by SRB

Peter Burnett: #Freetopiary: An Occupy Romance (Argyll Publishing)

July 27, 2013 | by SRB

Mills and Boon this is not.   In fact, I cannot think of any story that is less like Mills and Boon than this one.   So don’t let the title fool you.   It is not about love amongst the tents of the Occupy Movement.   It is a different sort of “Romance” altogether: much more like Kidnapped.   

Alan Stewart (a tribute to Kidnapped if ever I heard one) goes on the run with a dubious character after getting mixed up with his aunt in possible cyber-criminality.   So you have characters just like David Balfour, Uncle Ebenezer and Allan Breck Stewart.   But you can push the comparison with Robert Louis Stevenson too far, as this is not really the story of an innocent abroad getting involved in the politics of the age.   This is the story of someone who really should know what he is doing getting out of his depth and in to very choppy waters.

This Alan Stewart does not think that messing around with computers could get him into trouble.   He does not think that what he considers fun could be considered by others to be hacking.   He thinks that he is gaining experience to get a job with Google.   So when he is let loose on his aunt’s servers, he does not think that he could be arrested, but he is.  And he does not think that he will end up in a security van being escorted to Aberdeen, and that there he will meet someone called Topiary who will change his life.

The central theme of the story, however, is about our need to defend our privacy on the internet, to defend the right of people like Bradley Manning to tell us the truth, and to take on the secrecy of government.   Bradley Manning’s story is central to this book.   Alan Stewart has a mystical meeting with Manning in the Occupy Aberdeen camp.  Stewart becomes convinced that Manning should not be in prison because he exposed murders committed by American helicopter pilots, and that Manning should not be charged with treason for doing this.

So Alan Stewart begins his voyage of political discovery, as he has to explain to himself what he is doing, and why he has become involved.  He ends his political development by deciding that it is important to raise the issues around Manning’s imprisonment in the internet community. But he also decides not to campaign for Manning’s release because that cannot be achieved.   

Well, they told us that about Nelson Mandela and the others who were accused at the Rivonia Trial; that we were wasting our time and that they would never be released.   All them were eventually released and led their country to freedom.   Perhaps the legacy of this book should be a campaign to demand freedom for Bradley Manning.   Reading this book might make you want to take the campaign on.


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