The OF Blog: In protest of ineffectual protests, I'm leaving the lights on

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In protest of ineffectual protests, I'm leaving the lights on

The older I get, the more cynical I've become about a few matters.  Much as I have disdain for the possible ramifications of the SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act), this notion of "going dark" (or having a website "down" or not updating for a day) strikes me more as an ineffectual gesture than perhaps just simply calling for people to flood the phonelines, Facebook walls, Twitter accounts, and email inboxes of those local Representatives and Senators that have indicated possible support for the provisions in this proposed law that would damage more than foreign pirating websites.  Something tells me that 99.99% of those who are debating this bill will never be aware of even a Wikipedia "going dark," so perhaps it might be better to just organize in a more effective way and just lobby the hell out of those wavering senators?

In the meantime, I'll be working on two reviews, checking my email, and perhaps send an actual email in protest rather than posturing and pretending that's such a great thing to do.  After all, the revolution won't be televised...nor will it occur by having a few, minor symbolic protests that will not get the attention of those who decide these things.  Maybe it'd be best if you put actual money where your mouths are and donate to those lobbying against it?  After all, $5 will certainly be better than 0.00001% of the populace being aware that you "went dark" for a single day.


Angelo said...

Larry, before asking people to do something about SOPA, we must raise their awareness about SOPA and make them care.

I gues that when people try to log in in facebook or go search something on wikipedia and don't find the sites, will wonder why and be alarmed.

Lsrry said...

Or they won't be aware at all because they don't use the web as much as some think they do. That's the Achilles' Heel in all this, the ones who take symbolic steps without realizing that the vast majority of those who do anything online are like my 65 and 62 year-old parents, who think only about checking a Facebook status or sending an occasional email. They will see the "Online Piracy" part of the bill and think it's a good thing because nothing is reaching them but a one-day "blackout" that they very well might miss or think it's because their access is down.

Furthermore, being someone who remembers the occasional cries of "they're going to enact fees on emails!" over the past 15 years, it's a bit hard to not think of the boy crying wolf or someone yelling fire in a theater. I think the best thing those who are already aware could do is help funnel millions into the already-existing lobbying groups on this rather than making what to many will appear to be hyberbolic statements. Having been around the block a little bit and having seen similar outcries over the past 15 years, it really is hard to get outraged this time. C'est la vie.

tim said...

When it comes to protests like this, normally I would agree with you.
Except this time, the threat of 'going dark' by major websites has actually worked. The three members of Congress who introduced the bill have already withdrawn their support for SOPA in its current form, and this seems to be directly related to the actions of these companies and many of the people who use those sites.
This is from Mother Jones:

That said, I am glad you are open for business!

Lsrry said...

True, throwing their weight around has helped, but I wonder if it were more due to certain other corporations that donate millions whispering in the ears of lawmakers than anything else. That's what I suspect is the case. Regardless, I am glad there is reconsideration on their part, as I do believe a revised bill will pass. It'd be nice if it is a good one that balances protection and information access.

I just hope I don't have to endure any more episodes of social media overload on this issue. It really has deadened me to it to see the discourse watered down to 140 characters or less.

Ben Godby said...

This reminds me of the criticism of the Occupy movement that goes, "You're drinking coffee! You can't possibly expect me to take you seriously!" Not only is all action political by its very nature; capitalistic representative democracy is by its nature fundamentally more affectable by providing and withholding services/exchange value than participating in the sham we call "rule by the people." As you've aptly pointed out, individuals don't matter in democracy - only the majority does. Therefore, we rely on institutions like the ones "striking" today to send messages to the resident overlords.

Lsrry said...

I agree to an extent, but I should note that I'm influenced by neo-Marxist cultural interpretations of these events. I suspect a wild card in this is that it's mostly the affluent middle class and tech-reliant businesses that are up in arms while the other segments of American society are much more passive because it doesn't affect them much, if at all.

Liviu said...

Wikipedia kindly gives your local representative and your 2 state senators contacts today when inputting your zip code and I sent a respectful email to both the MI senators to strongly protest this censorship attempt.

After all 2012 is an election year and I definitely plan to vote in November. So I agree with Larry that the best response is flood the senators with emails and/or calls as they are considerably more powerful than the House members, and I applaud Wikipedia for making it really easy today.

Lsrry said...

Yeah, that inclusion is what makes the Wikipedia "black out" a bit more tolerable than the others, as there is a link to the people who make the decisions. I would just note that one-day protests don't tend to do too well, so it might take several days of calls/emails and money donated to lobbying groups that are urging the Senate and House to revise the bills.

That being said, representative democracy does depend upon vigilance in more than just protecting Pirate Bay ;)

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