Thursday, December 18, 2014

Citizenfour and Cory Doctorow

Citizenfour (2014) is a documentary film directed by Laura Poitras concerning Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. (Wikipedia)

Science fiction author Corey Doctorow wrote a book called Homeland.

Overview: In Cory Doctorow’s wildly successful Little Brother,(prior book to Homeland) young Marcus Yallow was arbitrarily detained and brutalized by the government in the wake of a terrorist attack on San Francisco—an experience that led him to become a leader of the whole movement of technologically clued-in teenagers, fighting back against the tyrannical security state. 

A few years later, California's economy collapses, but Marcus’s hacktivist past lands him a job as webmaster for a crusading politician who promises reform. Soon his former nemesis Masha emerges from the political underground to gift him with a thumbdrive containing a Wikileaks-style cable-dump of hard evidence of corporate and governmental perfidy. It’s incendiary stuff—and if Masha goes missing, Marcus is supposed to release it to the world. Then Marcus sees Masha being kidnapped by the same government agents who detained and tortured Marcus years earlier.

Marcus can leak the archive Masha gave him—but he can’t admit to being the leaker, because that will cost his employer the election. He’s surrounded by friends who remember what he did a few years ago and regard him as a hacker hero. He can’t even attend a demonstration without being dragged onstage and handed a mike. He’s not at all sure that just dumping the archive onto the Internet, before he’s gone through its millions of words, is the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, people are beginning to shadow him, people who look like they’re used to inflicting pain until they get the answers they want.

Fast-moving, passionate, and as current as next week, Homeland is every bit the equal of Little Brother—a paean to activism, to courage, to the drive to make the world a better place.

Well here is the real world meets book. Edward Snowden had a copy and he had it in his hotel room as he was disclosing information about the NSA. At his website Doctorow has a clip from the film where you can see the book sitting in the hotel room.

I have to wonder if the Doctorow book was what actually pushed Snowden over the edge to disclose the NSA information. I don't say that it a way like Doctorow was insighting illegal activity or that Doctorow was the cause. But books can influence and I have to wonder if that influence had been removed would we be in the same place we are now.

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