Today, thousands and thousands of web sites, including Reddit, Wikipedia, Wired, and Google went “on strike” to protest the possible enactment of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act by the U.S. Congress. PIPA is up for a vote in the Senate on January 24, 2012.
While I was a proud participant of today’s action, forgive me if I say out loud that it probably won’t do a damn bit of good. While we Internet users and netizens can protest with our web sites and make a lot of noise, the simple truth is that our Representatives and Senators don’t really listen to us voters. They listen to those who make it possible for them to get re-elected: the large campaign donors. The money trail for PIPA speaks volumes, as does the money trail for SOPA. One co-sponsor of PIPA, California Senator Barbara Boxer, received over half a million dollars from interest groups supporting this legislation. The interest groups opposing the legislation have given her campaign $400,000. If you were Senator Boxer, which side do you think is likely to give you more money in the future?
Our Congress enjoys a very low approval rating, less than 20%. This should not be surprising given that many of us believe that money buys results in Congress. Our political system is corrupted by the influence of money from donors. It may be legal, but the fact is that it creates huge problems for a nation with problems to solve. A perfectly good bill that would solve a problem but has a negative effect on moneyed interests will never see the light of day.
Now that we on the Internet have made our web sites go dark, emailed our people in Congress, and made phone calls to Congressional offices, it’s time for us to begin strategizing for the next move. It’s great to have protests, but we can’t let the people in Congress feel that the annoyance of a protest is all they have to worry about.
Please take a look at Rootstrikers for a plan of action. (Rootstrikers, by the way, comes from Henry David Thoreau, who noted that too many people attack a problem by striking at branches rather than at the root of the cause.)