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You May Need to Stop War to Stop Microsoft

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 12:32 am by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev


Summary: “Today, corporations continue to lobby for more extreme copyright and fewer rights for public expression. The government favours the lobbyists, through a system that Lessig concedes (in a speech at Dartmouth University) is essentially legalised bribery.”

We all (alright, lots of us) have our projects outside of free software. That’s of necessity if free software is to meet its goal of all software being free; there will have to be enough (free) software not just for the things the GNU Project thinks are necessary, but for all the software needs of everybody, everywhere.

But a number of us are anti-war, I’m not vegetarian but Roy is, so he has that. I would rather support the SPCA than PETA, but even I support PETA’s campaign to reduce suffering in livestock deaths. The methods often used are gruesome and inhumane, and there is a tradition going back thousands of years of trying to reduce or eliminate the suffering of livestock used for food. PETA supports this, and so do I.

“How is it possible to “steal” software that is free for everyone? The answer is to take it and make it less free.”Now if we are going to go out of our way to eliminate (as much as possible) the suffering of livestock, I don’t have the answers for granting the same mercy for our own species. But one thing that may be necessary for the survival of humanity itself, is the elimination of war.

To most people, the idea of eliminating war is a joke, at least in practical terms. The simple answer to that is we aren’t going to eliminate “war” if we define it in the broadest terms possible. If we can’t hope to eliminate all things that could be called “war” then the next thing would be to figure out what the bulk of the problem is, and if that is a problem that humanity can fix.

This isn’t a new problem, and the efforts to solve it are not new. Since the Vietnam war at the earliest, people have stood up to their governments on matters of warfare. Much earlier than that, Thoreau became a minimalist to avoid supporting war with taxes, inspiring Martin Luther King, Jr. in several ways, who was vocal in his condemnation of the war in Vietnam.

My disenchantment with the so-called “left” (or fake left) grew from my experience in war protests and peace vigils, standing side by side with countless people holding signs for peace and troop withdrawal, most of whom would then go vote for someone with a record of lying about doing the same. You hold signs for peace then go reelect war criminals — to me, that says everything.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a real left, but one of the things I am fond of saying (because I feel strongly about it) is that Free Software should not be hijacked for other political causes. And that’s necessary to talk about as well.

“That’s how you truly hijack Free Software — you let something else become more important (to Free Software) than Free Software itself.”How is it possible to “steal” software that is free for everyone? The answer is to take it and make it less free. There’s a long discussion that can be had about that, but there won’t be a long discussion about it here — the idea of making things “less free” deserves its own articles, but in this context (at the moment) it’s a side point.

Free Software is for everyone, and to “hijack” it for political causes, would be (it’s extremely important how we define this) not to JOIN Free Software with other causes — because we actually want that — but to redefine Free Software as something based on causes outside it.

That’s how you truly hijack Free Software — you let something else become more important (to Free Software) than Free Software itself.

Of course people will twist this around and say “you’re implying that Free Software is the most important thing in the world” — no, I’m not. RMS doesn’t either — he has addressed this point specifically, saying that there are other extremely important causes and that Free Software is simply the one he is best suited to personally.

So you can have your anti-war Free Software, your animal rights Free Software, your anticapitalist Free Software (even though Free Software isn’t necessarily anticapitalist itself) just as long as you don’t put Free Software into the “back seat” of its own movement. You can put Free Software in the back seat of your own movement — just not its own; that would be hijacking, and people have made a number of efforts to do that.

But although Microsoft works very hard to pretend it isn’t fighting the very existence of Free Software, it may be necessary to stop Microsoft to save Free Software.

“But although Microsoft works very hard to pretend it isn’t fighting the very existence of Free Software, it may be necessary to stop Microsoft to save Free Software.”And you may not be able to stop Microsoft without stopping war.

“But Microsoft is doing badly”, people say. Right, they only control the bulk of Free Software sources. “But financially”… yes, assuming that an economic downturn means the end of Microsoft is a bit like assuming the Great Depression meant the end of the United States. Hubris does not become us, it doesn’t help this movement at all. It has destroyed Trisquel, and arguably the FSF.

Even if Microsoft did fail, which is far too soon to make assumptions about, the particular threat to Free Software this is about comes also from Amazon and Google. At the moment, Microsoft is working harder than Amazon or Google to destroy Free Software, but I think people tend to underestimate these other companies as threats.

Before I go further, I want to point out something about a hero of mine, former FSF board member and Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig. I am really not a fan of Creative Commons, but I do love some of their licenses (as well as free culture). CC BY, BY-SA, and CC0 are some of the best licenses in the world — used by Wikipedia, Techrights in many instances, and this article in particular.

