Insulting Our Intelligence

by on May 1, 2008 · 38 comments

I was planning to leave the Lessig/Sydnor thing alone because I feel like we’ve beat it to death, but Tom’s really pissing me off. For those who haven’t been following the now-voluminous comments (and I don’t blame you), Mike Masnick recently wrote the following:

[Lessig] wasn’t praising communism in the slightest — but pointing out how regulatory regimes in the US can impact someone’s day-to-day life quite strongly, while for certain aspects of life in Vietnam those similar regulations do not impact them. That doesn’t mean communism is good or that life is great in Vietnam. In fact, Lessig pointed out that neither point is true. But he was pointing out what the factual situation was concerning certain aspects of day-to-day life.

You don’t dispute those points — you can’t, because they’re true. You merely take those statements and pretend they’re an endorsement of communism. It’s not even remotely a defense of communism. It’s showing the problems with US regulations, something I would think you would endorse.

And Tom responds:

I must distance myself from Mike’s claim that the admittedly deregulatory effect of terrorizing civilians “is something I would think you would endorse.”

And I had to pick my jaw up off the floor.

In case English isn’t your first language, let me dissect this a little bit. Scholars have a basic obligation to represent their opponents’ words accurately. If you put a phrase in quotes, you have an obligation for the quoted phrase to be a faithful representation of what the person being quoted actually said. That obligation counts double if you precede the quote by a phrase like “Mike’s claim” that unambiguously attributes the entire sentence to the person you’re criticizing. And in particular, if you quote half of a sentence, say the verb and direct object, you have an obligation not to change the subject to be something totally different. I if I write “Ice cream is great,” it would be dishonest for you to write “I must distance myself from Tim’s claim that the Holocaust ‘is great.’” Yes, I literally wrote the phrase “is great,” but the subject of that phrase wasn’t “the Holocaust,” and implying that it was is just as dishonest as writing “Tim claimed ‘the Holocaust is great.’”

What Tom did here is identical. In Mike’s comment, the subject of the phrase “something I would think you would endorse” is “showing the problems with US regulations.” Tom’s response plainly implies that the subject of the phase “something I would think you would endorse” was “the admittedly deregulatory effect of terrorizing civilians.” This, of course, is a totally different proposition, and something that Mike never said. Yet Tom has the audacity to precede the sentence with “Mike’s claim” plainly attributing the whole sentence to Mike.

This is, quite simply, a lie. And a stupid, transparent lie at that. I’m really confused about what Tom thinks he’s accomplishing. Surely he doesn’t believe the readership of TLF is so dumb that we’ll be persuaded by these kinds of grade-school rhetorical sleights of hand.

Update: Now that I’ve posted this, it occurs to me that I’ll probably see a post on IPCentral in a few minutes with the headline “Lessig supporter endorses the Holocaust.”

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    Just to put a little perspective on this, remember Stewart Baker’s Wall Street Journal piece, “Why Republicans should love Larry Lessig?”

    “Viewed up close, copyright bears little resemblance to the kinds of property that conservatives value. Instead, it looks like a constantly expanding government program run for the benefit of a noisy, well-organized interest group­ like Superfund, say, or dairy subsidies, except that the benefits go not to endangered homeowners or hardworking farmers but to the likes of Barbra Streisand and Eminem.”

    On issues such as the DMCA and copyright expansion, it’s Lessig who is talking about rolling back government intervention in the market.

  • Tom Sydnor

    Tim, I certainly agree that this site has an excess of threads on this topic. Perhaps they should be combined so that interested parties can more easily follow the complete debate and (most) others can avoid it. I lack the power to do that, but would be happy if it was done. My substantive response follows.

    Tim, I agree that scholars have an obligation to represent their opponents’ viewpoints fairly, and an obligation to avoid pedantry. I think that I have observed both obligations while making my point: You cannot fairly compare apples to oranges, and comparing communist Vietnam to the United States is apples-to-oranges.

    Mike stated–clearly–that he sees Lessig as making some important point about relative amount of “effective freedom” enjoyed by the citizens of communist Vietnam versus the that in the United States. Then, in his usual drive-the-bus-off-the-cliff style, Mike chose to push the point even farther than Lessig by claiming that Lessig was thus “showing the problems with US regulations, something I would think you would endorse.”

    I responded by noting that I do not “endorse” anyone who lauds the deregulatory effects of terror. Granted, I agree that lawless totalitarian states that quasi-randomly execute people and punish speech will have less need to “regulate” than representative democracies that observe the rule of law. But I hope that grim fact never becomes relevant to the administration of technology policy in America. Indeed, I raised this very issue with Mike:

    “Fine. If you really think that, Mike, then put your money where your mouth is: Have the correctly guided, intellectually honest folks at TechDirt file comments at OMB in which you laud the potentially deregulatory effects of quasi-random executions and suppressing poetry.”

    “But, Mike, even I have enough faith in you to know that you would never do such a thing. That would be nuts. So my question is this: Why is the assertion that you claim Lessig made in CODE any better?”

    At the end of the day, Tim, I think that you are becoming upset because you are trying to defend Lessig’s bizarre claim that citizens in the communist Vietnam of the early 1990s enjoyed some sort of “effective freedom” relevant to technology policy in America. I understand that this is painful and unrewarding, and I hope that you and Mike will chose to extricate yourself from this nightmare by admitting that someone who does not share your views could reasonably conclude that it was gratuitous and ugly for Lessig to laud the “effective freedom” provided by Communist Vietnam and “NamNet.”

