During all the PIPA and SOPA activity over the past several days, I was reminded of another acronym from my youth that stirred up a similar level of ire.
The Parents Music Resource Center, or PMRC, founded by Tipper Gore in 1985, pushed record labels to voluntarily label albums that contained sexually explicit or violent content. The motive was ostensibly to protect children from accidental exposure to porn, and the implication was that lyrics with violent themes lead to violent acts in real life. The US Senate convened hearings on the issue, and artists as polarized as John Denver and Frank Zappa testified against what they saw as an attempt to stymie free speech.
In both the anti-piracy legislation and the PMRC proposals, there is rational argument to be made for limits, restrictions, warnings. There are rational arguments opposing those limits. And then there are the cool kids - and not for the first time, the cool kids appear to have won. Replace Zappa with Google, and John Denver with Jon Stewart - the effect has been similarly potent and swift.
It is fascinating to see how far these acronyms have spread in a fairly short time. Check out this post on a World of Warcraft forum, criticizing the community for not jumping on the anti-piracy-legislation bandwagon. Cool Moms have even taken up the fight.
In both cases, efforts to intervene in the relationship between content and consumer were fiercely fought off by a momentum that surpassed expectations.