Below is Graham’s essay on the topic. He uses the writings of Eric Raymond as his jumping-off point, and then proceeds to his own analysis of the importance of a “bazaar” model to the Counterjihad. He notes that recent events have evidenced the failure of the “cathedral” model when applied to organized resistance to Islamization.
On Networks: A Brief Essay
by Graham Dawson
Recent events have caused me to return to a subject that has been discussed at some length here and elsewhere within other parts of the Counterjihad movement.
The precise form of our movement has always been up in the air, with two competing models vying for supremacy. Taking a cue from Eric S Raymond’s essay, The Cathedral and The Bazaar, I have decided to create a brief outline of the respective features of these two models with an aim to demonstrating that one is simply superior to the other.
As with anything at Gates of Vienna, the content of this essay is free to use with attribution. To formalise this, I’m releasing it under a Creative Commons license, which can be found at the end of the essay.
Back to ESR’s essay; In The Cathedra and The Bazaar, Raymond describes two competing models of software production:
The Cathedral is characterised as a centralised, closed system that sets strict limits on when and how it will release product, building “cathedrals” of software that aren’t released until they’re considered “ready”, and which are generally closed to outside access in the meantime. Development occurs within cathedrals of hierarchy that place the most important people — the users of the software — at the very bottom and isolate them from the development process. At the same time the system also isolates development teams and developers from each other, preventing them from effectively analysing each other’s work, turning each piece of code into a miniature kingdom to which no other developers are welcome.
The Bazaar is described as an open system, in which lead developers may or may not exist; a system where any leader delegates as much as possible to as many as possible. The development of software in this model is open to just about anyone. In the bazaar, everyone has access, bringing many perspectives to a problem, and vetting and analysing the contribution of everyone else on an equal-trust basis. ESR uses the examples of the Linux kernel development, one of the largest and most successful open source software development projects in history, as well as other smaller projects that prospered once they adopted an open model, encapsulating the entire idea with what he calls Linus’s Law. “With many eyes on the code, all bugs are shallow”. That is, with a multitude of mutually cooperating developers, few problems are hard to ferret out, and it is likely that someone will have a solution to every problem that’s found.
So far, so computery, but what does this have to do with the Counterjihad movement?
The two models I mentioned as vying for supremacy within the movement map surprisingly well to the Cathedral and the Bazaar.
Previously, on Gates of Vienna, the Baron has outlined what he believes to be the most effective means to spread the Counterjihad message, as well as to coordinate responses and avoid the possibility of extremely dangerous, personality-engendered splits within the movement.
Briefly, his idea was of many small groups working together, passing information quickly between each other, bringing a multitude of possible solutions and ideas to the group. No big “clearing houses”, no central personalities, no single points of failure. The idea is best embodied within the logo of the International Civil Liberties Alliance: a network of interconnected nodes with no central hub. A peer group, rather than a hierarchy, similar to ESR’s bazaar model, where the few “bigwigs” such as himself and Linus are required to show absolute humility and acknowledge the contributions of everyone else before their own if they wish their projects to succeed. The Linux Kernel would still be a backwater college project if Linus Torvalds had suffered an attack of ego and refused to give credit where it was due.
The last time this issue was discussed, we were in the middle of the Great Farce, faced daily with the inanity of Charles Johnson’s latest smears against imaginary nazis and bogeymen. Charles had set himself up as one of the Elect, a “leader” of the Counterjihad movement accompanied by a few other big name stars. As such, he became for a while the de facto arbiter of what was and was not the True Path, for want of a better phrase.
His behaviour demonstrated very effectively the failings of the Cathedral model, highlighting its largest flaw: the single point of failure. A Cathedral, with its stratified hierarchy and remote leaders, is only as effective as the man at the top. And the man at the top is vulnerable to many things, not least the benefits the position itself provides: fame, power, control — they quickly corrupt and isolate those top men, removing them from contact with their counterparts and making them vulnerable to an inflated sense of pride. Competition — that being anything that threatens to elevate others to the same level as the top men — is ruthlessly suppressed, as is anything that dissents from the ex cathedra pronouncements of those top men, for dissent threatens both their power and their prestige.
Such an organisation becomes self-destructive. It no longer serves the interest of its members (the “users” in ESR’s essay) but, instead, serves to maintain the ego of the leaders themselves and keep them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, regardless of the consequences for its members in the long or even short term.
