Many children dream of becoming a superhero, of righting wrongs and saving the world from injustice. Often, the superhero himself has suffered a difficult and painful childhood and wishes to protect others from a similar fate.
Sometimes in order to protect citizens, superheroes occassionaly had to break the rules. In The Day that Superman Broke the Law, a petty criminal who wished to further his nefarious goals ensured that Superman was locked up for breaking various minor laws in the pursuit of justice. In his defence, Superman claimed that his crimes were necessary and that had he not committed them, many other far more serious crimes would have gone unpunished.
There are surprising parallels to be found between a fifty-one year old comic book and today's story in Rolling Stone regarding Deric Lostutter.
Known as KY Anonymous, Deric Lostutter played a crucial role in exposing evidence which led to the indictment of two rapists, whom officials in the town of Steubenville, Ohio, had seen fit to protect. Despite the fact that the evidence showed the perpetrators mocking the victim after the rape, even using the charming phrase that they "raped her harder than Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction", the School Superintendent attempted to cover up these attacks and has since been charged with obstructing justice and failing to report child abuse. The rapists themselves were found guilty and in my view, given preposterous one year sentences.
For a self-proclaimed White Knight (or KnightSec), Deric had experienced the same prerequisite childhood dificulties. A child who had lived with bullying and domestic violence and had found solace within coding one day snapped, confronting and attacking bullies who targeted vulnerable individuals, including his own mother. After these events, he underwent a metamorphosis common to superheroes, eventually finding Anonymous, the online hacker group, as an outlet in which to carry on his fight against cruelty and corruption.
After having achieved his goals and been raided by the FBI, he finally outed himself. He now faces up to twenty-five years in jail for revealing this injustice. Yes, he made mistakes. At one point he exposed the e-mails of a Steubenville High website master (accessed by another Anonymous hacker) and falsely claimed that these may have contained child porn. However, we are still prosecuting a man who essentially had saved a woman from living with the lifelong knowledge that her attackers were not only still at large, but also protected by members of her own community. To all intents and purposes, this was simply a man who stood up for what he felt was right.
I'm still not sure what the public perception of Anonymous is. Even I do not disagree that they are a potentially dangerous organisation, but when we live in a world where the likes of Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and now Deric Lostutter face losing the majority of their lives for the 'crime' of informing the world about vital facts and truths - information which our government and security services do not judge fit for public consumption. This seems to me to be fundamentally wrong.
In the case of Edward Snowden, one of the main arguments was that national security had been compromised and that terrorist organisations would now be aware of the NSA's methods of tracking their communication. I cannot believe that this information was not already available in 'ten easy steps to becoming a successful terrorist', or 'how not to end up living in a cave'. They must have known. Even I knew.
In the case of Bradley Manning, there was the damage 'allegedly' caused by the release of diplomatic cables. Varying official responses were published with America's allies denouncing the publication of these documents, no doubt fearing what lurked within their own cables. However, former British Ambassador Craig Murray said that he
"never understood why it is felt that behaviours which would be considered reprehensible in private or even commercial life - like lying or saying one thing to one person and the opposite to another person should be considered acceptable, or even praiseworthy in diplomacy.Those who argue that Wikileaks are wrong believe that we should entrust the government with sole control of what the people can and cannot know of what is done in their name".
Yes, there has to be discussion about the safety of information released and where the lines are drawn between unnecessarily invading, exposing and ruining the lives of individuals, while still ensuring that we are aware of what is done in our name, without our consent. Am I alone in believing that the line is currently so skewed in the favour of those who wish to cover-up and hide their corruption, that it has become ridiculous?
In the case of Superman, the public came together to support him and paid his fines whilst applauding his actions. In the end, Superman was only found guilty of being the greatest superhero in the world. Sadly, I do not see a similar fate for store for Deric. So, this is my very small non-hacking related contribution to the fight against injustice.
The state wants to terrify people with ridiculously excessive jail terms for those who wish to speak inconvenient truths. It wants to keep its dirty little secrets hidden from us all, to be free to do whatever it wishes, whenever it wants, to whomever it likes.
I did not sign up for the laws enforced within this world. Sometimes I feel I was born into subjucation and that apparently, I can do little to change what is obviously and blatantly wrong. I regularly wonder how I can be one person, alone, in a sea of people who feel exactly the same way.
If only more of us could stand up and speak together, perhaps we would live in a society in which not only the powerful and potentially corrupt have the power to save the world.