Why the Tech Community's SOPA Revolt Feels "Pre-Occupy" - And Why That's a Shame

Don't hold your breath, but it just may be that the politics of turning SOPA into a law have turned.

Leaders in the tech community raised an alarm; an effective counter-SOPA campaign was launched; Congress-people were counter-lobbied; GoDaddy the clueless poster child was punished; the cynical grab for power by the cable media conglomarate was exposed and, possibly, neutralized.

So far, so good.

But there's an aspect to revolt against SOPA that troubles me.

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The strategy and tactics of the campaign seem drawn entirely from an era that pre-dates #OccupyWallStreet.

I'm having trouble explaining what I'm intuiting, but this analysis from a November 2011 article by Alexis Madrigal in the Atlantic, "A Guide to the Occupy Wall Street API," helps:

"The idea that our politics are not up to the serious tasks we face in fixing our economy and society has become widespread. Instead of pointing that out, as many have, Occupy Wall Street simply ignored mainstream politics. As the press clamored for position papers and lists of demands, OWS responded by paying no attention. There were two messages in that relative silence: 1) your media is inadequate to convey the scale of changes necessary and 2) your politics are inadequate to make the scale of changes necessary."

Why is it particularly important that the tech community "get" the fundamental #Occupy critique - a meta-critique of a system so appallingly corrupt it sells out even the appearance of reasoned policy making - and internalize it in its own nascent political awareness and activism?

Because the tech community understands information and it understands transparency. The former is its stock-in-trade and the latter is a cultural value associated with entrepreneurialism.

If the tech community could turn its attention, not to issue-advocacy in the same way that game is played by entrenched corporate interests, but instead to disintermediating payola politics, we might make it possible to hold legislators accountable, to incentivize them to make policy in a manner that leverages available knowledge and serves the common interest.

I'm not saying there should be a political party that speaks for the tech community. I am saying there should not be an imitation of the tired politics of lawyers, lobbyists and campaign contributions to match what the forces of darkness and complacency shovel out. More than that, I am suggesting that the tech community is positioned better than most to topple the current, corporatist shadow of democracy that would shame our nation's founders.

The alternative, for sure, is to just get smarter at understanding how the Congress of today works, organize within that system, establish outposts on K Street, perpetuate the corrupt system and get used to paying the indirect tax of campaign contributions, year after year after year.

Flickr photo by Magnus D.


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