Support Peter Watts

I’ve been snowed under teaching recently and haven’t been posting much. One thing has really got my goat though and I think it needs wider attention. Those of you who read boingboing will already know, but the SF author, Peter Watts (who wrote the excellent novel of really alien contact, Blindsight) has been convicted of obstructing US border guards and could spend up to two years in prison. This is despite the fact that the border guards lied about the whole incident (they claimed he had tried to choke an officer, when in fact they were assaulting him, a fact admitted in court). He basically got convicted for challenged the guards and getting out of his car to ask what was going on. As Cory Doctorow comments on BoingBoing, this is not about security, this is not about safety, and it is not even about crime as we would recognise it, it is about authority and the massive increase in humourless abuse that has increased so much in recent years, particularly on the US border*. Peter Watts was convicted essentially of not responding fast enough and questioning commands. He’s now posted more on his own blog, including some comments from some of the jury, who couldn’t quite believe the outcome…

Anyone who thinks ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ or truly believes that it couldn’t happen to you, read this a be concerned. Show your support for Peter too. Write to your congressmen if you are in the USA, or Members of Parliament in Canada, write to Ministers and Secretaries of State. Make a fuss. Write to Peter too and tell him you support him.

*And sure, there’s a context, but it seems to me that the post-9/11 situation is used as an excuse by rather too many guards to exercise a petty brutality on anyone who does not conform to their perception of normality. That critical point where liberty comes up against security is just as much about interpersonal encounters like this as it is about grand policy.