Stefan on Wed, 11 Nov 1998 21:55:19 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Wray response to FAIR letter re ECD re Mumia

"The threat of widespread destruction of digital capital is a dangerous
threat. Yet I think the death of Mumia would easily warrant it. In light of
this, a call to hack a few web sites is a relatively tame desire." - Stefan
Wray, 11/11/98



The following is an admittedly delayed and round-about reaction to Steve
Rendall's FAIR letter. It started out as an individual response to one
person on the Direct Action Media Network (DAMN) listserv that I felt
compelled to answer as it called for a ban or censoring of posts on that
particular listserv of content coming from the Electronic Disturbance

But then my response veered more generally in the direction of the FAIR
letter itself. And so I figured I should post this to some other lists as
well. Yes, it is long-winded. But I suspect that some people have been
wondering about or waiting for a response from me on the FAIR letter.
Please don't take this as the definitive response, but rather as pointing
in the direction I would like to see this discussion go.

This particular piece of mental masturbation has a long foreplay, if you
like foreplay then read it all, but if you get bored easily by my
particular style, then skip to the climax at the end.

- Stefan


At 08:18 PM 11/10/98 -0500, PJ wrote:
>I think that in light of this recent letter, DAMN should no longer
>distribute the calls to hack web sites which are continually spammed out
>by the Electronic Disturbance Theatre.
>--pj lilley--


Hello PJ and other DAMN people,

Actually there has only been one call to hack web sites. All other calls
are to engage in FloodNet actions. FloodNet is not a form of hacking.
Hacking implies gaining access into a computer system. FloodNet merely
knocks on the door.

Furthermore, spamming occurs when an incredible number of email messages
are sent to an email address such that it majorly fills up an inbox. For
example, one time I received over 2,000 messages from the same sender. That
was a spam. When I send out email messages announcing a FloodNet action, I
am advertizing not spamming. Sometimes people receive more than one
message. This is due to being subscribed to a number of similar listservs.

Receiving multiple copies of email messages announcing cyber-protests is
analagous to walking down the street and seeing the same poster tacked on
to a utility pole three times and then seeing the same thing on the next
pole. If you have already read the poster and don't want to read it again,
simply avert your eyes. On the Net, simply hit the delete key.

There are some people who are subscribed to only damn, to only nyfma, to
only media-l, to only aac, etc., but there are some people who are
subscribed to many lists at the tao server.

Perhaps some day there will be a technical solution to this problem. For
example, perhaps there could be a way for the tao computer to know if it
already sent the same message to a person who is subscribed to one list so
as to not send duplicates if that same person is subscribed to other lists
to which the message has been forwarded. I don't know if this is feasible,
but it would reduce incoming mail.

Until some sort of technical solution is reached, as just surmised, I don't
see anyway around posting to multiple lists that will invariably have some
cross-posting. If someone can come up with a suggested solution to this,
I'd be more than happy to entertain it.

PJ, your suggestion amounts to nothing short of a ban, and a carte blanche
ban, on all content emanating under the name of the Electronic Disturbance
Theater. I highly doubt that you will receive support on the DAMN list for
this sort of prior restraint and censorship, especially as DAMN is
positioning itself as a news agency, moreoever one devoted to direct
action, of which Hacktivism is one valid form. (Would anyone like to
contest this claim that Hacktivism is a valid form of Direct Action? If no
one does, I'll assume there is a consensus on this point.)

Just because you share a different set of beliefs regarding what are
appropriate and inappropriate political methods and tactics, doesn't mean
that your beliefs should prevail. The left, the anti-authoritarian left,
and anarchists (I'm assuming you are of an anarchist leaning (correct me if
I'm wrong). I'm also an anarchist) have enough trouble with cohesion as it=

Something I've come to realize is that in terms of "appropriate" tactics
and strategies there really is no such thing as the RIGHT WAY. Instead
there are a multitude of WAYS, a plurality of tactics and strategies that
range from the benign, like writing a letter to Congress, to the extreme,
like rioting and destroying property.

I think it is folly to pass judgement, to hold one particular political
method or tactic up on a pedestal and to denigrate others. A social
movement is a mixed bag containing all sorts of people who are willing to
take a range of risks and actions. You may disagree with Electronic Civil
Disobedience. You may think FloodNet is a foolish path. That's fine. No one
is forcing you to participate and plenty of other people can see its value.

I don't see what your argument is with respect to the FAIR letter. All you
say is "in light of this recent letter." This doesn't tell me very much.
What are you getting at?

