As we note Barack Obama's second presidential inauguration, which happened to fall upon Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, it's worth noting that Obama's presidency has been, at once, the most technologically conscious presidential administration and the one that has done the most to attack those attempting to share information.
From Reddit founder Jason Swartz to whistleblower Bradley Manning to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to hacktivism collective Anonymous, the government has been doing its damndest to shut down anyone who is spreading information en masse to the Internet.
Looking at Manning in particular, the release of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike video was damning evidence that our military had not only killed Reuters photojournalists and unarmed citizens in firing upon insurgents, but covered up and blocked investigations into the deaths of those journalists.
Swartz, who was found to have hanged himself recently, was charged with 13 counts relating to downloading roughly 4 million academic journal articles from the digital library JSTOR. The charges would have led to a maximum of 35 years in prison; given the Justice Department's insistence on pursuing the charges against Swartz (despite JSTOR choosing to release 4.5 million documents to the public for free).
Admittedly, hackers are not all angels—some are, at best, honorable whistleblowers, exposing injustices that absolutely need to be righted; some are Robin Hood wannabes, acting out fantasies of righting injustice as revenge for perceived personal wrongs brought against them. No one involved in these instances is as pure as the fallen snow.
But the fact that the Manning and Swartz cases are instances of throwing the book at people as hard and viciously as possible in order to make examples out of them is bordering on despicable.
No amount of Tweets, Facebook posts and online petition sites will make that ok.
This Week On Our Blogs
On The Range, we declared dating dead; announced the opening of the new Whole Foods Market, complete with its own beer wall; noted the shock of Jan Brewer calling for expansion of Arizona's Medicaid program, AHCCCS; ranted about Rush Limbaugh; looked forward at next year's apocalyptic flicks; announced the disappointing news that we won't have our own Death Star (pfft, thanks, Obama); pondered the uses of an Ex Axe; reminded you to ride with Dr. McDreamy; and oh-so-much more!
On We Got Cactus, we talked to the folks from Phoenix-based metal band Blessthefall; previewed the Grammy performance of the Black Keys; noted that Billy Bragg is visiting that City Up North; commended the Rialto on their awesome upcoming concert lineup; freaked the hell out about an upcoming R&B concert; and more!
Comment of the Week
"Frank Antenori is nothing more than a boil on the backside of reasonable political discourse. Steve Kozachik would fit in to the Republican party in 2000 and before. Not anymore. It's just gone way too far to the right, and not just that, it's abandoned all intellect and reason in doing so." - TucsonWeekly.com user Al Tam, on Frank Antenori's status in contemporary Tucson politics ("The Skinny," Currents, Jan. 17).
Best of WWW
Weekly boss Dan Gibson had a few choice things to say about the issues of bias in his Editor's Note last week-namely, that, despite our general leftward lean on things, we aren't a bought-and-paid-for mouthpiece for either side of the political spectrum, and that we're a paper that prides itself on representing Tucson and sharing what Southern Arizona has to offer.
That note brought in 19 comments, ranging from thoughts about bias to outright slams against Gibson—including a complaint report filed against a sarcastic comment he made.
Here's a tip, folks: Don't report comments unless they're actually threatening or in violation of our comments policy. It's a waste of my time and yours.