portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

media criticism

Lipstick on a Pig - The Folly of Media Reform

Lipstick on a Pig - The Folly of Media Reform
As the saying goes, no matter how much lipstick you apply to a pig, it is still a pig. Such is the case of media reform. In the final analysis, it is a discussion about making the jail cell more comfortable.

No matter the nature or degree of reform proposed, media reform advocates are blind to the greater context out of which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) arose. Surrendering the broadcast airwaves to corporate interests is the accepted narrative surrounding the Communications Act of 1934, enabling legislation that created the FCC. True as this narrative may be, a much larger political gestalt was in motion.

Put succinctly, the corporate media empires are large cogs in an engine of imperial war and conquest. This relationship was formalized by the Communications Act of 1934.
As much as the left tends to wax nostalgic about the1930's, it ignores the largely covert war preparation program that was put into play by Roosevelt with domestic economic recovery, social uplift and job programs providing the cover story. Roosevelt implemented a sweeping mobilization of resources and programs to place the United States in a position to conduct a major global war in the Pacific and Europe.

Beginning with the Committee on Public Information (aka Creel Commission), whose World War I propaganda efforts are well documented by Noam Chomsky in the book Manufacturing Consent, the US government continued with both overt and covert efforts to regiment the public mind - aided and abetted by academia, media institutions and industry. Witness the extremely racist cartoons created in the 1930's to portray the Japanese in the worst possible way.

If your intent is to move a population from a relatively pacifist or isolationist position to one that is supportive of a global war, then it would make perfect sense to place the broadcast spectrum in trusted hands - RCA, Western Electric, etc. Certainly not labor unions whose definition of a bayonet is "a sharp instrument with a worker at each end". Further, you sweeten the pot with the prospect of obscene war profits - according to some statistics, corporate America made $1,000,000 of profit for every US service person killed during World War II. Finally, you take the propaganda machine that has been running since 1916 or so and supercharge it once the war has begun. At the end of WW II this machine was not switched off, instead it was turned full bore on the American public. Many major media figures, both frontline journalists and corporate bosses, had prominent positions in this war propaganda apparatus. For example, William Paley, CEO of CBS, served as deputy chief of the psychological warfare branch of General Dwight Eisenhower's staff. When that is not sufficient you buy journalists by the dozen as the CIA did in the 1950's. Now most of them are such skanky whores they do not have an asking price.

Given the integral and vital role of media in creating and maintaining a hyper-saturated propaganda environment domestically and an ongoing campaign of media imperialism abroad one would have to be delusional to think that any degree of reform is going to fundamentally alter this reality, or be allowed to have any meaningful effect by the ruling elite. As long as reform is maintained as the only "viable and realistic" option available and its advocates can roam about their comfortably appointed play pens, underwritten by liberal foundations, then those who run and service this mechanistic Moloch to which all must be sacrificed in the name of profit and greed can rest undisturbed.

Further, most advocates of reform fail to recognize that every citizen of the United States is the target of an ongoing psychological warfare campaign. It is terra-forming of the human internal landscape. An old movement slogan had it right, "It is hard to fight an enemy who has an outpost in your head". When someone is carpet bombing your mind every second, minute and hour of the day, blowing the hell of out of your sense of self-esteem, self-identity and self-worth, would any intelligent, free thinking person believe that media reform aspirin is the solution and cure? No fucking way!

Yes, many worlds are possible. Only if we step outside our jail cells and reject the narcotizing effects of reform, however. Our only option is to continue to create our own systems of media and information. Massive campaigns of electronic civil disobedience on a global scale - screw their broadcast regulations, intellectual property laws, v-chips, internet filters, self-appointed gate keepers, proprietary software, indecency standards and all other impediments to the free flow of news, information, ideas, cultural expression, and artistic/intellectual creativity. Stick your thumb in the Cyclopean eye of media monopoly and thought control. Hack the planet, hijack the starship!!!

Stephen Dunifer

It is not clear 16.May.2005 00:27


Do you advocate the dismemberment and permanent suppression of all mass media?

Or do you advocate giving the keys to the bomb-sights to different people?

what this is about 16.May.2005 08:17


this article came from the st louis confluence, a local radical indy newspaper for the st louis community. the webiste is stlconfluence.org

this article and the entire recent issue was moslty a response to the national conference for media reform (freepress.net/conference) that recently occurred in st. louis (stlimc.org) hopefully more critiques come from it.

seems like the writer is advocating giving up on media reform 16.May.2005 14:05


"most advocates of reform fail to recognize that every citizen of the United States is the target of an ongoing psychological warfare campaign"

No, most advocates realize this and know that it is the main reason for media reform, to stop the psychological conditioning. Educating viewers is part of the process. Corporate Media exists on advertising dollars, how long do you think any outlet would last if everyone stopped listening/viewing?

There is more to media reform than changing or enforcing laws. Reform could be getting people to turn off the TV and get thier news from a variety of sources.

Also, where do you think we'd be if there were no efforts at regulation? What exactly are you advocating, anyway? "...reject the narcotizing effects of reform..." Oh yeah, I'm so drugged by that awful "reform" that I can't do anything about media conditioning...

Radical Alternative 16.May.2005 16:56

Wild Green

Excellent article.

In response to the above posters, if you read the article you will see radical (to the root) alternatives to media reform proposed, namely pirate radio and pirate t.v.*:

"Our only option is to continue to create our own systems of media and information. Massive campaigns of electronic civil disobedience on a global scale - screw their broadcast regulations, intellectual property laws, v-chips, internet filters, self-appointed gate keepers, proprietary software, indecency standards and all other impediments to the free flow of news, information, ideas, cultural expression, and artistic/intellectual creativity."

* Their are hundreds of pirate t.v. stations in Italy, why not here?

Reforming corporate media is akin to trying to reform the Republican or Democratic Parties.

I saw that, Wild Green 17.May.2005 01:18


It does not answer my question.

Thanks anyway.

again with discouraging people about media activism 17.May.2005 01:46


OK, so if we're to just disregard rather than try to change Corporate Media, then how to get the majority of the population to also disregard it and tune in to alternatives? Let's talk about that. Pirate radio is great, but there could be 100 great pirate stations in a city and still most people would continue listening to the major commercial stations.

