May 25, 2004

Ken Brown's corporate-funded FUD

Author: Jem Matzan

Ken Brown's forthcoming book, published by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, is embarrassingly mistitled Samizdat: And Other Issues Regarding the 'Source' Of Open Source Code. No doubt you've heard of it by now, although more than likely you've only heard Andy Tanenbaum and others respond to it more than anything else. It's basically the world's largest troll, seasoned with more than a hint of flamebait. In the history of publishing there has never been a less scrupulous work than this book. It's a stinging insult to real books and genuine authors everywhere, harming the credibility of all of us who write for a living.

"From this foul drain pure gold flows forth. Here it is that humanity achieves for itself both perfection and brutalisation, that civilisation produces its wonders, and that civilized man becomes again almost a savage."

That was said in the 1830s about Manchester, England, but we could also say that it applies to the World Wide Web today, with its treasure trove of information and its piles of horrible drivel. I'll give Ken Brown a dollar if he can guess who originally said the above quote (without looking it up).

The quote brings to light the fact that opposite extremes are a reality and a consequence of freedom; if you give people the freedom to say anything, eventually they will. While good ideas are passed around and improved upon in the tradition of the scientific community, there is also a dark side to free publishing: that of the corporate agenda. I think the main difficulty that some corporations are experiencing is the rough transition from the Industrial Age of big powerful businesses and smoke-filled board room meetings to the Information Age of work-from-home CEOs and the general sharing of ideas and technologies. They're scared and they're fighting to keep their way of life.

It wasn't all that long ago that corporate buffoons realized that they could use the Internet to do some guerrilla marketing for their company or product, but the unethical and immoral tactics now used by the corporate world seem to be aimed primarily at influencing political policy. Never before has freedom of speech ever threatened itself so ferociously; here we have people speaking out in order to attempt to limit what others can say through software.

It's not that political pieces haven't been written in the past, some -- like Thomas Paine's Common Sense -- are superbly written, well-researched, astoundingly observant, and recommend sensible and effective action. It's works like these that advance society by stirring the emotions of the complacent and energizing political change, sometimes on the scale of a revolution.

To really pull off this kind of coup d'etat you have to first be an extraordinary writer. You have to have an insight into what you're talking about -- you need to present compelling and convincing evidence to suggest that change is necessary. There needs to be some great problem that has not been properly addressed and you have to have the best solution for it. And then you write, publish, distribute, and wait. That's how it's done; that's how a genuine political piece comes into being.

The aim of a political piece is generally to spark a phenomenon known as the "grass-roots" effort. This is when an issue or ideal is so important or influential that a large group of people collectively decides to promote and support it. It's been the magic behind the sudden success of underdog political campaigns and starving artists and musicians for hundreds of years.

What we have in Ken Brown's book is a poorly crafted attempt to author a political piece whose sole interest is the corporate agenda of proprietary software companies and fanatical right-wing organizations. Its goal is to destroy the grass-roots efforts of the GNU/Linux community. If it were well-written, expertly researched, and shockingly observant, it might accomplish at least part of its goal; however, it is none of those things. Free Software is not in any danger from this book, but the institution of printed books has been irreparably harmed.

Show me the evidence

"A new world demands a new political science."

The concept of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) is not new, but it has become such a popular battle tactic on the Internet that you can hardly read tech news anymore without seeing it somewhere. Ordinarily, most people recognize it for what it is -- corporate propaganda meant to stop a genuine grass-roots effort -- and ignore it. But with Samizdat we have a whole new kind of attack. Instead of aiming at the end-users and potential customers of the world -- which has proven ineffective thus far -- the target is now the United Stated government and those in charge of determining public policy. Having lost the battle for public opinion, the war has now gotten more desperate and moved on to attempting to influence the laws that we live by. This goes beyond the usual lobbying that corporations do because it's disguised as an independent study by an impartial third party and published as a book instead of a bound report, white paper, or traditionally published study (in a peer-review publication).

