Ayn’s Old Prejudicial

by Henry Farrell on November 11, 2003

Glenn Reynolds “announces”:http://www.instapundit.com/archives/012442.php that Eric Raymond, self-proclaimed prophet of the open source age, has moved from blogspot. Nobody has ever described Mr. Raymond’s quite particular contribution to intellectual debate as precisely as “NTK”:http://www.ntk.net/ – unfortunately, their assessment seems to have vanished from their website. In honour of the special occasion, it seems only appropriate to reprint it.

One of the better pieces of invective that I’ve read in the last couple of years …

bq. Neither did we – we think – give the gift of hubris to open source evangelist ERIC S RAYMOND, whose personal blog – “Armed And Dangerous” – uses logic and free thought to reach the same certainties that sixteen pints of “Ayn’s Old Prejudicial” and a roomful of cab drivers might manage in an evening. Previous heated debates in Eric’s head have included male homosexuality (they like little boys), the nature of Islam (“warlike and bloody”, the lot of ’em), and dietary tips (meat and two veg: it’s evolution, mate). But only this week, Eric has invented a way that Al-Qaeda could cripple America, sworn himself and his conspirators to dread secrecy, then reassured the world that should bin Laden’s cronies try to torture him for his secrets, he will give them a “very short education in what the wrath of Allah is really like”. Next up: following a politically motivated cop-shooting in California, Eric asks when *is* it acceptable to gun down a police officer? When, he argues, they come to round up all the guns, pornography, computers, or Jewish people in your area. (We’re guessing that should they come for the homosexuals, Muslims, or non-Atkins dieters, get a second opinion before opening fire.) Oh, we’d like to think that it’s just one big troll, but there’s a real tone of desperate decline to it all. It’s like watching Larry Ellison channel Charlton Heston; it’s like Cliff from “Cheers” truly going postal; but most of all, it’s like finally realising you no longer have to defend Eric S Raymond to anyone any longer. And for that, thanks for a true gift from God.



nick 11.11.03 at 6:33 am

Here’s yer direct link. And NTK remains very very good on ESR, from the ‘disgruntled, sarcastic British geek’ perspective, of course.


Charles Stewart 11.11.03 at 10:30 am

Is it embarassing to admit to habitually posting comments to “Armed and Dangerous”? He’s extreme, but I confess to having a soft spot for ESR, and, at his best, he can write rather well.


Nasi Lemak 11.11.03 at 11:46 am

He has always been a bit of a curate’s egg but NTK are deeply ungenerous… I thought there was some social insight in the catheter and the bizarre, though not in his later essays on the anthropology of software production. You can see it now on the new A+D blog: there is quite a sane piece on David Frum preceded by two barking pieces on why we should start calling the “Baathist holdouts” “werewolves” – because of course that will dehumanize them and make them less scary, or something. Woof.


Patrick Nielsen Hayden 11.11.03 at 1:27 pm

In fairness I should note that the one time I needed help with a piece of open-source software for which he was the maintainer (fetchmail, in fact), he was forthcoming, helpful, and kind. Despite the fact that a good ten years earlier, I had been rather rude to him on a GEnie discussion board, as I’m sure he must have remembered.


Charles Stewart 11.11.03 at 2:31 pm

Patrick: It sounds unforgettable, and of course gun nuts never forget.


Little Boy 11.11.03 at 2:56 pm

The Emperor has no clothes: http://esr.1accesshost.com/


Shai 11.11.03 at 4:31 pm

Way back in high school (1998 or so) I would argue with that dude on slashdot about his way overoptimistic thoughts about the potential market (the real market, not the pretend market) for red hat, va linux, and open source in general, based entirely on my understanding of basic economics, but he apparently thought OSS belonged in some magical fairy land where economics did not apply, perhaps because he was lining up to take money via the stock market from all the idiots jumping on the bandwagon.


dsquared 11.11.03 at 4:48 pm

I don’t think that’s strictly fair; as far as I’m aware, Raymond held onto his stock all the way down and thus didn’t benefit from the boom anything like as much as he thought he was going to.


--kip 11.11.03 at 6:21 pm

The Antimanifesto (written in response to the Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto) seems to have disappeared, so I’ll go the low route and point out via this not-entirely-safe-for-work link that Eric Raymond is a tit man.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


neil 11.11.03 at 11:18 pm

Kip, the Internet Archive purports to have an archived copy of The Antimanifesto. (Note: Right now their server is down, so the link may not work after all)


Shai 11.11.03 at 11:58 pm

Right, I checked. As a board member he had to hold on to his stock for six months, and by that point his stock simply wasnt worth that much. But after a bit of web browsing I suppose I can concede that he actually believed what he was saying. he argued in 2001 “Economic slumps are actually good – they make free software look more attractive” in an article supporting the company, after 20% layoffs. pretty hilarious, given VA sold software support and overpriced generic hardware, both businesses where there are few barriers to entry. (I couldn’t find exactly how long he waited after the 6 months was up to unload his stock, if he ever did)


OldTimer 11.12.03 at 2:24 am

While he has done some reasonable pieces on technical-culture subjects (e.g. his advice on how to ask good questions on a Usenet group; a bit wordy, but solid advice) it’s long been known in computer geek circles that on anything political ESR deals from a deck with few cards, and those ragged.


Martin Wisse 11.12.03 at 11:18 am

Engineer’s disease:

where just because someone is a (self-proclaimed) expert in field, they think this makes them automatic experts on anything else. Usually people intelligent enough to see through “lies-to-children” explenations, but not intelligent enough to understand there’s more to their new area of expertise than that. For soem reason, engineers are particularly susceptible to it.


john b 11.12.03 at 2:04 pm

Why am I suddenly thinking of Steven den Beste? Coincidence, I’m sure.


--kip 11.12.03 at 3:14 pm

Neil–thanks for the Wayback link. But I’ve been getting that “your request failed to connect with our databases” error message every time I’ve tried to use them in the past few months, which, admittedly, is not all that terribly often, but still: bitten every time, one becomes shy enough not to think of using it much any more. Or words to that effect.


clew 11.12.03 at 9:41 pm

It isn’t that engineers are particularly prone to it; it’s that engineers and non-engineers are susceptible to different styles of self-delusion, and we tend to notice most the delusions of people who are least like us.

MDs, for instance, have their own oddities, starting with the famous (maybe necessary) megalomania of surgeons.

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