Catherine Liu on Sat, 12 Feb 2000 18:15:22 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> E-Commerce versus the remainder of the world

The hysteria over the recent disruption of service on a few well-known
websites will no doubt make it a lot easier for US authorities to boost
their multi-million dollar budget for internet policing. The New York
Times was eager to characterize the likes of Yahoo and Ebay as "victims"
"crippled" by the dastardly work of "vandals". It does not matter that no
permanent damage was done to these sites. It is enough that so-called
'cyberterrorists', even for a few hours, seemed to have threatened
e-commerce. The government is ready to step in with big guns to protect
your god-given right to shop online. E-Commerce is little more than a
giant shopping channel experiment on steroids, pumping up the American
economy on anabolic expectations that people will be completely doped up
by the rapturous possibility of spending their entire paychecks, on stuff
they can only see as pixelated images on a computer screen, with a click
of a mouse. 

Regardless of who is behind the recent disruption, the effects will be the
same: more corporate-sponsored government hysteria, more police state
tactics against anyone in cyberspace who does not have their platinum visa
heated up for the next purchase. Globalized American capitalism is now a
fully fledged surveillance apparatus that treats the world like a company
town: no expressive activity allowed, no gatherings of more than three
people outside the workplace. And if this action was a grass-roots
movement of discontented internet users and not malevolent 'foreign'
cyberterrorists, then their desire for a public space that is not merely a
marketplace will be completely squelched, and the FBI will have succeeded
in making the internet a safer place for ever more mindless business
transactions. Intelligent community activism is being destroyed by the
sledge hammer of mercantile paranoia. 

The level of hysteria whipped up by the hacks of the New York Times and
the special interests behind the strong arms of the FBI will mean less
freedom and more surveillance for everyone, and not only online. It is as
if the government were to bar all pedestrian activity because it
discovered that people could gather in massive crowds outside the mega
mall, obstructing the smooth flow of traffic into the sacred halls of
retail. The future is here, kids, and it is ugly:  say good bye to any
possibility of dissension and political activism, say hello to big
brother's repressive cyberpolitics masquerading as the protection of
e-business; sit back, relax, and wait for more bandwidth. Keep shopping,
stop thinking.

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