Proper FUD requires knowing the facts and then distorting them for your purposes. In other words a FUD-spreader is a liar, although frequent liars generally lie to themselves about their lying, so I don't think they consider FUD to be dishonest. Any distortion of the known truth is a lie, no matter how little it has been changed or altered. In the absence of facts to support beliefs or agenda, FUD goes from lying to implying. There is, for instance, no evidence to suggest that Linus Torvalds improperly used code from Minix or Unix in order to build the Linux kernel, but by talking around the subject you can create uncertainty and doubt about the situation. You can say it's highly unlikely that someone with Linus's experience at the time could write their own operating system, that it's impossible to make Linux work like Unix without breaking the law, that Linus had access to the Minix code at the time of his Linux-writing. Of course the truth of the matter is that Linux is not a whole operating system, it's just a kernel, and the author of Minix has said that it's impossible to have copied the Minix code because it's of a totally different design philosophy. FUD-throwers take every piece of information they can find and put a negative spin on it, and although they never manage to come up with any facts, proof, or evidence to support their claims, they do paint a grim portrait of their subject. I believe that any FUDder should be labeled and treated as they truly are: an outright liar.

The term "FUD" has been overused lately. It has come to mean any information that is contrary to the reader's opinion. As a tech journalist I see it all the time -- people accuse me of FUD when I say things that they disagree with. The key to look for is whether facts or logical conclusions are being drawn based on experience, or whether the author is talking around a subject trying to get you to create doubt about something without any decent evidence to back it up. In this article I discuss verifiable facts that you yourself can obtain by contacting or reading the listed sources, so even if you think I'm wrong in my reasoning or conclusions you must concede that this is not FUD by the proper definition. Kenneth Brown cannot make the same claim -- not remotely.

The only shocking aspect of Ken Brown's book is that it contains not one shred or iota of evidence to back any of his implications. While he doesn't directly accuse, he also doesn't present any good reasons to believe that we should listen to him. The bibliography, for instance, has 81 items of reference, less than five of which are traditionally recognized reference sources. The greater part of Brown's sources are personal Web pages of people who are not considered experts in the field of Unix, Linux, GNU, or other related subjects, home pages of people who are considered experts but were speaking generally about the subject of the history of Unix, and quotes taken grossly out of context from interviews that Brown did not conduct or take part in.

You don't have to be an author or professional writer to know that when presenting an argument professionally, the strength of your sources is the strength of your position. With no reliable sources, a position paper, thesis, or essay carries no more weight than the Anonymous Coward comments on weblogs and message forums -- in other words, it's bunk. For entertainment purposes only. Read at your own risk. Worse than bunk, it's FUD because it pushes an agenda without presenting any proof.

To better illustrate my point about FUD, I'd like to specifically show an example of the kind of things the Brown does in this book. At one point he quotes Linus Torvalds in an interview with Eric Raymond, an Open Source community leader and the founder of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), as saying, "I'm basically a very lazy person who likes to get credit for things other people actually do."

Ken Brown never comes out and accuses Linus of stealing copyrighted code or reverse-engineering or trade secret theft or anything else that would get him sued. But he does talk around those subjects, and in this quote Brown has taken Linus's words out of context in an attempt to make it look like Linus smugly admitted wrongdoing. Taken on its face, it's rather damning. But let's look at the context as quoted from Eric Raymond directly, from his essay, The Cathedral and the Bazaar:

In fact, I think Linus's cleverest and most consequential hack was not the construction of the Linux kernel itself, but rather his invention of the Linux development model. When I expressed this opinion in his presence once, he smiled and quietly repeated something he has often said: "I'm basically a very lazy person who likes to get credit for things other people actually do." Lazy like a fox. Or, as Robert Heinlein famously wrote of one of his characters, too lazy to fail.

