florian schneider on Wed, 23 May 2001 04:39:51 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> sit in, stand up


"They won't have your names, when you ride the big airplane.
All they will call you will be deportees" (Woody Guthrie)

On June 20th "no one is illegal" and "libertad!" call for a
virtual sit-in and a real stand up against the deportation
business. At the occasion of Lufthansa's shareholder meeting
on June 20th activists from all over the world are going to
demonstrate online and offline against the Lufthansa
"Deportation class" <http://www.deportationclass.com>. 

The activists announced to provide "a user-friendly
protest-software, which will make it possible to keep the
computers of Lufthansa busy by using an automaticized
inquiry". Their aim is to show "massive and international
criticism of the Lufthansa Airlines deportation business".
<http://go.to/online-demo>. Simultaneously, inside the
shareholder meeting activists are going to display their
disgust for the ongoing deportation business carried out by
one of the worlds leading airline

At the occasion of the online demonstration on June 20th
Ricardo Dominguez from New York, godfather of "hacktivism"
<http://www.thing.net/~rdom>, is going to give six lectures
in cities all over Germany. He's going to introduce the
ideas, the history and the background of "hacktivism" and
virtual sit-ins. Activists of the
"Deportation.Class"-Campaign outline their activities and
last, but not least: the concept of the online-demonstration
is going to be presented.

28.05. Munich: Muffathalle/Stoffwechsel  
29.05. Frankfurt: bcn-cafe 
30.05. Koeln: Kunsthochschule fuer Medien  
31.05. Leipzig: Uni Leipzig   
01.06. Hamburg: Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Politik 
02.06. Berlin: Humboldt Uni   


Interview with Ricardo Dominguez on the eve of the
online-demonstration against the Lufthansa Deportation.Class

Q: Ricardo, what the heck is a "online-demonstration"?

A: It is a method of allowing a networked community to
gather on a site, or several different URLs of site, or
different sites and create a disturbance of collective
presence in a non-violent manner. Online-demonstration
tools, or Virtual Sit-in tools, use the reload or refresh
function on every public browser to call on a particular
page or pages of the site that being protested over and over
- taking into account how many people around the planet are
participating and for how long they participate.

This re-loading of URLs of the protested site creates a slow
down of the site's normal distribution speed - the more
people join the online-demonstration the slower the site
will become. In the same manner that a thousands of people
doing a traditional sit-in in an office building will slow
down the movement of the people inside. The sit-in does not
destroy the walls of the building or the floor, or hurt the
people inside, but - it does cause a great deal of
disturbance because the collective presence of the protest
community shifts the daily routine towards a political and
symbolic space. The VR Sit-in does exactly the same thing on
a digital level - the big difference is that anyone with an
on-line connection anywhere in the world can participate at
the same time. 

Q: Did it ever work? 

A: Yes a number actions since 1998 have created a change in
policy or a reexamination of the low-intensity warfare
conditions that many marginal communities around the world
have faced. During 1998 the Electronic Disturbance Theater
in solidarity with the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico created
deep symbolic pressure on the Mexican government by creating
a great deal international press about VR Sit-ins and what
the Zapatistas were calling for. Since that time Mexican
dictatorship of PRI has fallen and the call of the
Zapatistas has gained more ground in Mexico - in fact the
Zapatistas were able to march into Mexico City and speak
before congress - a great victory. 	

In 1999 two important on-line actions took place. The
electrohippes (from the UK) did a major action against the
WTO meeting in Seattle that gathered about 500,000 people
around the world that added to energy that was flooding the
streets. This created even more press about the issues that
the were bring such large protests onto the streets. Several
other important actions around WTO and recently FTAA have
followed - each adding just a bit more weight to the bodies
on the streets. 	

Also, the famous Toywar, that occurred in December of 1999
where a number of groups like rtmark, the thing, and EDT did
a VR Sit-in along with a number of other actions to support
the net.art group etoy.com against eToys.com, the now dead
toy .com, that attempted to take that net.art groups domain
name. By Jan 15th, 2000 eToys.com relented and ended the
legal proceedings against etoy.com. 	

Recently, The Living Wage protest at Harvard, used a VR
Sit-in component and the day after the digital action
Harvard gave in. Just a few days before the President of
Harvard stated that he would never give in to the Living
Wage protesters demands for 10.25 and hour wages for the
workers or even sit at table to discuss benefits for them
Harvard - now he is sitting at the table. 	 

Q: What characterizes or determines the success of
e-protest? In terms of efficiency, is there a difference
between online activities and what we know from the offline

A: The same characteristics that determine the offline
actions go for e-protest. Making sure the information of
when, where, how ,and most importantly why, is distributed
to the widest circles possible. Making sure that the tools
are accessible to as many people as possible and that the
tools are available on a number of servers around the world
- so no single server has to maintain the entire action.
That is why we have also pushed for client-side tools in
conjunction with server side tools. If at all possible
making sure that e-protest is just one element of a much
larger and long term strategic protest. The e-protest is
more efficient if it functions as a symbolic leverage node
for the actions taking place on the ground - the virtual and
real should link up and energize each other - the e-protest
without the street actions becomes meaningless. (Of course,
as in the Toywar, if the protest site exists only on-line,
like eToys.com - then the nature of the ground actions would
be quiet different or almost non-existent.) 	

