Why *I* Protest

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?