Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Power of the Comic

Apparently, John Oliver has succeeded where cooler heads have failed to prevail. In a thirteen-minute monologue, he managed to reduce the debate over Net Neutrality to plain language that did not require extensive legal background for understanding; and he made it funny. To add insult to injury, he concluded his sketch by providing the URL through which all American citizens could make their opinions about Net Neutrality known to the FCC. According to a CNET report by Joan E. Solsman, this seemed to be sufficient to bring that comment-collection site to a crashing halt due to overload. This seems to make sense considering that, according to TV by the Numbers, the initial broadcast had about a million viewers; and, as of the release of Solsman's article, the number of YouTube views of the routine was "approaching the 700,000 mark."

There is a bit of life imitating art here. Oliver's basic argument was that Comcast was going to use the power of its abundant purse to increase the purse's capacity while undermining the welfare of the general public (which gets more and more dependent on Internet connectivity by the day). His campaign to flood the FCC comments site was reminiscent of the I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-gonna-take-it-any-more scene from Network, probably with even larger numbers. Will it make a difference? We all remember Network's jaundiced answer to that question. We also know that the FCC is being run by a guy who used to work for Comcast. We may reasonably assume that both Houses of Congress are more beholden to Comcast than to the electors who put those representatives in their seats. So it may come down to whether or not the White House is in a position to stand up for all of us on the mad-as-hell side of the fence. Enquiring minds want to know!

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