Larry Lessig, Demagogue?

by on April 30, 2008 · 92 comments

Tom Sydnor and Richard Bennett have both made a big deal of the fact that Larry Lessig is purportedly a demogogue. Richard, for example, says:

It’s an error to consider Lessig a serious scholar with serious views about serious issues. He’s a performer/demagogue who will latch onto any issue that he can use to promote the Lessig brand.

At the Stanford FCC hearing, he portrayed capitalism as a law of the jungle, in pictures of tigers eating prey. What intellectual critique if appropriate to refute that point of view, a picture of George Soros writing a fat check to Free Press so they can bus partisans to the hearing?

Now as it happens, I watched Lessig’s Stanford presentation, so I know what Richard is referring to here. And while this characterization is not wrong, exactly, it’s certainly not a fair summary of Lessig’s point. Here’s what he actually said:

If we had right policy, I don’t think that we would be talking about questions of trust. I don’t think the Department of Justice after the IBM case was talking about whether we trust IBM, or trust Microsoft, or trust Google. We don’t talk about trusting a company just like you don’t talk about trusting a tiger, even though the brand management for tigers has very cute images that they try to sell you on how beautiful and wonderful the tiger is.

If you looked at that picture and you thought to yourself the great thing for my child to do would be to play with that tiger you’d be a fool because a tiger has a nature. The nature is not one you trust with your child. And likewise, a company has a nature, and thank god it does. Its nature is to produce economic value and wealth for its shareholders. We don’t trust it to follow good public policy. We trust it to follow that objective. Public policy is designed to make it profitable for them to behave in a way that serves the objectives of public policy, in this case the objective of an open, neutral network. It makes it more profitable for them to behave than to misbehave.


This point, as far as it goes, is absolutely right. If we set up the broadband marketplace poorly, so that corporations have incentives to behave in ways that harm their customers, they will do so. This, for example, was the story of most transportation markets in the 20th century–trucking, railroad and airline companies were able to use the power of the ICC and CAB to form cartels for their own benefit at the expense of consumers. This is why we need to make sure our markets are set up in a way that corporations are led by their own self-interest to do what’s in the best interests of customers. The disagreement between people like Lessig and TLF contributors is that we have different opinions about the best way (markets vs. regulations) to hold companies accountable.

Now of course what Lessig is missing here is that regulatory bodies also have a nature. Indeed, one of the greatest economists of the 20th century, made this point with the tiger’s smaller, fuzzier cousin:

What would you think of someone who said I would like to have a cat, provided it barked? Yet your statement that you favor an FDA provided that it behaves as you believe desirable is precisely equivalent. The biological laws that specify the characteristics of cats are no more rigid than the political laws that specify the behavior of governmental agencies once they are established. The way the FDA now behaves, and the adverse consequences, are not an accident, not a result of an easily corrected human mistake, but a consequence of its constitution in precisely the same way that a meow is related to the constitution of a cat. As a natural scientist, you recognize that you cannot assign characteristics at will to chemical or biological entities, cannot demand that cats bark or water burn. Why do you suppose the situation is different in the social sciences?

Notice that Lessig and Friedman are drawing identical analogies between social institutions and fuzzy animals. And the basic point of their analogies is identical: just as particular kinds of animals have particular characteristics that can’t be changed, so too do human institutions (corporations in Lessig’s case, government agencies in Friedman’s). When making policy, we largely have to take human nature and human institutions as they are, rather than wishing vainly that we could change human nature and cause human institutions to begin behaving in ways contrary to their nature.

Now, I obviously come down more on Friedman’s side than Lessig when it comes to questions of regulating the telecom sector. But there’s nothing remotely objectionable about Lessig’s tiger analogy, and to claim that Lessig “portrayed capitalism as a law of the jungle” is obscurantism at best. Lessig has some coherent, if often flawed, ideas about telecom policy. Let’s take those ideas seriously and explain what’s wrong with them. It only makes us look foolish to pretend he’s Michael Moore with tenure.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I don’t believe I’ve ever said Lessig is a “failed academic.” He has tenure at Stanford, which would imply success by the relevant standard. What I have argued is that he’s not practicing scholarship presently, having given himself over completely to Pied Piping. I even said that Pre-Berkman, he was on the road to a respectable career.

