• http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I keep wanting to write you a long message on the topic, but worry you’ll be alienated or annoyed by my intense cynicism, bitterness, and frustration, regarding the subject matter.

    Much of what you say in this interview I’d *paraphrase* as “If we had a Mass Movement, it would be great … and maybe “The Internet” will show us how”. The problem here is that, yes, indeed, it would be great if we had a Mass Movement, but those can’t just be conjured up. It’s an “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”. And I’d argue “The Internet” as any sort of solution is way, way oversold, in part because many people (present company excepted) have a “corrupt” manipulative interest in doing so.

    In fact, just for an example, I’d say the ability of “The Internet” to increase offshoring and aid union-busting is a far greater negative political impact than improving data used by think-tankers. And a data effect cuts both ways, it might just feed into a political Noise Machine hungry for pseudo-scandal.

    Again, I sympathize with you, I really do. But I worry the effort will be twisted into web-evangelist hucksterism – you’re surrounded by a lot of people who have selling that as their specialty, and making it sound as attractive as possible.

  • http://gnuosphere.wordpress.com Peter Rock

    I don’t think Lessig is saying the Internet is our savior or even “a solution”. I think Lessig is saying that communication and access to sociopolitical and economic facts is key and the Internet is a very useful – perhaps the most useful – tool available to humanity in regard to those areas. Television and radio are useful. Pen and paper is useful. Libraries are useful. And while all of these can prove superior on any given day and under any given circumstance, in general they pale in comparison when juxtaposed with the net.

    To be honest, the part of the interview that stood out to me the most was the very last line by the interviewer…

    “And You think it will happen. Thanks for coming.”

    Umm, no. Larry has no idea if it will or won’t – he’s not a fortune teller. But it won’t happen so long as we say “Hey, there’s this guy Lessig who thinks the world can become a better place. I wish him the best.” This depends on us and the fact is that we should use, among many things, the net. We are the solution and the net is the most useful technological tool we have – so long as it’s free.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I should probably have started out with this disclaimer:

    “Disclaimer: This is a short comment, not an extended treatise. As such, it may use approximations, simplifications, compressions, generalizations, and omit extensively qualified phrasing, all in the service of conveying an idea in a small number of words. Please keep that in mind when making objections.”

    Peter, what I am saying in response is that it’s very easy – and often very corrupt – to focus on that “tool” to completely ridiculous extremes, and to ignore that opponents can use that tool too, so the overall effect may not even be favorable. You’re making exactly that error, not considering that monied propagandists, political agenda-pushers, amoral marketers, etc., all can use The Internet too (arguably better than you!).

  • Jim Tobias

    Perhaps there is no need to create a new or separate “Mass Movement”. Rather the point is to provide an already existing — even thriving — movement with a better theoretical underpinning. In the US at least, movements are too often focused on immediate action and poorly prepared for long struggles. Some of the intellectual material in this interview and the 1-hour lecture would provide excellent grounding and context for what many are already ready to act upon.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein
  • http://gnuosphere.wordpress.com Peter Rock

    Seth, I just stated that we are the solution and that a free Internet – though indispensably useful – is just a tool. How is this a “ridiculous extreme”?

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Peter, I was responding to the aspect of “perhaps the most useful – tool available to humanity”. In fact, I have extreme and severe doubts that the statement is true, except in a comparatively trivial way. In specific, I don’t think “access to sociopolitical and economic facts is key”, taking that as an oft-seen fallacy that data-availability is sufficient. (bluntly, it doesn’t matter how accuracte you are, if you don’t get heard). The following may not be your argument, but to try to address something that is very common (because this is a little comment box and I’m trying to anticipate common arguments in order to get the concepts across quickly before people stop reading if they haven’t already done so), I think there’s far too much of a fixation on generating data, to the exclusion of everything else afterwards.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    [Trying again, since earlier comment was caught in spamtrap]

    Peter, I was responding to the aspect of “perhaps the most useful – tool available to humanity”. In fact, I have extreme and severe doubts that the statement is true, except in a comparatively trivial way. In specific, I don’t think “access to sociopolitical and economic facts is key”, taking that as an oft-seen fallacy that data-availability is sufficient. (bluntly, it doesn’t matter how accuracte you are, if you don’t get heard). The following may not be your argument, but to try to address something that is very common (because this is a little comment box and I’m trying to anticipate common arguments in order to get the concepts across quickly before people stop reading if they haven’t already done so), I think there’s far too much of a fixation on generating data, to the exclusion of everything else afterwards.

  • http://www.roadknightlabs.com Steve

    I’m afraid I must agree with Seth.
    Setting a tool down in front of somebody doesn’t guarantee they’re going to use it. You often have to show an application for it and encourage them to use it before anything really happens. There are few place in the world where people don’t have initiative and drive beaten(literally or figuratively) out of them at an early age.

    There has historically been an overwhelming bias in Development programs, for example, towards providing the tools to make people’s lives better $THIS_WAY with the blind assumption that there are throngs of people hungrily awaiting the arrival of said tools to put into immediate use. This is rarely the case.
    The reason that some ICT programs in Africa are only now succeeding is because people have finally realized that you have to provide some sort of training to people at large along with providing the tools(all after having decided whether they want the tools in the first place).