Since first receiving the FAIR letter I have not responded directly to it
for a number of reasons. First of all, I've been incredibly busy and also
out of town and away from the computer. Secondly, I've waited to hear what
others in the Electronic Disturbance Theater think about it. There were
mixed feelings within our group. But no strong move or compulsion to make
an immediate response. As a result of discussions with them (4 others), I
decided to not respond right away but to see how this message would play
itself out. While I've seen a few postings regarding the FAIR letter, and
while I've seen that it has been re-forwarded to some other lists, I have
not noticed any sort of upsurge of support for the FAIR position.

At this point, as I've already written enough in this message, I don't want
to go into a "defense" of the call to hack web sites or a point-by-point
response to the FAIR letter. But I can make a few comments. Obviously Steve
Rendall disapproves of this particular method. But I think he overestimates
the power or sway I may have over the hacktivist community (I have little
or none) and he misrepresents my posting by characterizing it as linked to
a particular action, whereas in fact it was more of a general suggestion
that someone could have picked up on or not. Clearly no one picked up on
the idea as to my knowledge no one has hacked one of these sites.

I'll end on this note. At a Mumia rally once (yes, contrary to what you
might think i still do participate in demonstrations on the street, not
just on the net) people were chanting something like "If Mumia Dies, There
Will Be Fire In The Skies." The meaning of this chant was that if the state
of Pennsylvania executes Mumia then people will take to burning urban
infrastructure, or in short, rioting.

When I hear these sorts of chants, I don't hear anyone clamoring to put a
lid on that rhetoric. I don't hear anyone saying, "You shouldn't be
chanting that, because it sounds like you are advocating violence." People
who make these statements, who exercise Free Speech in a political way, are
not asked to refrain from doing so (normally).

The statement "HACKERS: HACK THESE WEB SITES NOW!!!" has more immediacy to
it, but it is also an exercise of political speech, and moreoever a
suggestion, a suggested method. Whether any hacktivist heeds this
particular suggestion at this particular moment is not so important. What
is important is planting the seed of the idea. We don't know how far and
how wide this particular message went. It could have reached some
hacktivists. They may be toying around with the idea now. They may have
discarded the idea for the particular web sites I suggested and they may
have come up with their own, and better idea. Who knows? Perhaps it reached
no one can or will do anything about it. Also, who knows?

[By the way, my message was almost as vague as saying PROTESTERS: PROTEST
THESE SITES NOW! and then listing several buildings where people should
hold protests.]

With respect to public response and outcry around Mumia, one thing I think
is important is that we increase the danger.index. State and federal
authorities must fear that if Mumia Abu Jamal is assassinated, that it will
make what happened after the Los Angeles Rodney King trial look like a
picnic. In addition to a state fear of chaos and mayhem in the streets,
should there be a death warrant signed, I think the state and the corporate
world should be instilled with a fear of chaos and mayhem on in cyberspace,
on the Internet, on the World Wide Web.

The threat of widespread destruction of digital capital is a dangerous
threat. Yet I think the death of Mumia would easily warrant it. In light of
this, a call to hack a few web sites is a relatively tame desire.=20

If Wall Street thought that the signing of a death warrant for Mumia would
send stocks plummeting because of major slippage in investor confidence due
to paranoia about real or simulated cyber-attacks on digital capital, the
state might reconsider a death warrant. I stress "might." But it may be
worth the gamble.

Yes, Mumia's case may now go to a federal appeal, so that calls for extreme
reactions may be premature. But there is never a bad time to instill worry
and fear in federal and state authorities that a Mumia death warrant would
lead to lawlessness and disorder on urban streets and in cyberspace. This
potential must be injected into the state's decision making process.
Increase the danger.index. Capitalize on the power of asymmetrical action.
Tip the balance in our favor. In Mumia's favor. In the end, it may be our

Our experimentation with FloodNet, if anything, proves at least one thing.
Simulated action, simulated threats, can be as powerful as the real thing.
Look how far it has taken us . . . to the front page of the New York Times
and beyond. When pressed, when asked what FloodNet really does, technically
speaking in terms of the actual impact on the targeted web site, the honest
answer is "probably not a whole hell of a lot." But then why is the media
paying so much attention to it right now? [Today we were just filmed for 4
hours for a nationally syndicated TV program on technology and computers].
It is because we are manipulating the media sphere, we are creating hype,
we are culture jamming, we are simulating threats and action. But really,
folks, we haven't really "done" anything if you approach what we do from a
pure materialist perspective, expect construct a few web sites and send
lots of email. We are actors! Don't you all get it? This is political
theater! A glorification and transformation of the fake into the real, at
least in people's minds. As anyone who pays attention to the computer
knows, we have moved from the age of calculation to the age of simulation.

