Demonizing Denning (was: It's MEME time!!!)

Allen Robinson sebaygo at
Thu Oct 6 12:08:06 PDT 1994

Since it appears that I helped to start this thread, let me do what
I can to finish it.

Responding to some facetiae posted by David Merriman, I suggested:

> Very good.  If I could offer one minor change, how 'bout:

>         Dorothy Denning?  Clip 'er!

Which prompted Phil Karn to inquire:

> Uh, how come we can't stick to attacking the message, rather than the
> messenger?

To which Ed Carp replied:

> Because in this case, the messenger is an integral part of the message.

This kind of parallels my thinking when I offered that
mostly-off-the-cuff suggestion.  I thought David had hit upon a
clever turn of phrase -- a slogan of exhortation to cypherpunks
to truncate Dr. Denning's *influence*.  I did not intend an ad
hominem attack, nor did I expect something that would fit on a
bumpersticker to substitute for rational debate.

As Phil Karn observed elsewhere:

> Dorothy Denning may
> be a naive pawn of the government. She may hold beliefs that appall
> the rest of us. She may have lost whatever credibility she had in the
> crypto community by her position. But I still prefer to attack that
> position and the (il)logic behind it rather than to resort to
> attacking the person expressing it.

Quite right.  Granted, Dr. Denning has lost her credibility with
certain elements of "the crypto community."  Unfortunately, those
folks are not the decision-makers who'll decide the fate of
proposals such as Clipper.  She remains a valuable tool to those
in government who want to advance such agendas.

As Ed Carp commented:

> I think the reason people attack the messenger is because people in the
> government listen to her, and I for one am exasperated beyond words to
> know that my government is paying attention to such an idiotic scheme, and
> (BTW) violating every known law of security to do so.  Denning, in a very
> real sense, represents the attitudes of the NSA and the people controlling
> this whole scheme and trying to foist it off onto people.

But what better way to blunt her effectiveness as an advocate
than to demostrate the folly of that which she so wholeheartedly

Still, as Tim May reminded us:

> Practically speaking, a bumber sticker saying "Denning--Clip her"
> might be understood by as many as one out of ten thousand of those who
> read it....not a very convincing meme. (Yes, "crypto anarchy" is
> equally arcane, vaguely disturbing, and equally unconvincing...but I'm
> not sporting a bumper sticker on this, nor do I expect to convert the
> masses.)

He is, of course, correct.  And this whole thread has become
a bit of a tempest in a teapot.  I apologize for my part in
what I'm sure many regard as an improper consumption of


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