In my more cynical moods, I think that Westerners’ complacency in political and economic matters and their comfort levels with life in general will make their recent victories against internet censorship mere footnotes to the history of State encroachment into our online lives. In other words, lawmakers, lobbyists, and other parasites in the professional criminal class are already thinking of new ways to pass internet censorship bills that will be less noteworthy and less egregious than SOPA and PIPA, and I think most people will be too protested out to raise much of a fuss. If their cable and internet service continues to work and only gets more expensive gradually, sports continue to be exciting and widely viewable, movies and video games remain as engaging and colorful as ever, and people can continue to live a generally comfortable, entertained life, they won’t care what freedoms fade away and what destruction of potential wealth the State wreaks.
For example, Congressman Darrell Issa has proposed the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) act, which Google, Twitter, Facebook, and other powerful internet companies endorse. To the extent that it takes powers away from the federal government and nullifies previous laws, I applaud it. But I don’t trust 99% of politicians at all, and I distrust 100% of the rent-seeking corporate–State system of governance that we have. I don’t think either would allow a sustained defense of our online freedoms.
The U.S. government has already signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and the European Union will soon follow. A bill dubbed Ireland’s SOPA is soon to be enacted without a vote in its legislature. The FBI shut down MegaUpload.com and arrested four of its employees outside of the U.S.’s borders, in New Zealand (with cooperation with foreign authorities, of course). Universal Music Group (UMG) steals people’s music and takes down their original, non-pirating, legally compliant YouTube videos with the power and privilege it has gained from its collusion with the Imperial Federal Government.
What have people’s protests done to stop governments from accruing these restrictive, violating, wasteful, wealth-destroying powers? What has “democracy” done, for that matter? What will any amount of protesting, voting, petitioning, or lobbying do to stop the future encroachments that are guaranteed to be tried this year, and the next, and the next?
The problem with Rep. Issa’s OPEN act is that the internet and the realm of IP/copyright need fewer laws, not more. Repealing old laws like DMCA, renouncing ACTA, and doing something to prevent the MPAA and RIAA from influencing law in any way would actually help. How in the world can we accomplish that in this day and age? Most liberals will never vote for a civil-libertarian congresshuman, senator, or president who also has libertarian-ish economic stances, and most conservatives refuse to vote for anyone who isn’t an authoritarian, paternalist warmonger (i.e., State worshipper). (Observe the extent to which the Tea Party has been diluted from a position of strongly advocating actually smaller government to “well, lower taxes and fewer business regulations would be preferable.” At least, that’s my perception of them.)
I also applaud the Occupy protesters and the SOPA protesters, who made millions if not billions of people more aware of their issues and sympathetic to their causes, and in the latter case, who actually seem to have influenced policy for the good.
I don’t think it will last long, unfortunately. Our ardor and stamina in defending our rights just don’t exist. Our quality of life will have to be severely, immediately, and clearly impacted by a law for widespread protests and backlash to defend us against our corrupt political system for long. There will be another SOPA/PIPA, and it will pass the House and Senate and be signed by the president, probably President Obama. It won’t be egregious and alarming to most people, but it will be bad enough. Liberal and conservative voters will pat themselves on the back for being reasonable, realistic, and bi-partisan and defending themselves against the horror of SOPA, and the professional criminal class will chuckle to themselves saying, “Stupid, gullible SOPA protesters. That’ll teach ’em what standing up to our authority will get them.”