The Google logo has been blacked out today. Wikipedia, reddit, Mozilla and Twitpic are all blocking access to content. Even Star Trek icon George Takei has blocked his site. The moves are displays of cyber-protest against the heavy-handed and ill-conceived Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
From a political and public relations standpoint, this has already been a complete and utter failure for Hollywood and their formerly formidable lobbying arm, the Motion Picture Association of America. Former Sen. Chris Dodd became the new CEO of the MPAA after he realized he would never be re-elected in his home state of Connecticut due to his personal scandals with Countrywide Mortgage and his involvement in the mortgage collapse at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So naturally, Hollywood hired the failed Senator as their man in Washington. Dodd has been the chief architect of SOPA, which was written with about as much subtlety and constitutional protocol as his equally disastrous Dodd-Frank banking law.
The merits of SOPA and the overall issue of online piracy is a worthy topic, and it can be argued that the federal government should have some hand in policing and enforcing piracy on behalf of private industries and artists who rely on royalties as a major part of their profit structure. These details can and should be debated here and in Washington DC. What is striking about today’s Internet blackout and the over-the-top reaction to it from Dodd is that this arrogant, befuddled and inept former Senator has finally figured out a way to unite the left and the right to focus their passion against a common enemy: Hollywood.
When was the last time left-leaning companies like Google aligned themselves with the Heritage Foundation? When have you seen left-wing think tanks like Demand Progress taking the same stand on an issue as Tea Party organizations? How often do you see Huffington Post columnists parrot talking points from the CATO Institute? Yet, thanks to the arrogance and ineptitude of Chris Dodd and the MPAA, these disparate groups are all aiming their ire at the Hollywood industry and the politicians who gladly take their donations and then push through ill-conceived legislation with the subtlety of an elephant in a ballet.
No matter how the SOPA legislation ends up, this episode should send a clear message to Hollywood and the elite few who share the same big government nanny-state desires embodied in the SOPA bill. Annoyance and anger at the pompous industry transcends ideological lines, and when an industry chooses a buffoon like Chris Dodd to handle what should be a nuanced and introspective regulation that polices piracy without stifling free expression, they deserve the black eye they are getting.
Face it, Hollywood: America is telling you to take a leap, and take your failure of a lobbyist with you.