Corporatism, Democracy and Morality: My Journey

My good buddies at Google cancelled Curl Publishing's Adsense account after just three days: I thought we had kissed and made up. No more Google Collusion for me.

I recently returned from Washington D.C. where, for the first time in this writer’s life, I experienced and participated in Democracy — Real American Corporate Democracy; not that phony baloney stuff they taught us about back in school. For this was the real deal — knee deep in the muck and grime of the realities of political and legislative influence.

This is not to say that I have not voted — for indeed I have. In fact, I have voted in practically every election I have been eligible to vote in since I turned 18 in 1994.

This is not to say that I have not written to my representatives and been a part of organizations that petition our government for reform — for indeed I have taken the steps of a concerned and dedicated citizen given the options afforded me to participate in the democratic process of the United States of America.

Where has this gotten me exactly? Quite honestly, not very far. I do not have the voice and the high-priced lobbyists of the multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporations who have the ability to meet directly with the members of the House of Representatives and the members of the Senate to petition them for enacting or blocking legislation for the benefit of said Corporate interests.

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For two days, I did have that power. By piggy-backing off the coat-tails of a large lobbying group supported by the major internet advertisers — even my antagonist: Google — I was able to roam the halls of various House Office buildings with my lobbyist ‘chaperon’ and meet with actual members of congress, face-to-face (or with their staffers), to lobby them to support legislation — or in this case; block legislation — detrimental to my interests as a writer and publisher. It just so happened my interests on this particular issue coincided with the interests of those large corporations who I often despise and loathe for dictating the course of our Democratic System for their moneyed interests.

Am I a sell-out and a hypocrite for associating myself with these corporate lobbyists? Absolutely! Yet I had real access to Democracy and I made connections with the true power brokers of Democracy that will inevitably help me, my Publishing Corp. and the writers that are employed through my business be able to continue to write articles that are critical of the very same system of which I was temporarily a part of.

Access on this level is rarely granted to individuals such as myself; to deny this opportunity that gave me direct access to our system, wretched as it may be, would be foolish not only for my interests, but the interests of those who read my work and read the work of the writers contracted by Curl Publishing. I did indeed sell-out and I slept in the devil’s bed; and I will do it again and again and again because ameliorating relationships with groups and institutions I abhor on issues of which we are mutually united (though for wildly different reasons) is what will alleviate divisiveness and give a ‘radical’ such as myself a voice.

My plunge into the deep, dark and dirty recesses of Democracy came about through an invitation to attend the 2nd Annual I.A.B. Long Tail Alliance Fly-In Conference. The I.A.B., or Interactive Advertising Bureau, is a lobbying front group for the major players in internet advertising.

As one may or may not know, the reason sites like mine exist — as well as most sites on the internet — is through advertising revenue. Despite my anti-capitalist, anti-corporate and ant-imperialist stances, I too must rely on advertising to continue to put my message out there; hopefully exacerbating a critical dialogue of the issues I find to be most relevant (and specifically those of which I have some degree of expertise) and raising awareness and bringing about proactive change in some degree.

Advertising revenue is especially relevant to my interests now, as my business, Curl Publishing Inc, is actually paying writers to provide content to The Pigeon Post. Like it or not, my ability to survive within the current capitalist marketplace — my ability to bring diversity and critique to that marketplace — exists through advertising revenue. Do I like having to have advertisements on my sites? Of course not. But subscription fees are a death sentence for news websites considering the amount of free content that is available. If anyone out there wants to pay for the content on this site, let me know immediately. If enough of you want to pay for it, I can take down the ads and only provide that content to paying readers.

Nobody’s interested? There are many traditional news sites that are attempting that now because of rapid decline of print media. Perhaps the Wall Street Journal and New York Times can do that — for a little while. The Pigeon Post does not have that option. Even the big boys rely on advertising revenue to survive financially. Like it or not, most information we receive through television, radio, print and the internet is supported by businesses willing to pay to place advertisements within that information we are consuming. The system is flawed, but it is what we must deal with until larger systemic changes can take place.

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The particular issue that the I.A.B. was lobbying against — with my willing participation — relates to a Staff Discussion Draft being floated around by Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA-9th District), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

This particular discussion draft relates to internet privacy, which in and of itself is an important issue and one that has not been adequately addressed through any legislation thus far. However, the wording and intent of this draft would require an opt-out on first party publishers. In essence, when someone visits The Pigeon Post — or any other site — they would have to give permission to view the content on that site; and on each page if there is second-party advertising.

As a publisher, in the sense that I publish a website with advertisements, I make sure that any ad that appears is appropriate and is not made to entice a visitor to unknowingly click on an advertisement. If this bill were imposed, one would have to opt-in or opt-out for each advertisement — by agreeing to the terms of the advertisers privacy policy. Not only that, one would have to opt-in or opt-out of my own privacy terms. Just getting to an article could take five minutes of reading and agreeing to privacy terms. Quite honestly, this has the potential to shut down sites like mine overnight — and millions of other sites for that matter.

Obviously the advertisers would lose millions and millions in ad revenue, which is why they are fighting this type of privacy regulation tooth and nail. But even publishers like me — a publisher who despises corporate-dictated democracy — would have our message completely obliterated through this ill-informed and reactionary legislation.

I doubt this is the intent of Rep. Boucher and Rep. Waxman (who is co-sponsoring this draft), yet if it squeaks through committee in its current state, The Pigeon Post is screwed (and so is everyone else who generates revenue through advertising). We should be able to not have our personal information given to third parties — there are many ways to do that already — but this draft is so poorly worded and short-sided that everyone loses. Information would be further monopolized by other large Corporations who would be able to lobby for exclusion from these restraints (perhaps with the same lobbyists fighting this particular issue).

Unfortunately, Curl Publishing Inc cannot afford lobbyists  to advance its issues with the legislative branches of Government. My actual participation and voice in Democracy (even under the guise of my Corporation) is practically non-existent without money and connections.

While speaking with the lead staffer for a very right-wing and conservative Representative from the Midwest (specifically: all eastern parts of Missouri outside of Saint Louis), she stated: It’s like driving down the highway with all the billboards on the side of the road. We can’t remove them, but we can choose to ignore them and move on.

It’s a matter of choice. The Pigeon Post has no other option but to generate revenue through advertisements. Our readers can choose to ignore those ads or not visit my site altogether. I have to agree with the right-wing young lady on this issue. In fact, I have to agree with the Corporations who profit from buying, selling and placing advertisements on this issue — even Google (arghhh!!!!). Sometimes one must bite the bullet and build coalitions with those they abhor if it is in the mutual benefit of both parties.

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