    If you can admit that, then this is just another point in my paper as to which we agree.

    That said, I will, yet again, reiterate, “I think that we will have to agree to disagree about Lessig’s account of Vietnam. So let’s move on to Lessig characterizing the reign of Stalin as ‘bland communism.’ How do you rationalize that?” –Tom.

    NB: in order to make it easier for other to see whether I have misrepresented Mike’s views, I have reproduced, below, my post to which Mike responded, Mike’s response, and my reply. Thanks again for the comments. –Tom.

    1. Posted by: Tom Sydnor – 04/30/2008

    Hi, Tim:
    Well, we are going to have to disagree about this. No amount of re-reading lets me see “an interesting point about the difference between de facto and de jure legal regimes.” All I see is grotesque sophistry: Lessig is trying to transmogrify the very worst aspect of communism—its deliberate use of terror—into a cheery form of “effective freedom.”

    “De jure” versus “de facto”? There is no “de jure” in a totalitarian state. See LESZEK KOLAKOWSKI, MAIN CURRENTS OF MARXISM 1213 (2005) (“law, in the proper sense, can be said to exist only if a citizen can take legal action against the state organs and have a chance of winning”). And communist Vietnam was no exception: “As in Beijing, people were found guilty simply because they had been accused by the Party, which never made mistakes. Therefore the best response was often to do what was expected of you: ‘It was better to have killed your father and mother and admitted it than to say nothing and to have done nothing wrong.’” COURTOIS, ET AL., THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM 569 (Harvard U. Press 1999).

    In short, all was “de facto”: The truth was what the Party told you and the law was what the Party chose to inflict upon you: “Totalitarian law had to be vague, so that its application might hinge upon the arbitrary and changing decisions of the executive authorities, and so that each citizen could be considered a criminal whenever these authorities chose so to consider him.” LESZEK KOLAKOWSKI, MY CORRECT VIEWS ON EVERYTHING 32 (2005).

    Consequently, the non-law did not have to be “inflicted” on everyone: For example, the executions during Vietnam’s version of Stalin’s purges are estimated at about 50,000, or 0.3% to 0.4% of the population. See BLACK BOOK at 569-70. That sufficed to deliver the Party’s message: “If you cheer like a good Comrade even as the infrastructure crumbles around you, maybe we will not make you kill your parents.”

    And when that message was forgotten—for example, when “intellectuals” distributed a poem that mocked the Party censor—they were “re-educated.” See id. at 570-71. Indeed, they were re-educated, as Lessig might say, “quite forcefully.”

    This terror was designed—was intended—to make communism, “an extraordinary form of slavery: slavery without masters.” MY CORRECT VIEWS at 30. In other words, to make a nation of people so afraid of incurring arbitrary terror that they would walk uncomplaining, through the ruins of their infrastructure, in the hope that the very government that was impoverishing them might chose to leave them be.

    Oceania’s slogans cannot be improved by re-arranging their words. Is Freedom Slavery? No. Is [Extraordinary] Slavery [Effective] Freedom? No. It is not.

    Finally, remember that I do not believe that Lessig or his buddies are really true communists or socialists. (Indeed, they would hardly be dangerous if they were.) But I do think that Lessig’s words, taken together, betray him for what I suspect that he is: A property-hating, way-far-left collectivist who has failed to reconcile his new daydreams against the bitter lessons learned during some all-too-recent nightmares. That suspicion would persist even if Lessig “merely” tried to analogize the effects of totalitarian terror to “effective freedom.”

    Thanks again for the comments. –Tom

    2. Posted by: Mike Masnick – 05/01/2008

    Tom,
    You still seem to think that Lessig is defending the communist system in Vietnam, when that’s not what he did at all.

    He very clearly was noting that *certain* regulations did not impact the people there as much as similar regulations in the US. That was based on factual observations. It wasn’t praising communism in the slightest — but pointing out how regulatory regimes in the US can impact someone’s day-to-day life quite strongly, while for certain aspects of life in Vietnam those similar regulations do not impact them. That doesn’t mean communism is good or that life is great in Vietnam. In fact, Lessig pointed out that neither point is true. But he was pointing out what the factual situation was concerning certain aspects of day-to-day life.

    You don’t dispute those points — you can’t, because they’re true. You merely take those statements and pretend they’re an endorsement of communism. It’s not even remotely a defense of communism. It’s showing the problems with US regulations, something I would think you would endorse.

    I’m hoping that PFF is reconsidering your future pieces based on how awful this one was. The fact that you continue to repeat the same bogus claims despite the fact you’re being called out on the *clear meaning* of almost every passage you took out of context is troublesome.

    While I disagree with PFF on many things, most of the time I found the folks there to merely be intellectually misguided — not dishonest. This piece hurts the reputation of PFF and if they were smart, they’d stop this series before you do even more damage to their reputation.

    3. Posted by: Tom Sydnor – 05/01/2008
    Mike, since you insist on continuing this debacle, I will make three points.

    First, though I think my last post probably clarified the matter for 99% of the population, I must distance myself from Mike’s claim that the admittedly deregulatory effect of terrorizing civilians “is something I would think you would endorse.” I don’t. A deregulatory representative democracy is good. A totalitarian state that need not regulate at all because people fear to offend it (even as it lets the infrastructure collapse), is bad. Really bad. Hundreds of thousands of fleeing boat-people bad. This is the point that Mike and Lessig seem to miss.

