So. SOPA is happening (Wikipedia, which is always right, definition here; latest madness about it here). I will be amazed if it doesn’t get passed. And before I tell you what my reaction is, I would urge you to read my rationale behind it before you get pissed off and leave. But the beauty of it is, you are free to do so. But honestly, stick around. What I have to say might interest you.
My reaction is: fine. Do it.
Still with me? Good. Here’s why I say that.
The only line I remember from Gene Wilder’s show Something Wilder was this: “The problem with bad taste is that you can’t explain it to someone who has it.” And the problem with dealing with unreasonable people is that reasonable people–and I would include both you and I in that–have trouble fathoming where the unreasonable person is coming from. Because we have a distinct disconnect between reasonable and unreasonable. And we, being reasonable, don’t understand that some people simply cannot be reasoned with.
But here’s the truth. Some people simply cannot be reasoned with. The best way I have found to get unreasonable people to realize you’re right is to simply give them what they want. Even if–and especially if–you, being reasonable, know that what they think they want isn’t, ultimately, what they want.
Are you following me here? Let me give you an example from my own life. Stay with me. I promise, I’m saying all this for a reason.
[ad#longpost]Long, long before I killed my day job–in fact, when I first started my day job, circa 1811–it was meant to be a part-time, twenty-hours-a-week job for a college student. The college student part I had down, but sometimes there wasn’t enough work to fill twenty hours. So instead of surfing the web (remember, it was 1811), I would actually go door to door or cubicle to cubicle and ask if anyone needed anything done. I was a glorified gofer, so my skillset wasn’t great, but I could copy documents like a mofo and I could fix PCs. And other such things. Anyway, when people found they had somebody who actually wanted work–they loaded me up.
Loaded me up to the point where I had so much work, I was now working forty hours a week. I didn’t ask permission–I just did it. Because I had that much work. Then one day, my manager called me in and said that they didn’t have the budget for full-time and I had to go back to part-time, effective immediately. I said no problem.
That week, I left at noon on Wednesday. All of the people I was helping, when they asked me where I was going, I said home. I said management can only pay me for twenty hours, I’ll see you on Monday.
Two weeks later, I was allowed to go back to forty hours.
Now. I could have protested to management about my workload. I could have shown them my todo lists. I could have this, I could have that. But I knew that they were going to tell me to cut my hours anyway. So I gave them what they thought they wanted: me at twenty hours a week.
The thing is, they only thought they wanted that, because what they got instead was me at twenty hours a week plus the unforeseen consequences of a bunch of pissed off people having to do their own copies again.
Sometimes you cannot make someone foresee a consequence. You have to let them feel pain, because pain is how we change things. We veer away from pain, towards pleasure. Pretty basic stuff.
What the hell does this have to do with SOPA? I see this as an expanded version of when Fox went after people creating fansites. My take on it was this: if you’re a Simpsons fan who’s gone to all the trouble to create a site that adores and, yes, promotes a show? And you’re doing this out of your own pocket? And they’re going to send you a cease and desist letter for your troubles? Why would you give a damn about The Simpsons going forward?
If you eat at a restaurant and the restaurant treats you like crap, are you going to keep eating there? No…you’ll go to another restaurant. (I know some people would say yes, but they are masochists on some level and, hey, whatever cranks their tractor.) So why do fans keep going back to studios and record labels and media companies that, for the most part, can’t stand them?
Is it reasonable to allow somebody to post the entirety of the Hulk movie to YouTube? I don’t think so, no. Is it reasonable to allow somebody to use a picture of the Hulk movie when discussing the Hulk movie online? I think so, yes. Does it seem like media companies know the difference? No, from what I am reading, they don’t. And I don’t think they care.
What most media companies want from you is for you to give them your money and shut the fuck up. That’s pretty much the long and short of it. If you want to be a fan, come be a fan on whatever fan forum-site-thing they’ve created. Because they can control it. Otherwise, shut up and sit down.
So that all being said: what to do about it? Honestly, IMO, don’t fight SOPA. SOPA is going to happen and that is a battle you cannot win. If not called SOPA, it’ll be called something else. Think about anything under the SOPA umbrella as that shitty shopping mall you don’t want to go to and hardly ever go to. Yes, you’ll go in it every once in a while but you’ll feel guilty about it afterwards. That mall is SOPA and all the places that support it.
But let’s go back to the idea of SOPA as restaurant. And I want you to get up from the table and leave it. This isn’t 1811. You have options. There are other places to eat.
Are the record labels treating you like shit? You know what? I bet Amanda Palmer would love your business. I bet Ani DiFranco would love your business. I bet Trent Reznor or OK Go or Coulton or Paul and Storm or countless other bands/artists would love your business. And I bet they would be pleased as punch to have you and would Not Treat You Like Shit.
Publishing companies treating you like shit? You know what? I bet Cory Doctorow would love your business. I bet Neil Gaiman would love your business. For fuck’s sake, I would love your business. There are authors who understand and are happy to have fans and don’t just see you as dollar signs.
Are the movie studios treating you like shit? The networks? The comic book companies? You know what? There are scads of projects getting off the ground that would love some supporters. Go on Kickstarter. Find some. There are the equivalent of online networks happening. There are indie comic projects kicking off left and right.
What I’m saying is this: if you give money to media companies who treat you like shit, then you are giving them permission to treat you like shit. And “treat you like shit” could mean anything from SOPA to the quality of the product they’re selling. And if you do not withhold money from them, then why would they change? My readers with children–and some of you who possibly have rented children in the past–ask yourselves: if a child acts like a demon and you give him candy anyway, what incentive is there for him to act like an angel?
So give them what they want: their material, which they control utterly. But along with that give them the unforeseen consequences of nobody wanting it anymore. We veer towards pleasure and away from pain. If you give non-SOPA supporting companies pleasure and SOPA supporters pain, then the latter group will realize they didn’t want SOPA after all. And until it’s their idea to kill nonsense like SOPA–until they see that all the patrons are going elsewhere with their money–SOPA will never truly die.
P.S. I have not actually read SOPA but 99% of those voting on haven’t either. So I don’t feel bad.
P.P.S. Everybody will go back to the SOPA restaurant/mall from time to time. Don’t give them shit about it and don’t feel bad when you do it yourself. We all sometimes want a Big Mac, even though we know it’s bad for us.
P.P.P.S. I will happily comply with any company that wants me to take down any material of theirs. You know, that material I use to promote their stuff with buy links. If more people are interested in the non-SOPA supporters of the world, it’s in my best interest to focus more on them anyway. Cheers!