So, the question then becomes, how do we use this same model of the
simulated threat to generate hysteria, panic, confusion, worry, and fear
among ruling elites who may have some power over state authorities who in
the end have power over Mumia's life? How do we create virtual entities,
unreal realities, smoke and mirrors? Isn't this what theater is all about?
Isn't politics at its heart about theater? Isn't there some reason why we
are called the Electronic Disturbance Theater? Is this not so plain to see?

To the hyperparanoid and staid left, at this point I must say you need to
get with the program. I don't mean to be glib. But if you want to be
effective players in this game you need to be brought up to speed, and
moving at the rate of Web-speed. What we are doing should be more
transparent to you. We are tweaking, manipulating, and conjuring. Some call
this magic. Magic, mythology, and power. How to fuck with people's minds.
How to make it seem like you are doing one thing when in fact you are
really doing something else. These are useful skills to have.

How do we invent an international cyberspacial liberation army? First by
naming. How do we make power elites tremble? What do they care most about?
Money. What do they worry most about? Loss of money. In what form is most
money right now? Electronic and digital form. How do we make them worry
about loss of digital capital? Inject simulated threat of fake
internationial cyberspacial liberation army whose aim it is to attack
digital capital infrastructure. Link to Y2K problem. Capitalize on
millenium paranoia. Tweak. Manipulate. Simulate.

This is what we are talking about. How to do alot, virtually, without doing
anything, really.

If we had an army of a thousand ghosts, then, maybe then......
Gathering, arising, inciting, dispersing, disappearing.....

- Stefan Wray
Electronic Disturbance Theater


>Open Letter From Steve Rendall of FAIR=20
>Dear Stefan Wray:
>Mumia Abu Jamal is appealing to the federal courts for a new trial.  If he
>is granted the appeal, Mumia will be on trial for his life.
>I am asking you to rescind your ill-considered call (pasted below)  for
>activists to hack or otherwise disrupt the web sites of government
>agencies and officials in Pennsylvania. Your call for the disruption of
>the Philadelphia Inquirer's web site is even more disturbing and should be
>rescinded as well.
>Since the state of Pennsylvania has denied Mumia's appeal, attempting to
>annoy state officials there is like kicking a dead horse--no more than an
>expression of inarticulate rage. It is also a waste of activists' limited
>time. In addition, Philadelphia's death row has many other inmates
>awaiting motions; their cases will not be helped by anti- death penalty
>activists' efforts to aggravate the officials in whose hands their fates
>Your call to hack the Philadelphia Inquirer's website is downright
>foolish. While the paper's performance on the Mumia case has been
>miserable, one never knows when, or from where, a courageous reporter
>might come forward to expose official hypocrisy. In his likely upcoming
>federal trial, Mumia will need all the help he can get.
>FAIR has been documenting media bias in the Mumia case for years, and we
>haven't written off the Inquirer (On other issues the Inquirer has been
>one of best papers in the country.) On the contrary, we are approaching
>the paper, and several other media outlets, with the documentary film
>"MUMIA: A Case for Reasonable Doubt." We are sending out dozens of copies
>hoping to reach a few journalists who might have a look back at the story.
>A reporter whose work has been disrupted in the name of Mumia Abu Jamal
>"supporters," will not be more receptive to our calls or the calls of
>other folks working on this case.
>Finally, this is serious business. Careful consideration is required. =20
>Consultation with those who have been on the case for years is important
>too. When I asked Mumia's lead attorney, Leonard Weinglass about your call
>for hacking, he expressed puzzlement that anyone would want to target the
>Inquirer when Mumia's federal appeal is coming up, and he said "when a
>mass movement was growing around Mumia's case in 1995, Mumia was very
>concerned that people--out of emotion--might commit random acts of
>violence or vandalism, I think this falls into that category."
>I hope you will reconsider, rescind this action and contact all your=20
>correspondents as soon as possible.
>Steven Rendall Senior Analyst FAIR=20
>--<fwd, from Stephan Wray>---------------------------
>Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
>Govenor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge=20
>Fraternal Order of the Police, Philadelphia
>Philadelphia Inquirer

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