Open Rights Shites

This evening, Coxall, Levine and I attended an open meeting of the Open Rights Group, a new UK organisation set in the mould of the EFF. I wasn’t expecting the earth to move for me: we’ve attended too many of these little geek/numeeja run yack-shacks to hope for anything particularly productive to emerge. This evening did its least to confound me.

It was held in a basement in Soho named Zero-One. I say basement, but, naturally, one is encouraged to term it a “creative space”. Said “creative space” was filled with geeks and numeedjas, as well as a scattering of lawyer-types and Earnest Young Men. Overwhelmingly men, of course, the few women who were there either freaks, sociologists or serving the free cheese and wine. Hey – don’t shoot the messenger. A few chairs encircled the basement, but the main floor was bare, to encourage crouching and cross-legged encampment. Oh dear. This was all going to be “inclusive and discursive”, wasn’t it?

Oh dear, indeed: the manageress of the “creative space” started proceedings. Her introduction was little more than an ad for her basement. She then brought on an ex hack, who spouted some trivial nonsense or other, and was excited by the prospect of setting up ever more “wikis” and “blogs”. She, in turn, brought on a jargon-clappy professional “meeting facilitator/consultant”. This was going to be “fun”.

The evening was to commence with a little talk from some Oxford chap or other, followed by a free-fall clustered discussion, in which each cluster was to be provided with its own sticky wall-covering on which to paste their mindstormingly written postcards.

The Oxford nonentity informed us that the Internet was somewhat marvellous, and, gosh, lots of interesting things might become of it soon, what ho, and it’s not just paedophilia and terrorists. The poor fellow seemed trapped in 1994.

The Management Consultant Facilitator then spouted some jargon, and asked the floor for ideas for the discussion clusters. The Earnest Young Men pontificated their banalities. The geeks obsessed about some yawnful minutia. And Coxall suggested we discuss how to win over the “unhosed stupid masses”. Yes, that is the phrase he used and, yes, the reaction from this righton bunch of whitebread nonces was predictable. “Maybe if you stopped patronising them like that…” was the immediate response from one of the Earnest Young Men on the floor.

Thence began the multiple clustering. Levine, Coxall and I have attended so many of these nascent talking shops now that we decided to skip with the usual niceties and begin some good old Trotskyite agitation. We argued that trying to interest people in the potential problems of overreaching anti-privacy legislation, or draconian Intellectual Property laws and the restrictive technologies therefor, was a lost cause. The “unhosed masses” wouldn’t care about these philosophical crampings until they felt the constrictive banding themselves, in their every day lives. We argued for the inculcation of popular anger: to that end, a little DRM here, a little copyright overextension there wasn’t enough. We decided that, rather than allow creative society to die the death by a thousand cuts that is its inevitable fate in a world dominated by multi-billion dollar “content” oligarchies, we should use these monoliths’ huge power and budgets to subvert themselves from within, to the point where their overreaching hubris could lead to genuine polltax-riot intensity anger, and Berlin-wall-sized dismantlement.

Rather than fiddle with legislation to make it slightly less bad, then, or to try to temper corporate excesses with the few thrown crumbs of compromise, a smartly utilitarian organisation would instead encourage the corporate hubris to its reductio ad absurdem extreme, to catalyse rather than inhibit the inevitable Hegelian dialectic’s unfolding.

By analogy, imagine one is piloting an aircraft. One has insufficient fuel to reach an airport. In such a circumstance, it is better immediately to make a controlled crash-landing in a field, than to wait until the plane runs dry and spirals out of control. Similarly, organisations like the Open Rights Group need to realise that, with what will always be considered esoteric domains of discourse, no matter the theoretical “education” one can provide, they have only Hobson’s Choice in how to inculcate change. They need to make this choice wisely, and not to act as unwitting handmaidens to the oligarchies, moderating their ludicrous and unhinged excesses, but rather to encourage the oligarchies to their doom. Only then might a freely creative culture take its first deep breaths of pure air. Until then, it’s a war of attrition no grassroots organisation with romantic aims and – ooh – 5,000 quid a month to spend, can achieve. Idealism against all the money and power in the world? Don’t believe the sentimental penny-dreadful. In real life, the winner is generally preordained.

To this end, we pontificated loudly, and wrote lots of postcards with catchy phrases, like “Throw Pirate Kids in Jail Today” and “Encourage a Media Exec’s Dream, and Let it Become His Nightmare” and “You Prevent Future Forest Fires by Encouraging Present Ones”. I particularly enjoyed the comparison with the Temperance movement in the early 20th century United States:
“What destroyed the Temperance Movement?”, I asked.
“The reasoned debates, pamphlets and lobbying against it, or its achievement of Prohibition, which ludicrous overreaching achieved what decades of petty lobbying could not”? We need to encourage the development of the equivalent of Prohibition in the digital realm. We need to encourage Them to overplay their hand. They must be sung by we sweet sirens finally into the newly exposed rocks of public opinion.

