An Enderle Blow by Blow

Thursday, August 12 2004 @ 12:57 PM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

I should probably preface my remarks by explaining that by "blow by blow" I don't mean anything physical, and this is not a threat against Rob Enderle. He seems a bit on edge lately, and I surely don't wish to send him over the top, while he's brooding about Groklaw. Because he went on and on about carrying guns in his keynote speech at SCOForum last week, I expect keeping him calm is the prudent course. At least, that is what my friends are telling me. The word blow can mean many things. The wind can blow, for example, or think blow as in blowhard. Here I use blow by blow to mean step by step.

Mr. Enderle's keynote continues to amaze and revolt. Joe Barr has answered him on Newsforge, most powerfully, and he offers him some free advice -- free as in beer -- in an article, "Some advice for SCO/Microsoft ally Rob Enderle".

Here is a small sample:

"There isn't any mistaking your animosity toward Groklaw; it is as obvious as the morning sun. If ever there was a dark kingdom that preferred darkness to light, FUD to truth, and confusion to clarity, it is Microsoft and its legion of shills. Your dislike for Groklaw is easy to understand: Its community is dedicated to challenging all the FUD it can find. . . .

"In closing, Rob, I would like to offer some advice: If you truly wish to stop being called a Microsoft shill, or a SCO shill, learn something about free software and the people who develop it. Tell both sides, honestly, without your very obvious -- and now admitted -- bias for the monopoly and your disdain for truly free software, and you'll find people in both camps listening approvingly."

Mr. Barr was nice enough to ask me to respond to and correct some of Mr. Enderle's misinformation about Groklaw, and you can read what I said there. It could be summed up like this: Mr. Enderle should stick to the truth when attacking Groklaw.

Mr. Enderle, in the meantime, has written a followup article, unbelievably titled "Free As In Freedom -- a Keynote Considered" although he does not apologize to Groklaw for saying untrue things about it. Instead he says that he -- lover of freedom that he is -- got upset because people in the audience at SCOForum were telling Groklaw what was going on.

Think free as in speech, Mr. Enderle.

I've heard that when you give a talk, you actually give three: the one you prepared, the one you gave, and the one you wish you had given. Here, Mr. Enderle instead gives us the one he wants us to think he gave:

"In the end, my keynote at the SCO forum focused more on preserving the freedoms we enjoy by protecting the freedoms of others, making informed decisions and acting against those that improperly use the threat of force to further their own agendas."

Is that what you got out of the speech? What threat of force is he alluding to? Groklaw is about the law. I love law, and I try to share that love with the world. You don't choose to become a paralegal unless you respect the law. And now, as a journalist, I write about it. There is no disrespect for law on Groklaw.

He writes that he does, too, know the difference between free as in speech and free as in beer. It's just that in his keynote, he didn't "mention open-source software very much at all". So, he wants us to believe he wasn't confused. He meant to give a keynote address at SCOForum, a company which is attacking open source, all about freeware? No, no, he was talking about enterprise software and how it isn't really free, and you're an idiot if you don't realize it. I do believe he is talking about free as in beer again.

Groklaw, he says, had spies in the audience to tell us what was going on and they were mischaracterizing what was going on.

Ah. The chickens have come home to roost. The FOSS community has been mischaracterized in the press, for years, including in his speech, actually, and they don't like it either, although they certainly have gotten accustomed to it. Now the shoe is pinching on the other foot, eh? I have yet to see a mischaracterization, but Enderle suggests you compare what was reported on Groklaw with what turned up in his keynote:

". . . [T]he keynote is being so widely misquoted this week. Strangely enough, this phenomenon introduces one final point: Many of you are being manipulated by others. What you have read on sites like Groklaw about this keynote, compared to what I actually said, should prove that point enough so you start asking critical questions."

So he says he was upset when giving his speech by Groklaw spies being there. And he wants us to compare his speech with what we reported. By all means, please do read what Groklaw reported. Here is our report on the first day of SCOForum and here is the report from the second day, posted August 4 at 7:25 AM EDT. The date is important, because this second story was posted *after* Enderle's speech, not before it, and in fact it reports on the speech, but only by providing a link to a report that was posted on Yahoo. The report was not to Groklaw. Mr. Enderle gave his speech on August 3rd, as you can see from the transcript SCO has on its web site, the day before this article. So if Mr. Enderle was upset at the time he gave his speech, it couldn't have been because of eyewitnesses providing reports to Groklaw, as he now claims. My report on the first day included no such reports. And here is my article about his speech, after I read the transcript.