Have you noticed that conservatives and religious zealots are running the country? Maybe it's because they're proactive and don't have hopeless attitudes like some of the writers here.

KEEP IT UP! 25.May.2005 11:28

Dennis A.

Keep it up! The main good that can come from accurate, though strongly-spoken criticism is that many journalists in the administration-stenographic MSM will wake up to the real need for real reform.

Keep prodding them; maybe something real will happen.

Right on 25.May.2005 14:25

Cordley Coit cordleycoit@yahoo.com

Please keep it up. We need to be clear as do the street walkers who think they are part of a free press. They have puckered, then they worry if the offered ass was wiped.

Central Question of Media Reform 06.Jun.2005 21:06

Tom Murphy TomM@FairMedia.org

The central question of media reform with regard to the transition from analog to digital television is: are we going to get what is in our best interests? After all is said and done, are we going to get any new channels that we can control? When the legislation that gets passed under the banner of "media reform" is implemented are we going to have something tangible to show for it that answers the complaint of most Americans: the network news is not fair and balanced. We must provide for ourselves an effective counter balance that puts decision making power in the hands of the American citizens. A check and balance on the power of the current media elites. The central question of media reform with regard to the transition from analog to digital television is: are we going to get what is in our best interests? After all is said and done, are we going to get any new channels that we can control? When the legislation that gets passed under the banner of "media reform" is implemented, are we going to have something tangible that answers the complaint of most Americans: the network news is not fair and balanced? We must provide for ourselves an effective counter balance that puts decision making power in the hands of the American citizens. A check and balance on the power of the current media elites. Establishing a Fair Media is powerful media reform, creating a true public forum on publicly owned airwaves. It is an answer to the problem of Big Media. text continued here: text of flyer handed out at The National Conference for Media Reform: [with new comments added]

Radizdat (Plastic is now much cheaper than cable anyway) 11.Jun.2005 11:36

Todd Boyle

R a d i z d a t

www.refusenik.org Home

First, here is the blank Radizdat label. To make a DVD or CD cover,
cut on the dotted lines, fold in half, and fold and tape the sides.

The U.S. is addicted to war. The U.S. invasion of Iraq is completely a product of internal U.S. forces: its military industrial complex, religious congregations, and corporate managerial class. Ownership and control of media infrastructure are a key link in the chain, which must be broken. American TV is saturated in militarism and violence. Americans will need many hours per week of alternative, normal information. This cannot be achieved by thinking inside the box constructed by a corrupt congress and governing class: the oppressive regulations of spectrum, control of content by "market forces", and copyright.

S o c i a l R a t i o n a l e


Copyrights in factual documentary content are not legitimate. There is a physical universe. There are recorded images or sounds, which are merely reproductions of the material world. And there are words and symbols which describe or represent the material world and abstract things which are no less real.

Copyrights in published material are a social and legal invention. Whether these copyright laws are actually sustained by some higher purpose of promoting knowledge, versus the efforts of special interests, is an academic question. The higher priority is promoting knowledge in society.

To begin with, there can be no functioning society without an informed population. In the 21st century the survival of the species may be at stake.

Documentary content is distinct from fiction. Property rights over the simple, objective truth can hardly be justified.

The justification for copyrights seems to lie in encouraging creative works. Over time, copyrights have resulted in the opposite -- synthetic representations that are not accurate, that mislead, in ways profitable to media corporations. 95% of the money is captured by corporations not the artist. If you want more art, would you anyways, operate a lottery system giving 1% of the artists too much money, while 99% of the artists starve? Real industries operate on regular paychecks.

Over time, technology has reduced costs and produced an abundance of factual content. Humanity does not face any scarcity of content. However, there has been a breakdown in distribution of information. Creative or fictional content is anyways of less importance than political, economic and scientific information.

Cable, satellite, and media content companies have gained such power over society that the social utility of copyright laws has become negative. Concepts of property, corporate law, and market economics have been misapplied to media content. Information is different from pork bellies or land. First of all, it can be copied endlessly at zero cost. Secondly, and more importantly, there is no legitimate justification to withhold information from those who need it, in the context of any business dealing or political election.

For example, there is no social good in protecting the supposed "copyrights" of somebody whose newsletter contains warnings about defective products or misbehavior by politicians, or insider information bearing on stock prices. Peoples' right to know is a higher social priority than the fees of publishers--which are essentially blackmail in this case.

The result of this misapplication of capitalist ideology and creative copyrights to documentary information has only been concentration of unearned rents and undue power in media corporations.

Without copyright protections, the power of media corporations would be much reduced. Any content they produced which people wanted to see, would be copied and disseminated on other networks. Fewer and fewer would watch their advertisements or political schemes. That is exactly the intent of Radizdat.

Copying of content may reduce the incomes of some producers. But the networks would not go silent. The quality might improve. It could hardly be worse. Consumers would find new ways of paying authors, after government protections of copyright were removed. Authors would do better, not worse. The middleman is exploiting.

The social value of media corporations has certainly declined. They have repudiated the social contract that protected them, granting monopolies and privileges in return for responsible journalism. In their relentless pursuit of money, they have obviously neglected their reporting duties, to support wealthy elites in government, and whatever militarism, wars and a domestic police state that maximizes their profits. The war was a wake-up call. Re-election of Bush was another.

People need an accurate representation of facts. We need accurate descriptions of abstract things. Owners of media, however, maximize their revenue and political advantage by omission and misrepresentation. They forfeit legitimacy or protections from society, abandoning the essential role of informing the public in favor of seeking private gain.

T e c h n i c a l R a t i o n a l e


DVDs are very cost-effective for distribution of content. Clearly, DVDs are beginning to replace broadcast and cable for more people, and this number will be much larger than videotapes or CDs in the past.

The street price of name brand DVD-R blanks is no more than 40 cents now. It is child's play to burn DVDs. It takes 15 minutes. Its way easier than copying a VHS tape.

  • DVD burners cost $50 and can be installed in PCs as old as the 333Mhz processors.
  • DVD players (which you plug into your TV, like a VCR) are as cheap as $20.

From the viewpoint of a single customer, DVDs are already cheaper than cable or broadcast, for transporting a movie or video segment. Of course that's not true globally unless everybody agreed on the same content.

