This pre-Internet chatroom conversation between Jim Henson, Ayn Rand, Yoko Ono and Sidney Nolan is fake. But it's amazing.S

Before the Internet, there was ARPANET — an experimental computer network brought to life in the 1960s by the U.S. Department of Defense. The design goals of the DOD's sui generis packet-switching plexus were manifold, and its role in laying the groundwork for what would become the Internet cannot be overstated; suffice to say, it took no time at all for ARPANET's early users to recognize its usefulness as a platform for one of the first forms of instant messaging.

All of the above is true. The bit about ARPANET being used for instant messaging since its early days? Totally accurate*. What follows, after the jump, is not. It's a fake chatroom conversation, purported to have taken place between Jim Henson, Ayn Rand, Yoko Ono and Sidney Nolan over ARPANET in April 1976. Again, the following transcript is a hoax. But holy crap, is it excellent.

The following fictional (but strangely believable) conversation is one in a series created by artists Bassam El Baroni, Jeremy Beaudry and Nav Haq. Together they have produced The ARPANET Dialogues, an understated art project that imagines conversations between prominent cultural and sociopolitical figures as they might have occurred over the DOD's primitive computer network. ("Volume I" of project's "archive of rare conversations" puts Ronald Reagan, Edward Said, Marcel Broodthaers and Jane Fonda in the same chat room.)

In reading these transcripts, we become connected to an historical period several decades removed, by way of a technological concept (the chatroom) that is as familiar to its late-date audience as it is alien to its iconic 1970s subjects. To peruse these chat logs is to participate in a rather clever piece of socially-engaged art that is equal parts satire, caricature, historical commentary and critique of modern internet culture. The conversations are also, at times, genuinely hilarious.

We've reproduced the Henson/Rand/Ono/Nolan transcript below in full. Check out the other chat logs from the artists' series at The ARPANET Dialogues:

AYN RAND
Hello this is Ayn Rand.

YOKO ONO
Hello. This is Yoko Ono

SIDNEY NOLAN
Good evening.

JIM HENSON
Hi. Im Jim Henson.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Sidney Nolan

JIM HENSON
I'm a puppeteer.

AYN RAND
As you know I am a philosopher and a novelist.

YOKO ONO
I myself am an artist and musician living now in New York.

SIDNEY NOLAN
I paint.

YOKO ONO
I would love to appear on one of your television programs Mr Henson.

AYN RAND
why?

YOKO ONO
They are very funny and I like how the puppets get on.

JIM HENSON
Thank you its kind of you to say so. Im also a fan of yours and John Lennons music.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Who is your favourite puppet from the line of characters you have created Jim.

YOKO ONO
Thank you. John loves your programmes too.

JIM HENSON
Each character is special for me they represent different aspects of myself. Kermit the frog is perhaps closest to me. An altar ego of sorts.

AYN RAND
What does that say about you.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Big laughs. He is exceptional.

JIM HENSON
I dont know. I don't think too much about it.

YOKO ONO
My favourite is Big Bird. He is so tall and gentle.

AYN RAND
To be honest I find it to be senseless entertainment. I prefer the celebration of men and what they can achieve.

JIM HENSON
Do you have children Ms Rand.

AYN RAND
What do children have to do with what I prefer.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Entertainment is never senseless its always within the sensible even when its farce.

JIM HENSON
I find that being a parent being close to children has broadened my perspective allowed me to empathize and understand more than I ever did before. I hope that empathy comes through in my senseless entertainment.

SIDNEY NOLAN
I prefer not to celebrate anything or anyone. Celebration is something that should become something that grows from within creation and not something that we take as a goal.

YOKO ONO
I think this is very important. We need also to offer our children a chance.

AYN RAND
A chance for what. If people cannot be proud of what they do and of their achievements what kinds of world are we giving the future generations?

YOKO ONO
Children have a better chance to do these things you mention if they empathise. I think this is Jims point.

