Monday, December 26, 2011

The power of ineffective moves (would Eugene Landy boycott GoDaddy?)

If somebody's putting out a fire with a Dixie cup, running back and forth to the room, it doesn't make any difference to me because at least their intentions are honorable.

Lorne Michaels spoke the words above (quoted in the Steven Gaines book Heroes and Villains) in the mid-1970s, when he was working with Dr. Eugene Landy on a Beach Boys special. Landy twice served as Brian Wilson's personal psychiatrist, and received a large amount of criticism regarding the methods that he used to treat his patient.

Michaels' words could also be applied to those who want to boycott GoDaddy to stop SOPA. However, I believe that the good feeling that you get from boycotting GoDaddy obscures the fact that you're not really doing anything of import to stop SOPA.

I wrote a post a few days ago in which I pretty much equated a GoDaddy boycott to the act of putting out a fire with a Dixie cup.

Come December 29 and 30, GoDaddy is going to get a ton of mentions in the press as sites that most people have never heard of start to pull their domain registrations and register with others. This will result in enough talk about GoDaddy in early January, leading up to the latest episode in which a GoDaddy ad doesn't make the Super Bowl broadcast.

In a follow-up post, I quoted from Jason Roberts:

The pro-SOPA faction lead by the RIAA, MPAA and the like are not screwing around, and the only realistic way to repel their offensive is to fight fire with fire. That's right. In order to have even the slightest chance of repelling this bill a lot of money is going to have to be spent paying off the politicians. I know it's a dirty game and you want no part of it, but that's what it's going to take. If you want to win in Washington, then you need to know the rules of the game, and the rules say that he who spends the most money wins (usually).

Alex Chiang has expressed similar sentiments:

- A real boycott involves self-sacrifice. Taking 20 minutes to change your name registrar is not sacrifice. Please stop feeling like you're doing something real when you switch away from GoDaddy.

- There are too many forces aligned against us to make boycott an effective technique to prevent SOPA. I'll never buy a UFC pay-per-view event, nor use L'Oreal beauty products. I also do not plan on cancelling my credit cards, and if I wind up in the hospital, I do not plan on refusing Pfizer drugs.

- What may surprise you, dear fellow infovore, is that the web 2.0 economy is a nice toy and all, but the old boy network still has the real power. In what may be a second surprise, parts of the old boy network still respond to archaic technology, such as actual voice phone calls and real letters printed on dead trees. Cynic though you may be about the Congress, have you called or written yet?

And Loren Feldman, in this video, has stated that stopping SOPA requires money and influence.

All of the above agree that boycotting GoDaddy won't stop SOPA. But that hasn't stopped the boycott threat from gaining historic proportions:

Data from DailyChanges shows that Go Daddy’s domain losses are already up over 72,000 for the past five days, and that’s likely to keep climbing, especially with Redditors ready to push for massive transfers on December 29.

OK, so let's say that this event continues to mushroom, and 450,000 domains are transferred from GoDaddy. That will result in a...well, a 1% reduction in the total number of domains that GoDaddy holds.

To Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts, that's an accounting error.

"What does Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts have to do with GoDaddy?" you may ask. But if you do ask this, then you need to learn a little more about how the business world works. Let's just say that Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts have a specific interest in GoDaddy's performance.

And even if you understand how the business world works, that doesn't necessarily mean that you understand how the political world works. Just by way of illustration, here are the top lobbying clients in 2011, as reported by

US Chamber of Commerce $46,240,000
General Electric $21,010,000
National Assn of Realtors $16,234,318
American Medical Assn $16,190,000
ConocoPhillips $16,134,043
AT&T Inc $15,990,000
Blue Cross/Blue Shield $15,855,834
Comcast Corp $14,740,000
American Hospital Assn $14,627,047
Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America $14,060,000
National Cable & Telecommunications Assn $13,080,000
United Technologies $12,650,000
AARP $12,430,000
Boeing Co $12,280,000
Verizon Communications $12,280,000
Royal Dutch Shell $11,250,000
Lockheed Martin $11,023,080
Pfizer Inc $10,910,000
National Assn of Broadcasters $10,410,000
FedEx Corp $10,227,223

It's interesting to note that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Comcast, and Pfizer - all SOPA supporters - are on this list. But what about the SOPA opponents? It doesn't appear that AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo, Zynga, or any other SOPA opponent has spent more than $10 million in lobbying efforts this year.

And the SOPA opponents really think they can defeat SOPA? Despite the efforts of the 99% - another failed effort, by the way - money still talks on Capitol Hill. And if you don't have money, you might as well not be talking.

If you think otherwise, you need your head examined.

P.S. Eugene Landy passed away in 2006, 14 years after his professional and business relationship with Brian Wilson ended.
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