But here is the arithmetic proof, from the viewpoint of the individual:

- The average cable bill is around $50/month. The news or documentary viewer might want 10 hours of documentary information per week.

- 10 hours of video fits on 5 DVDs. That means 25 DVDs per month. The blank disks would cost $10/month, if you paid 40c. and threw them away after one use. Within sharing communities the reuse might reach 3, 4 or 5 times in the first few months, and spawn more copying and distribution.

Accordingly, DVDs perform the same role as the $50/month cable subscription. DVDs may replace broadcast and cable for more people; literally, they may find superior content as well as cheaper costs.

S o m e p r a c t i c a l c o n s i d e r a t i o n s


Objectively speaking, all of the factual or documentary content currently being delivered by cable and satellite, can be brought into a city by a single ethernet connection, or flown in on a few dozen DVDs per day, if it were then shared freely among large numbers of neighborhood servers. You don't need to pay for the whole giant octopus of the DSL networks, cable networks, dish and satellite and broadcast TV.

The most relevant things in the physical universe, the economy or politics, do NOT change everyday. There is no need for 100-billion dollar media corporations or their cables to the home. nor 500 channels flowing on Dish, Cable or Broadcast. Making everything seem to change everyday, in endlessly threatening and alarming ways, is essential to their business.

The production and distribution companies -the intermediaries - are the culprits, because they control the journalists or producers.

In all of those 500 channels, all of the news that exists would fit in only perhaps, 5 to 10 channels running 24 hours a day. That is one ethernet connection. The rest is either useless, outdated, advertising etc. or outright harmful.

The objective documentaries or news or quality films might total 10 channels running 30 or 60 or 120 minute segments, 24 hours a day, which should be stored on neighborhood servers. Much of this already exists, and should now be transported on DVDs, leaving behind the political manipulation and control of the media corporations.

It would be a good thing if we didn't *have* to copy existing films like Fahrenheit 911, Iraq Uncovered, or Outfoxed, or Preventive Warriors and push them out to our friends.

It would be a good thing if we had more *authors* of documentaries in video format, that are free of charge as we see in written form on blogs.

It would be a good thing if better indexes, schedules, and classification schemes emerged, so that we could *find* information about the subjects we want.

It would be a good thing if there were better developed *reputation frameworks*, so that we could judge the reputation of authors, and review their past errors.

And finally it would be good if better behavior patterns emerged -- people in local neighborhoods sharing their documentary or historical or factual material.

But even if those things don't exist yet in the whole wide internet, the signals seem positive today for both creating our own video content, and obtaining video around the world to share among ourselves. See for example these sites.


You can buy a mini-DV camcorder as low as $250. You can film local speakers and events. You can also capture from streaming websites from the screen.

It is our civic duty to enable more people to cancel their high speed internet. Watching stuff from DVDs, from the living room couch is way better than the computer anyway.

A f f i r m a t i v e D u t y


Responsible citizens have an affirmative duty to obtain documentary and factual video and audio content, and disseminate it via tape, CD, DVD, and community wireless networks outside of corporate or government operated TV and radio. I will explain why this duty to copy exceeds the duty to pay royalties to creators of documentary content.

Radizdat was the Russian practice of bringing audio or video tapes from abroad and spreading them among islands of free people, in a controlled state. Same thing, here today, in the U.S.

TV and Radio content in the U.S. is quite propagandistic, orchestrated for financial and political gain by the media corporations on behalf of advertisers and investors. Material facts that are critical to the decisions of viewers are omitted, and others are misrepresented or distorted.

The overall pattern of course is maximizing revenue, through sex and violence, thru commercials, and other distortions of reality. The media reflects a world that doesn't exist -- an artificial world tailored to suck advantage out of a bell curve of television viewers, susceptible to being exploited in various ways.

Political analysis and opinion is limited to safe zones that do not challenge American imperialism, powerful churches, male gender roles, and so forth.

In fact there is very limited scope for deliberate political control other than what is consistent with remaining competitive, retaining viewers, keeping advertising rates low and yet, profits high enough to prevent hostile takeovers.

So there is no overt political control -- except when it really counts which is before elections, and when prosecuting wars, tax cuts or other top priorities of very wealthy people and organizations, who can backfill the hole in revenues caused by non-revenue-maximizing behavior.

Moving beyond descriptions of the problem----- There are two fundamentally different avenues to solve this problem. .

- The political activism way: changing how TV and Radio are governed, through lawsuits, legislation, appeals to power, etc. to get public access channels, etc.


- The "internet" way generally including a huge array of technologies for direct dissemination of facts and ideas from person to person.

Obviously, things are so critical in this country we can hardly afford dinking around for 20 years with Internet P2P, blogs etc. while the corporate media hypnotizes 280 million Americans thru their TVs and car radios, bombing and blasting the planet into rubble. Every life system and ecological zone on earth is in decline; income inequality grows; wars continue unabated, nuclear proliferation seems to be accelerating, Oil is peaking, deadly pollutants accumulate, civil order declines, supported only by jailing millions of people, etc.

On one hand, media activism isn't looking real promising. The rules out of WashDC are one outrage after another. And even if you're in San Francisco or someplace where they have a PEG channel, and you can afford $50/month for cable, the hypnotized majority are about as likely to watch Chomsky on the PEG channels as they are to use a bit- torrent, community wireless broadband. When they figure out how to use community wireless they'll probably just use it for porn.

On the other hand, creating entirely new media systems seems a very long shot.

But there is so much good content available, it is tragic, to be stopped by the lack of distribution channels. We are almost like the elephant who is afraid of the mouse.

In the Seattle region there are numerous churches, social agencies, peace groups, public libraries, as well as individuals, where you can get a pretty inexhaustible supply of VERY good, informative videos right in the original VHS or DVD package. The newer stuff-- the Hijacking Catastrophe, Outfoxed, Preventive Warriors, is bought instantly by any number of activists, and after you've seen them typically are given away to somebody and they, in turn, give them away.

There is one more essential category of content - things produced by activists ourselves-- usually events or lectures. These get copied and disseminated very fast.

Some people have saved copies on their hard disks or laptops since they got so cheap. Since DVD burners have collapsed to $50 more people are burning a copy on DVDs.

