Tag Archives: Martin Luther King

Was it Social Media That Defeated that Bad SOPA/PIPA Bill?

I was delighted to read Vivek Wadhwa’s take on Social media’s role in politics on the Washington Post:


To frame this battle properly, a loosely organized group of Internet leaders outwitted a well-funded lobbying organization. And they did so in grand style, convincing dozens of lawmakers to reverse their votes virtually overnight.

he goes on to liken this phenomenon to the voice of the people in Egypt and then the rest of the Middle East last Spring. But also something else altogether, this:

A sleeping giant — the technology world — finally rose. Google, Mozilla, Reddit, O’Reilly Radar, Wikipedia, and thousands of other Websites rose up to protest PIPA and SOPA.

I like the idea that the defeat of SOPA/PIPA are, like the political changes in the Middle East, due to changes in possibilities and the way people work together. I’d like to think that in this case technology is in a broad scope it’s like what happened a generation or so ago when Mahatma Gandhi, and a few years later Dr. Martin Luther King, changed the relationship between individuals and governments by establishing the power of the public non-violent protest. Isn’t that similar? Disenfranchised, silenced people discover a voice.

Was it social media that defeated SOPA/PIPA, or people suddenly getting annoyed and complaining?

Mine isn’t the greatest analogy, either: It works way better with the Arab Spring than with SOPA/PIPA, because in the first case it did seem like a collection of voiceless individuals; but in the second, that so-called sleeping giant was hardly voiceless. Just distracted, perhaps. Looking in the other direction, and then suddenly confronted with a threat.

Either way: hooray!

Reflections on Martin Luther King and Leadership

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...
Image via Wikipedia

How do you measure great leadership? Inspiring people? Changing the world? Remaining true to oneself while fighting for larger truth? Eloquence? Honesty? Power?

However you measure it, Martin Luther King was a great leader. He was courageous, inspirational, eloquent, and amazingly effective. He changed the world while standing for right against wrong, not letting the end justify the means, not compromising some values for others, meaning great honesty. And he had huge impact on the Civil Rights Movement that changed the legal trappings around racism in this country during the 1960s. That’s great leadership.

A somewhat-paranoid conspiracy-theory-advocate of mine believed the so-called military-industrial establishment had to kill Martin Luther King because, like Mahatma Gandhi a generation earlier and halfway across the world, he led with non violence so effectively that violence, political power, and military power couldn’t defeat him. I don’t buy the conspiracy theory but I did witness how what he started became a movement, and the movement changed the world.

You’d have to be my age – baby boomer age – to remember how bad things were, back then, with racism and bigotry. Nowadays you see images of it in drama and history. The post-war industrial boom society, the 1950s and early 1960s, was openly racist, bigoted, homophobic, and chauvinistic.

Sure, racism and bigotry continue, unfortunately. But when Martin Luther King started his movement, schools all over the South and in most of the cities routinely separated races. “Whites only” establishments, even “whites only” drinking fountains in public places, were common all over the South. I’m not saying these problems are solved, but at least most open public brazen manifestations of racism and bigotry are illegal. And for that we all owe a debt to Dr. Martin Luther King.

And remembering him, on this day, is also a good time to reflect on what leadership really is. It isn’t managing or manipulating public opinion, or spin, or votes. It’s not counting followers, or influence.  It’s standing for ideals and sharing a vision that makes people better. It’s living the values you hold and teaching by example. It’s changing your world for the better by spreading ideas and values.

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