The Stop Online Piracy Act comes with some serious red flags.
1. It comes with corporate sponsorship. Corporate sponsors have no business in the legislative process, and yet there they are, ubiquitous as ever. This particular piece of legislation is one more sign that corporate personhood is the worst thing the United States has introduced into law since Prohibition. Prohibition brought about organized crime in the United States. Corporate personhood has legalized crime.
While the link referred above has an extreme tone that undercuts the very points it’s trying to make, it also has an extensive list of the corporations sponsoring SOPA. Highlights include:
- NBC Universal
- Pfizer Inc. (now why would a pharmaceutical giant want free range censorship?)
- Burberry, Coach, Dolce & Gabanna, Coty Inc., Kate Spade, Revlon
- CVS , Rite Aid
- Harley-Davidson Motor Company
- Sony Corporation
- Dow Chemical Company
- McGraw-Hill Companies
- Walt Disney Company (no surprise there, they’re the source of nearly all copyright manipulation that has happened in the history of the United States)
I would love it if a more expert blogger might delve into the number of “psychological associate” companies included in the list.
2. The proposal violates the 14th Amendment without question. While some argue it violates the 1st Amendment, there is too much wiggle room on that – government enforcement personnel aren’t PREVENTING you from saying what you need to say, they’re just going to yank your site after you do say something a corporation doesn’t like or after you link to something a corporation doesn’t like. The biggest problem with the amendment is that there is NOT a check-and-balance. This protest is, ultimately, citizens engaging in their end of the check-and-balance system US government relies on.
3. There is actually a proposal for a reasonable alternative, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act, that has gone virtually ignored. The key to this is that pressure is not placed on the judicial system to enforce already established copyright protections. Instead, responsibility goes to the International Trade Commission (already set up for this stuff!) and they do an investigation of problematic web sites. It allows for due process and everything!
Why SOPA but not the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA?)
It’s worth mentioning that while there is a massive hue and cry over SOPA, there are objectors who have brought up the question about why we are not so vividly protesting President Obama’s shiny new power to retain prisoners indefinitely.
The reasons are actually simple. If you are a judgmental/sanctimonious sort, you will likely see these reasons as a moral failing on a grand scale. I encourage you to check these tendencies if you are blessed to be aware you have them: it’s that very mentality that eventually kills progress on a given cause. Consider this as a way of informing a new potential roadmap for activism.
1. People will act on what is likely to affect them directly. In the book the Information Diet, author Clay A. Johnson rightly points out that US citizens have become so overfed on a diet of confirmation bias and news that in fact does NOT impact their lives in a direct way, that most respond with apathy until there is direct interference. It’s very possible for me to interpose myself between Fat Chic and a determined shopper, to get the message to the shopper of “Hey, you need to do something about this if you want to shop or be entertained.” I do not have the means, however, to directly impose myself between a military official and an unjustly detained prisoner. I have a high likelihood in such a scenario of becoming an indefinitely detained prisoner. This has no appeal.
2. The best activists do it for themselves. (This was pointed out in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.) I am a feminist because I am a woman, and I am continually appalled at the disrespect I am expected to tolerate just because of my gender, for example. When I support causes for groups that I am not a member of, it is because when my personal friends have better lives, we all have more ease in socializing; racism, sexism and homophobia screw with my ability to have a good time with my friends. Ergo, I am a vocal ally and advocate in related causes because the opposition harshes my mellow.
3. Not everyone agrees that the NDAA bill is in the wrong. It’s not necessarily hardcore, let’s-monitor-your-pants Republicans that are supporting it. There’s some serious crap that has gone down with Pakistan, and just as the US depersonalizes people outside the country, the US in turn gets highly depersonalized. That depersonalization is the key to anything from domestic abuse to international terrorism. Let’s revisit the concept of confirmation bias: when we already have an opinion, we have a tendency to filter out information that doesn’t support it. There is some well-researched information on adding this “indefinite detention” easter egg to the bill on both sides of the issue, but there’s very little out there that gives a whole picture. Obama never advertised himself to be anti-war, but for him to allow himself such an extreme power suggests that there’s much more to the picture than your favorite news source is willing/able to cover.
4. The bill gets revisited annually, because it’s a military budget bill. This does not fix the problem of the human rights violation, but it may be a factor in the low/apathetic response from the citizenship. Also, it does mean that those with loved ones that are detained can keep trying this year, and know they will have a good opportunity to keep trying to get it overturned next year.
5. We the people have been information overloaded into apathy. SOPA is different because it gets between us and what feeds our apathy; by cutting the “drug feed” we are waking people up. There are so many causes that need our attention, and all the clamoring causes a sort of scattered shut-down because so many of us have convinced ourselves the only way to be “good” is to support “all” the causes, while supporting the causes that have the most meaning to us and that affect our own lives the most directly are often cut short of key support because we have convinced ourselves that this is somehow self-serving, on the mistaken and unbalanced theory that ALL self-serving is “bad.”
There is one more thing worth mentioning that links SOPA and the NDAA together: if SOPA were to pass, the ability of the people to speak out against prisoner retention and any other violation of civil rights would be exponentially reduced, reduced to a smaller reach than all citizens had even in the 1960s. Information distribution has changed drastically, and it would be harder to get a message out, organize, or raise awareness. Yes, those of us who have regular Internet access are a privileged class. Poverty in the United States is still, on a comparative scale, some of the most comfortable poverty in the world (this does not mean to imply poverty is EVER comfortable.) We can have fingers shaken at us for simply having this privilege – and some do, using Internet access to do so- but we can also use the tools of our privilege to protect our own rights, making our modems an additional right filed under the “right to bear arms.” Computers and communication can also be used as our tools of self-protection, of protest, and even of dealing with a corrupt government. SOPA, and its protest, is something we can address with the power we have immediately onhand. NDAA is something we have to address leveraging the power that those of us who voted entrusted to someone else.
Therein lies the difference; in SOPA, we have more direct power than we do in the NDAA.