11.04.19

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Lies Are the Favourite Weapon of Bullies

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, FSF at 3:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

By figosdev

Woolly bully

Summary: Woolly bullies in the context of the Free software world

Bullies use all kinds of tricks to punish and control other people. One of the favourite weapons, if not the favourite weapon of bullies, is dishonesty.

While this article is aimed at more than one group of people, what makes it most relevant to Techrights is the way lies are historically and presently used in Open Source. As for who taught Open Source how to lie so well, there is every indication that involvement with P.R. firms is what has done the most damage to our communities.

“As for who taught Open Source how to lie so well, there is every indication that involvement with P.R. firms is what has done the most damage to our communities.”I don’t mean to say that all involvement with P.R. firms is bad. First of all, if you’re being attacked unfairly, a P.R. firm can give you advice on how to manage the crisis. I don’t have a problem with that. I would go a step further and say that if you tell a lie to protect yourself from bodily harm, under duress or that sort of thing, or to protect privacy, I don’t have a problem with that either. This article isn’t about right vs. wrong, it’s about the ways that bullies control and exploit people.

In fact I’ve written extensively about that already, under a pen name of a character I invented based on numerous corporate shills, Ted MacReilly. I wanted to be as obvious as possible that Ted wasn’t real, I even wrote the intro that said:

“A reader calling himself Ted MacReilly (we suspect this is a pseudonym) has sent us a preview of his “Handbook” titled, A Handbook for Destroying the Free Software Movement. Citing modern events and the Halloween documents as inspiration, this quick guide explains how you as a proprietary developer or corporation can systematically reduce the growing Free Software movement to a shadow of its former self…”

“The point was to encourage people to consider the present, to make conscious comparisons to current events — to bring the Halloween documents back into public discussion and greater public awareness.”Some clever person responded, either in jest or to allude to its conspiratorial tone: “It’s the Protocols of the Elders of Microsoft!”

Many commenters defended its relevance to the past, (it was inspired by and regularly alluded to 20 year memos leaked from Microsoft after all) if not the present. Other said that it didn’t cite enough examples, but really that wasn’t the point.

The point was to encourage people to consider the present, to make conscious comparisons to current events — to bring the Halloween documents back into public discussion and greater public awareness. I also wanted to move to talking about solutions (the later FSF Titanic series did that) and I don’t actually like to talk about only problems, but without enough people admitting that problems need to be solved the solutions tend to go to waste.

“As the Halloween documents did 20 years ago, I wanted to inform a new generation of the dangers awaiting Free software because I thought they’d gotten too complacent, too sure of success, too dismissive of the threats against them.”This was all before the Stallman debacle, and yet one of the chapters talked about how vital it was to attack Stallman directly and how attacking the Free software community was easy because Free software is a bit of a monoculture (it is becoming less of one, and I think that’s a good thing. Though I also think it’s vital for that non-monoculture to retain the core ideals of Free software and I say this frequently.)

The people doing the attacking already know these vulnerabilities. They already know how to lie, how to manipulate and how to fleece. As the Halloween documents did 20 years ago, I wanted to inform a new generation of the dangers awaiting Free software because I thought they’d gotten too complacent, too sure of success, too dismissive of the threats against them.

I was right.

“If you want a better handbook on how powerful companies (and governments and politicians and lobbyists) lie, read “Propaganda” by Edward Bernays. It’s an older work, but one of the pioneering ones.”But I’d rather be wrong, because I have spent years promoting Free software to non-technical people (it’s harder to make cases to technical people, as many of them act like they know everything already when offered new information) and some technical people, and I don’t want to watch it get more and more difficult.

I wrote the handbook to reveal the old “playbook” that monopolies are still using, so that people could have more warning and more understanding of what was going on in the wings. Now that this is unfolding on the world stage more and more, I don’t think it’s so important to cite examples — but Techrights talks about these things happening all the time. If you want examples, read Techrights. If you don’t like the way Techrights presents things, look into some of the many events that Techrights discusses instead.

I wanted to connect the things happening with the methods used to make them happen. And the handbook talks a lot about how to lie. If you want a better handbook on how powerful companies (and governments and politicians and lobbyists) lie, read “Propaganda” by Edward Bernays. It’s an older work, but one of the pioneering ones.

The motivation for this article is actually about watching people push others around with lies right now. Stallman is the most prominent example in the Free software community, Chapter 6 has come more wildly true than I even anticipated, and is the one that talks about the importance of attacking Stallman directly.

“The motivation for this article is actually about watching people push others around with lies right now.”However, we have moved past attacking just Stallman and now his supporters are being attacked. Someone who is definitely on our side posted about the United Nations’ renewed or new involvement with “Open Source” as if it is something to celebrate. I pointed out that one of the men that are a part of that U.N. project has already attacked Stallman supporters (directly, his supporters) on the Fediverse.

I’m using the term “Open Source” because that’s the term they’re using, and the fact that they’re using that term is too relevant to correct it for them. I always use the term “Open Source” to refer to that group that attacks, exploits and co-opts Free software so that it can be sold off, Nokia-Handset-Division-like to monopolies. This sort of attack, capture and sell off cycle isn’t new, but it is increasingly prominent as even Torvalds’ own first name (most of it) is being sold off and used to sell Microsoft products and surveillance. I talk about this in chapter 9 on branding, in using brand-shifting as a strategy for “owning” (pwning) [ ● ◄ ] or rather stealing our projects and communities:

“The gradual shift in public consciousness from their branding towards our own, is the next best thing to owning them outright.”

About a decade ago, I started talking about how shifting branding from the GNU head to Tux (a symbol associated with apathy towards arguments centred on freedom or ethics) made it easier for non-Free software to take ownership of Free software. Literalists will say that’s impossible, because Free software is Free, but that’s nonetheless what is happening now. Just as houseplants only stay alive if they’re maintained, Free software only stays free if we maintain (guard) the freedom.

The idea that it is simply “defined as such” and therefore freedom is inherent is the most dangerous misunderstanding and oversimplification of software freedom threatening the movement today. Words are not so powerful that you can build an impenetrable fortress around Free software and that fortress will sustain itself. As with software and hardware, they will eventually find a way in through the defenses (they already have.)

“Words are not so powerful that you can build an impenetrable fortress around Free software and that fortress will sustain itself.”So while I have made the case that branding can be used as a weapon to attack, capture and co-opt freedom — to turn GNU head into Tux and Tux into the Ubuntu logo or this bastard green penguin head that IBM owns: ●◄ (I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a penguin head, I’ve already made a parody of it. Maybe it’s the first trump that heralds the burning of a third of all trees on Earth, who knows? It could be a bicycle horn. It deserves to be mocked…) They are trying to drive GNU and support of GNU into the ground, as I talked about in chapters 6, 9 and others.

Brands are a powerful force and can even be used to steal Free software, but they’re not a solid and complete defense on their own. (I was recently in a debate with someone about this who was relying too much on branding/wording alone, hence the stress on this distinction.)

But the motivation for this particular article isn’t the large companies and P.R. firms responsible, it is about the “feet on the ground”, the people we deal with directly, and how they are treating us directly. We are surrounded by willing bullies and liars, and some unwitting shills. Chapter 6 is probably the chapter that says the most about this:

“It should be more than obvious that some of these features– even some of the best features– are going to be proprietary. So it becomes imperative if we are going to compete with and also infiltrate open source that we need to loosen the hold that Free software has on the narrative.”

“A schism can be hashed out and resolved– what we want is to widen it to a chasm and actually hand the reins of Free software over to open source, so that all ‘open source’ is forever a way to steer people towards our features.”

The people that were attacking Stallman are now attacking everyone that supports him:

“Stallman and his followers are tightly-knit in their ideology. Attacking any of them is like attacking all of them– we can play up their hacker style as social ineptitude, their adherence (where it exists) to standards and interoperability as a refusal to evolve, their playful culture as a refusal to grow up and be professional, and their self-reliance and independence as being non-team-players and even toxic masculinity.”