Of course, the Earnest Young Men found this all far too “cynical”. They called the inculcation of anger “negative” and generally became flustered. The British don’t like anti-consensual opinion, and make it known. Levine was trying to argue with a Britwasp, who suddenly stood up, with his Britwasp smirk, flapped his hands about dismissedly and said “I’m Leaving”. He flounced off. An odd effect for Mr Levine, who was blooded by this, as shall become apparent.

Some people were genuinely tickled by our ideas, we Bolsheviks to the rest of the lilly livered Mensheviks in the other clusters, with their spider diagrams and their invocations to “Reach Out to Our MEPs”. Some people were angered. Some wanted to argue against them, but couldn’t find logically cohesive counter arguments beyond fey idealism. “Oh, we just need to educate The General Public”.
“Really”, retorted Coxall, “So we just say ‘Ooh, Mr Public – did you know that copyright might be extended to 90 years’. ‘Gosh, no. Thank you for telling me. Now I’m off to watch East Enders”. The only education is a practical education, a sharp realisation of what their Content Providers’ hegemony means when given utterly free reign. Not “might mean”, note well, but “means”. The public are not good with the subjunctive mood, after all. They need to be given a real and present catastrophe on a plate before they react.

I was pleased to see that one early waverer concluded by writing “Do not amaeliorate bad legislation” on a card, and stuck it up on our wall. He was beginning to get the point. As good Trots, it was not our job to be pooper-scooper to the Corporate behemoths, tempering and tidying their excessive crap, their Ideological Manifestations, if you will, so that they remain just beyond the nose of general public ire.

The public meeting ended, our board full of sardony. Gedankenexperiment? Genuinely useful methodology? Epater le bourgeois? Pisstake? Some and all of the above, probably. But a hell of a lot more interesting than the anodyne pap drafted by the rubbishers in the rest of the room.

There was a quick reconvening to discuss our gestalt meanderings in plenary session. The Earnest Young Men went on again about their blessed MEPs. Some numeeja urged the importance of Edutaining the Public. Edutaining. If this is what the grassroots has come to, please pass the herbicide.

Levine, oddly Bolshy, asked the lady in charge of proceedings what she was actually going to do. She talked excitedly about already getting some press in the Guardian, The Register and ZDNET. Levine probed her further, asking what she was going to do after sending press released thereto. “Send more”. Levine wouldn’t let it lie. “And once you’re finished preaching to the converted?” General hubbub. An Earnest Young Man tried to defend the fair maiden. Levine tried to retort, saying he’d seen this empty posturing so many times before, but the Meeting Facilitator Jargon Man stopped him in his tracks, rebuking him forcefully:
“We’ve heard enough from you. You interrupted Adam there. You’ve had more than enough to say”. Even the audience, who had been Britishly riled by Levine’s daring to piss in Tony’s Big Tent, were somewhat aghast by the vehemency of the putdown. The Meeting Facilitator Jargon Man then ensured that the evening concluded on a tawdry, Partridgesque note by suggesting that, although he’d seen fit to give his “services” for free this evening, perhaps some might consider hiring for their next such event.

So there we have it. Another hot air balloon sets forth for its brief and useless journey. We emerged feeling depressed at how people seem unable in the current milleu to cope with genuinely robust, left-field debate, preferring rather to ensconce themselves in downy administrivia and shallow consensual sweet nothings.

We departed feeling arrogantly intelligent but deflated, a feeling that we’re enduring ever more often after such events. Big-headedness on our part, certainly, but it seems that the educated idiots who attend these things plough their lobotomised troughs with depressing predictability.

70 thoughts on “Open Rights Shites

  1. Such artfully contrived ennui betokens the pure infantilism that flourishes in the shamefaced public schoolboys attempting to deny their privilege. You preserve the arrogance and intolerance of the bruised swot while wallowing in the sanctimony of the trotskyite useful idiot.
    Flourish your tired dialectic, and hide your self-loathing in mutual masturbatory rhetoric all you like, but if you can spend an evening with the sparkling, enticing ladie swho were present, and ejaculate nothing but bile, it is clear your hormonal apparatus is sadly misfunctioning.

  2. Dear Eric,

    One of us was married, the other gay, and the other a CTO. As such, our hormonal apparatus worked perfectly appropriately.

    Your confused ad-hominem attack aside, I wonder if you might attack the logic of our case.

    Perhaps you might look up the term “useful idiot” too.

  3. Well done for sneaking out of your boarding school for the night – it must have been exciting to hang out with the grown ups for a change. Don’t worry – one day your hormones will calm down, life will seem a little less fun but a lot more complex, and you won’t be so angry anymore. And as for logic, well once you’ve done your first term of PPE, you’ll actually use it instead of talking about it.

