Why *I* Protest

January 12, 2011 at 09:00 PM | Tags: freespeech, jan15, tunisia, protest, video, anonymous, wikileaks

This post was import from an earlier version of this blog. Original here.

If you haven't heard, this Saturday, January 15, Anonymous is organizing global protests to defend WikiLeaks and free expression. Somewhat to my surprise, I'll be joining them. Here's why.

I've always been passionate about civil liberties (thanks Mom!), but like most Americans I shy away from "activism". I attended one of the large protests against the Iraq war, but was disappointed by how little effect it seemed to have. Equally depressing was the lack of follow through - thousands of people turned out in the streets, and then... what? We just went home.

I first heard about Anonymous on reddit during their Project Chanology. I remember seeing pictures of excited protestors in V masks. Like most, I thought it was a vendetta against the Church of Scientology by a bunch of computer nerds for some unknown reason. Another day, another weird Internet meme. Only recently did I learn that the fight was not against the Church, but Internet censorship. Huh. Digging deeper, I learned they've fought for free speech for years, including aiding the Green Party in Iran. In the past few days, Anonymous has supported protestors against the Tunisian dictatorship.

Still, hardly enough to get me off my couch... until I saw this video. It shows what appears to be a flamethrower being used by police to disperse Tunisian protestors:



Everyone with their phones out...
All you can see clearly is the fire and the phones.
People desperately trying to get word out to the world about what's happening.
THAT is why information needs to be free, right there.
In grainy, glorious, 320x240 cell phone video.
If we cannot see, we cannot act.

The efforts by governments and corporations to suppress the information released by WikiLeaks should offend everyone who cares about the health of our democracy. In an era when corporate run media has turned politics into just another sporting event, WikiLeaks has picked up the slack. For the first time in a decade, thanks to WikiLeaks, citizens are gaining insight into the actions governments take in our names. We should be praising these people, not calling for them to be hunted down.

I look at a world that is becoming increasingly authoritarian and it fills me with fear. It's not only the actions of governments, such as the TSA's "enhanced patdowns". As a culture, we've adopted the attitudes of our leaders - like this man who waterboarded his girlfriend. Has tyranny arrived at our doorsteps? No. But the trend is clear.

I can no longer sit idly by. This Saturday, I'll stand with Anonymous to protest for freedom. Because as they say: if not me, then who?

These comments were imported from an earlier version of this blog.

Robert 2011/01/13 03:10:30 -0800

I agree partly. War crimes should absolutely be leaked. Secret government cables about how countries conduct their business with each other...no. That is where wikileaks crossed the line in a big way. I lost all respect for Assange at that time.

Rafe Kettler 2011/01/13 08:42:24 -0800

Defend free speech all day long. That's fine. But Anonymous aren't a benevolent activist group; they're a group of basement activists that try to shake the shame and lack of purpose that looking at porn on 4Chan all day gets them by being terrorists.
By all means, support what you believe in, But please, don't support Anonymous. You're just feeding a troll.

Jerome 2011/01/13 08:54:17 -0800

Wow, you must be one of those people that believe everything they see and read on the internet. That video that you have posted isn't what you say it is. I see no one in the video with a flame thrower. I do see an angry mob of people throwing things at what appears to be police. The people wanted to fight so the police (if the really did have flame throwers) fought back. As for WikiLeaks, they have endangered American lives by posting some of what they have. They have also attained information illegally in some cases by paying people to steal information. WikiLeaks haven't empowered the "people", they have just pissed off governments. Your time in protest will be another waist in time. It's not going to change a thing. Enjoy your waist of time.

John L. Clark 2011/01/13 09:05:29 -0800

Thanks for standing up for free speech, Peter. I didn't know Anonymous was pushing for a day of protest on Saturday, so I appreciate the heads-up. I would happily protest with you, but there is another protest concerning unjust treatment of prisoners to which I have already committed. This absolutely relates to the treatment that Bradley Manning is experiencing at Quantico, although his case is not the main focus of this particular protest.

I think it's very important that we use a general understanding of injustice to form a continuous community of resistance, though, so know that I do stand in solidarity with you as you protest. As another example, I would happily have protested with those 173 persons who marched in jumpsuits and hoods on Tuesday in solidarity with the prisoners in Guantanamo, but I don't have easy access to the Washington, D.C. area. But we do need to know when others support us, even when they cannot be physically present.

Olly 2011/01/13 12:24:58 -0800

If wikileaks was running purely in the public interest, it's cache of secret documents would be available online to everyone already. The drip-feeding of information to the media only serves to maximise Assange's time in the public eye and his potential personal gain from the whole affair.

gotcha 2011/01/14 02:11:48 -0800

Well done Pete - we shoud all do more to stand up and be counted for free speech and liberty. There are too many sheeple!

Nick 2011/01/16 07:29:32 -0800

I didnt think my low opinion of activism could go any lower until i heard of Anonymous.They are an online street gang, just looking to smash windows of any building they take a dislike to.