S o c i a l N e t w o r k s


Obviously, there are many types of IP restrictions. Copying videos is not something you can do by servers or websites on the Internet. They are about giving away lots of multiple copies. There might be some IP infraction sooner or later and any centralized thing like that would be a lightning rod.

The model you want to visualize, is something that is scalable, something that will spread and become universal, something everybody can do. Something that doesn't have high hurdles. Maintaining internet sufficient for 5-Gig files, is possible but it's even more expensive than cable TV and massively less convenient.

Internet dissemination of quality video content would be a major hurdle. It's so much easier to just give it to your friend personally, and they in turn, nourishing their friends the same way.

I wouldn't even consider giving a video to a stranger, or asking for money. There are several principles to follow. Keep it on an individual basis. I am making a copy for a friend, with the emphasis on the "a". Just so nobody gets the wrong idea. Another principle is keeping the selection of content, documentary and educational. And don't disseminate commercial films that are still running in theaters, or commercial TV or whatever.

Another principle I try to follow is to keep it within activist groups who are already committed to the particular subject matter. This is crucial, educational material that we have been CHEATED out of, our whole entire life by the school system and the media and the scheming, rotten business elites who run this country. We *are* going to copy this stuff. The "Panama Deception", the "Crucible of Empire" for examples. I was furious, when I read "A People's History of the U.S." by Howard Zinn at age 50. Sorry charlie. We have been shafted, long enough. The government lied to us in school, nobody is lifting a finger to inform the U.S. electorate by press or TV. We are going to copy these kinds of facts, for our friends.

Within activist groups there is a recurring question whether to preach to the faithful, increase their fervor and level of understanding --or outreach and try to get new people or change the voting behavior of the public.

To me, radizdat is 100% totally about the first goal: informing ourselves. If anybody distributes copies of Fahrenheit 911 or OutFoxed on the street or at a party, as a way to warm up new people to media reform etc., that's fine. But that's a different dissemination model. It is flawed by higher IP risks, obviously if somebody gives multiple copies, that's not the betamax case. That's not the fairuse case.

I also wouldn't give a DVD to somebody I didn't know, or who already don't care about the purpose of the information. Which in my case is media reform or controlling military imperialism. Sooner or later you're going to give a disk to some right wing nut, and they will give it to their pastor or their lawyer.

I also feel somewhat comfortable with documentaries from broadcast, particularly, past years. We have, collectively, already *paid* for everything that came over the TV, especially the PBS, BBC, etc. The media corps. already owe *us*.

Documentaries from PBS or funded by mega foundations, are the stuff of *our culture*. That is us. We don't need to pay royalties for 70 years or whatever bugs bunny walt dizney corrupt politicians wrote into their stupid laws. This has gone on too long, and it lacks moral legitimacy.

Microsoft knows this --around Redmond I have talked with dozens of career people there. They know half the country is copying their Windows software but the political support for their monopoly copyrights is 3000 miles wide and a quarter- inch deep.

When you consider what is at stake, and how the media actually causes wars, perpetuates violence, amplifies fears and distrust, promotes environmental destruction-- and when you consider how late the hour really is -- and the sacrifices being made by other people around the world to fight oppression, to me, this is something that is worth making a stand, on an individual level. I am talking about US military imperialism and the neocons, etc. and the media that serves them.

You hear the word "civil disobedience" a lot. If activists can't even suck up their gut, and make a copy of a PBS documentary, what does that say about our future? Are we hesitating because we actually believe the copyright laws are just? Do we actually believe it's a good thing to give our money to ABC, CBS, PBS, CNN, FOX, etc.? Or are we hesitating out of an unwillingness to sacrifice, to risk even in small ways?

I neglected to mention that friends are very important. Building relationships in communities stronger than our allegiance to the national flag.

We are going to have a peer to peer, wireless broadband cloud in our suburban areas (eventually) and it is NOT going to be owned by the cable cos or telcos, or run by the federal government. It is going to be owned by *us*. The hardware is going to cost no more than $100-$300 per home.

We can have it, as soon as there is critical mass who wants to buy it and connect with each other. Friends are very important.

Build your friendships and relations at the neighborhood level- within kilometers. Before you know it, we the citizens will own the Internet, the way it was originally intended. Your packets will go straight to your neighbor, not down to the main internet centers, and back at a huge cost.

This is a social movement. Napster and the gnutellas are one petal- a reaction to economic exploitation. Our movement is a reaction to corruption in journalism and media. The clock has basically run out, waiting for journalists and media to self- regulate. We have waited for ethics. We have waited for the regulatory pendulum to come back. Now, we just cannot afford to wait while our society is literally destroyed by its media conglomerates, cablecos, etc. So we will turn off the TV and distribute content, ourselves.

E x c e s s i v e I P L a w s


From http://www.out-law.com 16/01/2003

The US Supreme Court yesterday ruled that a controversial law extending
copyright protection from 50 to 70 years for most works of art, music and
literature is constitutional. The decision is viewed as a major victory by
entertainment corporations, such as Disney, which profit from their
copyrighted property, but as a major setback for on-line publishers and
artists who want their works in the public domain.

Comments: Any copyright longer than 7 to 10 years is inconsistent with the economic models that govern corporate decisionmaking. 70 years is so long, it is laughable. Economists and investors are worried about getting the CEOs to think in terms of 3 or 5 years, instead of *quarters*!

In other words 70 years is a blatant hypocrisy --and we shouldn't put up with it. Corporations don't invest in things where the payoff is away out 10, 20 years, let alone 70 years... Capital markets don't support it, won't fund it and will take away your company if you do that.

To be more precise those returns are discounted to net present values which are negligible beyond 5 to 7 years, and are overshadowed by other factors (markets and the company's strategies) beyond about 3 years. But go ahead calculate what is the value of $1 to be received in 2074 if the interest rate is 6% (its less than 2 cents).

This illustrates the point that copyright laws are much more about maintaining oligopoly by a concentrated industry, than they are about ensuring a pipeline of creative or intellectual works. These laws are all about locking up the creative people and production apparatus and eliminating competition, than about incenting creativity.

IMO it's pretty clear that patent and copyright laws are a collaboration between governments intent on social control, and industry rent-seeking behavior. This collaboration is not a secret conspiracy but a darwinistic consequence over many decades in which politicians and companies obeying large economic tendencies within our system of commercial law. Our system is an unfinished work. Clearly in its neanderthal stage and held back, by some corrupting influences,

If there were no natural force limiting the power of media concentration, it would smother our democracy as well as the economy. Of course there is large scale push-back! Otherwise, operators of networks and telecoms would continue capturing information flows, and charging as much as they wanted until they captured all the net economic gain in the underlying buying and selling in our economy. All of the fortune 1000 firms operate across time and space relying on information networks.

As such it is the duty of conscientious citizens to fight excessive "intellectual property" (sic) laws. They are just another, typical Concentrated Benefit / Dispersed Cost externality pump. This is a well-known systemic problem in *any* corporate or government process.

The defense of the information commons is no different than the challenges faced by patriots in past centuries, established in the bill of rights, etc. If a person *can* make a copy and give it to a friend then that's what we should all be doing --and that's what P2P file sharing is all about. Giving a copy to a friend. As far as I'm concerned, they're heros and should have a national day of recognition, same as veterans.

Todd Boyle - Kirkland WA - 425-827-3107

Why P2P wireless? ---six good reasons. 11.Jun.2005 11:43

Todd Boyle














Here are Six Good Reasons we need decentralized, owner-operated, peer-to-peer networks:

1. free telephony,
2. free commerce including unregulated payment/settlement infrastructure,
3. free software,
4. free music. unregulated transmission of content such as MP3 files,
5. free speech. freedom of expression, and
6. individual privacy.

You'll never get these things from telephone companies or cable companies. You have to own the routers and the links. The telco/cableco "Internet" is only a simulation of many-to-many communications, which is increasingly being restrained and managed in various ways. The owners of cable and routers have nearly total control over content. The law protects their property rights to perpetuate their revenue, of course, and the revenue of other vested interests.

Unless you were asleep in 2003 you noticed an uproar against concentration of media ownership, a growing pressure to deregulate telephony, and large scale battles between the music industry and their customers. You might have heard protests against PATRIOT act, and expanding powers of snooping without a search warrant.

Geeks have been concerned about these things for years; they have built some community wireless networks (cwn's). These have been around four or five years now.

http://personaltelco.net/ ...etc.

Some better writers here: http://www.muniwireless.com/archives/cat_community_wireless.html

But they have not provided internetworking to more than a handful of the 50 million internet users in the U.S. The wireless protocols (802.11a/b/g) were destined only for the last hop, for corporate LANs, or the limited home- wireless scenario.

Thus the only "CWN" possible for ordinary people, using 802.11a,b,g has been a "parasitic grid", sharing cablemodem or DSL.

Standards for even more-highly engineered host-centric designs are discussed in the IEEE standards body.... authentication, built-in PKI and RA's, etc.

Here is where I want to go:

Pigs will fly, before the giant chip vendors or software companies produce a fairly balanced architecture, giving sovereignty to the endpoints on the Internet.They get up early and work all day, figuring out ways to hard-wire the Internet with dependencies on centralized components, for transfer of wealth. We need community wireless or laser networks.

In the city I live, we are paying $50/month for broadband internet service. (you get it cheaper only if bundled with cable or other constraints). That's $600/year. We all have money and investments. Every family in Kirkland having broadband also has investments/savings over $1000 that is getting below 5% interest. The capitalized value of an income stream of $600 at 5% would be $12,000. Therefore...

A rational citizen will pay $12,000 to escape from a recurring cost of $50/month. If Kirkland's city council provided leadership and coordination, citizens could purchase and operate our own broadband network, with off the shelf equipment far cheaper than $12,000.

You can't build a wireless network without considering why they are needed. Here are Six Good Reasons we need decentralized, owner-operated, peer-to-peer networks:

1. free telephony,
2. free commerce including unregulated payment/settlement infrastructure,
3. free software,
4. free music. unregulated transmission of content such as MP3 files,
5. free speech. freedom of expression, and
6. individual privacy.

All Internet content is speech. Data is Data. It is not physical.

For example, consider telephony. There is P2P software for this, already. There are ad-hoc routing and other technical standards, and all of the necessary fragments of open source software. But there is no critical mass, and no convenience. Without big revenue, it can only emerge slowly and organically. Another thing missing may be protocols and semantics for resource usage and accounting, and economic notifications such as billing to other nodes. (not settlement, not micropayment). Without protocols for microbilling, a decentralized network cannot grow very far. The largest devices are limited to $300 or whatever the community is willing to donate to common use. The commercial providers would remain so much faster and better that only a few users would migrate to the free net. Lacking critical mass, its coverage would suffer even worse.

This is a kind of prisoners' dilemma and it has been around for 20 or 30 years now. Quite ironic, really.

Massive bandwidth has been available to the individual owner or tenant, for a long time at trivial costs, for short distances such as 100 meters. This is exactly the same place where the global telecoms monopolies call "the last mile" and pretend to be unable to provide high speed service. All they're really saying is that they (telcos) cannot control the traffic or infrastructure at the last 100 meters and charge rent, because nobody so stupid as to let them. And thus, the highest rents they face is the last 100 meters.The residents of the homes and apartments can easily install monster bandwidth to the last 100M.


The real truth is that the core of the internet is weak and limited, not the last mile. The cost of transport and routing for even 1000 of those 100mbit LAN connections would be 100 Gigabits, that's a very expensive router and fiber. There will be at least 100 million Internet users in the U.S. whenever it overcomes its technical and economic bottlenecks. Should citizens wait for centralized routers to reach 100 million gigabits, just so that Telcos can centralize all broadband traffic? Of course not-- most traffic does not need to go downtown at all.

The simple fact is that for short distances, community networks will be massively faster, cheaper and less regulated than the commercial Internet, for the forseeable future. This is a matter of physics and economics, that has gone on a long time, and will continue.

