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Until Barrett is Free, Neither Are We

Freedom of the Press is not a whim of the state


by Everett Wilson
February 26, 2014

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Until Barrett is Free, Neither Are We_Everett Wilson-Freedom of the Press is not a whim of the state

I had never heard of Barrett Brown until this morning, when he was mentioned in The Consent Chronicle published by Downsize DC. The link in the Chronicle led me to a group soliciting money for Mr. Brown’s defense, though all I was seeking was more detailed information. So I went to Google and learned that Barrett Brown is a young writer who skillfully dances on the line between satire and investigative reporting. While doing his dance he slipped into the clutches of the FBI, and has now spent well over a year in federal custody awaiting trial on multiple charges. It isn’t that he committed any crime; He simply disseminated information that was available to the public on the internet—something you or I could have done. Details are available on the Internet; Rolling Stone and Nation wrote about the case at some length.

The FBI investigation rose to the level of persecution, in my view, when the Agency even targeted his mother. Because she had her son as a guest in her home, she was arrested for concealing evidence—the evidence being his laptop, which to any fair-minded person would be under the Constitutional protection of the First Amendment. Brown’s response to this abuse was what you might expect from an investigative reporter/satirist-- but the FBI treated his words as a credible threat. He was arrested and a court order was issued forbidding him to write about his own case! Whose case was it, if not his?

Time for disclosure. Barrett Brown probably doesn’t know anything about me and won’t unless he reads this. I already happen to know one of his opinions of me: I am one of The Flock of Dodos, which is the title of a book he co-wrote, because I believe that the God of the Bible created the Universe. That puts me in the company of Sunday School kids, as well as of Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, the Pope, and most of the writers of the Great Books of Western Civilization. If Brown and his friends are wrong, it’s because they are wrong, not because they are young. If I am right, it is because I am right, not because I am old. By the same irrefutable logic, being President only makes the President powerful; it doesn’t make him right.

What is my opinion of Barrett Brown? Favorable, but not because he is right. He is a “zealous but not very-well-informed” young man--young enough to be my grandson. That is not all he is. He is also is an excellent, perceptive, funny, mature writer, and a brave one too. I wouldn’t be surprised if his letters from prison, though they do not discuss the case against him, become seminal literature like Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. I first heard Dr. King’s letter read aloud, just weeks after its publication, by the minister in a Presbyterian Church in Southern Indiana. Today the word travels in seconds, not weeks.

Further Disclosure: I voted for Barack Obama twice because I share his social ethics and I thought until now that I shared his ethics of justice; but I find no such ethics evident in the case against Barrett Brown.

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