By Robert Folsom | January 18, 2012
A week ago I posted socionomic observations about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and said that despite growing opposition to the bill, “supporters still appear to have the stronger hand.”
Since then, the Internet-based opposition has turned the bill into a front-page political conflict. Over the weekend the Obama administration announced its opposition to the legislation, and how it did so is especially noteworthy: The announcement was a point-by-point explanation which posted on The White House Blog, in reply to an anti-SOPA online petition that had gathered more than 50,000 signatures.
Of course, the White House also knew then what was going to happened today (Jan. 18) regarding SOPA, namely what you’ve seen already if you’ve tried to use Wikipedia or Reddit: those sites and thousands more have “gone black” for a day in protest of the legislation.
The New York Times reported that the administration’s stand “all but kill[s] current versions of legislation that has divided both political parties and pitted Hollywood against Silicon Valley,” but this seems premature. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Motion Picture Association of America (two of the largest lobbies in Washington) remain aggressively committed to the bill. The pro-SOPA members of Congress still strongly outnumber those against, and the Senate remains scheduled to vote on a watered-down version of the bill next week.
What’s more, it simply isn’t wise to underestimate the negative mood that’s driving the authoritarian impulse. It won’t go away simply because the push-back has grown strong. If anything this polarization is predictable, as Alan Hall explained in the April 2010 Socionomist:
A continuing long-term trend toward negative social mood will produce increasingly authoritarian — and anti-authoritarian — impulses.
Stay tuned; there will indeed be more to come.