Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Another day, another would be digital despot

The Kiwanas Club does it, the AMA does it, the International Red Corss/Red Cresent does it. The American Bar Association does it. The Nastiona Association of Securities Delaers does it. Accrediting agencies do it. So, largely, does the world art market.

What is it? Well yes they are all having sex, but they also do "it."

Self government.

In many cases these organizations have some form of recognition from one or more governments.

Right now the self-government movement on Second Life is at a cross roads, it can continue down the path of virtual violence and micro-fascism, or it can change.

There are two important areas of conflict that self-government must address to be effective: the conflicts between residents, and the conflicts between residents and those who control some or all of the infrastructure of the virtual world. In both cases the self-government attempts that are being made in Second Life have turned to virtual violence as their solution.

The most obvious example is the Open Letter Project, which relentlessly and resolutely demanded virtual violence against some residents for the benefit of others. Their solution: throttling, could not be better named. It was also, as events have shown, incorrect: the time when casinos evaporated and traffic plunged was also the most unstable in Second Life in my time here. The Open Letter Project was of the same brood as throwing chairs through the windows of Chinese shopkeepers in Djakarta. "They" are the problem. Since I, and much of the active population of Second Life, is "they," it is no wonder that the Open Letter did nothing. Instead, it was demands from corporate clients that made Linden Labs shift to stability issues, and only after they had implemented their list of defensive features, their way, with little change from resident demands.

The same tendency to virtual violence infects the "Metaverse Republic," despite the high sounding rhetoric of their website, one of their leaders, Ashcroft, is very clear: he is a brutal, arrogant,nasty, dictatorial tyrant who sees the only necessity for a state that I be able to inflect enough pain on the people that it seeks to tyrannize, and that the real mechanisms of power be put out of reach. His is a police state, like China. People vote in China, there are courts in China, there are laws passed by national assemblies with representatives. There is no Democracy, there is no justice. The "Metaverse Republic" they seek to set up, is by their own admission, going to be based on nothing more than enough powerful land owners adopting it, with the resulting large ban power. Everyone else will then, in their vision, be forced to accept it.

It is not a Republic, but an oligarchy bent on taking over second life, and enforcing the narrow and vicious agenda of the people who run it. It is a horror, and no matter how I hope to soften these words, sitting down to write them, I can find nothing redeeming in their ideology of writing a constitution by conspiracy, imposing it by fiat, and maintaining it by tyranny, with vast safeguards designed to prevent any future will of its members from doing what they do not like. What they seek is the ability to use the large powers of landowners to ban to terrorize and impose their version of "justice" others. There is little street crime in an authoritarian state, but the economic interests of the citizens of this "Republic" would be as much at the mercy of arbitrary and capricious decisions as before.

All it would do would be to make it possible for those who are wealthy and powerful and have the ability to use the mechanisms of their Republic to grief people out of second life to do so. It affords only formalistic protection to everyone else. Freedom for the wolves, means death for the sheep.

The Metaverse Republic is not alone. In our moment, across the developed world, people use technology because, in a word that I am learning new meanings for all the time, "unilateral." That is what appeals to using ban powers is that they don't need to work with anyone they don't le, they just mass ban them. This was a problem with ban-link once upon a time, people would manipulate it to ban people because of personal fights.

It is telling that Metaverse Republic, and I say this in the same way I would say "Republic of Iran" or "Republic of Libya," cannot even work within banlink to produce a broader consensus of what kinds of behavior above and beyond griefing would be banned. They can't even get along with their friends, but threaten, and demand resolute submission, with vicious and attacking rhetoric, gross illogic and unremittingly authoritarian language. They already behae as if they are in power now, merely it waits for the moment where their revolution by night can take place.

This is the nightmare we have now: a small group using technological advantage to impose their will, regardless of laws and rights, on others, and grangin gonly those rights which tey feel are important to protect their interests against others. It is also the disease of the age.

What everyone hopes right now is not to, in that old cliché "build a better mousetrap" but to put up a bridge over a river, and then blow up any one else's attempt to build bridges. The leaders of Metaverse Republic admit that their only interest is imposing their system on others, and that they do not engage in commerce or other activities. They have no understanding even, of the problems that are faced.

Even more amusing is that they foresee, openly, a Second Life blakanzed into many Republics, each one banning and imposing its will on who ever it likes, however it likes. That is there Second Life: where you might be banned from large chunks of the world, at any time, for any reason, for breaking laws that you might or might not have a say in.

It is a black vision of night and fog, and no serious person should lend it credit.

And I say this as as strong a proponent of the rule of law in Second Life as you will find. Our neo-feudal becoming neo-aristocratic system is a maze of impositions, demands, and anarchy, which tax anyone's ability to make their way in this environment. As an escort I am constantly reminded that we do not have a good escrow system, as a builder I see over and over again how the permissions system does not allow the management of Digital Rights, for either buyers or sellers, in a way which consistent with their rights in most of the United States or other developed nations.

If anyone should be susceptible to the stated goals of the Metaverse Republic, it shoud be me. And it is I who sought them out, only to find a narrow, self-important group of meglomaniacs who cannot be trusted with any sort of power of structure, because their basic ideology is that power grows out of the barrel of a ban.

They should, if they were honest, name it "The Committee of Public Safety," coming with it s GUI guillotine to a Second Life near you.:

Their principles are:

1. Despotism:

They are writing a constitution, you are not invited, and they don't care what you say. They demand rigid ideological unity behind their established "principles" to participate. Maybe they should hand out little red books?

2. Tyranny

Power grows out of the barrel of a ban, when enough large land holders subscribe, you will be forced to comply or banned from large parts of SL. If you aren't a large land holder, your consent does not matter.

3. You have no rights

Only those protections that the committee of public safety deem important will be put in. All other rights will be banned and made, in their own words "impossible" to vote. They want to be the unelected self-appointed super legislature that ties the hands of all the others.

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