    Second, let’s assume, arguendo, that Mike really does think that Lessig made an insightful, important observation about the beneficial deregulatory effects of terror.

    Fine. If you really think that, Mike, then put your money where your mouth is: Have the correctly guided, intellectually honest folks at TechDirt file comments at OMB in which you laud the potentially deregulatory effects of quasi-random executions and suppressing poetry.

    But, Mike, even I have enough faith in you to know that you would never do such a thing. That would be nuts. So my question is this: Why is the assertion that you claim Lessig made in Code any better?

    Third, I think that you mistake my views on Lessig. I said the following in my paper: “To be clear, I do not think that Lessig, Fisher, or other Free-Culture-Movement academics and interest groups are literally ‘communists’ or ‘socialists.…’ But they do still display the flaws that made communists and socialists dangerous to themselves and others: Inherent distrust of and contempt for the utility of bilateral private exchange conjoined with boundless, unshakeable faith in the potential wisdom, foresight, and benevolence of vast and coercive governmental power.”

    That is why I cannot help but find something telling in Lessig’s attempts to recast the inhibitory effects of terror as a cheery form “effective freedom.”

    But as I said at the start of my last post, I think we will have to agree to disagree about Lessig’s account of Vietnam. So let’s move on to Lessig characterizing the reign of Stalin as “bland communism.” How do you rationalize that? –Tom

  • Tom Sydnor

    Tim and Mike,

    OK, I am now experiencing some [Send]er’s regret. For whatever it is worth, I will thus try to reformulate my last post.

    As noted in my paper, I have no inherent disrespect for people who simply disagree with me about the incidents of, or even necessity for, copyrights. I agree that there are libertarian, conservative, and liberal traditions that disagree with my views on these matters. Hayek, for example, explicitly questions both corporate law and patents.

    But these disagreements do not answer the question, “Should libertarian/conservative/liberal copyright skeptics consider Lessig to be a part of their tradition?” Here, my answer is, “No.” I think that he is something very different—a point that both he and his supporters have made. For example, Lessig has now published two books containing a chapter entitled, “What [‘a smart libertarian’] Doesn’t Get.”

    Consequently, Mike and Tim, we are disagreeing vigorously not because I have no respect for your views generally, but because I reject views expressed by Lessig. And so do you, at least in part: We disagree only about how much of his “thought” is wrong-headed.

    As to the particular question of Lessig’s account of communist Vietnam, I think that we have exhausted that topic. While it appears that you two disagree, I still think that I could reasonably find there something sufficiently troubling to be worthy of note.

    I simply reject claims that communist Vietnam provided any form of “effective freedom” that might reasonably be deemed relevant to U.S. technology policy. I do not think that this opinion is particularly extreme or radical. Nor do I think that the Vietnam episode is the only one in which Lessig might fairly be seen to be offering an unrealistically kind characterization of past collectivist states.

    Those are my views. Thanks again. –Tom

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    Just to put a little perspective on this, remember Stewart Baker’s Wall Street Journal piece, “Why Republicans should love Larry Lessig?”

    “Viewed up close, copyright bears little resemblance to the kinds of property that conservatives value. Instead, it looks like a constantly expanding government program run for the benefit of a noisy, well-organized interest group­ like Superfund, say, or dairy subsidies, except that the benefits go not to endangered homeowners or hardworking farmers but to the likes of Barbra Streisand and Eminem.”

    On issues such as the DMCA and copyright expansion, it’s Lessig who is talking about rolling back government intervention in the market.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    The biggest difference in terms of freedom between Vietnam and America is the ability of the government to effectively execute its laws. Vietnam is, no doubt, far less efficient at executing its tyrannical laws than the United States, thus reducing many of them to being little more than bloviating as far as many average Vietnamese need concern themselves with the law. I hear that Italy is the same way; more repressive on paper than America, but due to corruption, inefficiency and general unwillingness to fully obey the law, much less in-your-face in practice than American government.

    In practice, the federal government is significantly more capable of creating an airtight total destruction of some individual it wants to, than the Vietnamese government because not only does our government have the laws, it has the means to enforce them with brutal efficiency. Just look at how the FBI and IRS were used under the Clinton administration for a basic idea of what I am talking about.

  • m
  • Tom Sydnor

    Tim, I certainly agree that this site has an excess of threads on this topic. Perhaps they should be combined so that interested parties can more easily follow the complete debate and (most) others can avoid it. I lack the power to do that, but would be happy if it was done. My substantive response follows.

    Tim, I agree that scholars have an obligation to represent their opponents’ viewpoints fairly, and an obligation to avoid pedantry. I think that I have observed both obligations while making my point: You cannot fairly compare apples to oranges, and comparing communist Vietnam to the United States is apples-to-oranges.

    Mike stated–clearly–that he sees Lessig as making some important point about relative amount of “effective freedom” enjoyed by the citizens of communist Vietnam versus the that in the United States. Then, in his usual drive-the-bus-off-the-cliff style, Mike chose to push the point even farther than Lessig by claiming that Lessig was thus “showing the problems with US regulations, something I would think you would endorse.”