    And Seth, I don’t mind people saying capitalism is the law of the jungle per se; it’s not an inapt metaphor. I have a problem with people communicating that thought *in pictures* to concretize a metaphor in the weak minds of an audience organized and bussed-in by the astroturf Free Press organization for the sole purpose of salivating over such images and reacting to them in a lynch-mob-like manner.

  • http://www.juliansanchez.com Julian Sanchez

    This is profoundly ridiculous. See also, for instance, “Fidelity in Translation,” which should pop up if you Google it. To question, with a straight face, whether Lessig is widely recognized by his peers (whether they agree with him or not) as an important and influential legal scholar, apart from any of his popular work, is just to reveal that you don’t know anything about contemporary legal scholarship. Seriously, stop digging.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I don’t know what you read, Julian, but I’ve seen a reference or two to a source in my reading that the author felt he had to deal with even though the task was unpleasant. Lessig was the first to try and draw policy implications from the end-to-end model of networking, for example. It’s an idiotic thing to do, but in the infancy of cyberlaw nobody knew that so they had to deal with it. For example.

    Does that mean Lessig is respected and revered, or simply a pest who happened to stake out a claim to a certain range of issues before anyone else because of his basic charlatanism? One can’t be a very good charlatan without the ability to fool lots of people, and that’s a gift Lessig has in spades.

    The range of citations, in other words, doesn’t refute the argument that Lessig is essentially a demagogue, if anything it shows that he’s a very good one.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    That’s easy, Luis: write a lot of popular books, you get cited a lot. Lessig didn’t make the top 10 in any category, because he works them all. The man is certainly productive, I’ll give him that. But it’s also a commentary on the state of legal scholarship these days, where even blog posts are cited by the Supreme Court from time to time. For goodness sakes, I’ve been cited in legal briefs, and I’m not even a lawyer, let alone a leading one.

    And to ole Timon, it’s not clear what you’re saying: do you believe all those folks agree with Lessig, or simply that they’ve mentioned him? The ones I’m most familiar with would only have treated him as a pest that had to be swatted down so they could get on with their serious work. The man has certainly shaped the outlines of some of the great questions of the day, just not in a good way. Would there even be a discussion about net neutrality without Lessig’s role as Pied Piper?

  • Timon

    They filed amicus briefs in his support in Eldred, since they didn’t have the benefit of your insights to guide them.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    And what did the Supremes have to say about Lessig’s arguments in that case? I can remind you if you’ve forgotten.

  • http://www.juliansanchez.com Julian Sanchez

    Well, look, the Internet makes it easy for you to satisfy your curiosity. Pick a handful of eminent legal scholars at top law schools—especially ones who work in the areas were Lessig is frequently cited. Maybe Akhil Amar, Larry Tribe, Richard Epstein, hell, just go to the faculty directories at the top schools and choose some familiar names. Then send them an e-mail politely asking if they can reply, in a quick sentence or two, whether they think it’s fair to say that Lessig is regarded as an important, original, and serious legal academic — regardless of whether they personally agree with his views.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2007/08/18/its-only-censorship-so-whats-the-problem/ enigma_foundry

    At the Stanford FCC hearing, he portrayed capitalism as a law of the jungle, in pictures of tigers eating prey. What intellectual critique if appropriate to refute that point of view, a picture of George Soros writing a fat check to Free Press so they can bus partisans to the hearing?

    Richard, taking the high road again, making an essentially populist appeal.

    In any case, Tim thanks for the refutation; I do really decry the loss of civility in public discourse, and think that it should be remarked upon more often. To use the word demagogue seems very unfair, and it is quite right you should take someone to task for using, essentially hate speech.

    http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2006/12/31/civility-where-art-thou/

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Here we go, the court’s opinion that Timon doesn’t want you to see: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/02pdf/01

    It was a 7-2 opinion, with Stevens and Breyer dissenting on technical grounds. Not even close, as they say in baseball.

  • Timon

    I believe the court said that the law was stupid and economically counter-productive, but not unconstitutional. You’ll have a hell of a time finding any economist who disagrees with the first part of that formulation, and as to the latter Breyer put it well (by his lowish standard): “The majority believes these conclusions rest upon practical judgments that at most suggest the statute is unwise, not that it is unconstitutional. Legal distinctions, however, are often matters of degree. … And in this case the failings of degree are so serious that they amount to failings of constitutional kind.”