So first of all, it was not an interview with Raymond -- it was a casual encounter and it was relayed via anecdote, and it was used to illustrate the importance of having users as co-developers. When we see the context of this quote it is clear that what Linus meant when he said that (and what Raymond was talking about here) was that Linus' great invention was not the Linux kernel but the development model by which it is enhanced. Linus wrote the kernel but other people are improving it; since he's the boss and since it was his idea to begin with, he gets the credit for the final product even though the contributors own the rights to their own code and are properly credited for it within the kernel code. Is that such a revelation -- or more appropriately, is that a crime or immoral deed? This is the way the kernel is developed, this is the way Open Source development works. Authors of code get credit for what they contribute, Linus does not -- you don't have to do much research to discover that. This is part of what Tim Witham of the OSDL calls the quid pro quo of the Open Source development model. By inventing the kernel, Linus's return on that investment of time and skill is that other people get to improve it for him for free.

When I asked Linus about this quote he replied:

Heh. I _like_ that quote.

Of course, the context there is that I've been getting a lot too much
credit for Linux, considering that there literally have been thousands of
people involved.

No "stealing of code" anywhere, but the simple fact that it's much too
easy to forget that Linux has been a collaborative project, and that
especially for the last five years I've been acting as a _manager_, not so
much as a code writer.

The fact that Brown seems to take it out of context and try to make it be
something it isn't is his problem, quite frankly. I don't know when (or
even if) I said the above, but honestly, it sounds like me, and it's
accurate.

But yes, facts can be used out of context, and twisted. Too bad. I don't
actually want to have anything to do with that Brown person, he seems to
be a slimeball.

            Linus

When good sources go bad

Brown repeatedly refers to Linus' work with Andrew Tanenbaum's Minix operating system as an example of some kind of wrongdoing. I'm not sure if Ken Brown wants us to think that Linus stole some of Tanenbaum's Minix code or whether he wants us to think that it's wrong to create a workalike program. The latter is definitely a theme throughout the book; time and again Brown implies that workalikes are somehow morally and legally wrong.

Andy Tanenbaum provided no useful ammunition for Brown despite the fact that he flew to Europe just to interview him, a rather puzzling fact. Why would Ken Brown fly to Amsterdam to interview someone peripheral to his book and then totally ignore Linus Torvalds, who is practically the main character in this corporate fantasy novel? When he does interview Tanenbaum he digs for dirt on Linus, probably figuring that Tanenbaum held some grudge against him because of a silly debate the two had some years ago about kernel architecture. Tanenbaum instead tells him that it was impossible for Linus to have copied Minix code or design because Minix used a totally different architecture -- if Brown had read the initial debate that I mentioned previously, he would have known that. Stealing any significantly useful portion of Minix code to put into Linux is as fruitless as stealing diesel fuel to put into a gasoline engine.

Tanenbaum then noted that there were "some extremely serious errors" in Brown's book and published a note relating his strange and unusual experiences with Brown, followed by a somewhat lengthy addendum, none of which reflected well on Kenneth Brown and his odd and unprofessional methods.

The Minix source code was published as part of a book that Tanenbaum wrote on operating system design, published by Prentice Hall. Ken Brown's ridiculousness moves on to the publisher, stating that PH has probably lost its ability to sue Linus for imaginary copyright infringement. He says that "it is unclear if ATT or Prentice are paying attention to Linux development," but really all he had to do was ask if he really wanted to know the answer to that. It's not like AT&T and Prentice Hall are unapproachable to the media.

Maybe he realized that it doesn't matter what AT&T thinks because they don't control the rights to Unix anymore and haven't for some time. The Open Group owns the trademark for Unix, the SCO Group claims to own the copyright to the last edition of "true" Unix (System V Release 4) and Novell claims to own both the copyrights and the patents involved with it (this is in dispute as of this writing; it is unclear whether SCO or Novell own the copyright to the code). SCO would have provided Brown with some rather juicy quotes -- I'm surprised that he didn't make an effort to contact them, difficult as it is these days. In fact neither SCO nor The Open Group is mentioned even once in the copy of the book that I had access to. This is yet more evidence to suggest that Kenneth Brown is a poor researcher.

