This is going to be a hugely long, rambling post, and if you can't handle such long posts by reading them or browsing the headlines and sampling them, move along. I'm not here to make your media snacking more digestable. I like to think out loud, gather lots of notes and links and compare them and share them with those few others who might be prepared to think along with me.
The short course for my theses here about technocommunism go like this:
o technocommunism is an accurate term, not a parody or a conspiracy theory, for Web 2.0 and virtual world software projects, as "communism" and "socialism" are terms that both critics (Andrew Keen) and booster (Kevin Kelly) of technocommunism themselves use, and used in 2006 and 2007 long before me, and continue to use without any reference to me of course. I think it's accurate to use this term, and I put the "techno" on it to signal the neo version of it that believes that many of the "excesses" of past communisms will be "cured" by addition of technology. They won't.
o yes, it is a form of communism, even without a state or "government actor" because under communist theory, the state is supposed to wither away after the advance guard of the workers (the Party) and the workers' councils (the soviets) come to power -- and the state is supposed to be run by "any cook". And so here we are, with the transnational mega IT company Google, the ad agency and free search provider, serving as more of a state than many of the states that are called states in real life, with power over people and with a business model and practices that make the term "technocommunism" accurate applied to it
o other facets of communism -- collectivization, forced sharing, liberation of property, expropriation from the expropriators, etc. are also involved in Web 2.0 as are other Bolshevik cultural practices (lying, dissembling, bullying, legal nihilism etc.)
o these ideological roots of technocommunism can be found in various strands of radical leftism in the U.S. and abroad, in the California Ideology, in the radical SDS of the 1960s, even in people's personal family histories as "red diaper babies".
o it's fine to criticize all this not only as a protected form of speech but as a civic duty, given the Big Lie and the destructiveness of communism that is constantly denied, covered up and given a pass, particularly on the left, and even today; it is not "McCarthyism" to criticize an ideology used to massacre millions and bring harm to millions, and which today in this pixel form, continues to devastate and bring harm, with the ruination of the newspaper, music, book, etc. industries; it is not "conspiracy theory" to identify streams of thought, discuss and criticize them. Just as communists have the right to expoud and promote their ideas, so do anti-communists, without facing the oppression of anti-anti-communists.
o those proclaiming they have liberated content or put the free tools into the workers' hands have merely commodified relationships and driven companies relentlessly to having to sell ads or sell lists of people to data mine -- ultimately technocommunism subverts and perverts what it invades with lies about being for the public's good, and harms the public interest.
So having had that little lesson in the Lenin Corner today, you can move on to your social media snacking and virtual worlding with a smile or a frown as you will, but hopefully, you will think a little harder about what has happened to our Internet and our real life due to the ideologies of some of the founders and ongoing providers of these "services" we have come to take for granted.
Web 3.0 and even the remnants of Web 2.0 don't *have* to be a technocommunist construction any more than Russia or Estonia or Poland "had" to live under communism. The way out may be painful, but necessary if we are to have a viable network in 2D and 3D that doesn't harm humankind and drain away revenue into the pockets of only a few oligarchs but brings freedom and prosperity to people. If you *really* care about people -- which you claim if you follow communism -- then you will examine closely the claims of the technocommunists and follow the simple teaching of Jesus: "By their fruits ye shall know them".
Most people don't really bother to study communism, in theory or practice, but have a basic sense of it: communism was a good idea, but it was implemented by bad people. Of course, study of the ideas and the practice of these ideas will lead you to exactly the opposite conclusion -- it was a bad idea and that's why it attracted bad people who implemented it for ill. But most people don't stick around that long, and they have a powerful reason not to do so: abject fear of being called a McCarthyite. So deeply ingrained are the lessons of McCarthyism, that people deeply fear even debating communism, even saying anything critical about it, for not only of appearing politically incorrect, but of actually contributing to some unfair prosecution or punishment of a person with leftist beliefs. On Twitter, if you even use the word "Marxist" or "Communist," a guy with an account called RedScareBot with a Joe McCarthy icon on his account will come around and apprehend you, trying to name and shame you even for raising the topic.