  • Luther Blissett

    Nice advert for Google, the Professor’s sponsors, as Seth has pointed out.

    http://www.law.stanford.edu/news/pr/48/

    Google Inc. Pledges $2M to Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society
    November 28, 2006

    Stanford Law School today announced that Google Inc. has pledged to contribute $2M to help fund the Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at the law school. The Center, founded in 2000 and located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is a public interest technology law and policy program focused on emerging technologies and the law. The collaboration of Google and CIS seeks to establish a balance between the right to access and use information and the ownership of information.

    Did they get their money’s worth?

    And does transparency doesn’t apply to Anti-Corruption Crusaders?

  • http://gnuosphere.wordpress.com Peter Rock

    Seth:

    “bluntly, it doesn’t matter how accuracte you are, if you don’t get heard

    Yeah. When I said, “I think Lessig is saying that communication and access to [...]“, by “communication” I meant getting heard and hearing.

  • http://blog.davidkaspar.com David Kaspar

    Excellent interview… thank you for bringing your cause to Scandinavia… and good luck with it!

  • http://usablesecurity.com/ Ping

    Larry, thank you for posting this lecture. I have thought a fair amount about this problem, as many people surely have, and it pains me to see governments repeatedly fail at simple logical reasoning, to see information distorted and decision-making processes distorted as they are. There are so many parts to this problem: the legislative system, elections, lobbying, and media reporting are popular political targets. But there is also the inability to grasp data (occasionally, brilliant instances of information visualization stand out), to correct errors (we are still a long way from effective public annotation and fact-checking of political statements and news articles), and to understand the structure of arguments (instead, the same arguments are repeated again and again in tedious prose).

    I am confused by one of your points. The retroactive extension of copyrights is one of the “easy cases” you mentioned — a case where the answer should be obvious. But was it not the Supreme Court that got this one wrong — the same Supreme Court that you present as an example of an institution that has successfully resisted corruption? What went wrong here?

  • Bob Babione

    In the present system, are taxpayers being squeezed by congress people to fund their incumbency? This occurs to me after watching the October 19, 2007, installment of the Bill Moyers Journal.

    We had the K Street project, “a Republican initiative to integrate lobbyists into the political power structure, had been linked to the current scandal with lobbyist Jack Abramoff,” at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5148982, NPR, January 11, 2006.

    The Moyers broadcast explored the public relations efforts of Blackwater, which faces questions about its security contract in Iraq. From the transcript:

    BILL MOYERS: So what was and wasn’t said in this spectacle of spin? For some answers we turn to a one-man truth squad who has been reporting on Blackwater and Erik Prince’s influence. Jeremy Scahill is an independent investigative journalist who wrote this recent bestselling book: Blackwater: The Rise Of The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

    Jeremy Scahill is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute. He’s reported from Iraq, the Balkans and Nigeria, among other places, he’s a co-winner of the George Polk Award For Investigative Reporting. .. Good to see you.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Thanks, Bill.

    BILL MOYERS:: From watching the [Prince] interviews, what was the message that you think Prince was trying to get out? * * *

    JEREMY SCAHILL: I think it’s really scary. I mean, I think that the U.S. government right now is in the midst of its most radical privatization agenda. Seventy percent of the national intelligence budget is farmed out to the private sector. We have more contractors than soldiers occupying Iraq …

    JEREMY SCAHILL:What I see in the bigger picture here is what the real revolution is in terms of U.S. politics is that they’re taking billions of dollars in public money. And they’re privatizing it.

    You know, the Pentagon can’t give campaign contributions. The State Department can’t give campaign contributions. Blackwater’s executives can give contributions. DynCore’s, Ratheon, Northrop Grumman. And so what they’re doing is, they’re taking billions of dollars. And it’s making its way back into the campaign coffers of the very politicians that make the meteoric ascent of these companies possible. I really view this through the lens of it tearing away at the fabric of American democracy as well.

    BILL MOYERS:Jeremy Scahill, thank you very much for joining me and for writing BLACKWATER: THE RISE OF THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL MERCENARY ARMY.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: My pleasure, Bill.

  • Barry Marcus

    In order for political bribery to work the donee (i.e. office holder or seeker) must be aware of: (a) The identity of the donor (i.e. special interest contributor) and; (b) The magnitude of the donation (i.e. the bribe). With this information the donee can assess the risk/reward of the bribe and can fashion (i.e. negotiate) the payback (i.e. the earmark of special legislation). Unfortunately, our political system lends itself to this type of bribery which enjoys some level of legality. It encourages politicians whose desire to serve the public is not well grounded in moral integrity and engenders apathy and cynicism in the rest of us. (The President enjoys a low public approval rating and Congress enjoys an even lower approval rating, unrelated to party affiliation.) Can we mount a non-partisan public effort to correct these institutional flaws by, for example, using the internet to develop public support for a referendum that: (a) Requires all significant political contributions to pass through a blind trust administered by the Justice Dept. pursuant to criminally sanctioned requirements of confidentiality and non-disclosure; and (b) Recognizes the illegality of “earmarking” taxpayer funds for special interest benefit without Congressional approval (as is required by the Constitution and by the oath of office of the President and each member of Congress) ? These laws would encourage a better class of individual to run for public office and would substantially lessen the cost of political campaigns.

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    Can we mount a non-partisan public effort to correct these institutional flaws by, for example, using the internet to develop public support for a referendum that: (a) Requires all significant political contributions to pass through a blind trust administered by the Justice Dept. pursuant to criminally sanctioned requirements of confidentiality and non-disclosure

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