  4. Christ, Nick, I’d be happy to attack the logic of your arguments, but you can’t exactly expect people to not attack ad hominem when you’re trying to deliver it in your funny squeaky “I’m an 19th Century Chris Morris, look at me in my powdered wig and fey relative clauses ” voice. I’m surely one of the people who’d be gripped with rage long enough to read your whole entry, and even my eyes started rolling upwards by about a third of the way through.

    Anyway, to summarise: you think that forcing the hand of the Dark and Inhumane Enemy into more and more ridiculous positions, baiting them to do their worst, will cause the historically inevitable Collapse of Entertainment, from which we can build a far better society.

    Okay. Good luck with that. I can’t help thinking of Peter Cook’s phrase about the enormous part the Berlin satire clubs of the thirties played in the downfall of Adolf Hitler.

    There is a substantive point there: the self-parodying Sony Rootkit saga points to how easiliy the music industry will shoot itself in the neck if left to its own device drivers for long enough.

    But it’s a complementary strategy. The bourgeoisie may creep you out (see how they dress like me! see how they talk like me!), but they’re (in your view) doomed attempts to do some actual good seem to be something to contemptibly ignore rather than actively sabotage. While you’re exposing the self-contradictions in the nature of, say, the NHS, going around heckling the doctors for perpetuating the system is the most dickish of pursuits.

    Instead of spending the evening sabotaging the poor deluded Fabians, surely you would have had a better time of it, going to HMV and shoplifting CDs with your pants down, shouting “I’m a Warez Dude! Smack Me Down!”. And I’d pay a fiver a month to watch you do that. I really would.

  5. Danny,

    Thank you for your comments. My apologies for making your eyes roll. Perhaps I should use txt spk n ftr, bcs ppl r nw llrgc t prpr sntncs.

    Your logic, in brining up Peter Cook’s quip about the 30s Berlin Satire clubs rather makes my point. Satire acts as an attempt to “educate” – a word so beloved in the evening. It rarely works, and, in fact, usually just acts as a safety valve for the Ideologies it satirises. In attempting to “educate” German society about the jumped-up idiocy of this Hitler chap, they failed completely. The problem with the third reich is that it did not begin to affect der Volk quickly enough. Sure, it dealt with those pesky Jews and Gyppoes, but the average Mann in der Strasse just kept his head down and enjoyed the closure of hyperinflation.

    Your mentioning the NHS is a straw man argument. Firstly, the NHS *is* something the people of this country *do* care about (unlike digital rights). They care about it to an almost sentimental degree. It, unlike the media moguls’ evil, is generally a force for the good, so one is surely quite happy to allow its dialectic to play out humanely.

    Finally, I think you’re killing the messenger here. Do you want to take up a bet with me that we’ll have Software Patents in Europe within 18 months? And that was as close to a “victory” as any thusfar. The Fabians are *lovely*. They really do think that dishing out press releases and “Bringing Their MEPs On Board” will have an effect. Good luck to them. But howabout at least some of us take a peek into the real, entropic world outside Tony’s enveloping tent?

  6. Big Hake,

    If big words scare you, please feel free to stay away from them. If you would like to suggest better words, I am very happy to take them on board.

  7. Dear Robert,

    Unlike the Foppy Fabians, I am quite aware of the complexity of the world, which is why I am under no illusion that Edutainment and Taking Our MEPs With Us is any panacea.

    Sadly, I have no PPE, but do have a BA in Philosophy. I know what a modus ponens are.

    Thank you, once again, for your content-free ad hominem attack. It’s at least nice to see that Tony’s Tent Flappers are at least capable of some modicum of spunk when prodded.

  8. It’s fun that there appear to be two forms of responses. Those that are finding their own foibles being immediately highlighted and going off into an apoplectic rage, throwing insults rather than dealing with their internal conflict.

    Or there’s repulsively patronising drivel from those who think it’s just so cwuel to point out when enthusiastic people are being idiots. And while they know better too, come on, let’s let them think their right because they’re so precious and special.

    But oddly enough, no arguments against the logic of the piece.

    How queer.

  9. I see. So the Allies’ response to Hitler should have been to encourage him to shovel a few more “normal” Germans into the gas ovens alongside the Jews, homosexuals, Communists, political dissidents and gypsies. In the hope that it would bring down Hitler earlier?

    Given the nasty misogynist tone of your piece, I assume you don’t expect women to be part of your glorious revolution?

  10. Much of what you seem to be saying is reminiscent of the conservatives in North America, who spend more time attacking affirmative action and other liberal-bourgeoise attempts to combat racial prejudice than attacking the actual racists.

    Whatever your criticisms (illogical or not) of ORG, they would have far more credibility if you had actually done anything yourself. If you think there is another way to achieve your objectives, then go ahead and do it – I’m sure many will support you. But otherwise, you just seem like a rather cowardly and small young man.

