Wednesday, February 1, 2012

PIPA, SOPA, ACTA, and Why Praising Anonymous is Stupid

So there’s been a lot of chatter lately among the particularly uninformed and gullible about the greatness that is supposedly Anonymous. Just today the second part of a two-part article (Part one to be found here) which purports to be about the group and their activities (but which is honestly about a few members of the group which is important and I’ll tell you why later)  came out and was posted on, among other sites, Huffington Post. 

It’s a good article, well written, if misguided and full of buzzwords like rebel and take-down, troubadour and rights, and of course, freedom of speech. It’s actually very moving but moving is not the same as logical or correct and once one engages the executive functions of the brain those things become important. 

The essence of the article is that Anonymous used to be a bunch of people who trolled and harassed others for entertainment purposes and now they’ve expanded to do the exact same fucking thing on a large socio-political scale. 

And at some point,. For some inexplicable reason, otherwise rational intelligent people decided to support and cheer for this behavior. In fact, in some cases the exact people who will condemn said behavior on an individual scale cheer for it when it’s happening on a wide scale. 

That behavior is what most people call hypocritical

 Because, you know, it is. 

First off, I’d like to state that the concept that internet piracy is the greatest economic threat to anything at any time is laughable.  Given the amount of money the entertainment industry rakes in during a given year, the money they lose to piracy is not particularly significant. 

That said, it is stealing. I’m not making a value judgment about it, I’m stating it as fact. Downloading something illegally is, factually, stealing. Anyone who doesn’t like that designation and thus the one that logically follows; that people who illegally download are thieves should probably stop doing it or learn to deal with the facts. 

But let’s examine the facts here; specifically the facts involving the most recent bout with blatant hypocrisy.

There are a number of pro-stealing articles being written currently which are fascinating, primarily because they never look to the most rational solution, not stealing, but basically excuse the theft with the two most common rationalizations; “It’s not that big a deal,” and “If you gave me what I wanted right away I wouldn’t have to steal from you.” If you know anything about the Fraud Triangle the justifications are nothing new.

The narrative that is presented by people who defend Megadowloads, and companies like them, is that these sites are just trying to make a living and they are going up against “the man,” and as a result, shutting the site down presents some sort of attack on free speech. Which is silly if, once again, one engages the executive functions of their brain. It’s a fairly standard attempt to abrogate responsibility by blaming anyone who crosses one’s line of sight.   

Torrenting whole movies and shows and sharing them is stealing. In this case this website not only made money off of digital items that weren’t theirs but facilitated others in doing the same. That’s the technical definition of racketeering.

The government shutting down sites that allow or encourage racketeering isn’t something to get in a tizzy about. It’s them doing their jobs as a law enforcement body. It’s kind of why we pay them.
But guess what?

YOU DO NOT HAVE FREEDOM OF SPEECH ON THE INTERNET. You have the freedom of speech up to the point that the website owners, local state and federal laws and the TOS of each individual website allows. And what’s more, we all agree to that restriction when we use the websites we use. Anyone who says otherwise is either not paying attention, insane or lying. 

There is an even more important fact that people seem to enjoy ignoring…


You don’t. You might want it, but you don’t have it. Welcome to reality.

Megadownloads in not some plucky little company fighting for anything other than a profit margin.
This is not the little guy in any sense of the term. Yes, that’s a giant mansion you see in that picture. Want to know why you’re seeing a giant mansion?

"The group was accused of engaging in a scheme that took more than $500 million away from copyright holders and generated over $175 million in proceeds from subscriptions and advertising."

$175 million fucking dollars.

"The FBI said Dotcom personally made $42 million from Megaupload in 2010 alone."

Still think that the website owners are the victims?

Dotcom has previous convictions for insider trading and embezzlement from his time in Germany and Thailand.

Assuming the indictment is even a little bit accurate, this isn’t some poor company getting screwed by “the man.” This is a massive criminal conspiracy that was generating huge profits engineered by a convicted felon. Crime pays. A lot of the time it pays a hell of a lot better and for far less effort than honest work, especially in the digital age.

Pause for a moment and think about how Mega worked. There was no search function. As such, they relied on word of mouth to advertise what they had. Word of mouth is pretty largely unregulated as far as content. Because there was no search function, so the owners of the site would have had to have a pretty sophisticated monitoring system in order to regulate content. Oh and they had no problem with porn. There are, from the various articles I’ve been reading/things I’ve been hearing about this subject, more “shocking,” indictments on the way.

If one of the federal governments prosecuting this case pulls out a ream of child porn indictments (which seems to be what people are hinting at but all I’m hearing is hinting so far, no confirmation) will Anonymous still be “geniuses” for committing terrorist actions to defend this company?

Or will people finally start calling them what they are? Terrorists.

Yes, I wrote it. It’s bloody well true. Any group that uses, which attempts to use fear or intimidation to gain socio-political power is, by definition, a terrorist organization. Don't get me wrong, what they actually manage to accomplish is the fundamental equivalent of tearing down a movie poster because their screaming temper tantrum didn't get them into the flick for free, but still.

They follow the individual cell model of a terrorist organization. They justify their behavior by blaming their targets, like a terrorist organization, They hide from the consequences, like a terrorist organization. The individual members hide their faces, like terrorists. Most recently, they tricked unwilling people into participating in their activities, making those people accessories to their crimes. Like, fucking terrorists.

They also target individuals. Not just women who throw cats in the bin, (as an aside I think that woman is either crazy or evil and if the latter, I hope she rots in hell) but children who foolishly troll various websites, people who disagree with them, random strangers who they judge as "deserving it."

And then they hide some more.

They and their supporters claim that they are "fighting for our rights," but in this case that pitiful excuse doesn't fly. No one has a right to free Dr. Who episodes.

If the concern were actually stopping the draconian measures that are proposed by PIPA SOPA and ACTA then everyone would be celebrating the demise of Megadownloads. Why? Because it proves that these laws are redundant. Clearly our current legal measures are sufficient. See they work. Don't make more. They are unnecessary.   

That would be the logical, responsible, non-terrorist reaction. But that's not what we get, is it? Of course not.

So the next time you hear about Anonymous' activities and you think about cheering them on keep in mind what they are actually doing and it you are simply not able to restrain yourself from encouraging them at least be honest about it. You're cheering on terrorism.And when someone they've targeted gets hurt or killed, which is not outside the realm of possibility given the anonymity of their membership and the deliberate lack of responsibility they take in their members actions, you'll be cheering that on too.

Recall up top when I stated that it was important that the article was really only a profile of a few members of the group? Here's why it's important.

No one knows who they are. And please understand that I'm not trying to construct some sort of White Citizen's Council "Show me you membership list," argument here. I think that one of the great advantages to the internet is the veneer of anonymity it allows its users. But it is also a danger. No on knows who they are by design and as a result they cannot be held accountable for their actions. They just disavow those people with whom they no longer want to be associated. Which is convenient and another marker of terrorism. Allowing the man who has been caught to take all the blame in order to protect the larger cell is pretty text book.

Haven't read any text books on terrorism? OK, well you probably should. And then really think about whether you want to be supporting terrorist.