“Linux is a cult that captures the best-and-brightest kids.”
Entire separation between technology and politics is a convenient simplification, but it rarely serves the prudent observer who is interested in answers. As Richard Stallman once put it, “geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.” Google may have had to learn this the hard way because it witnesses not only existing Microsoft employees but former ones aligning against it too. At the same time, Microsoft is inciting Washington DC against Google [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] in what only can be described as a contemptuous display of power. Microsoft uses cronies to achieve this and by all means, that’s just putting it as bluntly as it comes, simply because it’s true and well substantiated.
Although we mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, PR Watch has just gotten around to explaining how Microsoft uses AstroTurf campaigns against Google.
For PR support in that campaign, Microsoft turned to LMG, a secretive Washington DC public affairs firm that specializes in astroturf campaigns. Thompson and Vogelstein expect the anti-Google campaign to intensify in 2009, with a focus on painting the company as a threat to personal privacy.
Particularly, as the essay points out, LawMedia Group played a role here and PR Watch describes it as follows.
LawMedia Group — also referred to as LMG — is a secretive Washington DC public affairs firm. The firm’s website says it “unites the worlds of law, communications, strategic counseling and crisis management into seamless campaigns for Fortune 100 companies, trade associations, start-ups and non-profits.”  Ads for LMG describe its services as including “government relations” (lobbying), “grassroots lobbying,” “issue / initiative / petition management,” “media production” and “opposition research.” 
LawMedia is one of those agencies which in a decent society would be dismantled. When AstroTurfing/legalised bribery (commonly known as "lobbying") becomes a ‘norm’, justice cannot prevail, let alone be ever reached. We’ve mentioned LawMedia Group on many occasions [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] since its involvement was initially exposed [1, 2] for its dealings with Microsoft. It serves to illustrate that Microsoft’s letters-from-the-dead tactics are far from outdated.
In other news, something is happening which involves a former ELCOT officer. ELCOT’s success story with GNU/Linux (Ballnux unfortunately) was noted in a video that can be found here and we believe there may have an important update that relates to previous coverage of what Microsoft does in India, namely:
- Update from Kerala (re: EDGI, Expelled Leaders)
- Microsoft’s EDGI in India: Fighting GNU/Linux in Education
- Is Microsoft ‘Pulling an EDGI’ on Kerala? (Updated)
We received some additional information which may suggest that other officers whose choices favour Free software are being moved or removed, but at whose behest? According to a report from the Deccan Chronicle (newspaper in Hyderabad, India), “IAS officer faces wrath, shifted again.” Here is the ‘meat’ of the story:
Jan. 25: Senior IAS officer C. Uma Shankar has set a record of sorts. His transfer last Friday to the Small Savings department from the post of Managing Director of Arasu Cable TV Corporation was the fourth in just six months.
Said to be an efficient, tech-savvy officer and known for his role in developing and promoting e-governance, he has been credited with the introduction of open source software during his brief stint in ELCOT (Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu Limited).
His transfer order came a day after the officer told the media in Vellore that it would be better for the State to take over the Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV). The officer was also critical of the damage caused allegedly by the SCV to the Arasu Cable TV infrastructure in some parts of the state.
Earlier, Mr Uma Shankar was said to have been transferred from ELCOT after he found fault with an errant IT firm that was run by a person with connections.
In response to this, said one person, “It’s very sad how a honest govt officer is being harassed for doing his job.”
Uma Shankar wrote back: “I saw the postings on my latest transfer today only. I am accustomed to lightning transfers. Transfers cannot affect my morale.”
“Why is that whenever someone is encouraging Free software adoption in India, something sudden and abrupt creeps in?”Another person remarks: “It is not good for the government if it punishes the sincere officers who devote their time for the welfare of the state. It will definitely encourage corruption, fraud and maladministration.”
Uma Shankar also wrote to a public group about his experience with Ubuntu and SUSE: “I have been using Ubuntu and Suse linux. Of all the distributions, Ubuntu is the best as it comes with full free online upgrade support at no cost. It has a 32 bit and 64 bit version. All of them are free. It is extremely user friendly. I have fallen in love with it.”
Why is that whenever someone is encouraging Free software adoption in India, something sudden and abrupt creeps in? The theory remains that Microsoft might be pulling strings as it did in Massachusetts, but evidence is lacking. Can anyone help? █