My editor tells me I’m not offending enough of my audience, so today I’m going to attack the left. While I have strong political views, I’m not so fond of associating with a particular political party — almost all of them seem too entrenched in specific political battles and alliances, that they ignore the facts. I prefer to have a handful of ideological axioms (e.g. wealth redistribution is OK, personal liberty is more important than the will of the majority, etc.) but to develop most of my opinions based on what does the most good for the most people. Anyway, the end result is I like attacking everybody and I really like hearing strong, well-reasoned, opposing viewpoints. Which is why I like these two blogs:

The Volokh Conspiracy is a weblog originally started by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. Volokh and his cobloggers seem to be somewhere to the lower-right (so they’re doubly fond of guns), but they often criticize conventional right-wing wisdom: what’s wrong with lesbians?, what’s wrong with gay teachers?, etc. And Eugene is an excellent and clear writer, making it even more enjoyable. I also enjoy his legal scholarship, highlights being the Hum a Few Bar Exam (humor) and Freedom of Speech and Intellectual Property (which analyzes copyright, trademark, etc. with tradtional First Amendment doctrine with some very interesting conclusions).

Unlimited Freedom is similar but for technological arguments. It’s written anonymously using invisiblog (free, secure, anonymous blogging!) by the thing variously known as AARG!Anonymous and 1c801df4aee49232. Seth Schoen suggested calling him Lochner in Cyberspace which I think is hilarious, so I’ll call him that. Lochner has bravely taken the side of devil’s advocate on Internet mailing lists and newsgroups, intelligently arguing that trusted computing and other things Internet consensus is strongly against are good things, all while never letting his real identity slip. Both are tremendous achievements, which I think should be respected.

While I disagree strongly with both these people on many issues, I’d feel greatly impoverished without their intelligent and reasonable arguments. It’s frustrating to try and debate an issue when you’re the only one playing with the facts.

Right, so back to attacking the left. Today’s criticism of the left is that they blow tiny things out of proportion, whine about how awful they are, and then whine more about how their whining has had an effect. (The canonical example of the last part is the EFF and the DMCA, where the EFF has hurt their own cause in the short term by scaring people into not doing things that the DMCA alone wouldn’t really have stopped. But since I don’t think the DMCA is a tiny issue, I won’t address it here.)

The first example is the PATRIOT Act. This darling of the left has been the subject of ACLU TV ads, Nightline episodes, and countless editorials and op-eds. .If you went by the editorializing, the PATRIOT Act was the first step towards turning America into a police state where the Bill of Rights no longer applied. But when you look at the actual act, you find very little: some more surveilance authority, a nasty court, but it’s not like our fundamental freedoms are being taken away. I’d be much more concerned about being declared an enemy combatant and whisked off to a military prison. Or being held indefitely without charges as a m,aterial witness. Sure, I’d like the PATRIOT Act repealed, but I wouldn’t give it a whole episode, run TV ads on it, or make it part of my presidential platform. (Even TV shows are joining the fun: in David Greenwalt’s Jake 2.0, an NSA agent ties up a criminal and sneers “it’s scum like you that makes me glad we have the PATRIOT Act”.)

My second example is the FCC regulations. To hear Lessig talk about it, the decision was going to destroy the the-media-as-we-know-it — and this was before the new regulations were even announced! Lessig also complained that no one was talking about this, which certainly didn’t seem true to me — every time I turned on the TV or radio I heard another story. (Admittedly, that was Nightline, NPR, and the Times.) In the end, the decision merely loosened some restrictions on station ownership, not the doomsday scenario that was predicted. And yet folks ran to Congress to get it overturned! I can almost sympathize with Chairman Powell when he complains he was the victim of a massive campaign. Hey Congress, where were you on the NET Act, the DMCA, or the CTEA? In fact, Congress’s eagerness to overturn the law is probably further proof that nobody cares — if anyone actually lobbied for it, the movement to overturn it never would have gotten anywhere.

So left, I ask, why are you wasting your time on this stuff? The public’s attention is precious, wouldn’t you rather talk about how Bush is giving money to Osama and giving his relatives free flights out of the country when all planes are grounded? Or how about how, while all but one of the hijackers were Saudis, we gave Saudi Arabia a free pass and in fact Bush hugged a member of the House of Saud just 48 hours after the attacks? Or maybe how the Clinton administration left a complete plan for dismantling Al Qaeda, and while the few holdovers from his administration were trying to get the President to carry it out, Bush went to his ranch to show the press his dogs? Perhaps remind folks about the public dismantling of environmental and other restrictions for large corporate donors? Or point out Bush’s lies about how everyone benefits from tax cuts for the rich? Or ask why Ashcroft is trying to jail pornographers, sellers of drug paraphanelia, and computer programmers when there’s supposedly a war on terrorism going on? Nah, you’re right, I guess it’s not important.

Oops, I forgot, I’m supposed to be attacking the left. What’s wrong with you, left? Have you lost all sense of proportion? I mean, yeah, it’s sad Valerie Plume was outted, but maybe you should worry about the rest of the population for a bit? Who knows, if you started talking to the public, you might even win an election one of these days!

posted October 15, 2003 05:52 PM (Politics) #


Poison Dart Guns or Solving Politics with Technology
The Evening News
Shades of Gray
Followup to “Shades of Gray”
Notes to Self
The Left Sucks
Question for Free-Market Libertarians
Frag the Flag
Followup to “Question for Free-Market Libertarians”
How to Win Elections
The Immorality of Copyright Law or GET YOUR DIEBOLD MEMOS HERE

Aaron Swartz (