Sunday, January 25, 2009

a small object lesson on the past decade

Jason Scott tells a sad tale of how AOL eliminated a whole mass of little Web sites and then erased all traces of their content. (Readers with long memories will recall the shutdown of Dave Winer's blog farm.) What follows showed the best and worst of Internet culture - Scott called for volunteers to start a rapid reaction group aiming to respond to similar incidents and archive the lot (AOL doesn't let spider their stuff), and he got so many offers of help he was able to make Archive Team operational within a week.

Unfortunately he was also inundated with wankers demanding to know what was wrong with deleting a ton of other people's stuff - didn't they make backups? - and similar tiresome Bush-era bollocks. IT libertarians, I've spit'em. I don't know where this thinking came from - but whether it was a cause of the low, dishonest decade or a symptom, it was certainly of the times. I think of it as the Human Shield Party - whatever happens, blame the victims.

Strangely enough, the law has always been quite clear that it doesn't matter if someone else doesn't have insurance, you're still not allowed to set fire to their house. I commend this. Similarly, international humanitarian law doesn't give you an out because the enemy put the civilians there; especially because this is very easy to say. Further, if you are concerned that your enemy is hoping you'll fire artillery into a school-ful of refugees and thus make everyone else despise you, the best solution is not actually to give them what they want.

Strangely, again, in every other branch of strategy, avoiding doing what the enemy wants is not controversial. After all, the best way of convincing people of the merits of a libertarian society is not to behave in exactly the way they fear you would behave in such a state.


Kevin Carson said...

AOL is a company that some people hired to do stuff, and then didn't do it. I'm guessing that in an ordinary case of wage labor where something similar happened (the wage-worker refused to follow orders) the right-wing libertarians would be up in arms. No wonder so many people suspect that all the talk about free markets, contracts, etc.--as such--is just a bunch of packaging, and libertarianism's real sympathies are simply for the interests of business.

Anonymous said...

For a group who supposedly believe in the inviolability of private property, libertarians show an alarming willingness to let big property eat up little property at will (All property owners are equal but some are more equal than others). Libertarianism in practice, like so many political doctrines, seems to come down simply to a form of power worship.

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