[linux-elitists] You want the truth, you *can't handle* the truth -- Read Dan

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Wed May 9 18:06:09 PDT 2001

Dan Gillmor can handle the truth.  Can you?

I've been watching MSFT's anti-GPL FUD campaign hot up.  I don't know
quite wha they're thinking they're going to hit with this (and suspect
they don't as well), but they've got 30 billion clam shells to ship the
message with, last I checked at Yahoo Finance.  I've been suspecting
that an attack of some sort would happen this year as the economy melts,
GNU/Linux and free software continue their ascent, and a new pile of
electronic pablum needs to be served to the ignorant masses for their
triannual tithing.

I've been thinking of dusting off the FUDBuster section of my website,
though it's a paltry response to the problem.  I feel so inadequate some

Solutions, anyone, or are we all just precipitate?

One heartening thought.  I remember a Mary Jo Foley comment, several
years back, in one of the earlier rounds of MSFT free software FUDding.
She was on the horn with some PR flack, commment was "I don't know who
these open source people are, but their PR is incredible".  Basically
saying, no matter what message or spin the pros were trying to put out,
we could counter them.  

Do we still have that in us?


    Posted at 10:17 p.m. PDT Tuesday, May 8, 2001

    Truth squad needed to combat Internet lies, commercialization

    Mercury News

    Maybe the Internet needs a fact squad.

    Big Government and its allies in Big Business aren't just taking
    firmer and firmer control of technology. They're spewing Big Lies.

    They tell us that digital-era copyright laws maintain the
    traditional balance between copyright owners and users, when the
    fact is that the owners have captured almost total control. They
    tell us that the Internet would crumble if they allowed the
    formation of new kinds of Net addresses to compete with .com and the
    other carefully rationed domains, when the fact is that the Net
    could handle thousands of domain suffixes and thrive.

    And for everyone's good, they insist, the Net can't be the public
    commons its founders envisioned, when the fact is there's no
    technical reason why not.

    How should we combat such lies? A group of about two dozen Internet
    pioneers and activists was exploring that question and others
    related to the future of the Net at a gathering last weekend in a
    Los Angeles suburb.

    I heard much angst about the threats, and some modest consensus
    about some of the problems. Few remedies were on tap, but the
    organizers said they weren't expecting instant answers in the course
    of a weekend. ``We have to understand the scope of the problem
    first,'' says Lauren Weinstein, one of the organizers.

    Weinstein, a Net pioneer who maintains the well-regarded Privacy
    Forum ([18]www.vortex.com/privacy), an online compendium of
    privacy-related topics. The other leader of the weekend session,
    Peter G. Neumann, is principal scientist at Menlo Park-based SRI
    International's Computer Science Laboratory and moderator of another
    respected online resource, Risks Forum (catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks).

    In 1999, Weinstein and Neumann formed an organization called People
    for Internet Responsibility ([19]www.pfir.org), the weekend
    meeting's official sponsor. Their notion was to raise issues and
    galvanize people who shared their concerns.

    The Los Angeles gathering had a somewhat amorphous agenda. A few key
    ideas bubbled to the surface, nevertheless.

    One was the need for what amounts to a technical truth squad. When
    moneyed and powerful interests concoct a prevailing -- but false --
    wisdom through public-relations deceptions and other techniques,
    credible experts need to stand up and explain why this or that
    emperor is unclothed.

    There are precedents. In 1997, for example, federal government
    officials were publicly mulling whether to force adoption of a ``key
    escrow'' system of cryptography, whereby people and organizations
    would effectively be forced to turn over to third parties the keys
    to their most secret data. Eleven noted technologists, including
    several of the world's top cyptographers, issued a report
    persuasively showing why key escrow would inevitably compromise our
    collective security, not enhance it.

    On many topics, one person's truth is another's lie. But every
    debate needs a foundation of plain facts, laid out in ways the
    public can grasp.

    ``We have not done that good a job in getting our views out beyond
    the technology community,'' says Weinstein. ``We've been preaching
    to the choir.''

    Many in that particular choir are horrified at the almost purely
    commercial direction in which they see the Net heading -- the
    ``TV-ization of the Internet,'' as David Farber, a meeting
    participant, puts it. Farber, one of the true Internet pioneers, is
    professor of telecommunications at the University of Pennsylvania,
    and just finished a year as chief technologist at the Federal
    Communications Commission.

    He also laments the state of education for people who plan to make
    careers of technology. Ethics and other social considerations are
    dismissed as irrelevant.

    ``We're not educating our students,'' Farber says. ``We're training

    Technology activists need to train themselves better on other
    fronts.  They have more common ground than their foes, but they are
    less organized and have much less money. The desire to save the Net
    from Coca-Colonization and regimentation is laudable, but it will
    take a level of cooperation that has yet to emerge.

    A fact squad would be a good start.

    Dan Gillmor's column appears each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Visit
    Dan's online column, eJournal
    E-mail dgillmor@sjmercury.com; 
    phone (408) 920-5016
    fax (408) 920-5917
    PGP fingerprint: FE68 46C9 80C9 BC6E 3DD0 BE57 AD49 1487 CEDC 5C14.

    17. mailto:dgillmor@sjmercury.com
    18. http://www.vortex.com/privacy
    19. http://www.pfir.org/

Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>    http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
  http://gestalt-system.sourceforge.net/         http://www.kuro5hin.org
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