Whether you agree with the proposed legislation or not, the online protest was impressive. The bills I’m referring to are the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). In case you were on vacation (somewhere exotic, I hope!), the protest happened Wednesday and involved sites voluntarily blacking out their content and asking viewers to contact their Congressmen to oppose these bills. We princesses do not like the idea of our free speech being threatened via legislation, so we joined in the protest (after all, blackout is the new black).
I was impressed with the protest for several reasons. First, it had the weight of several very popular and very large companies behind it. Companies like Google and Mozilla supported the blackout. Other companies, such as (English) Wikipedia, Reddit, Craigslist and BoingBoing joined (or led) the blackout. Google “censored” their logo but did not blackout, so people (presumably) could learn about SOPA and make an informed decision on whether to object to it or not. Second, while these companies agreed on their political view to oppose these bills, it is not clear they actually collaborated to design this campaign. The blackout idea originated on Reddit and then spread like wildfire, especially when Wikipedia announced they were going to join the blackout. The reason why Wikipedia’s announcement (IMO) was significant was because it was based on community consensus.
“Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1800 Wikipedians have joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA….Of the proposals considered by Wikipedians, those that would result in a “blackout” of the English Wikipedia, in concert with similar blackouts on other websites opposed to SOPA and PIPA, received the strongest support.” — Wikipedia entry on SOPA initiative/Action dated January 16, 2012
But my main point is that the campaign grew organically. No one had to sign up for an official “blackout” badge. People just did it because it was important to them, because it was a chance to demonstrate political opinion and will at the same time. Sites like WordPress (which is what we use for our blog) created plugins to facilitate the blackout process for the “little guy.” Google made it super easy for voters to contact their representatives. People (and companies) latched onto an idea and did their part to bring it to fruition. There wasn’t any weird “this was my idea” competition or “your voice doesn’t matter” superiority complexes (complexities…complications…no wait, complexations!).
Third, despite this lack of collaboration (or maybe because of it), there was a plethora of information about SOPA and PIPA available online and at least some of this information was focused on informing rather than persuading (some examples include the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and Politico). In addition, the information was fairly consistent (IMO) and cross referenced other sites. If you still weren’t sure what to think, you could find a slew of opinions from everyone and their brother, including people who don’t normally get political.
Finally, the protest was a huge success. Wikipedia released a statement the blackout had the intended effect in terms of getting people to contact their legislators.The Senate website had “technical difficulties” as a result of the blackout as a result of folks trying to contact their legislators. I’m not suprised. Sopastrike.com estimates that 10 million people contacted their representatives and over 115 thousand websites joined the blackout (best estimation to date).
Wow. That is really cool. And I feel really proud that The Pagan Princesses joined the fight.
But this post is not about SOPA and PIPA and what the princesses think about it (even though I keep telling you we are opposed to this legislation). This post is about me trying to figure out how to capture even a smidge of that momentum…of that motivation…of that work and apply it to the Pagan cause. “What’s the Pagan cause, GG?” you might be asking. “I don’t rightly know,” is my answer. But there is something there. Some thing that we all want.
As Jax pointed out last week, we don’t proselytize, so we aren’t wanting to swell our ranks. As I’ve pointed out, we aren’t focused on entry into Heaven, so we aren’t wanting to be forgiven. We are a small bunch, in terms of the US population, so we aren’t expecting equal representation politically. So what the heck do we want? I mean, how can we rally around a protest chant with a blank space?
“What do we want? _________ When do we want it? Now!”
If I’m really honest (and fear not the wrath of other Pagans), I would say we want legitimacy. Not the external validation kind of legitimacy. I mean, I don’t care if you judge my beliefs as hogwash. I really don’t. But don’t dismiss me because of my beliefs. Don’t dismiss my political voice, my social will or my personal values. That’s what I mean by legitimacy. In the broad social landscape (including news, film and television) Pagans are portrayed as loopy so we can be marginalized. Granted, sometimes Pagans are captured on film when they are not…putting their best foot forward (examples include Wife Swap and the well-circulated ritual to heal Charlie Sheen).
I know, this “loopy – marginalized” phenomenon is not unique to Pagans.* But I don’t think Pagans have as many positive public images as we do negative ones. That’s one of the reasons Jax and I started this blog, to present a positive image of Pagans.
So if we fill in the blank with “legitimacy” (that’s a big IF), how and what can we learn from the success of the SOPA campaign to advance our cause? Of the four things that impressed me, I think the second and third points are most relevant. We need a seed idea that captures the Pagan imagination enough to engage participants, and captures public imagination enough for them to pay attention. We also need — and this is the real challenge — to work on consistent messaging. The reason I suggest this will be a challenge is because there is disagreement among Pagans on what it means to be Pagan. We pretty much all agree that we don’t have to agree on what we believe. But we don’t all agree that what we believe binds us together.
Again, I know, this disagreement thing is not unique to Paganism. But I can’t help but feel we Pagans aren’t making a good faith (no pun intended) effort towards social and political solidarity. Maybe it’s because we don’t all value the power of a unified voice, the power of a unified (positive) image, the power of a social momentum. Or maybe I’m just whining because I got to be part of successful political campaign and am now frustrated because I don’t know how to do that again in support of my peeps.
What do you think? Do you agree with how I filled in the blank? If not, how would you fill it in? Do you think Pagans should strive for a unified political voice?
* I lived with my grandmother the last few years of her life. She used to complain when reporters would talk to people in the field. She said they always found the most ignorant person with a Southern accent to interview. Her belief was that they did this to subtly remind Southerners this is what they sound (and look and seem) like to the rest of the world.