I haven’t said much about SOPA and the other bill because I haven’t done enough reading on them. I’ve done plenty of reading about why the Cyber Hipsters lost their shit over it, and of course, the choice excerpts they’re using to justify losing their shit, but I haven’t actually looked at the bills.
You shouldn’t comment on shit you haven’t read, you know? Unfortunately, this is the Web, and when we’re dealing with the Cyber Hipsters who generate a lot of the content on this thing, they don’t let a little thing like facts get in their way.
How can they, when TechCrunch, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, The Next Web, and the stupidly named new one don’t hold their writers to the same standard any good reporter should be held to: Know the shit you’re talking about, speak truth to power and not suck up to the companies you write about, and fact check everything before you publish it.
If your media outlets aren’t informed, then the people reading them aren’t going to be either.
(Disclosure: During my manic-depressive job applying spree, I applied to TechCrunch. I highly doubt I’d even be considered for that job, but regardless of how that goes, I’m still going to call them and the rest of these places out on things I think, and most people with common sense, would think are wrong.)
Now, off the success the Cyber Hipsters had in defeating SOPA, they’re taking aim at Hollywood directly.
This … is incredibly stupid, and it speaks to the arrogance and hubris you can only find if you lived in a bubble like Silicon Valley. One that’s long over due for a pop, if for any other reason than to bring some of these folks back to reality.
You can’t make money when you’re delusional. (George Lucas excluded.)
Now the Cyber Hipsters are starting on their “Hollywood is dying” shit, which is no different than the “Books are dying”, “Newspapers are dying”, “Cable is dying”, crap that they always say.
No. It’s not dying. It IS changing, but it’s not dying.
And of course, they credit technology for what’s changing these industries, but that’s only a small part of the story.
There’s a whole lot more, but when you live in the Silicon Valley Bubble, and your media outlets don’t do any reality checking, they pick and choose the fiction in which they want to live with and that’s what they share with each other.
It’s a vicious cycle. One that’s regrettable because some of these people, not many, but some, are good people with good ideas. Their heart is in the right place, but their head is up their ass.
And the sad thing is that, for a moment there, the Cyber Hipsters seemed likable to the public at large. The Web stood up and said, “This is bullshit!” It’s hard not to like that sort of thing, especially in dark times like the one a lot of us find ourselves in.
But underneath that foolish triumphalism, which more or less had to do with the wise PR stunt Wikipedia held that got the mainstream media’s attention, you have to keep in mind that the Cyber Hipsters helped to defeat a potentially bad piece of legislation, more or less because it suited the needs of far more evil multi-billion dollar companies like Google and Facebook.
Yes. Hollywood does a lot of dumb sit, but you can’t tell me with a straight face that Google and Facebook are better. They’re not. In a lot of ways, they’re worse, because while Cyber Hipsters want to claim Hollywood is trying to kill free speech, Google and Facebook already have time and time again. Just ask the people trying to organize protests in Egypt. Facebook made life pretty hard for them until it wasn’t the media friendly thing to do.
You just don’t hear about stuff like this because it made for a better story that it was a Facebook revolution, instead of it being a revolution that superficially succeeded because the Egyptian military didn’t intervene and because the 7 out of 8 Egyptians who don’t have Internet access got involved.
(Don’t underestimate the kind of pull Facebook has with the media. Donald Graham is the CEO of The Washington Post and is also on the board of Facebook, Inc.)
The Cyber Hipsters in the SOPA battle were just pawns in what’s been, and what will continue to be for most of our lives, an ongoing shit fight between the big tech companies and big content companies.
We’re just caught in the middle of it and being moved around the chess board accordingly.
If Google backed SOPA, it would have succeeded. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it, but no one is saying it.
The Cyber Hipsters seemed likable because they tapped into a larger national problem, one that needs solving immediately. This was probably unintentional on their part, given how out of touch with reality they are.
Then they said, “Let’s kill Hollywood” and the only thing that got killed was their credibility, what little of it they have.
