Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow – A Thesis

This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.


In Little Brother, Cory Doctorow shows us two points of view to paranoia: One from the point of view of the government and the other from that of the individual (the common man), in this book represented by Marcus and his ilk.

At the beginning of the book we see how the people in power seek to encroach upon the freedoms of individuals by using the “it’s-for-your-own-good” argument. Doctorow tries to show us that the extreme surveillance depicted in the book isn’t a far-off reality and instances of it are very real in today’s day, one example being the UK. On the other hand, governments try to force such legislation that make surveillance even more prevalent, as can be seen in the US after the 9/11 attacks aftermath.

From the point of view of governments these can be seen as necessary evils; a few lost freedoms are a small price to pay for the security of everyone. They believe they have no choice but to pass such laws, laws that curtail and impose upon individual freedoms. Doctorow makes the point that a 99% success rate is still a 1% failure rate, and in a city with a large population that’s a great number of perfectly ordinary citizens who are being more than slightly inconvenienced.

Doctorow suggests through the book that security need not be about whittling away individual freedoms, that constitutional freedoms and individual security as provided by the government need not be mutually exclusive.

Marcus has a vigilante sense of justice and brings down the government by breaking the laws of the very Constitution he tries to protect, hiding behind a paragraph of the Constitution to justify his thoughts and actions.

While the book makes it clear whose side Doctorow falls down on, it still serves as a window into the paranoic mindsets of both the government and the individual.

Note: I made some very minor edits in this version, but haven’t added anything substantial to it, keeping to the integrity of the original thesis written within the stipulated word-limit.

P.S. I wrote a post earlier after having finished reading this book, titled – Do Not Track Me

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