Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Cynical Comment On SOPA/PIPA

I'm feeling a bit of pressure to talk about SOPA and PIPA here, but I don't have much I feel I can add to the conversation. Everyone, to a person, whose opinion I respect that I've heard weigh in on the subject has said some variation of "these are horrible, horrible bills and should be killed." I agree. Completely. Nothing new for me to add there.

You'll note, though, I'm not taking the symbolic step of blacking out my site. Why? Because I rarely get more than 200 visitors a day, and I'm pretty confident that my regular readers probably share my opinions on SOPA and PIPA already. Blacking my site won't raise even a modicum of awareness.

I'm very, very cynical about the US government. What you or I say and do doesn't matter on this. Yes, I've written my politicians to let them know I'm against SOPA and PIPA, but it won't do any good. Because they're only listening to people who give them lots of money. Congress only started wavering on SOPA/PIPA after several major companies started taking action against it. The hearings on the matter where almost all the technical and legal experts said this was a bad move? Didn't sway Congress a bit. It's only when large sums of money started getting involved from groups opposing SOPA/PIPA did they care.

My opinion isn't worth shit in Washington. My opinion coupled with the opinions of every other person with a blog isn't worth shit. The only thing that matters is where the money is coming from. That's why these bills were introduced in the first place and why they're being contested now. Whether or not these pass in their current, or even modified form, has nothing to do with what's right or just or fair or what impact that has on you or me; it has everything to do with who lines politicians' pockets with the most money.

I think these are bad bills and should be stopped. I've written letters to Google, Facebook, etc. to take action. But that letter-writing is just to keep my conscious clear. The blackouts today are symbolic; the only thing that really matters is who ponies up the most cash. The rest of us can't really do anything of any consequence except try to work with/around/through the results. That's why I haven't said anything publicly on the subject before, and why I'm not going dark today.

6 comments:

Matthew E said...

I disagree on just one point of this, and that is that you and I speaking out is of no consequence. I believe that it is still worth doing, for this reason: if we all figure, hey, nobody's listening so why bother, and keep our mouths shut, things will get so much worse.

They, the powers that be, they want us to sit down and shut up. Let's not give them what they want.

K. said...

I agree with Matthew. Think of all the movements that would have died an early death if people thought their voices had little consequence.

Matt K said...

I will "third" the other comments. For all my own pessimism, I don't think it's quite as bad as you describe.

Nearly. And, politics being a complicated overlapping mosaic of lots of issues and sub-issues, we rarely see a clear-cut case of a big-money interest pushing for some measure or other in the face of clear popular opposition.

But, even making allowances for some politicians willing to ram through career-ending legislation because they count on its corporate sponsors rewarding them with a lobbyist job, e.g., I'm pretty sure that most pols want to keep the job they have, and at least a majority will usually cave in to a sufficiently loud message from the electorate. (Or else will be turned out of office and replaced by those who will.)

In no way will I argue that "the system still works, after all." The system is badly broken. But I think it's exaggerating to suggest that it's entirely nonfunctional, 100% of the time.

Sean Kleefeld said...

Man, I really wish I could be less pessimistic about this. Honestly. I don't think any of these politicians are evil, per se, but I simply do not see any evidence -- have NEVER seen any evidence -- of their doing anything that doesn't serve their own decidedly personal self-interests. Not in my lifetime at any rate.

I would argue that the system is only not entirely broken in the sense that some of us accidentally and/or unintentionally receive some benefit as a side-effect of something designed for a corporation or wealthy individual.

And there is no such thing as "career-ending legislation". Newt Gingrich originally left office because he was PROVEN GUILTY OF ETHICS VIOLATIONS! By people with a pretty low bar for ethics in the first place! But not only is he back running for President, but that issue is apparently just a minor concern for most people.

So, yes, I'm cynical about all this. I just have absolutely zero evidence that anything other than money is involved here.

Matthew E said...

I don't think it's just money. I think it's also power and elitism. I think that the 0.01% hate and resent that the rest of us can do stuff on the internet that they don't own, whether there's a dime in it or not.

Anyway, I'm roughly as pessimistic as you, but the proper response to all that is not to surrender.

Sean Kleefeld said...

This shit right here? This is why I'm so cynical.