Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Perhaps more than ever our political landscape is best understood in terms of narrative. It is for this reason that I am thrilled to discover that my favorite living novelist, Steve Erickson, is covering the madness for The American Prospect. Here's an index page for his articles.
His take on the election is refreshing and different from all the usual hacks/insiders/pundits that we are forced to wade through in our usual travels.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Impossible today to avoid the subject of SOPA/PIPA. What amazes me, however, is how few people seem to really understand the situation, and how nobody seems to recognize the obvious answer to the problems.
The problems: Let us grant that offshore piracy is a very real problem that must be addressed. And let us also grant that SOPA/PIPA is the wrong way to address this piracy.
If you don't agree with the former, then I can say with assurance that you don't live where I live (Los Angeles), and you haven't seen your friends going without work, losing their cars/homes, and despairing at the effects of offshore piracy on their way of making a living. No, Tom Cruise isn't missing any meals, but a lot of artists who work "below the line" are. If you disagree, I'm sorry, but you are wrong. When my last movie was released on DVD I checked the bit torrent sites the first day. I stopped checking a week later when the total count had exceeded 250,000 illegal downloads. Too depressing.
If you don't agree with the latter, then I really don't know what to say to you. SOPA/PIPA is all we've come to expect from our Congress: legislation that won't work, with the bonus of harmful, unintended consequences.
Critics of SOPA/PIPA indict the U.S. Congress for legislating badly on a topic that they do not really understand, and indict Hollywood, particularly the MPAA and the RIAA, for an inability to innovate in the face of technological change. Really?
How many years has the U.S. Congress been proving that it excels at making bad law, particularly when faced with a new kind of problem? Over 200 years.
How many years has "Hollywood" been demonstrating a DNA-level inability to deal with new technology? About 100 years.
And yet, a lot of very smart people seem surprised that these institutions are behaving as they always have. About the only thing that people seem to agree on is that the situation calls for some form of technological innovation.
Who from the following list would you call upon for tech innovation: The U.S. Congress, The MPAA, The RIAA, Google, Facebook, Apple.
The dirty little secret, of course, is that many of these tech giants owe their very existence to "free content", and are terrified by the prospect of having to police their lucrative industries for piracy.
The way, the only way, is for those tech giants that have such high dollar interest in a free and open internet to put their pointy heads together and figure out a way to self-regulate against offshore piracy. Work with the Congress to develop a system for shutting down pirates without killing the freedom of the web.
Today they demonstrate their mastery and control over the "free" internet by taking some of their sites black in protest. I'm sure they are all patting each other on the back, certain in their righteousness, unaware that they are only proving that they are the ones who have the skills to solve the problem.
One thing is for certain, if somebody doesn't solve the offshore piracy problem the U.S. Congress will.
And it will do it badly.