It’s exciting to see how a coordinated Web blackout this Wednesday got members of Congress to reverse themselves so quickly—and do the right thing. By the end of the day, the number of Senators publicly opposing PIPA (the anti-piracy legislation that threatens free speech) jumped to 35 from five the week before. By the time you read this, those numbers may have jumped again. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if, with the tidal wave of public anger, we see 100 senators scrambling to get on the bandwagon. (Well, probably not 100, but a lot.)

However, it’s important to remember that, no matter how many citizens expressed themselves on PIPA (or the House version, SOPA), it was corporations partially driving this—in competition with other corporations. Basically, it is a battle between companies that create original content (especially movie and music makers) and those who derive their living from providing communications platforms where pretty much anything goes, including “borrowing” imagery, film clips, songs and more from their owners and creators for the purposes of a vibrant dialogue.

Putting aside the complicated pros and cons of the issue, in which both sides have legitimate concerns, and the overriding conclusion that the legislation could cast a severe pall over free discourse and Internet innovation, there is another matter to consider.

Namely this: What would it take for a public movement to get a similar response from elected officials,  when billion-dollar interests were not lined up on the same side? Twitter, Reddit, Google, BoingBoing, Tumblr, TGWTG, etc. may be cool, but they’re giant, or at least popular, for-profit enterprises with agendas of their own. Wikipedia and Mozilla are huge, albeit nonprofit, commercial-type enterprises with major brands to promote and protect. All of these and more were on the “free speech” side of this battle. And their role, up front and center, was indispensable in driving home the point, and making congress- members squeal.

As soon as the blackout went into effect, and these outfits got their users to begin a massive and immediate campaign of petitions, emails, and calls, elected officials reversed themselves faster than you can say “one term.”

But suppose the free-speech forces had to make their case without a turbocharging from interested parties? How would we get some other onerous piece of legislation blocked when there was no strong financial incentive for deep-pocketed corporations with slick marketing/publicity arms to mobilize?

For example, what about the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), with its onerous and vague provisions that could, under certain circumstances, potentially allow for the indefinite detention without charge of American citizens accused of connections with terrorist groups? Despite a public uproar, Congress went ahead and passed that bill. (Obama signed it, but in a “signing statement” said that his administration would not sanction indefinite detention of citizens – a proviso that offers no restraint on future administrations.)

The point is this: indefinite detention of citizens, even the remote threat of it, is surely as important a threat to our liberties as legislation that curtails our freedom to use copyrighted material on the Internet. Yet what corporations were troubled enough to join the ACLU and other liberties groups in opposing NDAA?

Before we get too self-satisfied over the SOPA/PIPA victory, we need to take a long, hard look at our increasing alliance with all manner of corporate entities to advance our own interests. We should ask ourselves: If we don’t believe that corporations should be treated as persons, why do we need to work with them as if they are? And how can we the people join together to attain political goals without an 800-pound corporate gorilla in our corner?



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Red Cricket Blog
Red Cricket Blog
9 years ago

Ban political advertising

9 years ago

I mean what if i like had to keep talking like this,  how long would people put up with it before some fusion anomally occered. How would one go about getting a service station selling alternative fuel-and cars with signs saying i run on yaydayada 80 percent homegrown fuel–put that sign on the 2012 dodge special edition chromed up reborn muscle car in front of you or the mustang in the lane over or the sabb or mazda even all sporting signs they use a difrent fuel  in bumper to bumper freeway traffic dailly its like a free parade waiting for the right sponcer to make wasting time on daily comuting pay.  Another thing kudos to tesla cars for being at least unreasonable affordable so when is the holiday in or comfort in gon have outlets for you car chargers? Oh and Fordwhere you been hiding that battery powered ranger made in usa for our good costomers overseas as long as 20 years ago, but we dont see them here now where those were made in the face of crisis. Whats everone doing sittin around watchin nascar or what…?     ( whistles and waits like I trained myself to) No not the TROLL lol lol song or trying to be an insesitive little vienna weeny…outa my can.  Can you help me find my can ? or ar we playing hide our own weenies again?

