September 07, 2010

Free Press Responds to AT&T -- AT&T Accused of Racist Rhetoric? -- And Whose Side Am I On Anyway?

Greetings. Yesterday, in New "Shark" AT&T Ad and Bizarre Blog Posting Attempt to Ridicule Net Neutrality, I suggested that the bizarre "Church of Extreme Net Neutrality ('CoENN')" terminology used throughout a recent posting on AT&T's official Public Policy Blog seemed not only to detract from their presumably intended message, but also was demeaning and not at all funny.

I have two updates related to this. First, Free Press, the primary target of that AT&T piece (and in fact an organization whose recent tactics I've criticized (see Free Press, Lauren Weinstein, Google, and Net Neutrality), contacted me to note the various recent responses to AT&T's posting.

In particular, there's this Free Press statement: AT&T Misleads FCC about ‘Paid Prioritization’ on the Internet, plus this letter to the FCC from the Open Technology Initiative, and finally this National Journal article quoting the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force).

Also relating to the AT&T posting in question, I was frankly surprised this morning by a number of messages from persons expressing suspicions that the use of the term "CoENN" by AT&T had racist overtones. Two representative quotes:

"Given the phonemic similarity to 'Cohen' (priest), I find that usage not just 'ingratiating... demeaning, and not...funny,' but outright offensive."


"Not being Jewish, it might be easier for me to point out that CoENN would be pronounced Cohen. I personally, find the acronym racist and antisemitic. Given the association of Jewish activists with the civil rights movement, I find it likely that the racism is intentional."

Frankly, this interpretation of "CoENN" didn't cross my mind, and I'd personally give AT&T the benefit of the doubt on this one. I do not wish to believe that AT&T would be so utterly insensitive as to purposely invoke such imagery. My assumption and hope is that we're looking at an unintentional coincidence, not a backhanded racial smear. However, since AT&T's use of the term obviously did upset some readers, I thought it incumbent on me to note the situation and my current interpretation.

Finally, I've received a number of new "Whose side are you on anyway?" queries, from observers who have noticed that I don't seem to join exclusively with one side or another in these technical policy debates.

To this, I plead guilty. My somewhat quixotic quest is to bring a sense of reality and truth (at least as I understand them) to these discussions, and if this sooner or later upsets parties on all sides of these debates then perhaps I've got the mix more or less in the sweet spot.

And I'll make the following pledge right now. Though at the moment I "enjoy" the editorial freedom of having no master (in other words, being unemployed), my publicly stated opinions -- for whatever they're worth -- will never be for sale. Obviously when employed the ability to publicly speak about certain issues is necessarily limited -- that goes with the territory. But regardless of my (hopefully!) changed future employment status, I will never make public statements regarding my own opinions that do not correspond to my true beliefs.

That's one thing you can depend on. Thanks, all.


Posted by Lauren at September 7, 2010 11:38 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein