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SILENCE = DEATH

Many dear friends have chosen not to blog this week, striking in protest against Linden Lab's foolish and overreaching brand-protection policies. I've given quite a bit of thought to the issue over the past few days: it would be easy enough to join them by default: I don't have the time to blog this week anyway. Friendship and laziness could reinforce each other; easy enough to stay away.

But I can't do that. I'm taking the time to post, to cross the virtual picket line, for a principle that I think is of overwhelming importance.

Silence is *always* complicity in oppression. The one obligation of the dissident, the sole moral response in the face of oppression, is to SPEAK OUT. To never relent, to never be silent, to never allow the oppressor a single moment's peace, to make the case for freedom and justice to anyone who can listen, at any time, anywhere Passivity enables oppression.

Seeing a wrong and refusing to speak out is not a tactic, it's a moral failing - and one I've been guilty of, in focusing on building something positive in Extropia to the complete exclusion of criticizing Linden Lab's increasing demonstrations of contempt for its Residents.

A generation of AIDS activists pioneered the slogan, SILENCE  = DEATH. Imagine if their response to official discrimination, to neglect by researchers and pharmaceutical companies, had been to *remain silent* until the world changed around them!

The rationale behind the blog strike seems to be that blogging about Second Life (no, I'm not conforming to Linden Lab's demands that I forgo nominative fair use. Let them come after me if they want) legitimizes or promotes Linden Lab's actions in some way.

Let's have a little realism about the nature of power, please? The commercial blogs - New World Notes, Massively and their ilk - aren't striking. The rest of them - fashionistas, SLebrities, microbusiness promotional blogs and personal journals - don't contribute any measurable amount to Linden Lab's revenues or to its ever more tattered reputation.

Linden Lab has been overreaching, deaf to its customers at best and actively hostile to them (Robin Linden and identity "trust," anyone?). They deserve to be called out, to be pressed to change. Second Life Residents and users should be informed of Linden Lab's actions and encouraged to take action. Our grievances are legitimate, and we should do something about them.

Like what?
  • Education and outreach. The bloggers who've chosen to remain silent this week have done a wonderful job until now.  I've learned a tremendous amount from Gwyneth Llewellyn and Kit Meredith about my rights, and how Linden Lab's actions have threatened them. Those of us without the knowledge base and skills to analyze the situation in the first instance can spread the word - speak out, link, post a supportive comment.
  • Collective action, not collective incation. Organize and join in mass attendance at Linden's office hours. Organize educational events, speakers, and mass protests inworld, where they can be seen, and where our numbers can be counted.
  • Escalation. The frontline Lindens are deaf, inept, destructive? Write and petition the Board of Directors individually. Write to Linden Lab's investors, explaining how Linden Lab's actions are damaging the value of their investment. Call out Mitch Kapor inworld and at atomic world events. Hold him accountable for corporate actions.
  • Cashing out. If you're upset enough - and I confess I'm not - cash out. Dump your Premium account, the three or four of you who still have one. Dump your landholdings. Stay out of the world. Make an impact that shows up on the concurrency and economic statistics. Linden Lab is using economic and legal tools against you? Use them back.
Okay, big talk for someone who hasn't stood up against Linden Lab's actions in months. It's easy to complain from the cheap seats, something I've seriously not appreciated when it's been directed at me. Do I have money to put where my mouth is (and if that isn't one of the more disgusting images in English figures of speech, I don't know what is)?

