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Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Only PIPA I Enjoy Is Middleton In This SOPA Opera

Before I begin this installment of my Thursday Confessional for today, there's an issue that I would like to bring up. One of which I'm sure most of you are all aware of, especially after the events of yesterday in several online communities.

Yesterday, several high-traffic sites (including Wikipedia and Craigslist just to name a couple) went dark in a show of solidarity against a couple of bills that the United States Congress is set to vote on.

These bills include the 'Stop Online Piracy Act' and the 'Protect Intellectual Property Act'. Most of you probably know of these bills as 'SOPA' and 'PIPA', though.

If these bills are passed in U.S. Congress, the changes to the Internet as we know it would be huge. And many of us (myself included) do not see this as such a good thing at all. The act would essentially hold people who are guilty of online copyright infringement responsible, and they could be subjected to harsh penalties.

The possibilities regarding this act could spell doom for millions of people who use the Internet each day from looking up recipes, to interacting with people socially, to threatening our own right to online free speech as we all know it. It's scary to think that if this law were passed, our right to free information might be severely compromised.

Just on a personal level, the passing of SOPA or PIPA would undoubtedly affect my blog, as well as several thousand blogs all over the world. If this law is passed, there's a good chance that my blog could be blocked to every American user who reads it.

As it so happens, my blog is most read by American citizens, followed closely by Canadian and United Kingdom residents. In short, with SOPA and PIPA, there's a good chance that APCAGTL will cease to exist, as well as thousands of other people who blog on a daily basis.

There's also evidence that the passing of SOPA or PIPA will further damage the economy, as these bills have the potential to cripple thousands of online businesses and services. The estimates are that millions of jobs in the United States alone could be lost, and millions more could be negatively affected by the laws if they are passed.

In short, if these laws are passed, it has the potential to do more harm than good. For everyone.

Fortunately, the voting supposedly doesn't begin until later on in the month, so there's still time to get active. And how we get active is by signing one of the online petitions that are floating around the Internet, begging U.S. Congress not to let these laws pass. While I do agree that the problem of piracy needs to be addressed, and a solution should be found, this is not the way to handle it. Don't punish everyone just because of the crimes of a select few.

If you wish to protest against SOPA and PIPA, there's lots of places that you can go to make yourself heard. Just click on each of these links below, and sign the petitions. Maybe it won't make a difference, but if you feel as strongly about this as I do, take the time, and take the chance. Your voice could make a difference between keeping our Internet the way it is, or transforming it into something out of George Orwell's '1984'.

Make no mistake. Although this is an American issue, this WILL affect websites all over the world, including the possibility of this blog going dark.

With that sobering thought in mind, let's go ahead with this Thursday Confessional.

THURSDAY CONFESSION #3: I'm disgusted by people who claim to have MY best interests at heart when they don't have a clue what it is they're standing up for.

It really bothers me when shows are pulled from airwaves, or when books are banned because someone with a weak heart is offended by it. It's probably one of my biggest pet peeves.

I firmly believe that if someone is offended by content within a movie, book, or television show, they have only one of two choices. Take it or leave it.

If there's a movie that might have a scene that involves nudity, for example, there's lots of ways that people can handle it. They may watch the movie as it was meant to be watched. They can choose not to watch the movie. Those are really the only choices that would make sense.

But when someone goes all 'Helen Lovejoy' on the movie, writing dozens of letters to politicians, actors, directors, cinematographers, choreographers, fashion consultants, whoever worked on the movie, to tell them to stop producing such filth...well, I'm sorry, but I just don't agree with that at all.

What does it mean by going 'Helen Lovejoy' on someone? Well, I'll tell you.

Helen Lovejoy is a character on The Simpsons. She is the wife of Reverend Lovejoy. But, don't let this preacher's wife fool you. She may seem virtuous and serene at first glance, but once you get to know her, you'll almost be sorry you did. She even makes Marge Simpson look liberal in comparison, keeping in mind that Marge Simpson tried to get Itchy & Scratchy pulled from television herself (and that's a story that we'll get to a little later in this article).

