The public won a great victory this week, and it ironically needed business to lead the charge. SOPA’s defeat is a boon for freedoms of press and of speech, yet it tellingly exposes the disenchantment of the general public.
SOPA was stripped of its “free enterprise” clothes. Internet users all around the country rallied against it, writing their congressional representatives and spreading the word through social media streams. Some 7,000 websites blacked-out to draw attention to the potential harm vague language allows. Perhaps providing this symbolic steroid to the apolitical masses, anti-SOPA groups succeeded in what may be recalled as the successful first battle to maintain our constitutional rights. The threat underlying SOPA was bullshit, to borrow Harry Frankfurt’s conceptualization of what is concerned with neither truth nor falsehood. We, the people, just needed to see it as such.
What the amazingly rapid coalescence of public opinion against SOPA shows, at least to me, is that the American public has not yet matured beyond the selfishness so deeply ingrained in our popular mind—the perpetuated individualism from Poor Richard to the rugged frontiersman, from gun-slinging cowboy to the insanity of the covertly segregated exurb. SOPA directly threatened those sites we love and depend on to sedate our dissatisfaction with the state of the world. Extending corporate control into the information free-for-all under the guise of the virtual Queen’s navy, SOPA promised to blaze the legislative trail for bandwidth prioritization, as if we could escape the dominance of the faux news triumvirate. Freedom of press--which needs to be reinstated jurisprudentially as freedom of information--is one of our many inalienable rights. Yet, not three weeks prior, the federal government assaulted the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution without much resistance.
NDAA is probably the most significant piece of anti-rights legislation to cross the executive desk since the PATRIOT Act. As SOPA does, NDAA relies on vague language that opens the door to the interpretive largess of the executive and the intelligence communities. Fortunately in some cases, but unfortunately here, the court system takes a very long time to produce the differences in appellate court decisions that warrant a Supreme Court review. NDAA also poses difficulty to judicial interpretation because it suspends rights to trial. It is not invalid to suggest a slippery slope; the court can’t opinionate and set precedence in cases it can’t review.
NDAA poses the greatest threat to American liberties we’ve ever faced. Denouncing communism publicly and ratting on your colleagues was enough to keep the McCarthyists off your back. Accepting second-class status was enough to keep the Klan home. In the emerging dystopia, we are all terrorists. Unless, of course, we swear allegiance to the corporatocracy and don’t try to organize our factory floors or start community gardens, or suggest that education should be a publicly-funded quest for greater social responsibility and enlightenment, or that imperialism is bankrupting the treasury. Justice may be color-blind, but injustice is not.
The apolitical represents the vast spectra of a majority; only butt fucking, baby killing and Muslims can rally the right and left. A new world is dawning, where the real issues are finally breaking the bonds of the Washington consensus’ stranglehold on progressive vision. Yet SOPA reveals that Americans aren’t ready to rise to the challenges, because the 24-hour news cycle is too much and the numbness of humor sites is too little. We proved that it is only willing to engage the political system if it dare shut them off from new episodes of RvB or Dexter. When it really mattered, like the needed but scarcely-existent opposition to NDAA, we couldn’t give two shits.
“The future is a long way away, away,” we can recite until we’re asleep. But it won’t dislodge us from being stuck in the mythology of the past, unwilling to see that the new age thought to be at dawn is actually the present age at dusk.