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Demonizing Bill Gates

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Something terrible is happening to Boug’s Anti-Microsoft Site (http://www.telepath.com/dcoulter/boug/antimicro.html): It’s not ticking people off anymore. “Where has all my hate mail gone?” wails the site’s anonymous webmaster. In a matter of months, Microsoft has shifted from being the Jedi Master of high tech to its Darth Vader.

The software giant may have reluctantly agreed, under pressure from the Department of Justice, to market a version of Windows that allows computer makers to hide or remove the Internet Explorer Web browser, but the damage had already been done. Microsoft’s arrogant response to the initial probe (at one point, a corporate honcho declared that Microsoft could package “a ham sandwich” with Windows if it saw fit) turned off enough people to hint that Microphobia was finally spreading to the popular, nonwired mind-set.

Not that you’d guess it from the jeering, adolescent, and content-free ridicule peddled by most Microsoft-bashing sites. Where the mainstream fears Bill Gates because he’s King Nerd, the digerati hate him because he’s not nerdy enough. He’s not a hippie visionary like the hapless heroes of Apple; he’s a — choke — businessman. I Hate Bill Gates.com (http://www.ihatebillgates.com) is typical: a great animated photo of Chairman Bill sprouting horns and a collection of “the best of Bill Gates Sucks Jokes!!!” Nor should you expect cogent debate about unfair competitive practices at the endlessly puerile parodies bearing such titles as Microsoff, Micropap, Microsuks, Microsuck, Microsnot, and on and on.

But there is information and opinion aimed at the post-high school audience; you just have to know where to look. For recent news on the government’s investigation, Microsoft’s outraged response, and the humbling partial resolution, try ZDNet (http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/special/msdoj.html), Excite’s NewsTracker (nt.excite.com/242/30002/page.html), and CNET’s News.Com (http://www.news.com). You can also troll the relevant documents at the Justice Department’s website (http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases3/ micros2/micros0.htm) and at the Microsoft corporate site (http://www.microsoft.com/corpinfo/) — here’s where you’ll find the lowdown that supposedly damns the Feds’ “special master” Lawrence Lessig as biased. Still, the best place to go, if only because it corrals pro and con into one site, is Ralph Nader’s Consumer Project on Technology (http://www.essential.org/antitrust/microsoft/micro soft.html); as usual, Nader is one fair-minded wonk.

Finally, there are anti-Microsoft sites that give reasons for their enmity (I mean, beyond that Bill Gates is a rich butthead). The Microsoft Boycott Campaign (http://www.abctec.com/~msbc/) features articulate, if one-sided, articles on many aspects of the company, while YAMOO! (http://www.tou.com/host/antims/yamoo.html) links to nearly 800 sites organized by subject (Lawsuits, Alternatives, Articles, Jokes). The best point-counterpoint for beginners can be found by reading the “In Defense of Bill Gates” articles at the Ayn Rand-inspired Capitalism.Org (http://www.capitalism.org/microsoft), then checking out the Anti-Microsoft Association’s rebuttal ”In Offense of the Defense” (users.aol.com/machcu/inoffense). It may be more boring than the Punch Bill Gates page (http://www.well.com/user/vanya/bill.html), but it might help you figure out where you want to go today — and where we go from here.

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