Friday, January 20, 2012

When Outlaws Hold the Moral Edge

It was not a fun week for a cloister of Democrats who like to think of themselves as liberals - Rep. John Conyers, Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Patrick Leahy. In the week of furor involving the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate, the only Democrats preserving some shred of independent thinking were President Obama and Nancy Pelosi. The Leahy-Franken-Conyers crew ended up looking like shills for the big media barons, particularly the industry associations Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Some people just didn't know when to stop digging their own holes. When Republican Rep. Lamar Smith read the writing on the wall and pulled SOPA on Jan. 20, Leahy complained loudly that he was being forced to do the same with PIPA due to populist thugs. Former Sen. Christopher Dodd, who now serves as a cheap-suit shill for MPAA, called the Internet blackout initiated by Wikipedia, Reddit, Google, et. al. on January 18 "immature and silly." Of course, thuggish comments were not limited to present and future members of Congress. Hollywood unions, including Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild, came out with strong pro-SOPA statements on Jan. 19, proving that they are not unions of a traditional sort, but company unions beholden to the large studios.

The news media tried to quell the interesting series of events on Jan. 19 when the Justice Department pulled off a multinational raid on the business of Megaupload (which may have been a White House attempt to appease Hollywood), and Anonymous followed up the raid with its broadest assault yet on the computer systems of 11 federal agencies, nine film studios, and the offices of MPAA and RIAA. Let's face it, Congress caved on Jan. 20 by withdrawing SOPA and PIPA because all hell was breaking loose.

So-called liberal members of Congress were grumbling Jan. 20 because independent citizen-activists of all types caught them with their hands in the media-giant corporate cookie jar, and they couldn't easily give their actions a veneer of do-gooderism. They were shilling for Hollywood, just like Chris Dodd. If Dodd can get George Mitchell to serve as a mediator between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, it's possible an intellectual property act can be drafted which does not fundamentally destroy commerce on the web, though I am skeptical.

But something else is bothering representatives of both political parties. In emails, phone calls, and correspondence to representatives, constituents (many of whom were also supporters of the Occupy movement) let it be known that, given the choice, they would prefer the outlaw behavior of Megaupload or Anonymous to the daily way of doing business of elected representatives. I wrote a letter to Dodd in which I stated that nihilism against a corporate-government infrastructure is to be preferred over the government itself, even if it is destructive in nature.

Obviously, when we get into destructiveness of the Anonymous or Black Bloc variety, we have to be careful. It's like applauding the work of Somali pirates, invisible hackers, Bonnie & Clyde, or gangsta rappers, merely because they're disrupting the system. Even nihilism can have its moral, amoral, and immoral variants. But the fake liberals in Congress should have gotten the message during the SOPA-PIPA debates - it's not just the lobbyist-authored bills we don't like, we don't like the entire government-corporate infrastructure you represent.


kevin said...

Hi Loring. I would like to see you do a long article on that other kind of piracy, long in fashion, but in the news again today. Data mining by Google, and others. For advertising???
Or for future darker purposes.


Loring Wirbel said...

Good idea! Lots going on this week, but I'll put this idea in the queue....