Since the "Red Scare" of 50 years ago and the subjection to harassment and prosecution of numerous people, both actual Communist believers who didn't deserve to be jailed or lose their jobs, and people with leftist or neutral beliefs unjustly tarred with the Communist meme, there have been many checks and balances put in to place to prevent this sort of abuse. The Smith Act, while it remains on the books, has been struck down as unconstitutional, meaning it has no effect (this is something people with other legal systems often don't get, and some bad-minded actors even copy the Smith Act in order to deliberately claim they are following U.S. models, and others think that its presence in law is some indicator of potential ill intent, whereas it is nullified by the Supreme Court on First Amendment and other grounds).
It is completely unlikely that anyone would be tried for their communist ideals now, under Obama especially, or even under the backlash to Obama which is certain to come with the next administration after him. Even so, in liberal and leftist circles you are completely prohibited from criticising communism. If you doubt me, try as an experiment right now striking up a conversation about communism, and see how quickly you will face the twin memes that discourage every conversation: a) but it was a good idea badly implemented b) but that's McCarthyism. Good luck!
Even so, every time I use the term "technocommunism," by which I mean the modern technological version of communism as an ideology we see today in Web 2.0, I'm ridiculed, savaged, and even griefed. There is a rabid and hysterical communist campaign against me in SL which takes the form of actual communists griefing me and doing things like putting my tombstone on my own Memorial to the Victims of Communism (the subtle message may be lost on them), having various inworld CP groups heckle me, rent from me in order to put up communist flags and be a nuisance, IM me with annoyances, etc. -- or else they pretend that as *anti*-communists they are solidarizing with me, but they also engage in the same exaggerated griefing, and then there is of course Woodbury, which adopts the communist insignia for its nuisance and griefing value in the belief they are "satirizing" me (when in fact, they are merely making themselves look like assholes, obliterating the sky of a sim with the discredited hammer and sickle).
WEB 2.0 IS COMMUNISM: ANDREW KEEN
I'm not the one who had to think up the term "communism" for Web 2.0, of course. Apparently while I was busy with real life and Second Life in earlier days and not pondering about the implications of the impending Web 2.0, Andrew Keen was already calling it a form of communism in 2006.
You can already see in his article the effort to explain why it is not like the communism of the past (which some then mistakenly believe is "proof" that it is not communism at all):
CREATIVE COMMUNISM: SHIFTING COMMODIFICATION FROM THINGS TO RELATIONSHIPS
Creative Commons, of course, is the chief way to browbeat and pressure people into giving away content for free; there is no means to sell content in this licensing system because it is decoupled from commerce and DRM, unlike Second Life. You are supposedly to endlessly share, and then out of this abundance and collectivization is supposed to come a "business model" where you sell customized content or specialized "enterprise" solutions, i.e. jingles or an ad campaign that will pay you enough to keep floating your freebie content operation.
All this communist model does is shift commodification and monetarization away from individual copies or transactions with content to *connections* (what Russians call blat, which is translated as "pull"). Thus, the people with the relationships that can procure for them the sale of a jingle for an ad; the people who can figure out how to either pay for advertising or get in front of the right people to make the elevator pitch, they will get the venture capital or the special customized deal or the other Soviet-like special shops and perks and privileges of the connected. When you moneterize connectivity like this, of course, it becomes corrupt; it *is* corrupt; it is why communism at heart is corrupt, and not a "good idea" badly implemented but a bad idea that liberates property, collectivizes people, and then displaces commerce to power relationships who hide under the cover of "the avant-garde of the workers" or "democratic centralism" of the Party.
The problem with the Google documents obviously is that they are ambiguous, or at least, turn out to be in the hands of Zdnet.com from what we can see. Maybe Google intended to force Youtube to do more about copyright infringement (sound like Linden Lab and Second Life's campaigners?); maybe Google wanted all of this problem "elsewhere" by making people jump through hoops, file DMCA takedowns, call their lawyers, start real-life court-cases, and take it all "somewhere else", i.e. to make Google or Youtube *not responsible* so that all that infringing content uploaded could still continue to draw traffic and sell ads.
That this blatant criminality was at least still debated even within the venal Google counsels is evidenced by this quote:
On Thursday, Viacom offered more of these statements. "[W]e should beat YouTube by improving features and user experience, not being a 'rogue enabler' of content theft," said one Google senior employee, according to court documents.
So...how is that working out now, Google?
