Alex Winter Talks Bitcoin, Drugs and His New Film ‘Deep Web’
CoinDesk managing editor Emily Spaven interviews director Alex Winter ahead of the release of his new documentary film Deep Web.
[quote]Libertarian ideals, crime and citizens’ rights in the digital age – there are many themes running through Alex Winter’s latest documentary film, Deep Web, but by far the greatest focus is the story of Ross Ulbricht and his involvement in the online drugs marketplace Silk Road.
Winter, best known for his role as Bill Preston in the Bill and Ted franchise, has long since proved his worth on the other side of the lens, having sat in the director’s chair on five films since 1993.
His latest offering begins with a rousing speech by British libertarian and cypherpunk Amir Taaki, warning of corrupt fascists masquerading as “white knights”. Taaki enthuses that now is the time for the technological classes to take back their sovereignty.
The movie goes on to explore the mysterious underbelly of the Internet – the hidden layer called the Deep Web and its anonymity-rich area: the Dark Net.
It’s here that illegal drug marketplaces exist and where Ulbricht’s story begins.
The film focuses on the arrest of Ulbricht, the charges made against him for his involvement in the creation and operation of Silk Road and the court case centred on these allegations.
Along the way, Deep Web introduces a number of people, ranging from Ulbricht’s mother, a childhood friend and a former law enforcement professional, to his defence lawyer, an anonymous Silk Road drugs vendor and an anti-prohibition campaigner.
The human angle
Winter explained the film was initially to be centred broadly on bitcoin, the Dark Net and the revolutionary ideas behind cryptography, encryption and cryptocurrencies, however this soon changed.
“As the Silk Road story and Ross’s story evolved, it became really clear that the human story was the most important – he put his life is on the line,” he said, adding:
“The guy is facing the rest of his life in jail. I think it’s important to think about Ross Ulbricht – whatever you think about his guilt or innocence – you have to reflect on this human being’s life.”
The film speaks of Ulbricht’s libertarian leanings and suggests Silk Road was much more about affording people the freedom to buy and sell whatever they wish (so long as it didn’t cause harm to others) than about drug dealers making a quick buck.
“The people I got to know in this world didn’t make a lot of money. These weren’t people who were driven by money, they were driven by ideals,” Winter said.
These people aimed to exercise their freedom and create a safer alternative to the existing drugs market, which is plagued by death and violence.
In Deep Web, Neill Franklin, the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition describes how he experienced this first-hand when working as a Maryland State Police major.
During the early 2000s, he came to the realisation that policies on drug prohibition were “counterproductive to public safety” and gradually became opposed to the War on Drugs.
He believes moving the drugs trade from street corners to online services would lead to a dramatic decrease in the number of shootings and homicides.
“It removes the buyer from the back alleys and the street corners and those dangerous places [where people are] dealing with the seller. Buying over the Internet … removes that scenario.”
He emphasised that, after four decades of the War on Drugs, it’s clear it isn’t working, so it’s time to try a new approach.[/quote]
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