    I responded by noting that I do not “endorse” anyone who lauds the deregulatory effects of terror. Granted, I agree that lawless totalitarian states that quasi-randomly execute people and punish speech will have less need to “regulate” than representative democracies that observe the rule of law. But I hope that grim fact never becomes relevant to the administration of technology policy in America. Indeed, I raised this very issue with Mike:

    “Fine. If you really think that, Mike, then put your money where your mouth is: Have the correctly guided, intellectually honest folks at TechDirt file comments at OMB in which you laud the potentially deregulatory effects of quasi-random executions and suppressing poetry.”

    “But, Mike, even I have enough faith in you to know that you would never do such a thing. That would be nuts. So my question is this: Why is the assertion that you claim Lessig made in CODE any better?”

    At the end of the day, Tim, I think that you are becoming upset because you are trying to defend Lessig’s bizarre claim that citizens in the communist Vietnam of the early 1990s enjoyed some sort of “effective freedom” relevant to technology policy in America. I understand that this is painful and unrewarding, and I hope that you and Mike will chose to extricate yourself from this nightmare by admitting that someone who does not share your views could reasonably conclude that it was gratuitous and ugly for Lessig to laud the “effective freedom” provided by Communist Vietnam and “NamNet.”

    If you can admit that, then this is just another point in my paper as to which we agree.

    That said, I will, yet again, reiterate, “I think that we will have to agree to disagree about Lessig’s account of Vietnam. So let’s move on to Lessig characterizing the reign of Stalin as ‘bland communism.’ How do you rationalize that?” –Tom.

    NB: in order to make it easier for other to see whether I have misrepresented Mike’s views, I have reproduced, below, my post to which Mike responded, Mike’s response, and my reply. Thanks again for the comments. –Tom.

    1. Posted by: Tom Sydnor – 04/30/2008

    Hi, Tim:
    Well, we are going to have to disagree about this. No amount of re-reading lets me see “an interesting point about the difference between de facto and de jure legal regimes.” All I see is grotesque sophistry: Lessig is trying to transmogrify the very worst aspect of communism—its deliberate use of terror—into a cheery form of “effective freedom.”

    “De jure” versus “de facto”? There is no “de jure” in a totalitarian state. See LESZEK KOLAKOWSKI, MAIN CURRENTS OF MARXISM 1213 (2005) (“law, in the proper sense, can be said to exist only if a citizen can take legal action against the state organs and have a chance of winning”). And communist Vietnam was no exception: “As in Beijing, people were found guilty simply because they had been accused by the Party, which never made mistakes. Therefore the best response was often to do what was expected of you: ‘It was better to have killed your father and mother and admitted it than to say nothing and to have done nothing wrong.’” COURTOIS, ET AL., THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM 569 (Harvard U. Press 1999).

    In short, all was “de facto”: The truth was what the Party told you and the law was what the Party chose to inflict upon you: “Totalitarian law had to be vague, so that its application might hinge upon the arbitrary and changing decisions of the executive authorities, and so that each citizen could be considered a criminal whenever these authorities chose so to consider him.” LESZEK KOLAKOWSKI, MY CORRECT VIEWS ON EVERYTHING 32 (2005).

    Consequently, the non-law did not have to be “inflicted” on everyone: For example, the executions during Vietnam’s version of Stalin’s purges are estimated at about 50,000, or 0.3% to 0.4% of the population. See BLACK BOOK at 569-70. That sufficed to deliver the Party’s message: “If you cheer like a good Comrade even as the infrastructure crumbles around you, maybe we will not make you kill your parents.”

    And when that message was forgotten—for example, when “intellectuals” distributed a poem that mocked the Party censor—they were “re-educated.” See id. at 570-71. Indeed, they were re-educated, as Lessig might say, “quite forcefully.”

    This terror was designed—was intended—to make communism, “an extraordinary form of slavery: slavery without masters.” MY CORRECT VIEWS at 30. In other words, to make a nation of people so afraid of incurring arbitrary terror that they would walk uncomplaining, through the ruins of their infrastructure, in the hope that the very government that was impoverishing them might chose to leave them be.

    Oceania’s slogans cannot be improved by re-arranging their words. Is Freedom Slavery? No. Is [Extraordinary] Slavery [Effective] Freedom? No. It is not.

    Finally, remember that I do not believe that Lessig or his buddies are really true communists or socialists. (Indeed, they would hardly be dangerous if they were.) But I do think that Lessig’s words, taken together, betray him for what I suspect that he is: A property-hating, way-far-left collectivist who has failed to reconcile his new daydreams against the bitter lessons learned during some all-too-recent nightmares. That suspicion would persist even if Lessig “merely” tried to analogize the effects of totalitarian terror to “effective freedom.”

    Thanks again for the comments. –Tom

    2. Posted by: Mike Masnick – 05/01/2008

    Tom,
    You still seem to think that Lessig is defending the communist system in Vietnam, when that’s not what he did at all.

    He very clearly was noting that *certain* regulations did not impact the people there as much as similar regulations in the US. That was based on factual observations. It wasn’t praising communism in the slightest — but pointing out how regulatory regimes in the US can impact someone’s day-to-day life quite strongly, while for certain aspects of life in Vietnam those similar regulations do not impact them. That doesn’t mean communism is good or that life is great in Vietnam. In fact, Lessig pointed out that neither point is true. But he was pointing out what the factual situation was concerning certain aspects of day-to-day life.

