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Re: [Membership] Divide and rule by geography or language

Antoun Nabhan a écrit:

> >On the contrary, the division of membership into geographial regions
> >encompassing various languages ensures the cultural and political dominance
> >of the United States, since within the arbitrarily designated geographical
> >regions there is no common language, and therefore all discourse will have
> >to be conducted in English, which then becomes the official means of
> >communication. This was without doubt well understood by the Americans who
> >negotiated the agreement. To suggest otherwise would be to accuse them of
> >naivety.
> Michael,
> I genuinely believe your heart is in the right place, and your taste in lager can't be faulted 
> (inside joke, folks), but I don't see your argument. 

I'm sorry to hear that, but I don't believe I can be faulted for my
exposition, which, after a careful re-reading, seems to me to be clear,
concise, and rigourously logical. Are you unable to follow it, or in
disagreement with it?

> Your statement above is like saying that because there's no cultural unity in the United Nations, 
> the default becomes that everybody wears a grey suit. A may be true, and B may happen, 
> but that correlation doesn't prove any causation. 

Frankly, I must say that I don't see much logic in YOUR argument, nor any
correlation with my own. Are you trying to suggest that English is not used
at Internet meetings as a common language among people from many different
language groups? That will be a difficult argument to sustain. I doubt if
anyone will agree with you, since what you claim is patently untrue. English
is used as the common language of those who attend, as everyone who has been
to a an ICANN or DNSO meeting will testify. And, since all debate is
conducted in English, those who don't speak it well can't participate.
That's clear enough, it seems, to everyone but you. 
It also won't help your false reasoning to use grey suits at the U.N. as a
metaphor, since it bears no relation to the present discussion, suits of
clothes, unlike languages, being interchangeable easily and at will. And
grey suits are not ubiquitous at the U.N., as anyone who has attended a U.N.
meeting will tell you. Many wear the traditional clothing of their culture
even though they could easily put on a suit, an option not so readily
available to people as regards language.

> Yes, the geographical regions are "arbitrarily" defined, but how do you find an alternate grouping that 
> yields 9 At-large Directors who share a common and non-English language? 

The number of at-large directors is immaterial here. Furthermore, the
language of the at-large directors is not the subject of discussion, but the
allowance for languages other than English to be used for debate within the

However, to speak to your misstatement of the issue, neither I nor anyone
else has suggested that the at-large members speak, all of them, a common
language that is not English. There is another alternative, one that has
been adopted in most other international organizations, in which there is no
rule that says all must speak a common language. If mastery of a single,
common language is the sine qua non of the ICANN BoD, then I will bow out of
this discussion as being too contemptible to be worth any more time. I don't
expect that any mature, intelligent, politically experienced person will
entertain the proposition that an international council supposed to
represent the interests of worldwide Internet users must be made up of
persons who all speak the same language. But even if this outrageous
proposition were entertained, by what reason can a membership that elects
them also be required to speak that same language, and at the same time
represent equitably the worldwide users of the Internet? If you cannot see
the absurdity of these propositions, which seem to be the basis of your
arguments, then we must simply admit to having critical apparatuses so
dissimilar as to disallow any useful discussion. Of course, in the present
arena, where neither intelligence, nor education, nor intellectual honesty
are valued or have any effect, all absurdities are possible.

As to finding ways of organizing the ICANN general membership to allow the
voice of non-English speaking peoples to be heard (if that is indeed
desirable, which I am beginning to think the people on this list don't agree
with either), I have suggested a basis in reason and the beginning of a
methodology for it in my earlier post. If you have read that post, to which
yours purports to be a response, you will learn it. But perhaps you haven't
bothered to read it before replying.

> You're blaming the ICANN By-Laws and their drafters for the pervasiveness of a human language, when that 
> pervasiveness is the fault of huge numbers of people acting over a number of years. I'm not saying it's 
> morally defensible, but it is something that we have to live with until Rome crumbles. Which it will 
> eventually - if ICANN lasts long enough, its common language will change.

I can't make much sense of what you say here. No one is "blaming ICANN" for
anything. So far as I'm concerned, ICANN doesn't exist yet, and I have my
doubts whether it ever will. I'm not in the habit of blaming phantoms for
the Tower of Babel. 

Are you claiming that English is all-pervasive? That is apparently the
assumption of the assertions above. That's no doubt true in Cambridge,
Massachusettes. But if you will travel a little beyond the borders of your
state you will see that it is not true insofar as the human species is
concerned. There are not many countries on this planet where English has
become the primary language. Not yet. Not by a long shot. If you don't
travel, of course you will be spared the shock of discovering this truth.
That will help you to live in the United States and to be part of this
ICANN. Also, if you don't travel and learn what the world is, you will find
you have much in common with people like Joop Teernstra, who believes that
non-English-speakers are "regional minorities", and you will be happy. You
won't be of much use politically in the real world, but you will get along
better with your ignorant neighbors and with American Internet techies who
think that Des Moines, Iowa, is the center of the universe.

> Furthermore, your argument suggests that it's wrong, or undemocratic, or hegemonic,
> for the ICANN board members to speak a common language at all. 

See above. I could add, though, that evidently if English or any other
language is the only language of ICANN, then no one who doesn't speak it
well will ever be nominated for the Board, much less elected. Likewise, if
debate in any language other than English is discouraged in the membership,
as you and the other bigots on this list are arguing, then there won't be
any members, either, who don't speak English well. ICANN will be
English-speaking entirely, and will have become its own self-fulfilling
prophecy. You will then be able to maintain your illusion that the world
speaks English, and hold up ICANN as a proof.

