The Last FUD Column

The Last FUD Column

Article from Issue 200/2017
Author(s):

The news has gotten really weird recently. I suppose politicians have always blurred the line between fact and opinion, but lately things have gotten a little unglued. False facts are accepted without proof. Proven facts are ignored or denied just because they don't happen to line up with someone's preferred narrative.

The Last FUD Column

Dear Reader,

The news has gotten really weird recently. I suppose politicians have always blurred the line between fact and opinion, but lately things have gotten a little unglued. False facts are accepted without proof. Proven facts are ignored or denied just because they don't happen to line up with someone's preferred narrative.

I turned on my TV the other day and listened to a whole parade of seemingly well-heeled people in suits and professional-looking dresses not just stretching the truth around the edges, but slinging absolute moonshine. The moonshine was raining down – with press secretaries, paid political spokesmen, and unofficial surrogates all serving up the same distilled nonsense in a kind of pre-orchestrated assault on reality.

It all seemed familiar to me – I felt something similar to that eerie effect they call déjà vu. Where have I seen this before? I thought. And then I remembered: This is a lot like Microsoft, back in the FUD era.

In those days, when there didn't seem to be any actual technical benefit to using the buggy and insecure Windows system, Microsoft employed its near-monopoly position to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, which came to be known by the acronym FUD. "Linux is unsafe." "Linux is sketchy." "Windows is stable and safe for people who don't want to take risks." This company line wasn't just spouted by the CEO – it trickled out through channels: sales managers and marketing execs, consultants, instructors teaching the Microsoft certification curriculum. A whole cozy little false reality was offered up to the masses, helped along by a well-tuned chorus of talking-point talkers who were "just doing their job" by keeping to the company line.

I've never been much into using this space for Microsoft diatribes – not that they don't deserve it, but it is just too easy, and it is kind of predictable for a guy writing in a Linux magazine to say he isn't a fan of Windows. Why am I bringing this up now?

Just last week, the WannaCry ransomware attack tore through the world, locking up 230,000 Windows computers in 150 countries. The most vulnerable targets: Windows XP systems. All those Windows XP systems out in the world today are the final relics of the FUD era. The people running these systems really bought into the myth that Windows XP was safe (it never was) and that they were doing something sensible and practical by doing business with Microsoft (Microsoft stopped supporting XP three years ago and did not provide a viable upgrade path for older systems).

Microsoft is on to new things now – they support Linux and have even joined the Linux Foundation, but the legacy of the FUD remains. Plans change, companies revisit strategies, but FUD is a time bomb planted in the past. Shouldn't we all agree that we're not going to ignore facts and we won't invent false facts just to win arguments and get more money? Lets keep the future FUD-free.

Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

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