I’ve seen plenty of blog posts lately about Aaron. What Aaron did. How What Aaron Did is not much different from “what we do” every day, where “we” refers to tech-savvy Internet users. Aaron was accused. Aaron was indicted. Aaron was attacked by the powers that be, captured, cornered, labeled a criminal and sentenced to prison. There are allegations of abuse, of misdeeds, of inhumanity and insensitivity.
What I’m not seeing is The Truth.
I see that Aaron was indicted for using the same identity obfuscation we routinely use to avoid getting spam. That Aaron used the same technology we use every day surfing the web. That Aaron was indicted for doing things his own accusers do in the normal course of daily operations. That Aaron broke a terms of service that most people never read and hundreds of thousands violate every week.
Oh sure I see “facts”, and truthful assertions of fact. No doubt. But I’m not seeing an acknowledgement that most of those facts don’t matter. I’m not seeing recognition of the “higher truth” that governs our society in cases like Aaron’s (and yours in the future, if you are in fact doing the same things Aaron did). Some say “the truth will set you free” but it rarely does. Recognition of The Truth, however, could keep you out of prison.
The Truth is that every pitchfork march against an accused starts with a quiet conversation between 2 people. Sometimes it ends there. The Truth is that a quiet conversation destined to advance further towards indictment, is followed by a private conversation between a small number of influential people. Many end there.
The accusations that end in pitchfork marches first continued beyond the small group private conversation to a dispersed debate amongst a still small but less connected “group” of individuals. Only when consent was established, did the pitchfork march planning begin. And consent, according to The Truth, can and does include uninformed consent, coerced consent, extorted consent, implied consent, and assumed consent. Without consent from many, there is no pitchfork march. There is no righteous justice. There is no hanging. There is probably no suicide, either.
Often one can trace the unsavory aspects of injustice back to those few people involved in the earliest conversations… the “two people” and those involved in the “small private conversation”. They had an agenda, and “worked it” until they had adequate consent to rally authority and enforcement power. In the old days, when people cared about being held responsible for the ruin of another man, these few drove the issue hard. “She’s very odd, it starts as a whisper, which morphs into “there’s something un-natural about her” at a group meeting. Soon the crowd is shouting ”she’s a witch” and everyone agrees she needs to burn.
I think the scariest part of all of this is when deals are being made to establish consent for prosecution. That’s when the paper value of a victim’s life increases in value beyond reason. That’s when killing becomes justified. When your life stands between a man and millions of dollars in profit, or a man and tremendous political power, you don’t have much chance. But things didn’t start in that scary place. They started with a conversation between two people, and conversations between small groups of people.
And you were not part of that conversation. Not even one of you. The Truth is that “reason”, the kind of reason you techno-savvy Internet people exhibit and understand, was absent from the early conversations that manufactured consent to indict and prosecute Aaron.
The Truth is that while you rant online about the people in the system who don’t “get it”, it is you who does not “get it”. You don’t “get” that men pursuing agendas make rules that other men enforce out of duty or fear. Our society is ruled by laws. Laws are made by men and women who rarely use technology more sophisticated than a vanilla smart phone, ipad, or Windows PC.
The seeds of action are sown not in technology, but in basic human nature at the local level. As long as you choose to not participate in offline, non-tech, uninteresting local conversations that sometimes lead to pitch fork parades, you will be helpless to stop the ultimate parade that destroys Aaron, or your co-worker, or you.
Frankenstein was a monster. It’s simple, really. He had to be killed.