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis

    Richard: I expected a much more entertaining rebuttal to that point; I’m disappointed. But you can’t seriously expect to get away with saying ‘he’s not a serious academic’ and then ignoring the obvious, quantitatively measurable fact that academics think he’s extremely important by… insulting academia. Take your pick; either academia matters (in which case calling him a failure as an academic is important, but measurably wrong) or academia doesn’t matter since they’ll cite anybody (in which case why are you spending so much time and energy asserting that he’s a failed academic? Shouldn’t he then be measured by his success as a popular author and publicizer of ideas instead?)

    I’m amused too by the dismissal of his writing as ‘being all over the place’, when, if you’ve actually read it, it is only in two areas (constitutional structure and IP/cyberlaw), and that most modern academics think excellence in multiple fields of study is a sign of a first-class mind.

    Also, I’m still waiting for the debunking of the quality of the actual articles, the ones he got tenure for, and the ones you claimed to be looking for, since, you know, I pointed them out.

    This is not to say that Lessig is not a publicity hound; he obviously is. But that is not mutually exclusive of being an excellent scholar (which he also obviously is), nor is it necessarily a bad thing to seek publicity when you’re trying to get important ideas out to the public. Unless, of course, they are ideas you disagree with, apparently.

  • TLM

    Demagogue: A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace. Sounds spot on to me.

    Lessig is form over substance. He has the patina of academic credibility only because he connects with the kiddos by delivering bite-sized chunks of populist, anti-corporate gibberish. He’s the PERFECT “academic” for the YouTube generation because he’s able to cleverly reduce serious public policy discussion to histrionic sound bites and silly one word Power Point slides that more often than not equate his opponents either as “big telecom”, “big Hollywood”, or “big media”.

    “Big Internet” (e.g. Google) was right smart to latch on to him and throw him millions of dollars to carry their water. He understands their audience perfectly: YouTube vids of kids lighting their farts on fire, chick fights, Jesus getting smacked by a bus. This is Lessig’s free “culture”… millions and millions of digital sharecroppers giving their IP away for free so the Google’s of the world can cash in by advertising around it. It’s brilliant.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    > “Would there even be a discussion about net neutrality without Lessig’s role as Pied Piper?”

    Oh, c’mon. This is getting into pure demonization territory. Yes, there would, because it’s driven by a big fight between megamoney corporations – you know, that capitalism (in the real world) that Lessig supposedly committed a cardinal sin which is sufficient to cast him out in your eyes when he made the tiger comparison.

    Look at how absurd this is getting – he made a comparison which seems to be more or less correct, to the extent that one can see it at work in manipulation over Net Neutrality (granted, not quite the way he intended, but still more right than wrong). You denounce him him for the observation, which leaves you with the issue itself – and so then you denounce HIM as the cause of it too! This is finding a Great Satan to explain all the evils of the world (It’s not the fault of God, I mean, capitalism, it’s his evil twin the Devil, I mean, Lawrence Lessig).

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis

    Ah, yes, you’re right. Clearly I (and most constitutional scholars) were suckered in by the ‘bite size’ 44 pages of dense academic prose of Reading the Constitution in Cyberspace, not to mention the 103 page histrionic sound bite that is Fidelity in Translation. I’ll be more careful next time before I give someone the patina of academic credibility.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis

    And obviously he lost Eldred; we know that. I’m not seeing how that makes him a demagogue, or a failure as an academic, or a bad person. At most it makes him someone who you wouldn’t want to have arguing your case at the Supreme Court, which puts him in good company with a long list of good people who’ve lost Supreme Court cases (often in part by taking them to the court before contemporary social norms caught up with them.)

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I don’t believe I’ve ever said Lessig is a “failed academic.” He has tenure at Stanford, which would imply success by the relevant standard. What I have argued is that he’s not practicing scholarship presently, having given himself over completely to Pied Piping. I even said that Pre-Berkman, he was on the road to a respectable career.

    And Seth, I don’t mind people saying capitalism is the law of the jungle per se; it’s not an inapt metaphor. I have a problem with people communicating that thought *in pictures* to concretize a metaphor in the weak minds of an audience organized and bussed-in by the astroturf Free Press organization for the sole purpose of salivating over such images and reacting to them in a lynch-mob-like manner.

  • http://www.juliansanchez.com Julian Sanchez

    This is profoundly ridiculous. See also, for instance, “Fidelity in Translation,” which should pop up if you Google it. To question, with a straight face, whether Lessig is widely recognized by his peers (whether they agree with him or not) as an important and influential legal scholar, apart from any of his popular work, is just to reveal that you don’t know anything about contemporary legal scholarship. Seriously, stop digging.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I don’t know what you read, Julian, but I’ve seen a reference or two to a source in my reading that the author felt he had to deal with even though the task was unpleasant. Lessig was the first to try and draw policy implications from the end-to-end model of networking, for example. It’s an idiotic thing to do, but in the infancy of cyberlaw nobody knew that so they had to deal with it. For example.

    Does that mean Lessig is respected and revered, or simply a pest who happened to stake out a claim to a certain range of issues before anyone else because of his basic charlatanism? One can’t be a very good charlatan without the ability to fool lots of people, and that’s a gift Lessig has in spades.

    The range of citations, in other words, doesn’t refute the argument that Lessig is essentially a demagogue, if anything it shows that he’s a very good one.

  • http://www.juliansanchez.com Julian Sanchez

    Well, look, the Internet makes it easy for you to satisfy your curiosity. Pick a handful of eminent legal scholars at top law schools—especially ones who work in the areas were Lessig is frequently cited. Maybe Akhil Amar, Larry Tribe, Richard Epstein, hell, just go to the faculty directories at the top schools and choose some familiar names. Then send them an e-mail politely asking if they can reply, in a quick sentence or two, whether they think it’s fair to say that Lessig is regarded as an important, original, and serious legal academic — regardless of whether they personally agree with his views.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    At the Stanford FCC hearing, he portrayed capitalism as a law of the jungle, in pictures of tigers eating prey. What intellectual critique if appropriate to refute that point of view, a picture of George Soros writing a fat check to Free Press so they can bus partisans to the hearing?

    Richard, taking the high road again, making an essentially populist appeal.

    In any case, Tim thanks for the refutation; I do really decry the loss of civility in public discourse, and think that it should be remarked upon more often. To use the word demagogue seems very unfair, and it is quite right you should take someone to task for using, essentially hate speech.

    http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2006/12/31/c

  • TLM

    Demagogue: A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace. Sounds spot on to me.

    Lessig is form over substance. He has the patina of academic credibility only because he connects with the kiddos by delivering bite-sized chunks of populist, anti-corporate gibberish. He’s the PERFECT “academic” for the YouTube generation because he’s able to cleverly reduce serious public policy discussion to histrionic sound bites and silly one word Power Point slides that more often than not equate his opponents either as “big telecom”, “big Hollywood”, or “big media”.

    “Big Internet” (e.g. Google) was right smart to latch on to him and throw him millions of dollars to carry their water. He understands their audience perfectly: YouTube vids of kids lighting their farts on fire, chick fights, Jesus getting smacked by a bus. This is Lessig’s free “culture”… millions and millions of digital sharecroppers giving their IP away for free so the Google’s of the world can cash in by advertising around it. It’s brilliant.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Richard: “I have a problem with people communicating that thought *in pictures* to concretize a metaphor …”

    Would have have been similarly harsh on someone who illustrated “bandwidth hog” with a picture of an enormous literal pig pushing aside many smaller animals from food?

    I think you’re also engaging “presentism”, by not taking account how much silliness there was in net discussions at the time Lessig was writing his early material. Many other people were trying to draw policy implications from the Internet, usually utterly absurd (still waiting for cypherpunk cryptoanarchy …).

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis

    Ah, yes, you’re right. Clearly I (and most constitutional scholars) were suckered in by the ‘bite size’ 44 pages of dense academic prose of Reading the Constitution in Cyberspace, not to mention the 103 page histrionic sound bite that is Fidelity in Translation. I’ll be more careful next time before I give someone the patina of academic credibility.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Richard: “I have a problem with people communicating that thought *in pictures* to concretize a metaphor …”

    Would have have been similarly harsh on someone who illustrated “bandwidth hog” with a picture of an enormous literal pig pushing aside many smaller animals from food?