9 years ago

Flat refuse to let  Corps hold us hostige as consumers. Oops notices my standard issue hostige bubble so i wont burst mine if i can sit here and try to burst someone elses!  Like  what id  give to be edited here, please do it, ooh need it so bad. Givin this a whirl anyway not everyone who has something to say knows how to say it propper, as long as you dont read it propper, and listen to what I’m sayin, please, I’ll give it more than a whirl:  ————Maybe in ww2 for an all out effort of protecting the liberties, religouse freedoms. diversities, and trade enterprise and economic alliance wirth eupean nations–required corperations to fortify our millitary to become power it had to be to face of Hitler Agenda and to engage in battle with a very highly trained and well equiped advanced Japanese miliitary. If corperations didnt back or defence then, we wouldnt even have the luxury of taking 60 years to even start to look at how this is no longer a good thing. Hahaha, it is a little funny-ok not.        But how come a whole entire country like Brazil convert every single car in thier country to run on the alchohol fuel thats only 10 percent or so gasoline and 80-90 percent alchohol. If Brazil can we can. C’mon give me themeans to put up a station get people out there to trust trying it in thier cars. Even if its about the same price in money people would want it because we dont want to depend on outside supplies for the very core need to our way of life on every level. I mean even with corporate media and oil company agendas-We straight up do need the fuel.But shouldnt we be be worried about an air force an navey and troops ; what kind of great hi tech cutting edge military force would that be if it was on emty tanks? Like oh oh and thats what troubles me about not seeinf the alternative fuel pumps up about ford ranger battery trucks being made since early 90’s but never once marketed on home soils. I dont want to notice all this stuff we mostly didnt or wont. I just want to run a alchohol gas station in my county -maybe i got lousy grammer but i mispell with heart. Hope it dont take an education to be smart enuff to hope i could hope to pump fuel  for the rest of my life and its not just the silly dreams of a 48 yr old mother -to not revamp remarket the v8 hemmy engine like grampa had,add campaings, when our young people ar getting killed for fuel those engines waste just to be big and stupid and just like  they used to be. The thing that disturbs me is its working, I see those new dodge hemmies on the streets. I dont see the Alchohol gas pumps. I see young people being swept off thier continent  in uniform to fight terrorism and vague scetchy outbreaks of violence in countries not wanting our help.So are we sacraficing our nations children so corperations be protected by forces in order to supply us with what we need to maintain or jobs and livelyhood? Wow I can relate, on the streets a pimp will hook his ho(s) on heroine so she is depemdent on something he makes sure she can need him to get for her so he can be gaurenteed that she will go  prostitute herself to bring him the money  so she can live. Status quo. I guess thats not the pretty truth we want to see and after all this is a nation where we have choices to avoid simple cause effect callaborative catastrophe or the thought of taking responsibility, um personally. Hahahaha we all believe its about some dudes in Pakistan or Yemen who are extemists so well organized to infiltrate our countries let thier visas expire by 10 years (um who is the sleeper cell again?) so they can coordinate horrible mass destuction on our us populations?  This is getting as stupid as beating my self up and stealing my own lunch money.    ” Get me some pumps I’m your hucklebery” I holler into the great expance, electrick collective dice roll; c’mon, c’mon, this mamma needs some fusion anomally?        Brasil switched so can we. Self-sustaining even half of our own fuel needs would be supper and we gotta stop sacrificing our young and steal our now from thier future–Een if you did put em through school even if never went yourself dont mean we can be collectively dumb.Too much talk does stand out well in bad grammer. I’m just sayin respond with contacts for gettin that car juice flowin this is money people, feel me real.

Matt Prather
9 years ago

The title here got me thinking (about a topic I’d already been thinking about more generally): “Must we always align with corporations to win?”

What got me started thinking was looking into a source-note from an essay on the internet; they referenced an article called The Seven Men from McClure’s in 1911.

I went to find that article, and I found that it was part of a series called The Masters of Capital in America.

I collected the whole series to share with people here:

One quote that stuck with me from the series is that in Europe, The State was a more powerful institution than the corporations, but here in America (in 1910 and for many decades prior to that), it was actually “The Corporation” which was more powerful than the state.

You know how that old saying goes: “The business of America is Business”?

Bingo. That’s what has defined most of our history, just the business of doing what’s good for business. Government or state powers seemed to grow only in reaction against the excesses and abuses of the corporate and financial powers.

So while we have had a lot of American thinkers and writers document the abuses and pitfalls inherent in an empowered State (ask any libertarian to recommend to you some good books exposing the folly of empowering government), we have not so assiduously noticed the abuses and pitfalls of empowered corporate 

Yes, to be sure, there IS a great body of writing in the anti-corporate tradition, but somehow it lacks the same popular awareness and sentiment of the anti-state tradition.

So here’s what I’m thinking. When it comes to domination of The Institution over the individual, we all generally think it’s better for the individual to have his autonomy. But when we sub-classify dominating institutions into “corporate” or “state” suddenly we have the red-blue, our-team-versus-enemy-team, leftists-versus-rightists paradigm come into play and we support the corporate institution over the state institution, or vice versa. We lost sight of The Institution versus The Individual.

And we really are living deep in the heart of a technological (even “technocratic”) era in which the fundamentals of life-sustenance are outsourced to powerful institutions. We don’t sustain our own lives by our own work, we just get paid money for working as a cell in a huge institutional body and we depend on the banking system and the huge economic infrastructure to keep delivering us food, water, electricity, and other such nice things.

One of the biggest ongoing stories in the headlines every day is our struggle of our institutions to subordinate ourselves.

It is perhaps difficult to think about this and recommend improvements for this without sounding like a Luddite, an anarchist, a Jacques Ellul, or a Ted Kaczynski, but I think people would be serving themselves best if they got over their label-makers and their stereotypes and their old paradigmatic thinking and actually looked at the reality of their lives.

So must we always align with corporations to win? Sadly, we have baked institutional power into the cake of any real-world solution at this point and that’s the world we live in, just as we have made it. Almost none of us are powerful without the mega-institutions we have in this world.

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