In the wake of Texas Representative Lamar Smith pulling the Stop Online Piracy Act from consideration yesterday(and Senator Harry Reid doing the same for the Protect IP Act), I saw a lot of jubilant tweets saying that censorship was defeated and so forth.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I live in Florida, y’all, and so I have lots of experience with legislation proposed by Voldemort’s minions. I don’t know how much national attention our Senate Bill Six got a couple years ago, where Florida legislators proposed a lot of the same union-busting measures first pioneered in Wisconsin. (Bear in mind that Florida was already a Right-To-Work-Without-The-Burden-Of-Strong-Negotiating-Position state, so it’s not like unions were perpetrating any great evils here.) In Florida the bill was directed more squarely against teachers, under the theory that the reason Florida education lags behind has nothing to do with cutting funding (like the 10% funding cut we enjoyed last year) and nothing to do with a transient population and low socioeconomic status and ridiculous paperwork and days lost to testing, and everything to do with the unions protecting incompetent teachers from being fired. Oh, and somehow Florida’s woes apparently stemmed from teachers being paid too much.
Yeah, I still haven’t figured that one out.
Anyway, teachers and students got out in force and lined the streets, protesting the bill. At the end of it all, Charlie Crist either sacrificed his political career or concluded his career was already over and decided to go out on the side of the good guys for once, and killed the thing. And the villagers rejoiced, right?
Well, no. Or yes, but the celebration was premature.
Instead of everybody living happily ever after, the anti-union, anti-teacher bunch waited a couple of years and pushed the same measures through again, spread out among more bills. Where was the outrage the second time around? Nowhere. People had outrage fatigue. We’d already fought this fight. It was fun and all, but doing it again? Bah, that was so last year.
Speaking of, remember how that brouhaha in Wisonsin ended? Governor Walker got his rebate, his budget cuts, and his union-busting rammed down everybody’s throats, and life went on. Walker is eligible to be recalled now; I guess we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out. In the meantime, though, the non-Wisconsinites who fund Walker got their way.
Which brings me back to SOPA. Public hew and outcry is a fleeting thing. People jump on bandwagons when it seems like fun, but it’s not nearly exciting to fight the hydra again after her head grows back. Most people aren’t really educated about any issues and react to everything knee-jerk fashion. (Note that anti-SOPA sites had to provide links to allow visitors to determine who their congresscritters were, and whether or not they supported SOPA/PIPA. They also had to provide links making it easier to email those same congresscritters. Most people woulnd’t have bothered if they had to do any of that legwork themselves.)
The money behind SOPA and PIPA, though—the RIAA and the MPAA and such—doesn’t view this as a football game. They care about getting their way today, and they will continue to care about it tomorrow, when everybody’s done congratulating themselves over defeating censorship. They’ll be back, and they’ll push through all the same provisions, possibly spread over several otherwise-popular bills. And when they do, it’ll be harder to drum up all this opposition.
Look, obviously I’m not neutral here. I don’t see any reason why I should be. I have a point of view, and reasonable people of goodwill can have different points of view from my own. So let me bring this back around to something maybe we can all agree on: Regardless of where you stand on SOPA, PIPA, unions, or education, if you’re not paying attention to what congress does in your name, you’re part of the problem. Because you can bet that lobbyists, who are paid to pay attention, don’t forget about the things they want just because they suffer a setback.