Yesterday I finished Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (I got it from the web site, it's the first book I've read entirely on the computer screen). I really liked it, I had real problems putting it down -- or rather closing the file. I liked the voice, I liked the people, and I could really feel the adrenaline level go up in my body in the crowd scenes.
(I'm a little bit scared of crowds, since they are in general stupid and the bad elements easily take over. My body knows the feeling of being pushed around in a flood of people, and the panic of being crushed and not have any chance of getting out. In this book the crowds are on the good side, but I can't help being scared of how bad it might get. And then it gets bad, but not because of bad crowd effects, except maybe in the beginning. Anyway, this was just a paranthesis.)
In case you don't know, this is a novel about a young man who happens to be in the vicinity when a major terrorist attack strikes San Francisco. He is interrogated, suspected for helping terrorists, and after that anything he does is watched by Big Brother in the form of the Department of Homeland Security. So he fights back.
One thing I was thinking when I read the book was that it might be easier to accept use of force and exceptions from human rights for some people in the name of security if you have been exposed to the many stories where the hero wins by doing just this. I remember jumping up and down with fury when I saw the movie Beverly Hills Cop, because this cop really abuses his power -- and gets away with it! The rules are there for a reason, to make it less easy for nervous policemen to do bad things against little people. In the movie they are just dismissed, because they are in the way of vengeance. I don't like the way some stories glorify the use of excessive force to get to the bad guys, and I think that whole mindset is rotten -- but it's nevertheless fairly strong in popular culture. It's easy to see why, because it makes for good stories with a lot of action.
I still think it says something about how some people think. Otherwise the stories would never be told in that way. And that scares me a little.
What do you say? Do you think these things are connected, or not, or maybe just a bit?
For those worried about the human rights abuses in the name of "war on terror", I recommend taking a look at the Unsubscribe me campaign by Amnesty International.
Watch the watchmen.