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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] FSF's communication, ethical discussion in con


From: J.B. Nicholson-Owens
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] FSF's communication, ethical discussion in consumerism, why software freedom matters
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2015 21:56:04 -0500
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address@hidden wrote:
I suspect the same thing. Can you elaborate a bit more on why you think
this is the case? Is there academic discussion on the definition of
consumerism and the ethics (or lack thereof) behind it?? I'd love to
read about this.

I suggest the work of Noam Chomsky, specifically Chomsky & Herman's "Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media" and the 1992 documentary "Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media" based on the Chomsky & Herman book.

I also recommend "The Corporation", a 2003 documentary. Chomsky is among the interviewees in "The Corporation" but there are plenty of other people who are featured more. The 2-disc DVD of "The Corporation" has many extras you will want to see. And the commentary track is also worth hearing, particularly when Joel Bakan explains how limited CEO Ray Anderson (from Interface carpet and fabric) is in what he can say and do. The extras add to the information you'll get from the documentary. Each time I see "The Corporation" I'm reminded of how well put-together it is and how many great stories there are to learn from. I think you'll find each story is worth digging into on its own.

I'll get into some details on one story as an example: The details of one story are the subject of a book, "IBM and the Holocaust" describe the details of how one of IBM's earliest customers, the Nazis, dealt with what was referred to as a "traffic management" problem -- keeping track of each prisoner's reason for being in the Nazi death camps (gypsy, jew, homosexual, communist, etc.), what fate had been assigned to them (a bullet to the head/the gas chambers, manual labor, suicide, etc.). And IBM had a solution: a device that used punch cards (Hollerith cards) and a custom-designed code that would allow fast and accurate tabulation of the cards to keep track of the data describing all of these prisoners. And back then the tabulation devices were huge and immobile; any maintenance work of any kind required an on-site visit. So IBM sent out technicians to program the system, and IBM was the exclusive provider of the cards (by the millions). The consultation profits were recovered by IBM after the war. IBM, of course, wants us to believe they didn't know what their customers were doing with the IBM equipment. But back then, as Peter Drucker points out, IBM only had very few customers. It's not hard to know what each customer is doing with so few units in the field. Keep these details in mind when you hear the IBM rep talk about how "these particular accusations have been discredited". I've used a clip of this documentary in a post commenting on a recent "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" segment in http://www.digitalcitizen.info/2015/03/10/coca-colas-fanta-history-is-no-mistake-corporations-have-propped-up-fascists-for-a-long-time/. You can see Howard Zinn, Chomsky, Edwin Black (author of "IBM and the Holocaust"), and Michael Moore talking about collusion between states, corporations, and fascist dictatorships.

And Volkswagen seems to do nothing but exist on the wrong side of history: allying with Nazi Germany in the '40's, cheating environmental regulations since at least 2009. Who knows what else they do that we're not yet wise to. But that's another story. I get into how free software fits into this in http://www.digitalcitizen.info/2015/09/20/vws-fraudulent-software-points-to-need-for-copylefted-free-software/

I find these stories very telling about how business wants consumers to be quiet, paying (with money and/or freedom), and docile. As Drucker says of Tom Watson Sr. (founding CEO of IBM), Watson probably did know what Hitler was doing with the IBM equipment but "Watson didn't want to do it not because it was immoral or not, but because Watson has a very keen sense of public relations, thought it risky".

I confess I didn't know about this person, but reading your message, and
reading his Wikipedia page, I think I should really check out his work.
Do you have specific recommendations on which of his talks to listen to
first?

I recommend his multipart lecture called "Snowden and the Future" at http://snowdenandthefuture.info/ (transcripts and recordings are all there). All parts of the lecture are worth your time in repeated listenings or readings. But I draw your attention particularly to the segment about the difference between transactional law between two parties and environmental law where acceptable minimum standards are established and defended. This plays a critical distinction when considering services such as outsourcing one's email to another party versus running one's own email server. This also helps us understand why Moglen is a backer of the FreedomBox project. Moglen brings his 'A' game all the time.



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