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2/4/2004
12:12 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Extremism in Defense of Linux Must Be Condemned

I've been doing a bit of Googling today, and I've discovered that there's something missing from the statements by Linux leaders about the MyDoom attack. It needs to be said: Vigilante action is wrong. The author or authors of the MyDoom virus should be prosecuted with the full vigor of the law.They are villains, they should be thrown into prison and made into examples to make the entire community of computer criminals afraid.

I've been doing a bit of Googling today, and I've discovered that there's something missing from the statements by Linux leaders about the MyDoom attack. It needs to be said:

Vigilante action is wrong. The author or authors of the MyDoom virus should be prosecuted with the full vigor of the law. They are villains, they should be thrown into prison and made into examples to make the entire community of computer criminals afraid.

The Linux community is being invaded by zealots, extremists and kooks who are, in fact, doing far more damage to the Linux community itself than to anyone else.

One of today's lead stories touches on this bad element within the open source community. The headline is "Extremist Linux Advocates Doing More Harm Than Good," and the story describes the threats, abuse and foul language brought to bear against individuals and organizations that Linux extremists have decided are enemies of Linux.

The story begins:

Industry watcher Rob Enderle no longer responds to angry e-mails from Linux supporters. The principal analyst for the Enderle Group (San Jose, Calif.) says he replied to the first thousand or so. But after that, the anger and profanities that many of the missives contained began to wear on him.

"I've been threatened and other analysts have been threatened, as well," Enderle said. "Some of the e-mail is incredibly vile... "

We thought about it for nearly a day before deciding to publish the story; I was concerned that it might simply be a hatchet job against the Linux community. We finally decided to publish it - and one thing that changed my mind is the fact that I've gotten the nastygrams too.

It is not a perfect story. There's going to be some elements of that story that you hate. But I urge you to read it over with an open mind, because the core of the story is true: Linux is attracting extremists, and the extremists are damaging the credibility of the entire community.

The authors of hateful messages against Linux critics should be given punishment appropriate to their actions. A tiny few should face criminal prosecution for their violent threats; the vast majority should simply be taken out to the schoolyard and spanked.

Laura DiDio, an analyst with The Yankee Group in Boston, is right in saying:

"The open-source and Linux community in 2004 is going to have to distance themselves from the questionable tactics of this fringe element of Linux extremists. If they don't, it's going to hurt them more than SCO can."

That's going to be hard to do, given that the mainstream leadership of the Linux and open source community have no legal or financial bludgeons with which to bring the kooks and criminals into line. The kooks and criminals may intend to harm Linux's enemies, but the Linux community is being hurt more.

Vigilante action, threats and nasty language simply serve to help Linux's enemies create the impression that Linux is not suitable for a business environment. They need to be stopped, somehow. One good start is for Linux leaders to unequivocally condemn the deplorable behavior, starting with us, now.

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