The legal and regulatory framework, including IP laws and protection of telephone and cable monopolies, is obsolete. It gives the wrong economic signals to the Internet industry. As a result, society does not make anything near the optimal usage of the bandwidth at the edges of networks. The 802.16 workgroup's site. http://wirelessman.org/ "Mesh coverage & robustness improve exponentially as subscribers are added" http://wirelessman.org/tga/contrib/S80216a-02_30.pdf

Instead of heat death, from packet congestion, mesh networks would deliver a virtuous cycle of greater reliability and peak capacity, because more paths are available. This does not mean, every house can receive peak capacity, simultaneously, but common sense suggests that more backbone capacity would emerge to sell bandwidth into the cloud. This is the future of post-bankruptcy, cableco/telco wired plant.

Telcos and Cablecos can only get revenue when traffic flows through central hubs. Their only game is to capture and aggregate traffic by all possible means. Thus, the economic benefits of mesh networks are lost to humanity.And regulators force consumers to pay the costs of their expensive copper to the home.

Since bandwidth is already free at the edges of the network, telcos/cablecos must sabotage any architectures, adoption, or usage patterns that develop, around the edges of the net. Their activities are directly adverse to individuals, small business, and the indigenous culture of local communities.

I think is going to be necessary to create a completely parallel network, completely replacing the internet and the public telephone network. I don't think you can get there by layering something on top of the existing routers and cables operated by regulated monopolies.These networks are being built. http://www.ledgerism.net/SWNsummit.htm

It will have to be done with wireless or optical, bouncing light off the sky or off of tall objects. It's fine if wireless P2P nets have internet gateways. But in the end, many people agree, the links to the state-controlled internet will be futile.

The problem with Internet and PSTNs is that they will always be controlled from the top. Hierarchic control is designed into the very fabric of those networks. It is irreversible. Because control is possible, eventually that is what always happens. There is a palpable will. The structure of the networks, the economics and ultimately the content are subverted.

For example, it is clear that in most countries, PSTNs are not just networks. They are a mechanism first of all, for concentration of wealth, and for taxation.

Networks must be designed from the first line of code, for user sovereignty. --to enable simply communicating from node to node, with total privacy and security. Today's internet allows the interests of parties other than the user to interfere. It is built on unix model, over decades of work by large organizations who needed central control. There is an illusion of freedom, on Internet, but that freedom is a privilege, granted from the top.

It is impossible to design the new networks without being more explicit in the design goals. Making this more concrete,

1. I want free telephone service and free telecoms. Obviously, we don't need a single central PSTN especially for local calls of a few miles.

Consider that telephone conversations only need 8k to 16k and phones are only in use 10% of the time. We are paying $25/month and it all goes to payoff the mortgage of the 5ESS switches on every streetcorner, and the wages and benefits of the telco. These are a social contract between our great-grandfathers. We need to repudiate that contract. Open your eyes.

Megabit DSL costs $50/month. So, one could start a pirate telco serving 1000 homes, and charge them each 5 cents a month. Too cheap to meter. The postage and paper check and getting a payment thru the banking system would cost more than the bandwidth.

Obviously the man would shut you down in 15 minutes. So, the pent-up demand continues to build. The PSTN is a contract signed by our grandparents. We were never a party. We need to repudiate that contract and walk away from the telcos. The PSTN is really a contract for transfer of wealth, but you can't get rid of the damned thing because of this "universal access" bugaboo. It would be wayyy cheaper to mail a part 15 wireless phone to every man, woman and child in the country, and totally eliminate all telecoms regulation. But the public is too stupid so the cellphone operators enslave us into fiefdoms, again, fundamentally designed for centrallized socioeconomic control. Every detail is hardwired to their celltowers and the PSTN.

2. I want free payments and settlement with data integration and have long ago lost my sense of humor about this. All dealings are conducted between principal parties. There is no technical or social reason why every payment in the country has to get written on ledgers in banks to be legitimate. Please read this http://www.ledgerism.net/Exploration.htm How America fondles its books. Redundant entries by four separate parties, accompany every transaction. (buyer, seller, buyer's bank, seller's bank) Double entry bookkeeping, in four locations = Octuple Entry. That's a lot of fondling.

The economic cost of this utterly inefficient systm are at least 10 million man/years per year. You and I bear these costs while elites who profit from the banking system laugh. They couldn't care less about our admin costs. To make $1 they gladly impose $100 costs on us.

Banks perpetuate their profitable monopoly by a corrupt liaison with government. Instead of serving their customers they serve, also, the government. Politicians make hay by appealing to fears of law breaking, tax evasion, money laundering etc. and claim that only banks are the solution for these problems. Meanwhile money laundering goes on at full speed and drugs are over $1 trillion, the single largest component of international trade. The money laundering bugaboo is really about maintaining the bank monopoly, and government tax revenue. Those are fine--but they're screwing up everybody's data integration. So badly that it would be cheaper if we all pay the telcos to go away (or just repudiate their franchise).

Having total, complete monopoly, the banking industry invests nothing to improve efficiency globally; in fact their incentives are opposite. Like the software industry they eschew open interfaces and jealously protect their control over your data. They break everybody's ecommerce, or efficiency.

To repeat: I want totally free and unregulated, unregulatable commerce for the entire sales cycle from sourcing, PO, fulfillment thru payment and settlement. Exactly like we have in the cash economy (which is *not* illegal, last time I checked.)


3. I want free software. There is *nothing* in commercial software that isn't available with open source software, that I have any need for. All software copyright and patents should be removed. This would have tremendous social benefit. Software developers spend 100 hours on their "Business Model" and locking in their users, for every 1 hour spent writing useful solutions to real problems.

Useful software will certainly be written to solve real problems, without the help of Copyright laws. Duh. Like, all of humanity is going to "get an attitude" and stop programming computers and building networks? Sheesh.

The situation is widely recognized as a disease. Three of the 10 wealthiest people on earth (Gates, Allen, Ellison) captured monopolies in information. This is like the government railroad grants in the 19th century that gave away half the land in the western U.S. to railroad companies. The debate in 1970s whether software can be copyrighted, went the wrong way. Why should the "first user" of procedures which are common sense, be given the right to prevent others from those procedures? Discoverers of algorithms which are matters of natural science are given monopolies, under principles of english common law 600 years ago. We need to repudiate these contracts signed by our great grandfathers. If people don't want to write software or invent things for the common good, for free, then the hell with them.

