A great many sites are blacked out today to protest PIPA and SOPA, two pieces of legislation that would destroy the internet as we know it. I think opposition is absolutely the correct response; the internet is the perhaps the most significant invention since… well, since the computer itself, and since the printing press before that, and this legislation would harm it irreparably.
However, I do have to make some comments about all this. Yes, SOPA/PIPA is a disaster, a significant free speech issue, and could affect the technological development of humanity. I’m all for protesting it. However – what’s more important, a website being taken down or people being tortured to death by your own government? What about the President of the United States claiming the authority to have any individual worldwide killed without any form of due process? What about indefinite detention without trial? Yes, it’s nasty that they can take down your site. But they have already given themselves the authority to break down your door, kidnap you from your home, fly you to another country, put you in a dark prison and torture you until you are dead, with no oversight, no chance of legal representation, and without any evidence being required. This has already happened to a significant number of people, almost all of whom have no connection to the mostly-invented bogeyman that is al-Qaeda. There are prisons (plural – it’s a lot more than just Guantanamo) right now where these things are happening, where innocent people are locked up, physically and psychologically damaged by torturers working – directly or indirectly – for our governments.
Furthermore: where do you think this legislation came from? Do you think it’s just a misunderstanding, something that happened because the politicians in charge don’t understand the internet? Of course not. This is yet another step in the long process of capital (you know, the 1%) asserting political power over our lives. It has to be fought, yes, but that fight is utterly meaningless if we don’t also fight the larger system behind these specific instances of internet censorship, which is also the same system behind the open wars in the Middle East, the secret wars in South America, the corporate crimes in Africa, the economic genocide in Europe, and many other global problems.
SOPA/PIPA may be defeated, but if that happens it will mostly be because large internet-based corporations opposed it. Do you really think any political party cares in the slightest about what you think? Obama has proven pretty conclusively that apart from PR, the Democrats and the Republicans are puppets for the same interests. And the same is true of the major parties in every other country, too – just look at the so-called Social Democrats in Greece. It’s unavoidable. We live in a system based on profit, and those who make the most profit have the most power, which they can use to increase their profits, giving them more power, and so on, until everything is in the hands of a tiny amount of people.
Do you think this is just random socialist ranting? Well, think again. All of this – wars, assassinations, censorship – will continue to happen. They will continue to get worse, in fact, as the system collapses and the elites find themselves forced to go to bigger and bigger extremes to hold on to their positions. So please fight SOPA/PIPA, but don’t stop there, because they’ll come back – and because things much worse than either are already here.