Re: c-r list: abuse & purpose


Henry Huang


If I had any doubts that you'd lost it when you dropped that stinkbomb
on the list, they were utterly crushed by your latest salvo.

Up until this point, I have refused to make any statements about this
situation, mostly because I'm juggling quite a few other things right

However, as a member of your so-called "elite" co-leader team, I'm not
going to stand by and let your *PERSONAL* grudges destroy something
I've worked so hard for.

Since you're seen fit to dump this vitrol on the list without taking
it to the people you're complaining about first, I've decided to follow
your example -- by documenting for the list things that (so far) only
the co-leaders have known.


On Apr 8,  1:41, Richard K. Moore wrote:
> Arun said:
> >I really think we should all just take a step back and examine
> >the value of this list to us.
> > ...The path that Richard has embarked on
> >will break up this list...
>         Perhaps, but I doubt it.  I DO hope that the list is "shaken up" a
> bit, and that we have a healthy discussion of what the purpose of the list
> shall be in the future -- not just by a select elite but by the whole
> membership.

I have to agree with Arun.  You're cutting off your nose to spite your

If you REALLY believe that Craig is as short-fused as you say he is,
then you would've EXPECTED him to react with a violent resignation
-- not only of co-moderator duties, but of everything else as well.

Since Craig is our point man in the ACLU suit, the ACTA petition,
Congress, telecommunications regulation, and many other issues, his
departure would leave a massive void, similar to what we experienced
when Andy had his accident last Winter.  This choice is causing strain
among the co-leaders, who (if I'm not being too forward) are being
forced to choose between two people we know and respect, and would
like to continue working with.

Your actions are forcing the co-leaders (and the rest of the list)
into alliances which may cause the disintegration of the co-leader
team, the list, and the departure of key contributors.  The list has
ALREADY lost focus and WILL lose momentum, because nobody's talking
about RELEVANT issues.

If (as you believe) the list survives Craig's forced departure, it
won't be because it was the right thing to do.

>         This is what's "on paper".  In FACT the WG (Working Group) has
> never functioned as a body, and was never intended to.  It was assembled in
> order to meet the formal criteria for creating a CPSR WG: the c-r list AS A
> WHOLE was understood to be the actual "activist group" which was to take
> positions, issue statements, and promote coalitions.  This was understood
> by everyone involved at the time, and was reflected in the general postings
> to the list.

After the charter was approved, there was sporadic discussion among
the WG members (and later the WG + the co-leaders) about specific
issues relating to the list.  The WG never coalesced as an effective
action group, because most of the WG members either disappeared,
dropped off the list, lost interest, or (sadly) were ignored.

The statement that the list as a WHOLE was understood by ALL to be a
political action group is one that can never be proven -- and easily
disproven.  (Yes, I have all those postings where you urged such a
coalition to come about, but that doesn't mean everyone else wanted
the same thing.)  As for whether it SHOULD be that way -- see my
attached reply to DicedPupys.

>         There was no co-leader team until months later, and this team was
> NOT set up to replace the WG -- it was simply some (very welcome)
> volunteers from the list who responded to my request for help in
> maintaining the web site, forwarding bulletins from telecom lists, etc.

True.  In fact, you're the one who coined the term "co-leader".  I've
always wondered whether that designation was appropriate ...

>         Life being life, things have evolved otherwise than originally
> envisioned.  In order to have more time to act as an individual
> contributor, I passed the moderator & chairmanship batons over to Andy,
> gave the other co-leaders posting privileges, and we ended up in the
> current situation.  Now the other co-leaders evidently believe that (1)
> they ARE the Cyber Rights Campaign, and (2) it is infeasible for the entire
> list membership to say or do or agree on anything -- the list is now
> evidently perceived as nothing but a distribution list for bulletins.

The fact that the list may not be the political action powerhouse you
want doesn't mean that it's only good for bulletins.

