Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 19/09/2006 From time to time, we publish guest comments, usually from people in the industry who have an interesting point to make. We make sure it's clear where their commercial affiliation lies: we don't mind someone being positive about their own company, providing they have something worthwhile to impart.

Tuesday 19/09/2006

From time to time, we publish guest comments, usually from people in the industry who have an interesting point to make. We make sure it's clear where their commercial affiliation lies: we don't mind someone being positive about their own company, providing they have something worthwhile to impart.

Today, we get an "open editorial" from one Hugo Lueders, Director of Public Policy Europe, CompTIA. It's about the current dispute between Microsoft and the EC, and it says that CompTIA (the Computing Technology Industry Association) feels that Microsoft is being hard done by. I paraphrase his arguments, but they run along the lines that the EC is telling MS not to be naughty, but isn't specifying exactly how this is to be done. As Microsoft can't be expected to know how to behave unless it's spelled out, this is clearly unfair. Would we like to publish this as a guest comment?

We decline: the thing reads much more like a press statement than an editorial, and in our opinion — certainly mine — the differences between CompTIA's opinions and those of Microsoft's are thinner than a dollar bill. And any editorial that relies on putting words such as "anti-competitive" in quotes while leaving pro-consumer naked runs the risk of looking like so much "propaganda" written by a "lobbying" group. If Microsoft wants to tell us what it thinks, then it can tell us itself, not try to slip something in behind the thin gauze of an industry association. If you want to promote your own reality, at least have the balls to do so yourself.

This reminds me of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based think tank that's been behind a lot of intelligent design promotion over the past few years. The motivation for this is cloaked in a veneer of science, of trying to rescue the world from a tremendous wrong turning it's taken and back towards a more accurate, more productive view of the world. But the real reasons — and it takes less time to rub away the veneer than it does to scrape the silver gunk off a scratch card to find you've won nothing — are that the Discovery bods are strongly religious people who have a fundamentalist aversion to evolution on the grounds it's incompatible with their view of the bible.

I like arguing with fundies, almost as much as I dislike having to deal with fundies hiding their lights under a painted face of science. I've worked out why I like arguing with religious fundamentalists so much — it's because companies are set up the same way, so my skills are transferrable. There is one unarguable truth — in religion, it's the Perfect Holy Book, in companies, the Corporate Strategy — and all else is framed in that context. Past mistakes are silently elided, questions of dogma are not to be allowed, and actual reality comes a poor second to the manufactured sort.

It's a game. We try and spot the paradoxes and contradictions, and use those to highlight what's actually happening: they try and concoct ways to disguise or obfuscate the same. There are plenty of honourable exceptions to this, but nowhere near enough, although provided you remember what the game's about you can engage without rancour.

It's when the companies don't even want to play the game but send patsies into bat for them that it gets beyond a joke. Honesty in deception, that's what I want.