Constitutional Epiphany

Steve is travelling, so I’m subbing for him tonight for my good-bye, Friday! post. I managed to snag a copy of Cory Doctorow’s latest book in manuscript entitled LITTLE BROTHER. The story is about some young hackers in a could-happen-tomorrow future, who use their abilities to fight against a tyrannical branch of the US government.

It’s going to be marketed as a YA, but I’m telling you right now that this book has a much broader audience. Besides being a gripping, fun story (it kept me up half the night last night), it’s a thought-provoking and well-researched book about the perils of putting too much power and information in the hands of too few fallible humans. Doctorow’s story illuminates beautifully why it is so imperative that we all — right, left, and center — work together keep the internet free and democratic, and to protect people’s right to privacy.

When it comes out, buy it. Seriously. I don’t care if you are working two jobs and don’t have time for recreational reading anymore. I don’t care if you are seventy-six and haven’t picked up a YA since a decade or three before they were called “juveniles.” Read this book. It fucking rocks.

It’ll be a while—it’s not even listed on Amazon yet. But put a note in your calendars to check again in six or nine months. It’s worth it. (And btw, the title is perfect.)

And in combination with the horrific VA Tech shootings and the ensuing discussion about guns and the constitution, the book gave me an epiphany. I’ve always thought of the constitutional protections for a democratic internet as being a First Amendment issue, and that is absolutely the case. However, I’m no lawyer, but I see an interesting case to be made for the Second Amendment as well.

The Second Amendment was clearly intended to protect from seizure the tools the citizenry need to defend themselves from tyranny. Muskets and bullets were the tool of choice back then, but it’s quite clear that the underlying intent was to uphold ordinary people’s ability to defend themselves from a government gone wrong.

In a very real sense, the right to privacy and a free internet is the new “right of people to bear arms.” Even the expression “forewarned is forearmed” gives this notion a nod. Access to information is the new equalizer. There may be no way an ordinary citizen, even armed with an uzi, can stand against the assembled might of the US government, as our founders intended, should our government fail in its duty to not abuse its authority. But we can keep them honest, with access to information and the right to protect our personal information from unreasonable search and seizure.

The struggle against tyranny has graduated from bullets to bits.

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Update 4-21-07 12:54 pm MDT: Minor text edit.

3 thoughts on “Constitutional Epiphany

  1. Interesting look at the second amendment… good point! I am a freshmen teacher and I’m always on the look out for upcoming YA lit. Thanks for the tip, it sounds like there would be a lot of discussion to go along with Litter Brother.

  2. Absolutely. It’s also chock full of cool facts on information security and privacy, that would serve as the basis for a meaty discussion of the challenges of protecting info in a data-drenched world. Doctorow really did his homework in a BIG way and then dramatized it well.

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