Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lying about lies

Richard Bennett catches Matt Stoller lying about his lies.

Stoller, June 14:
Craigslist has been blocked for three months from Cox customers because of security software malfunctions …
Without net neutrality protections, cable and telecom companies will have no incentive to fix these kinds of problems. ...
The telcos are of course lying about this, claiming that no web sites have been blocked. And gullible reporters are falling for the lies.
So, some tech reporters then reported that Stoller had accused the cable industry of lying about blocking Craigslist -- not an unfair summary, I suppose -- calling this a "flagrant lie." One week later ....

Stoller, June 21:
Well I suppose that would be a lie if I had accused Cox of deliberately blocking Craigslist. Only I didn't. ...
Of course, it's easier to pretend like I was claiming that Cox was intentionally blocking Craiglist. But that is a lie.
Well, OK. What Stoller accused Cox (and other "telco" opponents of Stoller's favored "Net Neutrality" legislation) of doing, was lying about whether Craigslist was blocked by Cox. And only "gullible reporters" would believe the lying "telcos," Stoller said, while anyone who questioned Stoller's accusations was ... a liar.

It's a tautology. If charted as a Venn diagram, we see two non-intersecting sets -- two separate circles:
A. Matt Stoller (and his Net Neutrality allies);
and
B. Liars.

This is, one must admit, theoretically possible. The "telcos" and their allies may all be fundamentally and consistently dishonest, e.g., If a "telco" tells you it's sunny outside, take an umbrella.

But as a Madisonian, I would suggest the possibility that the "telcos" are merely pursuing their own interests. Nothing wrong with that: I'm selling a book (BUY TWO), but it's not like that is a hidden agenda of any kind. The blog and the book share the same title, DONKEY CONS (again, please BUY TWO), and the only reason I'm blogging about anything -- Argentina in World Cup soccer or Right-Wing Howler's "Chick of the Week" -- is to attract you, the blogospheric readers who might be interested in reading a wonderful book about Democratic Party corruption. Pure capitalism is the most honest thing in this world.

So, I'm selling books, and the "telcos" are selling cable service. To the Madisonian, our interests are transparent. But ... what's Matt Stoller selling? What's his interest? Why is he blogging so furiously on a boring policy-wonk issue? Why does he insist that his antagonists are liars and then, when he is criticized for those accusations, insist that his critics are also liars?

I profess to be mystified. I have ignored the "Net Neutrality" debate. Being a libertarian cynic, I figure there must be some kind of rent-seeking or other self-interested motive on both sides of the dispute.

But all this stuff with Stoller screaming "liar!" ... seems vaguely deja vu, doesn't it? And it happens that a few days ago, something Christopher Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair reminded me of a sort of highbrow murder mystery I once read, in which the big clue was, "Waterproof!"

So then I happened upon this Richard Bennett item, and got thinking about it. And then I exclaimed, "Blue Point!"

Understand, of course, I'm not saying Stoller is one of the Worst People in America. To make such an unfounded assertion would be a crime against the people. But I can't help feeling that there's something wrong with this picture.

-- McCAIN

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