Remember: Most of these people just talk about shit, they don’t actually make any of it, although they sure act like they do. Hence: The unwarranted arrogance of Cyber Hipsters who think Hollywood is “dying” and that they can successfully “kill” it.
So. What’s the real solution this mess?
It’s actually really easy. The enemy of the Web is the same enemy the rest of us have: Corruption. Corruption that flows to the highest levels of government in Washington.
You don’t need to look any further than former Senator Chris Dodd, who now represents the MPAA, or former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart and the two former FTC commissioners employed by Facebook. (Did you ever wonder how Facebook managed to avoid any real penalties by the FTC for their rampant privacy violations and poor business practices?)
That right there is fucking bullshit, but that’s Washington. That’s how this works. That’s how Wall Street got so messed up (see: Larry Summers, another guy who is currently beloved by the Cyber Hipsters because … I’m not really sure why. Larry Summers is almost single-handedly responsible for causing The Great Recession, yet he’s celebrated in Silicon Valley. Who knows why?)
If you don’t want to see another bill like SOPA ever again, you don’t kill Hollywood, you kill the corruption of Washington. This is actually very easy to do. Especially given how much money Google and Facebook already spend on lobbyists, and how much money other tech companies are going to start pumping into the city.
All you need to do is back a constitutional amendment that:
1. Overturns Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
2. Strips corporations of personhood.
3. Bars government officials from becoming lobbyists or colluding with companies in a way that shapes public policy after their time in office.
4. And institutes strict campaign finance reforms such as making all campaigns publicly funded and limiting contributions to no more than $2,500 per individual.
Of course, Google and Facebook will never back this sort of thing because it’ll cripple their ability to dance around the FTC and DOJ as they have, which means the Cyber Hipsters and the tech media will never back this either.
But. This is what needs to happen. Not only to stop things like SOPA, but to go a long way to fixing our government and making it functional again.
The government shouldn’t be involved with stuff like SOPA in the first place.
Piracy doesn’t actually harm sales, in most cases. It does chip away at it*, but you have to put that in the appropriate context: Piracy happens when a product is too expensive, not available in the desired format (either because of DRM or some other issue), and is not available in that particular country or area.
The other group of people who pirate things for none of these reasons do so because they are dicks.
You can’t stop the dicks, although a piece of legislation that simply states, “If you steal shit, you will be asked to pay the cost of it plus an additional fine for wasting everyone’s time” wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. It’s simple, clear, direct, and doesn’t give either the tech companies or Hollywood any additional power.
If Hollywood and the Tech companies worked together, these are all things that can be worked out to the benefit of everyone involved without the government stepping in.
What we need are solutions, not an idiotic declaration of war that will ultimately do nothing but continue to strain the relationship of the companies we need to work together to solve the issue of piracy.
1. There’s a lot to be said about the downward pressure of the Internet and it’s disastrous effects on artists and entrepreneurs, but I promised to write about that for Brehnna at MTV, so you’re going to have to wait for that one.
2. Clay Shirky said this in his post about why SOPA was bad. He is mostly right about a lot on this issue (I like Clay, but you won’t often hear me say that about him). But he said something that I thought was worth pointing out:
“This is an industry that demands payment from summer camps if the kids sing Happy Birthday or God Bless America, an industry that issues takedown notices for a 29-second home movie of a toddler dancing to Prince.”
I know this isn’t the popular thing to say but … you don’t own that stuff. I know. It’s insane, and it is, but the whole of Western Civilization is based on property right. It’s true. Going all the way back to William Blackstone. And in our society, you can’t use other people’s stuff without their permission.
(Except when Fair Use is involved, but that’s something that very badly needs to be revised in light of the Internet. More on that some other time.)
So if Prince doesn’t want his shit used in a venue he doesn’t like? That’s up to Prince. Not you. Like I said, this is dumb, but it’s his stuff.
If I walked into your house and took something without your permission, even if it’s a pencil I plan to give back, I’m still taking it without your permission. All because this happens on the Internet doesn’t make it right.