The statement that "it is infeasible for the *ENTIRE* list to agree
on anything" should be self-evident.  Last I heard, we had around 600
subscribers, and from the (small) number of people who have posted,
they seem to run the spectrum in terms of political, social, and personal

Asking 600 people to agree on a single statement which they may:

a.) not agree with,
b.) not understand,
c.) not have the knowledge/experience to comprehend,
d.) not have the knowledge/experience to fully analyze,
e.) not care about,
f.) [fill in the blank]

is asking for trouble -- and undermines the diversity of opinions by
trivalizing the minority views.

Again, this is all explained in excessive detail later, but there's
a great quote which fits this situation:

"Discussion toward some proposal is more in line with democracy, not
votes ... someone has once said that once an issue comes up for a
vote, democracy has ended."

>         This didn't seem to be the case when the entire list focus was on
> CDA, which was VERY recently indeed.  No one discouraged the idea of list
> consensus and action then.  Suddenly when economic issues are being raised,
> as they should be, we see a desire expressed to discourage "list activism",
> and to restrict activism to individuals, the co-leader clique, ad-hoc small
> groups, and the parent CPSR body.  I can only presume that this sudden
> shift in organzational perspective, and the emphasis on co-leader
> prerogatives, is ideologically based.

Presume whatever you will; that doesn't make it true.

Craig's actions were NOT directed at suppressing discussion, but
rather at suppressing the movement to *IMPOSE* a "concensus" view on
the list.  Craig has repeatedly stated that he is not opposed to
discussion, and so have other co-leaders -- but somehow no one's
gotten through to you (or else you don't believe what you read).

I will say that the fact these issues were never discussed when the
CDA issue came up was a mistake.  However, it was overlooked largely
because nobody on the list publicly opposed it -- or brought up the
issue.  It was also overlooked because it wasn't the *list* that
joined the suit as a plaintiff -- but rather our parent organization,

In a sense, using the CDA as an example is disingenous because the
CDA is a no-brainer -- the arguments against it are just too simple
and compelling.  Pricing issues are at LEAST an order of magnitude
more complex, and demand a LOT more analysis by people who are a
LOT more experienced than many readers of this list.

For that reason, I have personally avoided taking a stand on the
issue, because I do not believe I am qualified to make an informed
judgment one way or the other.  I suspect others feel the same way.

If you're going to take the list down a path of (forced) concensus,
you should really ask yourself what you value more: an honest, open
discussion and analysis of issues from every angle, or a single party
line imposed on the list (or by certain loud people on the list) for
the sake of political expediency.  More importantly, you should ask
yourself which approach serves understanding of the *ISSUES* better.

> Arun goes on:
> >What I think we have here, is a fundamental difference in opinion between
> >(at least) two camps on cyber-rights. Richard and some others feel that
> >these telecom "robber barons" will raise rates, kill mailing lists and the
> >free spirit of the Internet. Many on the list, including me, don't think
> >that will happen. Richard is convinced there is a conspiracy between
> >government and the telcos, while some of us fail to see evidence of this.
>         Here we see the underlying ideological issue openly expressed.  My
> point is that this issue (and the organizational one) needs to be discussed
> rationally on the list, not suppressed by abusive and dictatorial moderator
> behavior.

[flame ON]

You are DELUDING yourself if you think the failure of the *LIST* to
address your papers is some sort of co-leader conspiracy.  Although we
have the ability to post, we do not receive postings intended for the
list.  Hence, the only way that statement could possibly be true is if
the MODERATOR (Andy) was imposing his own views by deliberately
filtering out messages on the subject.

If you REALLY think that Andy operates that way, why didn't you take
it up with him, rather than smearing him on the list?

People on this list DON'T ASK the co-leaders what to post -- they
either DO it or DON'T.  If people WANTED to comment positively on your
papers, they WOULD have.

[flame OFF]

Like it or not, the co-leaders are the ONLY people who have bothered
to consistently address your statements -- Craig in particular.  Most
of the time, the list has either ignored you, or rebutted you --
sometimes violently.

Although I sympathize and (yes) *AGREE* with many of your views, I'm
not going to buy this excuse that the refusal of the list to discuss
your postings is tantamount to some sort of "co-leader" conspiracy to
quash discussion on the list.  There's been no discussion because
people have *CHOSEN* not to respond.  Those who agree with you appear
to be far quieter than those who do not (witness the posting patterns
of Mr. Raphael and Janzen) -- and only they know why.

>         The document that sparked the formation of the cyber-rights list
> was my analysis of PFF's Magna Carta.

No, it was your "Declaration of Citizens' Rights in Cyberspace" --
hence the list name (Cyber-Rights).  First drafts of that declaration
were circulated mid-late January 1995 on various newsgroups, and the
list was officially announced (by you) on Feb 2.  The original members
were people who had worked or commented on your document -- including

I can't remember when your Magna Carta analysis came out, but it was
one of the first issues discussed on the list (along with Exon's CDA).
However, it was not the impetus as I understood it; I don't think
copies of your analysis were forwarded to the list until much later.

> The issues there were ENTIRELY economic and monopolist -- nothing to
> do with censorship -- and that's what brought the original list
> together.

That's a bit of a stretch.  The Magna Carta was a hot topic of discussion,
but it wasn't the only thing on our plate.  Your Rights document and
Exon's bill took up quite a bit of traffic as well.

> The Magna Carta monopolist agenda has been playing out exactly as
> stated, is embodied in the Telecom bill, and came about by corporate
> domination of the legislative process.  MANY follow-up analyses have
> been posted re/monopolism, including these recent ones:
> 2/7     - The New(t) Telecomm Agenda: cable sells out to telcos (Layman)
> 3/11    - Re: Cyber-Rights position on ISP charges
> 3/13    - re: Copyright reform
> 3/28    - Re: Circuits? Circuits?
> 3/19    - Speculations re/ Cyberpace Inc economics
> 4/2     - James Boyle: "Sold Out"
> 4/5     - monopolies> Baby Bell Merger(s)
>         For Arun to say "some of us fail to see evidence" beggars
> comprehension.  No one has attempted to refute these analyses -- they've
> been simply IGNORED by the other co-leaders.  Certainly I don't expect
> everyone to agree to these viewpoints, but they do raise the central issues
> of the future of cyberspace, and deserve to be earnestly discussed.  For
> the co-leaders to persistently ignore such fundamental issues is in my
> opinion a passive-aggressive means of controlling the list agenda.  And to
> say "no evidence" exists I find insulting in the extreme.

Richard, step back and THINK for a minute.  Not everyone on this list
lives in the U.S., or approaches your arguments from an American
perspective.  Arun, in particular, lives in a country where a Gov't-
controlled telecom monopoly has run service into the ground -- and as
a result, many Indians have openly embraced the deregulatory movement.

This is yet ANOTHER reason why "concensus" is such a bad idea.  Given
two different sets of circumstances, is it possible that different
solutions -- or even a mix of solutions -- will need to be applied?
While the writing is on the wall for the U.S., it may not be so

> Arun returns to the "abuse" issue:
> >Richard, I don't think Craig has a problem with criticism -- do you??
>         Few of us enjoy criticism -- certainly I don't.  By "problem" I
> refer to a failure to address the issues of the criticism or disagreement,
> and a tendency instead to respond primarily with personal abuse.  I see
> this as "having a problem" -- attempting to shut-up the opponent and stifle
> debate.

One more time: Pot?  Kettle?  Black?!?

So far in this posting, you have completely ignored the central issue
of Craig's complaint -- the imposition of "consensus" on the list.

> >I have seen Craig get angry, but only when he thinks
> >individual actions are threatening the credibility of the list.
>         I'm sorry, but an issue being important is not an acceptable excuse
> for abuse.  In fact, it is Craig's credibility and effectiveness that is
> most reduced by his occasional anger-beclouded non-substantive statements.
> These are only occasional -- let's be clear on that -- but I believe the
> chilling effect on participation persists.

And again, if you had READ what he'd said, instead of just throwing rocks
at him, you would've understood that he did NOT intend to chill
participation, but rather this forced concensus movement.

> >Now Richard, I'm sure you too see the list as a useful launching pad, only
> >Marilyn and you would like to send a payload of, um, something some of us do
> >not approve of.
>         Let's clear this one up right now.  I posted an analysis (re:
> "Straits of Consumption") with no suggestion (or intent) of that being a
> "draft c-r statement" of any kind.  I hoped only that it would spark some
> substantive debate.  Marilyn's initiative caught me completely by surprise,
> was not well thought out (IMHO -- sorry Marilyn), and I was not intending
> to endorse it.  Only when Andy picked it up and revised it into his own
> consensus proposal, did I say I'd support _that_.  Marilyn and I have
> _never_ exchanged messages (that I recall) and are not in cahoots about
> anything.

This was just bad communication ... one of several dropped batons.

> >Richard, you too are a
> >democratic-minded person, so I will request you to drop this thread.
>         Whoa!  I'm not quite sure what thread you mean, but I would prefer
> NOT to drop any of the following:
>         1) re: monopolist telecom regime
>         2) re: cyber-rights entertaining possible consensus statements
>         3) re: the underlying substance of Marilyn's proposal

Good; neither does anyone else.  What I'd personally like for you to
drop is this stupid political face-off.  Apologize to Craig, ask Craig
for an apology, and GET OVER IT.  There are just too many more important
things for us to worry about (like Net ratings, the ACTA petition, the
ACLU case, etc. etc.)

> >Why can't we agree that for any issue on which we would like action to be
> >taken, the group in favour takes it up with the cpsr board, without
> >claiming list consensus unless there genuinely is consensus. Basically,
> >the list stays for discussion only...
>         OF COURSE list consensus can only be claimed if it is genuine.  NO
> ONE ever suggested otherwise -- despite the co-leader defensiveness re/
> such a possibility.

So what's "genuine"?  I've not seen any discussion of a definition on the
list (though there has been some among the co-leaders).

> Marilyn saw my posting, and since I'm a co-leader, she can be
> forgiven for assuming that perhaps there was some agreement behind
> it.  Furthermore, the initial on-list responses (from David Bennahum
> and Charles Bell) _seemed_ to underscore a sense of agreement.
> Being a marketing person, it was a valid contribution on Marilyn's
> part to try to turn perceived agreement into some kind of ACTION.
> As soon as she learned disagreement existed, she dropped the
> initiative.

There are several different levels of disagreement here.  You keep
forgetting about the concensus issue.

>         This issue of "acting irresponsibly in the name of Cyber Rights"
> can only be ascribed to co-leader paranoia and misunderstanding, and IT is
> the thread that should be dropped, IMHO.

WRONG.  Has it ever occurred to you that putting out a statement which
implies that 500 people agree on an issue when they DON'T might be
irresponsible, or MAYBE POSSIBLY misleading?

This isn't just about "acting irresponsibly in the name of Cyber Rights"
-- it's acting irresponsibly in the names of an indeterminate number of
people who DON'T agree with you.  That is a disservice to them, a
disservice to CPSR, and a very dangerous way of doing things.

> As for the list being "discussion only": that is up for debate.

Agreed.  See my first salvo below.


On Apr 4, 13:25, •••@••.••• wrote:
> to craig : 
> quit it NOW!  i have heard enough of your high-handed bitching about every
> fucking thing marilyn suggests.  i actually want to get somewhere on this
> list, and in our discussions thereof, but it appears that you instead feel
> that any idea that someone may have is a direct threat to you.  marilyn may
> have been completely off when she stated intent to expel someone, but this is
> not a threat, simply because it is not possible to do so without direct
> access to the mailing process.  what are you so FUCKING afraid of that you
> wish to expel someone for wanting to discuss opinions?  if you have such a
> large problem with conversing in an organized manner, and from the discussion
> then stating our thoughts to the entire nation, then you are not wanted.


You're jumping to conclusions.  Please re-read Craig's statement:

> ... if I find out a press release goes out in the name of Cyber
> Rights that some members object to, have not consented to,
> disapprove of, find absurd, or in any other way oppose, I guarantee
> you that there will be hell to pay.
> Undemocratic and elitist expropriation of this list for personal,
> parochial ends will not be tolerated.  In short, I will do what I can
> to use one of Davis' own methods -- and have her kicked off the
> list.

The issue here is *NOT* "conversing in an organized manner".  It is
having someone who does NOT represent the entire list putting out a
statement which she implies has that kind of support.  Quoting from
Ms. Davis' latest draft:

> We, the 500 members of the cyber-rights email list, agree by consensus
> that:

Without a previously agreed-upon definition of "concensus", this can
mean anything from "total agreement among 500 members" to "5 members
voicing strong support, and everyone else remaining silent because
they felt intimidated/ignorant/not qualified enough to speak on the
issue".  It is not even really clear to me that getting an entire list
to agree on a single statement is the best way to go about things.  It
certainly isn't the most "democratic".

Craig may have sounded a shade harsh, but if Ms. Davis actually had
put out such a statement in the name of the "Cyber Rights list", she
would've been misrepresenting ALL of us.  This has nothing to do with
intent; I believe that Ms. Davis wants to do the right thing, but I
don't think she really thought through the implications of her action.
>>From that standpoint, kicking her off the list would've been a totally
appropriate reaction.

I wish Mark Stahlman was still around here, because he would've been
the first to point out that what Ms. Davis proposed had nothing to do
with democracy.  Someone once said that "discussion toward some
proposal is more in line with democracy, not votes ... once an issue
comes up for a vote, democracy has ended."  Votes tell you nothing
about WHY a person voted one way, whether the voter considered his/her
choice carefully, or merely flipped a coin, whether the voter has
enough knowledge and understanding of the subject to make an informed
choice.  And they are damned easy to manipulate -- go read Larry Sabato's
column from last Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section (3/31), or
dig up some of the articles they've run on "push polling" (which is
manipulation of votes by spreading rumors about candidates).

Whenever a large group of people with diverse opinions gather,
complete agreement is never going to be possible -- or at least, for
the same reasons.  On topics such as Internet pricing, the devil
*IS* in the details, and it is the details which get swept under
the rug when people rush to make simple statements without
consideration.  I'm not sure it's possible to have a list which
takes active stands that irritate many of its readers, and still
have a considered, reasonable, and *fruitful* discussion.  (Witness
the massive flame fest surrounding the CDA, which drowns out all
proponents' voices whether shrill or reasoned.)

In a sense, by not having rules on things like concensus and action,
we are in a unique position to experiment, and try different things
out without being shackled by orthodoxy.  And in fact, it may well
turn out that the list serves its purpose better as a means for
CONNECTING people, rather than as a political instrument.  EVERYBODY
who reads this ALREADY has the freedom to meet with others off the
list, have private discussions, draw up position statements for
private use or list debate, and circulate them widely *IN YOUR OWN
NAMES* (or they name their own group).  What they do NOT have the
freedom to do is to claim the support of people who don't support
their views.  If the list somehow decides to start taking positions on
issues, we need to be clear about WHOSE views are being represented,
under what authority, and with what limits.

My own personal view is that a careful, balanced analysis of an
issue, with pros and cons for each alternative, is a much better
way of going about things than just saying "here's an idea, whoever
likes it raise your hand".  We do not have the reputation or the
luxury at this stage of the game to make rash actions.  If concensus
is the objective, it must be as an END, and not the MEANS.  Witnessing
the ability of various groups to manipulate public opinion, I am much
more comfortable with the idea of a debate than a poll, if only because
people who debate their views have to JUSTIFY them to be taken seriously.
In addition, I believe a diversity of views promotes an understanding
of all the sides, and forces people who WANT to be open-minded to
consider the pros and cons of each angle.  It's time consuming, it's
hard, but it's the only reasonable method on the table.

In the future, I'd suggest that people who want to make broad,
sweeping position statements be willing to invest the time necessary
to research the subject, understand the issues, and become informed
enough to write an article that will be taken seriously.  Learn by