Thursday, July 16, 2015

On unsavory name associations

One of the duties of my new job - and, frankly, one of the duties of my old job, and of your job - is to keep abreast of ALL news that could positively or negatively impact your company. In my typical "I am not trendy" way, I was late to the party in one instance, because I did not discover this press statement from my corporate parent until some time after it was released.

Press statement - Morpho (Safran) has no link with the « Morpho » hacker group

Morpho (Safran), a global leader in identity and security solutions, learned yesterday that reports and associated articles are circulating within media and social media channels concerning the emergence of a corporate espionage group named “Morpho”.

To avoid any confusion with our customers and partners, we formally state that there is absolutely no connection with the aforementioned hacker group and Morpho.

Our activities are fully dedicated to ensuring a safer digital and physical world.

Needless to say, if your company's mission is to ensure a safer digital and physical world, it can be quite distressing to have a hacker group use the same name as your company's name. Luckily for us, by the time I finally heard about the whole affair, Symantec was now referring to the hacker group as "Butterfly.". Good - unless you're Crazy Town, Heart, or Bob Carlisle.

But my company isn't the only one to be hit with an association that we didn't like. Take this incident from the 1980s, chronicled by Peter Kramer. For those who weren't around in the 1980s, let me clarify one teensy weensy thing: U.S. President Ronald Reagan didn't like the Soviet Union. As Kramer notes, President Reagan gave a speech on March 23rd, 1983 in support of the defense budget that he had submitted to the U.S. Congress. As part of this speech, which referenced a then-unnamed program designed to defend the United States against a Soviet attack, Reagan referenced the following:

...a decision which offers a new hope for our children in the twenty-first century...

A new hope? Some of you can see where this is going.

The next day, on March 24, Senator Edward Kennedy was on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Now Kennedy had been known to work with his political opponents - he famously cosponsored a bill with fellow Senator Dan Quayle, and admitted long after the fact that President Gerald Ford did the right thing for the country when pardoning Richard Nixon. But Kennedy was also known as a fierce battler. And he didn't like Reagan's idea one bit, saying that the President was engaging in

...misleading Red Scare tactics and reckless Star Wars schemes...

So by March 1983, Reagan's program had a name. Actually, it got an official name a year later, when it was called the Strategic Defense Initiative. But everyone still called it "Star Wars."

This perturbed a certain resident of Marin County, California. Now it's no surprise to know that the people of Marin County, California were no great fans of Reagan. However, this one resident was especially perturbed because he - George Lucas - was responsible for a series of popular films known as "Star Wars." The fact that Reagan had also used the phrase "evil empire" to refer to the Soviet Union didn't please Lucas, either.

In 1985 Lucas brought a suit against two advocacy groups that campaigned for SDI, intending to forbid them the use of the `Star Wars' label. However, in November 1985 US District Judge Gerhard Gesell ruled that anyone could use the term `Star Wars' in `parody or descriptively to further a communication of their views on SDI'. As far as Lucas was concerned, the dark side of the Force seemed to have won.

To add to the sting, Judge Gesell was the same judge who had presided over the trials of many key Watergate figures. For Lucas, who had based his Emperor character on Richard Nixon, that must have been a crushing blow.

And what of SDI? It kinda, morphed into a new system under the Clinton Administration, and Ronald Reagan had a ballistic missile defense test site named after him.

And no, it's not off the coast of Marin County.
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