15 May 2008

A Blog Rant from Absurdistan

One of the great things about the blogosphere is the scope it provides for the unfettered rant – a piece where the author is totally and utterly out of his or her pram. I should know: as a blogger, I've penned a few myself. So I was delighted to come across a fine example, which begins thus:

Another anti-Microsoft (MSFT) front group has emerged in favor of “free and open standards,” hyping what it calls the Hague Declaration and making some absurd connection to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The propagandists, partially funded by publicly traded companies, have a little trouble describing what that term “free and open standards” means (or even using it consistently) but the group has no trouble indicating its political stripes. Unbelievably it calls itself Digistan, apparently to indentify with the fascist terrorists based in countries and regions using the Farsi-based suffix “stan.”

All of these front groups percolate around about two dozen individuals, mostly European. The vast left-wing conspiracy of George Soros works around the edges of their mostly web-site-only organizations. But there is a profit motive. Some seem to exist to raise money from public companies in order to hold conferences at excellent venues. Others run consulting companies to advise governments how to follow “free and open standards” or law firms that write licenses that follow “free and open standards.” Only if these lefties could be time warped back to the last century so that they could ‘fight the right’ in Spain (or sit in the Les Deux Maggot and talk about fighting the right in Spain). Then the rest of us could avoid having our tax dollars wasted and our share values diminished.

Well, you can't argue with the opening statement: given Microsoft's trashing of the ISO process for the sake of having its OOXML format blessed, any group in favour of “free and open standards” must, I suppose, by logical necessity by be anti-Microsoft – and especially anti-Microsoft (MSFT). But I find the idea that this group calls itself “Digistan

to indentify with the fascist terrorists based in countries and regions using the Farsi-based suffix “stan.”

a little harder to parse, since it seems to paint any region ending with “-stan” with a rather broad brush. I wasn't really aware that countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, or regions like Hindustan, Rajasthan, Tatarstan and Turkestan were hotbeds of fascist terrorism, but you live and learn.

Perhaps the point is simply to get to use the magic “T” word, so that our Pavlovian reaction is to beg – salivating the while - for an honest-to-god, shock-and-awe attack on the wicked state of Digistan, which at this very moment is doubtless re-directing its civil nuclear programme to build weapons.

The next paragraph is easier to follow, because it uses a few tried and trusted tropes. Apparently, this terrorist Digistan is made up of “mostly European” individuals; well, we all know how terribly unreliable those Europeans are – just look at their plumbing. And then we have that old favourite, the “vast left-wing conspiracy”, still in remarkably fine fettle after blowing out 200+ candles on its birthday cake. There's even a little jokette about “Les Deux Maggot” (and who says Americans aren't subtle?)

The concluding thought starts badly:

Then the rest of us could avoid having our tax dollars wasted...

Unless the US government (I presume these are US tax dollars we're talking about here) is funding those unreliable Europeans, or the conspiratorial George Soros, it's hard to see why the actions of this sad, sad group of Digistanis affects the amount of money that the US can spend on humanitarian projects in the middle east one jot or tittle. But the logic picks up right at the end:

...and our share values diminished.

Which is doubtless true if we're talking about “our” Microsoft (MSFT) shares, since the net effect of Digistan will be to make people aware of open alternatives to Windows and Office lock-in, causing them to shovel less of their money into the Microsoft (MSFT) maw, with terrible knock-on consequences for those (MSFT) share values.

But then, what do I know? I'm just some leftie European living in Londonistan, who has actually been to Uzbekistan, and stood in the middle of the Registan. I probably even support those awful free and open standards.

Anyway, if you'd like join those appalling chaps behind Digistan - out-and-out communists like Andy Updegrove and our own Mark Taylor – you can do it here. At the very least it might provoke another entertaining blog rant from Absurdistan.

Update: Here's some another pinko Euro (who happens to vote Conservative), while Andy Updegrove himself offers some calm words of wisdom.


Percy said...

In India, Pepsi has a (relatively) new ad with a tag line, Yeh hai Youngistan meri jaan, which roughly translates to, This is Youngistan my love. :-) I don't think that they got the "stan" memo.

glyn moody said...

Interesting - thanks.

Sam Duncan said...

All very well, but the fact remains that it wasn't a smart name to choose if you want to get westerners - particularly Americans - on your side. I was dismayed when I first read it: by choosing a name that can be misinterpreted, the organisation could unintentionally be shooting itself in the foot.

You have to deal with the world as it is, not how you'd like it to be. And the fact is, the suffix "-stan" holds negative connotations for many people, rightly or wrongly. Some of them are nuts, like this guy, but many are more considered, and whether you share their political views or not, they are the people who have to be persuaded of the rightness of open standards. By choosing a same that seems to confirm their suspicions, you're starting off at a disadvantage.

glyn moody said...

Well, that's a very interesting comment.

I seriously would never have considered "-stan" perjorative or negative in any sense - partly for the reasons I mentioned in the blog post. I also suspect the same is true for most people in Europe - maybe because we are rather nearer the "stans", and may have even been there.

If anything, I considered "Digistan" rather witty, since it was obviously formed from Digital Standards.

I find it rather, er, worrying if you're saying that a general geographical suffix has such a negative emotional charge in the US: the cultural gulf is obviously wider than I appreciated....

Alex said...

"Digistand" would have been better, Shirley!?

glyn moody said...

Ah, but it lacks that "je ne sais quoi" that we leftie Europeans so love....

Sam Duncan said...

I find it rather, er, worrying if you're saying that a general geographical suffix has such a negative emotional charge in the US: the cultural gulf is obviously wider than I appreciated....

Perhaps. Or perhaps your appreciation of it isn't as great as you thought.

I'm European myself, from the UK. But I certainly understand why the -stan suffix might put people off. Even in Europe, most of the news we hear from these countries is negative: war, dictatorship, violent uprising. It may be a false picture, it may not. But as I said, it's not a question of whether or not these people are right to hold the views they do; they do hold them, and they're the very people you're trying to persuade.

And it's not that it necessarily holds huge negative connotations for them (although it seems to for that guy). However those connotations do exist when you really don't want any at all, and should probably prefer positive ones.

Anyway, I wish Digistan well. It is absurd to suggest that a group promoting the "fostering [of] competition and innovation, lowering costs and increasing choice" is a threat to our free-market way of life. (At least I hope so.) It's just that many people won't look past the name.

Jose_X said...

Even after having been shown the way as concerns "stan", I still don't quite get the implied universal negative connotation.

In any case, perhaps it was a good thing. Who knew "stan" could actually be associated with a Very Good Thing? I suppose more people will now have that lesson to learn.

Kind of how they learned (or will learn) that butterflies, rolling vistas, windows, blue green yellow red wavy flags, micro, and soft could actually have significant negative connotations.

We will embrace and extend the stans.

Digistan.. the nation of the free.