Here's what I've got.
  • Once a week, here, or where this blog may end up moving to, I'm going to post a "for dummies" analysis of Linden Lab's problematic policies - and give them credit for whatever they may get right. I'll link to all the first-line smart commentary and analysis I'll be drawing from - and hopefully our intellectual leaders will come off strike and supply me with some material to work from!
  • I'm going to offer Extropia's facilities: an expanded set of conference rooms, lecture halls, media displays and our mighty marketing engine, for an Anti Silence Day.
    • You striking bloggers: I'll give you a stage and an audience.
    • You Lindens: I'll issue you an invitation to show up and explain yourselves - or *you* can stand silent and ineffectual while *we* take control of the message.
    • You concerned Residents: I'll give you a chance to show up, be counted, get informed, and get inspired.
    • You veteran activists: I'll call on you to teach us, lead us, politicize and empower us.  Show us how to be effective agents for change. Give us the tools that have been proven to work in worlds like ours.
I'm not an intellectual analyst, not a veteran activist, not an influential heavyweight. I'm a pretty good marketer and events organizer with a blog. Those of you who *are* leaders - there's my contribution. 

Will you take me up on it, put it to use, and ACT UP? 

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 16th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

Please feel free to copy it to SL Bloggers, and I welcome the comments and reactions of everyone there.

I'm thinking of a sidebar that says something like "this blog refuses to comply with any Second Life Terms of Service which purport to curtail the author's rights outside of Second Life."

I'm really not very good at *complying*.... :)
alesiamarkstein
Apr. 16th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
Sorry I deleted my original comment, Soph - but I remembered I'm trying to keep my inworld identity separate from the rest.

And I just directed 200-odd SL Bloggers over here. 8-)
(Anonymous)
Apr. 16th, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
Strike != Silence
Thing is, Soph, we never talked more about the matter! Us bloggers refusing to post for 3 days was to raise awareness, and make people talk about the issue. And we never talked more about it. Point made. =)

Codie
kitmeredith
Apr. 16th, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
Hi, Soph. Thanks for finally chiming in on this issue. We've missed your voice.

That having been said, I think you and others are missing the point of the strike a little. The point of the strike is not, as you seem to believe, "that blogging about Second Life legitimizes or promotes Linden Lab's actions in some way." Nor is our silence equal to complicity, or a moral failing, as you say.

I don't think anyone has any delusions that a bunch of blabbermouths shutting up for three days is going to hurt the Lindens or force them to take notice of us, if they haven't already. I can't speak for Gwyn as to her reasons for calling for the strike in the first place, but in my eyes the value of the strike is showing solidarity amongst the blogger community, and prompting discussion of the issues. It certainly has worked, judging from the discussion going on over at the SL Bloggers group at ning.com. (Which reminds me, why aren't you over there yet?)

Are there differing views on whether this will be effective? Yes. Are there other ways to get results? Yes. Will the strike be enough on its own? Of course not. Action will be required, such as the protest Gwyn is organizing at the Governor's Mansion this weekend. Your assistance is, of course, welcomed on the terms you propose - of organizing and assisting action. But I don't think that the strike has zero usefulness, or even a negative effect, as your post seems to suggest.

Silence is not always complicity in opression. Inaction can be a powerful force, just look at the myriad effective boycotts throughout modern history if you need proof. (Yes, I realize the difference is that boycotts hurt the target financially, something our strike will not do. But they also serve to rally the community.) The strike is merely the first step in our struggle, a way of galvanizing our community and showing the Lindens that we can act as one when we so desire. To that end, I think it has already proved its worth.

I wish you'd join us, Soph. But there are roles for all of us to play in this.
iyanwriter
Apr. 16th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
ty
Saved me some typing :)

What kit said.
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 17th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)
Re: ty
Whew!

You *know,* the day you and I agree, the world ends, right? We've *got* to keep this going! :)
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 17th, 2008 03:37 am (UTC)
You raise good points, Kit, of course, and I'm continuing to ponder them.

It seems to me that much protesting among atomic-world elites is primarily intended to, well, depending on your perspective, show solidarity among the community, or, make the protesters feel good.

That's not an illegitimate or negative goal, you're right.

But...

Edward Castronova says that synthetic worlds are a near-perfect example of an attention economy. To me, that means two things. One, the only scarcity is time. Every action has an opportunity cost, every choice is paid for in choices foregone. Two, it's an *attention* economy: attention is power. Foregoing attention is foregoing power.

