July 28, 2005

Slate Supports Your Right To Free File-Sharing!


I'm charmed by this pro-payola article in Slate. To save you the elephantine prose slog, here is the brief version: dude, we all know this is capitalism and we're cool with it. Here's a sweet nothing, sweetened with analogy:

It's a truth universally acknowledged that manufacturers of everything from soap to computers pay the folks who control crucial distribution channels to display their wares prominently. It's legal, and no one minds....come on: Barnes & Noble is a retail operation, not a progressive book-lovers' cooperative.

This is charming in part because it's always charming to watch someone explain that hegemony is cool because it's, uh, hegemony [for those somewhat puzzled by accounts of cultural hegemony elsewhere, particularly regarding its leading theorist Antonio Gramsci, here's how the cheerfully desciptive, Bob Marley-quoting wikipedia entry defines it]. In Slate's "argument," the domination of the heavily-funded over the less-so is simply the way it is and everyone knows it. Moreover we assent to it, apparently by the simple act of getting out of bed within its logic. There may have been a time in the past where we understood the state as something other than a series of predations weighted by wealth, but come on, fellas, let's not be naive, etc etc.

What is additionally charming is the author's courage in calling for a truly free market; perhaps he will spend the rest of his day explaining to the Senate that, because it's founded on a many-hundred page regulating document, the North American Free Trade Agreement (brought to you by a Democratic President; perhaps this will help in the understanding of hegemony) isn't truly free? Ditto CAFTA, passed just this week. And GATT, and the FTAA, and the WTO regulations. I feel this fact is underexplained.

Now it's possible that the author intends, like the Senate, to clarify that freedom's just another word for pro-corporate regulations imposed by force. That would be charming of itself. But let's assume the he actually believes what the essay says: that even within capitalism, freedom is freedom for everyone to go for theirs; that there should be no legal barriers impeding the travels in the life of the commodity, from its birth in labor to its death in your attic; and that such things were an artifact of a bygone era when the principles of capitalism were still shrouded in mystery.

Now that we can all honestly act like we know, let's go. For this belief perfectly is inconsistent with, for example, any limits on copying, sharing, and downloading music; Gross, in fact, offers a clear articulation [Mac users click here] of your right [PC users click here] to give and take anything you'd like [for BitTorrent click here; it's tremendous] without threat of legal consequence. You see what I mean about "charming"? Ah, freedom! Dude. Sweet. And when the RIAA and Justice Department come to your door, you can just give'em the hegemonic wink: Come on, fellas, let's not be naive, etc etc.

Posted by jane at July 28, 2005 01:03 AM | TrackBack