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.


  1. Only a fraction of the population bothers to vote in the first place. If we put everything up to a vote, people would be overwhelmed and we would have an even smaller group of people deciding what happens to us.

    The balance of powers does make it hard to take away rights, because even if both bodies of congress pass a law, The President can put the kibosh on it. And if he doesn't, the courts are there to protect our freedom. Granted, up until the point that the constituency makes their potential wrath known, the legislative branch and even the executive branch are subject to being bought and sold. But the judiciary branch doesn't answer to the same people, which gives them the leverage to protect freedom even against the powers that be and even against the public themselves.

    I agree there are major problems with our system, but what I'm not familiar with is any system that's any better. With the possible exception of an assorted few locations like Canada and The Netherlands, what we have here is better than what anyone in the world has. And I'm not being remotely patriotic, I'm just being realistic.

  2. I thought you didn't read textbooks. :p

    Voting is a broken system from the getgo. A minority of conscientious voters voting for how you're treated is no different than representatives doing the same. That's not what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that if somebody wants to do something to you, to take away your rights, YOU have to vote on them being allowed to do it. If you don't vote, they can't do it.

    I don't care about the checks and balances, it doesn't protect minorities from being crushed by popular opinion and moral fashions. If the constitution says a right can't be violated, then that right shouldn't be violated, no matter what. The constitution did nothing to curtail slavery, because slavery was popular, and the people who held the power profited from it, despite what a civil rights violation it was. That wasn't right.

    And it doesn't matter if you're not familiar with a better system. It doesn't mean one doesn't exist. How many have you tried? I don't believe in telling people not to try to better their lives just because they have it better off than someone else. I don't mean to be stand-offish, but it's a comment that's frequently used against people who are trying to campaign for changes. It's the refuge of the conservative who's afraid to try anything different.