View Full Version : Cross-Licensing and American Politics - Divide and Conquer

January 3rd, 2008, 09:15 PM
Voters are turning out for the Iowa caucus today, and all of this political discussion in the news has me thinking about, of all things, Microsoft's endeavor to cross-license with some of the more powerful companies in the Linux community. What Microsoft might be trying to accomplish here is analogous, perhaps, to what capitalists in America have already accomplished, and that is to divide the community, in this case the GNU-Linux community, with a distractive issue. The more important issues of patent law, and of proprietary interests and how they conflict with freedom of software, might not be debated if Microsoft can divide the GNU-Linux community into two competing factions - those that went to bed with the monopoly and those who did not. Microsoft's interest, of course, is in preserving the system in its current form by ensuring that the validity of the system itself is never drawn into question by the Linux community or any other community. This is done by dividing the community into two factions that never debate the real issue, but instead focus on two minor issues that are really components of the same system-preserving choice - divide and conquer.

There are two political parties in America, and one might naively think that they differ in a dramatic fashion in regard to the direction in which the country ought to go. But it is important to understand that both parties - Democrat and Republican - are interested in preserving the system. Their ends are the same, even if they differ in their means. Democrats through liberal means and Republicans through conservative means seek to protect, prolong, and preserve the capitalist system. There is always a peaceful change of power in America because their is never really a change of power. We are not presented at the ballot with two choices, but rather with two different approaches to the same choice. This would all be fine if the American public were really divided along party lines, but they are, in fact, divided along economic lines. There are those who have much and those who have little - rich and poor. And every election year we go to the ballots and cast our votes, but the choice we are given is not between two dramatically different economic systems - one would favor the rich and the other the poor. Instead we choose between to factions of the same economic system, a system that rewards wealth and suppresses those who lack resources. Democrats and Republicans are - all of them - capitalists. They differ only in how they think we ought to go about preserving such a system. The system is rigged to give the voter an illusion of choice, but they are really voting for two sides of the same corrupt coin. This keeps the "huddled masses" at bay, and it does so very effectively.

Microsoft may be creating a similar phenomenon with its cross-licensing with some of the Linux distributions. Creating a division in the GNU-Linux community, they can then prolong the system that's been so generous to them by ensuring that the validity of the system itself is never debated. We are faced with a debate about two approaches to the same choice: cross-licensing with Microsoft is either practiced or not practiced, rational or irrational, praised or disdained. But the system itself is not drawn into question if we are only debating about how to best cope with the system. We no longer speak of fighting the system, defeating the system, or destroying the system if we are distracted with issues of how to relate to the system. To cross-license or not to cross-license? To be intimidated by secret patents or not? More to the point is whether a patent system ought to apply to software at all, and whether software ought to be free. But if Microsoft can distract us with a debate that can only take place if the debaters presume that the system itself is good and legitimate, they have indeed won the war between free and proprietary software.

That's all I have to say: I'm off to download the contraband libdvdcss2 here in the "Land of the Free," risking fine or imprisonment, so I can watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on my Linux computer.