BETTER BEG FOR IP THEFT FORGIVENESS THAN ASK FOR DRM PERMISSIONS
As Sandoval writes, this concept is basically the "better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission" school of thought:
Media companies have long accused start-up online music and video services of deliberately using their material without permission in order to build audiences, and later, after establishing their businesses, request licensing deals. Critics of the start-ups say that this is done to improve their bargaining power. A studio or music label may find it harder to say no to a licensing deal when a service already boasts millions of followers, or so the theory goes.
Neither Google nor Viacom commented directly on the slide. Google has always said that it respects copyright owners, has numerous partnerships with progressive-thinking film and music providers, and is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Note the adjective "progressive-thinking film and music providers" who are basically people who knuckled, who caved to the pressure to provide content for free on this model of "customization".
Wired's Kelly first sets up a recognition that Web 2.0 is "like" socialism and actually a form of socialism, but then he swings around and undoes this by claims that it is "free" not as in "free beer" but as in "innovation" and "creativity," even citing my new enemy, John Perry Barlow:
In the late '90s, activist, provocateur, and aging hippy John Barlow began calling this drift, somewhat tongue in cheek, "dot-communism." He defined it as a "workforce composed entirely of free agents," a decentralized gift or barter economy where there is no property and where technological architecture defines the political space. He was right on the virtual money. But there is one way in which socialism is the wrong word for what is happening: It is not an ideology. It demands no rigid creed. Rather, it is a spectrum of attitudes, techniques, and tools that promote collaboration, sharing, aggregation, coordination, ad hocracy, and a host of other newly enabled types of social cooperation. It is a design frontier and a particularly fertile space for innovation.
Ad hocracy. What a term! Should we change it to "ad hawkracy"? Because hawking ads, and the predatory behaviours of ad-hawkers is really what governs this "Freetard Republic" set in motion by Barlow's, er, post-hippie marketing plan.
I'd argue that there isn't any freedom of ideologies; they all pretty much run the gamut from A to B. That is, A is the hard-core technocommunism and "liberation" of property that Barlow and Lessig preach, and B is a somewhat modified version of technocommunism, call it technolibertarianism, that pragmatic communists like the Lindens preach, whereby more little businesses are cut into the overall deal of "state capitalism" that the technocommunism has arranged, to make it a bit more of a pluralistic economy. Call it the difference between the Soviet Union, with the hard-core collectivism; Hungary, called "goulash communism" for allowing some small business like hair dressers or grocers or shoe repair so that more food was put on the table; or Yugoslavia's "worker's self management" which perhaps one could describe today as bureaucratic national decentralism, or perhaps allowing a bit more criticism and freedom of expression in exchange for basics. Well, we see how well all this worked in real life...
That explains why Steve Gillmor, the tremendously influential Silicon Valley social media broadcaster "Gilmor Gang" can literally cut off my microphone when I'm speaking about some of Obama's socialist memes (like his Marxist "false consciousness of the masses" stuff with the "guns and religion" explanation for racism) -- apparently his father was a lefty who apparently suffered in the Red Scare or could have suffered and he is extremely sensitive about this issue. He doesn't talk about it that I've seen, referring to his father on the extreme left of the Democratic Party.
SHOES FOR INDUSTRY, SHOES FOR DEFENSE!
Gillmor was part of Firesign Theater, which I listened to assiduously as a young teen on the "progressive radio" (as it was called then) in Rochester, NY (WCMF, with Spark Hicks). I got all the albums from my local library where my boss, the librarian, was also "progressive". Firesign in some ways was a precursor of National Lampoon and Monty Python and Saturday Night Live (and in some ways, Second Life. It think you have to be of a certain age even to remember this phenomenon of a sort of rock comedy record and radio play -- here is one recollection and I agree that Mad Magazine was a precursor of all of these things). Among the many things they lampooned was the obsession with communism, the anti-communism that then became anti-anti-communism, with their parodies like the Communist Martyrs Highschool and the Communist Love Song and the famous "Shoes for industry! Shoes for defense!" which I think managed to be a parody of capitalism and communism at the same time (at least, some of us took it that way).
Marc Canter, another member of the Gillmor Gang, is more forthright about his communist views -- he not only calls himself a "red diaper baby" (i.e. son and grandson of a communist) but says he is "a commie" today. It's no accident, comrade that he invents something called the People Aggregator which is all about collectivization online, and -- duh, I realize that he may have made open standards plug-ins for Moveable type that could be on this very blog *gasp*!
