Why Microsoft is a Threat to Freedom
October 1997

It's bad enough to have a company sell shoddy products, stuff that should never have seen the light of day, or that should have been permanently recalled. It's bad enough to have a company get away with this for years, even making billions of dollars in immoral profits from its defective merchandise. Further, it's bad enough to have this company held in high esteem by its clever manipulation of the press, the educational system, and the politicians.

But what really hurts is that this company, Microsoft, will never be satisfied no matter how much power, influence, and money it accumulates. This is because the head honchos at Microsoft exhibit a compulsive need for control that is the epitome of megalomania, a paranoid approach to all of life's challenges. This is a company whose stated goal is 100% control of every market it enters, and it enters a new market every time it finishes devouring the previous one.

What, you may say, is the harm in such "success?" Well, do we feel good that Russia has only Aeroflot? Are we complacent when a single religion holds sway over a state or a country? Don't we feel a sense of urgency, a fear of loss of freedom, if one political party begins to have too much power in congress or other branches of government?

Ah, but this is just business, you may say. Microsoft is not some kind of cult or party with an agenda, is it? It's just about making money and increasing its market share, right? That's the American way!!

Except the market for information is not supposed to be for sale. The market for information is supposed to be the ultimate free market, and the very design of government in the U.S. has always been about ensuring some degree of "free press" and a diversity of opinions. Will that freedom be maintained if one company controls the tools by which the press, the media, the information channels we depend upon, get their job done? Would we accept the notion that we would be guaranteed freedom of choice if these tools were owned by a Jerry Falwell or a Richard Nixon?

America's great blind spot today is its affection for commercial giants, big business wheeler-dealers like Ted Turner, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and other public figures. It seems like these folks have free pass to control as much of the media and the educational system as they want, because they don't profess any particular ideology. Maybe that's the key: they have an ideology of nothingness, of emptiness, of merely the voracious desire to accumulate power for its own sake. This is an ideology of codependency, a dependency upon marketplace acceptance. A single holdout who decides he or she does not want what this person offers is viewed, not as an open mind, but as a stain, a spot to be removed, a defective element in an otherwise perfect demographic monolith.

It is this ideology of squashing freedom of choice at all costs -- because freedom to choose something else means rejection is always possible -- which is the heart and soul of not just Microsoft, but the entire business world today. The difference between Microsoft and other companies, though, is that the tools used to control public perception, the tools of information exchange that corporations need to regulate the markets they control, are increasingly being held by Microsoft: digital television, Internet software, PC systems, and more and more educational products and toys. If Big Business is a boss, Microsoft is the Boss of All Bosses.

The threat to freedom is not merely that a religious cult or a band of political whackos will take control; rather, it is just as probable that a band of ruthless, greedy control freaks who use commerce instead of crime, who use information instead of guns, will exert a cultural influence that will produce a generation made up exclusively of morally impotent wimps. Greed and powerlust are agendas just as religious in their nature as any form of theology, and even more dangerous to freedom.

The threat is real; the solution, a bitter pill to swallow: like a junkie going cold turkey, businesses who have invested deeply in the Microsoft agenda must pull out. Now. Completely. At all costs. Short-term results may be troublesome, but the long-term results of freedom of choice have always been greater than the short-term benefits of appeasement and immediate gratification. A little lesson from history explains why.

First they came for the DOS users, but I laughed at DOS. So the DOS users were consumed. Then they came for the OS/2 users, but I never tried OS/2. So the OS/2 users were consumed. Then they came for the Apple users, but I wasn't an Apple user. So the Apple users were consumed. Then they came for the UNIX users, but I didn't understand UNIX. So the UNIX users were consumed.

Then they came for me, but there was nobody to stand up for me. So I was consumed as well.

Most recent revision: October 1, 1997
Copyright © 1997, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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