08.09.20

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If We Weren’t Silencing Founders, Critics and People We Just Don’t Like

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 7:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

2020 figosdev

Be quiet
Chapter 14: If We Weren’t Silencing Founders, Critics and People We Just Don’t Like; Originally posted in a similar form in March

Summary: “In the long run, history is rarely very kind to tyrants, especially the ones who did little more than lie to people and demand things that served no real purpose.”

I don’t suffer under the illusion that everybody has a right to your attention span. In fact I’m absolutely in favour of you having all sorts of tools for ignoring people you don’t like, where such tools are practical. They aren’t practical when it comes to working in a team, and they can’t (and shouldn’t) create a world where everybody hears exactly what they want all of the time.

“A world where everybody hears exactly what they want, all the time, would be like a world full of only children.”I’m starting out with a side point or two, sort of as a disclaimer, but a world where everybody hears exactly what they want would be an emotionally and psychologically stunting world to live in. Although population growth will likely prove to be a greater concern, people have long argued that having an only child will rob them of many opportunities to grow and learn to get along with other people in their formative years. A world where everybody hears exactly what they want, all the time, would be like a world full of only children. It would be like a world full of Donalds.

In the future, if — and likely when it becomes crucial for people to have only one child or fewer, we don’t want to compound that with a world where everybody walks around with augmented earplugs and augmented VR headsets, immersed in a narcissist’s dreamworld. Those people will never grow. We are already living that way now, to some degree — having our reality constantly mediated by 5 (until recently, 6) corporations that own 90% of the media. The dreamworld we are constantly tied into is the dreamworld of whatever these corporate assholes want us to feed from. We can all help to build the pyramids for these CEOs and “extraordinary” middle managers.

Still it’s precisely because of those media companies, along with the simple fact that it’s our right — that I’m in favour of you having all sorts of tools to mediate the media on your own behalf; to decide how much control or influence you do and don’t let them have over you.

“Plenty of people are aware of the fact that “content” moderation itself is out of balance, that our bastions of “freedom” and once at-least-superficially-grassroots activism are becoming more corporate, and for that sort of takeover to work our “activism” needs to be moderated just like everything else owned by media monopolies.”What I’m against is you taking too much control on “behalf” of others. Giving that power to the sort of people who would want very much of it is a recipe for more than disaster, but for a world where people are more often controlled, misled and lied to. We’ve heard the excuses, and we’ve witnessed the results. And while some of us made predictions along these lines (and hoped to be mistaken) there are more and more people who know what we’re talking about now. We see the real world effects, versus the alleged benefits of this sort of control.

It’s really beside the point to say that this sort of control always existed; the problem isn’t that some people are moderators, the problem is that we do better with everything in moderation — including moderation. Plenty of people are aware of the fact that “content” moderation itself is out of balance, that our bastions of “freedom” and once at-least-superficially-grassroots activism are becoming more corporate, and for that sort of takeover to work our “activism” needs to be moderated just like everything else owned by media monopolies.

“It’s the job of every propaganda marshal to make everything bad sound like something good — and everything good sound like something bad: Censorship is good, unfettered speech is a plague, wasn’t it always this way?”Monopolies and grassroots do not mix — grassroots means we all make our decisions, monopoly means those in power make the decisions. And those talking about “consequences” are pulling a fast one, because in many instances they really mean “consequences” even for us making the right decisions — the ones that favour people over monopolies. It’s the job of every propaganda marshal to make everything bad sound like something good — and everything good sound like something bad: Censorship is good, unfettered speech is a plague, wasn’t it always this way?

Well, no. But it typically is that way, when things are very, very wrong.

So next they say it isn’t censorship, but we know they’re just redefining censorship to exclude their own acts — that’s convenient. Then they claim ownership of the communities they are put in charge of — before, it was our community collectively. Now, it is less ours, because a “community leader” or “volunteer” comes in to decide who gets to keep their community and who is excluded in the name of inclusion. You start with the most obvious annoyances first, and build a rapport over it. This isn’t censorship, it isn’t restructuring free, grassroots association — this is “community building,” you say.

But we know it isn’t really about the community you think you own, because you don’t just drive people out of the community. You also penalise people for simply associating with the people you’ve driven out. And that’s exactly the moment when you’ve built a cult, by the way. A community can only control what happens inside the community.

“…it is about selling off communities and about changes in ownership — ownership of people, their associations, and their spare time.”A reasonable amount of “control” is not a prescription to be forced into people 3 times a day, but only in situations where it is absolutely needed. Moving from exception to rule is dismissed as “it was always this way,” but moving from exception to rule actually proves that it wasn’t. It’s much closer to a 180 degree turnaround in the way things are done. And it’s no accident — because again, it is about selling off communities and about changes in ownership — ownership of people, their associations, and their spare time. Which is a nice way of saying “indentured servitude.”