That he mentioned Prentice Hall is a joke. PH is one of the world's largest GNU/Linux distributors (by including CDs with books) and makes more money off of GNU/Linux than it ever did off of Minix. I contacted Prentice Hall and asked for a comment on Brown's book but did not receive a response before this article went to press.

Next: The man behind the mask

The trouble with people who think that they are clever is that their own hubris often is their primary foible. The archetype of the somewhat intelligent yet too arrogant antagonist is an ancient and well-worn character in the western world. Kenneth Brown seems to fit this mould precisely. While his writing is structured and coherent, his thinking and reasoning are amateurish and depend on "cheap tricks," literary devices known as begging the question and circular reasoning.

For those who don't know, begging the question means that you assume facts that are not in evidence in order to carry your argument to a point at which it cannot directly be refuted without going back to prove or dispute the assumed facts. The classic example of this is the question, "So when did you start beating your wife?" This assumes that your wife is being beaten and that you are the batterer, but there is no apparent proof to hold up these claims. Since the question assumes facts not in evidence, the only proper way to respond is to clarify the facts and demand proof that they are valid. In a circular argument, an unproven statement is restated to come back on itself, thus giving the appearance of "proof" when actually all the writer did was answer cleverly restate the same phrase.

An example would be, "The charge that I beat my wife is totally untrue because I would never do something like that." These are the fundamental building blocks of FUD -- you cannot have FUD without begging the question, and the occasional circular argument helps the cause as well although the latter requires some skill to achieve.

What Kenneth Brown has done in Samizdat is to presume that the Linux kernel contains misappropriated code and/or was illegally "reverse-engineered" from proprietary Unix, and further implies that Linus and the community at large were the perpetrators of these crimes. Then Brown uses these false and erroneous conclusions to suggest that this may be an act of malice by Linus Torvalds and the Open Source community to attack proprietary software corporations for their own gain.

Any reasonably intelligent person would figure that such a bold endeavor as this book would include compelling and convincing evidence to give weight to the kinds of questions that Brown raises to cast doubt on his subjects. Appallingly, there is no evidence, no interview, no paper trail, photograph, or substantiated reference to support any of Brown's negative assertions and in fact most of his references do more to hurt his stance than support it. It is the worst journalism, the worst research, the worst case of abuse of the literary and technical world that I have ever had the profound displeasure of reading. Ken Brown would make Michael Moore, Jayson Blair, and Darl McBride blush with the kind of shoddy, irresponsible work that he's published in Samizdat. Truly this book is a test of the tolerance of free speech in America.

Who is behind the writing of Samizdat? It is unreasonable to assume that any single individual would go to these lengths to mislead the public. There is no way that, in writing this, Brown did not know that he was circumventing the facts in favor of a false truth. I say this in part because he posted messages to the Open-Source Licensing mailing list asking loaded questions and getting very clear answers from knowledgeable people. Furthermore his motivation was apparently unmasked by one of the list members back in September. The email, written by Rick Moen, sums up Ken Brown's reasoning perfectly by saying, "In short, you've been doing something of a Beltway Bandit lobbyist dance for us." Other group members asked Ken Brown to cease publishing private email addresses and using racial slurs on the list.

Moen also suggests that Brown was funded by Microsoft, and points to an interesting analysis of Ken Brown's other writing on Free and Open Source Software. Our own Roblimo also had some things to say about Kenneth Brown and his corporate agenda.

It is logical to assume that the perceived victims in the fantastical Ken Brown scenario are his benefactors. The reason why this assumption is made is because all other possibilities have been removed from the equation. First, Brown is on record in the below-referenced Tanenbaum interview as saying that AdTI does "public policy work" and they "publish papers and books," and he adamantly refused to reveal his funding sources.

