I have been waiting for years for both the final collision of the cognitive dissonance produced by the Lessig anti-copyright movement with the rule of law, and rejection of the hive minder’s innovation fetish in collision with the nation state. While it wasn’t the final collision or the ultimate rejection (by definition), yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee “mark up” hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act had attributes of both.
These manifestations were combined with the sneaking suspicion on the part of Google and Googlers that while the party is not over, the band is beginning to pack up. And the combination of all these things will extend the rather astonishing denial and blaming behavior we see in their public messaging about complying with the rule of law, and more importantly–resistance to complying. In the second act, we may well see the first encounter by a vast multinational corporation with a decision that all of its corporate predecessors have backed away from–the decision to defy government. Not a government, but government altogether.
At the core of any good fetish voodoo is a magical object, especially an inanimate object like the Internet, that is revered because it is believed to have magical powers or be animated by a spirit that produces an excessive or extravagant attachment or regard in the devotee.
No one likes to believe they have a fetish, but I would suggest to you that the talismanic “innovation” is being waived like an aspergillum dipped in the aspersorium of venture capital and sprinkled seven times on the unwashed and unholy apostates of “Hollywood” (otherwise known as the Ninth Circle of Hell). This is the hallmark of the messaging from the Google Press (and you know who you are), was on display at the recent drum circle held by Google at its law school at Stanford University, and was prominently featured by certain members at the House Judiciary Committee.
As Jaron Lanier wrote of hive mind collectivism, “It’s not hard to see why the fallacy of collectivism has become so popular in big organizations: If the principle is correct, then individuals should not be required to take on risks or responsibilities. We live in times of tremendous uncertainties coupled with infinite liability phobia, and we must function within institutions that are loyal to no executive, much less to any lower level member. Every individual who is afraid to say the wrong thing within his or her organization is safer when hiding behind a wiki or some other Meta aggregation ritual [such as the dreaded “comments”]….What I’ve seen is a loss of insight and subtlety, a disregard for the nuances of considered opinions, and an increased tendency to enshrine the official or normative beliefs of an organization. Why isn’t everyone screaming about the recent epidemic of inappropriate uses of the collective? It seems to me the reason is that bad old ideas look confusingly fresh when they are packaged as technology.”
And, I would add, when they become shrouded in the “innovation” fetish of fighting censorship, which as we have seen from the anti-copyright organizers manual Winning the Web, is a messaging ploy to avoid discussing harm to artists as the result of theft. The contempt with which the writer of this Open Society Institute publication expresses toward artists is palpable and calculated:
“…[A] small but vocal minority of entrenched corporate interests -the rightsholder lobby [-blocks changing international and national law to undermine property rights]. Wedded to business models that pre-date the age of networked digital technology, they exploit their position as incumbents to influence legislators. Often representing the world’s biggest multinational corporations, they hijack a narrative that belongs to poor artists struggling in garrets and use the considerable profits they have made from exploiting these artists in the twentieth century to access the corridors of power and make their case.”
How often have you heard this one? “Poor artists struggling in garrets”. This is similar to Lessig’s “Starving Artist Canard“. The contempt for professional artists drips from these words. We don’t see any similar concern for nonunion coders abused by the sainted innovators.
But also look what happened: By trying to message any efforts by record companies or movie studios to represent the interests of their artists to the extent they coincide with their own, the fetishist seeks to diminish both company and artist. But most important is what is omitted–professional artists are represented by unions, not by the record companies and movie studios. These artists stand up for themselves through collective bargaining and lobbying of their own. You know you are in the presence of a fetishist when these facts are conveniently ignored.
And nowhere is evidence of both the organization of artists through their unions and the contempt for those unions of the anti-copyright groups led by Google more present than at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act. This is also one of the points of cognitive dissonance that is at the heart of Lessigism.
While Lessig has set out certain protective barricades in his books to insulate himself from documented confession of a yearning for theft, if you follow his public speeches and statements you will begin to wonder just how disingenuous this really is. If you watch the following YouTube video, you will not only begin to get the idea, but you will hear many of the same themes echoed by the innovation fetishists regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act.
For at the core of the anxiety about rogue sites legislation is this realization: A majority of Congress believes believes that major corporations in the U.S. are profiting from the massive theft of property from their fellow citizens, while at the same time raising money to keep stealing by selling stock in the public markets. All the lip service paid to “the problem” of theft online for a decade is now being shown for what it is. Google really did pay $500,000,000 to avoid being indicted–not for promoting “Internet freedom” (whatever that is) but for promoting the sale of drugs, controlled and counterfeit, to unsuspecting consumers. Also known as profiting from human misery.
And it all stinks to high heaven.