From the Editor: Strange days, but then aren’t they all?

BY: JASON DEAN, Streetvibes Editor

Wednesday January 18, 2012 and Wikipedia goes offline for 24 hours in protest over the SOPA bill, and its cousin PIPA, that threatens to bring huge scale censorship to the internet. Over 7000 other sites, including Google, have joined the protest against the bill introduced three months ago by Texas Republican Lamar Smith. On the surface the bill is a pro-Hollywood act to protect the media industry from piracy, but many see this as a big governmental step to seize greater control over the Internet. 2011 saw the Internet mature into its adulthood, (and no we’re not talking about adult content, that aspect was there before the first modem ever went online) the Arab Spring protests and subsequent Occupy Movement seem like the result of a generation born after the arrival of the Internet who are now old enough to vote and are definitely old enough to make a difference.

So is it really mere coincidence that the month after the Neo-Democracy movement hits America that the Republican reaction is to introduce a censorship bill? For decades “wacky” liberals have been spouting rhetoric about civil rights and equality, but now that the general public (i.e. the 99%) are starting to lean this way too, we see a rapid reaction from “our” elected officials to clamp down on our rights. 2011 was also the same year that the Senate passed laws allowing the government to declare the U.S. part of the war zone and thereby empower the military to arrest U.S. citizens on U.S. soil without charge or representation. Strange days indeed when the paranoid amongst us are being proved right.

For now SOPA has been shelved, but PIPA is still lingering. Emphasis should be placed on the word shelved; those who want to see this sort of control enacted are patient and will bide their time. Progressives also need to be patient and prepare ourselves for a lifetime of vigilance; a civil rights victory is not guaranteed to be permanent unless we keep a watchful eye over the liberties that we have won. Perhaps a moderate dose of paranoia a day is a healthy thing.

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