    You don’t dispute those points — you can’t, because they’re true. You merely take those statements and pretend they’re an endorsement of communism. It’s not even remotely a defense of communism. It’s showing the problems with US regulations, something I would think you would endorse.

    I’m hoping that PFF is reconsidering your future pieces based on how awful this one was. The fact that you continue to repeat the same bogus claims despite the fact you’re being called out on the *clear meaning* of almost every passage you took out of context is troublesome.

    While I disagree with PFF on many things, most of the time I found the folks there to merely be intellectually misguided — not dishonest. This piece hurts the reputation of PFF and if they were smart, they’d stop this series before you do even more damage to their reputation.

    3. Posted by: Tom Sydnor – 05/01/2008
    Mike, since you insist on continuing this debacle, I will make three points.

    First, though I think my last post probably clarified the matter for 99% of the population, I must distance myself from Mike’s claim that the admittedly deregulatory effect of terrorizing civilians “is something I would think you would endorse.” I don’t. A deregulatory representative democracy is good. A totalitarian state that need not regulate at all because people fear to offend it (even as it lets the infrastructure collapse), is bad. Really bad. Hundreds of thousands of fleeing boat-people bad. This is the point that Mike and Lessig seem to miss.

    Second, let’s assume, arguendo, that Mike really does think that Lessig made an insightful, important observation about the beneficial deregulatory effects of terror.

    Fine. If you really think that, Mike, then put your money where your mouth is: Have the correctly guided, intellectually honest folks at TechDirt file comments at OMB in which you laud the potentially deregulatory effects of quasi-random executions and suppressing poetry.

    But, Mike, even I have enough faith in you to know that you would never do such a thing. That would be nuts. So my question is this: Why is the assertion that you claim Lessig made in Code any better?

    Third, I think that you mistake my views on Lessig. I said the following in my paper: “To be clear, I do not think that Lessig, Fisher, or other Free-Culture-Movement academics and interest groups are literally ‘communists’ or ‘socialists.…’ But they do still display the flaws that made communists and socialists dangerous to themselves and others: Inherent distrust of and contempt for the utility of bilateral private exchange conjoined with boundless, unshakeable faith in the potential wisdom, foresight, and benevolence of vast and coercive governmental power.”

    That is why I cannot help but find something telling in Lessig’s attempts to recast the inhibitory effects of terror as a cheery form “effective freedom.”

    But as I said at the start of my last post, I think we will have to agree to disagree about Lessig’s account of Vietnam. So let’s move on to Lessig characterizing the reign of Stalin as “bland communism.” How do you rationalize that? –Tom

  • http://eldiabloenlosdetalles.net Carlos

    I guess if Snydor were to read a book praising Iranian food he will conclude the author supports Ahmajinedad’s call for the destruction of Israel.

  • http://eldiabloenlosdetalles.net Carlos

    Oops. Meant Sydnor.

  • Tom Sydnor

    Tim and Mike,

    OK, I am now experiencing some [Send]er’s regret. For whatever it is worth, I will thus try to reformulate my last post.

    As noted in my paper, I have no inherent disrespect for people who simply disagree with me about the incidents of, or even necessity for, copyrights. I agree that there are libertarian, conservative, and liberal traditions that disagree with my views on these matters. Hayek, for example, explicitly questions both corporate law and patents.

    But these disagreements do not answer the question, “Should libertarian/conservative/liberal copyright skeptics consider Lessig to be a part of their tradition?” Here, my answer is, “No.” I think that he is something very different—a point that both he and his supporters have made. For example, Lessig has now published two books containing a chapter entitled, “What [‘a smart libertarian’] Doesn’t Get.”

    Consequently, Mike and Tim, we are disagreeing vigorously not because I have no respect for your views generally, but because I reject views expressed by Lessig. And so do you, at least in part: We disagree only about how much of his “thought” is wrong-headed.

    As to the particular question of Lessig’s account of communist Vietnam, I think that we have exhausted that topic. While it appears that you two disagree, I still think that I could reasonably find there something sufficiently troubling to be worthy of note.

    I simply reject claims that communist Vietnam provided any form of “effective freedom” that might reasonably be deemed relevant to U.S. technology policy. I do not think that this opinion is particularly extreme or radical. Nor do I think that the Vietnam episode is the only one in which Lessig might fairly be seen to be offering an unrealistically kind characterization of past collectivist states.

    Those are my views. Thanks again. –Tom

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    The biggest difference in terms of freedom between Vietnam and America is the ability of the government to effectively execute its laws. Vietnam is, no doubt, far less efficient at executing its tyrannical laws than the United States, thus reducing many of them to being little more than bloviating as far as many average Vietnamese need concern themselves with the law. I hear that Italy is the same way; more repressive on paper than America, but due to corruption, inefficiency and general unwillingness to fully obey the law, much less in-your-face in practice than American government.

    In practice, the federal government is significantly more capable of creating an airtight total destruction of some individual it wants to, than the Vietnamese government because not only does our government have the laws, it has the means to enforce them with brutal efficiency. Just look at how the FBI and IRS were used under the Clinton administration for a basic idea of what I am talking about.

