Journal Of Applied Misanthropology

Bookburning Barbie

(Gasoline Can Sold Separately)

I have long held to a very useful principle when trying to determine who is correct in debates that center around issues such as morality, justice, art, or other abstractions -- the side which lies is the side which is wrong. In any argument, truth is the ultimate defense and offense;anyone who wishes to suppress a true statement, or counters truth with falsehood, is in the wrong.

And so we come to Mattel, makers of such fine toys as Barbie (responsible for generations of poor self-esteem in girls) and Hot Wheels (responsible for inspiring countless teenage boys to do their bit to increase average human intelligence, if you get my drift). They also make a nicely fascist piece of software called "Cyberpatrol", which dutifully banned my web page way-back-when, and which is backed by the eternally odious ADL, who evidently learned only one thing from the Holocaust:Burn their books before they can burn yours. In the past week or two, some clever Swedes managed to crack the 'hacker proof' security around Cyberpatrols 'ban' list, and discovered, to no one's suprise, that uncounted thousands of sites were banned incorrectly. They also made the tools needed to do this investigation available to all.

Now, when confronted with glaring security holes and a 'ban list' that was virtually useless, what did Mattel do?

a)Call the programmers, and tell them to implement better security.
b)Call the composers of the ban list, and tell them to be a lot more careful.
c)Call the lawyers and send off subpeonas to everyone who might have logged on to the WWW in the past month.

I don't think I need to tell you the answer.

This has become the standard corporate response to criticism:Sue. It's due, in large part, because their old response -- threaten to pull advertising -- no longer works. It's now possible for anyone, anywhere, to reach a global audience without concern for revenue. This radically changes the control equation. Prior to the net, corporate critics had very limited reach, and so, could be allowed to ramble without harm. The tiny handful who had influence were either overwhelmed by the number of cases or were compromised by their need to remain in the circle of power. (Consider that Ralph Nader is an advocate of filtering software!) But now the rules warp, and corporations are reduced to the use of brute force -- law -- to get their way.

They'll lose, of course. The barn burned down long ago, and the corporate lawyers are still wandering around the ashes wondering where to put the locks. But just as concentration camp guards murdered prisoners mere hours before the Allies could arrive, so, too, will the dying remnants of the powers-that-aren't-any-more continue to do incalculable harm despite the knowledge that their defeat is both near and inevitable.

At this point, Mattel has decided to 'fight back' by committing what I consider to be commercial fraud. If I sell you a bottle labelled "Aspirin", but which in fact contains sugar pills, I am not engaging in protected free speech -- I am committing a crime. If I sell you software which claims a particular site contains "nudity" or "violence", when the site contains nothing even remotely close to either, I am likewise committing a crime. Any lawyers out there care to explain to non-lawyer me how this ISN'T fraud? Mattel is doing precisely this -- they are blocking all mirror sites of the aforementioned article under all categories in Cyberpatrol, so that anyone using their software -- WHICH INCLUDES TAXPAYER FUNDED ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS PUBLIC SCHOOL AND LIBRARIES -- cannot view criticism of their software. Imagine if, for example, a construction firm which did business with the government tried to ban government employees from reading advertistements for their competitors! But this is what Cyberpatrol is doing. It is committing fraud with the intent of preventing those who paid for its product from frinding out how lousy it is. There is no legal, moral, ethical, *or* commercial justification for this -- any business which can only survive by lying to its customers is a business which deserves to fail, and whose officers and principles deserve to fined or imprisoned. I dearly hope to see justice done, but I'm not going to give up sex or breathing while I wait. Corporations act as they do because they know there is no chance they will be brought to justice so long as they continue to make enough 'campaign contributions'. The only time the government notices corporate malfeasence is when the corporation in question fails to make proper obeisiance to the little tin gods of Washington, and Mattel is an ardent and faithful worshipper at the altar of Congress. No hope there.

So what can one do? Spread the word...URLs follow. Get 'em while you can...lawyers are vicious brutes and won't allow truth to stand for long. Remember -- we live in a nation of lawyers, not men. List of mirrors.

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