SOPA, PIPA, & Ray Bradbury: Day 20 of Project 365

“…There is more than one way to burn a book, and the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”  – Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, Miami Book Fair International, 1990

Ray Bradbuy: A celebrated American author in the twentieth century for speculative fiction, Bradbury is best known for Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man.

We’ve all heard about the recent bills PIPA and the House of Representatives version of the act, SOPA, that was vigorously protested by a large number of influential internet sites. If you haven’t yet, go look it up immediately and educate yourself.

Go ahead, use the internet.

Irony aside, I’m pleased to say that these acts were postponed “indefinitely” as a result of the widespread protests both online and in many major cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C.

Bradbury wrote one of my favorite novels in speculative fiction, Fahrenheit 451. His novel delved into the combined possibility outcome of a world deeply involved in both censorship and social apathy. Firefighters are not men who fight fires, but rather they start fires and burn any and all books that people secretly own. (Books, as troves of information, are altogether illegal.)

As his quotes alludes to, his book isn’t simply about the act of book-burning. It’s an analogy to keeping information away from people, deciding what and where people can get their “acceptable” information, and the kind of world it leads to creating.

There will always be people running around with lit matches. It’s human nature. No one likes to be told they are wrong, nor to be argued with.

The purpose of the SOPA and PIPA acts were to prevent piracy of creative ideals that would otherwise make the author/artist money (and lets not forget the publisher/studio/etc.). If you wish to read an impressively complete and well-thought response by the famous Paulo Coehlo, read this entry on his blog. I really couldn’t put it better myself.

It is good to see that while people are not apathetic, censorship can be stopped.

I especially liked Wikipedia’s protest, on a personal level. I looked up their site in curiosity, said “Wow, that’s great Wikipedia is taking a stand for what they believe in,” and moved on. Not five minutes later, I was trying to figure out some random fact about a famous actor, and immediately I went to my internet. I had already clicked the link and waited for the page to load before I realized…wait. Wikipedia isn’t up today.

Talk about effective protesting. Did anyone else have the same experience? I hope the proponents of the bills did. Just because it would make a great story someday.

My worry, as you might have guessed, is the slippery slope this standard would set for future lawmakers. Think of the law as a “test run” for other laws the House and Senate might be able to pass, to ensure the flow of money in certain directions and stop the flow of ideas in other directions.

Disagreeing is healthy. Even when it’s difficult (or perhaps especially when it’s difficult), disagreeing is a necessary part of growing and evolving as a society.

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