Saturday, 10 May 2014

Open Rights Group: Manchester Meetup

I was at the ORG meetup on Tuesday the 6th, I didn't get to write about it till now because my computer's RAM went and had to be replaced. Pirates Loz Kaye, Jack Allnutt, and Maria Aretoulaki were there (of the ones I recognised - apologies for not mentioning those I didn't) and I took the opportunity to introduce my husband Richard.

The major parties were there; Tory, Labour, Liberal, Green, UKIP, the Socialist Equality Party, and the Pirates. Ably moderated by the main organizer, whose name escapes me, the discussion was lively, to say the least. When the issue of surveillance came up, I called out that there is no oversight; I believe this because my MP Hazel Blears referred my last question over whether or not she must ask permission of MI5, etc., to carry out her duties, to the Home Secretary, who will no doubt regale me with FUD about Google. Again.

I also took the opportunity to smack down the UKIP candidate over net neutrality, citing the dangers of consolidation and the importance of decentralization for continued functionality in the event of a catastrophe. The trouble with having but a few ISPs owning the infrastructure of the internet is that there are fewer nodes and if one green bottle should accidentally fall... you get the idea. Meanwhile, the main argument against net neutrality is over bandwidth with regard to downloading films, etc., which are considered to be log-jammers. Here's the problem: fewer ISPs mean less competition so we've less of a choice over who to run our internet access through. Paul Nuttall was evasive at best; he agreed that there needs to be more competition but I worked to expose his Libertarian leanings — and expose that philosophy as bogus and rooted in nonsense. Basically, I told him that to preserve and promote net neutrality we'd have to break up the telcos using anti-trust laws. This would promote net neutrality by providing more competition, opening up the market for consumer choice. Nuttall was having none of it. "Market forces are at work," he bleated. "Yes," I countered. "On the supply side. We on the demand side don't have a say. The supply side has the advantage."

"Something must be done," added the Tory, announcing that he'd worked for BT back in the day.

Everybody else at the top wibbled on, only Jack Allnutt (Pirate Party) had anything intelligent to say on the matter; Labour had left the building and the Socialist exhorted us to consider the rainbow-and-unicorn future a true socialist society could provide. I'll pass. "Net Neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic is treated equally without discrimination. It’s this ideal that has been the norm as the internet first developed," asserted Jack. He's the only one who seems to understand that. The thing is, without more competition, the oligopoly created by the constant mergers will be able to set policy and we'll end up with a tiered system that makes you pay more for some kinds of traffic, e.g. streaming content (think YouTube) or torrents. The only choice will be the one that rips us off the least.

I looked over Loz Kaye's shoulder. "They have NO CLUE!" he scribbled on a notepad, sniggering away.

Afterwards I chatted with the organizers and the Pirates. Co-organizer Tom Chiverton laughed at my e-vangelism, saying, "I can't sleep; somebody is wrong on the internet!"

Yeah... but that's how I learned to argue effectively. The idea is to pick fights with thought leaders (anyone with a lot of followers) or at least engage them in a civilized debate (preferable, you win more flies with honey than with vinegar, and end up with less egg on your face if you turn out to be wrong). By dropping ideas, Inception-style, and explaining as you go as part of an overall theme, you slowly start to win them over. Then they go on to influence others.

I've had some considerable success on the American-based blogs I comment on, as a matter of fact, turning people away from Libertarian claptrap by explaining that there's no such thing as a free market and pretending that there is won't make it happen. I'm up against right-wingers who do the same thing, trying to get us to hate the CON-stitution, as they call it. I ask them what will happen to the Second Amendment when the Bill of Rights has been abolished. Very effective, that. Anyway, Brits read them, so that's why I post there. I can influence them too.

Anti-neoliberal gif imageI've been dropping "vote Pirate" into conversations, pointing out that the organization is worldwide now and that if we really want a credible third party, it's best to vote for one that doesn't push free market economics in a market that ain't free, and actually works to open up the market and, you know, free it.

I've promised Loz I'd make some talking points for the Pirates, hence the image above. Now to simplify it for a meme... I've got to work on the other issues, too — not just anti-Libertarianism (which is basically anti-Socialism).

While the Party doesn't want to focus on answering our detractors, I think it's important that we do, otherwise we end up repeating ourselves while they repeat themselves, and to passers-by, it's just noise. And since we're trying to get their votes, we need to make our points easy to understand. Short version: vote Pirate. We're the ones who DON'T take pride in being ignorant. 'Owzat?

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