In a message to the General Assembly ("ga-full") list, GA Chair Danny Younger sadly recounts how ICANN's staff has refused to allow alt-root provider New.net to sponsor the GA session scheduled for the upcoming ICANN meeting. Why? In the words of ICANN's potentate Stuart Lynn, "we place bounds around whom we accept as sponsors. And new.net does not fit the package." That's a curious way to restate the sponsorship policy presented in ICANN's meeting-related information site:
Starting with the Marina Del Rey 2001 meeting, there will be a new format for sponsorship opportunities for this ICANN meeting. This is in response to feedback that we have received from the constituencies and the community. It is our hope that this will offer proper visibility for those who chose to support our meeting, while preserving its neutrality for all participants.
Justifiably callused ICANN Watchers might be tempted to read "neutrality" as ICANNese for "kowtows to ICANN," but no (not yet, at least). The ensuing explanation of this "new format" is limited to utterly banal details of implementation:
All sponsors will have their logos appear on the ICANN website and during breaks on the meeting screens. A table will be provided for distribution of literature for sponsors only. Additional recognition of sponsorship is listed below in the description of each level. An organization that is not a sponsor will not be permitted to distribute materials in the meeting area.
So what's the basis for this rejection of New.net sponsorship? Exactly what Lynn said: a diktat of ICANN's staff ("we"). This diktat overrules the GA, which had accepted New.net's sponsorship offer. So much for the fig leaf of "feedback" from the "community."
Three levels of sponsorship are available:
Top-Level: US$15,000 – Booth/table in meeting area for entire meeting
Second-Level: US$10,000 – Booth/table in meeting area for one day
Third-Level: US$5,000 – Signage on coffee break tables
This would be outrageous if it didn't fit so perfectly blandly into the numbingly dull pattern wherein ICANN's staff continually and actively obstructs the efforts of its component bodies to function with any degree of freedom.
And it might be a minor issue in itself, but it needs to be viewed in context -- and that context was set forth quite starkly less than a day earlier by the zombie process of ICANN's past, ex-CEO Mike Roberts, in a message to the ALSC-Forum list. It's impossible to adequately capture the fanatical, thanatotic zeal with which Roberts embraces the proposition that Bush's signing of the deeply disturbing "USA-PATRIOT Act of 2001" "brings the Internet and its developers, providers and users directly into the new war on terrorism."
And just what the [expletive deleted] does ICANN have to do with that war? Well, had ICANN actually devoted itself in a balanced way to its three purviews (domain names, IP numbers, and protocol parameter and port numbers), one could, I suppose, argue that there must be some relation between legitimate interests of state and, say, the byzantiniana of IP allocation. But it hasn't: instead, it has expended the vast, vast majority of its energy on making DNS safe for intellectual property claimants (like these ones). And ICANN has done so at the expense of other absolutely legitimate interests -- for example, the venerable idea that language is a common weal and therefore cannot and should not be reduced to neo-totalitarian cultural politics of one word, one meaning, one root.
Not that such high-minded issues are all that relevant, though, because that's not the case Roberts makes. Instead -- for the THIRD time now -- he has unilaterally declared that the brunt of this "new war" will be felt in the region of ICANN's At Large. That is, in the single, slender possibility that ICANN's board might be infiltrated by -- gasp! -- workaday people elected through a democratic process. The threat Roberts so heroically seeks to stave off isn't "terrorists" -- it's democracy. And you needn't take my word for it: you can read his own concussion-inducing elbow-jerk salutes here and here (ICANN Watch commentaries here and here).
For a guy who gets his jollies issuing pronunciamentos about how "there is going to be much less interest in who is represented by whom on the Board" and "other populist notions about any old terrorist around the globe getting to vote on how to run the DNS," he sure seems to be awfully -- indeed, desperately -- interested in who's on the board and who gets to vote. Not that that's new, mind you: leaden, bombastic opposition to democratic fluidity was a leitmotif of his rule.
Just how much of a stamp Roberts left on the organization he all but founded becomes clear in the kind of tawdry policy-creep that, most recently, led his successor to snippily declare ex cathedra that New.net "does not fit the package." And it can't be overemphasized just how pathetically shrill that move is, because it boils down, as ICANN's own "new format" for sponsorship states, to nothing more than having a logo "appear [ha!] on the ICANN website and during breaks on the meeting screens" -- a ditch ICANN dug for itself when it decided to pimp out the faces it presents to the world.
Again, this would be trivial, were it not for its place in a long-term pattern and, even moreso, in the current context: ICANN's scurrilous exploitation of the 11 September events to justify an all too familiar "emergency" usurpation by the structural equivalent of a junta^W^W^W^W^W^W I mean an "informal Program Committee" chair led by an equally familiar figure -- an authoritarian who skulks around waiting for an opportunity to reassert his authority and pursue the same old bleakly monologic agenda.