Reason to Believe: Helienne Lindvall on Being Muzzled

In a scene that could have been painted by Hieronymus Bosch or written by Franz Kafka, or illustrated by Lewis Carroll, Helienne Lindvall tells of being invited to that august body, the European Parliament.  The topic that brought out all these democrats?  A “debate” on the Anticonterfeiting Trade Agreement or ACTA.  Helienne Lindvall was invited to speak to represent artists–the last group that any of the ACTA opponents want to hear from.

How do I know this?  Am I just setting up the “Night of the Living Straw Men”?  No–we are blessed to have the antiproperty rights movement’s organizer’s manual as a guide on this issue, the detailed chapters of “Defeating ACTA for Dummies” which lays out many of these strategies put in use by those opposed to property rights, especially copyright and most especially artist rights.

Ms. Lindvall was asked to speak at a European Parliament hearing held by the socialist faction of which I believe the Swedish Pirate Party is a member.  (Ms. Lindvall is a songwriter based in London of Swedish descent.)  Ms. Lindvall also writes the excellent music business column for the Guardian, “Behind the Music” and posted about her experiences in the European Parliament “Supporting Copyright is not the Same as Opposing Freedom of Speech.”  So when they invited her to speak, we should not be surprised that she actually prepared for the hearing by…wait for it…reading ACTA and researching the issues:

I’d heard from the Pirate party as well as some other action groups that [ACTA] would impede freedom of speech so naturally I was concerned – after all, musicians rely on freedom of expression, as do journalists. I was surprised to find that ACTA would do nothing of the sort. In fact, it wouldn’t change any existent laws in the EU.

So what should she expect at the European Parliament at the hands of its well-known democrats?  We can turn to the anti-property rights organizers manual for guidance.  Winning the Web tells us:

“Often representing the world’s biggest multinational corporations, [lobbyists] 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.”

[A]s the [Open Rights Group] campaign suggests, campaigners are often faced with simple, instinctually appealing messages from the other side (“artists need to get paid”) that are difficult to beat with a focus on the IP mechanism.

The campaign against ACTA presents an opportunity for campaigners to forge a strong, common message about IP reform that is a good fit for describing the right for citizens of the developing world to have access to medicine and an equally good fit for the right for consumers in the developed world to have access to innovation in music services. That is quite some challenge. As one campaigner observed: There’s a consensus view on IP which is wrong. It’s the wrong vision, but it’s is a very well known and popularised and famous vision. The critique of this vision is fragmented. It is associated with piracy and ‘we don’t want to pay’ and, you know, ‘no business model’ and a sort of hippydom”

In other words, the anti-property “campaigners” are conciously developing a message that will trade on “civil rights” arguments (as we saw with the campaign against SOPA) to avoid the “starving in a garrett” reality.

Ms. Lindvall ran into these strategists head on in her appearance in the EU Parliament–which obviously was being stage managed.

It soon became clear that my preparations were in vain. Halfway through my speech I was told by the moderator to be silent. She later told me this was because some people in the auditorium had started talking, which turned out to be a tried and tested way to silence those who were speaking in favour of the agreement. For example, a professor of copyright – who was expressly anti-copyright – pretended to play a sad violin when the European Commission representative clarified what the agreement actually said, laughed out loud in the middle of speeches and started conversations with those sitting next to him as soon as someone not agreeing with him spoke. There’s a certain irony in claiming to be a proponent of free speech while actively trying to silence those who don’t agree with you.

Ms. Lindvall’s account of her experience of being used in the latest production of “Night of the Living Straw Persons” served up by opponents of the human rights of artists is a must read for artists and anyone who cares about free expression.

Please read her Guardian column “Supporting Copyright Is Not the Same As Opposing Freedom of Speech”.