It’s the weekend after the largest activism I’ve ever seen from my generation in all of my 23 years, and one thing has been weighing on my mind for the past couple days… In short, yes tech companies had a huge hand in gaining opposition support against SOPA/PIPA, but isn’t it about time we spoke about the democracy in action we’ve seen over the past month or more?
Continually, I keep seeing articles across the web about how Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and others stopped the legislation. Granted, this is particularly truer with more traditional news outlets than it is with tech outlets and the true Internets, but this is terribly concerning to me. This heavily tilted attitude in traditional media simplifies democracy into a fight between two lobbyist powers, the Internet world and the MPAA world. This shows how broken the system is. Instead of talking about the activism of millions upon millions of United States citizens that hate this legislation, traditional media is demonstrating a fight between enterprises. “But enterprises can’t vote,” you say. Well the sad truth is –and this is demonstrated by where the media attention is going– they actually have more power in the republic of the United States than citizens…if the citizens are inactive that is.
You can not remain indifferent to the power of the “lobbying powers that be,” when clearly these fights in congress have been shaved down into two corners; the tech startups with their supporters and the MPAA with their supporters. The core distinction that we keep witnessing in the press is that the story of SOPA/PIPA is framed just that way. But here is the real truth: the activism against these awful threats to the net was started by the people and for the benefit of the people. This was a grassroots effort started by two non-profit organizations, Demand Progress and Fight For the Future. This fight was started by the people and was fueled into the spotlight by the huge tech powers.
I’m not arguing that they didn’t have massive influence in this democratic process, but in the end they only provided information and awareness about the bill. They didn’t stuff congress’s pockets with cash and they didn’t rely on taking their best friends in congress out for drinks like the MPAA. No. They raised awareness about the bill and its dangers. Then they enabled the people to contact their representatives and voice their opinions. Final numbers vary, but 10 million people signed petitions against the bill, 3 million emailed their congressmen, and over 100,000 people called their representative. WE, the people, stopped this bill, not Google and not Wikipedia. I’m terribly grateful for their support and influence, but we were educated, we were organized, and we were ACTIVE. This effort should be applauded as one of the greatest demonstrations that democracy can still work when the people are active in the democratic process. Let’s not forget that lesson here.