Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to Actually Protest Something

Since someone decided to make today the day to protest SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, and internet censorship in general, I felt like I should do something… but I’m not going along with the “blackout.”

For one thing, the way to get the word out isn’t to remain silent for a day (or even loud for a day). Seriously… think for just a second about what people are proposing: there is a problem, and they think the solution is to stop using tools that spread information for a day…

No, that’s not how you get things done, my fellow freedom of speech advocates. It’s an amusing gesture, and hopefully it works well as a PR stunt, but a voluntary blackout won’t change much.

I support all forms of free speech, even screaming “Fire” in a crowded theater (we ought to be able to civilly evacuate without trampling people like animals… plus, with online piracy, theaters aren’t that crowded anymore). However, people should fight this sort of thing by speaking up, not silencing certain corners of the internet for a day (and too be fair, many are).

I think the best way to fight this is to boycott products by companies who support censorship. I’ve done this for years regarding many issues, including free speech, and I have a long list of places I won’t shop (like Wal-Mart) or brands I won’t buy (like Dixie Cups or Brawny paper towels) because I don’t want my money to going to certain types of people. It’s really my own personal thing, and I’m not going to advocate on behalf of my own choices, but where you spend your money matters, and if people did this in a large group over a period of time, you would be surprised at the effect.

If you really want to hit censors where it hurts, you need to aim for their wallet. For example, here is a list of the 358 companies who support SOPA. If you actually want to send a message that we don’t want censorship, you need to send that message to the censors by hurting their bottom line and not buying their products.

Personally, I’m not worried. On all issues of alarmism, I am an optimist. I find it to be a very tenable position to take against all those who run around like Chickenlittle, clucking about how the sky is falling. Catastrophe is rarely right around the corner, and when a large group of people think they see it coming, I can be almost assured that it is not. Disaster almost always comes quietly and unannounced, usually disguised as an old friend.

The freedom we have come to know and love on the internet is not going to disappear, that much I know. It may become illegal, it may move underground, but it will always be there, lurking in the deepest recesses of non-US servers. Just as the drug war has not made drugs disappear, no censorship bill will make free speech a thing of the past.

There will be more innocent victims of a misused legal system than there already are if bills like SOPA pass, and that’s really what I oppose in these sorts of things. However, there’s no real danger of a blacked out internet. Even those in China have found numerous ways around their nation’s Great Firewall, a measure I don’t expect in America. You just have to ask yourself: do you honestly think people won’t be able to outsmart the government?

I hope none of this bullshit legislation passes, but when something like it does one day (and I’m confident it will, eventually… there’s too much money behind it to go ignored), know that there will be plenty of time to attack and remove a harmful measure before the whole world crumbles around us.

I will say this in support of the events today: I like this spirit of anti-censorship. While I doubt this protest will accomplish anything in its own right, I really hope it brings the issue to the attention of those who will act.


  1. My reaction was initially the same as yours. But then some of these sites have merely had a pop-up message encouraging people to write their congress people, with access to the site more-or-less in place. Which yeah, that works. And it works so well, I'm surprised people don't do that with other issues that need urgent attention. Letters to congress aren't the only thing that can be done (as you mentioned above), but it is good to get the public more involved in politics for once.

    1. I certainly wouldn't ask anyone to stop what they're doing. It's not annoying, by any means (almost like a secular holiday, in a way). Rather, I just hope people don't think, "Yay, I did something, we beat this thing!" and then forget about it tomorrow. I'm pretty confident it will raise more awareness than it will instill a false sense of accomplishment, though.

      I wonder what would have happened if people were as outraged about indefinite detention as they are about losing access to free media.

  2. The thing is, we didn't just shut down. We posted links for more information and encouraged people to sign petitions asking representatives to vote 'no.' And it's already had an effect. So far, three co-sponsors have already withdrawn support for the bills because of the blackout.

    1. When the next round of anti-piracy bills are introduced, hopefully people contact their congressmen again. Not sure the blackout itself mattered, though.

    2. Not sure the blackout itself mattered, though.

      Because Bret Alan can never outright admit he was wrong. Uh, yeah, the blackout on major sites such as Wikipedia (Bret Alan knows more about how to protest then they do, you see) brought no attention to the issue leading to the stalling of SOPA and PIPA in Congress.

      The intellectually dishonest fool fails again in another pathetic attempt to be contrary just for the sake of being contrary.

      One point I agree with, internet censorship attempts by Hollywood and its filthy allies will be back.

    3. I can only hope you decide to protest Ron Paul's eventual defeat with a day of silence, Nikk. In fact... why stop at just one day?

  3. Every responsible internet user should make a firm stand against internet censorship.


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