"My experience in trying to be a good citizen"
The SOPA and PIPA votes are rapidly approaching. Each of these acts has the potential to not only destroy yet another avenue of free speech, but decimate thousands of jobs and hurt the economy further with another expensive government program that's motivated by corporations, and will be paid for by the middle class almost exclusively.
Instead of being another whiny person who sits and moans about what's going badly yet doesn't lift a finger to make a difference, I have been doing everything I can to express my outrage in a sensible, succinct manner that reaches the ears of my representatives.
(If you want more information about how SOPA/PIPA breaks the internet, see this video: http://vimeo.com/31100268
) The vote is tomorrow.
As someone in the IT industry for a decade and a half, I have quite a bit of insight into just how far-reaching and devastating this act will be. So I have quite a bit to say on it. I've been writing my local senator (@KellyAyotte) on this topic for a while, and decided on the eve of the vote that I would try to speak with her directly, or at least leave a verbal message to the effect.
Using the tool available from americancensorship.org
, I had my phone line connected up with her office. Or at least, I thought I did. It seems that the tool did not connect me with Senator Ayotte's office, but rather the office of Representative Niki Tsongas in Massachusetts. (Most likely, it based the contact I reached on my area code, instead of my zip code.) But, since I work in MA and have lived in MA for a very long time, I felt it was worth staying on the line and delivering my message anyway.
This is how the conversation went down.
"Hello, my name is Brad Bonn and I'd like to speak with my representative regarding the upcoming internet censorship bill that's being voted on tomorrow."
"Um. OK. wwwwhat do you want to say?"
"Well, I'm an IT professional in the industry for 15 years with some important insight into why this is not what should be done."
<callous indifference> "Yes?"
"…well, this is a really big step we're potentially taking, and as a citizen who will be drastically affected by it, I need to express why it's a problem. Are you aware of this upcoming vote?"
<exasperated pause> "……yeah."
"Well, would I be able to speak with them?" (Unfortunately I still wasn't 100% sure of which office I was in, so I didn't mention specific representative names.)
<obviously distracted> "Well, you can leave a message."
"OK, who will receive the message, and will you be writing it down or simply passing it along verbally?"
"I'll give it to a staffer?" <strange questioning tone at the end of the sentence, as if she was asking me>
"No thank you, I'd prefer to have it given to the representative herself or to speak with her directly."
"'Yeah' I can speak with my rep? Or, 'yeah' I can have the message given to her?"
"No.. I mean I'll leave it with her."
"Sure." <obvious lack of caring>
"You just said you'd give it to a 'staffer', who is that?"
"Oh… sorry, I meant something else."
<After resigning myself that it was going nowhere, I decided to leave my "message" in the form of a brief few sentences on why the act must not pass, then leave my contact information for follow up.>
"Have you been getting similar statements from other citizens?"
<long, drawn out pause> "….yes."
"Good, I'd just like to add my own to the list. Could I please leave some contact information as well for follow-up purposes?"
"Sure, let me get a pen and paper."
<phone clicks immediately>
So there it is. Your best bet at making change happen within this country legally is to speak to an intern who doesn't give a care in the world, and then rudely hangs up on you before you even get to finish. Your message just might reach your intended destination, but unless you have pockets that are deep enough to warrant their attention, the chances are slim.
I'm going to see if my NH senators and reps have offices that are any more receptive. (@RepCharlesBass, @SenatorAyotte, @SenatorShaheen) Good luck everyone. Here's hoping the internet doesn't go away as we know it.