Monday, November 07, 2011

I'm Right to be Skeptical of Occupy Wall Street, and Other Reassuring Truths

The Wheelchair and Trespass Oak
Abandoned wheelchair near Trespass Oak
This is going to be a long, strange post. And I blame it all on Matthew Robertson and one of his tweets.

Matthew tweeted a link to "Occupy Wall Street Was Right Not to Trust the Main Stream Media." It took a while to read it and think about it (no, I'm not a member of the tl;dr group, which should be quite obvious reading any of my posts).

Weighing in at solid 1448 words and with a Gunning Fog index of 15.17, it seems aimed at the average American 12th grader (17 to 18 year olds), which places it outside the reading comprehension of 99% of the Tea Party. But I digress...

Normally I would have let this pass, until I reached the section in the essay equating Occupy with open source and crowd sourcing. I'm quite familiar with open source development the the products of such a process, as I use Linux at work and at home, have a number of Android[1] devices that have benefited from open source, as well as powerful development tools such as Eclipse. Crowd sourcing I've both sampled and seen the results of. As far as I'm concerned, crowd sourcing isn't worth a tinker's damn.

Money for Nothing and Your Chicks for Free

In mid-March 2007, brimming with the idealism that the coming New Millennia was being ushered into existence by open source software, I signed up for Assignment Zero, an attempt by Wired and other well-off journalistic insiders to create a pool of free no-cost labor citizen journalists for "new media" projects. Six months later the effort lay in a smoldering heap, a victim of the realization by the free no-cost labor citizen journalists that they were being used to make the rich richer (or at least that's my interpretation; other's may beg to differ).

Since that time until the present I've noticed that no good comes from crowd sourcing. Consider the equivalent to crowd sourcing at the Huffington Post, who is being sued to the tune of $105 million on behalf over 9,000 uncompensated bloggers. As Harlan Ellison so eloquently puts it, "Pay the writer." More generally, you should pay people if they do work for you.

Crowd sourcing is code for having a lot of people create something of value for the few who are well-compensated and well-connected at the top, who manage to convince the crowd to perform the work for free. At any time, and especially in these hard economic times, crowd sourcing is immoral and unethical.

Let's Talk About Open Source

I've used a lot of open source tools and operating systems, and without exception, the tools and operating systems worth using have a strong leadership. The Linux kernel has Linux Torvalds as a benevolent dictator for live (BDFL). And everybody is fine with that. Projects that don't have strong leadership and vision die. The same holds true for any major endeavour, especially political.

And About That Main Stream Press (or, Those Who Cannot Remember the Past)

When I read the following, I nearly fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard:
The primary purpose of the MSM now is to fill space between ads. They must appease, or at the very least, not offend their masters. These include both major corporate advertisers and politicians who regulate their industries and provide significant ad dollars when elections roll around. Public media, including the BBC, CBC, PBS and NPR have done no better at covering Occupy than that private commercial media. The only outlet that seems to have taken Occupy seriously from the start, to have done research and to have accurately reported on the movement and its agenda has been Al Jazeera, described just a few years ago as a “mouthpiece for Al Queda.” This, of course, was before they launched Al Jazeera English and snatched up talented veteran journalists from the BBC, CBC and from failing newspapers the world over.
Our young padawan has forgotten his Constitution and the part of the first amendment that says, in part, that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." Our fore-fathers in that period already knew what it was like to have the press controlled by those in power. That's why they added that clause. And it hasn't helped all that much, at least not up to the 20th century. Before then, especially the period from the 1870's up to the start of the 20th, the telegraph system and the Associated Press were co-mingled in such a way that they destroyed all competition and criticism of the system, and led to what many refer to as the stolen presidential election of 1876 between Democrat Samuel Tilden of New York versus Republican Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio.

This was also the period that saw the newspaper circulation battles between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, giving rise to the practice of "yellow journalism." It wasn't until the tragedy of William McKinley's assassination and Pulitzer's loss of prestige over his alledged indirect involvement that he cleaned up his act enough that we now have an award named after him for journalism excellence.

And that comment about Al Jazeera just cracks me up. They're giving blanket coverage to our issues because their primary clientele want to expose the flaws in our society. Don't get me wrong; if I want coverage of the Occupy movements I turn to overseas news outlets before I look for local US news. But don't think Al Jazeera is doing this crusading journalism out of some noble belief in the Truth or in Occupy's goals.

There's a lot of blood that's been spilled and a lot of inequities visited on many Occupy participants. There's absolutely no excuse for what's happened. Because of what I've seen and read from around the country I've become radicalized in my old age to actually get off my ass and join with others like-minded to legally work the system to flush out many of the fascist-wannabes that infect all levels of government, local to national. But until such time as Occupy gets its act together and really organizes, they're on track to suffer the same fate of irrelevance that all the hippies did some forty years ago. With all the issues we face in this country as well as the world at large, we can't afford a second sellout.

3 comments:

  1. Speaking (or rather writing) my thoughts, Bill. Crowdsourcing is just another slap in the faces of the poor, performed by the rich. And still we prefer not to wake up... did we all take the wrong-colored pills?

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  2. The "media mistrust" piece was an interesting article, not least because of the complete unsuitability of its headline. It wasn't so much the 'open' or 'crowd source' buzzwords that caught my interest but its confusion of those two with a group working by consensus.

    I once served on the board of a social-justice organization that made all decisions by consensus, and it worked surprisingly well. The key is that it was a small group of people who already agreed on almost everything, and trusted each other enough to accept when someone else's opinion should carry more weight. It would be a hopeless way of running a country, but it's very effective in the right venue. It's an idea that's been well established in the various movements that have joined under the Occupy banner, so buzzwords need not be multiplied beyond necessity.


    And that comment about Al Jazeera just cracks me up. They're giving blanket coverage to our issues because their primary clientele want to expose the flaws in our society.

    They also did an exceptional job of covering the Arab Spring, and continue to provide coverage of the ongoing conflict in Syria that I'm just not seeing anywhere else. Instead of dismissing Al Jazeera as propagandists, we need to ask why North American media lag so obviously behind.

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  3. Instead of dismissing Al Jazeera as propagandists, we need to ask why North American media lag so obviously behind.

    You're right to question my dismissing Al Jazeera as simple propagandists. They're certainly not simple. But I don't trust them and their motivations any more than I trust any other news organization these days.

    And you're right, we should ask why North American media lag so far behind.

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