The line between excoriating a person or group and explaining what’s wrong with a line of reasoning and bad attitude so that, just maybe, a bell will go off in their heads, can be very thin. It varies from person to person. Some get it. Others don’t.
Shortly after I posted about Ladar Levison’s really bad call, the post was picked up by a hacker blog, which noted how smart people often indulge in the grievously mistaken assumption that brilliance in one discipline translates to brilliance in others, including the law. This brought people here to “inform” us that we were wrong, that no good lawyer would talk to a person unless he plunked $50,000 down for a retainer; that no tech guy can find a good lawyer anyway. If you read the comments here regularly, you will remember these.
Lawyers read these comments and shake their heads. That too misses the point, as they may be ridiculously wrong on the substance, but are right about what they think. These are the notions that pervade a group of people, are widely spread within the group, and upon which individuals act. They may be wrong, but that is their reality.
Trying to dispel these misguided ideas is a two-fold problem. First, hackers are a tough group to handle, as they don’t care to be told much of anything. They are wildly independent, and have a peculiar subculture to which they cling with all their might. Frankly, it’s a pretty cool subculture provided you have a high tolerance for snark and hyperbole, and a juvenile sense of humor. Sorry, but it’s true.
They are also, largely, Millennials, and as such do not take kindly to any handling short of adoration and the occasional tummy rub. Certain of their brilliance and coolness, and reinforced by their circle of friends, they tend to be pretty comfortable with their own ideas, regardless of subject.
This hasn’t worked well for them, though the reaction hasn’t always been that they might be mistaken, but that the system sucks and they are cool outlaws. They can be tough guys in their own minds, but not tough enough to handle criticism. That makes them cry, and creates some very difficult issues between lawyer and client when they find themselves involuntarily embroiled in the legal system.
Lawyers, largely baffled and thus deeply intimidated/insulted by, technology find this lack of power on the part of the black-robed ones to be unsettling at an epistemological level. Or so my lawyer friends tell me.
This is the sort of indulgent arrogance that gives rise to two discrete problems, the first being why hackers do so poorly in court, and the second being why hackers don’t seek or desire the immediate assistance of competent counsel to help them. They don’t need lawyers. Lawyers are dopes. Hackers own the physical laws, and have no use for the stupid ones men make. Judges may think they are more powerful than physics, but they’re not. Fools.
And so, they view what appears here, on a law blog, written by a lawyer about the law, with disdain:
You’ve done a nice job on this blog of excoriating “hackers” for being dumb about the law. I suspect many technologist are simply disgusted by the perversion that American conceptions of “justice” has become. Sure, there’s a risk this monster will grab any given person and destroy her life in its grinding need to prove its power, over and over. That’s true. Given a limited livespan as mortal beings, many of us choose to avoid entanglement with this abortion of a “justice system” as much as possible – for good reason.
The first sentence, the characterization of “excoriating ‘hackers’ for being dumb about the law,” both angers and saddens me. Why would a hacker think he would be anything but “dumb” about the law. He’s not a lawyer. There is no reason why he should be otherwise. But posts about hackers aren’t written to excoriate them, even though they aren’t filled with hugs and tummy rubs about how wonderful they are and how awful the law treats them.
While there are no doubt lawyers, and certainly judges, who are technologically challenged, a point made here many times, to characterize lawyers as being the weak link for not appreciating the genius of technology is to indulge in a myopic view. Hackers, who enjoy a world of binary precision, are baffled by the ambiguity of the law, its subjective nature, its unreliability. Scientific method demands that validity is repeatable. The law, not so much, despite its pretense of precedent and some lawyers relying on it despite having been smacked upside the head by twisted decisions time and again.
But lawyers get used to functioning in this bizarre world. It’s what we do. It’s not what hackers do, and there is no reason why they should find it normal. That’s why there are people do different things with their lives, so that different bases are covered. Need encryption? Go to a crypto guy. Need to defend against the government, go to a lawyer who knows how to fight the government. See how that works?
But there is one further indulgence to which some hackers believe they’re entitled:
Given a limited livespan as mortal beings, many of us choose to avoid entanglement with this abortion of a “justice system” as much as possible – for good reason.
Yes, the “justice system” can be called an “abortion” for good reason. No, you do not get to “avoid entanglement” because you don’t like it. It’s the “as much as possible” language where the two intersect. You want to stay clear of the system? Great. Comply with every abortion of a law the system comes up with, and pray (recognizing, of course, that most hackers aren’t doting theists) that they don’t come at you anyway because even if you’re cool, someone you do business with isn’t, or maybe just for no good reason at all.
But there is no way for any person to assure he doesn’t get wrapped up in the legal system. And when you do, you get to make choices. Making the right choices, the ones that will not only help you but create the greatest likelihood of the development of favorable law rather than horrendous law, is critical. These posts aren’t meant to excoriate hackers, but to save them, and with them, the rest of us. If you were as smart as you think you are, you would have understood that.