Same as the Old Boss? (Audio Interview)

Photo by TriggerPhoto.

During the SOPA battle, I continually tried to argue that it was fine to distrust media conglomerates but that it was not rational to simultaneously turn a blind eye to the political influence of Silicon Valley. Last week, a handful of Democratic representatives sent a letter to the DNC requesting a new plank in the party platform.  The language was drafted or backed by three Northern California representatives — Zoe Lofgren (16th), Anna Eshoo (14th), and Doris Matsui (5th), and they were joined by Jared Polis of the Colorado 2nd.  The language requested reads as follows:  “Democrats should explicitly affirm our staunch commitment to online free expression, to protect privacy from overbroad surveillance, to a free and open Internet, and to innovation in digital services.”  There’s nothing inherently negative about this language. In fact, it’s so generic that it begs the real question:   Who or what is behind it?

To discuss the relevance of this latest development, I spoke with my colleague Cormac Flynn.  Cormac has been a democratic party operative for more than 25 years. He has served as a campaign manager or finance director at the state, local, and national levels; and he is today Vice President for State Policy and Program Planning at the League of Conservation Voters.

NOTE – 9/4/12:  This article from The Washington Post reports that the Democratic Platform will include language committed to an open Internet that includes protecting intellectual property and providing cyber security.

© 2012, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

Follow IOM on social media:


  • Juan Williams (of Fox News no less!) has observed that “[t]he language of GOP racial politics is heavy on euphemisms that are fully understood by the party’s base but allow the speaker to deny any responsibility for the racial content of his message.” He cited such examples as “entitlement society” and “food stamp president.” No doubt an encyclopedic GOP definitionary would be as lengthy as it would be entertaining (e.g., peace [= war]). This plank proposal by the tech industry’s mouthpieces in the Congress is the same type of shit from different bulls. The paymasters apprehend the language as some grandstand play in their favor, so the handmaidens get fully credit. Even a casual observer need not be Daniel Webster to work out the code, but the politicians, oozing ethical punctiliousness, maintain plausible deniability and a poor imitation of a seraphic smile. It’s all in the game and, fortunately in this case, trifling. So where’s the plank standing against criminal theft by shadowy foreign instrumentalities of American ingenuity, innovation, and creativity?

    • In fact, Cormac and I actually discussed the likelihood that the language in the Dem plank contains precisely the kind of code to which you refer. For better or worse, the answer to your question is that the GOP included intellectual property theft in its platform. Thanks for commenting.

  • Like so much of life, the carefully couched language of political code is a double edged sword. The whole point is that not everyone understands your intent. The theory is that keeps you safe until you can be more candid about your designs. One not infrequently amusing hazard, however, is that everyone reads what they want into the statement – and if enough of them think they know what you mean, they will end up defining your language and not you. (They may also turn on you rather ferociously if you try to correct them.)

    A second hazard was recently on display in the Aiken/Ryan legitimate rape flap: If the public finds out what you mean before you reach your imagined future of a sympathetic concord, you will be figuratively de-panted. Ryan had to backtrack to saying “rape is rape” and is still trying to explain why, if the distinction is meaningless to him, he spent so many legislative days over so many years in so many bills fighting so hard to add the word “forcible.”

    My point here is that the anti-SOPA crowd may be pleased with the language. But that doesn’t mean it will ultimately mean what they think it means. Welcome to the politics.

  • Pingback: Why I'm not losing sleep over Prism. » The Illusion of MoreThe Illusion of More

Join the discussion.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.