  11. so how do you “encourage the corporate hubris to its reductio ad absurdem extreme, to catalyse rather than inhibit the inevitable Hegelian dialectic’s unfolding”? you berate the ORG for not really knowing how to go about achieving anything but I cant see any real ideas apart from vague notions of encouraging the spread of DRM and stealing CDs.
    piracy is already massive and constantly on the increase (cf without the much-needed help of your “robust, left-wing debate” this blog is just as much of a talking-shop as the ORG meeting you attended, lovely words but no real action. ORG however is just beginning and, as with any new organisation, needs time to develop. perhaps if you so truly did believe in your cause that you write about so eloquently, you might fuck off and do something about it

  12. Hello Ian,

    Who’s the nasty misogynist? The person who points out how woefully represented were women at this meeting, or the person who suggests that the presence of women fulfills the role of being “sparkling” and “enticing”? As I said, don’t kill the messenger.

    As for 30s Germany, Deutsche Fabian letters to the Fuehrer would not have solved anything. Violent direct revolt early on would have. We’re not quite at the stage yet where we need to storm the barricades at Sony, but there will come a point where we’ll need to decide whether our freedoms are worth protecting with more than big tents.

    Robert, whatever cowardice I might have doesn’t negate my argument: if ORG are wasting their time or, at best, amaeliorating the Behemoths’ worst excesses, then they shall be worse than useless. I and my mates are certainly not sure what to do next. But we were at least trying to inculcate a debate more fundamental and robust than the candyfloss on offer that evening. There were few takers, because people really do think that Bringing Their MEPs On Board and writing press releases would somehow “Edutain” the public into enlightened consciousness.

    John, we have plenty of ideas. Agit Prop is never void of ideas. I personally would not encourage the stealing of CDs. Somewhat counterproductive. Yes, this “blog” is just as much a talking shop as ORG, but I’m not being paid 5,000 quid a month for my spurtings.

    I believe in “the cause” and do do things about it, thanks. But I am under no delusion that the things I do make a bean’s difference against all the money in the world which the Behemoths have. If we’re going to win this one, we’re going to have to use their own hubris against them – use the bulk of their bloated arrogance and PR budgets to backfire spectacularly. As others have pointed out, they’re doing quite well already! Let’s just make sure they don’t get a clue and moderate themselves too soon.

  13. I’m definitely coming to the next one of these. Two things stand out: firstly, that people fixate on the long words. Long words seem to upset people. I think this is because everyone’s so used to having information spoon-fed to them that they don’t bother paying attention any more. I was thinking about this yesterday when watching an old Fry and Laurie sketch. Fry was pontificating about the meaning of beauty while Laurie (as the straight man) grimaced to camera and shrugged occasionally.

    The audience was meant to sympathise with Laurie, who was being harangued with a complex philosophical and linguistic argument by Fry, which Laurie barely understood, and hence the gag. However, the sketch was more complex than it first appeared. Both Fry and Laurie are well-educated, and Fry’s rant on beauty, if one simply listened, was not only eminently understandable, but valid as well.

    The gag was therefore on Laurie, for not paying attention, rather than Fry for his admittedly pretentious postulating.

    The second thing that stands out is the sympathy for the feeble minded activists which quickly dissolves into class-riddled attacks on the writer. Mr Trellis and Levine may be tainted by public schooldom, but I don’t think one should hold this against them. Most 11 year olds have little choice about whether to go private. It’s clear that there were many people in that meeting who were no strangers to private education, mostly on the other side.

    If nothing else this incident could highlight the positive and negative aspects of independent schools: on the one side, the vociferous debating society Trot, and on the other the vapid concilatory imbecile.

    Besides, Nick’s right. One only has to look at the current mess of feeble environmental “debate” and legislation to see that the desultory lobbying the meeting organisers suggest won’t work. In the EU, all it’s led to is internecine squabbling about fishing quotas and the protection of national interests in the face of sugar surpluses, greenhouse gases and dwindling supplies of cod.

    One could never describe Mr Trellis’s writing style as “journalistic”. Some comments here echo eerily those on Mr Trellis’s old A Level English essays.

  14. Robert Dennis:

    Whatever your criticisms (illogical or not) of ORG, they would have far more credibility if you had actually done anything yourself. If you think there is another way to achieve your objectives, then go ahead and do it – I’m sure many will support you. But otherwise, you just seem like a rather cowardly and small young man.

    I think Mr Dennis perhaps missed the point of the ORG meeting. The rather limp-minded Journo-lady and her inane Management Consultant chum were hawking for our money. In such situations, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask if they’re actually going to do anything useful with the money.

    Answer: No.

