The New Frontier

The New Frontier

In presenting his futuristic novel “Little Brother”, Doctorow follows the trail of American Western Literature and presents an example of the classic American Frontier Myth, as charactorised by individualism, frontier violence, and rough justice. The Internet and the World Wide Web are often seen as part of a new “electronic frontier”. Doctorow’s hero Marcus, aka M1k3y, epitomizes a Western hero.

He is a young, white middleclass male who suffers hardship, overcomes adversity, gets the girl, and saves his community from the bad guys. However he is only moved to action when his ‘liberty’ and his safe, comfortable, middleclass lifestyle are threatened.

It is a shame that Doctorow makes no mention of how the Internet advantages privileged groups while marginalizing others and does little to examine the social barriers to Internet use. His hero’s constant references to “homeless people”,  viewing them as a separate inferior homogenous group, displays a condescending attitude to members of other ethnic and social groups, “Being down in that neighbourhood, you expect to be dodging homeless people and crazies, so you don’t make eye contact, don’t look round at all if you can help it” (Doctorow p499) Doctorow’s only reference to racial inequality comes when Jolu explains to Marcus that he can no longer fight the United States government “I hate to say it, but you’re white. I’m not…the law in this country has always been like that for us” (Doctorow p160). [1]

Like the myth of the old style Western, Doctorow and M1k3y support the notion that the expansion of the Internet (Frontier) is enabling and egalitarian, promoting social inclusion and facilitating democratic participation. Maybe he could have dedicated a chapter to presenting a more balanced, nuanced view of the ways in which United States citizens from disadvantaged ethnic groups have their constitutional rights violated as a general norm and how attacks on U.S. territory intensify sensitivities and prejudice against particular groups.

Doctorow.C.(2008) Little Brother.Tor Books

Image: http://www.darkestgoth.com/2014/06/breaking-the-law-cory-doctorow-deric-lostutter-and-little-brother/

[1] “White people get caught with cocaine and do a little rehab time. Brown people get caught with crack and go to prison for twenty years. White people see cops on the street and feel safer. Brown people see cops on the street and wonder if they’re about to get searched. The way the DHS is treating you? The law in this country has always been like that for us” (Doctorow p160).

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