A community takes charge of its own events when it has no other means of moving forward, but communities don’t lean on heavy campaigns of propaganda, trying to control everyone’s thinking and trying to control what people inside the community do, even when they are outside its borders.

Once a community lays claim to things that happen on the outside, they have reached a cult status. We’ve known for years, it’s public knowledge that these cult tactics are used in corporations — Apple, with their extreme levels of secrecy (beyond simple trade secrets) to the point of absurdity (we’ve talked about how that makes it easier to own and control the tech press), Google with their surveillance of workers when not on the campus, and Microsoft, with their heavy-handed harassment of critics. All of these tactics are used by cults, and increasingly these cult tactics are being used by so-called (former) “communities.”

“So I advise everyone to consider relabeling “apathy” altogether. Call it “despair” instead.”But all of this has already been said, and none of this is the point of this article. The reason these things are worth repeating, is because all of these things are connected to, relevant to the actual point — which is the apathy we find everyday in the world around us. Why do so few people care about the things that matter most?

This is my theory about that: a lot more people care than we realise.

We wouldn’t know — because when somebody does care, they are frequently made unwelcome. They are smeared by these cults, and they are kicked out of their communities. Straw men are trotted out like thought militias, to find every possible reason to minimise, dismiss and distort the critiques, complaints and even the solutions proposed even (and especially) by people we have long respected.

“Because we are kicking out and silencing the very people who would inspire them, the very people they would understand and relate to.”But many of these people were respected for sticking their neck out, for their unconventional thinking, for being unafraid of the “consequences” of being unconventional — or for not suffering to bend over backwards to please unreasonable and demanding (narcissistic, controlling) people.

If this really is a campaign of silence like we suggest, then you may have a whole world of people who are waiting for a sign — waiting for a leader — waiting for the inspiration to be better than they are. And it’s a shame that not everybody feels they have, or even does have it in them to be the leader or the inspiration that they want to see in the world.

But the truth is that most people do not stick their neck out. By definition — most people are not unconventional. And many who do have the dedication to a cause, necessary to become that person, are exactly the sort of person we keep kicking out of the little cults we used to call “home.”

So everyone we think of as apathetic, are they really? Or are they simply missing the catalyst that would drive them to be part of the global efforts we need to stand against hegemony? We’ve taken away — stifled, worked to eliminate the very thing that would drive them to do more.

So I advise everyone to consider relabeling “apathy” altogether. Call it “despair” instead. Why do so many people have it? Because we are kicking out and silencing the very people who would inspire them, the very people they would understand and relate to.

“…you can’t moderate everything all the time, because if you do, then you create a dictatorship.”You can run your community however you want, really. But you can’t run people’s lives everywhere they go, and call yourself a community. You can’t split up families and tell people who they’re allowed to be friends with. And you can’t moderate everything all the time, because if you do, then you create a dictatorship.

There isn’t any real way around this. If you do what a dictatorship does, then you are a dictatorship. No place on earth was a dictatorship from day one; dictatorships are established as people gain more control over every action of the people underneath them. So it’s worth pointing out that all dictatorships started out as non-dictatorships. The fact that what you call a “community” actually used to be one is irrelevant — you aren’t running it like one anymore, so it no longer is one.

People aren’t apathetic, they’re stifled. And to the so-called “community manager” corporate shills doing this — it’s your attitude, your excuses, and your straw men and dishonest attacks that are stifling everybody who stays under your thumb. They know they won’t be allowed to lead, won’t be allowed to speak freely, won’t be allowed to choose their own friends, without you trying to punish them and steal their work with your lying. You’ve taken ownership of all of that “on their behalf.”

“People aren’t apathetic, they’re stifled. And to the so-called “community manager” corporate shills doing this — it’s your attitude, your excuses, and your straw men and dishonest attacks that are stifling everybody who stays under your thumb.”Some of them do believe you, when you say it’s for their own good. But even if they don’t, they won’t show it. So how would we know?

We call that apathy, but I’m beginning to doubt it. Once there are enough people who stand against that, once there are enough people to build something stronger than the Great Big Lie you perpetrate, gradually more and more people care again — more and more people stand up, and shed this so-called “apathy” you worked to instill in them.

History shows this in many instances, but everytime a new regime crops up, it seems like the worst one ever — and the resulting apathy appears more complete than ever before.

In the long run, history is rarely very kind to tyrants, especially the ones who did little more than lie to people and demand things that served no real purpose. There’s always a reason given, of course! And its generally based on some kernel of truth to make it easier to believe.

We read these old stories, and tut and say we are now too wise to let that sort of thing happen on our watch. When it does, it does a great deal of damage. Eventually people will lead them out of this, and you’re only slowing them down for a time.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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