Little Brother

An Analysis and Comparison by Andrew Bi


Information is a powerful thing. It has toppled governments, and establish new ones. Abraham Lincoln once said, America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. This is precisely what is happening in the world right now. Increasing government surveillance and censoring of information, coupled with plummeting voter turnouts and government accountability is destroying our civil rights and freedoms. The book, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow illustrates perfectly a dystopian society in San Francisco of what would happen if we allowed the government to reduce our civil rights, almost like a small fascist coup within the State of California.

To sum up the book’s theme in one sentence, it would be "We can all do something to enact progressive change in the world.". This is important in our current world because many governments are trying to pass controversial bills at the expense of the liberties citizens in their country. For example, Prime Minister Harper of Canada is has recently passed Bill C-51, which would allow CSIS to gain unprecedented powers and allow them to infringe on the privacy of many Canadians, and make "preventative" arrests for crimes which might not even happen. The Patriot Act of the USA, originally passed by President Bush in 2001 following the aftermath of 9/11, has also been renewed for another 4 years until 2019. However, due to popular demand, NSA monitoring and mass collection of phone calls has ceased, proving once again the book’s message: We can all make change in government.

Little Brother, Selma, & (Cory Doctorow’s website) present this theme with a fresh insight through their different methods. Little Brother shows that even a 17 year old boy can force change on the government, proving we all have the power inside if we choose to excise it. The movie Selma, which portrays the life struggle of Martin Luther King, shows that through persistence, reform can be forwarded. Finally, gives away Cory Doctorow’s books for free under a Creative Commons license, allowing a new generation to seek inspiration in making change in the world by reading books of his such as Little Brother & Homeland.


The plot of Little Brother is the story of a 17 year old Marcus Yallow of San Francisco, who is imprisoned and has his best friend Darryl taken away by the DHS due to new laws passed after a terrorist attack which turns San Francisco into a police state. After his release on condition of silence about the arrests, Marcus decides to take action against this crackdown on civil rights through hacking, and amasses supporters, sabotages DHS surveillance systems, and leaks stories to the press. He eventually succeeds in gaining enough popular support through the press to force the Governor of California to call on the National Guard and end the DHS's reign of terror, while finding love on the way with a fellow hacker named Ange. The theme of the book is "We can all do something to enact progressive change in the world". The Setting of the book is based in an dystopian version of San Francisco, where the DHS and the Government have turned San Francisco into a police state in all but name. The main characters in the story include Darryl, Marcus, Ange, Jolu, Van, Masha, & Barbara


After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, in the U.S South African-Americans were still largely discriminated. Suffrage was very restricted in certain areas to African-Americans due to racism by voting clerks. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King was able to assemble a peaceful march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. This forced President Johnson to pass a Voting Right bill quickly, which guaranteed federal protection of voting rights.

This movie connects with the theme of anyone can enact change in the world because throughout the movie, Martin Luther King is portrayed as a simple family man who has been given the gift of skillful oration and the natural ability to lead. As the movie progresses, he chooses to fight violence with peace, and eventually pressures the President to reduce discrimination in voting.


Cory Doctorow is a Canadian Author who was born in Toronto and now lives in London, England. He is an activist, journalist, and a blogger and also a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. This is reflected through his works, many of which are entirely devoted to social activism and civil rights. His website conveys his life works and vision perfectly as he offers free copies of all his books on his website, so he can spread his message about social activism. His website is also formated not like a professional author's page, but very much like a messy blog, giving a nod to his blogging origins.


Cory Doctorow's Website entertains due to his content being on the website, but do not present any direct insight on the topic and does not have much information either. The book Little Brother is very thrilling and is very addicting. It also provides some basic information on the US Constitution, Civil Rights, and the amount of power that is possible through hacking. It also provides a new perspective on civil rights through the eyes of a teenage boy, instead of the usual 50 year old lobbyists who you see on the news speak out about our freedoms. Selma is not a movie that one would classify as a movie to watch in your leisure time, but more of a documentary. Nevertheless, it is very entertaining to watch due to the amount of historical content portrayed in a dramatic manner. It provides a window through time back to the tumultuous early 1960's, where Civil Rights was throwing the United States into a crisis. By being presented as a movie, people who are bored by textbooks would be more interested to watch. It also provides the fresh perspective of Martin Luther King, one of the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement. He had to deal with much more obstacles in his struggle than modern activists deal with today. In conclusion, all three sources are very entertaining but you would extract more information from some than others.

Andrew Bi

English ISU Mixtape by Andrew Bi