Reactionary Politics

25 Apr 2012

Joel Spolsky:

The internet seems to ignore legislation until somebody tries to take something away from us… then we carefully defend that one thing and never counter-attack. Then the other side says, “OK, compromise,” and gets half of what they want. That’s not the way to win…

I have not posted about SOPA, PIPA, or CISPA, because the issues are much more complicated than I can sum up in five-hundred words. The bills are Bad, for the Internet, for free speech, for privacy. That I know and can clearly articulate without much effort. The problems with it are rather eloquently being explained in various other places – Technica has written at length on the various pieces of legislation and Timothy B. Lee’s recent article is probably the best breakdown of the privacy concerns.

CISPA is a piece of legislation proposed to deal with legitimate issues that have arisen from the success of the Internet, but it is being designed and guided by those who either do not understand the technology or have goals that run counter to its intentions. We will not sit idly by while they attempt to knock down the walls that we have spent the last two decades building. We will protest. We will shout. We will stand our ground and declare that this is too far.

And we will probably win this particular fight.

The problem is the next one, when the battle lines are less sexy and the rights we lose aren’t as stark. The problem is when they learn where we are willing to draw the line and then get as close as the can to it without causing outrage. We are practitioners of reactionary politics and eventually we will lose.

It is time for us to stand up and start building something. Stopping CISPA is only be the first step in a long process. Cybersecurity and privacy important issues to us and we should take part in the creation of those policies. We should be an interest group that guides policy, not a protest movement that attacks it. We have created the Internet that we wanted to see, now we have to protect it and that is not as sexy and is significantly harder.

Are we willing to put in that work? Are we willing to govern? Because if not then we are going to see this incredible tool legislated away into a hollow shell of its former self.

And we will only have ourselves to blame.