“The power of attention is much greater than the force of self-restraint.”

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

There is a War

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Again I find myself floating between two worlds – online and offline. Though my life is a rich mixture of the two, they are two almost distinct worlds with very little overlap between them. People who exist in one do not exist in the other. Important events that dominate one are at best marginal in the other.

As I write these words a war is raging online. I have come to view it as an important event because it will effect the lives of both worlds regardless of how ignorant of it the offline world may be. This war originated (as many wars seem to be these days) in the USA where the entertainment industry, under the guise of protecting itself from content piracy, is lobbying to pass legislation that will maim the Free Internet. These bills are known as SOPA & PIPA.

My attention came to focus on this issue at first via Fred Wilson and then via the WordPress News Blog. At first I filed this news in my “Problems of the western world I left behind” folder. It seemed in alignment with my overall impression that the USA is a messed up place and society and so I let it go at that. But then I realized that (a) the Internet, though dominated by USA culture, is a global & borderless phenomenon and (b) that regardless of how messed up the USA is, it is still a social/political/legislative role model for other countries – many follow its lead despite its poor, sometimes disastarous, consequences. This video (included in the above mentioned WordPress post) sums it up nicely:

The Free Internet has and continues to play a huge role in my life. I am in an ongoing process of re-educating myself and creating a new life. My school for all these things, except for a small library of books (all of which were discovered online), is the Free Internet where other like-hearted individuals can share their experiences and wisdom so that others, myself included, may benefit from it. As is often the case, I am both a consumer and contributor in this ecosystem.

Othen then its technical workings (computers, networks, software and regulations that make the Internet possible) there is no social or government in the Free Internet. I choose what to contribute to it and I choose what to consume from it.

Note: the same technical system that makes the Free Internet possible is also used by corportaions to make islands (some as large as continents) where this freedom is systemically revoked. These islands, much like the rules of governance to which they are subverted, are an inhibited form of freedom that is subverted to other, usually commercial purposes. I believe these areas of the Internet to be a dangerous illusion of freedom because (a) people do not recognize the illusions – they pay no taxes that remind them of the presence of a governing body and (b) that governing body is a corporate entity who’s interests and purpose are supportive of only those aspects of freedom that can be exploited and opposed to aspects of freedom that may inhibit exploitation. I strongly encourage participation in the Free Internet I vehemently discourage participation in its compromised-freedom-inhibiting areas.

So I am no longer indifferent to the war raging in the USA SOPA/PIPA debate. This post is an expression of my position. In case you are from my offline world then please note that my freedom to publish this post and yours to read it is an expression of the Freedom at stake. This is an example of what this war is about. The opposition in this war would have this post declared illegal and me a criminal if I were to, say, embed this video in it:

This post was published on January 17th, right before a blackout protest planned for tomorrow, January 18th. One prominent participant of this protest is Wikipedia and I am adding this link as a testament of the event. I thought to participate in this event but was initially put off by the technnical effort required for me to do so – had there been a plugin that provided a safe blackout and an explanation of the blackout I may have used it. But I don’t know of one.

So instead I’ve had an opportunity to contemplate my motivation to participate in the blackout and this is what came of it:

My last place of residence in Israel was in the north – in an area where Jewish and Arab villages are mixed and scattered. As a safety precaution the Jewish villages are surrounded by a fence with one or more guarded gates. When we would return to the village after midnight the gate would be closed and a guard would let us in. I found it amusing that in the Jewish state of Israel the Jews are fenced in (powerful historical reference) and the Arabs are roaming free. It is an ironical consequence of freedom.

I believe that there is a similar irony in blacking-out the Free Internet to protect it. I would like to see an opposite protest. I’d like to see the major forces, let’s call them (with some drama) Freedom Haters, who are supportive of the Free Internet use their inherent freedoms to black out those who would take away that freedom. I’d like to see Twitter and Facebook black-out companies and politicians who are outspoken Freedom Haters. I’d like Google to deny advertising rights to them. They deserve a place in legal terms-of-service, they are more lethal then spam or pornogoraphy. I’d like to see those  Freedom Haters, when their freedom has been denied, cornered into arguing for freedom.

For the record, I’d like to pre-empt an argument that one cannot inhibit freedom-of-expression to protect freedom-of-expression by (a) calling it out as faulty intellectual morality and (b) pointing out that that is EXACTLY what the opposition in this war is doing, it doesn’t make it right, but is does prove that one CAN do so – denying it is a dangerous misperception – the morality of the question can only be resolved by going back to purpose and motivation – doing so to inhibit freedom is wrong, doing it to protect freedom is right.

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