Is it too late to avoid our fate?
Americans have a reputation for being lazy and indifferent. It’s true. For the most part, we are too lazy to participate and too indifferent to care. We accept our role as “consumer” in commerce and politics as we surrender to television and billboard ads. We are morphing into brain-dead zombies on our couches and in our cars. When it comes to playing an active role in our cyberworld, are we any different? That doesn’t even require getting up from the chair that has so generously contributed to the size of our derrière.
However, the zombie virus has not yet invaded the World Wide Web, and we are not yet captive audiences here as we are to other media. Communication on the Web is still free and open. We can access any site we choose at equal speed. But it will not stay that way if we ignore the opportunities open to us. The Web will evolve based on how we use it. When our friends forward us a link to a petition to express our opinion to our congressmen, then our coworkers invite us to the latest online gossip group with carefully placed ads, which one do we really care about visiting?
The Web was invented to share information freely among researchers, but companies like AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner want to build a tiered Internet with faster service for companies willing to pay. If this happens, the right to communicate online will be sold to the highest bidder, and it will be too late for a nation of overgrown zombies to navigate freely. The only political information available will be the opinion of those with the most money, much like television is already.
In 2006 when legislation in Congress would have given more power to these corporate giants, TrueMajority.org sent me an alert and I joined 1.5 million people in signing online petitions to stop it. I will have signed the petition for nothing if we all only click on corporate pop-ups anyway. Democracy cannot function without freedom of the press, and the World Wide Web is one of the few spaces where it still truly exists. If we don’t take advantage of this freedom, it might as well be gone already.
So what can we do? Let’s surf alternative news sites, not just news sponsored by Yahoo. Let’s sign up with grassroots groups like MoveOn.org and TrueMajority.org. These groups make desktop activism easy even for lazy Americans like me. But be aware: These are tools to express our opinions. The minute we let someone else do the thinking for us—corporate or not—the zombie virus invades.
Are we victims of political pop-up propaganda (a.k.a. zombies with big butts), or are we going to pull the rug out from under corporate hold on bandwidth and free its wavelengths for the people? Although we may have to get up from the computer chair to avoid big butts, it is not too late to avoid becoming Web zombies.