If there's a discussion on the SL Bloggers group, *great*! Think how much richer that discussion would be if, instead of calling for *silence,* you'd called for each of those people to spell out their views, at length, in public, where they could be counted, read, and held accountable.

I don't think the SL Bloggers group and I are a good fit for each other. I support your goals in this, and I'm delighted to help out where our interests coincide. And, it's not like I don't talk to everybody anyway :)

Thank you for the time and thought you put into your reply. I'll see you at a direct action soon!
kitmeredith
Apr. 17th, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
That's interesting, Soph, about the "attention economy." I haven't thought about it enough to know whether I agree, but it's an interesting hypothesis.

Now, I think we need to distinguish something here. The discussion at SL Bloggers is public, for anyone interested in finding it, but it's really about discussing our plans amongst ourselves. That's one great thing the strike has done, is bring us together to discuss where we go from here.

But this should be distinguished from public discussion of the issues, which you seem to believe these three days will somehow prevent. I disagree - there was widespread discussion in the blogosphere about the policy when it first came out, and it will pick back up again once the strike is over. You say you've learned a lot from reading my blog and Gwyn's - I don't think that's diminished by us not being around for three days.

You say "attention is power." This may be true, but it doesn't necessarily follow that silence is giving up that power. Your post in itself proves that speech isn't always necessary for attention. Your first post on the topic was occasioned by our silence, because silence itself can be speech, and can be a way of drawing attention to a cause.
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 17th, 2008 06:35 am (UTC)
There have been a good number of blog posts about LL's policies today, in response to the strike, yes: mine, Ciaran Laval's, Tiessa's, Grace McDunnough's, Vint Falken's, several others. Call it ten.

We posted *because we disagree with you*! Citing our breaking of the strike as evidence of its success seems... a very positive interpretation of the evidence! :)

How many posts would there have been - all on message, showing not a community divided over tactics but one united over message - if SL Bloggers had called for a day of education, instead of a day of silence? Twenty? Fifty?

It's *good* that SL Bloggers has coalesced. It's unfortunate that you've coalesced around a tactic that some of us disagree with, but that's not such a big deal.

But - now that you have solidarity, now that you have a feeling of empowerment from your discussion - *now,* you've got a tool for action.

Whatever the merits of the strike, I think we can agree that further steps should involve speaking, acting, grabbing attention and applying moral and economic pressure to achieve clear, fair policies and respectful treatment.

So, forward, yes?
kitmeredith
Apr. 17th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
Yes! Forward, always! Let's figure it out together, sweetie.

I actually DO think that getting you and others to write - even if it's on tactics, and criticizing ours, should be counted as a success, because it's attention. As they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

And while I love the idea of a "day of education," I don't think it would have had the effect that you do, and certainly not fifty posts. Gwyn, myself, and several others HAVE been doing educational posts for weeks now - a "day" for it would be nothing more than the same old, same old. Let's face it, we blabber away all the time on our blogs, one more post about the TM policy when so many have been written already will do very little except pile on. There's a reason "dog bites man" is not news, and "man bites dog" is. Bloggers blogging is the status quo, while silence is a change that will garner attention.

Soph, you know I adore you. You also know I've been reading your blog forever, I rarely comment on anything, and when I do I never disagree with you out loud. So, I hope you realize why I felt the need to do it now. Normally I would have let things slide but for the "complicity in oppression" and "moral failing" language in your original post - two things I don't feel that I, or any of the others participating in the strike, deserve to be tagged with.

Now, I've said my piece. Let's get back to playing Scrabulous, shall we?
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 17th, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)
Kit, you're right - I should have stuck to my criticisms of the tactics and their effect, rather than the people - friends all! - who're using them. I'm sorry for that.

