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I love Free Software! Today is I love Free Software day, a day to acknowledge the effort of all the people that contribute to the software that we all rely on.

There is much that can be said about Free Software but it all comes down to one thing. When you use Free Software, you are in control of the applications that you use. This is something that I have increasingly come to value.

The more that we rely on software, the more important it is to know what our applications are doing and to be able to take control of those applications. Free Software empowers us to do this which makes it an increasingly important part of a free society.

Stupid never learns

From the terms of use of the London 2012 Olympic website (handily archived for posterity by Index on Censorship):

Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted. View our guidelines on Use of the Games’ Marks.

In other words, they didn’t want anyone linking to them unless they were going to say something nice.

This time around, ESPN (via Gizmodo) reports that it’s the turn of the United States Olympic Committee to fire up the stupid with a letter to companies that sponsor athlete but don’t have a commercial relationship with the USOC or International Olympic Committee.

“Commercial entities may not post about the Trials or Games on their corporate social media accounts,” reads the letter written by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird. “This restriction includes the use of USOC’s trademarks in hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.”

The USOC owns the trademarks to “Olympic,” “Olympian” and “Go For The Gold,” among many other words and phrases.

No-one has claimed a trademark for the hashtag #Facepalm2016 or the phrase “Grab for Cash”.

The letter further stipulates that a company whose primary mission is not media-related cannot reference any Olympic results, cannot share or repost anything from the official Olympic account and cannot use any pictures taken at the Olympics.

At this rate, the 2020 Olympics are going to be remarkably quiet when someone tries to prevent any coverage of the event by anyone.

Gollum experts to decide if Erdogan was insulted

This rather glorious headline comes from EUObserver

A Turkish judge has ordered an “expert investigation” into the Lord of the Rings character Gollum to determine whether comparing President Erdogan to the ring-fancier is an insult. The judge made the request in a case against Bilgin Ciftci, a physician, who faces two years prison for comparing the two.

The case centres on a picture posted in October by Ciftci which compared Erdogan to Gollum in a series of poses. Following this, he lost his job and now (according to Time) faces up to two jears in jail for insulting the president.

Neither the prosecutor nor the judge presiding over the case has seen The Lord of the Rings film adaption series in its entirety, so the court has brought in two academics, two behavioral scientists and a media expert to determine if Cifti did indeed seek to insult the President.

The crucial point here, though, is that insulting a president — or any other politician — should not be a crime in the first place. Erdogan may well find the picture offensive but a country that aspires to join the EU needs to become a little less thin-skinned about their institutions and recognise that criticism — however it is expressed — should not be a crime.

And here’s the picture that caused all the trouble.

Gollum vs Erdogan
Gollum vs Erdogan

Goodwin’s Law and Social Justice Warriors

In a footnote to a post, Martín Ferrari makes the following observation:

At this point, using the term SJW in a discussion should equate to a Godwin, and mean that you lost the argument.

Pedantry aside1, Ferrari makes a good point. Increasingly, the accusation that someone is, or is behaving like, a “Social Justice Warrior” is bandied about online by reactionaries seeking to shut down discussions rather than deal with the points being made.

People who try to close down arguments in this way can, and should, be dismissed as the irrelevancies that they are.

1 Godwin’s Law merely states that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” The idea that making a Nazi comparison means that you lost the argument is a corollary.

Tout est pardonné

Charlie Hebdo The cover of the next issue of Charlie Hebdo has been released (via). The caption reads “All is Forgiven.”

And while I’m on the subject, I have seen some – frankly rather weaselly – accusations levelled at the paper. I have a couple of responses to these.

First, and most importantly, even if the paper had taken a racist, xenophobic or anti-immigrant editorial line, that is still no excuse for cold-bloodedly murdering a bunch of writers and cartoonists. There is never any excuse for cold-bloodedly murdering writers, cartoonists, or anyone else.

Secondly, the claims are untrue and those making them are, at best, both ignorant and too lazy to check their facts. The point to bear in mind here is that Charlie Hebdo is a French paper commenting on French domestic news. When someone cherry picks an image and, without understanding the context, the target or the joke, uses it to level accusations, they are veering from being ignorant to being disingenuous. So, with that in mind, here’s a collection of anti-racist cartoons by Cabu for Charlie Hebdo from Daily Kos (via).

It is worth reiterating that there is no right to not be offended. Indeed, if you live in a free society people will say things that you find offensive. Equally, some of the things you say will offend others. When people use fear of offence to justify placing limits on which opinions can and cannot be expressed, they are not supporting the oppressed; they are pandering to the theocrats, the fascists and the mobs that would take our freedoms away.

Without freedom of expression, we do not have a free society. Freedom of expression, like all our freedoms, cannot be taken for granted. It needs to be re-asserted. Repeatedly.

This is what Charlie Hebdo did.

Long may they continue.

Quote of the day: Enough

crayon At some point, we need to stand up for the civil liberties and human rights that are fundamental to our values. Those values are not racist; they do not undermine religious freedom and tolerance, and they do not oppress ethnic minorities.

Those values are about every individual holding certain fundamental rights by virtue of them being human. Rights to life, to liberty, to freedom of movement and assembly. Rights to choose who one marries, or whether one even marries at all. Rights to not be tortured or harmed. Rights to express oneself, to determine one’s own religious belief, to freedom of thought and conscience.

Until we remember how central those values are to our society, and how dear we must hold and protect them, these horrific attacks will go on.

Rosa Freedman