AYN RAND
The empathy you point to obviously serves you well. I am happy for your achievement.

AYN RAND
What is the point of this conversation.

SIDNEY NOLAN
What is the point of life we might as well go all the way.

JIM HENSON
I am not a philosopher.

AYN RAND
The point of life is to achieve personal happiness.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Neither am I Jim.

JIM HENSON
How do you do that Ms Rand.

AYN RAND
It does not mean that you cannot think for yourselves.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Happiness can be your personal dictator if you make him your goal in life.

AYN RAND
What other goal would there be other than personal happiness. The happiness of others makes one a slave.

YOKO ONO
What if your own happiness makes others unhappy.

AYN RAND
Your happiness does not preclude that you are not making other people happy. Actually quite the opposite. If everyone works on their success and achievements this will bring the maximum amount of happiness to everyone.

SIDNEY NOLAN
History Ms. Rand dictates many things. We are always inside it and it is always inside us. We cannot escape it in most of our acts of will thoughts and concepts. Struggling with it is a purpose in itself. Happiness or not.

JIM HENSON
If that is a what makes a slave then that is what I am.

SIDNEY NOLAN
I agree with Ms. Rand on her last comment.

AYN RAND
Then your show does not make you happy.

JIM HENSON
It does immensely. But I wonder about this emotion happiness. Is this really the point to life.

AYN RAND
Then good for you. That is the most important aspiration an individual can and should have.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Diderot once said Divide and rule. the maxim is ancient. Its not mine. It was made by a tyrant. I love freedom to unite you is my will. And if I have one wish. Its that everyone make their own.

SIDNEY NOLAN
I dont think so.

JIM HENSON
Ms. Ono what is happiness to you.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Actually I completely disagree.

YOKO ONO
I think it is when we can finally lay aside our conflicts. When we can all participate in society and offer great support to each other

SIDNEY NOLAN
Aspirations are based on the history that controls us and cannot come as a total matter of will.

JIM HENSON
But there is always conflict.

YOKO ONO
But it does not have to be this way. Does your work Mr Henson not try to prove this?

JIM HENSON
No. Conflict is what defines my characters in many ways and how they respond to it.

AYN RAND
Obviously each individual has to deal with specific set of circumstances and limits of their own ability but what is important is that each individual sets their own goals and values and works towards achieving them.

JIM HENSON
Ms. Ono you are too idealistic I think.

AYN RAND
I agree.

SIDNEY NOLAN
I think Ms. Rand is even more idealistic at heart.

JIM HENSON
And sad.

SIDNEY NOLAN
The power of the individual can conquer all. The will as god.

AYN RAND
I am not idealistic at all. It is the opposite of idealism. Each individual acting rationally is in charge of their destiny not of the collective.

AYN RAND
What do you mean by the will of god.

SIDNEY NOLAN
The individuals will as his own personal god. Certainly but we dont live in shoe boxes Ms. Rand. Each action causes a reaction.

YOKO ONO
We all lead our own lives but our emotions and feelings connect us. Where is the belief in emotion.

AYN RAND
I do not disagree with what you say. But I do not understand why refer to a supernatural power to communicate your thought.

YOKO ONO
It is because our cultures have a spirit.

SIDNEY NOLAN
God is an idea in the end. History like I mentioned earlier in our conversation dictates this idea and we are unable to get rid of it even if we get rid of the idea of supernatural almighty power we cannot get rid of its essence which is what I think is omnipresent in your ideas because you seem to be making man into a god.

SIDNEY NOLAN
He is not.

JIM HENSON
The human spirit is so important. This is what can bridge the divide between us.

AYN RAND
I am not making man into God. I am freeing him from god and charging him to take control of his own destiny.

AYN RAND
What do you mean by human spirit.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Have you ever thought of yourself as the Nietzsche of our time Ms. Rand. Positive. A lady. Market oriented. He would be proud of you. The better more pragmatic him.