Marc is relentless and apparently something of a "handful" for interviewers and a rowdy character judging from online accounts (I had never heard of him before the Gillmor Gang which I've stopped listening to). Marc believes everything should be free and open. Open standards, Open Social. His own thingie isn't distributed with an opensource license (because GPL won't let you sell stuff!), but no matter, these things happen even for the true believers, because, well, he's not going to foresake the Second Live geek mantra of "no business but my business" or "free except when I need to get paid".
What's operative is that he thinks his solution is a "third way" like Kevin Kelly -- he laughingly talks about leaving Mark Zuckerberg his proprietary ownership of accounts ("gotta leave something for Wall Street and the bosses" he chortles) but makes the standards open so everybody can, um, share. And get the hooksin to make widgets and monetarize people. Which of course benefits his New Class.
Marc was uncritically inspired by Port Huron as you can hear in this Gnomedex interview, but more importantly, he was inspired by his grandfather's own part in a notorious case of the Red Scare past, Saccho and Vanzetti, involving two Italian anarchists said to be tried unfairly and sentenced for a murder they supposedly did not commit, something scholars and activists have warred over for 50 years. Today, there's a school of thought that says Saccho was implicated and Vanzetti was innocent -- that hasn't made a dent on Marc because for him, it's a sacred family legend involving his own kin His grandfather found exonerating evidence and tried to push it; he himself wound up in jail for free speech; he then took his family to Soviet Russia and helped the Russian government with things like translations of Marx from German to Russian; Marc describes this with aggressive loyalty that fails to even consider that his relative helping this government meant that he was involved in the death of other people's relatives in the GULAG on those same kinds of free speech grounds that sent his relative briefly to prison -- the kind of case that was multiplied many more millions of times over in the Soviet Union by contrast with the U.S. where it was much more rare and isolated.
There's nothing to be done with someone this welded to the Red cause through familial history, I've found, as no amount of trying to speak sense even from your own experience or family's experience will work -- they believe ardently that anti-communists are fascists, imperialists, antisemites -- and that's it. Perhaps at some intellectual level he is able to make some critical distinction between Stalin's, um, industrialization and urbanization which his grandfather assisted and his mass murder, which was an, er, excess. But no matter. Because Marc's technocommunism today is going to take that old "good idea" that has never been responsible for anything bad (there were just bad implementers) and *this* time implement it "well".
COMMUNISTS COMMODIFYING YOUR LISTS
And then when you see his actual proposals, and the Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web you see one of the big problems that creeps up (and crept up for Gwyn of the Islamicized (TM) CDS as well): privacy and its true link to private property, and the geek unwillingness to link privacy to property, but to say, in the name of liberation from property that privacy can be ensured by geeks coding various toggles. In the process of liberating everybody's friend list, which Canter wants done under the "data protection" and "data portability" credo for open social, the problem is that everybody in that list is also ported *whether they want to be or not*. Scoble seldom discussed this angle in his public ranting about Plaxo and Facebook and exporting; Canter doesn't seem to have reflected on the significance of people taking me as a contact along to every other platform, whether I want to be outed as connected or not (which can then happen, as happened with gmail and Google Wave, remember? And happened not as an accident, but because of that same cavalier asshole Bolshevik view of liberated property, that happened because the commodification of relationships was shifted from copies of items or digital property, which was all "liberated" and "made free" to "my list" which is "mine" and protected not by adherence to the proprietary platform, which could keep our privacy, but liberated by the exigences of the collectivist "Open Social".
It's typical of the geek concept of "user" that they usually envision it as "the high powered user that I am". So they write in rights for themselves to own their activity list and pry it away from proprietary corporate hands running a platform; they urge that their friendship list and their freedom to grant access to "trusted platforms" and so on all be granted to them, but they forget their own collectivism; they forget that on social networks, I'm on your friendship list, and my interaction with your content in your activity stream is mine, too. Facebook attempts to adjudicate this by such tools as being able to block someone from contact you, which also wipes out your view of their content, even if they are posting to your friend's wall -- it's the grey ghost of mute that Second Life does now with avatars, which I find reprehensible (because Linden shouldn't be trying to remove the view of human beings and their objectionable content, which is Stalinist and Orwellian, but should have repercussions for the bad behaviour people engage in such as to make them wish to mute people who grief them). Of course, Gillmor's desire to remove my ability to view his tweets when he views his @ vanity track is a version of this grey ghost. It continues to be my contention that in the interests of a democratic society with the rule of law, search should never be blocked to any user for any reason. It's one thing to block me from actively following you and regularly seeing my tweets; it's another to block me from seeing everything you write on a word search or name search.
