Why Call It The Swindle?
I go out of my way to call nasty things by names that criticize
them. I call Apple's user-subjugating computers the
“iThings,” and Amazon's abusive e-reader the
“Swindle.” Sometimes I refer to Microsoft's operating
system as “Losedows”; I referred to Microsoft's first
operating system as “MS-Dog.” Of
course, I do this to vent my feelings and have fun. But this fun is
more than personal; it serves an important purpose. Mocking our
enemies recruits the power of humor into our cause.
Twisting a name is disrespectful. If we respected the makers of
these products, we would use the names that they chose … and that's
exactly the point. These noxious products deserve our contempt, not
our respect. Every proprietary program subjects its users to some
entity's power, but nowadays most widely used ones go beyond that to spy on
users, restrict them and even push them around: the trend is for
products to get nastier. These products deserve to be wiped out. Those
with DRM ought to be illegal.
When we mention them, we should show that we condemn them, and what
easier way than by twisting their names? If we don't do that, it is
all too easy to mention them and fail to present the condemnation.
When the product comes up in the middle of some other topic, for
instance, explaining at greater length that the product is bad might
seem like a long digression.
To mention these products by name and fail to condemn them has the
effect of legitimizing them, which is the opposite of what they call
Companies choose names for products as part of a marketing plan.
They choose names they think people will be likely to repeat, then
invest millions of dollars in marketing campaigns to make people
repeat and think about those names. Usually these marketing
campaigns are intended to convince people to admire the products based
on their superficial attractions and overlook the harm they do.
Every time we call these products by the names the companies use,
we contribute to their marketing campaigns. Repeating those names is
active support for the products; twisting them denies the products our
Other terminology besides product names can raise a similar issue.
For instance, DRM refers to building technology products to restrict
their users for the benefit of someone else. This inexcusable practice
deserves our burning hatred until we wipe it out. Naturally, those
responsible gave it a name that frames the issue from their point of
view: “Digital Rights Management.” This name is the basis
of a public relations campaign that aims to win support from entities
ranging from governments to the W3C.
To use their term is to take their side. If that's not the side
you're on, why give it your implicit support?
We take the users' side, and from the users' point of view, what
these malfeatures manage are not rights but restrictions. So we call
them “Digital Restrictions Management.”
Neither of those terms is neutral: choose a term, and you choose a
side. Please choose the users' side and please let it show.
Once, a man in the audience at my speech claimed that the name
“Digital Rights Management” was the official name of
“DRM,” the only
possible correct name, because it was the first name. He argued that
as a consequence it was wrong for us to say “Digital Restrictions
Those who make a product or carry out a business practice typically
choose a name for it before we even know it exists. If their temporal
precedence obligated us to use their name, they would have an
additional automatic advantage, on top of their money, their media
influence and their technological position. We would have to fight
them with our mouths tied behind our backs.
Some people feel a distaste for twisting names and say it sounds
“juvenile” or “unprofessional.” What they mean
is, it doesn't sound humorless and stodgy—and that's a good
thing, because we would not have laughter on our side if we tried to
sound “professional.” Fighting oppression is far more
serious than professional work, so we've got to add comic relief. It
calls for real maturity, which includes some childishness, not
“acting like an adult.”
If you don't like our choice of name parodies, you can invent your
own. The more, the merrier. Of course, there are other ways to express
condemnation. If you want to sound “professional,” you can
show it in other ways. They can get the point across, but they
require more time and effort, especially if you don't make use of
mockery. Take care this does not this lead you to skimp; don't let the
pressure against such “digression” push you into
insufficiently criticizing the nasty things you mention, because that
would have the effect of legitimizing them.
- Take action against these products: