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03.21.20

If Techrights is a Conspiracy Website, What’s the Big Conspiracy?

Posted in Site News at 2:47 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

Free We Are Not Alone

Summary: The real “conspiracy” here is that legalised bribery runs both our industries and our governments, and that corruption is why we hurt as much as we do.

While at least four American politicians are in the middle of an insider trading scandal around a global pandemic, it’s a great time to talk about the sort of “conspiracy” that Techrights exposes.

Of course, the accusation itself is a straw man designed to make criticism of bad actions look less legitimate. It’s a fact that large corporations are known from time to time to fight against fair competition in self-serving ways; reporting that doesn’t make you a “conspiracy theorist.”

Even the term “conspiracy theorist” was promoted heavily by the CIA to lump more criticism of government corruption together with the rants of raving nutters, so that when you encounter one you think of the other. In his standup comedy, Russell Peters makes fun of the way that media and marketing use this sort of association to get more people to judge other groups (Arabs being one example) unfairly.

What we are talking about here is the sort of tactics you might find abused by Fox News. This comparison is even more relevant when you consider that some of the news outlets utilised in the Stallman lynching were owned by Fox News creator Rupert Murdoch. As these tech press shills we often complain about engage more and more in these tactics against sceptics of corporate corruption, they align themselves more closely in ethics with Fox News itself. So that’s something to consider. CBS is another large family of media corporations that we complain about, and they pay some of the shills we have spoken unfavourably of.

“What we are talking about here is the sort of tactics you might find abused by Fox News. This comparison is even more relevant when you consider that some of the news outlets utilised in the Stallman lynching were owned by Fox News creator Rupert Murdoch.”I’m personally of the opinion that it matters less who you are owned by than what you are doing — if you happen to work for Microsoft (one of my least favourite companies on Earth) but the thing you’re best known for is running a non-profit that promotes both Free software (the software itself) and software freedom (the movement) /and/ it isn’t just a ploy to get people to use more proprietary Microsoft tools, I only care that you work for Microsoft if your position on these matters is damaging. Sure, if you work for Microsoft, then it probably is. But it’s the bad things you do, not the person who pays you, that really bothers me.

It’s a common rhetorical maneuver (straw man again) to separate the actual reason for a critique from a person’s argument, then replace it with a nonsense reason, nonsensical-sounding reason, or incomplete reason. I have a problem with what you’re doing, I note that it’s common for people from a certain company to do the same thing, then your retort is “Oh — they just (irrationally) dislike that company for no reason at all.”

The funny thing is, the reason was just stated — but your retort implies there isn’t one. If I gave a dollar to every shill we know who did this, each time they tried to pull it off, I wouldn’t be able to eat. But let’s talk about the “big conspiracy” that Techrights has spent years exposing, since this is supposedly a conspiracy website.

The “big conspiracy”, in my own opinion (I don’t officially speak for Techrights) is that money often equals influence. It’s certainly more complicated than that, but that’s the truth where the real story begins. That’s where the phrase “Follow the money” comes from.

You’ll find this message of money and influence is extremely common in progressive politics, the Occupy movement, and political and election reform. You’ll find former FSF board member and Creative Commons founder (not to mention 2016 presidential candidate and Harvard law professor) Lawrence Lessig speaking on this theme in one of my favourite presentations of all time, which he gave at Dartmouth in 2010.

The big “conspiracy” that Lessig discusses is that via stifling political campaign contributions (legalised bribery) lobbyists have usurped voters and by extension, voting and democracy. This is a theme Lessig has touched on many times during his academic career, and while he is one of my favourite voices on the subject, he is far from alone in this and cites various experts and books that talk more about the subject than he does.

One of the reasons that Lessig got into this topic is actually similar to why more of us do — because we try very hard to advocate for Free software, but find that there are several things (more than we anticipated) standing in our way. It’s logical to try to understand what those obstacles are. When those obstacles are not just remotely but closely linked to corporate donations (legalised bribery) then of course, someone ought to say something. But shills tell us otherwise.

“I’m sure those politicians involved with profiting by telling only a few people to dump stock because of coronavirus “care” a lot as well.”I think it is entirely fair, when someone is being paid by a large corporation that has known connections with monopolies — and is promoting the same messages that are really 10 or 20 years old and in favour of those monopolies — to call that person a “shill”. It’s an opinion, it’s obviously derogatory, but if we can’t criticise corruption and the people who dishonestly champion it, why even bother pretending we stand for anything ourselves?

The real message of people calling Techrights a conspiracy website is that it should stop being so “unfair” (critical) towards corruption, and just you know, drink some iced tea and shut the f*** up. But just to be entirely fair, they don’t really say that. What they say is that Roy uses “charged language.” I suppose referring to “donations” that appear to have transformative and corrupting influence “bribery” is an example of such “charged language”; while calling Techrights a “conspiracy website” isn’t.

Roy and I have our differences. In a corporate cult we would have more orthodoxy, and we would all make our choices and have expectations based purely on what’s best for the big company. You often hear these giant corporations talk about how much they care about people; When you lay people off by the hundreds of thousands, and control more of their personal lives than a smaller company would, you really have to remind people over and over just how much you care about people. “At GAFAM Incorporated, we really care!”

That way when people demonstrate repeatedly just how sociopathic and backhanded you really are, you can say “No, that’s not true — just last Thursday, we told everyone how much we care!” I’m sure those politicians involved with profiting by telling only a few people to dump stock because of coronavirus “care” a lot as well.

But one of the differences between Roy and myself is that I lean more libertarian, and Roy leans (in my opinion) farther left. I don’t have a problem with that at all; being libertarian, I find some of what Eric Raymond says easier to relate to than Roy seems to (again, these are my opinions, I can’t actually speak for Roy but I can speak to my impressions) even though I am certainly sceptical of Raymond’s sincerity on a few specific matters. I still hold out hope that someday, someone will convince me otherwise.

Still, it’s possible to lean both libertarian and progressive — what happens as a result is that you are deeply sceptical of certain routes to progress, but you still try to arrive at a destination where people are happy and more empowered than they were before. I don’t disregard, as shills seem to expect me to — that monopolies disenfranchise the working classes.

One of the most important aspects of the Free software movement to me is that monopolies hurt the user, as well as hurt freedom. Free software does work against that, by definition. It also seems pretty obvious to me that very few billionaires are going to exist without monopolistic abuse. I’d like companies to be able to profit from Free software, but to become a company like Red Hat worth billions of dollars probably takes more compromise than is ideal for anybody — except Red Hat and a few people closer to the top.

“These companies are funding activism junk food, while our collective activist metabolism turns to crap.”To keep something like that going, year after year, you have to convince enough people that this really benefits them too. You have to “sell” disempowerment to the masses, if you want to be the top “earner” in your industry, or if you want to sell your company for billions years down the road.

What Techrights actually talks about, is the motivations and destructive actions of such companies. It talks about the influence that those companies are gaining over more grassroots activism, replacing the “healthy diet” of scepticism of monopoly power with the sugars and fats of “our budget lets us get our message out to more people, while the impact our message has over real user freedom is more shallow than ever before — because we are actually run by the same people we started out standing against.”

These companies are funding activism junk food, while our collective activist metabolism turns to crap. Grassroots movements become larger this way, but have less energy and loaf around watching lots of “messaging” on television instead of getting out and doing what needs to be done. One thing that does change is that it suddenly looks better in media; but the television will not be revolutionised.

Naturally, people quibble over to what degree this has happened, while Techrights repeatedly works to show exactly how this has happened and why. Techrights talks about freedom, it talks about people being disenfranchised, it talks about corruption — and how to stand up to that corruption.

The fight between shills and activists continues — but this means the activists criticise the shills for taking bad money (and then saying things that are untrue, which defend the monopolies) and the shills criticise the activists, saying they’re nothing but trolls, dirty hippies and conspiracy theorists.

There is more money in lying than there is in truth, perhaps. One of the things I love about Techrights is how it invites the community to speak for itself — rather than putting words in everybody’s mouths (and demanding pseudo-ideological corporate conformity) like what is required of the shills.

I won’t link to the Bill Hicks remix, but shills hate your freedom so much, they lie to you for a living. Then they claim they support Stallman. In what form does that support exist? What aspect of what Stallman stands for are they supporting, really? Because the old lie that open source is the same thing as Free software is always used to get you and keep you further away from freedom.

“…the old lie that open source is the same thing as Free software is always used to get you and keep you further away from freedom.”If you sell off Free software — that is, if these monopolies gain more and more (indirect) influence as they pay for more and more of our organisation’s budgets, then these organisations don’t work for us anymore; just as politicians no longer work for voters when they get paid off by lobbyists.

Instead, the direction things are going in is that we work — as volunteers (but really as slaves) for Free software, because although we work harder than we ever did before, we actually get less freedom than we used to as a result. Volunteering for freedom is not slavery, but doing free labour for a bunch of corporate liars making false promises absolutely is.

That’s the “conspiracy” that Techrights exposes. But I prefer to call it “corruption” rather than conspiracy, even if it’s a little of both. I am a libertarian; at least as much as I am aligned with anything else on the political compass, but I am aware of the fact that as regulations on funding (or anti-bribery rules) have been systematically weakened over the past three or four decades, legalised bribery explains more and more of what has gone wrong in the world.

Although I may at times disagree with some progressives on the best course of action — I don’t believe regulations even can prevent enough corruption — I think I can agree that without such regulations there absolutely must be some other established force in place to work against corruption; if that force is not present, we all suffer. Libertarians and most progressives sometimes have different thoughts about why these things are not working, but it’s still extremely important that these things are clearly not working.

I have no respect for the shills, and they have none for us. The reason I think they only care about money, is that it isn’t enough to say you care; you have to show it. What these pundits repeatedly show, is that money means more to them than Stallman, than Freedom, or us. A warning, if you support the shills — they will “help” you and they will use you, in exactly the way they helped Linus Torvalds.

The real “conspiracy” here is that legalised bribery runs both our industries and our governments, and that corruption is why we hurt as much as we do. I hope Techrights continues to report on that — while the Twit-verse continues working to turn bullshit into “marketshare”, and other cynical and shallow examples of success.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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