Are you a person on the internet? Then you probably care about SOPA/PIPA, and if you’re a Minnesotan, you’ll doubly care about a short piece I wrote for the A.V. Club Twin Cities that details Al Franken’s involvement in the whole ugly mess. Check it out!
(EDIT: The A.V. Club Twin Cities has been closed and their pages taken down. Even though the whole thing is largely moot at this point I have decided to repost this article in its entirety here for prosperity or something. Enjoy.)
Minnesota’s political image has been a bit tarnished as of late, what with Michelle “Crazy Eyes” Bachmann and Tim “Hockey Fight Blood Lust” Pawlenty crashing and burning spectacularly in the County Fair Demo Derby that is the current Republican primary races. So maybe it’s a bit unfair that two bad apples misrepresented Minnesota to the rest of the country, but hey, at least we still got Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, two of the better Democrat Senators around, still out there fighting the good fight, right? (Or being tax-happy socialistic job-destroying America-haters, we don’t have any bias.)
Except they went and done fucked up, too, considering both Franken and Klobuchar have been co-sponsors and influential supporters of PIPA, the Senate half of the controversial SOPA/PIPA bills.
As citizens of the internet, you’re all undoubtedly aware of the recent firestorm over the SOPA/PIPA bills in Congress, and for the hypothetical few of you who’ve been in a coma for the last few weeks Sean O’Neal did as fine and succinct an explanation of the situation as you’re likely to fine on any one of the millions of sites that have been buzzing about it.
And even though the raid on Megaupload and Anonymous’ vicious response points to the fact that the fight over copyright infringement on the internet has a long way to go before a peaceable solution, with the large public outcry most members of Congress have come out in opposition and the votes on SOPA and PIPA have been shelved indefinitely. For once, it seems, the American people stood up to the corporate interests ruling our government and won. And yeah, it would have been nice if it had been on something like, oh, income inequality or the environment rather than our right to watch Hank Hill listening to hilariously out of context music but at least it’s a start.
But even though it seems like we may have avoided the internet apocalypse, at least for the time being, it’s unclear how long of a shadow the controversy is going to cast over Franken and Klobuchar, considering the demographics who most strongly opposed the bills are largely progressives and youth, the two strongest bases for the liberal Senators.
Klobuchar, who seems genuinely baffled that the bills upset anyone, probably stands less to lose as, well, she’s pulled this kind of stuff before so it shouldn’t really surprise anyone and, as stated, she seems to legitimately just not understand how the internet works or operates. Not that that gives her a free pass on this, but at least it makes sense.
Franken though, who’s been uncharacteristically cagey about the backlash to SOPA/PIPA considering how strongly he supported the bills, is a much harder pill to swallow. Franken’s not perfect by any means, but his strident support of net neutrality, a keystone of his Senatorial portfolio, endeared him to the internet community. Finally it was someone who got it. He understood what was great about the internet and he was out to make sure that didn’t get taken away.
Until now, that is. Not that it’s any great mystery where this sudden about face came from (hint: follow the money), and don’t get us wrong. File sharing and copyright infringement are an issue and Franken probably has his heart in the right place. But it just feels wrong. That’s the thing that’s easy to forget about politics nowadays, though, that the SOPA/PIPA debate is an important reminder of: it’s never as simple as heroes and villains.
With Franken slinking away with his tail between his legs, it seems he’s smart enough to just let this one blow over. Will the debacle will be forgotten enough by 2014 to not pose any seriously damage to his shot at reelection? It’s eminently possible, because if there’s one thing the internet isn’t known for, it’s having a long memory.
But, for now, enjoy your hard won internet freedom, Minnesota. But keep an eye on Franken; he’s not a man afraid to risk it all.