Yeah, Helen Lovejoy is probably one of my least-liked Simpsons characters on the whole show. She ranks lower than Poochie the dog, Uter, Sherri & Terri, Lyle Lanley, Frank “Grimey” Grimes, and Crystal Meth.

(Crystal Meth being the illegitimate daughter of Brandine and Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.)

The reason why I can't stand Helen Lovejoy? She's a total hypocrite.

She wants practically everything 'sinful' taken away from the world, and often makes the passionate plea “WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?”

Yeah, that can get annoying real quickly.

I suppose that on one hand, you can look at her and say...well, you know something, at least she's standing true to the good old-fashioned morals that she was raised with, and standing up against something that she believes in.

Thing is, she doesn't.

I don't think that she cares about censorship all that much. I highly doubt that she even cares about the children at all. In fact, if you were to really go deep into Helen Lovejoy's psyche, you'd see that behind the pink sweater vest and squeaky voice, there's a really nasty woman inside that doesn't have even a shred of decency for mankind whatsoever.

Granted, her apathetic husband certainly doesn't do her any favours, but at least he's prone to having bursts of wisdom and genuine kindness deep inside his soul. Helen's just mean-spirited and nasty. While she makes a huge show being the wife of a preacher, and standing up against every piece of literature that is offensive, and magazine that is smutty, she's not doing it to protect everyone else from being corrupted. She's doing it to look important.

Just as I suspect that some of the supporters for SOPA and PIPA are doing by throwing their support for these potentially damaging bills. And, yes. I did go there.

Twenty-two years later, and Helen Lovejoy still has a lot to learn. Turns out, by gossiping about her neighbours and openly taking delight in other people's misfortunes, she's not really much better than the pseudo personality she's put on, claiming that she does what she does out of the goodness of her heart.

We all know by now that this isn't the case. She's just doing what she does to prove something to herself. No matter how bad she comes across or how smug she gets, as long as she gets what she wants, it's perfectly fine for her, regardless of how many people get hurt in the process.

I suspect that for however long The Simpsons last, Helen Lovejoy will be out there in full force, supporting bills that could take away every single one of our freedoms, completely oblivious to the full extent of what could happen if she did get her way. After all, if SOPA and PIPA existed in the world of Springfield, she'd have difficulty finding out gossip on her neighbours if her favourite web haunts were censored, wouldn't she?

One could argue that Helen Lovejoy isn't as bad as Marge Simpson though. It's no secret that the martiarch of the Simpson family has launched a slew of protests and campaigns to protect the innocence of children. And it is true that depending on the issue at hand, Marge Simpson has the potential to be just as obnoxious as Helen Lovejoy.

There was one episode though in which Marge was forced to rethink her stance on an issue, and once she had, she realized that she was incorrect in the way she approached it.

The episode was “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge”, which aired during the 1990/91 season of 'The Simpsons'. In that episode, Marge is horrified to learn that an accident in which Maggie clubs Homer over the head with a mallet could have been inspired by Maggie watching a cartoon short of 'The Itchy & Scratchy Show', a show known for Itchy the Mouse terrorizing Scratchy the Cat in a variety of cruel and inhuman methods.

Marge decides to take action against the show, despite protests from Bart and Lisa. With a group of mothers (including Helen Lovejoy and Maude Flanders, wife of incredibly religious neighbour Ned Flanders), she stands outside the studios where Itchy & Scratchy is produced, and launches a campaign against the cartoon. She claimed that the show was way too violent for children to be watching, and vowed to protest until the company took action. Of course, the company refused to listen at first, and the media spent more time mocking Marge's crusade than anything. She even was written into an episode of Itchy & Scratchy, and if you click here, you can see that it wasn't exactly an appearance that flattered her.