JIM HENSON
It may be the idea of god whether you believe in a deity or not. That element within us and around us that binds us to each other essentially. We are all human. We all connect I think somehow.

YOKO ONO
Yes and we must all be allowed an equal opportunity to participate in society and offer support to those that cant.

SIDNEY NOLAN
I dont care a lot for this idea of society either actually.

YOKO ONO
But you are part of society are you not. If your art isnt for society who is it for.

AYN RAND
I despise such mysticism. Acting in your own self interest aligns one with other people in a fluid non forced way. One does not need to be a slave to the concept of forced collective in order to achieve happiness across many people.

YOKO ONO
I am surprised to be in such a conversation. It feels like a deliberate test.

SIDNEY NOLAN
The idea of society is a logical predicament in the first place that is why it is so hard to argue for or against it. It just is what it is.

AYN RAND
Public institutions in society should exist only to support the individual not force it into abandoning its own private interest.

SIDNEY NOLAN
I agree Ms. Rand.

AYN RAND
Thank you Sidney.

SIDNEY NOLAN
But not in the total.

JIM HENSON
I think Ms. Rand and my character Oscar the Grouch would have a lot to talk about actually. I am laughing out loud at this idea.

AYN RAND
Why would I want to talk to him. What has he achieved or trying to achieve.

JIM HENSON
He has achieved what I think is the ultimate goal of your way of thinking.

YOKO ONO
But society is what makes our culture and is what makes a people different. I know the US is different to Japan. The US should try to get on with societies it doesnt like. Vietnam was a catastrophe.

JIM HENSON
Isolation. Contempt for others. A hard heart. Yet even he can muster a bit of empathy every now and then.

SIDNEY NOLAN
When Ms. Rands idea of individualism is amplified to the extreme things like Vietnam happen.

AYN RAND
I am not isolated. I have no contempt for others. Millions of people read my books and find my thoughts inspirational. I hardly spend my time on the sidelines in a trash can grumping.

JIM HENSON
Not yet anyway.

AYN RAND
Neither of the ideologies in that war aligns with my vision.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Being independent is not enough in itself.

AYN RAND
How empathetic of you Jim.

JIM HENSON
So what do you make of the war Ms. Rand. Mr. Nolan.

AYN RAND
Both sides in that war were acting against the individual. My disgust of the communist ideology should be known. Unfortunately the United States was fighting a continuation of the war founded in colonialism. We were not able to transmit the glory of self determination. It was a failure.

YOKO ONO
Well, I find this a painful conversation. Ms Rand and Mr Nolan, you have the privilege of philosophizing and meanwhile children are dying of our neglect and greed. I am outraged. Disgusted even. Therefore I must leave.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Its dreadful. And I truly loathe the word glory.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Dont leave Ms. Ono we need your idealism.

YOKO ONO
I am leaving. I have other things to do. Goodbye.

AYN RAND
No we do not. We need to be free from it.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Oh my. Farewell.

JIM HENSON
Idealism is responsible for wars too.

AYN RAND
I agree with you on this Jim.

JIM HENSON
Good bye everyone.

AYN RAND
Goodbye.

SIDNEY NOLAN
I agree Jim. We should work together on a puppet saga about Ned Kelly. Sometime maybe. Who knows.


Visit The ARPANET Dialogues to read other transcripts from the project, "an archive of rare [not to mention entirely fictional] conversations within the contemporary social, political and cultural milieu."

*See the following excerpt, borrowed from a 1982 handbook on computing at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory:

It is considered illegal to use the ARPANet for anything which is not in direct support of Government business ... personal messages to other ARPANet subscribers (for example, to arrange a get-together or check and say a friendly hello) are generally not considered harmful ... Sending electronic mail over the ARPANet for commercial profit or political purposes is both anti-social and illegal. By sending such messages, you can offend many people, and it is possible to get MIT in serious trouble with the Government agencies which manage the ARPANet.