|The positive aspect of being chased|
up a tree is that it gives you a much
better perspective on what's going
on down below ...
Democracy is not the same thing as crowd-sourcing. Like the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation, pretty well all legislation which is passed in the US, at both Federal and State level, is unknown to the electors, imperfectly understood even by those who do know about it, and is pressed into shape and through the legislative chamber by dark forces such as lobby groups, special interest advocates, big business and other entities. The same applies to legislation that governs taxation, healthcare, national security, the environment, employment -- you name it. So far as this Kat is aware, this phenomenon is not confined to the US but exists everywhere else too.
The absence of personal involvement on behalf of ordinary members of the public does not mean that the legislative process is undemocratic: what it means is that these are the rules by which the democratic process is played out and the conditions under which we all play them. If, as many of my correspondents confidently assert, the US legislative process through which SOPA/PIPA is passing is not democratic, would they be please send this Kat a shortlist -- and it will be a short list -- of countries which do have a democratic legislative procedures in place so that he can learn from them.
As for the argument that this legislation is being forced on the nation by a battery of avaricious IP-encrusted business barons, intent only on their own interest, in a manner that will trample on the interests of the little man, this is something that we can at least look at in quantitative terms. The big barons are lined up on both sides, are they not? Arguably the most powerful corporation on the planet, Google Inc. (would readers like to comment on its vast profitability, its unstoppable momentum and its ambivalent attitude towards the protection of its own and others' IP rights?) is ranged against the proposed legislation. So too are the other denizens of the content carrying industry -- and these are not exactly back-room businesses either. Do the content-owning sector truly and genuinely have more financial and political clout than those who shift, sift and grant access to its content?
One final observation: several of this Kat's correspondents have commented on how the objective of the Wikipedia black-out was to raise general public awareness of the possible impact of the proposed legislation, and that this objective has been achieved. Have not the media, and indeed this weblog itself, been discussing it -- which proves the point.
There is some truth in this. However, the same can be said of those who last summer looted electrical stores and carried away flat-screen monitors, hand-held devices, cellphones and the rest: they did indeed raise awareness of the fact that there are many people who have a genuine and sincere grievance against the social and economic policies of successive British governments, the mode of police interaction with youth and ethnic minorities and the effect of local planning permission on traditional shopping centres. The nature of the awareness that was raised was however temporary and superficial: it did not contribute materially to the nature or the outcome of subsequent debate because it did not address the issues. Here too, with genuine and sincere motivation, Wikipedia seems to have directed some attention to the reason for its black-out but, but far more attention to itself and to issues such as how much we have come to depend on it for our information and where we look when Wikipedia is not available.