negative campaigning?

Mirko Boehm - FSFE mirko at
Mon Jul 31 07:23:18 UTC 2017


I am one of the people that have argued against negative campaigning in the past. From the discussion however, even after many emails there is still not a common understanding what it is. Daniel gave some examples, let me build on top of that:

“Free Software is good as it gives you choice and control over your data.” - a positive, user oriented message that tells people what they should think about when choosing what to use. Good.
“Proprietary social networks aggregate your data and sell it, which may violate your privacy.” - a neutral, fact-based message that conveys a clear problem. Not negative campaigning. Good.
“You should feel bad because you are using Windows, you should use Linux instead.” - a negative, aggressive message that makes somebody feel bad because of a choice they made (for reasons we don’t even know). Negative campaigning. Bad.

This is a fine line to draw. I do think that we can agree that fact-based, neutral arguments are necessary (maybe we should test that in a poll or so). In my opinion, we should refrain from anything that can be read like “you moron, why are you using XYZ, we know better than you, use this”. Not only does this put a person into a defensive position, it is also a good way to make sure that person avoids exposure to us in the future. 

Unfortunately, the condescending tone of the last example is still quite common in situations where interested outsiders come to a free software event. We should be better than this. Especially because we have a clear, freedom focused message that explains itself pretty well.


Mirko Boehm | mirko at | KDE e.V.
FSFE Fellowship Representative, FSFE Team Germany
Qt Certified Specialist and Trainer
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