(Editor’s Note: This column was written by the founder of Arm The Homeless, Ryan Nelson, and was published in print and online on January 29, 2012 by The Daily O’Collegian.)
Throughout history, college campuses have been at the forefront of societal change.
In 1963, the late Howard Zinn was an adviser for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at Spelman College, a college for African American women. He mentored students on how to be activists in the fight to end segregation, which eventually led to his dismissal by the Spelman administration. This set the stage for student activists organizing against racism and segregation, bringing the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements to college campuses nationwide.
November 1973, Athens Polytechnic students went on strike in protest of the military rule in Greece. Crowds of thousands joined in solidarity with the students, including workers who were also fighting for economic equality.
In 2009, University of California Berkley raised tuition by 32 percent. It didn’t take long for students to begin organizing and demonstrating against the U.C. Board of Regents. This resulted in more than 200 students being arrested.
Winter 2010, the U.K. government cut funds to programs as universities tripled their tuition. As a result, students took over and occupied academic buildings, demonstrated in the streets of London, ripped a hole in the side of the Conservative Party HQ building and stormed Parliament Square.
As an activist and incoming freshman, I was excited to find other students who were also angered and concerned with the current state of affairs of our nation and planet. I quickly discovered that the majority of the students were either uninformed or complacent about the monumental issues we currently face and the great challenges we will face in the very near future.
We are in the most exciting yet terrifying times in history. The United States is in wars around the world as our own economy is collapsing. Income inequality in the U.S. is the highest out of all the developed nations in the world, including many developing nations as well, for graduates face an average of $23,000 of debt upon leaving college; transforming them into slaves of debt. Civil liberties have been eroding before our eyes since 2001 in the name of the so called “War on Terror”. The list just goes on and on.
Where is the outrage and concern? Do these issues not matter enough to be actively engaging and confronting?
The students need not take all the blame. Professors, where are you? Where is your guidance in these matters? Why haven’t you followed in the footsteps of your historic colleague Howard Zinn?
It doesn’t matter what opinion you hold on these issues I describe above, but the fact that you have an opinion at all is what matters. What matters most of all is that you act upon your convictions and beliefs.
If we can take anything from history, it’s that you have the immense power to change the world forever. Collectively, as a student body, we have even more power than that.
It’s time to wake up. Our generation faces challenges that no other generation has. History is constantly being written, and we all have the power and need to shape it. In your final moments in life, it matters not how much money you have in your bank account or the social status you hold, but what actions you have taken to leave this world a better place than when you entered it.
We all have the ability to forge the world we wish to live in; to break the mold and dare to live the life we dream of in the world we create.
Students and staff, this is not an opinion piece, it is a call to arms. Educate, demonstrate, organize, mobilize and embrace the struggle.
How will future generations judge ours? The generation that did nothing in the midst of a crumbling way of life; standing idly by as the world around us burns or the generation that changed everything for the better against all odds and expectations?
This question can only be answered by the actions we choose to take and the outcome will be determined by the passion and dedication we use to carry them out.
If the Stop Online Piracy Act is signed into law, you will get more jail time for uploading a Michael Jackson song than the guy who killed Michael Jackson.
Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
SOPA looks more like a bill that focuses on censorship than the protection of “intellectual property.”
It will allow the U.S. government to order the shutdown of any website that is seen to be infringing any kind of copyrighted material and slap them with a ridiculous fine or even jail time.
In addition, you can be prosecuted for violating SOPA if you simply link to a website that has infringed on some ridiculous copyrighted material.
In order for an entire website to be shut down, a simple allegation of copyright infringement will suffice in beginning the process.
Let’s think about the broader implications of this for a moment. This bill proposes that all those who link to copyrighted material will be fined or thrown in jail. So one can assume that there is a mass surveillance apparatus already somewhat in place that can monitor massive amounts of data transfers and traffic flows.
Or our so called representatives simply don’t know what they’re talking about and, if the United States hasn’t become a total surveillance state yet, SOPA will be impossible to enforce on any meaningful scale. Honestly, neither of these realities would surprise me in the slightest.
However, we information activists have been noticing a staggering increase of government involvement into and the facilitation of the free flow of information on the Internet in recent years.
@AnonymousIRC posted an article on Twitter from Torrent Freak that states, “More than 100 leaked cables showed that the US had helped draft new Spanish copyright legislation and had heavily influenced the decisions of both the government and opposition.”
These cables were leaked by whistleblower website Wikileaks when they released thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables onto the Internet. Naturally, the U.S. government put Wikileaks on their hit-list just a swiftly as they put Spain on it.
The U.S. Department of Justice is currently working towards forcing Twitter to release account information about Wikileaks and its supports, including Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir.
Glen Greenwald, a columnist for Salon.com, voiced his concerns about these events by stating, “All of this extraordinary probing and “criminal” investigating [stems] from WikiLeaks’ doing nothing more than publishing classified information showing what the U.S. Government is doing: something investigative journalists, by definition, do all the time.”