    The second point of the evening was to encourage discussion about the direction ORG campaigning should go. We were a robust part of that dialectic, and provided a far greaterer insight than the rest of the floor of inane Blairite fops put together.

    So taking part in a discussion that ORG wanted to have is ‘small and cowardly’? I suspect that’s not what you meant; I guess you mean that, like everyone else there that evening, you are one of these inane fools, and when you say ‘discussion’ you mean non-challenging, non-dialectic, inclusive, broad-church inanity of the worst kind, in which actual challenge, disagreement, passion and a broad range of opinions is Verboten and to be avoided at all costs.

    It’s a pity really.

    I suspect you do. But it’s you that needs to work on his definitions.

  15. There’s a danger that we’re being represented as calling for inaction. I wish to stress that nothing can be further from the truth.

    We’re not advocating targetted inaction at all. Deliberately subverting the conglomerates’ own hubris, by encouraging them and advising the to be ever more draconian is hardly inaction.

    It’s Trotskyite direct action of the most classic and effective kind. We’re subverting their effectively infinite funding to our agenda; they may even realise that. But their hubris will be powerless to resist once we’ve seeded them with some really nasty ideas.

    Of course, the downside to all this is that we will be hated. I can speak for Mailer, Levine and myself when I say that’s fine. We abandoned all hope of being loved a long time ago.

    Infamy we can settle for.

    As for the education, if you want examples, take a look at what people are already doing. We should publically encourage stealing of music, films and software. We should call it stealing. We should make Pirate a badge of honour. We may as well go the whole hog and call it “funding global terror”. It’s the language they use, and we want to play into their hands at all costs.

    Of course, whilst playing into their hands, we’ll also be slowly inserting the same hands up their corporate gussets, waiting for the day when the seething masses will be ready to yank and cause a media prolapse.

    I’m struggling to see what the logical inconsistency is with the radical Trot argument, and would dearly love someone to explain its fallacies.

    As far as I’m concerned, all this naive hand-wringing about broad churches and edutainment by Blairite fops has to stop, because it won’t get us anywhere.

    Or we could just send another press release to The Guardian. If that’s what we really want.

  16. ORG is obviously not for you. You go your way, and ORG will go its way.

    In practice, I doubt this will be what happens. I do not believe you will do any organising to further your own way forward, and I’ll be very surprised if this is the last we hear from you about ORG’s shortcomings. I hope that when you next feel moved to write about it, you’ll explain why you’re spending your time slagging off ORG rather than organising an alternative.

  17. nick – what do you want to see happen? let “a freely creative culture take its first deep breaths of pure air”? kinda sounds like you been smoking too much jack herer 🙂 anyway, i still have problems with champagne socialists criticising everything whilst suggesting nothing meaningful in its place. if you hate this society so much, there are places in the world you can go to escape the evil tendrils of the capitalist system – but im sure you like your central heating too much, your 2000Ghz pentium XII and every other wordly possession that you quite happily consume…
    coxall’s inane ramblings are far worse – do you just pull out a dictionary of leninist quotes and attempt to have a competition to see who can use the most? do you have any examples of where youve ‘encouraged the conglomerates to be even more draconian’? some of your ‘direct action of the most classic and effective kind…’ millions of people already ‘publicly’ encourage file-sharing by taking part in the networks themselves, how else would all the bloody networks be full of everything and anything? perhaps you could ‘infiltrate’ a music label and pass on their releases to some 0day warez group and then publicise your activities on your blog. put your money where you mouth is, so to speak and lets see quite how serious you all really are…

  18. John, I happen to think that Western society and culture is the best the planet has to offer those lucky people who enjoy it. I have utterly no time for cultural relativist whingers. See my earlier post about “savagery”. In fact, if you want to find true anti-capitalist whingers, you should have turned up to the ORG meeting, where every second word in the assembled masses was a complaint about the system that gave them the very comforts and luxuries that allowed them to spend their evenings rabbiting on in a heated basement, rather than hewing wood or dying of malnutrition. I also don’t have the knee-jerk anti-Americanism and anti-Zionisemitism which so infects the left at the moment. There are far worse hegemonies than America coming round the corner.

    None of this prevents my commenting on the fact that ORG will probably not be very successful, and suggesting a strategy which might have more of a chance so to be.

    Antecedents of direct, provocative action to cause the system to make a prat of itself? Rosa Parks? The websites publishing “obscenities” when threatened by the Communications Decency Bill. The Poll Tax riots. Simply put:

    1) Governments listen to paid lobbies or large numbers of angry people.
    2) You need to use the paid lobbies to get large numbers of people angry.

    And that’s it. Once we agree with this principle in general, we can talk tactics.