The book was not written as a public service because it does not present both sides of the issue evenly and even contains knowingly misleading language -- there is no way, as mentioned before, that Brown could have written this without at some point becoming aware that he was attempting to mislead people.

It was not done for revenge -- Brown has no known, obvious, or logical motives. It was not written to sell books, as far as I can tell, because even controversial books rely on facts and real interviews with the subject or subjects of the book. Brown did not interview Linus Torvalds at all, instead relying on a very quick interview with Richard Stallman and a very strange interview with Andrew Tanenbaum, who in his initial response to Brown's book characterized him as:

...not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I was already suspicious. As a long-time author, I know it makes sense to at least be aware of what the competition is. He didn't bother.

Kenneth Brown didn't seem to have done one bit of research before the Tanenbaum interview even though he claimed he was writing a book on the history of Unix. Samizdat is not about the history of Unix although it does go over some of it. Either he lied to Tanenbaum or he changed the focus of his book since the interview.

Brown was repeatedly given good, factual information and he repeatedly twisted it to work for his purposes. But why would someone do this on purpose? It's time to dig a little deeper and find out who Ken Brown is and what his agenda might be.

According to his CV, Brown is or was recently the vice president of a company called the Emerging Markets Group, which doesn't have a Web site, apparently. Also involved in this company is/was the chairman of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, Gregory Fossedal. Interestingly, Fossedal recommended that investors buy SCO stock as recently as October of 2003, which was long past the point when anyone thought SCO could win against IBM. In that same article he also talked up Bill Gates as "brilliant" and condemned the sharing of a program's source code under any conditions, blasting the Open Source development approach in the process. So it seems this book has been brewing for quite a while, and evidence suggests that both SCO and Microsoft could be involved.

The usual suspects

"The profession of the law is the only aristocratic element which can be amalgamated without violence with the natural elements of democracy."

Rick Moen thought that Microsoft was the man behind the curtain, and Andy Tanenbaum suspected both Microsoft and the infamous SCO Group. Indeed those two unscrupulous corporate schemers are the prime suspects. Other companies just don't make any sense -- Corel and Macromedia are actively working to port some of their software to GNU/Linux. Apple relies on Open Source technology as the basis for their OS X operating system. Intel and AMD both employ programmers to work on Open Source Software and both are members of the Open Source Development Lab, as are IBM, Novell, Sun Microsystems, HP, Computer Associates, and many more. Since these companies are actively contributing to the Open Source community and are even offering money and equipment to help make GNU/Linux more enterprise-friendly, we can assume that they are probably not behind Ken Brown's smear campaign. That doesn't leave too many monied players in the technology world.

We can further reduce the list of suspects by examining who stands to lose from the GNU General Public License. In all of Ken Brown's writings he has one common and specific target: the GPL. He even goes so far as to suggest in his book that "pure free source code" (licensed under the BSD license or other non-GPL Free Software licenses) is okay and that it should be used as Tanenbaum uses Minix -- to teach in universities. But he doesn't feel that it has any place in the business world, and he calls the GNU Project, Linux, and all GPLed work "hybrid Open Source" because they're often sold and used commercially. Kenneth Brown's astonishing lack of understanding of the Free and Open Source Software world is a farce -- actually I think he understands, but he obfuscates what he knows so that it has a negative tone. This I am convinced of -- no one with half a brain could do this much writing and research and fail to grasp such simple and oft-repeated concepts which were explained to him in detail on the license-discuss list referenced above. Brown hardly mentions BSD in his book and fails to mention FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD at all, further suggesting two points: his research skills are either substandard or selective, and he has an axe to grind with the GPL. He might also view the BSDs as "pure free source" because they're not under the GPL, but their functionality is at a level that is more than competitive with proprietary software (and some say that the BSDs are superior to GNU/Linux in many ways) so I don't quite understand why they are not also a target of his derision.

Here's where Ken screwed up: the "Free" in Free Software refers to rights, not price. There is no "hybrid" -- either a program is free to use, modify, and distribute, or it is not. The GPL ensures that software stays free (as in rights, not price!) in the future, unlike the BSD and other Open Source licenses which often have no such provision. Other OSS licenses can place restrictions on use or redistribution which precludes the software they govern from being Free Software even though they may still qualify as Open Source. Brown qualifies Red Hat Linux as a "hybrid" Open Source product not because it might contain proprietary programs in addition to Free Software, but because it is sold and used commercially. This is, as far as I can tell, yet another purposeful obfuscation of the difference between "free as in rights" and "free as in price." It's not a difficult concept, but it's an easy point of confusion if you're trying to paint Free Software in a negative light.

Back to our question: who stands to lose from the GPL? Both Microsoft and SCO do, as they have directly and indirectly stated many times in the press; there seem to be no other players in the industry that have so much at stake when it comes to the success of Free Software and the legality and validity of the GNU GPL. So now that we have some viable suspects the next question is, did one or both of these companies fund or support AdTI? Microsoft funded them in the recent past and in fact the white paper that was produced from that funding -- Opening The Open Source Debate -- was the precursor to this book. It shared many of the same ideals, made many of the same accusations, and attempted to push readers in the same direction as Samizdat does. In fact it even went further, suggesting that Open Source Software could help aid terrorism.

I could find no evidence of SCO funding. For all the times I've tried in the past, they never return calls or emails and I doubt very much that they'd tell me anyway. My feeling is that SCO doesn't have the money to play these kinds of silly games with; history dictates that Darl McBride and his cohorts are perfectly willing to generate their own untruths for the press and would probably view the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution as unnecessary. But interestingly enough if we go back to the license-discuss mailing list search for Ken Brown, we turn up this email asking about the SCO lawsuit and Linux licensing issues. This is not evidence of SCO involvement, but it shows that SCO was definitely not under Brown's radar even though it didn't make it into his book. He seems to show a distinct hatred of IBM, using racial slurs and foul rumors to describe IBM representatives. Given this information it's also possible that Brown's attack on Open Source is an attack on IBM for their support of it.

Ken Brown's Final Solution

The last part of Brown's book is the heart of the matter: the one-page public policy recommendation. Ken Brown wants the government to make it harder to use and create GPLed software. He wants the government to do something about the growing use of the Open Source development model in industry by giving more money to the USPTO and to redirect government funding of universities toward "true free source" in cooperation with the IT industry.

So wait a minute -- he spends dozens of pages attacking the GPL and Linus Torvalds and Open Source, and then he wants the government to give money to colleges to fund Open Source development, even going so far as to suggest that corporations that support Open Source programs at universities should be given tax breaks? While it may sound like a paradox, he's actually pulling the old good cop/bad cop trick. He claims that Open Source devalues programs and eliminates due credit for invention. He doesn't seem to understand that GNU's Not Unix, consistently equating all Unix-like operating systems with the original trademarked copyrighted Unix source code. But then he ends the book, by saying how great free (as in price and rights) source code is -- as long as it's "true free source" and that it's only used in an academic environment where no one needs to (or is able to) make any money from it because it's all public domain.

I was curious as to why he brought up university involvement. My questions were answered by Media Transparency, which traces the money trail for media organizations. As you can see here, a series of significant donations come from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, an ultra-right-wing lobby group based in Milwaukee. What a coincidence that John Norquist, the former mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is on the board of advisors for the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution. So what does this organization do? It gives money to influence public policy, usually to try to return the U.S. to a state of unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism. In this instance the donations are marked specifically, "To support education-reform research and activities." The wording of that phrase seems to be -- like all other things AdTI -- purposefully ambiguous. It could read, "To support education [through] reform, research, and activities," or "To support education reform [through] research and activities," or "To support education [through] research of reform and activities." We can now see why Brown has dragged university support and corporate tax breaks into this mess.

The only common thread throughout the whole book is that he doesn't think Free Software should interfere with proprietary software because that's "real business" and it drives the economy. The OSDL and its member corporations strongly disagree with that notion -- they think Open Source Software is an excellent business method in the classic quid pro quo sense. Given that the OSDL includes member corporations like IBM, Novell, and Red Hat, all of which are financially successful, it would appear that reality interferes with Ken Brown's predictions and recommendations. It seems more like the corporations that are paying AdTI to write these ridiculous books and studies are trying to underhandedly discredit their competition through a third-party.

Conclusions

Microsoft has already tried to fake its own grass-roots effort -- back when they were facing antitrust violations in the U.S., they paid people to try to influence the public and the politicians to drop the case. Thereupon was coined the term "astroturfing," to describe an artificial grass-roots marketing campaign. Fortunately their efforts backfired. But here again we have Microsoft attempting to use unethical guerrilla marketing tactics to influence public opinion and public policy by funding dishonest studies. I must be getting old -- I still remember the days when a superior product and corporate accountability determined public opinion and policy.

Fortunately I think Microsoft and SCO are the last of the holdouts, and hopefully this article, with the help of those who have been defamed by the Alexis de Tocquevillains, can help put a stop to this harassment in the marketplace.

The next question is, how to make them accountable for their actions? There's nothing illegal about funding a study. The price of freedom is discomfort and pain from time to time when the unscrupulous and the feebly tutored combine their efforts and resources to try to force their way onto innocent people. I do have a suggestion, however. There are two members of the AdTI board that are politicians: Christopher Cox, a member of the House of Representatives for the state of California, and John Norquist, the former mayor of Milwaukee. If you live in either of their jurisdictions you can contact them and ask them to remove their support for the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution based on the horrible misinformation produced by its president and chairman.

Kenneth Brown is but the latest in a long and ignoble line of corporate drones and fools to show that anything can be suggested (or proven) through selective analysis. His purposeful misuse of quotes and ignorance of the basic facts underlying his arguments show that he did his best to make an impossible point. That's what he was paid to do, I guess. Despite my rather harsh analysis I can't help but think that I'm giving Kenneth Brown too much credit, considering what so many people have told me privately about their encounters with him. This little article is only a fraction of the true debunking that his book deserves, but to do it right I'd have to write my own book on the subject of Linux, GNU, BSD, and Unix history and theory, and I'm not sure that I'm prepared to do that presently (of course, if some publisher wanted to give me a decent advance...).

I've only shown a handful of reasons why you should not only ignore future work by Ken Brown and AdTI, but why you should look for ways to take action against their intimidation tactics. It's not right for mercenary groups like the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution to accept money to terrorize innocent people, especially at the behest of a powerful corporation or funding group. There are so many things wrong with this situation that it's hard to know where to begin. Write to Microsoft and demand accountability (this does more than you might realize; it makes them aware that you know of their underhanded tactics). Write to the politicians listed above and demand that they withdraw their support. But most of all I feel that the best overall remedy for this situation is for all people to turn their backs to these kinds of studies and the "analysts" who write them. Don't submit their links to Slashdot or other discussion sites. Don't quote their work. Don't give them any media attention at all unless it is to debunk their lies and propaganda with your own intelligent and properly researched (actually, any level of research is superior to what these people are doing) response. They say that any publicity is good publicity, but that is not really true -- enough bad publicity, as SCO has proven, can ruin a company and its officers.

I love irony, but it's really a pity that the institution that bears his name should be so ill-used, as the real Alexis de Tocqueville was an intelligent and insightful man. I don't necessarily agree with everything he had to say, but he did have some interesting quotes -- in fact the unattributed quotes which begin some of the sections of this very article were authored by the real Alexis de Tocqueville. And I got them from the free Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia.

Jem Matzan is the author of three books, a freelance journalist and the editor-in-chief of The Jem Report.

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