In some quarters of Washington DC, people have grown fond of saying that all Americans care about is the economy. But take a look at the five congressional bills looked up most often by Americans during the week of January 22, 2012:
- H.R. 3261
Stop Online Piracy Act: Popularly known as SOPA, this bill would have allowed corporations to haul Americans and American organizations off the internet without a trial, merely on the allegation of behavior that infringes on corporate profit. SOPA would violate the American principle of due process in law.
- S. 968
Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011: Popularly known as PIPA, this bill is the Senate counterpart to the House’s SOPA, also seeking to establish corporate ability to censor free expression on the internet, also without charge or proof in a court of law.
- H.R. 1981
Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011: This bill casts itself as a crusade against child pornography, but its legal impact is much broader than this. H.R. 1981 would require that all internet companies and even non-profit service providers keep logs of visitors, to be delivered up on demand to government and corporate authorities in an expansion of the already existing online surveillance system. On top of that, if three accusations (not proven) of copyright infringement were laid against an individual, their internet privileges would be revoked, in violation of the first amendment provision guaranteeing speech and assembly rights for the people.
- S. 1867
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012: a bill allowing the U.S. government to detain and interrogate any individual indefinitely, without charges, without trials, and without recourse.
- H.R. 1540
NDAA, House version.
This list of highly-read bills tells another story. It tells us that right now, what Americans are most concerned about is the erosion of civil liberties by the U.S. Congress. Members of Congress who seek to maintain a mantle of populism would do well to pay attention and respect this trend, in deed as well as in words.