Asking for nuances on twitter is like fucking for virginity…

Case in point: Cory Doctorow’s complaints that “information wants to be free” is not a nuanced slogan, but a “lazy short-cut”. Of course it’s not nuanced — it’s a slogan. Doctorow’s complaints about it (that it’s not the basis for many of the copyfighters’ arguments) misses the point. It points out a “physical fact.” Much like “gas wants to expand” expresses a physical fact. Sure, you can create vacuums, or highly pressurized gas tanks. But, all other things being equal, it’s easier to work with the grain instead of against it.

“Information wants to be free” is not a moral statement. It is a descriptive statement. But part of the basis of copyfighters’ arguments is that when going against the grain of nature, government will naturally tend to overlegislate and overpunish, because it’s trying to legislate the impossible — with a corresponding degradation in the enforceability of the law, and in making the common citizen into a criminal. “Fire wants to spread” is a physical fact. We have teams of fire-fighters trying to stop its spread when it’s actively harmful, but we don’t legislate against sharing fire, because that would make common citizens one “let’s light up your cigarette with mine”-step from crime.

Yes, the slogan by itself is a mere slogan. Yes, it needs more expounding. This is a nuanced position — it’s a good slogan, even if it’s sometimes misused or misunderstood. I believe Doctorow’s position is similarly nuanced — he understands it’s a shorthand, but he thinks it is too easy to fall into thinking in terms of the shorthand rather than the logic behind, and surrounding, it.

But Doctorow is asking for nuances on Twitter! That’s…that’s unreasonable. What Doctorow should have done is sent out a single tweet: “Don’t use ‘information wants 2b free” mindlessly — http://bit.ly.example.com/54dsa2″ linking to his blog, and explained his nuanced position. Twitter is not nuanced, but it’s ok — it can link to posts with nuances!

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