In the summer of 1947, President Harry S. Truman ordered formed asecret organization of military personnel, scientists, and members ofgovernment. A reaction to the Roswell UFO crash in July of that year,Majestic 12 (or Majic 12) was given the task of investigating andcovering up other UFO activity in the ensuing years. Since then, theyhave operated as a black-ops group within the government, one of manyUS government organizations that are secretly funded each budgetcycle.
Each year, thousands of UFO sightings are reported across theworld. Most are completely explicable with the usual suspects:satellites, airplanes, swamp gas, and large glowing carnivorousbugs. However, a small percentage have no explanation whatsoever, andare designated as UFOs.
Majestic 12 concerns itself with this small percentage of actual UFOsightings. Their charge is to cover up these sightings using the meansat their disposal: information.
Information is a funny thing. One person's piece of true informationis another person's lie. Take the Roswell incident, forinstance. Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) released information themorning of July 8, 1947, stating they had recovered a crashed flyingdisc. This was information given officially by the Air Force revealingthey had in fact recovered a UFO. However, the Air Force later saidthey had simply recovered a top-secret weather balloon, and theyshowed scraps allegedly from the debris that confirmed it was only aweather balloon.
Majestic 12 uses confusion like this to sow doubt and discord. Theyhave long ago moved beyond the simple denial, the "swamp gas" phase ofUFO disinformation. For years they have used misdirection to focus thepublic's UFO attention on the stranger claims, the least-credibleclaims. Public opinion is shaped by the judgment of the least-likelyof the UFO claims, rather than the more credible cases.
Do I personally believe Majestic 12exists? Not really. Do I really believe UFOs are visiting our planet?Not really.
But, like the poster on the wall of the fictional Fox Molder states, Iwant to believe.
For love of conspiracy
I love conspiracy theories. I love the fact that we doubt our ownreality enough to question everything about it. I love that some of ushave a need to see order in chaos. I collect conspiracy theories likesome people collect the sweaty socks of famous athletes: with care anda certain amount of distance.
Like all conspiracy-theory-philes, I am always in danger of gettingsucked in. Whether it's the time-traveling escapades of John Titor, or the USgovernment's complicity in the 9/11attacks, there's always just enough reality and verisimilitude tomake the crackpottiest theory enticing. It all gives a sense ofspy-vs-spy excitement to our lives, a sense that our society isn't asboring or as random as it seems.
However, the crackpot theories present a problem. All conspiracytheories are judged by the strangest. This makes us more than skepticswhen it comes to new conspiracy theories: it makes us reactionarydisbelievers, and no amount of evidence will suffice to change ourminds.
At this point, whether or not Majestic 12 ever existed, they haveachieved their goals. We are an incredulous society, immune toquestions of our own reality.
The Microsoft conspiracy
In the geek world, we have our own conspiracy theories. Microsoftfeatures prominently in many of them. Whether it is the whole SCOPipe Fairy deal, or the newer (and seemingly-related) Microsoft/Novelldeal, Microsoft appears in many of our current conspiracytheories.
This is partly due to Microsoft's history. Since the beginning of thePC era, Microsoft has been intentionally obstructionist, using theirIBM-given monopoly position to manipulate the market and computingenvironment to deter competition, often to the detriment of their owncustomers.
That is the Microsoft Conspiracy in a nutshell. Is it true? I've seenevidence supporting this theory, from the apparent attack on DR-DOS,to the documented attack on Netscape, to the exclusionary licensingdeals with OEMs. These are all well-documented cases in whichMicrosoft acted against the best interest of their own customers. Theyhave acted in secret and in union to destroy competition rather thanout-perform competition. This makes it a conspiracy. So yes, I believeit is true.
But, like all crackpot theories, not many people truly believeit. Others disregard or ridicule it because they have a vestedinterest in propping up Microsoft. Like the UFO conspiracy theories,though, there is little chance of general public acceptance.
