EFF hatchet job spawns creepy reader love-in

Troll on, lads

Letters In response to our recent story, EFF volunteers to lose important suit over Sony 'rootkit', Aravind writes, "Oh man, this should be worth a FotW, or at least a few honourable mentions. Looking forward to today's mailbag! Hopefully spills over to Friday's as well..."

Things quite didn't work out as he'd hoped. Reg readers were almost universally delighted with the piece, and bothered to tell us. "This report is spot on. While I respect the goals of the EFF, the fact remains that their record is abysmal at best. It makes me cry at night," Nathan said.

"Excellent mini-bio at the end! I'll have to save it," Trent kindly wrote. And there was this:

You folks are my type of bastard. I look forward to the entertaining missives which are even now heading your way. The fact that they are blissfully unaware of their ultimate destination, the bi-weekly letters column, makes this even more delicious. Given the rather literal interpretive tendencies of today's readers, I'm not sure that such a delicate use of satire (you didn't include satire tags) will be effective, but the derivative reading will be highly entertaining.

To those who will undoubtedly question the journalistic integrity of wasting time trolling, I say: troll or not, right or wrong, there will be humor. Humor is never a waste of time, and indeed is sorely lacking in these times. Careful readers might even notice there were some very valid points in the article. BOFH on, --Alex

Chris told us to "Keep it up. BTW, is the family motto "up with pigopolists" ;) Loving the name Bonhomie Snoutintroff."

Thomas added: I'm sure you'll take some heat for this editorial. It's sad and disappointing that you're right, but you *are* right - well-meaning pacifist idealists don't stand a chance in a courtroom against corporate lawyers. I wonder if perhaps these cases should be handled instead by an equally committed but less idealist group such as the American Civil Liberties Union? To argue a case of utmost importance in front of the US Supreme Court no less, one has to be cynical, shrewd, and strategic - sometimes, the question of whether we really *should* have to go through security is uninteresting to the matter at hand, and it's better to leave it out, but to impassioned, involved idealists, it's all part and parcel - a classic inverse of not seeing the forest for the trees.

Anyway, just like everybody *wants* to like crazy idealists like Dennis Kucinich, but nobody *really* wants him representing them, the EFF is a group that's great in theory but not useful in reality. Stand strong against the flood of hate mail you're going to get...

And David declared it "A great bit, even if it is depressing to read. Love alias being used. I wonder if any of the irate emails this item generates will be FotW. There hasn't been a really good one for weeks."

And so it went: "Valid points, great article." "Thank you. That was well said." "Don't forget the stellar job they did in losing the bnetd case..."

Now, we are all immensely grateful to readers who bother to contact us, regardless of what they say, but slightly more immensely grateful to those who say nice things about us. But we do always appreciate your taking the time. And only a liar would say that he tires of reading praise, but, really, the mailbag was not producing the flames that we, and our readers, value so highly.

It was not until the story got slashdotted that we finally heard from their readership of confused, hence hostile, Asbies, only none of their material approached the originality, wit, or outrageous nuttiness demanded by a FotW. We got only inarticulate grunts and hoots, and lots of profanity (nicely defined as a dull mind attempting to express itself with force).

"You might have been going for satire, but you ended up with troll-grade sh*t. Very disappointing," Jonathan told us. And that about sums up the flames category, we regret to report.

But then, finally, there was a gem from an anonymous reader. Not a flame, but a subtle, thoughtful refutation. It had to do with my characterization of the Gilmore case, which faces appeal on 8 December. I had said that Gilmore is a fool for not accepting that anonymous travelers will get increased scrutiny.

The problem with your reasoning is that if Gilmore accepts the additional search, there is no case. Period. The secret regulation he's challenging doesn't force you to show ID -- in fact, ordinary travelers do from time to time show up at the airport without a driver's license, and they aren't turned away at the ticket counter. Instead, they're subjected to this extra scrutiny. If he doesn't reject the secondary search, he's accepting the status quo, and the case is moot...

...there's no way to challenge the ID requirement without challenging the secondary search, because the only ID requirement in force reads, in effect, "If you don't show ID, you get searched." The search is the only consequence of not showing ID. There's nothing else to challenge.

In other words, if Gilmore concedes your point, goes into court and says, "I should be able to refuse to show ID, but I'm fine with the TSA searching me as a result," the case would be dismissed, because that's the state of things today.

This actually got me thinking. I rather like it, and wouldn't mind seeing more of its kind. It's no FotW, admittedly, but I'll buy a memo like that in lieu of one. I hope you will too. ®

Bonhomie Snoutintroff is a plain-spoken strong leader in cyberspace. He did poorly in school but his family is rich and well connected, so he's served as CEO of numerous, well-known Internet ventures that for various reasons unrelated to his forward-looking guidance no longer exist. He developed a cocaine and alcohol problem, although he refuses to dwell on the past: his mission is to bring honor and dignity to the IT profession. His keen insight as a global techno-visionary is matched only by his Christian humility.

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