[discuss] What is MSism?

'Andrew Sullivan' ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Fri Mar 28 19:50:26 UTC 2014

On Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 12:29:11PM -0700, michael gurstein wrote:
> Well, I discussed this at some length in my blogpost
> <http://t.co/EU8F1LgUn6>  

In my reading, you refer to this but do not actually offer what I
asked for, which was "an example of something that is a policy, is not
like the sorts of policies developed by (say) RIRs or ICANN in terms
of its significance mentioned above, and which would not be amenable
to any multi-stakeholder approach to 'the tussle'".  In that passage,
"the significance mentioned above" was the one in your message.  And I
suspect this may be because of this tendency we've all been observing
(as you do in your post) to slide right over the details of a
particular methodology and talk in abstract terms about "MSism".

I get that you think that some (any?) multistakeholder model is really
disguise for a takeover by neoliberalism.  Leaving aside whether
neoliberalism is itself a bad thing (which is not quite relevant to
this part of the discussion), I'm not convinced by what you say in
your blog post.  For instance, you claim, "[T]here is no one in the
process ('stakeholder') with the task of representing the 'public
interest'."  But in my view, that's a category mistake: the whole
point of at least some kinds of multi-stakeholder approach is that
"the public interest" is supposed to be the emergent union interest of
the various groups working together.  In other words, there's no
"public" outside the collection of stakeholders, and so looking for
"the stakeholder" whose stake is "the public interest" is like looking
for the hair that will one day make me bald.  Baldness is a state of
(lack of) hair, and the public is the collection of the interested

This is why some of us were so uneasy at the beginning of the 1net
discussions with the "representational multi-stakeholder" approach
that seemed to be being adopted.  I am uneasy with it because I'm not
even a little sure whether I'm a member of "the technical community",
"Internet users", "business", "civil society" (whatever that is --
"the public interest"?  I dunno), "dog lovers", "online consumers",
"outraged anti-bankers", or even "Americans" or "Canadians".  What
about "speakers of a language other than English"?  "As a second
language"?  The potential for set-theoretic disaster abounds.  For
this reason, I dislike the kinds of categories that IGF put me into,
or that I find myself having to select when I go to an ICANN meeting.
In my view, those categories do more harm than good, though I
recognize that they have certain procedural value and would be
interested in understanding the organizational trade-off.

So, if your complaint is that there are lots of kinds of interests who
are not amenable to this kind of categorization, I agree; that doesn't
make a process built around such participation automatically less
"multi-stakeholder".  And if your complaint is that there seem to be
people whose interests are not somehow being represented, I also
probably agree, though I don't think that requires personal
representation (I do not speak or use Arabic, but in lots of
internationalization discussions I am able to raise issues from the
Arabic script because I understand the issues well enough to do so,
and I think they're important).

I really think that this entire conversation would be much more useful
if we talked about specific examples of a process we find good or bad,
and specific deficiencies or advantages of each for the kind of cases
we're talking about.

Best regards,

Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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