When the Social Web manifesto says this, "Allow their users to syndicate their own profile data, their friends list, and the data that’s shared with them via the service, using a persistent URL or API token and open data formats," they make the same arrogant mistake of the Second Life AWgroupies on Interoperability -- they refuse to acknowledge that this is not just their right, but a mutual right that pertains to every individual on their list, who should get a checkoff box on what he wants shared to other platforms too. Surely they could acknowledge this and build in this recognition of the autonomy of others. But they don't. Because it's collectivization, not collaboration.
Futhermore, the dirty little truth of why these geek API engineers want your list -- they want clicks on their ads. It's the Google model, not about "the good of the people' in "the collective".
I don't know that Facebook has ever publicly debated the ramifications of these problems; Google learned the hard way that people will not put up with the geek religion view of forcing privacy and demanding people live on line. The anti-communist movement has already begun (though it will never call itself that), with services already springing up that will granulate privacy and make the widgetification more under individual rather than API engineer or corporate control. All the flash casual games are about on Facebook is a gimmick to get you to force your friends to participate in your activities so that eventually you recommend a product or help distribute an ad or compel some ad clicking behaviour.
The 1950s and 1960s saw numerous novels, magazine articles, plays, later TV shows, movies that studied and probed and satirized and made humorous the Ad Men and the advertising culture of Madison Avenue, the commodification of things. Where is the satire of all these media today, new media and social media, that is commodifying relationships and things in the Farmbook world? The first piece of parody I saw of Farmville was from Michelle Feldman, wife of my favourite Internet comedian Loren Feldman of 1938 Media, who made a machinima of her gal avatar on Farmville fenced in to keep her from making time-wasting or inefficient movements on the chores of her farm, crying "Fence the Bitch in! Fence the Bitch in!". There's now the South Park episode on Facebook showing the cartoon-cut-out dad trudging in to his son's room demanding forlornly to know why his son isn't friending him, and then why he isn't poking back or responding to a funny picture. There's a Twitter parody video. But there isn't much. There should be a lot more. There isn't.
WHAT THEY DO WITH YOU WHEN YOU'RE COLLECTIVIZED
That the technocommunists are seriously hell-bent on collectivization of online users is evident in their own writing-- one need not be paranoid or guilt of a "Red Scare". I've written about how Mark Zuckerberg believes we were all "his" to be harnessed to "his progressive causes" as ill-informed or as undemocratic as they would be ("participatory democracy" doesn't really work in their hands as we saw with the faux democracy of the TOS exercise) -- I said we were not 69 million of anything; today we are still not 450 million of anything, either. Of course, there are people like the former Rob Linden and various other sectarians busy trying to create new weighted or "streamlined" voting systems for "e-democracy" and "direct voting" and such that make the pretension of "participatory democracy" seem to work by sheer aggregation of numbers, and yet, we know from Second Life how the JIRA "vote yes only" vote really works, and "the tyranny of who shows up".
You might think with the failure of "democracy" on social media, there would be more of an expose of the Big Lie that Kevin Kelly is telling about "socialism online" as the Next Great Thing. But it has failed on Facebook (you don't hear of it again); on Twitter (the devs follow the same strategy of monetarizing search and ads to sell off pieces of the Motherland); on Second Life (no more town halls, the killing of the Feature Voter System, the bans from the JIRA; the gutting of the forums (even the archiving has in fact subtly made some searches impossible by removing the old rubrics and leaving new rubrics which had obliterated the old -- in the old archive, they were still underlying).
Kevin Kelly again makes it clear that "people aggregation" is something that the platform owners and coders believe is "theirs". Here's how he counts everybody -- hundreds and thousands of opensource people, with their 60,00 man lightyears of labour on Linux; 350 million visitors to Youtube; 10 million registered to edit Wikipedia of whom 160,000 are active (hmm); More than 35 million posted and tagged more than 3 billion photos and videos on Flickr. Yahoo has 7.8 million groups; Google has 3.9 million (go, Yahoo!) and so on. But all perceived as "mine" by this coder/technocommunist geek. Says Kelly, airily with grand world-historical sweeping gestures: