The outcry concerning the enforcement provisions included in the pending SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) legislation in Congress has been swift.
… And effective too, evidently, as numerous elected officials have scooted away from the legislation (including some who were once co-sponsors of the legislation.)
Among the more interesting commentary I’ve read from concerned citizens on this topic is a note I received from Wolfgang Nebmaier, an industry colleague who provides business translation services for corporations.
He has is an interesting perspective, I think, considering his background and business activities. Here are some excerpts from what he wrote me:
I am of German descent. This makes the issue of censorship very personal to me. During all times of state terrorism, free speech was not free. Instead, [an elaborate] spy system is established, as was the case with Hitler, and later Stalin, and later … anywhere.
To speak your mind without making sure the walls “have no ears” was potentially fatal. In fact, my father … barely escaped death, but only because he knew the side streets of Munich ‘like the back of his hand’ and was able to ditch his pursuers. He spent the remaining time of the Third Reich hiding – along with his uncle, who had escaped from Dachau – under the snow in a mountain cabin. Believe me, this history is engraved ‘deep in my DNA.’
In all cases of curtailed civil liberties, a perceived external threat is used to justify the big, crude hand of the state appropriating the role of protector …
And make no mistake, we already live in an extremely supervised state. There are more than ample mechanisms in place to monitor and watch people closely. As an example, PayPal, ‘the world’s most-loved way to pay and get paid,’ monitors and analyzes the amounts and subjects of all your money traffic. Recently, this led to a ‘friendly reminder’ to me that I had had too many transactions of a certain amount with a certain title; I was forced to justify all the amounts and the title.
So state censorship is just a law away. The infrastructure is already in place in terms of technology and people.
Every time an “authority” is created, inevitably it wants to prove itself necessary, assert itself and re-enforce its power. It will, sooner or later, be champing at the bit to ‘do its thing.’
Another tidbit: I am a translator and, as such, occasionally canvas job sites. Recently when I looked for translation jobs, there were just a few – except for a plethora of national security-related language analysis jobs. These are Blackwater-type, non-governmental government proxies hired to monitor whatever they are told to monitor – ‘just doing their job.’ The infrastructure of Big Brother watching every click we make is in place, my friend … way in place!
Regardless of what side you take in the SOPA/PIPA debate, the concerns raised by Wolfgang are well worth considering. They’re definitely food for thought for the 21st Century.