though, will require a more elemental appreciation for what media are.

Stuck in the Middle with You

A medium is middle-ness, the in-between, the from-here-to-there. In between what, though? What is on either side of a medium? Life. A state of being on one side, a state of being on the other side—in the middle, the means for living our way from one to the other. Media are the means we have and create to live beyond our immediate present, to reach beyond our given world. Media are the practices we employ, the forces we harness, and the bridges we build to transform what is into something else, and to transport ourselves there. Media are the passageways of being.

Think of Trump again. On the surface, his focus on “the media” is about how he and his messages get lost and distorted somewhere in the middle. But even when his messages are delivered word for word, even when he gets the coverage he wants, even when he seemingly gets to connect to us as immediately as possible, without this or that mediating force getting in the way, he doesn’t stop. He still rails on about “the media.” Because, in the end, it isn’t really about the message. It’s about how we live. It’s about how we get by with a certain taken-for-granted relationship to “the media,” which Trump wants to upend. Like trade, the border, and taxes, “the media” are one medium among many that Trump has harnessed to make our world into something else, to transport us from one state of being to another, to reorganize the forces that structure and mediate one way of living in a way that produces another way of living.

Or think of Microsoft, Eric Lundgren, and the right to repair again. From one angle, these are stories about what we do, and what we are legally able to do, with our media—the technologies that connect us, the hard and software, computers, phones, and such. On a more elemental level, though, they are stories about how we live, and how long we’ll be able to live a certain way. From the laws and practices of our justice system to our capitalist economy and culture, which subsumes everything, even our very survival on this planet, to the profit motives of corporations; from the metals we pull out of the ground to make our electronics to the toxic gasses and sludge they produce in dumpsites we’ve filled with e-waste—these, too, are mediating forces, the means of living that carry us from one world to another. Our struggles for or against them are struggles over what that world will be and how we will live in it.

These are stories about what we do, and what we are legally able to do, with our media—the technologies that connect us. On a more elemental level, though, they are stories about how we live, and how long we’ll be able to live a certain way.

Because that’s what media are to us: they are the means for making worlds in which we can live and thrive and be. Making worlds is something humans do in order to be human. Our species came to define itself by our need to live in worlds we’ve had a hand in building. What makes us human is the fact that our humanity is, in some sense, made. Media are the means by which we make ourselves, by making a world for ourselves—the technologies we use, the techniques we employ, and all the ways we ourselves function techno-logically to create and maintain a world in which we can live, and to carry it forth from each second to the next, from one place to another, from one state of being to a different state of being.

Insofar as media are the tools with which we make the worlds we can live in, they are also the forces that shape and hold together a certain way of living that is fitted to that world and reproduces its shape. It’s a constant back and forth: we make the worlds that, in turn, make us. In our past, we have created so many diverse worlds in which we could live and grow and be—diverse worlds in different times and places that created diverse, thriving, violent ways of living (cultures, social structures, commerce, tools for survival, and forms of government). But we have now created a world that, for once, has become indistinguishable from the planet. It is an inescapably singular world, one that covers all of us, our countries, our lands, the ocean, the sky, and everything in between. However, it is a world—this one that we’ve created—in which we will not be able to live, a world in which we cannot be.

In the backs of our minds, I think we know this already. It’s not a coincidence that super-rich charlatans like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have their sights set on escaping this place, on building a new world away from this planet. They know the score, even if they themselves are the living, breathing embodiments of what is unsustainable in our world here.

That world we’ve built for ourselves has yielded wealth, comfort, and abundance for some of us. And the ways of life we’ve developed to live within that world will continue to reproduce the suicidal drive at the center of it for the rest of us who have no way out. The ways we live now will continue to mediate our passage from this world to the end of this world. Which will be the end of us. But the nature of media is also an abiding source of hope for us—the middle-ness is the message. As long as there’s a middle, there’s another way. As long as there’s a world to live in, we have the means for living differently. We’ll remain in the middle all the way until we’re not. We’ll be in-between all the way until we can no longer be. The definitive other side of media, the point of no more middle-ness, is death.

But we’re not there yet. And, until we are, there’s hope.


Click here for information about supporting Eric Lundgren

To write to Eric Lundgren while he is in prison, direct letters to this exact address:

CLIFFORD ERIC LUNDGREN / 13623-104

FCI SHERIDAN
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
SATELLITE CAMP
P.O. BOX 6000
SHERIDAN, OR  97378

Maximillian Alvarez is a dual-PhD candidate and graduate student instructor in the departments of History and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. He received his BA and graduated with honors from the University of Chicago in 2009.

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