One of the key differences between
politics in an open source age and the politics of TV lies in how we
will treat sock puppets and Astroturfing.
In the TV age, every voice carries
relatively equal weight. So the way an unpopular stand makes itself
appear to be popular is by hiring lots of voices.
A sock puppet, in this context, is a
paid advocate who pretends to be something else. They do this, often,
by pretending to be an organization.
The big difference between today and yesterday is that we can ferret these people out. We can expose them. And I hope that if Democrats are given some power in Congress next year, someone there (maybe in the Judiciary Committee) will begin investigating the practice. Because there’s nothing that sends roaches scurrying like a little light in the hallway.
Here is a sock puppet. His name is
Scott Cleland. He pretends to be an analyst. But he is, and has been,
a paid sock puppet, paid by the Bells and cable head-ends to help
them maintain their monopoly, and extend it by eliminating net
The phone industry has used such people
for years. Their master is a man named Sam Simon.
Simon learned his techniques for manipulating public opinion, using
interest groups, under Ralph Nader. Now he does it for monopolists.
Such groups may also have an
ideological base. They are crafted by a small number of
multi-millionaires. The best-known of therse is Richard Mellon Scaife.
But he is just the most blatant.
The point today is that, in an open
source political world, such people can’t hide anymore. It took me
just a few minutes to link you to solid information on Simon and
Scaife. (Need the goods on Cleland too? OK. )
Before the World Wide Web I did not
have the tools to pass all this on to you. I could make the
accusation, but that might be all I could do. And an accusation
without proof is worthless. So a libel suit by a sock puppet against an accuser might well succeed.
Now you can get the proof. Now you
can do your own investigations. Now you can pass this information on
to others. Now you can be empowered, if you choose to be. Everyone is
on the same level information playing field.
This is the biggest, most important
point about Internet politics, about the practice of open source politics. In the TV age it was true that a lie
could get around the world before truth got its pants on. But now
truth can get its pants on much faster. Quickly enough to do
something about lies.
The process of doing just that has now
begun. Be part of it.