This is very troubling indeed, for it indicates that the U.S. government is willing to selectively enforce laws when it is in their favor and worth the trouble. It’s even more troubling when the executive branch wants to expand that power by attempting to pass SOPA.
SOPA was supposedly written to protect commercial interests that owned intellectual property online and who were losing money due to piracy.
Maybe SOPA isn’t meant to be enforced on all those who violate its terms, but rather meant to concentrate on dealing with specific copyright or intellectual property infringement and gain more power and control over the Internet.
With the vast amount of information leaks that have embarrassed the West enormously, SOPA could be the covert piece of legislation that mitigates it in the future. And indeed, there are more leaks and security breaches to come.
We can also explore the notion that the U.S. government values the health of the economy more than it does the civil liberties of its people; essentially implying that when one sector of the economy is jeopardized, that gives the state the right to take away certain freedoms and forms of expression.
SOPA is a brute force attack on the first amendment because of its blatant and reckless practice of censorship of information online. This legislation must be fought to ensure the freedoms we enjoy on the Internet.
If you are a blogger like I am and SOPA gets passed, we can talk about this issue more as we all sit in jail.
Imagine living in a world where corporations and intelligence firms created software that can intercept communications of entire populations and demographics. Imagine a world where this software was sold by intelligence contractors to governments around the world, including brutal authoritarian dictatorships. Imagine these contractors making billions of dollars in the process.
There’s no need to pretend that this world exists, you’re living in it.
Last month, Wikileaks published a collection of documents called the “Spy Files” which details just how extensive and pervasive the global surveillance industry has become over the past decade. U.S. corporations such as Blue Coat sell software and provide services to oppressive countries like China and Iran to censor, track down, and crush dissent. As a longtime blogger on international affairs, I’ve been told stories of political bloggers in Iran who have been chopped up into little pieces and mailed back to their families in boxes. I know it’s a horrible image to picture in your head, but these atrocities are made possible by corporate entities such as Blue Coat and many like them.
This software isn’t only used by authoritarian regimes abroad; they are used here in the U.S. as well. Commercial interests are responsible for the software used in Predator drones that provide data for the CIA. These drones have recently been authorized to be used by law enforcement in the U.S. to gather intelligence.
Intelligence Integration System Inc. created software called Geospatial Toolkit to instantly identify your location and identity based on your phone signal and voice print. It’s called “location-based analytics”, and it was sold to the CIA and also applied to various drone operations abroad in extrajudicial assassinations. With the PATRIOT Act still in law, one can only assume the worst as to how private our private lives really are and how involved our own government is in it.
With the NDAA now signed into law that authorizes the indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial, this global surveillance industry becomes even more dangerous in the United States and creates more room for power to be abused.
Private companies don’t just sell spying software to the U.S. It’s going to go to whoever is the highest bidder as well. Whether it is the president of Iran or the Saudi royal family, profit is profit and that bottom line is what matters in the end. Multinational surveillance corporations don’t have morals or ethics because they can’t afford it.
This elusive industry isn’t only limited to the secret meetings of intelligence agencies or the backrooms of dictator palaces, it has also infiltrated universities around the country.
The NSA has been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into grants for research funding in academics for at least the past five years. They don’t try very hard in hiding it either. In fact, many researchers and academics take pride in the fact that they are being funded by the NSA. With the dangerously common “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists” mentality still very present in today’s political discourse, the NSA doesn’t worry too much about the public outrage as to exactly what they are investing their money in; investments into joyful expenditures such as analysis of intercepted communications, pattern detection, and data mining.
Students do all the hard work in researching hardware and software that will be used in the future to spy on American citizens and kill countless civilians abroad, all with our tax dollars. You’re welcome NSA.
One of the main reasons why the Nazis were so effective and organized when it came to the concentration and death camps was because of computers created and given to them by a U.S. company called IBM. IBM customized these computers specifically for the death camps. Technology is not neutral when the intent of its design is specifically for undermining the freedoms and rights of citizens.
If you could go back in time and stop IBM, would you? What if you didn’t have to? These things are being done right now. Western companies are selling technologies to regimes that have no problem in slaughtering their own people to preserve their power, and indeed they have; mostly with weapons sold by U.S. arms traders and manufacturers. Thank you Lockheed Martin.
These intelligence and surveillance firms are able to do what they do because the public is not informed enough to make them accountable for the suffering and death they have caused in the pursuit of profit and at the expense of privacy and freedom from the state. By talking about these issues and facts brought to light by hackers and whistleblowers around the world and entering them into the public discourse, we will make it harder for these firms to market their oppressive technologies that result in the murders of innocent people.
Go ahead and share this on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe the people who are logging your information will have a sudden change of heart and blow the whistle on the company they work for. Like Wikileaks said in a Tweet the other day, “Programmers and system admins control every intelligence agency and bank. What happens when they awake and unite?”