    I think you’re also engaging “presentism”, by not taking account how much silliness there was in net discussions at the time Lessig was writing his early material. Many other people were trying to draw policy implications from the Internet, usually utterly absurd (still waiting for cypherpunk cryptoanarchy …).

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Seth, Lessig didn’t just characterize rapacious monopolists with his charming tiger pictures, he characterized all businesses that way. So it would be like characterizing all Internet users as hogs, and that would be unfair.

    While I can see simplifying the issues a bit for the pedestrian audience, the emotional manipulation is out of place at an FCC hearing, as well as opportunistic.

    Julian, the more relevant test of Lessig’s status would be to check the heart rates of people who’d just attended one of his Nuremberg Rally performances. The appeal is emotional, not intellectual.

    Lessig appeals to lawyers by claiming to understand the Internet, which excites them into thinking they can too, just by reading his (rather awful) books on technology, so there’s a symmetry here.

    So even if I were to concede your point that Lessig is an influential figure in legal circles (and not merely reviled as a charlatan by most of them,) the fact still remains that he passes off a defective analysis of technology to audiences by dressing up an essentially childish antipathy for authority in dumbed-down sound bites and emotional manipulation.

    The fear of authority obviously endears him to vulgar libertarians (i.e., teenagers who’ve just read Ayn Rand and don’t want to clean their rooms when mom tells them to,) but its origins are as transparent as its limits.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Seth, Lessig didn’t just characterize rapacious monopolists with his charming tiger pictures, he characterized all businesses that way. So it would be like characterizing all Internet users as hogs, and that would be unfair.

    While I can see simplifying the issues a bit for the pedestrian audience, the emotional manipulation is out of place at an FCC hearing, as well as opportunistic.

    Julian, the more relevant test of Lessig’s status would be to check the heart rates of people who’d just attended one of his Nuremberg Rally performances. The appeal is emotional, not intellectual.

    Lessig appeals to lawyers by claiming to understand the Internet, which excites them into thinking they can too, just by reading his (rather awful) books on technology, so there’s a symmetry here.

    So even if I were to concede your point that Lessig is an influential figure in legal circles (and not merely reviled as a charlatan by most of them,) the fact still remains that he passes off a defective analysis of technology to audiences by dressing up an essentially childish antipathy for authority in dumbed-down sound bites and emotional manipulation.

    The fear of authority obviously endears him to vulgar libertarians (i.e., teenagers who’ve just read Ayn Rand and don’t want to clean their rooms when mom tells them to,) but its origins are as transparent as its limits.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Richard, I listened now to the part where Lessig shows the tiger slide. He says:

    “You don’t talk about trusting a company, just like you don’t talk about trusting a tiger, even though the brand management for tigers has very cute images that they try to sell you on, how beautiful and wonderful the tiger is.”

    And should I go digging for an all-p2p-users-are-pirates statement from someone?

    I see this over and over again in discussions – Lessig makes a moderate statement, one not extreme, but does imply business and property have downsides. Libertarian or conservative critics go absolutely NUTS. “HE SAID …!!!”. They really want to fight straw-Lessig, the radical communist who wants to destroy capitalism and abolish private property.

    And there’s no obligation to agree with everything real-Lessig says in order to think straw-Lessig is nonsense.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Richard, I listened now to the part where Lessig shows the tiger slide. He says:

    “You don’t talk about trusting a company, just like you don’t talk about trusting a tiger, even though the brand management for tigers has very cute images that they try to sell you on, how beautiful and wonderful the tiger is.”

    And should I go digging for an all-p2p-users-are-pirates statement from someone?

    I see this over and over again in discussions – Lessig makes a moderate statement, one not extreme, but does imply business and property have downsides. Libertarian or conservative critics go absolutely NUTS. “HE SAID …!!!”. They really want to fight straw-Lessig, the radical communist who wants to destroy capitalism and abolish private property.

    And there’s no obligation to agree with everything real-Lessig says in order to think straw-Lessig is nonsense.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    View the image in context, Seth. Lessig had already said that firms constantly conspire to screw the public and avoid competition, etc. So the Lessig argument for E2E-based regulation, which he’s still making today and isn’t simply a historical artifact, goes like this: “We need to enact a strict E2E law, otherwise the capitalists will use their control of the Internet to screw the People. They’ll stop all of our illegal downloads and put us on the dirt roads and eat us like tigers eat their prey. They can’t help it, it’s their nature.”