  • m
  • http://techdirt.com/ Mike Masnick

    Tom,

    If you think you presented my comments honestly, then you have zero credibility. Tim explained, quite clearly, that you applied the clause to an entirely different subject. You don’t respond to that claim — you just repeat your false statements.

    It’s the same thing you do with Lessig, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you do the same thing to me.

    And you make it worse:
    “laud the potentially deregulatory effects of quasi-random executions and suppressing poetry.”

    Do you think we’re slobbering idiots? NO ONE claimed that quasi-random executions and suppressing poetry have wonderful deregulatory effects. How you can make that claim with a straight face is beyond me. You do this thing where you link two totally unrelated points. Here, I can do it to:

    **NOTE: I don’t believe this, but I’m doing a Tom Sydnor style comment***
    I must distance myself from Tom Sydnor’s endorsement of the brutal genocide of hundreds of thousands of native Americans, when he suggests that the American system of property rights is a good thing.
    **end note***

    Do you see the problem with this statement? You are attaching one comment to something entirely separate to shock people into submission. If you think that Lessig is embracing random murders, then you too have embraced Native American genocide.

    I am hoping that at least someone at PFF has the moral compass to tell you to stop these blatantly false and misleading attacks. It harms their brand and, frankly, it destroys your reputation.

    Anyone with reading skills can understand that you have taken both my comments and Lessig’s completely out of context and twisted them to your own needs.

    Are you really proud of this work?

  • http://eldiabloenlosdetalles.net Carlos

    I guess if Snydor were to read a book praising Iranian food he will conclude the author supports Ahmajinedad’s call for the destruction of Israel.

  • http://eldiabloenlosdetalles.net Carlos

    Oops. Meant Sydnor.

  • http://techdirt.com/ Mike Masnick

    Tom,

    If you think you presented my comments honestly, then you have zero credibility. Tim explained, quite clearly, that you applied the clause to an entirely different subject. You don’t respond to that claim — you just repeat your false statements.

    It’s the same thing you do with Lessig, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you do the same thing to me.

    And you make it worse:
    “laud the potentially deregulatory effects of quasi-random executions and suppressing poetry.”

    Do you think we’re slobbering idiots? NO ONE claimed that quasi-random executions and suppressing poetry have wonderful deregulatory effects. How you can make that claim with a straight face is beyond me. You do this thing where you link two totally unrelated points. Here, I can do it to:

    **NOTE: I don’t believe this, but I’m doing a Tom Sydnor style comment***
    I must distance myself from Tom Sydnor’s endorsement of the brutal genocide of hundreds of thousands of native Americans, when he suggests that the American system of property rights is a good thing.
    **end note***

    Do you see the problem with this statement? You are attaching one comment to something entirely separate to shock people into submission. If you think that Lessig is embracing random murders, then you too have embraced Native American genocide.

    I am hoping that at least someone at PFF has the moral compass to tell you to stop these blatantly false and misleading attacks. It harms their brand and, frankly, it destroys your reputation.

    Anyone with reading skills can understand that you have taken both my comments and Lessig’s completely out of context and twisted them to your own needs.

    Are you really proud of this work?

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis

    m: god, I wish you’d posted that last night, so that I could have gone to sleep earlier…

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis

    m: god, I wish you’d posted that last night, so that I could have gone to sleep earlier…

  • Tom Sydnor

    Mike, here is what you said: “It’s showing the problems with US regulations, something I would think you would endorse.” To avoid any further confusion, let me be clear that if I interpret the antecedent correctly, then “It’s” means roughly, “Lessig’s account of ‘effective freedom’ in communist Vietnam.”

    So I interpreted you to be saying something like, “["Lessig's account of 'effective freedom' in communist Vietnam is"] showing the problems with US regulations, something I would think you would endorse.”

    My point was simple: If you think that I would “endorse” that statement, then you are wrong. To the contrary, I find that statement morally abhorrent and insulting.

    We are way far from perfect here, but I think that some credit is due. Consequently, I see nothing that we can or should learn from the “effective freedom” accorded to those people who manage to avoid crossing the government of their failing, communist, totalitarian state. That nightmare does not show me anything about “the problems with US regulations.”

    And by the way, remember that you are talking about a statement taken from the book Code–one that both Tim and I agree is a debacle. No matter how you spin it, reducing regulation of the Internet in the United States is not exactly the central thesis of Code–quite the opposite.

    Perhap

  • Tim Lee

    Tom, it’s obvious that “something I would think you would endorse” in Mike’s original comment was referring to “showing the problems with US regulations.” Mike’s point was obviously that as a free-market think tank, PFF would be in favor of arguments suggesting that the US is over-regulated. Your interpretation doesn’t make any sense, because he already knows that you don’t endorse Lessig’s views of Vietnam.

    Now, I suppose it’s conceivable you made an honest mistake and misunderstood Mike’s point. If that’s the case, you should be a man about it and apologize to Mike for misquoting him. Hell, if I were in your shoes, I would apologize to Mike even if I still thought your version were plausible (which it isn’t).

    I feel like a broken record, but it’s basic good manners when you’re arguing with someone to choose a charitable interpretation of his words rather than the least charitable one you can think of. Given that your whole paper is based on breaking that rule with respect to Lessig, I guess I should be surprised that you’re behaving similarly toward Mike.