       Oh, won't we be happy in our English-speaking NewCo?
       No nasty stupid ferners to make us feel bad.
       We'll sing and dance in English and pretend we all agree;
       We'll say "Glad to see ya, Esther", and Uncle Sam will be glad.
> That's like griping that the Net is inherently undemocratic because you have to have enough 
> computing power to run a UDP/IP stack. There is no shortage of people from non-American 
> backgrounds who can, nevertheless, use English to eloquently and vociferously defend their 
> views and explain their interests. (e.g. Izumi, Amadeu, countless others).

Ok, two points 'cause you showed us you know how to say "UDP/IP stack". 

That reminds me of the scene from 'Sophie's Choice', where the writer is
talking about his Jewish girlfriend and says "I thought she was going to put
out because she used dirty words all the time. Finally I realized that,
although she could say "fuck", she just couldn't do it".

To get back to your specious arguments, again you use the conclusion to
support the assumption. Never heard of circular reasoning? It's a dangerous
fault in lawyers. You ought to get wise to it before it lands you in a peck
of trouble. Izumi and Amadeu and the rest are not typical examples of their
cultures. They are just the people who, because they do speak English well,
have been able to successfully infiltrate the Internet infrastructure and
participate in this process, which has been limited to English. 

If you fish in the sea with a net that has holes two inches wide, you will
catch only fish that measure two inches. People who don't know the sea may,
if they look at your catch, be impressed by the numbers of small fish in the
sea; but using your catch as an argument that all the fish in the sea are
tiny is foolish. All you can really say is that there are small fish in the
sea and that nets with small holes catch them. And if you are selling fish
retail to the public you may go broke despite the size of your catch,
because most people don't like to clean little fish. It would be better for
you to use a net with bigger holes, to let all the fish through. That way,
you could choose the best ones. Of course, you couldn't do this if you
didn't know there are big fish in the sea also.

> Your last two sentences suggest that there was some sort of Machiavellian conspiracy 
> between (most likely) Ira Magaziner and Joe Simms. Perhaps naivety is in fact the Occam's 
> Razor explanation; nobody has suggested that the ICANN bylaws reflect a perfect understanding 
> of the Internet as a technology or a territory. Even Machiavelli said never to ascribe to 
> conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence. How exactly does a discussion conducted 
> in English provide such fertile ground for policies that damage the interests of a given 
> region of the world?

There's an ungodly jumble of non sequiturs here, but I'll try to separate
them out. 

I wouldn't accuse the people you name as having a Machiavellian conspiracy.
The conspiracies Machiavelli described were subtle plots hatched by clever
people. I don't suggest anything of sort was done here.

Ignorance has been used as a fail-safe throughout this process by those
whose policies cause distress and who aren't willing to abandon them. It's
as if they said: "Excuse me, I didn't know, and now let me continue on in
the same spirit as before". At the same time, I am not taken in as easily as
you by people's pretended naivety. As some one said at one of the meetings
(I think it was in Boston), these ICANN board members didn't get to be
executives of big businesses because they're stupid. Neither did Joe Sims
get to be one of the inner circle of the JonesDay Internet group because he
likes kids and goes to baseball games.

But even if naivety and ignorance were the root of all the distress being
caused by the ICANN board and by NTIA, that wouldn't excuse it. The worst
thing about people assuming functions which they are incompetent to fulfill
is not that they make mistakes, but that they deprive those who are
competent from filling those functions. And the people you speak of have
never really given anyone a chance to assist them. They don't seek advice,
at least not from those willing to help. And when they do, they don't take

> There are more than 9 languages in the world. If each At-large Board member represents a 
> language grouping, then not every people gets a seat at the table. 

I never suggested that voting be done by language. That is a mistaken
attribution that Joop Teernstra and Mr. LeBaron have applied to my arguments
in order to more easily refute them. It's not nice to attribute things to
people that they haven't said. It's malicious. Dishonest, in a word.

> The geographical 
> groupings are not perfect, but they do allow everybody to have some sort of representation.

How do they do that? Just saying so doesn't make it true. You mean to
suggest that a white English-speaking intellectual from Zaire represents a
black Tutu villager? Or that an English-speaking Parisian entrepreneur
represents a Basque cooperative administrator? Or that an English-speaking
Tokyo trademark lawyer represents a Malaysian university administrator? I
don't think these latter three would agree with you.

> Again, I mean this as an argument against your ideas, not an indictment of you personally. 

Well, I don't think you're going to indict anyone, or win any arguments,
with the sort of poor logic and worse dialectical skills that you've
demonstrated here. You have a rather puffed-up idea of yourself. That's to
be expected, I suppose, considering where you go to school.

> And I'm not speaking for the whole Berkman Center, just for me.

You've let us know you're from the Berkman Center, though, haven't you? And
you've added your Berkman Center footer. You don't want anyone to think
you're at the Berkman Center, or that it lends force to your arguments.
Certainly not.

> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Antoun Nabhan            * "Uh, I guess that makes me Draft Boy."
> anabhan@law.harvard.edu  *                      - Antoun N.
> Berkman Center for       * "And *that* makes me the League of Women's
>  Internet & Society      *  Engineers!"         - Wendy S.