Some have criticized Microsoft for “supporting” the so-called “Heartland Institute.” The basis of this is that Microsoft provides free software because the so-called “Heartland Institute” is, at present, legally classified as a nonprofit organization. There have even been suggestions to pressure Microsoft no longer to allow the so-called “Heartland Institute” free software access, because of their global warming denial.
I disagree. Fervently.
Microsoft provides free software to non-profit organizations. I think that’s a wonderful service. They don’t have a review committee, or a lot of rules and regulations, and frankly they aren’t interested in making a bureaucracy of doing so. I’m glad. I want all non-profit organizations to benefit from this. If there are reprehensible non-profit organizations — and I consider the so-called “Heartland Institute” about as reprehensible as it gets — as long as they legally qualify as non-profit, they get the benefit too. That’s as it should be. Because the minute they start making exceptions, the whole thing slides down a slippery slope.
If we pressure Microsoft to “pick and choose” which non-profits get the benefit and which don’t, either they’ll end up making rules and regulations which will eventually disqualify worthy recipients (a bad thing), or they’ll just abandon the program all together (a worse thing). And if we, the advocates of global warming action, actively criticize Microsoft for doing nothing more than giving away free software to all nonprofits, no questions asked, we end up looking like jerks. Rightfully so, in my opinion.
Let’s be perfectly clear: the idea that Microsoft is “supporting” the so-called “Heartland Institute” is ridiculous. All they do is give free software to non-profit organizations. The instant we start criticizing that because we consider one of the recipients unworthy (and I do), we’ll have levelled an unfair accusation at a completely innocent company which was doing nothing more than giving a helping hand to thousands of worthwhile groups. And if we jeopardize that, just because we can’t accept some slimeballs lapping up part of the gravy train, we show ourselves to be petty and mean.
There’s another aspect of this as well. Microsoft has publicly endorsed action to mitigate global warming. I don’t think they’ve done very much about it, and I wouldn’t call them strong allies in this fight, but they are certainly not our enemy. Who was it who said, “Whoever is not against us, is for us”? They may not be an active ally, but at least they’re in our corner. And they have a helluva lot of money and influence. It’s possible that as time passes, they will become more active about this issue, maybe even a strong advocate and a real friend to our cause. Let’s not make them an enemy by haranguing and criticizing them when they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.
I repeat: I think the free-software-for-nonprofits, no-questions-asked policy is a good deed. It’s a great idea. Insisting that they screen recipients will only threaten its continuation. That’s a bad idea.
So to all those who wish to criticize Microsoft because some slimeballs took advantage of their generosity, or insist they exclude some nonprofits from the program, I say: don’t. To Microsoft, I say: keep on giving free software to any and all non-profit organizations. Including the so-called “Heartland Institute” — in spite of my opinion that they definitely fit into the “sleazebag” category.