  • Tom Sydnor

    Mike, here is what you said: “It’s showing the problems with US regulations, something I would think you would endorse.” To avoid any further confusion, let me be clear that if I interpret the antecedent correctly, then “It’s” means roughly, “Lessig’s account of ‘effective freedom’ in communist Vietnam.”

    So I interpreted you to be saying something like, “["Lessig's account of 'effective freedom' in communist Vietnam is"] showing the problems with US regulations, something I would think you would endorse.”

    My point was simple: If you think that I would “endorse” that statement, then you are wrong. To the contrary, I find that statement morally abhorrent and insulting.

    We are way far from perfect here, but I think that some credit is due. Consequently, I see nothing that we can or should learn from the “effective freedom” accorded to those people who manage to avoid crossing the government of their failing, communist, totalitarian state. That nightmare does not show me anything about “the problems with US regulations.”

    And by the way, remember that you are talking about a statement taken from the book Code–one that both Tim and I agree is a debacle. No matter how you spin it, reducing regulation of the Internet in the United States is not exactly the central thesis of Code–quite the opposite.

    Perhap

  • http://www.tc.umn.edu/~leex1008 Tim Lee

    Tom, it’s obvious that “something I would think you would endorse” in Mike’s original comment was referring to “showing the problems with US regulations.” Mike’s point was obviously that as a free-market think tank, PFF would be in favor of arguments suggesting that the US is over-regulated. Your interpretation doesn’t make any sense, because he already knows that you don’t endorse Lessig’s views of Vietnam.

    Now, I suppose it’s conceivable you made an honest mistake and misunderstood Mike’s point. If that’s the case, you should be a man about it and apologize to Mike for misquoting him. Hell, if I were in your shoes, I would apologize to Mike even if I still thought your version were plausible (which it isn’t).

    I feel like a broken record, but it’s basic good manners when you’re arguing with someone to choose a charitable interpretation of his words rather than the least charitable one you can think of. Given that your whole paper is based on breaking that rule with respect to Lessig, I guess I should be surprised that you’re behaving similarly toward Mike.

  • Tom Sydnor

    Tim/Mike, I disagree. With all due respect, this dispute arose from Mike’s attempt to conflate two utterly dissimilar matters. Mike–displaying his usual capacity for judgment–tried to claim that anyone who favored deregulation in the United States should embrace Lessig’s bizarre claims about the “effective freedom” in communist Vietnam. I think that is absurd.

    Is the U.S. too regulated? Yes. On that we agree. Indeed, we agree about that and many other things, including 1)that Lessig’s 1999 and 2006 books are horrendous; 2)that the Fisher scheme is a nightmare, and 3)that only a fool or a “useful idiot” would use the term “bland communism” to describe the governance of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe from 1930 to 1991.

    Nevertheless, we do seem to disagree about the following question: “Can we, in 21st Century America, learn anything useful about how the U.S. is too regulated, why it is too regulated, or how to improve it from Lessig’s boat-people-refuted claims about the “effective freedom” accorded to the Vietnamese who manage to avoid crossing the government of their failing, communist, totalitarian state?”

    If Mike feels that this sort of nightmare illuminates some aspect of “the problems with U.S. regulations,” well, I do not. That is the only point that I am trying to make. Good night. –Tom

  • Tim Lee

    [Mike] tried to claim that anyone who favored deregulation in the United States should embrace Lessig’s bizarre claims about the “effective freedom” in communist Vietnam.

    No he didn’t. That’s you putting words into his mouth.

  • Tom Sydnor

    Tim/Mike, I disagree. With all due respect, this dispute arose from Mike’s attempt to conflate two utterly dissimilar matters. Mike–displaying his usual capacity for judgment–tried to claim that anyone who favored deregulation in the United States should embrace Lessig’s bizarre claims about the “effective freedom” in communist Vietnam. I think that is absurd.

    Is the U.S. too regulated? Yes. On that we agree. Indeed, we agree about that and many other things, including 1)that Lessig’s 1999 and 2006 books are horrendous; 2)that the Fisher scheme is a nightmare, and 3)that only a fool or a “useful idiot” would use the term “bland communism” to describe the governance of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe from 1930 to 1991.

    Nevertheless, we do seem to disagree about the following question: “Can we, in 21st Century America, learn anything useful about how the U.S. is too regulated, why it is too regulated, or how to improve it from Lessig’s boat-people-refuted claims about the “effective freedom” accorded to the Vietnamese who manage to avoid crossing the government of their failing, communist, totalitarian state?”

    If Mike feels that this sort of nightmare illuminates some aspect of “the problems with U.S. regulations,” well, I do not. That is the only point that I am trying to make. Good night. –Tom

  • http://www.tc.umn.edu/~leex1008 Tim Lee

    [Mike] tried to claim that anyone who favored deregulation in the United States should embrace Lessig’s bizarre claims about the “effective freedom” in communist Vietnam.

    No he didn’t. That’s you putting words into his mouth.

  • http://techdirt.com/ Mike Masnick

    Mike–displaying his usual capacity for judgment–tried to claim that anyone who favored deregulation in the United States should embrace Lessig’s bizarre claims about the “effective freedom” in communist Vietnam. I think that is absurd.

    Tom, I made no such claim. You are doing the same thing that you did to Lessig to me. It’s disgusting.