“The people that were attacking Stallman are now attacking everyone that supports him…”“Their hacker philosophy is about putting certain values first– just as we use new features to get people to accept new flaws that we can promise to fix later (and then say that we have a greater commitment to security) and use open source to bring people to our exclusive software lines, we can use their values to steer the next generation of customers (and critics) towards a more corporate culture.”

When these people have an objective, they do things in stages. Attacking Stallman at LibrePlanet was an earlier stage. Attacking him with the press and at his workplace (something Techrights had previously documented in the past as a deliberate tactic used towards more than one Microsoft critic) was another stage, months later. Then he was attacked via the GNU project website, on terms that arguably violate their own guidelines:

(I think the KIND guidelines are, and intended as, a small first step away from the Malleus Hackerum of a Code of Conduct, but my adage that “codes of conduct are often promoted most heavily by hypocrites” is still relevant to this example.)

“Attacking Stallman at LibrePlanet was an earlier stage. Attacking him with the press and at his workplace (something Techrights had previously documented in the past as a deliberate tactic used towards more than one Microsoft critic) was another stage, months later.”In each stage of such a prolonged attack, there will be people who know this is a common pattern and can (somewhat accurately) predict that other stages are likely in the future. Both Techrights and I accurately predicted that this would have greater consequences for the community in the future. Of course whenever the harmful side-effects (or simply put: effects) of the Malleus Hackerum are predicted, people dismiss it as fantasy or paranoia — as they did before Edward Snowden proved just how many technological intrusions Stallman was right about all along.

“In the short run we can use this against Stallman and his organization, but in the long run we can even use this to shackle Linus and gradually push him out the door. In our culture, it doesn’t pay to be eccentric except when it makes us billions– get with the program or get out. A leader that isn’t making us money is a leader who has let us down, and we need to get rid of them as quickly as possible.”

Part of what makes it so trivial to make some of these predictions (and by no means are we infallible. When I make negative predictions I always hope they will prove to be wrong, and I hope that people will work to reduce the severity of the threats) is that we were really talking about the most direct implications of what was at the time the present scenario. Once again, the famous Gibson quote: “the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed” applies.

“Once again, the famous Gibson quote: “the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed” applies.”So we have the attack Stallman at LibrePlanet phase, the attack Stallman at the workplace phase, the attack Stallman at GNU phase, and we predicted (and are entering) the attack all of his supporters phase. And while it isn’t unreasonable at all to try to connect those attacks with the sources of the others, the people participating are people we associate with directly:

“This schism is ripe for exploitation. As mentioned in the previous chapter: ‘we can stir contention between [open] and [free] and get open source to defend our model…’ Getting fans and amateurs to first fight our battles for us, and then blame the very people they’re attacking for disagreeing with them– is an important step and makes open source an unlikely if valuable ally.”

By no means is this limited to open source. I am a peace activist, and I have spent many weekends protesting illegal wars. I don’t have a problem with people defending themselves, though I don’t believe most war is about defense. I operate under the assumption that the people holding signs against war are sincere, but I expect that the goal is to actually change something.

One thing I’ve noticed with disgust is that most people who protest illegal wars have no qualms about re-electing a leader (a Commander-in-Chief) who has not only supported but been responsible for illegal invasions. It’s certainly not up to me how people vote, but if you claim to support peace and re-elect someone who illegally invaded other countries, what’s your excuse? I’ve heard too many of them.

“Many of the people spreading lies right now, don’t know they’re mistaken. I don’t think an honest mistake is a lie; some of the people are innocent and being manipulated.”Very few people who held those signs voted any differently after learning (by living during a first term) the military intentions, ambitions and actions of a leader. They were doing nothing but talking, and even the most obvious options presented to them (vote against a war criminal, vote for someone who is actually against illegal wars in deed and not just words) they would not actually do anything but stand with signs. It was all lip-service.

