Thursday, January 19, 2012

Please Try to Pay Attention

This post is not about SOPA. I am against it but as a non-American all I can do is be angry. What this post is about is the people complaining about SOPA. My twitter feed, RSS reader and regular news sites have been full to breaking point with blackouts and rallying cries from gaming press, tech blogs and general internet types trying to get everyone to kick up enough of a stink to get the bill quashed. This is political activism and democracy at its finest, the common man making his voice heard to change public policy.

Only it's not, is it? It's the common man making his voice heard to prevent a change to public policy that no one in the public seems to want. Which leads us to ask why the change is being made. If no individual thinks that the specific measures or even general principles of the bill are a good idea, how did somebody get the idea to draft it in the first place and then garner enough support that there is some chance of it passing? That's easy: big corporate groups like the RIAA have spent a pile of cash that would make small countries envious on buying enough politicians to get their bill introduced. There is maybe, maybe one guy in the senate or congress who knows about the extent of online piracy and thinks that a bill like SOPA is the best solution available. Everybody else took the money they were offered by lobbyists and promised to vote accordingly. For some reason this isn't called bribery, it's called the political process. I'm only passingly familiar with the Jack Abramoff case, but what's truly scandalous about it (to someone outside of America at least) is not the illegal things he did but all the unethical and corrupt things he did that were legal. Things that are still legal.

And now all the people who blank out when they hear people shouting and complaining about the role of lobbyists and the disproportionate voice money has are suddenly political activists. People who shrugged and said "yeah, that's politics" if someone mentioned Super PACs or Supreme Court decisions are outraged that their favourite sites might get shut down. Maybe, just maybe, the time to pay attention was when somebody was carefully changing the system so that buying votes became not only standard procedure but also somehow regarded as the way things should be.

SOPA is not some rogue piece of legislation in a system that otherwise work tirelessly for the betterment of society, it is just the first piece of exploitative, corrupt, cynical legislation to impact people who didn't think they needed to care about how the country they live in is being run. I can understand if your attitude to the political system is if it ain't broke don't fix it; on the other hand you should probably have checked occasionally to see if someone was trying to break it, because now it's going to be a right bastard to fix. And I don't think a dubstep remix of The Macarena is going to get the job done.