    Again, what you’re saying above is like me saying:

    “Tom — displaying his usual inability to understand English — tried to claim that anyone who dislikes communism in Vietnam should embrace the genocide of native Americans in the US. I think that is absurd.”

    The examples are identical. You clearly did not say that, just as I did not say that anyone should embrace communist Vietnam. But in a sick and twisted way, if you read my statements or Lessig’s statements the way you have, then you must also agree with the above.

    So, Tom, tell us… why do you celebrate the genocide of Native Americans?

  • http://techdirt.com/ Mike Masnick

    Indeed, we agree about that and many other things, including 1)that Lessig’s 1999 and 2006 books are horrendous; 2)that the Fisher scheme is a nightmare, and 3)that only a fool or a “useful idiot” would use the term “bland communism” to describe the governance of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe from 1930 to 1991.

    Bah. Need to respond to these points as well, because you just can’t resist making stuff up about us, can you?

    1. No, we do not agree that the books are horrendous. I can’t speak for Tim, but I think the books raised some very useful and accurate issues that were in need of discussion. I think he very accurately portrayed certain problems and challenges in existing systems. I think he raised a number of interesting proposals on how to fix the problems or face the challenges, though I disagree that some of those suggestions are practical.

    2. No, we do not agree that the Fisher scneario is “a nightmare.” I think it’s bad policy that would do more harm than good, but that’s not the same as a nightmare. I asked you earlier (which you failed to respond to) if you also believe that existing compulsory licenses are similarly socialist in nature, and will lead us down the path to murderous regimes. So, Tom, are you so against existing compulsory licenses? A court today just forced Yahoo, AOL and RealNetworks to cough up $100 million for compulsory licenses. Why aren’t you ranting and raving about that?

    3. I’m sorry, how can you possibly make that claim? Both myself and Julian explained to you what “any fool” should know Lessig was talking about: the aesthetic sense of cold war communism — which, most certainly, was bland. No one (and I do mean no one) could possibly read the sentence that includes “bland communism” and assume that somehow is an endorsement of Stalinism, as you claim. Not even a “useful idiot” could interpret the phrase “bland communism” the way you did.

    You have clearly taken Lessig’s statements out of context on purpose, and then to claim that we agree with your interpretation is flat out wrong.

    You so badly want to make a point that you clearly have no problem with lying about what people are saying. It may make a few people who already felt that way support you, but you certainly won’t convince anyone else. If anything, you will likely turn people the other way. Your paper will get more people to actually read what Lessig said — at which point they will realize your work is pure fiction.

  • http://techdirt.com/ Mike Masnick

    Mike–displaying his usual capacity for judgment–tried to claim that anyone who favored deregulation in the United States should embrace Lessig’s bizarre claims about the “effective freedom” in communist Vietnam. I think that is absurd.

    Tom, I made no such claim. You are doing the same thing that you did to Lessig to me. It’s disgusting.

    Again, what you’re saying above is like me saying:

    “Tom — displaying his usual inability to understand English — tried to claim that anyone who dislikes communism in Vietnam should embrace the genocide of native Americans in the US. I think that is absurd.”

    The examples are identical. You clearly did not say that, just as I did not say that anyone should embrace communist Vietnam. But in a sick and twisted way, if you read my statements or Lessig’s statements the way you have, then you must also agree with the above.

    So, Tom, tell us… why do you celebrate the genocide of Native Americans?

  • http://techdirt.com/ Mike Masnick

    Indeed, we agree about that and many other things, including 1)that Lessig’s 1999 and 2006 books are horrendous; 2)that the Fisher scheme is a nightmare, and 3)that only a fool or a “useful idiot” would use the term “bland communism” to describe the governance of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe from 1930 to 1991.

    Bah. Need to respond to these points as well, because you just can’t resist making stuff up about us, can you?

    1. No, we do not agree that the books are horrendous. I can’t speak for Tim, but I think the books raised some very useful and accurate issues that were in need of discussion. I think he very accurately portrayed certain problems and challenges in existing systems. I think he raised a number of interesting proposals on how to fix the problems or face the challenges, though I disagree that some of those suggestions are practical.

    2. No, we do not agree that the Fisher scneario is “a nightmare.” I think it’s bad policy that would do more harm than good, but that’s not the same as a nightmare. I asked you earlier (which you failed to respond to) if you also believe that existing compulsory licenses are similarly socialist in nature, and will lead us down the path to murderous regimes. So, Tom, are you so against existing compulsory licenses? A court today just forced Yahoo, AOL and RealNetworks to cough up $100 million for compulsory licenses. Why aren’t you ranting and raving about that?

    3. I’m sorry, how can you possibly make that claim? Both myself and Julian explained to you what “any fool” should know Lessig was talking about: the aesthetic sense of cold war communism — which, most certainly, was bland. No one (and I do mean no one) could possibly read the sentence that includes “bland communism” and assume that somehow is an endorsement of Stalinism, as you claim. Not even a “useful idiot” could interpret the phrase “bland communism” the way you did.

    You have clearly taken Lessig’s statements out of context on purpose, and then to claim that we agree with your interpretation is flat out wrong.

    You so badly want to make a point that you clearly have no problem with lying about what people are saying. It may make a few people who already felt that way support you, but you certainly won’t convince anyone else. If anything, you will likely turn people the other way. Your paper will get more people to actually read what Lessig said — at which point they will realize your work is pure fiction.

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