Turning the tide on the threats to our way of life

published Jan 27, 2006, last modified Jun 26, 2013

My last article, A summary of the threats to our way of life, was merely a summary of today's most pressing attacks on Free Software and our way of life. Today, I'll propose a solution — how to avert the threats and get ourselves a better future.

(I'm deeply sorry about the network congestion problems this site has been experiencing. Had I had the root password for the hosting server at the right time, I could have probably averted the SYN flood and HTTP connection storm that silenced this site in the late afternoon of yesterday. But hosting's hosting, and the root password is out of the question.)

Today, I'll be exploring a different angle, suggested (in a LinuxToday comment) by one of my readers, which did manage to get through yesterday's denial of service.

The political angle

Phil said:

Kee trying. The article is definately worth the read.

Rudd is right on what is going on. The solution is political. Just like the politicians are writing bad for us laws, they can also change around and write good for us laws. What it takes is the understanding that we elect them and we don't like what they are doing.

Start with the political angle and all will be well.

At present, the media companies and Microsoft are overreaching. If they go far enough we will get upset and demand action from the congress. It takes a lot to get us angry but it does happen. Think of the year the Democrats lost control of the US congress. We will have to get their attention again.

Right on, Phil. All too frequently, we become unconscious about the political powers that continually (if slowly) influence our lives. And that's okay. You know, we have better, more fulfilling things to do with our lives than running countries, states, municipalities. Thus, we delegate the jobs to people who find that kind of work fulfilling and constructive (or at least attempt to convince us about their commitment).

And, in the process, we forget that they, indeed, control much more than just public policy. Left to their own devices, a huge political system will work entirely in the interest of those in power — economic power, mostly. There's gotta be checks and balances, or the system collapses under its own weight, like an extremely fat person choking to death when lying down (Yes, I'm being politically incorrect. No, I don't care. Yes, you should keep reading.).

If you want to crack the problems assaulting, e.g., Free Software or public health, here's what you should not do: you shouldn't picture a politician behind a "bad" law as a "bad" person. Because he's not responding to morals. Politics does not respond to morals. All too often, politics and morals fight win-lose battles instead of win-win matches. That's self-evident, because what's "good" for you may very well be "bad" for someone else.

A quick trip into the mind of your average politician

Picture this: you're a politician responding for your constituency. You need the votes. But you also need the money to get the votes that will lead you into public office. What's gonna happen? Pretty simple to tell: if you've got enough of that special type of motivation that will help you get into public office, you'd probably tell your constituency one thing, and, later in the game, do something entirely different.

You'll see the campaign contributions that will take you into reelection, and suddenly you'll begin to doubt the principles that led you, in all honesty, to promise a number of things to your constituency. That's a telltale sign that the system has got you. Once you're "in the system", your old moral values hardly matter anymore. To top all this, you start to draft "bad" laws to please your campaign contributors, and you don't do it with a guilty conscience.

Where did your guilty conscience go? Because your campaign contributors have effectively convinced you to change your beliefs system. Back in the day, when software reverse-engineering didn't even register in your radar, you would have supported anyone who wanted to reverse-engineer something, because, after all, there's the freedom to tinker, right? But today, when obsolete business models are crumbling down on your campaign contributors, you're convinced that the "bad hackers" that perform "hacking" on your contributors' products and software need to be stopped. And so on, and so forth, the story says.

Checks and balances won't restore the health of political systems

What they can do, best case scenario, is stop the ongoing degeneration. Even a million people shouting "let us reverse-engineer and decrypt our DVDs" won't stop "bad" politicians from forbidding the practice through bad law.

So, we go straight to the source: funding for politicians' campaigns. Hard truth hits you: there is simply no way you can stop the funding. Did you honestly think you could stop this? The existing political power would never allow anyone to dry up their source of power.

So... you should play their game

My suggestion: in addition to writing to your Congressperson and other civic duties, such as voting for the right people, you should start to think about turning the tide on bad law, by fighting fire with fire.

Lobby politicians responsible for "bad" laws

...and get them to change their minds. You're going to have to convince them by doing more than just talking to them, because "pretty please" and hard facts just don't cut it. You're going to need to fund their next campaigns. Yes, you're going to take the Copyright Cartel's very own amoral system and use it against them.

You're going to have to play their own game.

Get responsible, untainted people into public office

...and hold them to their promises, once they get there. Again, this is going to take money and a lot of hard work. But the only way you'll get credibility for your own political stance is to get people you share your political stance with you into public office.

Once they're in there, use them to change the active ruleset. Use them to obliterate the playground rules the Copyright Cartel has set, and create your own rules. Political rules that will ensure our freedoms will be guaranteed for a short amount of time, for "short amounts of time" is the best you can hope for while big interests are at stake.

But this cannot be done... we don't have money or time

Yes, you do. I was going to write a much longer article about how to organize a big effort like this one. But instead, I'll just point to the Lobby4Linux Austin Project as proof that it can be done. Grassroots effort have succeeded before.

Even if your own contributions to campaigns are dwarfed by Big Media contributions, you can still fight the good battle, by finding the proper leverage point. There's always media to be leveraged. There's always radio, TV and newspapers.

In summary:

As long as there's a little money, and a message looking for an audience, there'll be a way to get the message to the audience. Start today — today's battle will be much easier than tomorrow's.