Thursday, January 19, 2012

Censorship, Freedom, Soapbox

I don't want this blog to be primarily a political soapbox, so I won't harp on this topic again at least until the next specific outrage. But I have my own two cents to say about the specific power grabs Hollywood is currently pursuing, and about the shift of power to the elite in general.

In the 1990s, the DMCA was enacted in the name of fighting "piracy". It was wrong, it was overreaching, and it was immediately abused. It remains so today. The discussion should be about how much of it to dismantle, not how to give those same for-profit actors even more power over a fundamentally democratic, peer-to-peer network.

In the broader picture, here on Earth, speech and money are not the same thing. Corporations and human beings are not the same thing. The discussions should be about how to protect speech from money, and humans from corporations, not how to grant human rights to non-human entities while denying them to humans.

The great equalizer in an alleged republic like ours is that every citizen has his vote, and his voice. But this has been overturned: the strength of any citizen's voice is now directly proportional to his wealth. If your individual ability to spend political money makes a blip on a scale populated by billionaires, then you've got a voice. If not, then you have only your vote, and in fact that will be influenced by the voices you're able to hear. The wealthy voices. The voices which can coerce an otherwise deadlocked government into supporting broad, unaccountable, no-due-process censorship. These are voices we should fear, avoid, or at least hear with the heaviest of skepticism.

But we don't.

We keep looking for the next quick fix, the next promise of competence in a pool of puppets, the next lie we wish were true. And we keep ignoring the truths we don't like. We respond to marketing better than we do to fact, maybe because it's more seductive, maybe because we're just plain stupid. In poetic and political terms, we deserve the government we're getting, because we did nothing to prevent it. The government I refer to is of course not made of senators and presidents and governors, it's made of CXOs and boardrooms of corporations, accountable not to voters, not to justice, not even to popular opinion, but to profit.

Perhaps I'm just old now (I'm certainly younger than the old white men making the claims and decisions that bother me so) but I no longer can reconcile the world I live in with the loudest voices within it. They seem alien and factually null. But they've got nearly all the power, and can seemingly co-opt anybody as necessary.

Well there's my two cents. I need to give my brain a break from this stuff, it's just too draining. I'll translate that into giving my (admittedly puny) readership a break too. If I've made you depressed, my advice is to read up on something awesome and optimistic for a while, for example NASA's newly-launched Mars Science Lab mission.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I've babbled about the rise of the wealthy and the corporate at great expense of the populous, a number of times. Well here it is again.

Today, myself and a few other folks who care about individual freedom are blacking out our websites in protest of some truly horrific stuff that our corporate overlords have in the pipeline, namely SOPA and PIPA.

(If this is new and/or confusing to you, there's another good article on slashdot.)

Watch the videos, read the commentary, and if you value anything about the internet as it exists today, voice your concern.

[edit: the following section is added years later, in November 2018.]

That last link is broken, but these battles continue.  The laws and acronyms have new names but all the same terrible ideas are still buzzing around.  Take a look here for some solid info on what's happening and what you can do about it:

I was on the fence about whether to add this link, since it has popup ads for VPN subscriptions (in addition to a section which also has affiliate links to sign up for such services) but there's real information to be found there, besmirched as it may be by commercialism.  VPN's are not a bad concept, of course, and in practical terms they're almost necessary now; I just hate that capitalism is doing its best to both destroy the internet and sell it back to us.