Guest column: Linux loonies should ask who real enemy is

OK. Just one more column on this goofy Linux thing, and I promise I'll give it a rest for a while.

You will recall that a piece I wrote last month generated a massive flaming of about 100 e-mail letters from Linux enthusiasts around the world who took issue with my comments about the silliness that surrounds the Linux phenomenon. I found it incredibly entertaining, as people who didn't have the balls to identify themselves -- people who provided false e-mail addresses and hid behind ridiculous monikers like "thing" and "gnomeboy" and "SlackGal" and "bubba gump" -- wrote in to express their views (like that I should "burn in hell", for example).

Subsequent to that general flaming, I received a letter from an individual who at least had the courage to identify himself as Chris LeBlanc, a business case analyst at the Orange Electronic Commerce Resource Centre in Texas. LeBlanc, like almost everyone else who wrote in response to my column, disagreed vehemently with the points I raised, and expressed his own views in rebuttal.

Those views were consistent with a number of letters I received, and two points in particular warrant further examination.

First, in response to what I wrote in my column about the aloofness Linus Torvalds demonstrated in his speech at LinuxWorld, LeBlanc offered this defence:

"To be truthful, most programmers deep down HATE people, they despise users and think that they are brainless, they are just willing to get paid for writing code for them. Most Linux programmers do it for the fun of writing code, not because they want to make the world a better place, or because they love people that much."

OK, hold that thought.

Secondly, LeBlanc touched on a recurrent theme in many of the letters I received. It seems that if someone holds a view that Linux enthusiasts don't like, that person is summarily branded as a Microsoft lackey. LeBlanc put it this way:

"You wish you had the technical prowess to be a hack, but you are just a user who knows a little jargon and you wish to show off your superiority by bad-mouthing something you apparently have no idea about. Please, just use your Microsoft software and leave Linux alone. You help Linux more by being a Microsoft stooge than trying to pretend at being a journalist."

So the attitude is, you're either for us or against us, and if you're against us, you are, as a previous correspondent put it, a Bill Gates "love slave".

Now, I couldn't help but notice that this LeBlanc holds what appears to be an impressive position -- business case analyst at the Orange Electronic Commerce Resource Center (OECRC) -- and I was curious about this outfit. So I went to the OECRC's Web site, and learned that this organisation is "dedicated to promoting the use of electronic commerce within select Department of Defense installations and their vendor communities in Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana". I also learned that it is operated by Lamar University -- Orange; that it is sponsored by the US Deputy Under-secretary of Defense for Logistics; and that it is administered by the US Defense Logistics Agency.

So consider what we have here. We have an IT professional working in conjunction with the US defense establishment who chooses to defend the hatred of a group of people (IT users), and who sees a drone-like Microsoft collaborator lurking behind every corner. How scary is that?

If the Linux loonies were limited to social misfits living in their mothers' basements and communicating with the outside world using names like "gnomeboy" and "SlackGal", it really wouldn't be that much of an issue. But when grown people in the professional community begin mindlessly chanting the same nonsense, the acceptance of Linux as a serious alternative to Microsoft is bound to suffer.

What the Linux loonies need to try to understand is that the enemy of Linux is not the "brainless" user community they so despise. The enemy of Linux is not even Microsoft. The enemies of Linux, rather, are the same enemies that every technological development faces: enemies like divisiveness; inefficiency; a lack of productivity; and ignorance. Defeating those enemies is the very reason for having cool weapons like Linux in the first place. Or at least it should be.

The fact is, making the world a better place isn't such a bad thing. Until the Linux community understands what it really needs to be aligned against, it will continue to be its own worst enemy.

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