I’ve always been a socialist, my whole family has. My family motto is “Crescit sub pondere virtus” which translates to “Virtue thrives under oppression”. Two of my grandparents flirted with joining the Communist party in the late 1940s when Britain stood between two emerging superpowers with differing ideologies. In the end they joined the Labour movement instead, which was almost the same for a while. My favourite musician is Bob Dylan, who famously wrote protest songs about nuclear proliferation, war, civil rights and liberty. To say that political activism and socialist ideals are close to my heart is an understatement.
So, it is with great interest that I’ve been watching the developments unfold in the Sony Hacking case. You see, it’s not just about piracy, hacking and console modification. It’s about freedom of expression and the right to be treated fairly by government institutions.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m totally opposed to piracy for financial gain. It helps fund organised crime. It puts people out of jobs. It makes people with families and mortgages scared for their future. Hacking and hardware modification for hobbyists and homebrew is something different though. There is much more scope for ambiguity there. There are grey areas.
I’m not suggesting that those who are breaking their end user agreements are right to do what they do and they’re almost certainly not right to release that work to the public where it is certain to be used for illegal and potentially immoral purposes. I’m not suggesting that the protest against Sony’s legal case is being conducted in an entirely harmless fashion. I am interested in whether it’s necessary, though.
Alan Moore is a favourite writer of mine. He wrote Watchmen, a comic book about a paranoid government imposing sanctions on masked vigilantes and forcing them to become government agents or retire. He also wrote V for Vendetta which is a dystopian view of the future in which England has succumbed to fascism (and the source of the famous Guy Fawkes mask that Anonymous uses). People are treated as parts in a machine by the totalitarian government. More importantly, V for Vendetta shows the fight against this police state and the freedom that can be found within rebellion.
V for Vendetta is clearly a work of fiction but, as with a lot of Moore’s writing, it has its roots in reality. In recent years we have seen an erosion of personal rights when it comes to legal action against large companies. Time and again, large companies have hired expensive legal teams to mire a case indefinitely while defendants lose livelihoods and go bankrupt trying to defend themselves. This essentially makes a legal battle one of money and influence. The recent attacks on Sony websites (as well as their lawyers’ and security consultants) is a protest against this perceived threat.
Is it right? Well, that depends on your personal perspective. I would say it’s going too far (particularly the accusation that activists are personally targeting Sony employees). I personally resent the inconvenience of not having access to the services I’ve become accustomed to (the PSN is suffering). I think the case against GeoHotz, which sparked the protests, is one which should probably ultimately result in his prosecution although what exactly for is something I’m not entirely sure about.
That doesn’t mean I’m entirely comfortable with the way Sony has gone about building their case though. Aggressively pursuing personal data of tangentially relevant parties strikes me as more than a little over the top. In short: I agree that it’s possible a crime has taken place but I don’t agree with the way Sony are being allowed by the Californian courts to attempt to prove that case. I can see why the protesters want to protest.
The group (or groups) behind these attacks believe they’re fighting for something that’s right on a basic, human level and I can respect that conviction in a compassionate ideology. I can respect their desire to instigate change, even if I don’t condone the way they go about it. Although, I also believe that there comes a time when protest is essential to instigating change.
So, while I don’t necessarily agree with what the protestors are doing or the methods they are allegedly choosing, I can see what they believe they’re fighting against and I can sympathise with that. Does that make it any less frustrating when I can’t connect to the PSN to download the latest DLC? Of course not. Is a few days of disruption a price worth paying to ensure that all sides of an argument are heard, whether I agree or not? I think, for me, it probably is.
This blog reflects the personal views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the professional stance taken by TheSixthAxis or any of its staff.