Taking a Deep Breath

On social media conflagrations.

OK. Yesterday, I was writing about the moral legitimacy of a particular trademark. Understandably, there has been a social media firestorm over this issue, as people feel that their contributions have been marginalized. In return, the owner of the trademarks has issued a press release accusing the bloggers of the community of being “slanderous” and “malicious,” and claiming that the whole issue is based on a misunderstanding and rumours.

As happens in these situations, the rhetoric keeps climbing, with some people ‘armed for bear’, seeking not only to restore the common use of the phrase urban homesteading, but to punish the Dervaes family. They really have been called all kinds of names, and some people have suggested a global boycott of their websites. Also, some of their… um. Let’s say, odder/adamant beliefs have been called into question.

So, in the midst of the conflagration, it is important to see the trees and the forest. I understand how, when we are angry, we sometimes want to destroy the object of our anger. But that is not constructive, and I, for one, would like to be very clear about my desires and goals. I do not want the Dervaes family destroyed, put out of business, or even maligned. Even though they implied that as a blogger, I was unconcerned with the truth… and that pisses me off a bit. You know. Just a bit.

I think that the analysis of the moral right of the Dervaes family to be the sole beneficiaries of the work of a movement is a perfectly legitimate part of discourse. The textual analysis of the documents being produced by the Dervaes family – also legitimate. Calling for their obliteration? Over the top. Expressing frustration that they don’t seem to be able to see that other people have contributed? Totally fair.

Unfortunately, they have lumped together all legitimate discussion into the category of unprovoked attack: “there has been a heated argument in the media against what should have been the Dervaeses’ normal rights to protect their trademarks.” Actually, what has been primarily up for debate isn’t whether they have a right to protect their trademarks. It is whether they had the right to register those trademarks in the first place. It is this claim in the press release that is in question: “While they did not come up with the name Urban Homesteading®, they defined its current, specific application.”

Then they have grouped us all together into a massive uninformed blob: “Whereas professional reporters substantiate their news before publishing stories and are careful not to make slanderous statements, bloggers have no editors and often demonstrate little or no interest in supporting their claims with fact.” I, for one, spent about 10 hours yesterday looking at the language of the letter that they sent, researching trademark laws and the in and outs, checking the stories out and double checking. I stand by my work.

3 responses to “Taking a Deep Breath”

  1. Thank you for this. I am saddened by this whole thing. I (perhaps naively) believe their motives come from a misguided attempt to protect themselves from plagiarism. But their method is so incredibly short sighted and self serving (ultimately self-destroying). I do not wish that all they have worked so hard on for so many years should crumble. But I will no longer purchase from them and I know I have lots of company.

    The most upsetting to me is that other community serving organizations (Oakland Urban Homesteading school and the Denver Urban Homesteading market, for example) have been negatively affected and the Dervaes’ seem to think it’s justified. The saddest of all is that they have completely lost sight of the importance of communities EVERYWHERE.

  2. Additionally, it sounds like they overestimate the amount of research done by “professional reporters”.

    Individual works can be well-researched (or not). Individual works can make personal attacks rather than informed arguments (or not). It is a trivial exercise to locate blogs that make strong arguments based on research, or newspapers that release poorly researched personal attacks, on nearly any topic.

    The essential difference between the two is that the reporter’s work has been edited to best sell newspapers.

  3. We all are familiar with the term “who do they think they are?” and their press release, linked above, breathes full meaning into the phrase.

    “Dervaes family project is known as the Urban Homestead®.”
    — in fact, their specific project is commonly known as the -Dervaes Urban Homestead®- and few if any, would have an issue with them exclusively claiming that particular word combination.

    “Anais explains, “We aren’t just writing about the latest eco-practices and products; for more than two decades, we have been living the revolution.”

    clearly, their experience has understandably been fully engrossing, because they have missed significant action outside their cabbage patch — “the (Urban Homestead?) revolution” has many more collectively important elements than the actions and promotions of an overly self-absorbed family in Pas.

    as with most rights, the limits are proscribed to the extent they interfere with others due, and we are patently exploring the bounds here