NZFF2014_06 The Internets Own Boy

If you use rss then you know one tiny part of Aaron Swartz work and rss really illustrates what a prodigy he was, making huge contributions to its development when only 13 years old! His involvement in developing & then selling Reddit for a significant amount, but remaining altruistic in his focus and motives for work also reflect hugely on his core values. But while there are any number of successful computer geniuses, it was his evolution into a political lobbyist that upon reflection is our greatest loss.

I wasn’t really aware of him in his earlier life, but I clearly remember the successful anti-SOPA protests and can only imagine what Swartz would have gone on to achieve in later life if he hadn’t been ‘made an example of.’ This is an excellent documentary, well worth seeking out to both appreciate the huge contribution Swartz made in his short life and the huge cost he paid. While the US government would presumably like his persecution to be a permanent reminder for anyone considering breaking any form of laws via the use of computers, in the end it just reveals the very sad truth that justice is for those who hold power & can access/afford any scale of legal costs. Test it and it will likely bankrupt you, but even more so it will be at your personal psychological expense, and I suspect for any reasonable human being that personal cost would rapidly escalate to being untenable.

For me, the true test of any film is revealed through the residual effect it has on me. Powerful films stay with me for days and weeks, some are permanent. Some come & go, like they never even existed. Seeing The Internets Own Boy made me appreciate what an ephemeral concept ‘freedom’ is, and with SOPA, just how close the perceived freedoms we have online were, to being lost in the aid of big business. But here is the real residual unease: the motives for SOPA have not been defeated & disappeared. They will have licked their wounds, gone away & regrouped, and then continued to invest huge sums developing new strategies to achieve the same desired result.

In my country this currently takes the form of the TPPA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade deal being negotiated in secrecy between the USA and 12 other countries. Why is it being negotiated in secrecy? Presumably because one persons idea of a ‘free’ trade agreement does not equate to many, many others idea of freedom. But thanks to Wikileaks, draft documents revealing some of these hidden intentions have come to light. Now that is the deep sense of unease I feel more clearly now, that big business is lobbying via political entities to spread their idea of ‘freedom’ (i.e. control of freedom) outside their own borders. And while acts of war are usually more overt & abhorrent, these insidious stealthy attempts at political manipulation are equally disturbing.

See this movie


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