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(It didn’t stop him from bringing back a life-size Buddha head stuffed with hashish.) Taking over the family ranch in Pinedale, Wyoming, when his father fell ill in the early ’70s, Barlow would spend a decade and a half on the physical frontier, becoming an ardent conservationist and chair of the Republican party in Sublette County; in these roles, he would build coalitions with a Wyoming politician named Dick Cheney, eventually becoming a campaign coordinator for the young congressman.(Their relationship ends in the late ’80s with a typically delicious anecdote that confirms that at least one person—Barlow—was able to compare the then-secretary of defense to Barlow’s exquisite understanding of power—and his tendency to channel it in the spirit of a heroic (white, male) frontiersman—shines through.With an instinct for freedom honed as much on the psychedelic planes as the Wyoming frontier, Barlow’s personality rings big and weird throughout , as open-hearted as it was sometimes privileged.For all his self-importance, though, there really was no one else quite like John Perry Barlow.
“Instead, I was doing what I always do, which was hanging out with intent.” It is the kind of self-congratulatory self-assessment that can sometimes make Barlow sound like a caricature from , especially when he mentions that, oh yeah, he took the Dalai Lama’s younger sister out on a few dates.
But the specifics of those politics continue to remain singular and often undefinable.
Running on charisma as much as policy, but with seemingly equal grasp of both, Barlow was perhaps less an influencer than an instigator.
But Barlow—cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and “junior lyricist” for the Grateful Dead—became a statesman anyway, if such a term can be applied to the borderless territory he made his home.
When Barlow died in February at age 70, remembrances came from United States senators and exiled dissidents, hackers and psychedelics enthusiasts, Harvard fellows and members of the Grateful Dead.