  19. we’re defintely in agreement about a few things then; for me western society is the best we’ve got (whoever said about that Churchill quote, for me the least worst = the best, its all just a play on words…) and whilst we should certainly be critical of many things, i think we forget to celebrate many others wonderful things in society.
    i work as one of those paid lobbyists that you talk about, representing the corporate behemoth to the very people that ORG and others hold strategy meetings to try to get to. trying to affect change is a very strange process, complicated by the 1000s of stakeholders, the political system itself and the fact that human interaction is by its very nature complex. personally i disagree with your view that we need a seismic revolution for the better of society. ‘direct action’ can be a pleasant word for anything and could result in anything, your examples are positive ones (i was also looking for examples from your ‘group’ for your own actions) but on varying levels revolutions can result in untold death and misery for many people. i believe utilitarian politics are practised and held by those that wont really be affected by them – your life is to at least some degree ‘safe’ in that you are extremely well-educated and have a steady income. whether some of the ‘unhossed masses’ as you call them have the same sort of protections is another question – their protection stems for the most from the system that we have in this country; nowhere perfect but the best we’ve got…

  20. Encouraging the corporate hubris to a point where is no longer palatable by the unhosed masses is an interesting idea, one which at least deserves some thought. Are there any other large-scale examples you can cite where this has been successful?

    Plus, do you not think that there is a genuine danger that these companies will go too far, but *not quite far enough* to provoke public outroar? It does seem to be a bit of a risk to take.

    The recent Sony fiasco may on the surface be an indicator that such a policy could work, but their subsequent reaction to it could be a sign of increasing awareness on the part of those in the boardrooms that they will find it difficult to get away with such actions in the future. After all, it may have taken them six weeks to sort it out, but that is a comparatively short period of time, and quicker than I would have expected.

    So yes, it is worth looking at and (if you disagree with it) refuting properly instead of harping on about Nick’s public schooling, choice of language, etc.

    Anyway, he said “nowt” the other day; that was truly something to behold…

  21. ORG’s nascent problem, and one that the neatly-bearded broad-church monkeys don’t seem to want to address head on, is that as organisation it isn’t trying to “bring about wider change” at all. That is our real complaint.

    ORG wants to be the latest in a long line of mediocre, Blairite-friendly organisations that sends out Guardian press releases, and complains politely when Media Conglomerate X goes “a bit far”, and succeeds in getting a small, meaningless concession, and then spends the next two months congratulating itself, slapping itself on the back, and generally being smug, self-satisfied but effectively useless.

    That’s not fighting, it’s just pathetic.

    To quote an ORG fabianite from their own poorly-templated main site:

    “and this is no more than the usual list of charges, all of which will always be levelled at the start of any project…”

    No. Just at any project that has no higher aspiration than being Yet Another New Media Talking Shop. “Facilitatory Space” “Media Clearing House” “Management Consultant” “Edutainment”.

    ORG’s choice of nouns speaks volumes. It says “we’d rather be loved than right, any day”.

    I’ve been to enough launches to enough of these woeful talking shops, and talked to enough well-trimmed goatee polite Fabian men and Media-glasses-wearing types to know a talking shop car crash that will achieve nothing if it continues along this tragic path.


  22. ^^ far more valid criticism and might actually advance the debate somewhat. your earlier comments remind me of the Greenpeace activists running around the roof of the CBI conference trying to disturb Blair. people just dismiss them as crackpots and they are sidelined in the debate and their views ignored. you will never bring about mass revolution from the sidelines…

  23. Mr Paul Crowley, misses the point too:

    I hope that when you next feel moved to write about it, you’ll explain why you’re spending your time slagging off ORG rather than organising an alternative.

    Once again, I reiterate that the point of the evening was twofold. (1) Hawk for our cash, like a puppy begging for scraps, (2) Try to swaddle everyone in the deathly embrace of a Blairite Big Tent whilst maintaining the pretence of a serious discussion.

    Obviously, Mailer, Levine and I had that discussion. A few of the less wretched types even engaged us for a bit. Obviously, most of the fops were disgusted by anyone daring to have a dissenting or provocative opinion and flounced off in that fey British way we in the intellectual-circle-jerk social classes are so fond of.

    However, because there were a few people who were prepared to *actually* have a discussion, I felt as if there is still a chance to steer ORG away from its “press coordinators” “management consultants” “facilitators” etc, and turn it in a direction that might achieve something.

    If you hate the sound of that, I would suggest that ORG is actually not for *you*. There’s a seat waiting for you in the Labour Party or the Fabian Society, if you hop along.

    Chop chop.

  24. Re: John

    That Greenpeace kind of direct action is mildly embarassing for all concerned. I certainly have no desire to climb Sony BMG towers dressed as a milk maid, and flash my breasts as Simon Cowell with the words “SPYWARE IS TEH BAD” painted on each nipple.

    What we’re talking about would actually require a great deal of professionalism, and possibly some Italian suits. What fun that will be.

    But no, we’re not suggesting Direct Action A La Greenpeace because it’s a bit rubbish.