    There are a rather large set of alternatives to E2E laws for the purposes of protecting the public from the firms, and there’s significant reason to doubt an E2E law would protect anyone other than Google in any case.

    Lessig’s call for an E2E law is extreme, and it’s not a strawman.

    And BTW, how would one go about “proving” that any particular so-and-so is a demagogue? It can be done in this case, but I’d like to offer the right kind of proof.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    View the image in context, Seth. Lessig had already said that firms constantly conspire to screw the public and avoid competition, etc. So the Lessig argument for E2E-based regulation, which he’s still making today and isn’t simply a historical artifact, goes like this: “We need to enact a strict E2E law, otherwise the capitalists will use their control of the Internet to screw the People. They’ll stop all of our illegal downloads and put us on the dirt roads and eat us like tigers eat their prey. They can’t help it, it’s their nature.”

    There are a rather large set of alternatives to E2E laws for the purposes of protecting the public from the firms, and there’s significant reason to doubt an E2E law would protect anyone other than Google in any case.

    Lessig’s call for an E2E law is extreme, and it’s not a strawman.

    And BTW, how would one go about “proving” that any particular so-and-so is a demagogue? It can be done in this case, but I’d like to offer the right kind of proof.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Umm, Richard, how many people on the anti-NN side have been saying roughly:

    “ISP’s need to enact strict traffic shaping, otherwise the P2P start-ups will screw the Internet. They’ll overrun ISP’s with illegal downloads and put us on the dirt roads and eat us like tigers eat their prey. They can’t help it, it’s their nature.”

    And arguably this whole thing started because Google and similar think that the teleco’s will eat them alive like tigers – and they (Google/etc.) have the money to make a fuss over it.

    So I find it hard to see why Lessig gets such attack for saying basically what everyone else is saying (with certain parameters shifted, of course!).

    In fact, I don’t think Lessig is wrong on the “nature” point – I think he’s mis-focused about the prey. The People simply aren’t worth it on that scale, like tigers don’t go trying to eat ants.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I’m less concerned with that Lessig says that with the way he says it. If he were to present his case like a normal, rational, human being, it would be easier to examine what’s right and what’s wrong about it, but because he plays to the mob’s basest sentiments, rational critique of the Lessig program is more or less impossible.

    Most of the NN critics I’ve read, and the ones I communicate with most frequently, argue their case based on facts and logic, not on emotion. And that’s probably why we’re losing.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Umm, Richard, how many people on the anti-NN side have been saying roughly:

    “ISP’s need to enact strict traffic shaping, otherwise the P2P start-ups will screw the Internet. They’ll overrun ISP’s with illegal downloads and put us on the dirt roads and eat us like tigers eat their prey. They can’t help it, it’s their nature.”

    And arguably this whole thing started because Google and similar think that the teleco’s will eat them alive like tigers – and they (Google/etc.) have the money to make a fuss over it.

    So I find it hard to see why Lessig gets such attack for saying basically what everyone else is saying (with certain parameters shifted, of course!).

    In fact, I don’t think Lessig is wrong on the “nature” point – I think he’s mis-focused about the prey. The People simply aren’t worth it on that scale, like tigers don’t go trying to eat ants.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I’m less concerned with that Lessig says that with the way he says it. If he were to present his case like a normal, rational, human being, it would be easier to examine what’s right and what’s wrong about it, but because he plays to the mob’s basest sentiments, rational critique of the Lessig program is more or less impossible.

    Most of the NN critics I’ve read, and the ones I communicate with most frequently, argue their case based on facts and logic, not on emotion. And that’s probably why we’re losing.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Oh, come on. There’s plenty of emotion on the anti-NN side. It is to laugh to argue otherwise. Maybe I should take this to email, as I don’t want to say unpleasant things about people I view as justified in their emotions – but those emotions sure are there.

    The generic slogan of “regulating the Internet” is the purest play to mob mentality on the anti-NN side.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Oh, come on. There’s plenty of emotion on the anti-NN side. It is to laugh to argue otherwise. Maybe I should take this to email, as I don’t want to say unpleasant things about people I view as justified in their emotions – but those emotions sure are there.

    The generic slogan of “regulating the Internet” is the purest play to mob mentality on the anti-NN side.

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