It is also important to leverage the media heat that
e-protest creates by making sure that the issues and reasons
for the protest are the dominant information that appears in
the media and not just the nature of e-protest - is it legal
or illegal, is it DoS (Denial-of-Service) or not? - each
activist involved must always place the reason for the
action at the forefront of discussion, interview, or
presentation. The nature of the e-protest in terms of its
digital quality should be just a side issue and nothing

Q: A "Hacktivist" is a hybrid of a hacker and a activist.
How did you become an "Hacktivist" and why?

A: I was a member of Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) from 1987
to 1995. During that time I also worked with Act Up,
Tallahassee - that's where CAE was born. So between these
two types of projects the idea of Electronic Civil
Disobedience (ECD) emerged as possible space for future of
activism. I became deeply involved in attempting not only to
imagine it, but to see it be put into practice. I then
started to teach my self technology at Thing.net, Blast.org,
and 1994 became a founding member of the New York Zapatistas
- it was the Zapatistas who became for me the fulcrum of
what ECD could be in practice. 	

In response to the Acteal Massacre of December 22, 1997
where 45 Zapatista women and children were killed by Mexican
paramilitary troops armed U.S. Drug War weapons - The
Electronic Disturbance Theater came into being after we
received an e-mail from an Italian netstrike group calling
for a manual reloading of sites of the Mexican government
for 4 hours. 

 Then Brett Stalbaum and Carmin Karasic built the Zapatista
FloodNet which automated the process - then along with
theorist and activist Stefan Wray we did a year long series
of VR Sit-ins against the Mexican Government and attempted
to develop the protocols and practice of ECD: transparency,
linking virtual and street actions, non-violence, open
source code, and simple tools. 

At one minute after midnight on January 1, 1999 EDT released
the Disturbance Developers Kit (DDK) that would allow anyone
to create e-protest - by that time the media had started to
call us Hacktivist. EDT never named its self that - but, it
stuck and now a whole movement has emerged. 

Q: Some people think, that the "virtual" is just a
substitute of reality, something unreal and therefore worse.
What do you answer to such objections?

A: I don't think any type of activism wrong, be it virtual
or real. What is important is that we attract as many
different people to participate in the work and help with
actions in whatever manner we can and whatever manner they
can. E-protest can make our gatherings and actions glocal -
not just local or global, but both at the same time. Also,
sometimes, people who have families and need to work, or are
homebound, or don't have enough money to travel to join the
street action - can also participate and show their support
- they should not be left out, because they can only join
the e-action and not the street action. E-protest is just
one more tool that we can add to our pile of tactics - it is
not a strategy. E-protest is an active poster, an active
puppet in the streets, or music to call the people to action
- it is just a tool and nothing more or less than that. 	

Q: On the other hand, the internet seems to be widely
overestimated. How not to raise hopes, which are not
fulfillable or satisfiable?

A: Again, e-protest is a simple tactic - it will not resolve
the issues that we all face today just because it on the
Internet. The Internet is not a way to some utopia or
apocalypse - no one should place their hopes on it. But, the
Internet can become an ante-chamber of shared questions and
spaces where perhaps this time as the Zapatistas say, "the
apple will fall up." After all this is Mayan Technology.

Q: Lufthansa AG argues, that their servers are so strong,
and the activists so weak, that there won't be a visible or
even remarkable effect of the demonstration. Would you worry
about that?

A: No, not at all. It does not matter how big or strong AG
servers are - it is very difficult to stop symbolic actions
in conjuction with media distribution about the actions and
its connections with the long term work of activist before
this action and after this action. The on-line demonstration
is just a focus point for the community - it is not about
crashing servers. EDT went up against the Pentagon, the
Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and the Mexican goverments web
servers - we never crashed any servers - no matter what
myths have developed around our actions. We did create a
great deal of media response and distribution about our
cause, the Zapatistas - which was the main trajectory of the

On-line actions are not about technical efficiency - but
about symbolic efficacy. The Zapatistas have become the
dominant infomation war, or better said, InfoPeace community
with poetry against arms, words above war, and gestures that
go beyond the bounds of what technology can accomplish.

"We saw that our silence was shield and sword which wounded
and exhausted those who want to impose the war. We saw our
silence make Power which simulates peace and good government
slip time and again, and make their powerful death machine
crash time and again against the silent wall of our
resistance. We saw that each new attack they won less and
lost more. We saw that by not fighting, we were fighting."
--Fifth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, (The Zapatistas,

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