  25. about the “unhosed stupid masses” comment, this isn’t clever but a briton of indian descent i recall that my immigrant grandfather’s generation felt this way about the british of 50 years ago. i remember him telling me a story about how the white english landlady complained “why do you take a bath every day? you only need to do it once a week”

    indeed it was the introduction of fine silks and cloth from india that encouraged the british to take a regular bath, up until that point they copied the french method (use a perfume to hide the stink)

    i have been known to make mistakes. from time-to-time.

  26. john, don’t you mean “effect” not “affect”? They are two different words, even if they do sound the same. And it’s always helpful to read what was actually written, rather than read what you think was written.

  27. Unlobotomised: That is a fair question, regarding the EFF. I shall have to consider it. The EFF seems part of an activist constitutional tradition which is largely absent in the UK, and so can have some practical effect that I’m not sure a similar organisation here would achieve. Its Blue Ribbon campaign, for example, was an interesting case where they were almost doing what we “Trots” advocate, in getting websites to put up material that the Communications Decency Act would have prosecuted, so that a test case could quickly reach the Supreme Court, where it would cause the whole law to unravel.

  28. Uh, that’s not what happened in the Blue Ribbon campaign, but perhaps that’s a digression.

    I’d be happy to talk about how EFF works (that’s my job after all). One point that is perhaps missed is that EFF is just one group among many: including groups that do indulge in the – well, I won’t call it Trotskyite because that’s liable to be, ah, misinterpreted here – approach you advocate.

    The thing is, these approaches are determined by organisational structure. ORG has a specific job to do – take the issues, publicise them, and campaign against them within the current system. And it has a financing model which means that defines further constraints too: not least that a membership-supported framework means you get to sit around carping at it, whee, while it talks nicely about how important it has to take on board all opinions while all around you people are sticking their fingers down their throats and making the international “fucking trots” symbol. Such things rarely happen in, say, Warner Bros boardrooms.

    Now, the truth is that ORG will continue to follow its course – to damnation and to the Hitler Nazi State Sony BMG-run gas camps or whatever you predict, nodding in its middle-class complicity all along. Or, you know, scoring some minor victories and some major ones, losing here, winning a bit there as you and I both expect but you condemn and I rather think is worth the money. And unless you want to do the standard entryist coup, take over, have everybody else quit, and be left with three letters and a bank account, there’s little chance of changing that approach. (After all, change within the system is impossible, right kids?)

    But that doesn’t preclude another organisation pursuing the Mark Chaney approach you suggest. Indeed, before I became an EFF employee, I had several conversations with EFFers where they bemoaned the lack of an organised group that would represent the extreme of opinion, so that EFF wouldn’t have to constantly answer charges of extremism that it in no way represented or made (EFF tends to get tarred with every belief under the sun, because they’re one of the few well-known voices in the field).

    If you want to do that, go ahead. We’ll even direct the press to you whenever they need a juicy quote from a real, live, pir/\t3 haxx0r (as they almsot always do). I’ll probably, in the interests of being honest, tell them that you’re adopting that position in an attempt to pursue a more covert agenda, a secret agenda which they will be able to find by googling for your blog, but hey, that’s public discourse for you.

    I guess if you decide to do that, I’ll live with your endless Spiked-style declamations about how ORG has sold out. I will commend it even, as it will be an ingenious part of your secret strategy to swing the debate around to all out creative revolution, which can only, after all, benefit all our plans, cackle cackle, bwah ha hah..

    The only thing I’d ask is that rather than any of us spending all this time pursuing this rat-hole, you’d actually try and target the energy at the actual problem, rather than have us both pander to the narcissism of small differences which is driving this debate.

    At which point, I will sweep out of the conversaton, and ingeniously ignore all your further elegant destructions of my position.

    Okay, bye now, cheers, love kisses, kthxbye.

  29. mrs trellis – my bad, im at work at dont actually have a lot of time to read thru everything. i was more interested in having a discussion about all this, i.e. contributing to the debate instead of being anally retentive about english mistakes. this is a comments thread on a blog not an official document or suchlike, dunno if you realised that?
    your contribution so far has been posting “on the one side, the vociferous debating society Trot, and on the other the vapid concilatory imbecile.” basically, wanking yourself off over the intellectual genius that you can display by posting some bollocks about a ‘oh so deep’ fry+laurie sketch. clearly if the ‘concilatory imbeciles’ only listened better they would understand! of course, thank you for being so enlightening – let me just polish off Marx’s Capital Vol 1 over elevenses and i’ll be right back at’cha with a some inane ramblings about historical materialism, dialectics and complex interactions of structure and agency and god knows what other stuff i can recall from my uni days…

  30. Anti-intellectualism is the last resort of the rogue. May I introduce you to the Shift keys? There’s one on either side of your keyboard. You could try using them once in a while, and then I wouldn’t have to decipher what you’ve said.

