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Cheerleading and Democracy 101 (2)
If the man from Time Inc. says it, it must be so. And no doubt
we'll be reading shortly in Time magazine a rousing call for national action
against the Bill Gates monopoly--a journalistic tour de force that's a
worthy successor to the one offered in an earlier serious American
periodical by Ida Tarbell against the leading monopoly of her age? Right?
Or is that too much to expect of a 1997 magazine that's itself part of a
leading media conglomerate, one with a heavy interest in keeping U.S.
antimonopoly policy (and enforcement) toothless? But media monopoly--as
practiced in, say, 1-newspaper cities with their various TV/radio outlets
similarly controlled by local monopolists or by outside conglomerates--is of
course a topic for another day, another forum, right? But remember the
golden rule: Speak no evil of a fellow monopolist.
Now, have we lost the chap who was going to present us with the
finished mailing list of our 100 senators? And the 2 frequent contributors
who were going to organize a committee of members to draft a letter we might
want to (collectively) send them on the Microsoft monopoly? The 3 seem to
have withdrawn immediately after I circulated to the list, by way of
recognition and encouragement, a note on their efforts. A call from
Bill--or one of his enforcers--to their employers? Naah. Too dramatic, right?
So what now? We have here a list of 270 technical experts who
have--in roughly 1,000 posts--spelled out an impressive bill of particulars
(pun intended) itemizing the anti-competitive practices used by Bill Gates
to acquire his monopoly of the computer software industry and his modest $40
billion private fortune. We've marched up the hill. Lots of talk.
Then I offered the small suggestion that the group might want to DO
something about it, to contribute something to the nation's effort here.
Write to Janet Reno (individually and collectively), the country's attorney
general and #1 antitrust enforcer? One member wrote to her.
Write to the 100 members of the U.S. Senate, the folks who give Reno
her marching orders? We got the E-mail addresses--and a (now missing)
volunteer promised that he would provide the software that would let us
(individually, collectively, or however) tell those 100 senators what we
know about the Microsoft monopoly, plus what we think the U.S. government
ought to do about it. The response of our 270 members? Zip, zilch, nada.
Instead, we now argue over whether democracy works--whether our 535 members
of Congress read their mail.
A cynic might say that this list has followed the classic pattern of
Internet discussion groups. Lots of brave talk, never any action. Keep
talking until faced with a challenge to take a stand, then run--and join a
new 'discussion' group. To borrow from a distinguished former Nader
associate, Jim Hightower: "The only thing in the middle of the road is a
yellow stripe and dead armadillos."
Charles Mueller, Editor
ANTITRUST LAW & ECONOMICS REVIEW