And while I'm at it: Cory Doctorow

While I'm slagging off pseudo-geeks with stupid glasses, Cory Doctorow. I've had this rant for a while.

Cory Doctorow is a paid shill of the EFF. His doctorate is a "no study, life experience only" one from a "distance learning university" his wife runs. He is technically clueless, careless and disengenuous.

By 'paid shill', I mean he was once employed by them. By his degree, I mean he got an honorary degree in computer science from the Open University, where his wife works. The rest is accurate. My biggest gripe, I guess, is that he's disengenuous. The above is probably how he'd present someone in his situation if he didn't like them.

Take, for example, the recent Boingboing article where it turns out that the NSA funded some of GCHQ's operations. At the reasonable end of the spectrum, these are organisations that work together, and if there's a project where one party is doing more of the work, and the other party gets more of the results, it kinda makes sense from a funding point of view. However, it's not a big leap to the idea that actually, the US is paying GCHQ to spy for it. GCHQ is not an intelligence agency for the UK, but actually partially a paid consultancy for the US. Viewing it like that is kinda shocking, but that's not the angle Cory goes for. No, "NSA bribed UK spooks GBP100M for spying privileges". WTF? I guess my employer bribes me to turn up to work, too.

And that's just a random article from this morning. Everything he writes, he disengenuously spins like this. He's got hate on for the Daily Mail. Fair enough. However, the opposite of right-wing spin carefully designed to confirm the suspicions of its readers is not left-wing spin carefully designed to confirm the suspicions of its readers. It's presenting the truth. Cory's just a left-wing Daily Mail writer.

On lesser charges, he's incredibly careless. I guess this just goes with being prolific. He'll publish stories that meet his agenda without fact-checking. I remember reading an article saying my MEP was proposing particularly evil Internet regulation. I mailed him a 'What's that about?' mail, and it turns out it's BS. Great. You see corrections again and again.

However, this carelessness extends not just to passing on third-party information, but also to writing about things he thinks he knows about. This is perhaps most visible in his computer-science-related writing. The Knights of the Rainbow Table is perhaps the single worst piece of science fiction I've ever read. A complete misunderstanding of the efficiency of compute farms and the scaling of brute-forcing problems makes it painful reading. Like a stopped clock being right, weak passwords, weak hashing and passwords shared across sites has made password-breaking an actual issue, and he's claiming prescience on it. *sigh*

This is a person who'll use the phrase 'if-then loops', and invariably ends up describing any game-theoretic situation as Prisoner's Dilemma even if it's not (although kudos to him, he recently issued a correction when someone pointed out the mistake). A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and he's definitely on the 'little knowledge' end of things.

However, I can't really complain too heavily about this don't-get-the-details, don't-care, on-to-the-next-big-thing, let's-go-to-TED attitude. Dr. Doctorow is, in effect, an optimised product of the internet. His science fiction is amongst the worst I've read. His writings are shallow, predictable, designed to righteously infuriate their reader and/or pass on internet memes and most definitely free. He is the epitome of free driving out good, and people's inability to avoid "junk food" in all its forms. Have pity on humanity.

Posted 2013-08-02.