It's easy to see when you contrast the debate over President Obama's stimulus package and what happened when Richard Kirk of Fortify tried to claim open source is insecure.
The stimulus debate has been marked by polemics and an incoherent confusion over what stimulus is and what it does. Go ahead, use this talkback thread to argue the stimulus, but I guarantee you will generate more heat than light.
This is not an argument on the merits, but on the argument itself. It is dramatic, it is personal, and maybe that's the way politics has to be.
But open source is not politics. Open source is business. And when Kirk decided to make a political attack on the Conservative call for more open source, folks were quick to look inside the claim, take it apart, and ridicule it -- in Internet terms "fisk" it.
In the case of Fortify, Kirk was relying on his own company's study of 11 Java packages made last year, which relates to the general subject of open source about as much as this blog item relates to Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room.
Our own Dave Rosenberg also caught a howler, a blanket statement that closed source packages are patched more quickly because the maker has an incentive to do so. I'm still waiting for Vista to work.
Now it's true that some publications just took what Kirk said and ran with it. But counter arguments are also coming out at Internet speed. As is the revelation that Kirk's job is not so much to solve problems as to cry wolf over security threats.
He's a professional security agitator, in other words. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact we need more Richard Kirks. But his expertise is not in government, nor in open source, and his game is to get you to increase your costs, not cut them.
By the way, using the Internet you can not only learn about Kirk's background and expertise, but that of all his critics, including yours truly, and make your own determination on his argument. The Internet is both broad and deep, not broad and shallow like TV, and the point today is that makes all the difference.