Subject: Who gets stuck with advocacy?
From: "Eric S. Raymond" <>
Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1999 01:44:53 -0400

Ian Lance Taylor <>:
> Frankly, perhaps what I object to is your self-characterization as
> ``public advocate for the hacker tribe'' (from ``Take My Job,
> Please!'').  Based on your public writings, I don't think that you
> advocate my interests or beliefs.  Therefore I do not want to be
> classed as part of the group for which you are a public advocate.  (I
> understand that you may think that you do advocate my interests or
> beliefs; I presume you will grant me the right to respectfully
> disagree.)

Of course.  But I have to make a reciprocal presumption -- that I can
respectfully disagree with your disagreement ;-).   In particular, I
can find no good alternative to advocating what I see as your interests
even if I *know* I am not modeling the beliefs of some minority you are
part of.

I say "I can find no good alternative" because the alternative is for me to be
paralyzed in effectively representing the many by the objections of the few.

I am a libertarian anarchist -- I reject the theory that a majority
vote can ever justify the use or threat of force.  But that is not the
case here.  Nothing I do or say is intended to or is otherwise plausibly
likely to result in the coercion of people who disagree with my views.
So the applicable ethical test of my behavior is less strict.

It's simple.  Do I do the hacker culture more good by speaking, knowing
that some hackers disagree with my portrait of it, than I would by keeping
silent because somebody somewhere objects?

I ask myself that question every day.  I've asked myself that question
at pretty regular intervals for nearly ten years now, ever since the
beginnings of the New Hacker's Dictionary project.

Is what I do moving us towards a world of better software?  More freedom?
More contexts in which hackers can pursue their art without starving?
And if I believe it is...what am I to *do* about your objections except
acknowledge them and go on doing my job anyway?

Let me make that more pointed.  Before CatB happened, I personally
helped kill the so-called Communications Decency Act in 1996 partly by
trading on my post-NHD public reputation as an ambassador from the hackers.

I have no doubt there were a few pro-CDA hackers out there.  Should I
have kept silent?  More pointed still: if any of them had sent me mail
objecting to my activism, should I have stopped?

You tell me...
		<a href="Eric">">Eric S. Raymond</a>

"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action, according to our will, within limits
drawn around us by the equal rights of others."
	-- Thomas Jefferson