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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

What gets missed in the SOPA debate…

Rick Santorum is hardly my favorite human being. He is a representative of a brand of “Conservatism” that is abhorrent to me. A religious zealot who preaches that we need good Conservative leadership, and then proceeds to advance radicalized ideas of imposition of theocratic controls, promote monopolist interests, and all in the name of “safety” and “freedom.”

In a post SOPA Blackout world, that many across the Web didn’t get–I point to the folks who misinterpreted Drew Curtis’ “White Out” as support and obviously didn’t actually read the whole statement or even click the linked video that simply read: You can’t. It’s evil–and I realize that during the discussion, some things about the bill really have been glossed over.

For Lulz, here’s Rick’s defense of SOPA as framed that freedom of speech is too free and against good American values…

Crossposted to The Suicidal Cactus Hour.  

First off, let’s just get Rick’s misapprehensions about freedom of speech out of the way.  That already disqualifies him from my vote in any, way, shape or form.

Free speech isn’t about speech that is easy. It’s not about speech that is agreeable. Freedom of speech is about speech that annoys you. Offends you. Pisses you off.

Most of our freedoms are about the right to piss other people off.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. Freedom to assemble. All about pissing off people. Especially people in power. Especially about pissing off the majority. It is to guarantee the freedom of folks to be contentious, inappropriate, and above all, to disagree with those around them.

That doesn’t mean the freedom from being disagreed with, rather, it is a protection to be able to disagree, and not have the full weight of the government come down upon you, because someone has the ear of a Congresscritter or Governor or other member of the state. American freedoms aren’t about the right to be free of hurt feelings and to be free from argument, they are about preserving those arguments, and allowing the tide of public opinion to turn on that very public.

Freedom of speech, freedom of religion are about keeping the state out of public arguments. About keeping the government the Hells out of such things, and letting people decide for they own damn selves.

Freedom of speech has never been about the freedom from butthurt. Our entire nation was based on the premise that here you could be as big a dick to folks who piss you off, and they can be as big a dicks as they want to you, and the government can’t back either, but let you have all the knock down, drag out, public brawls about issues, and when the dust settles, the government treats you both the same, and let the majority vote their way about policy, so long as it doesn’t violate some basic principles of fairness.

We can’t, even if we have a majority, vote this a “Christian nation.” We can’t, even if we have a majority, tell folks that they can’t belong to an organization that hasn’t broken any laws, but pisses folks off by its existence.

The sad fact is, some folks think that our freedoms are freedoms to protect them from being disagreed with, when they are in, in the spirit of this nation, the freedom to disagree. Loudly. To sing it to the Heavens, to tell it the mountains, to whisper it to the rivers. To disagree, and piss other folks off.

That essential premise is what this nation is based upon, and it sets our national character. We are a rambunctious, fractious, argumentative, boisterous republic. Our national character was set when we told the East India to stop colluding with our government to fix prices and stifle competition. Our very Bill of Rights is about preserving that spirit, and if that pisses you off: good. That’s the f*cking point.

Now that we have those particulars out of the way, let’s get onto the meat of SOPA. Look at Tipper Gore. Democrats and Republicans both run the gamut on this. And they’re both wrong on the issue of infringing freedom of speech for the same reason. It is about control. It is about limiting freedom in the name of safety. Safety for our children. Safety for our friends and political fellow travelers. It is about trading a little freedom for safety. In this case, it’s actually worse, because it is less about safety than convenience. It is about making things easier to manipulate and control by limiting what folks can bring to bear against you.

One of the things that has been coming up, be it Santorum, be in Gingrich, or a lot of others, is that their words come back to haunt them. Their own words. Part and parcel of a new defense against this, is trying to classify those words put out into the public, can be restricted under the aegis of copyright. It’s not entirely new, but it is a growing sort of concern, when you see companies that record said words–our news agencies–as considering their content as protected from being repeated. Quotation as infringement. SOPA and PIPA are part and parcel of an attempt to gag quotation. Not just muzzle things that offend folks. Not just keep you from the concept of fair use, but an end run around folks who dislike the idea that their own words come back to haunt them.