Why I want to see a UFO
In the end, I want to believe. I want to believe we live in a sane,rational world with rational explanations. I want to believe UFOsexist, and that there is a government conspiracy hiding thetruth. This is a rational explanation. There is nothingfundamentally irrational about other life in the universe checking upon our progress, waiting for us to mature to the point where we areready to join a vast universal society. It's not likely, but it's notirrational. What is irrational is the thought that they'd havethe technology to travel across the vast emptiness of space and crashon this backwards planet. What is irrational is the idea agroup of people could keep something so vast and important so secretfor so long.
I want to believe the Microsoft Conspiracy, too, because it gives us atarget. It explains that people choose the inferior Microsoft pathbecause they have been manipulated. People are easily manipulated, ofcourse. But I'm not sure that's the only reason. I believe portions ofthe Microsoft Conspiracy are true. I believe they have attacked ratherthan "innovated" (a word that means absolutely nothing thanks tomarketing).
A Microsoft Conspiracy gives us hope. If we can only out-conspiracyMicrosoft, we can beat them out their own game.
You can't get fired for buying IBM
Microsoft enjoys their superior position thanks to the hard work oftwo other companies, IBM and Compaq. IBM sold the first PC businessusers could openly purchase, simply because they had the IBMlogo. "You can't get fired for buying an IBM," the saying went. Once theIBM PC was established as a viable business computer, Compaq cloned itand opened the door for real competition.
IBM gave Microsoft the contract for the PC operating system. Becauseof this, MS-DOS was Compaq's natural choice. Every other vendor ofclones followed suit, simply because they were competing with IBM, notMicrosoft.
Now, you can't get fired for purchasing Microsoft software, whether ornot the reputation is deserved (it isn't).
Whether or not there is a Microsoft Conspiracy (there is), we mustconvince businesses you can't get fired for purchasing GNU/Linux. Todo that, we'll need excellent network compatibility withMicrosoft-supplied services, such as Active Directory support. Infact, we'll need a whole slew of things we don't quite have.
Microsoft-supplied OEMs won't distribute desktop GNU/Linux for a long,long time. There's no real reason. As long as Microsoft gives themexcellent deals on MS-Windows and MS-Office for not installingGNU/Linux, why should they?
It's a Catch-22 situation.
A modest proposal
I believe the Microsoft Conspiracy will effectively lock GNU/Linux,and other alternative operating systems, out of the OEM market. Thismight be a crackpot theory, but a look at the historyof the BeOS lawsuit against Microsoft indicates Microsoft will doanything to pressure OEMs to keep them from distributing otheroperating systems. There's no reason to believe they won't dosomething similar with GNU/Linux.
As with Majestic 12, disinformation around Microsoft's dealings willobscure any kernel of truth. We can't count on help from the public, orthe government, or anyone but ourselves. In fact, with Microsoft helpingto craft legislation to enshrine DRM in hardware, we can only assumethe government will help assist Microsoft maintain their current monopoly. The general public will only see a successful business, and generally ignoreMicrosoft's devious and destructive methods.
I believe the only way to provide businesses with a viable option isto build our own OEM, with our own service partners. We have thepeople. Every current GNU/Linux admin around the world could be apotential partner. A central business unit could provide thecoordination and quality control. A percentage of the profits couldhelp fund further development work.
The way to avoid the Microsoft Conspiracy is to ignore it, to side-stepit. If Microsoft can pressure current OEMs, then don't do business with thoseOEMs. If GNU/Linux reallyneeds OEMs to be successful, then we may need to create our own.
There are many business-related things to consider. But, I believeGNU/Linux (and free software in general) is like a super-saturatedsolution, waiting the one speck needed to crystallize. All we need isorganization, leadership, and a snappy name. I think we cando this, as a community, and as individuals.
Waiting for this to come to pass may be like waiting for a UFO: futile, and somewhat disappointing. But I want to see a UFO, and I want to see an OEM dedicated to GNU/Linux, with a large range of workstations, servers, and laptops, and an organization that reflects that nature of the Free software community. And I want to meet Bigfoot.
I really do want to believe.