Monday, January 14, 2013

Freedom to Connect

From speech by Aaron Swartz, May 2011, University of Chicago, about the fight against COICA/SOPA/PIPA, by courtesy of Democracy Now:
I was at an event, and I was talking, and I got introduced to a U.S. senator, one of the strongest proponents of the original COICA bill, in fact. And I asked him why, despite being such a progressive, despite giving a speech in favor of civil liberties, why he was supporting a bill that would censor the Internet. And, you know, that typical politician smile he had suddenly faded from his face, and his eyes started burning this fiery red. And he started shouting at me, said, "Those people on the Internet, they think they can get away with anything! They think they can just put anything up there, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them! They put up everything! They put up our nuclear missiles, and they just laugh at us! Well, we’re going to show them! There’s got to be laws on the Internet! It’s got to be under control!"

Now, as far as I know, nobody has ever put up the U.S.'s nuclear missiles on the Internet. I mean, it's not something I’ve heard about. But that’s sort of the point. He wasn’t having a rational concern, right? It was this irrational fear that things were out of control. Here was this man, a United States senator, and those people on the Internet, they were just mocking him. They had to be brought under control. Things had to be under control. And I think that was the attitude of Congress. And just as seeing that fire in that senator’s eyes scared me, I think those hearings scared a lot of people. They saw this wasn’t the attitude of a thoughtful government trying to resolve trade-offs in order to best represent its citizens. This was more like the attitude of a tyrant. And so the citizens fought back. ...
I'm pretty sure that deranged senator was Patrick Leahy of Vermont, lead sponsor of COICA and PIPA (SOPA was the House version of PIPA).