When the powerful world of old media mobilized to win passage of an online antipiracy bill, it marshaled the reliable giants of K Street — the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Recording Industry Association of America and, of course, the motion picture lobby, with its new chairman, former Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat and an insider’s insider.
Yet on Wednesday this formidable old guard was forced to make way for the new as Web powerhouses backed by Internet activists rallied opposition to the legislation through Internet blackouts and cascading criticism, sending an unmistakable message to lawmakers grappling with new media issues: Don’t mess with the Internet.
As a result, the legislative battle over two once-obscure bills to combat the piracy of American movies, music, books and writing on the World Wide Web may prove to be a turning point for the way business is done in Washington. It represented a moment when the new economy rose up against the old.
This is where you can really see better the Marxist split of base and superstructure. The composition of the superstructure (law, education, information distribution) is much easier to transform than the composition of the base. The base is not the only economy (a departure from Marx), but elements of the economy that are older and much more tied to the older aspects of human evolution: mobility, food, shelter. We have yet to see anything like the kind of challenge the new media has posed against the old media in the energy sector, which is a core part of the base. The composition of the energy sector is not here to stay but, like much else in the base, hard to challenge and slow to change.