18 January, 2012

On Darkening The Internet

It's too much, and not enough.

Some background.

I don't like the whole darkening trend that's going on. Not because it's raising awareness for a good cause, but because it feels too much like censorship. I understand it's to be taken as a warning of what we stand to lose, but is it necessary/appropriate to resort to the enemy's tactics to get the point across? Do the ends justify the means? It's not that I don't support these efforts to keep the internet free and open (I do), I just feel conflicted about them. However, they're much better than the alternative, which is real censorship and loss of freedom.

But this isn't the first time a bill has been pushed through that seriously undermines the rights and freedoms of the citizens in a free nation. That doesn't mean we should just lay back and take it, but how much are we willing to sacrifice? The fight against this one bill is symbolic, but it doesn't help change the system where corrupt politicians can take away our rights easily, compared to the effort that's required for us to defend those same rights. In this system, we have to stay ever vigilant - and we STILL lose rights at a regular pace.

Frankly, I think this whole notion of legislators coming in to your room while you sleep to take away your rights, unless you stay ever-vigilant (which is unfortunately how the system works) is more alarming than the specific nature of this one (or two) bills. It shouldn't be my responsibility to call up my representative to tell him how I feel on every issue; it should be his responsibility to call me. But the whole 'representative' system is flawed anyway. I don't want my representative (or anyone else's) deciding what my position is, without my input. Assuming I voted for him, that doesn't mean we are of one mind, and that everything he thinks and decides is agreeable to me. And if I didn't vote for him, then what, my opinion is irrelevant because it doesn't comprise a statistical majority?

Freedom of expression is a joke in this world. We don't have it now, so what's the big deal if we "lose" it? What we need is a complete overhaul of the system. We need to make it harder to take away a person's rights than it is to defend them. The system should be such that for SOPA and PIPA to go through, the entire population has to vote on it. (And even then, there are rights and freedoms that can't be infringed by majority rule - the Constitution is supposed to protect those, but the concept of 'basic rights' is unfortunately open to subjective interpretation). Then, awareness and education campaigns will actually mean something. I don't trust some greedy, moralizing politician to make my decisions for me. And you shouldn't either.