So that blackout to protest SOPA was something, huh? I mean, I kind of may have slept through it, but you may have noticed that we here at Alert the Audience! decided that we were going to participate in the blackout. But that was pretty much only because WordPress let me delete the blackout message that they wrote and write my own (if you missed it, I wrote “THE WORLD IS ENDING” as a headline and then the body of it was just “SOPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”. Because I’m one hell of an activist, and have quite the way with words).
I have mixed feelings about the blackout, and that’s not related to the farcical indifference I’ve projected towards all of this. A friend of mine, who I will politely say is kind of really into the internet, said this about the protest: “My favorite part about the blackout? Everyone wondering when it was done. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.” And I’m inclined to agree with him.
Wikipedia went down for all of about twenty four hours. WordPress, if an individual blogger had opted in on the blackout, only went down for about twelve hours, and because of the way time zones work, anyone west of Texas was at work probably not giving two shits was WordPress was doing at the time (also it would require that people READ your WordPress site, which, I can tell you from my analytics, is not something that happens often). Google had a page about the protest and SOPA (complete with a practically-unreadable-because-it-was-way-too-fucking-big PDF infographic), but generally stayed Google. Facebook continued to show me pictures of the babies my acquaintances from high school are firing out, and Twitter practically shit itself in a firestorm of trending, rhetorical thoughts (but still wasn’t as upset or emotional as that time when that dildo from Jackass drunk drove his stupid ass into a tree).
As my friend implies, it was business as usual. This could have been so much more. If SOPA et al is going to be as disastrous as everyone says it is, this protest should have been so much more. Instead, it was something to wait out. It was something, as I mentioned earlier, that I successfully slept through. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Wikipedia even give instructions on how to disable the blackout page by disabling the script or something?
If this was a taste of the Max Max-esque dystopian future of the internet…well, there wasn’t enough to taste. Sure, it was probably a minor pain in the ass to go somewhere that wasn’t Wikipedia for information on the origin of the crepe for the duration of your waking hours yesterday, but if you weren’t already convinced that SOPA was a bad thing, did this do it for you? Forgive my incredulity, but I don’t think it did. Blame it on my penchant for hyperbole and the dramatic, but this should have been a fucking strangle hold on the internet, a truly chilling and jarring vision of things to come. Something that even skeptics and conscientious objectors couldn’t ignore. Youtube, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, everyone who gave a shit should have given their employees a week or so off and blacked out. Google should have cocked up some search that only included sites without potentially copyrighted material on it. They should have really exploited the fact that we’re so hopelessly addicted to and hopeless without the internet and drove the point home so hard that we would have been begging them to return and lining up in front of any entertainment industry lobbying firm with torches and pitchforks.
Bottom line, SOMEONE SHOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING THAT MATTERED. That’s not to say that I don’t applaud those who actually took part in the protest, for however long, and far be it from me to claim that the ostensible flood of protest messages to Congress were wasted time and kilobytes. However, I would say that the vast majority of the biggest players on the internet wouldn’t even risk their livelihood for a measly fucking day to attempt to stop what could end their livelihood. And maybe it’s the cynic in me talking, who doesn’t have to worry about the bottom line in an enormous online syndicate, but that’s spineless and something I find hard to get behind. If this is really the internet’s D-Day, the powers that be on the internet are, through flaccid or non-existent actions, making it seem like there’s about as much at stake here as a non-finalist episode of “America’s Next Best Dance Crew”. And most people don’t give a flying shit about how “Best Dance Crew” ends. It would be a shame for SOPA to share that fate in public opinion.