Remember the Stop Online Piracy Act? It was the universally reviled anti-digital piracy bill that was coasting for a quick and quiet passage into law earlier this year until basically the entire internet rose up in protest. Now SOPA is coming back piece-by-piece, according to TechDirt, and if anyone is going to rise up in opposition this time, it should be the conservative media. Because the son of SOPA brings with it a dreaded “czar.”
The new SOPA-fragment bill coming before Congress is the Intellectual Property Attaché Act, which strengthens the powers of the titular diplomatic attachés to promote U.S. copyright laws abroad. The language of the bill, which is sponsored by SOPA author Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), is similar to the section of SOPA that called for intellectual property attachés “to address intellectual property rights violations in the countries where the attachés are assigned.”
The new bill, however, has an added provision requiring the president to “appoint an Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, who shall report directly to the Director.” In other words: an intellectual property czar.
There was a brief period back in 2009 when czars (advisors appointed by the president and not subject to Senate confirmation) were in the eyes of conservative journalists and pundits the epitome of the Obama administration's supposed capacity for anti-democratic, big-government tyranny. (Presidents, Republican and Democrat, have made extensive use of czars for decades.) Sean Hannity said the “unconfirmed, unvetted individuals are now at the helm of a shadow government right here in the U.S.” Fox & Friends' Gretchen Carlson called them “czars-slash-kings,” while Neil Cavuto suggested they be called “evil despots accountable to no one.” Rush Limbaugh went full Godwin, as he is wont to do.
Now we have a Republican congressman proposing legislation that would require the president to appoint yet another tyrannical, shadowy, despotic, perhaps even Hitler-ish czar to manage intellectual property issues abroad. One would think that, given the previous bipartisan opposition to SOPA and the right's well-documented vehemence toward the very idea of czars, they should be the first ones reaching for the pitchforks, no?