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Sunday, November 27, 2011

This is exactly what record companies don't want to happen and why ultimately they will continue to try and stop it.

"Note: I was writing about this experience for an English course, then realized how applicable it was in regards to SOPA. It might be tough for some to see why SOPA is such a big deal, hope this helps.
As a soldier in Afghanistan I had the opportunity to experience many things that are uncommon to most westerners. My team and I spent several months patrolling a series of remote villages along a seasonal river in order to build a better relationship with the people in the area.

The area was one of the least visited by international forces. On multiple occasions I met nomads that had never seen westerners and some who thought we might be Russians (who had been there in the 1980's). I met very few people in the area that were able to read. Schools were found mainly in cities. It was rare for locals in these villages to travel much, with many individuals spending the entirety of their life in the same village of maybe a hundred people. During my time in these villages I did not once see a woman over the age of around 8 or so. The only source of electricity in the area was through running a power line off of a car or motorcycle battery, which would allow one to charge a cell phone or radio. There were no landlines, no internet access, basically no telecommunications. Hardly anyone can read and so there are very few books or newspapers.

A national telecommunications company had tried to erect a cell tower in the area. The tower lasted only a week or so before local Taliban blew it up. Initially I wasn't sure as to why the Taliban had blown up the tower as they could benefit from use of the tower as well. What I soon came to realize is that what they feared was the knowledge that would come with cell phones.

After spending a considerable amount of time with the locals it became clear that their only source of information, of news, was by word of mouth. A majority of what they knew about the outside world came from travelers, and a significant portion of the travelers through the area were Taliban. The Taliban in the area were able to effectively control the incoming knowledge of the local populace as the only source of new information came from travelers (word of mouth). Additionally, the Taliban set up random checkpoints in and out of the area in order to control both the goods that were coming in and out of the area as well as the people and thus the knowledge.

From an outsider's perspective it was easy to see that the Taliban were controlling and manipulating the local population, to the benefit of the Taliban and detriment of the locals. They were effectively spreading propaganda against the central government and against international forces. The locals, however, had no way of knowing that they were being controlled and manipulated in a way that was detrimental to their own well-being.

This may be an oversimplification, but you don't know what you don't know. If you've never been exposed to a certain material, a certain set of knowledge, then you can know neither its validity nor its significance. It's been said that knowledge will set you free. For those of us that already have a good deal in the way of personal freedom, I'd say that knowledge is what will keep us free.

The United States has been a worldwide leader when it comes to freedom of information. It's my assessment that SOPA is a step backwards, a step that will neither help the general public nor the majority of US businesses. Not everything regarding U.S. copyright bill is bad, but the manner of enforcement and the liability placed on businesses and individuals by this bill could be extremely detrimental.

If you think it really can't be that bad go ahead and read it yourself: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/112%20HR%203261.pdf
tl;dr Went to Afghanistan, saw the Taliban blowing up cell towers and setting up road blocks to control information. Don't like my senators/congressman trying to shut down part of our most influential means of communication."

"I am a soldier as well. I have only been to Iraq, a few times, since the start of the war, and I have seem similar villages just as you described. And of course being in the Army, I have had several buddies who have been to Afghanistan and have described the exact same thing. It is very interesting to see. I am just helping confirm that this is actually happening over there, for any skepticism of any doubts people may have."


The End of the World: Nullarbor Cliffs, Australia

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