Little Brother: find out what you have to lose.

Earlier this week my wife was reading a book by Cory Doctorow. She showed me a note inside the book, which said something like “A free download of this book is available under the creative commons license from the website.” Having recently got a Kindle ebook reader, and having no money, this seemed like a good idea and so purely by chance, I ended up reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

Before I write a proper review of it,  all I can think to write is GO AND READ THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW.

The book tells the story of a teenage boy that is swept up the the US Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Imprisoned, mistreated, then released without charge, he tries to return to normal life but notices the authorities turning his city in to hell in the name of fighting terrorism.  This is a story about fighting for freedom, fighting for a normal life, and fighting against government authorities undertaking horrific acts all the while imagining that they are doing the right thing. So many aspects of this book ring true. Teenagers and kids getting fed up with government. The use of the internet to organise things. Personal video recordings showing things that the mainstream news media does not. The scenes where riot police used CS gas on a crowd of hundreds of teenagers were just a little too possible for comfort.

This book, gripped me, made me laugh at the antics, made me cry at the bravery and freaked me out at the portrayal of how easily people can commit atrocities in the name of good. (Admittedly, i currently have some kind of cold/flu/virus thing and a fever, so the emotional roller coaster might be caused by that.)

If you are disillusioned by the current state of affairs, read this. If you are not, read this and then ask the question “how far are we from events like those in this book?” Little Brother is essential reading to find out what you have to lose.

You can get this book, and others, free of charge from Doctorow’s website. If you don’t have an ebook reader then there are a vast number of ereader apps for phones and computers. I can suggest Calibre if you are using a PC. Oh, and if you like the book, go and buy it. Prove the authors theory on copyright correct.

The mystery van part 2

Following the completely unexpected popularity of my blog post about the van at the 24/11/2010 London protests, I need to clear up a few points.

I think these things are clear. I saw the sequence of events on live TV and it could be verified if anyone can get hold of a recording.

  • The police started blocking the route several minutes before the van arrived.
  • The van was driven in to the back of the crowd, (relatively thin at this point) pushing protesters out of the way. Some got angry at being driven in to or made to jump away, and pushed or hit, or sprayed graffiti on the van.
  • The police abandoned the van.
  • The bulk of the protesters arrived to find their route blocked and an already slightly graffitied van in the middle of the crowd.
  • Some (very few) people started smashing the van in spite of attempts to stop them.
  • The police justified their use of containment (kettling) by citing the attacks on the van, which happened after they started kettling.
  • The police claim that the van was following protesters to gather information on where they were going. They knew full well where they were going, since they had already blocked the route! There is a possibility that the van was in use by FIT (Forward Intelligence Team, explanation here)  to take photographs of protesters.
  • The police claim that the officers in the van abandoned it because they “felt vulnerable and decided the best course of action was to leave the van” (Source: The Guardian)

I have received information from a few people that have changed my mind on some of my original points.

  • It has no number plates
    • Actually the van did have number plates on arrival, although there are no clear photographs or videos of it. The best I have seen is this one from ITN.
  • It is painted in the OLD livery of the Metropolitan police.
    • I am told that the police routinely use vans of this age.
  • It has been out of service long enough to get rusty.
    • Several of their vans are rusty, and in fact you can see on this picture that it was rusty even in 2008. We should probably be concerned at the lack of preventative maintenance there.
  • It has a POLICE AWARE sticker on it, that has been there a while.
    • This one was true. Some people have suggested that the sticker was placed there as a joke by a police officer, or that it was placed there to mark the van for attention by a mechanic. I’m not sure I buy that.

I still believe that this van was planted as bait to incite vandalism and provide an excuse for kettling. The only alternative theory I can think of is that the police are really, really stupid. It could be that I suppose.

Via @a6ruled
Sky news video shows van accessible, police standing near it and crowd all calm. Busted!