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Monday, April 01, 2013

Tim O'Reilly Is the Ayn Raelian Frank Luntz

Jason Leftkowitz pithily summarizes a critique of Tim O'Reilly (about whom I recently wrote this myself) from the indispensable Evgeny Morozov in The Baffler:
Tim O'Reilly's business has changed from selling things (books, conferences) to selling ideologies ("Web 2.0", "government as a framework"). This is a relationship that goes both ways: the books and conferences provide crucial support for the ideologies he sells… The primary problem… with this isn't that O'Reilly profits from it, but rather that the ideologies O'Reilly sells tend to provide corporate-friendly alternatives that… marginalize rising ideologies that could threaten existing power structures. Examples discussed: "Open source" as an ideology focused on the rights of the software developer, as opposed to the ideology it was explicitly designed to compete with, Richard Stallman's "free software" movement, which focused instead on the rights of the software user. "Web 2.0" companies wanted to package up information about their users and sell it to the highest bidder; the ideology… positioning [this] as a natural evolution of the Web rather than a major power shift. "Government as a service" would involve taking major systems currently run by government and privatizing them, but covers this with a layer of techno-dust to avoid having to talk about the negative implications of privatization…. Republican spin architect Frank Luntz… has made a career selling policies to people they will hurt by packaging them up with attractive-sounding words…. O'Reilly is in the same business.
Needless to say, this argument appeals to me enormously. What Jeron Lanier has long dubbed the ideology of cybernetic totalism is finally being grasped not only in its conceptual incoherence but in its reactionary libertopian Ayn Raelianism: on which, take a look at my Open Letter to the Robot Cultists, my The Unbearable Stasis of Accelerating Change, my Futurology Is Neoliberal Corporate-Militarism, and other pieces available in the Superlative Summary.

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