Google’s homepage rolled out it’s SOPA/PIPA protest today with a “blackout band” across the legendary Google logo. The homepage also links to an explanation of the protest, with a form to sign a petition against them. Hundreds of other website homepages are taking part in the protest with similar “blackout” bands and links to petitions or other directions for contacting government representatives.
It is impressive to see campaigns roll out like this across the Internet. I am reminded of why the Internet still has legs at times like these. It isn’t just a “liberal media” cause or vague dissident youth movement. It is a movement of major US corporations, entrepreneurs, and business investors banding together to protest pending legislation. That is some pretty heavy stuff, considering that it wasn’t really even possible 15 or 20 years ago.
It isn’t as significant, in the short term, as the use of social media to herald and organize the “Arab Spring” protests of 2010 in the Middle East, but it shows that this type of movement is indeed still possible within the US. While this particular instance is driven by corporations and big money venture capitalist, it could be the BETA version for a citizens’ protest that arises later in this election cycle.
Come November 2012, people in the US will be disgusted by the money spent by both presidential candidates (which will probably top $2Billion total). People will be disgusted by the amount of money spent by the SuperPACS (which may not be publicly disclosed by the PACS but will be inferred from watchdog organizations – see Democracy 21 & The Campaign Legal Center). Republicans will be disgusted with the “entitlement society” that they fear Obama is building (or whatever the fear-mongering cry happens to be this fall). Democrats will be disgusted with the fear-mongering Republicans (or whatever the he-said, finger-pointing, it-ain’t-fair griping that Democrats decide to stick with this fall). I, for one, am already disgusted with the things allowed to be said during the ongoing Republican primaries. I can imagine how bad the actual campaign will get once it is full on, all stops pulled. Who knows, maybe the mounted disgust will turn into politically-motivated web protests that significantly impact our government, going beyond the typical street parties chanting “throw the bums out”.
Democracy is the voice of the people in action. The Internet is an incredibly powerful vehicle for the voice of the people to gear up, swell in volume and number, and be heard (as well as for corporate voices, federal voices, etc). I am really expecting The People and The Internet to converge this fall in a dramatic fashion that marks a new shift in US governance policies. We shall see! I doubt we will have an Arab Spring of our own in the sense that there is an overthrow, per se. However, there might be troops in the streets of DC to keep the peace – not just police, but national guard or something.
This is not a “wish.” It is a prediction. Weariness over unemployment, wars, terrorism, and endless political bickering, finger pointing and strife will merge with the fervor of the election year energy and compel some sort of internet-led citizen actions. If this does transpire, it will be interesting to see which mouthpieces latch on. Will it be a Ron Paul figure? How about an entirely politically polarizing and self-interested visage a la Sarah Palin? I dunno. I believe the people of the United States have great potential and great possibilities ahead of them and they will seize those. I hope the government comes along for the ride. If not, the people will cast it aside.