Wednesday, November 16, 2011


This article originally appeared in the 11.17.11 issue of Metroland

Back in the Spring I wrote about some extremely dangerous legislation that had been introduced in Congress. Well it’s still there and it’s crunch time. The legislation is called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House and PROTECTIP (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) in the Senate.

The bills give government and everybody else broad powers to create blacklists on the internet, to disable sites suspected of “engaging”, “enabling” or “facilitating” infringement, to force companies like Mastercard and Visa to stop servicing suspected sites, and to require your internet company to monitor your internet usage, to spy on you, and to throw you off the internet if it thinks you've been a bad boy or girl.

It’s insidious and dangerous. It will change, some say break, the internet as we know it, by turning the internet into a limited portal where you can’t do much more than buy what they want you to buy, and only from them, and to read only what they want you to read, and for a price. It’ll be like the internet in China, but worse.

I’m not exaggerating. Listen, anything that the goons from the RIAA and MPAA and the utterly fascist scumbags from the US Chamber of Commerce are going to the mat for should raise a flag. Remarkably, the Chamber of Commerce posted on its site that the law couldn’t possibly create a blacklist because the word “blacklist” doesn’t appear anywhere in the text of the bill. So there. Yes, they think we’re that stupid.

And maybe we are. The bills are backed by corporate and bi-partisan political might, justified by cooked and even made-up statistics. The bills appear to have the support of the Obama administration, given statements by administration officials and the clueless Joe Biden. As I write this on Wednesday morning, a House hearing is about to start, where Congressmen will hear from five witnesses speaking in favor of SOPA, and only one speaking against. That’s how House Republicans do things, you know, when they’re not waging war against women.

Supporters say that SOPA and PROTECTIP are patriotic bills designed to protect American jobs. Aren’t you sick of these clowns playing the jobs card? Censorship is good for jobs, hydrofracking is good for jobs, a police state is good for jobs, wars are good for jobs. Jobs uber alles. Enough!

And, remarkably or not, supporters are saying that despite the bills’ broad language, once enacted the law will only be used against real bad guys. Yeah right. These laws place huge power in corporate hands to police the internet in unprecedented ways. And to the Big Media companies, real “bad guys” include Google, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Flikr, etc etc etc. And Big Media will abuse the law, exploit its vagueness (you tell me what “engaging, enabling, or facilitating infringement" means! Go ahead! Try!), and blanket-bomb and destroy what has become the social norm and the cherished way of the world, the free internet.

As for the government, their use of the laws will be measured and rational? Really? You know, the old don’t worry about what the law actually says, you can trust us to do the right thing, because we’re the government?

Are you paying attention? Do you remember the exact same crap being said by government officials when the Patriot Act was passed? We need this law to protect us from foreign terrorists? Don’t worry, your civil liberties will be OK? And how did that work out? With the phone companies giving the Department of Homeland Security unlimited access to listen to your phone calls. With the Department of Homeland Security heading up the prosecution of domestic garden variety copyright infringers. THIS WEEK, WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY COORDINATING THE SYSTEMATIC POLICE ATTACKS ON OCCUPY SITES BECAUSE SPEAKING OUT ON GOVERNMENT ENABLED GREED, THE DESTRUCTION OF THE MIDDLE CLASS, AND UNPRECEDENTED INCOME DISPARITY WHILE CAMPING IN A PARK IS A THREAT TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY.

Sorry, didn’t mean to yell. Well, OK, I did mean to yell. This is important.

The time to act is now, citizens. I’d guess the House is hopeless, since it’s populated by Republican lemmings who all vote the way the Koch Brothers tell them to vote, and who are way too stupid or cynical or bought off to care that an open internet is a fundamentally conservative concept, and one that is critical for a functioning democracy. But contact your Representative anyway. Who knows, maybe someone will grow a conscience. And hammer the Senate. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who sometimes seems to be the only person in government who understands this stuff, is threatening to filibuster the bill. Tell Kristin and Chuck and get behind him.

There’s several places on the web where you can fill in your name, push a button, and let your representatives know where you stand on this. Go get ‘em.


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