This vulnerability of the leadership is the largest danger of the Cathedral model. Once an organisation is arranged around a hierarchy, it becomes extremely vulnerable to decapitation — if a leader is arrested or otherwise removed, the now leaderless hierarchy will either lose direction and collapse, or be torn apart by a fight for control of the hierarchy. Even a relatively loose hierarchy is vulnerable to this effect. A hierarchy is also extremely vulnerable to a Gramscian “long march” through the ranks to eventually overtake and replace the leadership. Needless to say, the possibility of such usurpation by hostile elements can easily be discerned from the current political situation in most of the Western world.
The hierarchical model is, obviously, dangerous for a movement such as ours.
One of the accusations levelled in recent days has been that “bottom feeders” (Machiavellian bottom-feeders, no less!) are trying to bring down these top men in order to acquire more power within the Counterjihad. The parallel with Stalin’s denunciation of “wreckers”, enemies who were trying to bring down his perfect system just to get at him, is a good way to highlight why the current spat should be viewed as demonstrative of the conflict between the bazaar and the cathedral models within the Counterjihad. For statist socialism is perhaps the ultimate cathedral, a system where the centre controls the periphery in every single way, and where nobody can act without instructions from that same centre.
Yet the very nature of the bazaar makes such a claim of power-seeking laughable on its face. The bazaar has no organisational leaders to whom such power can be arrogated. The hierarchy is fighting nothing but reflections of itself.
In contrast, the nature of the cathedral is such that those bound within its mode of thought are usually incapable of seeing a bazaar — a distributed network — for what it is. Those used to cathedral thinking attempt to control networks from the centre, attempting to stamp their personal vision on the network and guide, or even just bully it into following their chosen path. Sooner or later they butt up against the fact that such a network cannot be controlled, although they may appear to have such control for a very long time as the network makes use of their abilities.
Eventually, the network demands humility or departure. The hierarchical thinkers will perceive this as an attempt by opponents to usurp their control of the network and they will attack anyone sufficiently prominent, often with extreme vigour and highly personal language, in order to neutralise the competitive threat. Purity tests and demands for increased loyalty follow. Claims of wide support are rallied, and external “threats” constructed, to provide a reason to retain the cathedral leader. At this stage, if it is healthy, the network routes around them, eventually isolating their hierarchy and leaving it to wither away to nothing.
As you may have guessed by now, I favour the distributed bazaar model over the centralised cathedral. Within the bazaar there are no single points of failure. There may be celebrity voices, famous faces and so forth, but their fame and celebrity is contingent upon their humility and acknowledgement of the work of others, to a degree far above and beyond that demonstrated by most “leaders” today.
What makes the bazaar a better alternative?
- The Bazaar is locally responsive. As there is no central authority to be waited on, elements of the organisation can operate independently as local conditions require, without interrupting the activities of the organisation as a whole, yet its distributed nature still allows it to operate coherently on issues that affect the entire organisation. Imagine a school of fish reacting to a predator, and you may begin to see what I mean.
- The Bazaar is robust. If any part of it fails, the rest of the organisation can route around the damaged part and fill in the gap. If the failed part is restored it can fit right back in without any interruption.
- The Bazaar is creative and innovative. Ideas can be tried out by one element of the organisation without interrupting the overall operation. If they succeed, they can be quickly adopted; if they fail, no harm was done.
- The Bazaar is greater than the sum of its parts. One voice at the head of an organisation may carry a lot of clout, but counts for little when a response is required in several places at once, or when that voice has to address an area outside its expertise. A distributed network can field a plethora of voices, respond in real time to a multitude of events, organise and collect information on a variety of apparently unrelated subjects and analyse it from every possible direction, before speaking with authority on any subject its members are well-versed in.
The bazaar — the distributed, centreless network of individuals with common cause — is, in short, the most effective means to disseminate information, define goal and fight against jihad and Islam.
In writing this essay I found myself at something of a loss for suitable references, which is why you can’t see any, apart from the essay by ESR that forms the foundation of my argument. There are no works that quite map onto what this essay has discussed; possibly works discussing guerrilla warfare, or something on network systems might come close, but complex networks in a sociological setting are a fairly new field, and, whilst I’ve read a little about it, it’s hard to point to any one piece of writing and say that is the definitive or a relevant work on the subject.
Most sociological and psychological study on the subject is extremely superficial and concerned primarily with “social networks”, as exemplified by sites such as Facebook, where interaction appears to be free (and is praised as such by those superficial studies), but is, in fact, extremely constricted and only allowed on the terms defined by the developers of the site. Such a corporate entity is thus a very good example of the cathedral, despite appearing at first glance to be a bazaar. Appearances can be very deceptive.
But this is threatening to turn into another essay, so I’ll have to end here.
On Networks by Graham Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.