It wasn't until she became a guest on a talk show and passionately issues a plea to the viewing audience (in front of a clearly unprepared Krusty The Klown) to write the studio letters to replace the bloodshed with hugs and laughter that the message she was trying to get across was finally heard. Within days, the Itchy & Scratchy show was retooled to include 75% more warm fuzzies, and kids turned off their televisions in drones to go and play outside.

Apparently having Itchy & Scratchy loving and sharing just didn't quite have the same impact as fighting and biting, and the show really suffered as a result.

But then something happened that would rethink Marge's stance. Soon after Itchy & Scratchy changed their format, the very group that Marge helped found soon focused their attention on other forms of media that they could protest against to get censored or cleaned up.

Including works of classic art.

Have any of you ever seen the sculpture 'David' by famed Italian artist Michelangelo Buonarotti? I haven't seen it up close, but have seen pictures of it in various books and magazines. Let me show you a picture of the statue now.

It's definitely majestic and powerful. Oh, and the fact that he's completely naked? To me, it means nothing. It's meant to be art. I don't get offended by this statue at all. I mean, when I step out of the shower in the morning and look in the mirror, I'm not offended by what I see...aside from the fact that sometimes I wish I had the same physique as the damn statue.

But enough of that.

Anyway, when word got out that 'David' would be exhibited in Springfield as part of a cross-country tour, Marge's group urges her to protest the statue, saying that the statue in all its nakedness was offensive, and needed to be banned from Springfield.

Ah, but wait. Before the group could force 'David' into a pair of tighty-whities, Marge finally saw some sense, and declared that it was not right to censor a masterpiece such as 'David'. Naturally, some media outlets and members of her own group turned against her, and even called her out on her hypocrisy. They wondered how she could stand by one form of media, but wish for others to be censored due to indecency. When Marge had to admit that she didn't have an answer, the group disbanded, and Itchy & Scratchy returned to its winning formula.

To Marge, though, it didn't matter. In the end, she realized that she couldn't stop anyone from releasing or creating what they thought was art.

Because art, like everything else, is subjective.

Some may find it revolutionary and inspiring. Others may call it sick and depraved. But I do believe that everyone has to have some outlet to get it out there. If I don't like it, I might state my opinion, but it would take a lot to outrightly offend me. And even if it did, I'm more likely to sit back and watch as it collapses under the weight of scrutiny, rather than take action to have it removed. Even Marge Simpson must have lightened up a bit as she later agreed to do a spread for Playboy Magazine in recent years!

I strongly suspect that the fact that the SOPA and PIPA laws are garnering so much negative feedback from millions of people that they'll likely be shelved indefinitely. I certainly hope that this is the case.

If you look back on other instances where censorship was a factor, you'll see that some compromises were made. Take Tipper Gore and her Parents Music Resource Center, who took steps to get songs with offensive lyrics banned for good. A compromise was reached in that case, where Parental Advisory stickers were placed on album covers as a warning to consumers. Some people didn't like it, but at least the albums were still able to be sold as long as the sticker was clearly visible.

Perhaps a compromise could be reached in this case as well, which would ensure that people guilty of piracy would be prosecuted while people could still have the freedom to enjoy the media that is being broadcast. And we're certainly seeing some of this in action with several record and film companies opening up their own YouTube accounts to display their own content to members...some of which I've likely featured in this blog.

I'm certainly not looking to make a profit with this blog. It's just meant as a fun activity that I do each day to sharpen up my writing skills so that one day I can make a living with writing. I don't get paid any money to write this blog. If anything, the vast majority of these entries are positive in nature. It's all in good fun, and I enjoy doing this.

SOPA and PIPA is threatening my right to continue sharing this blog.

In the end, only you can decide what is right, and only you can choose whether to support the bills or not. All I ask is that you really do your research and know what your stance is before you form an opinion.

This blog post is just my own viewpoint.  All I ask is that we all retain the right to continue having them.

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