It’s not about just infringement, but also about controlling the digital record, which is increasingly becoming a sort of Akashic Record of every politician’s positions. If you only appear on friendly networks, only appear on record with those who will support and then ask for those who quote you to be expunged, you control message. Controlling message is what politicians desire the most, especially in an age when your words fly into the ether, and folks can compare and contrast. Directly. Themselves.

That is the real danger with SOPA. It is an obtuse way to control message. You quote someone who appears on Fox? You’d best have permission to use said clip. Don’t? You can get your message shut down, without so much as a hearing. It is not just about copyrighted material like movies or TV shows, or books, but about controlling what content you can use as ammunition against someone and controlling the records themselves.

This is real danger. Not that you can have your site yanked because you used an image that Time Warner wanted a penny for, but because it can be used as a bludgeon to dun folks who dare to use quotations that would show hypocrisy, and allow politicians to continue to be hoist on their own petard, and their own words.

We saw it in the last election cycle, when Palin tried clumsily to try to classify her words as protected from being repeated. With SOPA/PIPA, you will have to contend with a lot more hoops to repeat things. It’s not about being PC, but about controlling message.

As much as SOPA/PIPA is being touted, it is part of a multi-staged approach. The extension of copyright is likewise another avenue. It is about control of media, and absolute control.

I’m a member of the NWU. Part of the issues that the writer’s union faces right now, are the control of contracts and control of distribution. We are fast approaching a point where authors won’t need distributors to get their stuff out. Kindles, and the like, we are approaching a time when authors will be able to distribute their work without publishing houses. Can form their own distribution networks, do their own PR, and otherwise bypass the model that we have today.

Large publishing houses, and the same for large film distributors realize this. Contracts are increasingly draconian about work already in the hands of those houses and more, they are getting even tetchier about distribution and who actually owns those rights.

Authors grant rights to those houses. For a percentage of the sales. When you don’t need those houses to publish, it’s going to be a much hairier market. And folks realize this, and what we are seeing here, is a way to combat that, and head it off at the pass. Especially, if you stay small–and thus don’t have access to the hordes on Intellectual Property lawyers who will look for anything looking like the barest hint of infringement, and SOPA/PIPA are great tools for that. To keep folks with intellectual property on the reservation.

It’s not being talked about in this fashion. It’s being discussed in much smaller terms, and that is, in part, because the companies that own the larger media houses don’t want folks to realize the real shot off the bow for intellectual property that it is.

Besides the control of message for politicians–which is a way to get them on board–but all out assault on keeping authors of intellectual property from straying and forming their own entities. Be that with Creative Commons. Be that forming their own online publishing co-ops. Forming their own independent studios and distribution channels.

SOPA/PIPA are just part of an effort to keep the middlemen in charge, when they are creaking towards obsoleteness.

What bugs me about this issue is that as a bill to decrease piracy, it will actually not do a lot. There are work arounds for the folks who are into piracy as a means to defraud and make money for it. This won’t prevent folks from selling you bootleg DVDs in the least.

What it does, and what isn’t discussed, is pretty much insure that intellectual property creators will be forced to stay under the fold of larger houses for protection, distribution, and stay relatively docile as the technology is addressed.

It is a massively anticompetitive effort, and that is not really discussed in this debate. Because porn and people getting booted for snatching pics of LOLcats is more fun, but at the heart of this matter, is a stab at anything resembling organization by artists and intellectual property creators coming together to form their own houses/collectives, and market their work directly.

The establishment is slow. Scott Kurtz addressed this recently with his strip with the nice folks at the National Cartoonist Society finally recognizing webcomics after how many years? The establishment has been trying to consider e-commerce as both new and exciting, and with the same models as print. And they aren’t. Much as the music industry was slow to recognize the digital commerce applications for music. In the interim, lots of folks leaped and skipped across the landscape as folks realized the potential for market outreach, far and away beyond what the suits who are invested in old models were contemplating.

SOPA/PIPA is a measure that realizes that potential, and wants to hate it out of existence.