Have you noticed how much better the music has gotten lately? Music pretty much died out during the X generation but its creative vitality is now improving thanks to Napster. Notice the Americans vote by their actions: 40 million people in completely unlawful looting, would also loot the software industry given the chance. There is no consent by the users of software to honor these copyrights---they are dictated unilaterally by a monopolistic industry, and they will fall.

4. I want free music and video. The napster and kazaa revolutions had 50 million people shamelessly "stealing" music and sending it to each other. This no longer shocks us. There has never been any native belief in our culture that sharing music is the same as stealing property. In fact, IP is like a cold. You can give it without depriving yourself of the goods. If artists want to make money, they can do live concerts ---work a day's work like everybody else. And they can still collect some royalties from some channels.

It is a biological fact that in the adolescent and young adult period, people are imprinted with whatever music they happen to hear. As far as I'm concerned, my attachment to Rock and to Eric Clapton are *my* property just as much as Eric Clapton's property.

When did the music consumer ever have a chance to negotiate our own position in contract? I'm tired of being *dictated to*. If artists don't want to play music, they can just shut up and go into another line of work. They can join everybody else in the labor force, that doesn't have government protecting their revenue stream by the force of law.

5. I want free speech. Freedom of expression. Accessing data and information is a voluntary act, and the reader or viewer has no right to dictate to the author, or complain, or be protected in any manner whatsoever. If they don't like what they see, they can always click outa there. Total repeal on victimless censorship. The only exception I can see is libelous injury, things like that.

You know, the proper solution to this problem is technical standards that would give the individual a capability to strongly identity themselves over networks, when they desire. This power must be vested at the endpoint, not Microsoft's authentication servers. Identity would enable persistent reputation. Government censorship, snooping or intimidation, as we see in the Bush era, is a serious danger to freedom of speech.

Just remember, freedom of speech against the government is a deliberately protected check- and- balance against the otherwise total power of governments. Information activities are different from physical activities: they are encouraged even where directly contrary to the express will of the elected government.

6. I want privacy. This cannot happen as long as the sysadmin on some server is granting me rights and has the power to see source and destination of all my communications. The security of todays Windows and Linux are a joke in any case. The internet is a complete piece of crap, totally incapable of supporting privacy or security at this time, and everybody knows it. This is an unmet need in the market, and an opportunity for peer to peer networks, and for an entirely new operating system that is private and secure.

What you need, is a new box and a whole new network, having a basic interface for reading, speaking, and xml rendering. It would have a file space in which nothing could be executed, but in which data could be transported to and from a 2nd ethernet port. Thus we would run Windows unconnected from the internet, forever. It would be used for "productivity applications" (gag), but only offline, and nothing Windows could ever touch, could ever be touched by the New OS except as a data file. I don't know how we're going to do this but we need to sandbox Windows itself, to protect the rest of the computing environment and the internet itself.

You know, people need to face some very uncomfortable facts about networks. If you want clear and undistorted expression and evolution of the culture, it cannot be run as a selling platform, a regulatory platform, a taxing platform, or a top-down persuasion and ideological push. It needs to be designed impossible to censor, rather than being enlisted to share the burdens of social and regulatory agendas of the government.

Because we have negligently allowed commercial and government interests to design and deliver the internet, it is accordingly designed to sell stuff to us, to be very easy to use, and to trace all of our activities in order to block economic competition, protect monopolies, and collect taxes.

Another uncomfortable fact is that you *cannot have* a secure and private network, that does not immediately attract a lot of prohibited content ranging all the way to communications between criminals. Of course this has always been true since the telephone and fax. What is wrong today, is that world governments are trying to make the internet different from any previous network: a network where for the first time, communications can be systematically and totally monitored.

If the government (or the OS vendor) can monitor, then, so can hackers and thieves. Any network where this discussion even arises, where it is even *possible* to surveil to that extent, is fatally flawed by design. http://www.shouldexist.org/?op=displaystory&sid=2000/9/9/232253/5307

Any network that doesn't reflect illegal activity in proportion to the general lawlessness of society, is not a secure network and is somehow achieving a bias toward control. Criminals are your canary. They are the other animals in the ecosystem that tell you when toxins are present, by their absence. If you don't see any criminals or prohibited content, then, stay away from conducting commerce on that network because it's not private or secure. In other words, your money would be stolen.

Networks should be designed, this time, so that servers are not necessary, since servers will always be captured for profit, for surveillance, and for taxation and social and regulatory agendas of government, i.e. the religious right, etc.

The peer networks must also be designed so that they simply are not suitable as yet another top-down broadcast medium. The new networks must be designed to have diseconomies of scale. When it's time for global reach, for global broadcasting, we can always use the commercial internet, and broadcast media.

Now, taxation is fine, and profits are fine. But when you load advertising, law enforcement, tax collection, and profit motives onto the network it muddies the water so terribly that we can't see anymore, or communicate clearly. Those functions are somebody else's job in the economy. Don't let those people usurp the users' sovereignty over our network, our communication. Basically they've made it a useless, insecure and trivial piece of junk.

From 1800-1950 we built railroads and factories. Motors and machines took over physical work. Mechanized warfare raged all over the planet. 1950-2000 our parents built systems. Computers took over repetitive mental work. 2000 we are building decentralized and peer networks since all that shit has caused too much centralized control and war. We're trying to figure out what it means to be human and how we came to be so predictable that we are a food source for robots.

The internet and PSTN reflect hierarchic organizations. They will always be regulated, taxed, censored, and more importantly, their content extends and perpetuates giantism and statism in our social structures. This is unnecessary. We can totally, massively reorganize now *without corporations*.

The alternative vision of peer-to-peer wireless networks is often articulated by windbags involved in Freenet, Gnutella, etc. software that piggyback on the cisco/wintel/telco internet. Freedom of speech, free commerce, breakout from censorship, breakout from regulation or taxation in some countries, breakout from royalties and rents of all kinds. Taken as a whole, there is a lot of heft in those communities, as demonstrated by 50 million Napster users who repudiated copyright laws.

Alas, those software can never deliver on their promise, no matter how clever their software. It's like trying to write a replacement for Windows, using Visual Basic. You cannot escape from the centralized nature of the internet by piggybacking some encrypted layer. This is as naive as the Sealand venture, which imagined that physical distance or location, alone, could escape regulation.