    But anyway. I mentioned the sketch because the comments on the article reminded me of it. I quite agree, if the concilatory imbeciles had listened properly, they would have understood.

    Do you mean Das Kapital? It’s a good read, maybe better for bedtime than elevenses. It’s not a crime to remember what you learned at university, incidentally.

  31. I’d love to see you say that kind of thing to peoples faces – its hardly conducive to debate to categorise people that disagree with you as ‘concilatory imbeciles.’ quite what you hope to achieve with this is beyond me. anyway im concerned that this is just going to turn into a slagging match, albeit a quite interesting one, so will leave it at that.

  32. “Obviously, most of the fops were disgusted by anyone daring to have a dissenting or provocative opinion and flounced off in that fey British way we in the intellectual-circle-jerk social classes are so fond of.”

    If you’re talking about me, the one who actually did walk out of an argument with Levine, that was because I don’t like being berated.

    I probably share a lot of your ideas about what the ideal world looks like with respect to intellectual property and digital rights. I’m not completely closed to your methods, although I have a lot of serious doubts. So I think it’s unfortunate that I was alienated rather than engaged.

  33. So, it seems you came to the meeting with a pre-conceived idea of what was going to happen and how it was going to play out. I’m glad it went exactly as you expected because I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed. You might want to consider that people tend to perceive what they expect to see, rather than what’s actually there. But, given how much smarter than the rest of us you seem to think you are, I’m sure you already know that.

    I certainly didn’t perceive that anyone was trying to persuade me to give them money. They’d already done that on the pledge and I’d already said I’d give it.

    As for your ideas, I listened to you for a few minutes right at the beginning. Frankly, you came across as teenagers, who think that anyone who doesn’t see things their way is stupid. You clearly want to be angry and radical and lead the revolution. By all means, go ahead.

    The organizers of ORG have gotten national press coverage on an important issue. It’s not much, but its a start. What have you achieved? Or is going to meetings you don’t believe in and then whining about it the extent of your activities?

  34. Has anyone raised the valid point that we are ALREADY at the stage of corporate excess and hubris and that the unhosed masses are noticing? It’s the only hole in your argument, lads.

    While amiable, your proposal is just as impractable than those of the do-good commies. What’s really needed: applications that are so useful to the unhosed masses that the public are more willing to pay for these than line the pockets of the casting-couch DRMers.

    None of the blog/wiki type talkers seems ready to deliver. Will you?

  35. In Mailer, you have a proven and indefatigable advocate of an open society. Nick is sometimes wrong, and often abrasive, but his record of running CUT and Positive Internet show a unique ability to manage organisations putting their money and efforts where their mouth is–and making good their goals. In short, it’s about both walking the walk and talking the talk. I should think ORG would be better to listen to the substantive points which Mailer so lucidly outlines than attack his rather silly voice and youthful appearance. I suspect that, actually, these Angry Young Men have done rather more, and could do yet more, than many of the ad-homers we see here.

    Oh, and none of the Coxall, Levine and Mailer trinity are public school-educated. Please do not lump independent and grammar schools in with us true public school boys in your wide-ranging personal attacks. 🙂


  36. Some unpalatable truths here.

    – ORG is whatever you make it. It’s barely started.

    – The unhosed masses won’t get it until it’s presented to them in terms they can understand. The Open Rights people desperately need a sound bite as good as “Pirate”. “The Right to Remix” really doesn’t cut it.

    – But so what if the unhosed masses don’t get it. They don’t set the rules. They don’t even decide who sets the rules more than once every 4 or 5 years.

    – You’re right that The Guardian, ZDNet, El Reg and El Inq don’t really help and are just preaching to the choir. What’s needed is to get into the FT, The Times business section and The Economist. One of the few voices that large corporates actually listen to are their large shareholders. And that’s where they hang out.

    – My hats off to First4Internet. For royally screwing Sony and taking Sony’s money to do it. Shouldn’t they be made founder members and tapped up for some of that money? Are we sure they’re not out there deliberately practicing detournement?

    – I resent being described as an earnest young man, I’m an earnest old man thank you very much!

    – And finally, what fun to see British Intellectual Arts Graduates having a spat! The quality of the wordage here really is exceptional. Now what exactly were we talking about? And can you also describe it in a style intelligible to a 16 year old school leaver? Or is that too hard and you prefer to impress your peers?

  37. If ORG is what we make it, then I want all the money. How’s that sound? Everybody okay with that? Stupid? Of course it is…

    So what exactly is ORG going to do with the money then? ORG has been founded on the premise that it would have around £60,000 (ideally) to get started. Why does it need this money? Or even half of it? Details please, or move along and stop wasting my time attending meetings.

    For emphasis only: TIME TO TALK TURKEY

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