Why Did the Anti-SOPA/PIPA Movement Go Viral So Quickly?
To understand any viral movement requires an understanding of the zeitgeist of their anger. Right now, thousands of sites big and tiny, have gone dark or shut down in protest of SOPA and PIPA. What’s more remarkable is that for most of us, we are engaging in a new form of protest — the Social Disobedience.
Unlike the Civil Disobedience of half a century ago, the Internet Generation (my 34-year-old self included) is using a more accessible and web-centric form of protest. The Internet Generation has virtually no money to speak of and doesn’t consider themselves influential in any way, but the groundswell of anger and frustration against censorship has encouraged a generation raised on apathy and recessions to take up arms against the powers that be. And the only arms they know of is their voices.
It would be foolish and irresponsible for politicians to ignore this form of protest. While it’s harder to ignore the protester on your doorstep, ignoring Social Disobedience will erode the social capital of any campaign — just ask any company who dealt with a user-revolt on Facebook or Twitter.
While the blackouts of Google and Wikipedia are notable and far-reaching, the insecure, unemployed graduate student expending their social capital to call attention to a political issue is the heart and soul of Social Disobedience. By leveraging their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and their iPhones, the accidental protester is finding out just how power feels — and it feels right.
When the “young people” showed up to vote for Obama and when the “youth vote” put Ron Paul in the race — turning out and defying stereotypes — they are succeeding in their form of Social Disobedience. This is a generation that is highly educated, highly expressive and restless.
The rallying cry of the 1960’s was Love and Peace. The 2010’s brought us Openness and Free Expression. The groundswell against SOPA and PIPA isn’t just a reaction to the censorship, it’s the reaction to a real threat to these values we hold closest to our hearts. This is a generation who has seen the erosion of influence from voters to corporate interests with money. The only power that remains in the hands of this generation is their self expression, and SOPA/PIPA sought to restrict this last bastion. This is the zeitgeist of their anger.
During all my debates and interviews, it’s hard not to notice the growing chasm between those born of the Web and those born before. For men like Rupert Murdoch, the Internet is something to be controlled, feared and regulated. For the Internet Generation, it’s a rare freedom to be protected, celebrated and shared. It’s difficult to feel any sympathy for the Rupert Murdochs of the world (and their businesses) who complain that the politicians he paid changed positions in the face of voter protest. And it’s painful to watch former Senator Chris Dodd take the top job with the MPAA and call our Social Disobedience “an abuse of power“.
We can criticize the Internet Generation for being superficial, shallow and self-interested, but so is every generation in their youth. And now, we watch in awe as they flex their voices in unison in Social Disobedience.
We’re all proud of you, Internets. And don’t let anyone silence you.