P2P wireless can happen technically when devices have a built in routing capability with an unambiguous namespace for addressing. The addressing scheme itself must be outside the control of internet providers. And it needs some kind of economic mechanism built in that allows the users to buy and sell resources i.e. connectivity. And, it has to be effectively secure.


One element in the solution might be latitude/longitude/height coordinates as part of a routing scheme. Every node would declare its presence with coordinates. The benefits are simplicity, and not needing permission from bosses like IANA or ICANN or somebody's cisco router table to get *your* packets hurled in your general direction from around the region or the world. Remember, what is needed is not about anonymity or hiding from the government: it is about expression of our existing, mature culture of freedom, economic equality, and interpersonal relations, in the networks instead of the expression of an unnatural control which is reflected in today's network architecture. It is about P2P instead of an inherently centralized oligopoly of telecom providers funded by big capital investments and with an imperative to garner huge amounts of rents by whatever means necessary.

Routers might define the geographical areas they serve, while node have discrete addresses. Due to the "Four Colour Map Theorem" it only requires a minimum of 4 separate working channels for infinite cell/zone sub-division to be possible. Thus 802.11 "last mile" traffiic may be infinitely increased in a village (or the whole world) in direct proportion to the number of cells into which individual users can be divided. " (H. O'tani). Cellular phone traffic engineered by a single owner can be subdivided into hexagonal cells requiring only three channels.

Latitude/longitude coordinates may be useful even without routing implementations, because they enable cheap, practical user interfaces telling the user what direction to point their antenna. And they are biased for diseconomies of scale while permitting hubs to measure and aggregate demands for particular destinations and implement point to point jumps, out of band, efficiently. Conversely it is trivially easy to identify/block addresses claiming to be in a known property or zone such as a mall or business park. Over time these controlled zones *could* cover sections of neighborhoods. Think about this. I like it. Like I say, this is not a hobby for me. It is as important as life. It is not a trivial intellectual exercise. AT&T or Quest could not take over my area of town without a big political fight. But intruders could not so easily enter either. Local reputation frameworks would emerge.

Geo. coordinates may be an element in reducing spam. You can find the SOB and go punch him in the nose if necessary. This assumes that a general practice of not routing fake source packets, and generally routing packets according to geographic addresses took root in the community. If so, it would have some very profitable advantages in business, credit, and in security generally.

Peer LANs using geographic routing might be gatewayed to the internet. It is comforting that there is a point of control over your traffic i.e. the traditional IP address of your domain name, where a lot of good added services can be applied, which again, are biased towards sovereign users and just a big roadblock for the spammers, governments and lock-in companies like AOL.

Latitudes and longitudes enable a user controlled "volume control" for distance. Users should decide both outward "signal propagation" and maximum distance they accept inbound packets. New protocols might tell you the propagation settings of routers you connect with as well.

There is a mathematical law that as the range of the domains decreases, geometrically larger numbers of agents would be necessary to control it, regulate it, tax it, suck up information from all the nodes in it, etc. The economic costs of squashing or monitoring the network exceed the benefits, for the lazy exploiters like spammers and regulators, so they leave you alone.

I will admit this is highly idealistic since the amount of software needed would exceed the resources of volunteer developers, and since anything without a lock-in or rental payoff cannot be built in our sick intellectual property system, it will clearly not be built.

ECONOMIC MECHANISM: Peer to Peer private agreements.

I know most P2P network aficionados eschew paying for their bandwidth but I rest my case on one fact: the network will grow faster and in particular, will overcome expensive scaling points, when there is some way to pay the service providers. And, the technology of unlicensed wireless is going to be so much cheaper than the regulated fulltime union-paid telcos, we will be glad to pay.

Every node in a peer network should have a built in general ledger. A general ledger has two things. A balance sheet and income statement. When every node is part of an economic fabric, as it is in the late Mojo Nation, it needs to hold various asset and liability balances, and classifications of incomes and expenses. There are many users who need that level of detail. The network will be much more viable by supporting a GL table in each node. A GL table is about a 6-column table or array, and has a VERY small memory footprint. People just don't realize. I was a CPA for 20 years; I'm telling you what I know, for a fact. I have observed thousands of peoples' financial activities in great personal and private detail. What they actually do with their time and their lives, is very greatly influenced by the economic incentives they face, and the efficiency and convenience of hierarchic collaboration model compared with our immature P2P collaboration models.

When every node in a peer network has a real GL to keep track of its IOU's for network resources, that GL is a sort of currency ledger and can do two very cool things right away: it can serve, natively, as the accounting infrastructure for other kinds of transactions, e.g. web ordering/fulfillment, various settlement and payment models. It can be interfaced with larger accounting systems (in both directions). Imagine sending your Peachtree invoices or service billings, right into the routing layer of a CWN, or, using your CWN node as one of your billing inboxes instead of email. Double entry accounting is amazingly flexible and everybody has it, even Quickbooks/Quicken are double entry. There are no single-entry accounting products left in the marketplace.

Every kind of commercial transaction can be conducted by the exchange of XML files, between sovereign individuals and companies, without any server whatsoever. Do global companies need servers as intermediaries, when they exchange EDI transactions? Not! Go to http://www.ebxml.org or http://www.edifact-wg.org/ Truly. Servers and hubs are obsolete except as a bootstrapping mechanism. Take this down to the level of individuals and SMEs http://www.ledgerism.net/NDEAdef.htmor, http://webfunds.org or this is just an idea.. www.ledgerism.net/STR.htm


I am not qualified to write any plan for this and it would anyways be a pipe dream, unless it runs on existing lowcost chipsets. Today's broken WEP, 802.11 radios and today's insecure Windows Linux and BSD can never achieve a lowcost, global security. Thus, a peer-to-peer network needs a fundamentally new approach based on manufactured devices in sealed boxes, that protect unsophisticated users from themselves. Do you agree? Peer networks are fun as a hobby but they're a waste of time if they're not secure. You would not be able to get the five things I want: free telephony, free commerce/settlement, free software, freedom of expression and privacy.

* Todd Boyle http://www.ledgerism.net/
* tboyle@rosehill.net Kirkland WA (425) 827-3107