everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
*originally posted:* mar 2021
people sign confessions to murders they didnt commit. in 1984 and star trek: the next generation, people (including picard) are tortured into not only saying, but even believing things that are factually untrue.
is it possible to pressure someone into behaving differently? such is the calculated goal of bullbaiting tactics, used to deliberately fluster someone into behaving unreasonably.
in the bbc documentary panarama, the host was bullbaited by someone trained to manipulate people emotionally by lying and provoking him and flipping every accusation back onto him. as was designed to happen, the host lost his temper like he had probably never done on camera in his professional career.
people believe they are better than this, that they can stand up to it, and certainly some are better at it than others. some people also have shorter tempers than others. some people also have different levels of ability to deal with certain situations that are due to genetic differences, which is frequently used against some of the brilliant people who have contributed to the free software movement-- and while thats worth mentioning here, its relationship to the point being made now is only tangential.
for the moment we are talking about people with an "average" or "everyday" ability to withstand bullbaiting or weaponised gaslighting tactics, or interrogation tactics.
again, one of the problems with excessive pressure during interrogation (or really interrogation itself) is that its not designed to get the truth, its only designed to trap people into confessing things, whether theyre guilty or not. if they are guilty its useful in that sense, but its not a reliable method of determining guilt.
daniel pocock talks about these matters extensively and i bow to his coverage of such topics. at the moment id like to cover an angle he may not have yet.
if you can get people to confess to things they havent actually done (such as murder someone they had no connection to the death of) or pressure people into actually believing things that are factually untrue (such as the number of fingers being held up when it is actually a different number) and you can manipulate someone with a known reputation for being calm and cool under pressure into losing their temper, can you also pressure someone to behave or speak in a way that is out of character?
this is highly relevant to cancel culture, where we go around looking for "sins" made in the past year, 5 years, 10 years not about actions, but even words, things said that could be considered offensive or even misconstrued as meaning other things. many of the statements that led to stallman (this is just one example-- we predicted stallman being ousted because of similar examples that were successful previously) being ousted were in fact twisted to mean things he never said.
the common retort to that is that he said other things which werent misquoted. alright, so if those were the real problem, why is it that other things he didnt actually say were used by the media to push him out of leadership? because the whole thing is dishonest and calculated, and the timing was there to deflect from much worse things done by other people.
you might say this is "whataboutism", but thats not honest either-- its not honest to say its "whataboutism" that stallman was deliberately used like chaff to throw people off a larger story-- what was done *to* stallman was the real whataboutism. saying that pointing this out is "whataboutism" is just blaming stallman or his supporters for defending him/self from whataboutism. its clever and some people fall for it, but you cant claim "whataboutism" for people defending themselves from your own whataboutism.
"oh but its not mine, other people..."
yeah, thats the thing about lynch mobs, they often dont know why they hate a person enough to ruin someones life. but everybody else is doing that, so everybody else must have a good reason-- a million angry rioters cant be wrong.
but getting back on topic, if you can convince someone (even temporarily) that 3 fingers is actually 4 fingers, or that nighttime is daytime (its 5:00 somewhere) or that they killed someone theyve never even met, can you convince them theyre a bigot?
lets be clear here, everybody has some amount (hopefully very small) of bigotry and other assorted nonsense about them. the nicest most rational person might have some kind of backwards view (especially when society progresses, but not always at exactly the same rate for every individual and people take time to eschew perspectives their parents dumped onto them, sometimes while abusing them at the same time) but theyre nice about it-- like someone who doesnt think gays should marry but they "dont hate them or anything, theyre just as nice as anybody else, thats just not what marriage is".
please note that isnt my view, ive protested publicly and in person against doma (defense of marriage act) and ive never voted for anybody who stood against gay marriage. though some otherwise nice people have some backwards views. should we ostracise them (essentially ban them) from society? is shunning helpful?
are we sure we arent twisting something they said? is there due process? is the response proportional? if we throw out basic tenets of justice to "fix" societies problems, are we not creating larger problems in their place? but who cares, the man is a bigot, right? he doesnt deserve due process and proportional response.
of course the thing about gaslighting is it piles on and on and on. now you cant even ask these questions, because if you defend someone who is marked for social death then you must really be a secret bigot yourself! so we have to line you up next to them, its nothing personal its just how we fix all of societies ills. in a fucking cult, at least... oh you protested doma? that hardly matters. we now have gay marriage and you supported that, but you wont let us burn this witch so you must have a demon or something. dont worry, we will give you a speedy trial!
but again, can you convince someone theyre a bigot, if we start with the idea that anybody has the capacity for some (non-zero) level of bigotry? in other words, is there any thought youve EVER had, which you have not apologised and thoroughly repented for, including resigning any position youve ever had up to that point of turning away from your bigotry, mr. smith?
are you now, or have you ever been a member of the bigotry party?
ill repeat the question-- are you now, or have you ever been a member of the bigotry party?
we have signed testimony from several of your peers who said that 5 years ago, you were making a comment that we consider unsavoury and hateful against a group. do you deny the claims of these peers mr. smith?
its nothing to worry about, if you step down from everything you presently work with, we can teach you to be a decent human being. these comments you made clearly demonstrate that you were not, but you can still learn to be a decent person. the important thing right now is that you step down.
once people comply, there is no problem. we release them into the world again, now that theyve learned their lesson. and if they step out of line again, we say "we tried" but its hopeless, we make certain there are no further repeat problems.
but can we trigger someone to do this more quickly?
that is, instead of waiting for people to show their true colours, can we put them under constant pressure and constant scrutiny, while insisting over and over and over that they are bigots?
then when they deny it, can we then have the license to constantly use bigoted phrases and compare everything theyve ever said that could possibly have anything remotely in common with those bigoted phrases, and say to them "isnt this the same thing mr. smith? isnt this what you said? do you not understand how this proves what youre being accused of?"
"we are only trying to get you to admit what youve already done. cant you at least admit that, so that we can work towards change for the better?"
and the thing is-- the comments or actions that lead up to this point-- they dont have to be true. they dont have to be more honest than the comments made about what stallman didnt actually say. they often arent, because the process has nothing to do with getting the truth but with getting people to confess.
we can just go ahead and interrogate people, put pressure on them for hours, days, weeks-- to get them to confess their bigotry, all while using bigoted phrases and giving examples of bigoted perspectives and views-- to show that theyre the same as the views the person really espouses. its necessary to demonstrate the comparison and the similarity, you know!
finally, when we are done with this low-level torture and threat of public shunning, libel, public shaming and character assassination-- can we actually get this person to BEHAVE in the way we have accused them?
i dont know, because the sorts of people who set out to prove such things with experimentation have to be willing to do likely-unethical experiments that none of us probably want to see carried out. you might have to torture people to scientifically prove that youre torturing them.
or maybe you dont, im not an expert on that. but it seems like you might, and thats not great.
finally, people will want to spin this question as "aha! you see, by casting doubt into the process, this person only wants to shield true bigots from being called out".
i mean yes, of course the only reason anybody defends the idea of due process and proportional consequences is that they want to see bad people get off easy. isnt that obvious? (sick people...)
or alternatively (and perhaps heretically) they want to be sure that this WONDERFUL process of cornering and torturing people into believing theyre bad (and then acting based on that "realisation") isnt used on innocent people.
it could be that. but i suppose thats just what bigots want you to think.
lets be clear, there are real nazis and real bigots and real assholes.
but if your tactics are just as bad as theirs are, if you GLADLY use torture against innocents to make the world "nicer" for people in general, i really dont think youre better than a fucking nazi. i think youre closer to what you hate than the generally very good, generally known-to-be progressive people youre harassing like joseph mccarthy and tomas de torquemada arent fucking dead yet. the ends dont justify the means, they also hurt good people-- but you dont get that. or with some people, you dont actually care because youre a fucking sociopath who hides their enjoyment of human suffering behind what most people consider a just cause.
or something like that. who knows?