June 11, 2004

On Not Taking Another Spin At Russian Roulette

[This is revisiting material regarding my having quit censorware decryption research, and DMCA Exemptions Diary - It's an update in view of iLaw versus head-banging]

Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.

-- Provisional Irish Republican Army on the failure of their Brighton hotel bombing to kill British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher or her ministers.


I had a very good time attending iLaw, and did discuss grant possibilities with some people there. But afterwards, when I sat down and went through implications, the mathematics still didn't work out.

As today was Ronald Reagan's funeral, I'll borrow his famous question of "Are You Better Off Than You Were [Before]?" And the answer remains, on a personal level, I am not. After nearly a decade of very hard free-speech activism, despite the eventual recognition of a Pioneer Award, of a hard-won DMCA Exemption victory, I'm still begging and pleading, scraping and scratching. I'm not being theatrical when I say, as I did in the Greplaw Interview, that if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't.

The people trying to do me ill, they only have to be lucky once. Because there is no downside, no cost, to taking sniper shots at me, they can keep trying until something hits: Leak sensitive information to a censorware company, try to poison friendships, attempt to alienate potential employers, etc. And when - not if they eventually do score, I will additionally be told, by people who should have helped me, but did not, that it didn't happen (because this salves the troubled consciences).

It's not as if I have prospects of a six-figure consulting fee in a court case, or a paid platform to 250,000 readers (also giving me the journalistic invulnerability to abuse virtually anyone), or even a faculty appointment anywhere. The very, very, best case seems to be now that if I pursue funding aggressively and skillfully, I might - not will, but might - get a minimal level of monetary compensation. That's the best case. Arguably it's an improvement of sorts, but really, not much of one. I have to be lucky always in order to escape the metaphorical bomb-throwing at me, nothing has changed there. I'm still way underpowered/overmatched, with expected negative return for my life personally.

I just can't take another spin at Russian Roulette again.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on June 11, 2004 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

Subscribe with Bloglines      Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Google Reader or Homepage


I am reading your blog with great sadness... indeed, the people who inspire others and engineer social movements often pay with their personal wellbeing. Please know that others care about you as a person, not just as a generator of new insights and perspectives.

Posted by: J at June 13, 2004 08:12 PM

you either be creative, or you forfeit that option to someone else to be (anti-)creative for you. don't forfeit that power. you win simply because you didn't give in. it is not true that what goes down must go up. nothing goes up unless creative people cause it to. even the pig-men have to counter gravity, and it's just as hard for them.

Posted by: bw at June 14, 2004 08:06 AM

Thanks for the kind sentiments. Unfortunately, the problem remains.

When I was unemployed during the recession, many people deeply regretted I was unemployed. However, that did not get me employed.

If I get sued, many people will deeply regret that I have been sued. However, I will still be sued.

So, I don't mean to be ungracious, but the situation doesn't change :-(.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at June 14, 2004 10:00 AM

You are right, of course. However, there must be a way for you to bootstrap your celebrity into some interesting projects (books and/or "Visiting Fellow/Guru" positions). I wish I could say that these options would bring in money-- they would barely cover rent. The students who would have you as a visiting prof would be very lucky... unlike the poor blokes who are taught by folks who are not brilliant.

Posted by: J at June 14, 2004 01:31 PM

The money aspect bothers me immensely. Remember, part of the attacks on me are avowedly intended to cost me employment possibilities (and once more, there is no downside to the attacker, so they can keep trying repeatedly). Not having made a fortune in the boom, I have to be wary of the next bust.

So again, thanks for the compliments, but I do have to keep on eye out for covering the rent.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at June 14, 2004 04:06 PM

Why is it that you dont' see the irony of complaining about someone trying to cost you your job -- while at the same time trying to cost Mr. Sims his, according to him at stakedbyseth.com ? Maybe if you stopped doing this, it might quit "blowing back" on you?

[Seth replies, in the comment itself to make a point about tolerating trolls:

Simple. Because it didn't happen.

You've just proven my point. He's lying. He's a DOMAIN-HIJACKER! What more did he have to lose by throwing mud my way, and hoping something stuck?

What did you think he was going to say?

"Seth showed great restraint even as I was threatening him with whatever fabrication I thought people might believe against him"?

Observe the mathematics of it - all he needs to do get one person to act on a lie, and he wins.

If you're not just a troll, think about it. I absolutely make no bones that I wouldn't shed a tear if Slashdot did fire him. But I'm not going to ask them to do it. If nothing else, for the simple reason that if they kept de facto supporting him after he stole the Censorware Project website and trashed the group's mail, they sure weren't going to care about email from me!

Posted by: x at June 14, 2004 05:35 PM