In the end, I spent countless hours helping with their cause just to help them re-elect their own party (most were Democrats.) This is not the strongest possible example of telling a seemingly-noble lie to exploit voters or supporters, but I hope the message here is obvious. You can say anything you want at all, it doesn’t mean you really stand for anything in your actions or choices.

Many of the people spreading lies right now, don’t know they’re mistaken. I don’t think an honest mistake is a lie; some of the people are innocent and being manipulated. That’s a terrible shame but adopting their inquisition methods and trying to find out who the “real supporters” and who the traitors are — I think that’s mostly a waste of time and a bad method.

There are a few traitors worth calling out, for sure. I don’t hesitate to do that. Stallman called de Icaza a traitor, some of the most prominent liars are worth calling out. If you’re being personally pushed around and lied to directly and repeatedly, that’s worth calling out.

But as I said recently:

“they did cheat, but we are the ones who decided that playing with them was a good idea. **they literally used our own friends against us.** if you’ve ever watched a nation fall, that isn’t a new idea. this was conquest.”

“Superficiality is the root of prejudice, and it is a boon to all forms of injustice. It is also on a first-name basis with dishonesty.”When a lot of these people are making arguments about offensive behaviour, they’re being deeply superficial. Superficiality is the root of prejudice, and it is a boon to all forms of injustice. It is also on a first-name basis with dishonesty.

Lies are used to stir lynch mobs, to ruin the lives of good people, to start illegal wars, to enslave and exploit, to defraud, and to steal.

Codes of Conduct don’t cover dishonesty, in fact they often include language about “assuming good faith.” That sounds like a great idea, even to me — rather than a recipe for inviting oppression and exploitation: “assume good faith.”

What about when your good faith is exploited and used to ruin you and everybody that dares to support you — how much “good faith” should we assume then?

When we are ourselves being attacked — not for anything we’ve done other than support someone who dares to support someone who is accused of something which none of us agree with — and then people we know personally dare accuse us of supporting horrible things just because we don’t support lynch mobs?

“Be careful whose lies you decide to swallow. There’s a war on honest people, waged by people who demand that lies and slander in the name of some “higher good” are better.”That’s a horrible lie, and a horribly offensive accusation. But it’s alright for lynch mobs to fight fire with fire, I guess? It’s alright for them to respond disproportionately to THEIR OWN accusations of us with lies, 5-minute-hate sessions, slander and censorship. These are actual, literal cult tactics — they’re tactics cults still use successfully to control tens of thousands of people or more, they were used by church officials in the dark ages, but the world lacks so much introspection and historical perspective that we can use these tactics from the actual dark ages to promote — of all things — “tolerance.”

Be careful whose lies you decide to swallow. There’s a war on honest people, waged by people who demand that lies and slander in the name of some “higher good” are better. It’s one of the best weapons that bullies have, and one of the most damaging weapons leveraged to harm the world both historically and in present times.

“We are supposed to be defenseless, even when people lie in a direct and sustained effort to do us harm.”I have long argued that no amount of vulgarity can compete in offensiveness with these decades-long campaigns of weaponised dishonesty. Who are they kidding? Practically everybody.

Once they’ve accused us of something, no one is supposed to come to our defense (including ourselves!) We are simply supposed to just shut up and listen to these lies, and never ever question them. We are supposed to be defenseless, even when people lie in a direct and sustained effort to do us harm.

“It even hurts the very people they pretend to care about as their shield against criticism, critical thinking and accountability for their most destructive lies.”Hey, we told you so, didn’t we? Enjoy the Inquisition, and have fun storming the castle. These people always destroy themselves in the long run, the point of standing up to them is to minimise the long-term and widespread damage they dedicate themselves to creating; the sort they are creating right now, that hurts everyone from Stallman, to us. It even hurts the very people they pretend to care about as their shield against criticism, critical thinking and accountability for their most destructive lies. But you can’t deny the short-term success of such tactics, even if given time they would destroy everything good in the world.

Long Live Stallman, and Happy Hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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