Monday, February 07, 2005

Opening the FUD Gates

FUD - a fascinating weapon in the technology industry.

The basic idea is - spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt upon the ignorant masses and quickly follow that up with a sermon describing how your company/product will protect people from the said evils. Although the acronym has its roots in the technology industry, the practice of FUD is millenia old and can be observed in all facets of life where division between the powerful and powerless exists.

Every now and then, facets of social FUD intersect and propaganda unites. In the recent SPIEGEL interview with Bill Gates, the mighty billionaire/philanthropist said -

"The terrorist attacks in 2001 just showed people up close where a lack of security can lead."

As the current U.S. Administration would like us to believe - a primary cause of terrorism is a lack of security. Buying into this falsehood justifies the spending of billions on weaponry and security systems to make America "safe". Although the out-of-context mainstream media "soundbyte" of Ward Churchill saying that some killed in the 9/11 attacks were "little Eichmanns" may seem a shocking perspective to some, it appears as though much of the American public choose to ignore the role foreign policy plays in the creation of such violent events.

Security, security, security. This is the mantra, the savior - the solution that will bring peace to homeland America and the world once and for all. "Keep a loaded weapon in your home" some say - to protect you and your loved ones.

Security, security, security. This is of utmost importance says Microsoft. And the way to keep your computer safe from disease such as viruses, adware, or spyware is to shun free code. You should trust our code says Microsoft - even if you can't see it. "Nobody ever knows who built open-source software" says Steve Ballmer - even though lead developers of projects are well known and readily available for contact. And one may ask why knowing who built the code is important when it is already open to public scrutiny in the first place. It is only when we cannot see the code that our only recourse becomes knowing the programmer's identity. If I have the code and there is a problem, then I can fix it and need not worry about finding the author.

Amazingly, some say that funneling money into the military and keeping code from the scrutiny of the public eye is what will protect the populous and spread democratic peanut butter the world around. Fortunately, there are some doing their best to inform the citizenry in an intelligent manner.

Even when free software is developed and implemented with resounding success in an electronic voting arena, few people are aware of such news. If the majority of average citizens took the time to understand what publicly visible source code means to democracy in the electronic age - they would be up in arms over companies like Diebold having the potential to pervert results. But no, it only takes a few proprietary software fast-talkers to convince the ignorant that free software is an insecure approach even when intuition, common sense, and studies say otherwise.

Apparently, democracy is a profitable market for both oil companies in Iraq and software companies in America.


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