Setting out to reform extreme copyright, Lessig joined the Supreme Court case Eldred v. Ashcroft, trying to throw out what he called “perpetual copyright on the installment plan”. The United States Constitution forbids perpetual copyright, and even Britain (which once had it in abundance) has mostly abolished it. Who wants perpetual copyright? Companies that want to seek rent forever on the entire corpus of human culture, even as they make it legally and technically impossible to digitally archive the famous works they accidentally destroy in vaults.

“Today, corporations continue to lobby for more extreme copyright and fewer rights for public expression. The government favours the lobbyists, through a system that Lessig concedes (in a speech at Dartmouth University) is essentially legalised bribery.”Lessig founded Creative Commons to fight what he calls “permission culture”, where corporations have excessive control over human expression (and the concept of “fair use” is a small consolation, but also presently endangered by this culture).

Today, corporations continue to lobby for more extreme copyright and fewer rights for public expression. The government favours the lobbyists, through a system that Lessig concedes (in a speech at Dartmouth University) is essentially legalised bribery.

Note that although Lessig is speaking in terms of the motion picture and music recording industries, this is the same legalised bribery that enables corporations like Microsoft, Google and Facebook to do great evil.

Therefore, in 2008 Lessig founded Change Congress, which became “Fix Congress First”, then “Rootstrikers”, which finally became a project of Demand Progress (an organisation co-founded by Lessig’s friend and compatriot, Aaron Swartz). The goal? To push for separation between Congress and legalised bribery, so that The People could actually have a say in the laws designed to (unconstitutionally) control their expression. Copyright is leaned on heavily as a tool of censorship and against freedom in general, whether we are talking about Eric Eldred or Eric Lundgren.

In 2010, Lessig organised to amend the Constitution to reform election campaign funding. In 2016 on a similar theme, he ran for President of the United States.

“Whether you live in the United States or somewhere else, it is not unlikely that you feel the pull or the sting from the many tentacles of Corporate America or (specifically) Microsoft.”I told Professor Lessig that given how he always moves up and up towards the problem, he should terraform a planet so that it can have better laws. This was said in admiration, as well as commiseration, because the world we live in is deeply corrupt. Whether you live in the United States or somewhere else, it is not unlikely that you feel the pull or the sting from the many tentacles of Corporate America or (specifically) Microsoft.

Which brings us back to the problem of war. Smedley Butler warned of a corporate takeover of the United States in 1933, by the time of Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address the theme had moved from a simple corporate takeover to “the military-industrial complex”.

I’ve been to Dupont Circle in Washington, DC many times — it is named for Samuel Francis Du Pont (1803–1865), a close relation to the industrialist Éleuthère Paul du Pont de Nemours (1771-1834) who founded DuPont:

“He mentioned that the Remington arms manufacturers would supply the army, thanks to a working relationship with the DuPonts. ‘We need a Fascist government in this country,’ he told the reporter, ‘to save the nation from the communists who want to tear it down and wreck all that we have built in America. The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a million men overnight.’”

I’m definitely not sure communism is the answer either, but I am completely confident that fascism is NOT. But there is a running theme, whether we are talking about Microsoft, the Record/Film industries, or anybody trying to push for more fascist laws in the United States — and that theme is that failure is not failure; they constantly push for whatever they can get away with, and when they fail, they just keep pushing.

So Biden’s fascist 1995 law was not needed — a (VERY) similar fascist law allowed John Ashcroft (the Attorney General and partial eponym of the SCOTUS case mentioned earlier) and most of Congress to wipe their backsides with the Constitution in October of 2001.

“Thomas J. Watson, having become CEO of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company and renaming it to IBM in the same year, was already helping Germany with its “census” of Jews, Gypsies and other groups considered undesirable to Hitler in 1933. Dachau, Hitler’s first concentration camp, had already opened in March of that year.”This theme of corporate takeover was patently illegal (a treasonous plot against FDR and the government itself) in 1933, my question is: is anybody sure it really failed?

The objectives of the plot since its inception have arguably been achieved in ways that early-20th-century industrialists may have only dreamed of.

Just one year later, Hitler (who had already risen to power the year before) was elected president of Germany.

Thomas J. Watson, having become CEO of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company and renaming it to IBM in the same year, was already helping Germany with its “census” of Jews, Gypsies and other groups considered undesirable to Hitler in 1933. Dachau, Hitler’s first concentration camp, had already opened in March of that year.

After the war, between 1945 and 1959 — two years before Eisenhower’s farewell address — Operation Paperclip brought over 1,000 scientists including former members and even leaders of the Nazi party to work on rockets and other projects in the United States.

“These companies have long histories of being built up by war crimes, and they have contributed to war crimes.”Consider that next year will be the 20th anniversary of both the 9/11 attacks and the USA PATRIOT Act, which was signed by the fascist in office and (according to himself) authored by the fascist running against him. One of these two fascists will most likely be President of the United States, 20 years after the PATRIOT Act or 26 years after the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act that Biden wrote, or just one year after both Democrats and Trump renewed this most unconstitutional law.

The point of it being 20 years is to demonstrate just how short a time that is. The politicians that we were saddled with 20 (even 26) years ago are still here. Former Vice President (and Halliburton contractor/former CEO) Dick Cheney may not be living on the grounds of the Naval Observatory, Bush Jr. (who Microsoft campaigned for in 2000) is no longer in the White House, though perhaps Joe Biden will be back, with or without Obama or the Clintons.

20 years is also the amount of time between Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex, and the 1980s, when so many of the rules that hindered modern lobbying were eroded. that’s the exact sort of lobbying and “legalised bribery” that Lessig aims to reverse today.

“I have said for years that a half-billion people doing a partial boycott is more powerful than a half-million people doing a complete boycott.”But whether or not Microsoft gets the JEDI contract or Amazon, whether “Watson” becomes the next SAGE or IBM continues to help the next generation of Nazis, we can dispense with all Dan-Brown-like stories of underground tunnels and secret societies, focusing simply on conventional history and known historical figures, and still say this:

These companies have long histories of being built up by war crimes, and they have contributed to war crimes.

They do not merely lack compassion or lack an interest in our freedom — these are companies that expand global campaigns of death and constantly lobby against human rights.

Unless you make it a part of who you are as a person to not support these corporations, humanity will always be caught up in this level of conflict — until the end.

Now, there people who have covered their mouths for years — not to avoid COVID, but to avoid causing the death of even the tiniest forms of life that they could breathe in. They are beyond vegetarian, and beyond pacifist. I am not one of those people.

When I propose a boycott, if you can boycott something 100% more power to you, I haven’t (deliberately/knowledgably) done any business with Amazon since they created the Kindle, but I know for a fact that in the past decade a purchase or two has slipped under my radar.

I have said for years that a half-billion people doing a partial boycott is more powerful than a half-million people doing a complete boycott. I know you’re not going to get rid of every Windows and Android device — but you can try. And no, this is not just about Free Software — but yes, it is most certainly about Free Software as well.

It’s also about oil. But I don’t have any stock in Tesla, or other “green”/renewables, because a lot of “green”/renewable technology is bunk. Either way, we will run out of oil, so technology will have to adapt. The oil companies have certainly sent us around on a lot of fool’s errands — it was General Butler who said “the flag follows the money, and the troops follow the flag”.

It’s also about weapons. Drone technology poses a great long-term Constitutional crisis, which is of the greatest historical relevance whether you believe in government or not. I know that SOME of the crazy assholes with guns are nazis, and a lot of them are not fascist, but I worry more about nazis with Predator drones than rednecks with rifles. Putting a fascist government in charge of saying who can/can’t have weapons? Maybe not a great idea, as they may decide to favour fascists like themselves in terms of laws and enforcement — though it’s hardly the point of this article.

ABOVE ALL, this is about Industry — industries of control, industries of oppression, industries of death, and the industrial takeover of the world and humanity itself.

That industrial takeover and control is what freedom must stand against.

And the easiest way for those who have answered a personal calling to stand for humanity and against fascism (as well as other forms of oppression) is to STOP SUPPORTING IT.

I couldn’t have made it any clearer than I already have (through this and other writing) that this does not mean we will all agree. We will not all address this exactly the same way. We cannot all have identical priorities — we do not all recognise the same problems in an identical fashion.

I’ve hopefully made it clear also that we do not need to agree on everything. What is vital to humanity is that humans start to make their everyday decisions based on whether they want to support this inhumanity, this industrial enslavement of the mind, of work, of all culture — or whether they want to withdraw their support.

If you want to stop wars that destroy (not in any hyperbolic way) the planet, the ecosystem, the food supply — and that’s even before we get to the senseless killing of children by drones and troops — you must withdraw, SOMETHING.

The more you can withdraw, the better.

Again, this is not just about Free Software, but it is certainly about Free Software as well. Stop supporting Google and Microsoft — whenever you can! Jeff Bezos doesn’t need any more money to treat shipping centre workers like android slaves either.

Stop letting these corporations hijack your freedom of speech, by saying they know more about being anti-racist/anti-bigoted (in the most superficial and ridiculous ways possible) than you do. Most of the people they are pretending to represent DID NOT ASK for their help. They are simply hijacking progress, to make it about letting them have even more control of society. IBM helped find people to exterminate (today, the modern wording is “we kill people based on metadata”) and today they want to be the thought police. Don’t be a sucker!

But whatever you do, understand that the support we lend to these corporations undermines not only our freedom, but humanity itself — human life, human rights, and human potential.

Supporting GIAFAM will always lead to real and profound suffering for some innocent people, no matter how good it looks on the surface.

More broadly, we need to treat other major corporations to the same withdrawal that we need to treat GIAFAM with.

Again, I know this probably doesn’t mean you’re going to stop driving, stop buying chips from Intel (certainly not this year at least) or never eat food from (Gates-connected) Bayer/Monsanto again.

We all are. That’s the world we live in.

If we want to live in a world that’s not fascist, if we want to be free — we must become vigilant.

What we must always look for is EVERY opportunity to make a better choice. We will not be able to make every choice a better choice — we will still make some terrible choices.

But a commitment to our grandchildren (or our grandnephews and grandnieces) is a commitment to our own species (and for some of us, like Roy, other species as well).

If we want a future, we must continue looking for ways to do things differently. Above all, we need to turn away from these fascist, evil corporations — and their endless, extremely well-funded lies about how they are really on our side.

No, they DO NOT care — they’re only killing us all.

Finally, you may think I have some problem with people in the armed forces. I am used to people driving the war machine pretending they care more about the troops than I do. I know some veterans are going to take what I say personally — I’ve spent plenty of time working with veterans. It was Stan Goff who first introduced me (subject-matter-wise) to Smedley Butler, quoting him on the cover of his book.

I met him while protesting the invasion of Iraq. We may always need troops for something, but we do not need conquest — we do not need perpetual war, we do not need all this death for profit.

I don’t fucking care about your WORDS — what are you going to do differently?

Kill, Kill, Kill! Where are the nuclear vessels? Killing for peace is like “fucking for virginity!”

It’s not the WORDS that matter. It’s what you DO.

For the love of humanity, do something — change something — improve something (something actual, something real). Even if all you do is say “no” to one really terrible decision today. That’s a start.

We can’t avoid every single decision that puts humanity on a path to perpetual war, global death, and further exploitation. The way society works is simply too stacked against that.

As it has since 1933 in the United States, fascism will keep pushing.

What we CAN do, is try to find more terrible decisions we can avoid, more terrible things we can withdraw support from, and we can (actually) talk about choices we can make — choices we can live with, without becoming complete pacifists who withdraw entirely from society (because I think VERY few people are going to do that).

That’s what rms has always advocated with regards to computing — that’s what the second wave of Free Software advocates with regards to software — that you think about your freedom and about the implications for society with regards to your computing.

In a broader sense this applies to all technology — I don’t think we can get away from it, but we can (and should) be more selective. How did you ever read ’1984′ in school and still allow an Echo Dot in your home? Why would you read Fahrenheit 451 and own a “smart” TV or buy a KINDLE, which controls the books you purchased and flies in the face of first sale doctrine (your rights that apply to YOUR COPY of practically anything, after purchase)? Why on earth would you ever support that, if you know what it really costs?

These companies give you advances and maybe wealth with one hand, though it’s never yours — with the other hand they take it away. This is not the prosperity of the human race, but the human race on a leash; the “prosperity” goes to those who hold it.

In a still broader sense this applies to humanity itself. And while it’s not the job of Free Software to figure all that all out for you — nor do you WANT it to be (nor does Free Software want that job — that job is really your own) the thing is, if we don’t make this our job, humanity might not have a job anymore.

Freedom most certainly would not exist, except for the efforts of those who consider questions like these. If you want to be more free, if you really want to stand against fascism and the perpetual spread of death and destruction — if you want a future for the human race, you can HELP — by asking yourself these questions more often, and simply giving the best answers you can. Don’t settle, just keep asking yourself and then doing what you can. Nobody is completely removed from this corruption, nobody is as innocent as the day they were born. We are all part of this mess, but we can reduce and try to minimise our role in it — by simply, metaphorically and fundamentally walking away from the worst of it. Doing that could save humanity.

Everybody can help stand against these evils. Well, alright — maybe not GIAFAM. And probably not Bayer, Halliburton or DuPont. But then again — those aren’t people. It’s far closer to the truth to say those are anti-people. This is one situation where it’s perfectly okay to say “It’s time to choose what side you’re on”. But it is still up to YOU, just what that means. Don’t expect to be sheltered from others calling for reform though — that’s a problem that is only making all of this worse. We may not all agree, but silence (and censorship) isn’t the answer.

Long live rms, withdraw your support from true fascist evil, and happy hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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