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Posted on Techdirt - 22 June 2013 @ 12:00pm

John Fenderson's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

As is my wont, I sit here watching the salamanders play in the embers of a lazy fire, blowing slow, mighty rings of the cherry-tinged tobacco smoke that I inhaled from my Calabash pipe and ponder the week gone by. And what a week it was. It brings to mind that great sage of sociopolitical dystopianism, George Orwell and his discovery of doublethink.

Doublethink is believing two contradictory things simultaneously. Some say that doublethink is just a snappy name for cognitive dissonance, although I would argue that there’s a subtle but important difference between them. Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling that you get from believing two contradictory things. Doublethink is when it doesn’t bother you at all. The concept is a key method in stage magic, hypnotism shows, advertising, and coercive propaganda. If you are in a state of cognitive dissonance, a part of your logical mind is jammed. In that state, you are very suggestible.

We’ve seen plenty of doublethink this week. At a low level, Google pretending they don’t get FISA gag orders while simultaneously trying to get them eased is a good example, as is Hollywood’s stance on employee pay. The Chamber of Commerce got into the game by claiming that Bollywood’s success means they’re failing in a way only strong copyright will help.

There were also more subtle variants on this theme, such as failing to recognize that keeping secrets harder can make the secrets get out faster or that telling people not to see what their lying eyes have seen.

But, the crowning moment of doublethink this week was the disclosure of the makeup of the advisory council for “Free Speech Week”. That Chris Dodd is the chair was just the desiccated cherry on top of an ant-infested sundae.

Not everything was doublethink, though. There were some stories that demonstrated sublime consistency. Dick Cheney is still an illusionist who refuses to use his power for good. Spies still want to make criminality legal, while attorneys want to turn law-abiding citizens into criminals. Hollywood declares itself awesome, and the FBI is annoyed by the Constitution.

Oh, and the civilized world, as always, is coming to an end.

Oddly, I suppose, I find solace in that.

Posted on Techdirt - 12 November 2011 @ 12:00pm

John Fenderson's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

I’ve been hanging around Techdirt for a few years now, so hello to my old friends as well as new. One of the things I like the best about this place is that Techdirt is only a technology blog when looked at with one eye. It really covers the intersection of technology and culture. You may or may not know this about me, but I am a Discordian. We are in particularly chaotic times right now. Old systems and businesses are fighting to their death while new ones are discovering the world to be more complex than they supposed. All anyone can say with real confidence is that tomorrow will not look much like yesterday.

With chaos comes opportunity, however. It is during these times, when change is guaranteed but the nature of it is not, that we have a rare chance of shaping the nature of it. Big money corporate forces and a systemically corrupt government are consciously aware of this and are actively working at a fever pitch to shape it in their best interest. What they don’t want you to know is that chaos is a great equalizer. Great power requires order to maintain it, but individuals do not. In times like this the playing field is closer to being level. It becomes possible for you, or I, to individually change things for the better. Collectively, we can change everything.

Let’s look back at the last week and see what chaos had brought us.

Computers That Accurately Guess What Gangs Did What Crimes

I can tell you one of the most frequent things people misunderstand about chaos. Chaos is not randomness, or a kind of randomness. Chaos is actually order — apparently disorganized order, but order nonetheless. Chaotic systems are those which are extremely sensitive to initial events. But chaotic systems are not necessarily unpredictable systems.

We, The People, Are Sarcastic And Not Easily Mollified By Bland Political Non-Answers

Not unpredictable at all.

Why PROTECT IP/SOPA Is The Exact Wrong Approach To Dealing With Infringement Online

That is, unless you are one of the greyfaces whose fear of change has caused blindness preventing the ability to see solutions that may be different than the old comfortable ones, but actually have a chance of working.

Lessons Learned From ‘Pay What You Want’

Even when the solution might be counter to everything that you think is true.

A History Of Hyperbolic Overreaction To Copyright Issues: The Entertainment Industry And Technology

Even when an industry’s entire history is riddled with examples of the same blindness.

Free As In Freedom: But Whose Freedom?

Richard Stallman, love him or hate him, has the admirable quality of being unafraid to give his unvarnished opinion on matters that interest him. Some might suspect him of insanity, communism, hippiness, or dementia, but they’re all wrong. What he is is a firebrand, and like all firebrands he will invariably say something irritating or offensive to some people. Firebrands are an essential part of society. We need them to shake us out of our mental ruts and shock us into actively thinking out our positions, whether those positions agree with them or not. It’s OK that he confuses fraud with copyright violation. Lots of people do.

Canadian Actor Claims Mashups Are Morally Wrong And Should Be Illegal

Leah Pinset gives us an interesting example of the process of forming chaos to shape reality. The reality she experiences and wants to make us all live in is one where she can declare certain types of music immoral because she doesn’t like it much.

She’s got lots of company. Here, we have RIAA doing the very same thing, but opposite:

RIAA Explains Its Interpretation Of SOPA; Which Doesn’t Seem To Be Found In The Bill Itself

In this case, RIAA wants legislation that would do great harm to every aspect of society. No, I’m not talking about SOPA — SOPA isn’t what they want, it’s what they’re currently willing to compromise to. They know that what they actually want is a political nonstarter. It would be rejected handily by almost everybody. So they give us SOPA, which is exactly as egregious as they thought was politically possible. That looks less possible now, so they are taking the tack that the Justice Department wanted the ability to do: they are lying.

Justice Department Drops Its Request To Be Allowed To Lie In Response To FOIA Requests

Oh, here’s the lying! The Justice department wanted to be able to legally lie to us about the mere existence of records that we citizens collectively own. They’ve changed their minds and are ok with having to lie about lying like they used to.

DOJ: Secret Interpretation Of PATRIOT Act Just Like Grand Jury Subpoena If You Ignore ‘Factual Context’

It’s not all untruthfulness, though. It’s easier to avoid lying if you can just avoid talking about it. That “it” is the laws that you and I are supposed to be subject to, and therefore presumably should know about, is irrelevant.

Understanding Anonymous: The Culture Of Lulz

There’s a law of nature recognized within Discordianism. It is simply this: nature seeks a balance between order and discord. When one grows too strong, the pendulum will always shift. For example, increased social disorder gives rise to grand displays of order through more oppressive laws and policing. And the other way around.

Building Company Realizes That Threatening A Blogger With Bogus Libel Suit Was A Bad Idea; Sincerely Apologizes

In small ways as well as big.

Despite Publisher Apprehension, Good Old Games Proves A Market For Old DRM-Free Games Exists

You can’t compete with free? The hundreds I’ve spent at Good Old Games argue otherwise.

Barnes & Noble Claims That Microsoft Patent Shakedown Over Android Is An Antitrust Violation

I’ve done my share of software engineering contract work for large companies in the past, and one of the things I’ve learned is that being the outsider is a powerful position. The outsider can often speak truths that cannot be spoken by people who are invested in the company. The outsider can take radical action with less fear due to simple ignorance of the minefield they’re walking through. Barnes & Noble is an outsider in this space and, as such, can take action that is simply impossible for the established players. I never thought I’d see Barnes & Noble as a force for positive change in my industry, but I’m not too surprised, really. It had to be someone I wouldn’t have expected.

Really, unless you are in the 1% or are a large corporation, you are an outsider in the political world right now. Which means you have a chance to shape the future. You have more power now than you have likely had in your lifetime. Seize it, and make the future a good one.

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