Over on my other blog Wired State, I have an article Who Was Really Behind the Anti-SOPA Campaign? Not the Grassroots but the Astroturf Machines of Mitch Kapor.
I think it's a pretty good summary, based on a lot of tech blogs bragging about the "real" forces behind the campaign (griefers can never help but victory dance!) -- which they hasten to tell you "isn't" Google and isn't some big tech company but scrappy little NGOs that "came out of nowhere," as Mike Masnick said, lying through his teeth. He knows full well in fact as I outline that it was a hardened and seasoned cadres of the anti-copyright movement who had been funded for years in a number of projects by Mitch Kapor.
Where has Mitch Kapor been all your Second Life, you ask? Do you remember him at the 5th birthday party when he spoke? That time he spoke about the "emotional bandwidth" of Second Life, a term I think actually an IBM lady invented. He called us "pioneers" -- but misfits:
When you see this resin, you should be seeing a big red vertical arrow just at the margin between the early adopter phase and the pragmatist phase. That is really where we are today and I think that has some very important implications and I want to talk about that for a minute. So the first is, in the earliest wave of pioneers in any new disruptive platform, the marginal and the dispossessed are over represented, not the sole constituents by any means but people who feel they don't fit, who have nothing left to lose or who were impelled by some kind of dream, who may be outsiders to whatever mainstream they are coming from, all come and arrive early in disproportionate numbers.
It was the way the west in the U.S. was settled. It is the way Second Life has been settled. And in fact those early pioneers find a very arduous environment. In the early days, you really have to want to be here because life in certain ways is very very difficult, in fact too difficult for most people. It is unavoidable in some sense that there will be a very high attrition rate in the early years while a platform is being built out. It doesn't stay that way of course, it can't, but the difficulties of conditions cause those who stay to really bond together, have something in common.
Was it the way Silicon Valley was settled? So that boys from Brookly who once went to Yale and worked as psychologists could take up computer science and forge the new electronic frontier?
I always thought it was odd that for someone who invested in a company and led it -- and for such an idealistic company -- Mitch had nothing ever to say. He is very quiet. He never blogs any more and only produces anodyne tweets for the most part. Maybe his PR people told him that after that 5th birthday speech backfired, he should just not talk. I also think he totally lost interest in Second Life because he was immersed in other projects.
Remember, Philip was deposed from the CEO position and put in as board chair, which meant Mitch had to become then just a regular member of the board.
What do they talk about? Who knows, it's a private company and its minutes aren't on the record.
So despite the fact that we really know little about what he thinks or does, except what some tech blogs and a bit of mainstream media might report, Shava Nerd took enormous exception to my article outlining the connections among his various causes leading to the defeat of SOPA, dubbing it a crackpot conspiracy theory. Er, no, it's a report how Mitch Kapor funded the organizations and nurtured the people that killed SOPA -- people who had spent their lives fighting copyright, who only in recent years, with large injections of Soros money, began covering up this criminality with a "free speech" cause.
Shava has been busy self-righteously writing rebuttals -- and drawing in another guy who I had heard of but never encountered, the famous ESR, Eric S. Raymond, he of Cathedral and Bazaar, Linux, etc.
And they've both been savaging me on G+ and in my blog comments -- great! Bring it! I love a good argument.
But I stand by my post, because I didn't claim Mitch Kapor personally pulled a string and Shava and ESR lifted up their right arms and then clicked on an anti-SOPA petition, that's absurd. I said that inspired by his heavy ideological take on the Internet, his ardent belief in removing copyright, his still-capacious sums of personal wealth, he founded organizations that promote his beliefs and continue to influence politics and even have more influence than ever. These include Electronic Frontier Foundation, Participatory Culture Foundation, and Fight for the Future (this last one is more of a front organization, I maintained, as it has little substance -- it only has a very slight web page with just the anti-SOPA campaign and not much presence or depth).
Mitch seems to be ahead of his time. Lotus 1-2-3 wasn't user friendly, and never go used by more than a few hundred thousands -- Microsoft took the lead in office software. While we were wondering what happened him when he wandered away from Second Life, he was fervently pitching Miro as the next great home of democracy and disruption of TV. It wasn't. It seems mainly to survive as a way to arrange your porn and illegal movie downloads (and some would say that's a lot like what happened to Second Life, although I personally reject that analysis). He funded Downhill Battle to hate on and finish destroying the music industry after Napster got done with it, but it fizzled out, too, because the music industry didn't die on cue. EFF was founded to provide legal defense to illegal hackers facing legitimate prosecution and has always retained its criminalized feel, lawfaring away against copyright to beat the band. Participatory Culture...what does that do again? It's seems mainly a campaign funding vehicle to work on things like battling SOPA.
Of course, there are lots and lots of other things Mitch Kapor does -- helping underprivileged teens in inner cities and so on. He is widely admired as a nice guy by those who know him. And I'm sure if you tune in on a certain wavelength, he's just ducky. Who doesn't like a goatee and a Hawaian shirt? Sing along with Mitch!
But I find these organizations he has made and the people in him -- and of course the figure of John Perry Barlow and some of the others -- downright sinister in their destructiveness, all under cover of techno-utopianism. How did he meet Barlow? I can't find the answer to that question. Maybe they went to Bohemian Grove. Or a Dead concert? Or who knows...
This is a good info graph showing the connections.
Why do I return to the figure of Mitch Kapor?
Because I really resent the fact that he had a good thing in Second Life that had found a way to weld community/commerce/content (as c3 would say!) with more or less working tools (c3 would disagree) and a very avid if small user base. But he sneered at it because it wasn't ideologically correct according to his fervent open-source religion. In fact, everything about it revealed his open-source cult to be a fraud and a failure. That's probably why he turned his back on it.
People didn't want to create a commons and share and click and make Creative Commons licenses -- like he and his pals could pretend was happening in some huge phenomenon on the Internet (it was, and it wasn't...). When given freedom, they chose copyright -- and how. They fought fiercely for it. It more or less worked, even with the obvious holes. They also didn't sit around in politically-correct drum circles singing Kumbayah and figuring out architectural plans for greenhouses in Nepal. Instead, they built tacky malls, had kitschy art shows, went to maudlin amateur live music shows, and had tawdry sex. Imagine, the temerity! People always mess up things for the utopians!