[free-sklyarov] [Fwd: Free Software vs. Fear]

Seth Johnson seth.johnson at RealMeasures.dyndns.org
Thu Dec 27 06:22:56 PST 2001

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2001 08:51:47 -0500
From: Seth Johnson <seth.johnson at RealMeasures.dyndns.org>

(From OS Opinion site)


Free Software vs. Fear
by Nathan Joel Lunt
December 26, 2001 

In the last few months, we have seen incredible violations
of civil rights, all in the name of public safety and
national security. Many special interest groups, both
conservative and liberal, have exploited this idea, calling
anybody with opposing ideas a terrorist or branding them as
supportive of ideas that benefit terrorists. 

Examples of this can be seen in James Brady calling for
stricter gun laws to hinder terrorism, or members of the
U.S. Congress and the Justice Department speaking out
against encryption algorithms because they could be used by
terrorists to communicate clandestinely. Every group is
guilty of this name-calling, including environmentalists,
capitalists and communists, Libertarians, Democrats and

My immediate response to this is to go along with the
popular mindset and try to use it to support my own ideals
and squash opponents. After careful consideration, however,
I find that this is a dangerous sentiment to embrace. Not
only does it insult true victims of terrorism, but it also
eventually serves to discourage the proliferation of
unpopular ideas, which will be quickly labeled as terrorism
to diminish public support. 

Fight Fire with Fire 

My original idea was to work against proprietary software
companies that have chosen to hide their source code from
the public. This is done by labeling their products as
conducive to terrorist threats, due to the inherent security
flaws which result and the inability of the public to really
know for sure what is being done with the software. 

All the obvious and repeated arguments for Free Software
come into play here, and proprietary software companies face
an uphill battle when defending themselves against publicly
assumed or learned security threats. 

It's just common sense that Free Software is much less
likely to benefit so-called "cyberterrorists" than software
produced by financially motivated software giants who are
unable to hold their employees accountable for every bug or
even structural flaws in their products. 

Take it Personally 

This takes all of the arguments we have heard supporting
Free Software and makes them very personal to every computer
user in the world. 

"Why support Free Software? It is safer, and it's your
patriotic duty." 

It is quite a convincing argument, but it has one fatal
flaw: It is the same game John Ashcroft plays when he
mentions "Internet" and "terrorist" in the same sentence. It
is using the biggest play that weak ideas have. It
manipulates the public by creating fear of the unknown. 

I am firmly convinced that the Free Software movement has
already produced superior products and will continue to
compete furiously in the software marketplace, but only by
continuing to do what is right, and by continuing to take
the high road even when competition is stiff. 

Same Rules Don't Apply 

If the Free Software movement were motivated by financial
gain, then the rules of that cause would apply. Because it
is motivated by moral cause of good philosophy and a desire
to actually produce a quality product, then a different set
of rules is in effect which call for doing the right thing,
regardless of what the opponent is doing. 

Free Software does not need to ignite public fear to gain
support. Proprietary software does. 

President George W. Bush said, "Freedom and fear are at
war." It appears that fear is winning at the expense of our
civil liberties, but to perpetuate fear by labeling opposing
ideas as supporting terrorism is a dangerous political move,
and is inconsistent with the ideals of the Free Software

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