I present all this so as to encourage you to ask critical questions, as he suggests we all should. And something else I noticed. The transcript of his speech now online is called "Free Software and the Idiots who Buy It", but the Yahoo poster said the title was, "Free Software and the Fools Who Use It", which title he said he took from the program. Does anyone out there have a program so they could check? It seems to me SCO ought to provide audio of the speech, not just a transcript, because otherwise -- no offense -- we can't be sure just what he really said there. In the speech, he does mention that he rewrote the speech at the last minute, so that could explain the titles being different.

Groklaw didn't send anyone to SCOForum, by the way. I don't have to send anyone anywhere. Folks just show initiative and volunteer. I don't want to make Mr. Enderle more paranoid or anything, but GNU/Linux users are everywhere. Folks just contribute as they wish and as they can. It's the power of the open source method.

I think you'll enjoy Neil Wehneman's line-by-line analysis of Mr. Enderle's speech. Neil is a future law student. I enjoyed it a lot. But the thrilling part was that Neil tells me that he decided to go to law school in part because of Groklaw. I just thought I'd mention that, since Enderle said Groklaw's readers are wasting their lives here. Neil's goal is to work in the field of IP law.

Why All the Attacks on Groklaw?

So, bottom line: why all the attacks on Groklaw all of a sudden? And why no Enderle apology? He didn't even apologize for his foul language. I will give you my theory. I noticed that Darl McBride in his speech at SCOForum made some predictions, after he took a jab at Groklaw too. He said he commended "open blogs" and sites like Slashdot, where everyone is free to say whatever they wish. He falsely claimed that any time anything positive is left as a comment on Groklaw, I remove it. Actually, I have no recollection of ever seeing a positive comment about SCO here on Groklaw and I certainly haven't removed any as a result. Really. And he predicted that "open blogs" like Slashdot will start to tell SCO's side of the story, and then the media will get to understand what is really going on.

I interpret this to mean that SCO is arranging an astroturf campaign. How else could he predict future behavior on Slashdot? I also understand that they must have left comments on Groklaw that got deleted by moderators. I can't recall that I have ever seen any comments deleted that were positive toward SCO. I do delete bad language and obvious trolls.

They call it astroturf because it's phony, as in phony grass. Here is Wikipedia's definition of astroturf:

"In American politics, the term 'astroturfing' is used to describe formal public relations projects which deliberately give the impression that they are spontaneous and populist reactions. The term is a play on the description of truly spontaneous or 'grassroots' efforts and the distinction between real grass and AstroTurf - the fake grass used in some indoor American football stadiums.

"A grassroots' action or campaign is one that is started spontaneously and is largely sustained by private persons, not politicians, corporations or public relations firms. A 'grassroots' campaign is perceived to come from the popular feelings of some mass of people and to not be a creation of the powerful.

"'Astroturfing', by contrast, is a campaign crafted by politicians or other professionals but carefully designed to appear that it is the result of popular feeling rather than manipulation. The astroturfing campaign attempts to gain legitimacy by appearing to spring forth spontaneously from 'the people'. If the campaign is well executed, the planners hope that the public at large will believe that 'all those independent viewpoints could not have been faked.' . . .

"One technique of an astroturfing campaign is to induce a number of its supporters to write email, letters to the editor, blog posts, crossposts and trackbacks, in support of the campaign's goals. The campaign instructs the supporters on what to say, how to say it, and where to send it, and above all, to make it appear that their indignation, appreciation, joy, or hate is entirely spontaneous and independent and thus 'real' and not at all the product of an orchestrated campaign. . . .

"A similar manipulation of public opinion was used in the Soviet Union when political decisions were preceded by massive campaigns of orchestrated 'letters from workers' (pisma trudyashcihsya) which were quoted and published in newspapers and radio."

Ah, yes. The corporate version of free speech. So, I suggest that if and when you read nonsense about Groklaw ("I used to love Groklaw, but now PJ [fill in the blank]"), just consider the likely source. Of course, an astroturf campaign depends upon a non-moderated site, which explains McBride's sudden fondness for Slashdot.

I do promise them one thing. I'll report on any SCO astroturf campaigns I see, as I now believe McBride's prediction indicates they will happen. This is why Enderle really can't say he's sorry, I expect. If the campaign is set to go forward, and this speech marked the kick-off, an apology would get in the way.