I have written before about the case of Barrett Brown, a 34-year old journalist that the US government decided to throw the book at because he, in the manner of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, exposed some of its wrongdoings. He is now in prison, serving a sentence of 63 months.
But Brown is irrepressible and a fine writer and he seems to have decided to make the most of his prison experience. He maintains a blog where he writes on all manner of topics and now has written an excellent piece for The Intercept.
Read it and you will see why I think he is a really gifted writer. Here’s a sample.
According to the few FBI files that the bureau has thus far made public, I’m a militant anarchist revolutionary who once teamed up with Anonymous in an attempt to “overthrow the U.S. government,” and on another, presumably separate occasion, I plotted unspecified “attacks” on the government of Bahrain, which, if true, would really seem to be between me and the king of Bahrain, would it not? There’s also a book out there that claims I’m from Houston, whereas in fact I spit on Houston. As to the truth on these and other matters, I’m going to play coy for now, as whatever else I may be, I’m definitely something of a coquette. All you really need to know for the purposes of this column is that I’m some sort of eccentric writer who lives in a prison, and I may or may not have it out for the king of Bahrain.
Over the last couple of years of incarceration, I’ve had ever so many exciting adventures, some of which I’ve detailed in the prior incarnation of this column, “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail.” I’ve watched two inmates get into a blood-spattered fight over the right to sell homemade pies from a particular table. I have participated in an unauthorized demonstration against an abusive guard and been thrown into the hole as a suspected instigator. I’ve shouted out comical revolutionary slogans while my Muslim cellmate flooded our tiny punishment cell in order to get back at the officers who’d taken his Ramadan meal during a search. I’ve found myself with nothing better to read than an autobiography by Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers founder Dave Thomas, and read it, and found it wanting.
I’ve stalked a fellow inmate who talks nonsense to himself all day due to having never come down after a PCP trip, suspecting that he might say something really weird that I could compare and contrast with the strange William Blake poems I’d been reading and thought this might be a funny idea for an article, and I was right, so do not ask me to apologize for this, for I shall not. I’ve been extracted from my cell by a dozen guards and shipped to another jail 30 miles away after the administration decided I was too much trouble. I’ve spent one whole year receiving sandwiches for dinner each night, but the joke’s on them because I love sandwiches.
I’ve read through an entire 16th-century volume on alchemy out of pure spite. I’ve added the word “Story” to the end of every instance of prison graffiti reading “West Side” that I’ve come across thus far. I’ve conceived the idea of writing a sequel to the Ramayana but abandoned the project after determining that the world is not prepared for such a thing. I’ve been subjected to a gag order at the request of the prosecution on the grounds that the latest Guardian article I’d written from jail had been “critical of the government.” I’ve learned all sorts of neat convict tricks like making dice out of toilet paper, popping locks on old cell doors, and appreciating mediocre rap. I’ve managed to refrain from getting any ironic prison tattoos and feel about 65 percent certain that I’ll be able to hold out for the two years left in my sentence. And I’ve read Robert Caro’s four-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson over the course of a month, in the process becoming something of a minor god, beyond good and evil, unfazed by man’s wickedness.
I like his breezy sense of irreverence and disdain for authority.