February 17, 2005

Details Why Slashdot "Editor Upgrade" Doesn't Revive My Censorware Research

"The evil that men do lives after them"

When I started writing a blog, I took a deliberate, considered, approach that I would try to combine the local - "personal voice" aspect being touted - with the global, accounts of my successes and failures in fighting for net freedom. I thought that was a workable blend of having something reasonably interesting to say, yet about more general subject matter. This arose from a mistaken belief in the practices of BlogGods (one mistake was that, for local celebrities, many people care about the celebrity's online diary - but as a general rule, people do not care about your online diary, there's only so much celebrity to go around, and it's exponentially distributed).

Anyway, in that vein, I hope it'll be useful to go over in more detail why the recent, err, Slashdot editor departure doesn't revive my censored censorware research.

I can feel it in my bones, part of the aftermath is going to be in essence that I'll hear, about free-speech activism:

"Oh, you're always complaining" - nothing satisfies you (as the saying goes, all I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy), what more do you want (gushing publicity, a team of lawyers, $110/hour expert fees - or at least two out of three), IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT (how convenient a belief).

Now, a particular malicious person can do a great deal of damage. and it doesn't necessarily go away when they do (there are grudges which still remain against me, that simply will never be given up, it just won't happen).

But the key is to realize that those are specific examples of a general problem, of power imbalances, of how the system is set up. Is the flaw with monarchy having any particular "bad apple" as a king, or that overall, absolute monarchy is system which leads to bad governance?

I think of the outcomes of fighting against the DMCA and Internet censorship as a kind of probability-weighted mathematical sum of all the good things than can happen versus all the bad things that can happen. This sum is of course difficult and unclear to determine, but judgments have to be made on best efforts at estimation, despite a lack of Platonic certainty. Today, for me, the expected value of this sum is a bit less negative than it was e.g. a month ago. But "a bit less negative" is a far cry from "positive". And in absolute terms, negative is still negative. As I call it, the "three P's" - pay, press, (legal) protection, all remain solid obstacles.

It's not "Nothing's changed". Rather, it's "Too little has changed".

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on February 17, 2005 02:04 PM (Infothought permalink)
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Hey Seth,

On your censorware project page, you say this:

"Unfortunately, I can't begin at the beginning, only very near the end. The story of the formation, tensions, and then public meltdown, of Censorware Project would fill a book (plus an updated edition concerning the aftermath and issues about partial re-grouping)."

Why don't you? Write a book, that is. I can see several benefits to this.
1. It might make a good cautionary tale and add to the dialog about the intetnet. (Because, lets face it, this sort of shit only happens on the internet. Tradtional meatspace organizations get into infighting, but it's usually not so immediate or murderous.)
2. It might help you get some closure on the damn thing.
3. It might sell (provided it wasn't too flamey). Activist-types, geek-types...
4. It would make an interesting read!

Posted by: Paul Gowder at February 19, 2005 11:09 AM

I actually have thought of writing a book. But it would be a huge amount of work, and realistically, practically nobody would read it. I can't see that it would sell much. Activist's memoirs rarely do well, unless they're celebrities, and sometimes not even then.

Though I disagree that the tale is about the Internet. Instead, it's very much a generic outcome of organizations doing activism. It's absolutely "classic" to have a rogue member backstabbing former comrades out of motives of corruption. But, proving the point, you don't hear all the cases it's happened, since typically the books don't sell :-).

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 19, 2005 09:43 PM