And, yes, drubbing Hamlet sounds like a *much* better way to pass the time! :)
tiessa
Apr. 16th, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
I'm glad I'm not the only one advocating against the strike
I'm glad you are saying the same thing I am about this, although, with considerably more eloquence and thought behind it than mine :)

http://tiessam.blogspot.com/2008/04/i-will-not-have-my-voice-stilled.html
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 17th, 2008 03:38 am (UTC)
Re: I'm glad I'm not the only one advocating against the strike
*Thank you* for introducing yourself, Tiessa!
tiessa
Apr. 17th, 2008 08:46 am (UTC)
Re: I'm glad I'm not the only one advocating against the strike
I'm glad I found your blog today too - now, do you have an RSS feed I can watch for updates? I can't seem to find it...
circuit_four
Apr. 17th, 2008 05:44 am (UTC)
So, first step in activism... You have a sympathetic audience here. Could you sum up the current issue for a friendly outsider in 250 words or less?
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 17th, 2008 06:05 am (UTC)
Terrific challenge - thank you!

*takes a deep breath* OK.

SL Residents have a growing list of grievances, some petty, some fairly financially significant, all of which add up to a pattern of the company, LL, being either deaf or hostile to its user base.

The specific issue comes from a new Terms of Service clickthrough agreement that changed the policies for bloggers and fansites that had been in place for years, that allowed broad use of the LL trademarks.

The new TOS not only revokes most of those uses (making existing domain names, company names and so on a violation), but (so say the lawyers) tries to limit the fair use rights of people who have SL accounts, saying that if they don't adhere to *tighter* (and astonishingly silly) limits than the law allows, they can terminate our accounts.

For sheer corporate hilarity, the guidelines are worth a read - you'll appreciate the humor.

Spokesmen have said that they don't really mean that and won't enforce it - but the company won't change the TOS to promise that they won't either.

There's the whole story in under 175 words!

And, congratulations on your promotion - financial stability is *nice*!

Our next party's going to be May 11 - if you're caught up on sleep and family time, come join us!
circuit_four
Apr. 19th, 2008 08:09 am (UTC)
Thank you! I wish I found the Terms of Service funny, but... well, I guess you probably expected they'd be black comedy, and they were. :) But you clear that up real nice, and I wish you the best of luck trying to preserve the better civic spirit of your community. I know what it's like to be one of the displaced cyber-indigenes... *hug*

Speaking of which, I just started DLing the client. ^_^
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 19th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
XD !!

I'm running an event from 1-3pm Pacific today, but otherwise, if you make it in, let me know!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 17th, 2008 06:06 am (UTC)
Agree with Soph
Now what was that quote again? “For evil people to triumph all it takes is for good people to do nothing”. Or something like that. We make our own future; we can do so through action and inaction. If we choose inaction then we can’t complain about the world we end up with. Apathy dooms us all. So, I would not see silence as a way forward to resolving an issue (nor is violence). I’m in support of Soph!

isenhand
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 17th, 2008 06:17 am (UTC)
Re: Agree with Soph
Thanks, hon!

Ghandi advocated passive resistance as an alternative to violence - but I think what's missing here is the "resistance" part.

Standing in front of the tanks is passive resistance. A sit in in the politicians' office is passive resistance. Not paying the bill, or overpaying it, is passive resistance.

Silence? Is just silence.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 17th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
no-strike
I'll take you up on this. Do you have exhibition room for the entries for my little 'trademark parody contest'? ( http://www.vintfalken.com/10000-ls-bounty-for-best-trademark-parody/ )

And see you on Sunday, in-world? =)))
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 17th, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC)
Re: no-strike
I'd love to host the exhibition! We've got a couple good spaces.

I don't think I'm going to be in on Sunday - I'm pretty much gone all of next week, unfortunately.

I'll be in on Saturday, though - ping me and we'll get something set up!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 18th, 2008 12:54 am (UTC)
Hey there
Got here from a search nice blog, i like the layout of your site any ideas where i can get simliar for a new blog im going to start?
Thanks appreciated.
sophrosyne_sl
Apr. 18th, 2008 01:06 am (UTC)
Re: Hey there
Thanks - this is a LiveJournal default layout, no customization. They offer a lot of variety. Good luck!
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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