Monday, 25 June 2012

The Death of Democracy

It's not often that we get serious here, preferring to rant about the antics of TV has-beens or wannabees, however, we note that the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has started a petition to prevent the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer, a 24 year old British student who created a website, TVShack.net, which provided links to sites where people could download films.

According to the 'Stop the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer to the USA' petition:

O'Dwyer is not a US citizen, he's lived in the UK all his life, his site was not hosted there, and most of his users were not from the US. America is trying to prosecute a UK citizen for an alleged crime which took place on UK soil.

Now then, here's the problem. O'Dwyer did not infringe copyright, he merely provided links to copyrighted content. If there was a stall on your local market selling fake Rolex watches and counterfeit DVDs then you'd be prosecuted for knowing where it was. In George Orwell's '1984', that's called a Thought Crime.

Democracy is based on, amongst other things, the fundamental principles of freedom of information and freedom of speech. We have the right to know what our government is up to, and we have the right to disagree with it. The Yanks bang on about democracy, but what they want is conditional democracy; freedom on the condition that we only do and say things that they like and which earn their corporations lots of money.

If the US media industry wants to protect its profits, it needs to attack the people who are making illegal copies of films and music in the first place. Except it can't, because they're everywhere. I might be one of these cyber-criminals. You might. You might have downloaded some music, or copied a CD to listen to in the car, or copied a DVD for a friend. Or you might be the ringleader of an International counterfeit DVD operation. But no-one knows. So the Yanks take the easy route; attack the people they can find, no matter how loosely connected to the problem they may be, and bully them. They figure that if they cut off the communication channels, the supply will stop. Just like their policy on drugs. And guns. And alcohol. Let's face it, the American's aren't really in the best place to lecture the world on moral principles, are they?

So the threat to democracy is this: When you punish criminals by shooting the messenger, you don't stop crime, you just create a police state. Do you want to live in a world where you can be arrested just for knowing where you can buy a stolen car stereo? Where you can go to jail just for telling someone where they can get cheap DVDs?

On BBC Radio 4 this morning, they were talking about England's predictable exit from the football competition, lamenting the expertise of other countries' national teams in kicking the ball around. Last week, an expert on the subject said that it's inevitable that England won't make it very far in the competition because we're not actually very good at football, even though we like to think we are. We don't only hope to win, we expect it, and when we fail, we go and kick the rival fans' heads in as mark of our indignation. But why is this? Well, go to any village in Spain, Mexico, Italy and so on, and what are the kids doing in the streets? Playing football, doing tricks with the ball, becoming as adept at handling the ball as a baby penguin becomes at flying through water. Visit any English town or village and what do you see the kids doing? Rapping, skateboarding and hanging' with their homies and honeez.

Sadly, we are closer to America, culturally, than we are to Europe. It's no wonder, America is our adolescent child, growing up at last and trying to break free from our traditions. And like a middle aged parent trying to 'get with the kids' by pretending to like rap music and crap food, we actually give a damn what the American courts want us to do.

Sign the petition and play your part in protecting true democracy.

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