It's always seemed like you've had William Burroughs and Jorge Luis Borges in mind when crafting your narratives — both in terms of flipping worlds inside out and maintaining a very orderly approach to cataloging strange, routine phenomena. If you digest your influences adequately, you don't think about them all the time. It just becomes part of who you are. Burroughs, the influence is probably more stylistic than anything else. I mean, whatever Burroughs thought he meant is not what I finally took out of it. What I took out of it were a series of alternative strategies for using language.
Burroughs's actual concerns in his particular kind of magical universe aren't anything like the way I see the world. He would never have agreed with me about conspiracy theories. He loved conspiracy theories and had a million of them, as contradictory as they might have been. But I loved all the different things he could do with language, and I loved seeing this totally vernacular streak of American language put to the service of weird, quasi-European art. With Borges, he's just sort of as close as I ever got to cosmic mysticism.
But even if it's a deep-down stylistic influence, these two writers seem to be on your mind a lot as a sounding board when working out ideas in the essays and speeches here. Well, that's true. I noticed that myself — they pop up all the way through, so I guess they're the influences I've been conscious of. I suspect that our artistic influences aren't all that conscious all the time. We like to tell people which writers we like so the people we're telling will think those writers are cool [laughs]. I mean, I do it. And then some others, I think, "Eh, I'm not going to mention those guys."
What's your take political leaders' disconnect with so many functions of the Internet, highlighted in the SOPA hearings last month? It's as though it's generational but it's probably not generational in the old sense. Like, it's not exclusively "old people" who don't know what the Internet is or how it works. It's some different kind of split. It's a cultural split that kind of goes along the same lines as guys who probably never learned to type because that's what secretaries do. There's still a lot of that around. The real downside of it isn't that they're being misogynist jerks, but that they wind up just not knowing how the Internet works.
There's still relatively little political attention paid to candidates' attitudes toward Internet practices. Yeah, it's very much at the bottom. I think people generally more viscerally believe that "the economy is where we live, man!" And that's true. But really, in North America, the media is where we live. It's what we do. It's not like we're making a whole lot of stuff in factories or anything. We let people in other countries do that if we can. So the Internet is very important, and if they start messing with it, I think we're about to find out how important it was!