To mark the fact that Barrett Brown has been in prison for 300 days, I wanted to share some thoughts on that final tweet of his. Barrett's arrest was dramatic and its details become more pertinent every day. Barrett's case is not unrelated to that of Edward Snowden, for example, because his work concerned private security contractors . . . until he was arrested.
The character Howard Beale at the end of the film Network breaks the rules of mainstream journalism by addressing his audience as real people. In a rousing final speech, Howard Beale played by Peter Finch, implores the viewers of his news show to see through the story to the truth of the situation.
He begs the viewers :
I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' Things have got to change.
It’s tougher world now than it was in 1976. Howard Beale plays for a cathartic release from television and ends up increasing ratings. The truth was that in 1976 the cathode ray tube had all but succeeded in conquering America and this was one journalist who wanted to break the cycle.
Barrett Brown always struck me as someone who broke certain rules if the story called for it. The idea that journalism should be objective is not sacrosanct. Journalism can be as vital and real as a journalist can make it. Intelligent readers know the stresses the truth is under. Journalism doesn’t have to please everybody, and a writer can call it as they see it and that doesn’t make them non-objective, partisan or a liar — it makes them human.
Barrett Brown’s last tweet before he was nabbed shows how interrupted he was. That day journalism was a casualty too, Barrett would surely argue that it was a greater casualty, but now he has been in prison 300 days few of us know how he feels.
The last tweet reads:
#FBI won't protect me from contractors Alan Everett and #HBGary exec Jim Butterworth. Need info on both including #, location #Anonymous
13 Sep Barrett Brown @BarrettBrownLOL
Not quite as punchy as Topiary’s self-penned Twitter epitaph ('You can’t arrest an idea' — a reworking of Medgar Evers' iconic quote ‘You can kill a man, but you cannot kill an idea’) but Barrett Brown didn’t have time to plan his demise. “#FBI won't protect me from contractors Alan Everett and #HBGary exec Jim Butterworth.” I almost feel like putting an exclamation mark to those words. “#FBI won't protect me from contractors Alan Everett and #HBGary exec Jim Butterworth!” There. That’s better.
Alan Everett, one of the people that Barrett is referring to, is brought up in the second of his kamikaze videos, in which out of frustration Barrett does stick his head out of the window and say that he has had enough.
There’s a lot in the first two videos, such as the fact that in the first one Barrett is wryly pissed that when revolution was occurring in Tunisia, it was not reported anywhere, to his knowledge. It’s a criticism of journalism he is making, maybe not to everybody’s liking, but valid none the same.
The tone here-a-days is of journalists under threat, and that is precisely why these videos are so interesting. Barrett Brown's last tweet is another salvo in a battle that the federal body decided to stop in its tracks. It was a battle in which information became a weapon, and it didn't seem to matter to anybody how that information was collected.
In the video Barrett Brown says that he doesn't know exactly how his home address was gathered, but he knows how it is being used against him.
Peter Finch in Network (1976)
Apparent in the videos Barrett uploaded before he was arrested, is a debate as to who or what is a journalist. One of the reporters in film Network, played by Faye Dunnaway, introduces herself thus: 'Hi. I'm Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the imperialist ruling circles.'
The point is that in not being a lackey and chosing the adversarial path, Barrett Brown made journalism a thorn in the side of a state that was throwing its weight around.
That’s what at least two of Barrett's videos are about, and now he is being indicted for them. The videos are about the state at war with journalism and are about errors made by security contractors, who went so far as to harass journalists — threaten them — and conceive of schemes to hurt or discredit them. We know about plans famously to discredit Glenn Greenwald — but it’s just one example.
At the beginning of Part Two, of what Barrett calls ‘a two part series’, Barrett names some of those who have been circling him, harrassing him he says, including Tom Ryan and Alan Everett, who features in that final tweet.
The tweet made me return to the video, to see if I could find out who Alan Everett is or was. Barrett Brown doesn’t buy into any 'for the lulz' approach to internet security, and he certainly isn’t in journalism for the lulz either — which is why he is so indignant when he says that Alan Everett, Tom Ryan and these others threatened him and others by posting things like pictures of his house, 'for the Zetas'.
Alan Everett is mentioned at 1:05 — so if you’ve ever wondered what Barrett Brown’s departing tweet was about but never properly investigated — here Barrett Brown will tell you in his own words.
Barrett Brown is an American activist, author, and freelance writer/journalist. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, Businessweek, and other outlets. He has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, Fox News and Russia Today.
On September 12, 2012 Barrett Brown was raided and arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation while he was participating in a Tinychat session. He was subsequently denied bail and detained without charge and adequate medical treatment for over two weeks while in the custody of US Marshals.
Read a full description at freebarrettbrown.org
In the first week of October 2012, Barrett was indicted on three counts related to alleged activities or postings on websites such as Twitter and YouTube, in which he postured for the return of property which was taken from him in March, and expressed frustration at the targeted campaign against him and a member of his family. The Department of Justice issued a press release on October 4th.
On December 4, 2012 Barrett was indicted by a federal grand jury on twelve additional counts related to data from a security breach at the company Stratfor. See more on this at Department of Justice 7th Dec 2012 Press Release.
Despite his lack of direct involvement in the operation and stated opposition to this aspect, Barrett faced these charges for the alleged mere act of pasting a hyperlink into an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channel. On January 23rd, 2013 he was indicted a third time on two more counts, relating to the March 2012 FBI raid(s) on his apartment and his mother’s house.
Barrett pleaded not guilty in all three cases. In January 2015 he was sentenced to 63 months which he is currently serving, and ordered to pay restitution.
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