nettime's_digestive_system on Mon, 16 Nov 1998 06:51:39 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> ECD digest

Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 23:46:40 -0500 (EST)
From: jesse hirsh <>
Subject: Re: tao: <nettime> Wray response to FAIR letter re ECD re Mumia

Hi Stefan, I'm glad to see this discussion going on. It's funny how it's
occurring simultaneously over several different lists. I'm sure i'm
missing some, but here's something for you and nettime:

On Wed, 11 Nov 1998, Stefan wrote:

> 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.

Cracking implies gaining access into a computer system. Hacking is a very
broad term, that often includes Denial of Service attacks, which FloodNet
is a form of.

> 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.

'Spam' is another ambiguous term that tends to be defined by vigilantes
with situational power. Now I'm not personally that moved by spam, but I
can assure you that your practices would be classified by some (with power
to filter and block) as spamming. With that said, Stefan, the EDT need to
get their own majordomo server together for the purposes of organizing ecd
actions. Based solely on the groups tactics (wides spread denial of
service attacks) you need to be running your own majordomo server to
handle the announcement of, distribution along the lines of, and
mobilization towards ecd events. Otherwise it will always be clumsy, and
messy, and a big inconvenience to everyone. (You've seen my personal mail
stats and how you're at the top of them since I get like 8 copies of your
messages each time). Which is to say I'd be willing to help you setup your
own majordom server, wherever that may be.

> 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.

Yes but when you send one of your announcements, you literally take over
our server by running every list at once, simultaneously, often multiple
copies. We've had meetings discussing usage and I can point to the stats
and say, "that was the stefan wray mailing yesterday" and point to a huge
spike in all stats.

> 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.

It can within limits, but you go outside of them. In essence you are
bending the explicit purpose of email lists. You (the edt) need to run
your own set of email lists.

> 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.

If your going to wage 'technology-based' campaigns, learn the technology.
Begin with majordomo, and oh-yeah, linux is a good base. Invest the time

> [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.]

I don't know about your world, but where I live if you want to hold a
protest, most of the time it takes organizing, and mobilization of the
grass-roots type, that requires time and patience. It's not just about
putting up posters. It's about establishing relationships, levels of
trust, and a sense of responsibility in regard to your actions.

> 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.

I cannot, and will not, support fear. I think creating, maintaing, and
building fear is really a bad thing. I think people need a lot to stand up
to the shitstem, to come together with their brothers and sisters, and
make a difference, whether its for themselves or for mumia. Historically
fear has only lead to destruction, usually that done by the 'state'.

> 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

The destruction of digital capital faces no fear from mumia. Physical
capital on the other hand does hold more weight.

> 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.

That's ludicrous. Cyber-attacks will not make people nervous. It will only
intensify the industry of security that is flourishing (prisons as a boom
business?). The 'state' plays the game of fear. My experience is that
'people' play the game of love.

> 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
> recourse.

If anything, inducing fear into the state only wets its appetite to kill.

> Our experimentation with FloodNet, if anything, proves at least one thing.
> Simulated action, simulated threats, can be as powerful as the real thing.

This has not been proved. At least you need to make a clearer case here.
One of the main purposes of direct action, certainly civil disobedience,
is to develop both class consciousness and revolutionary consciousness.
The kind that comes from sharing physical space with people, and putting
your body on the line. Which is not to say you couldn't do this with ecd,
I just question whether you've done it yet.

> Look how far it has taken us . . . to the front page of the New York Times
> and beyond.

Where I come from (and remain) that doesn't mean jack shit. - 8)

> 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].

So you profit, but how does that help Mumia?

> 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.

No. This is where I think you take the theory too far. You are doing
something. Spin, hype, and acting in the media sphere is something. It is
not the wu-wei you (we) profess to be doing. You cannot write it (all
responsibility and accountability) away by saying your not doing nothing.
At the very least you are liasing with the american imperial state
(nytimes, new york university, etc.) and informing them about your own
perceived impressions, analysis, blah blah blah about revolution, fear,
and destruction of digital captialist society --- yikes!!

But seriously, you are doing quite a lot, and that's the issue here. I
think done well it could garner a lot of well earned respect and
enthusiasm, not to mention the opportunity to inspire. However the project
of ecd and 'electronic activism' needs to discussed and experimented with
much more openly. Which means open to intense and hostile criticism.

> 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?

You are make a disasterous political decision to attempt to induce those
qualities into the body you call 'elite', as for what television and mass
media has demonstratd is that 'elite' in fact is very large, and whatever
emotions they feel, the rest of the society often does, or is affected by.

So why not pursue the exact oppsite: focus your attention not on the
'elite' but on the 'people'. Rally the many against the few, rather than
the few against the few (many?). does not spend it's
(organizational) time inducing fear into the ruling class, we're too busy
doing the day-to-day work of help to facilitate a resistance to and
departure from the decaying hegemony of cannibalistic capitalism. We work
with real people, who live in real places.

> 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.

Stefan, what do you think we are doing? We (certainl I) spend each and
every day helping people 'get up to speed' whether that means internet
literacy or political literacy, that's my self chosen job dude? While you
prance around with your theatre, I'm working both in the technology
itself, and with the people who use and want to learn, not just about
technology, but about how our society is changing. We work hard, learning,
teaching, experimenting, doing, thinking, breathing, and living.

> 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.

Play with fire and you will be burnt. Ever read J.R.R. tolkein's Lord of
the Rings? Remember golem? Remember what happens to those who wear the
ring too much. Are you aware of the effects of power?

> How do we invent an international cyberspacial liberation army?

I'm against armies. I'm wary of men who seek to 'invent' armies. And the
only armed or militarized force that I would tolerate would be one located
in physical proximity to my body that was working to help keep my
community safe from real and apparant threats posed by and from power.

> 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.

Look dude, the issue where I live, now that it's novemeber, and we've been
living with american style neo-conservative governments, is how to provide
for the homeless and poor now that the canadian winter is rolling head on.
The emotions of digital capitalist traders and the actions of make-believe
digital soldiers are not going to provide housing in my neighbourhood
tomorrow. So what are you doing about homelessness in newyorkcity or
austen texas?

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

But you are doing things. Shit, you spent 4 hours today right? Let's talk
about what you're doing, and how you could do it better. Enough of this
clowning around through the dark, time to take responsiblity for your

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

If you summon a thousand ghosts, 'they' will summon a million.
Always remember who you are and where you stand in the struggle.

> - 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
> >rest.
> >
> >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
> >
> >=A0
> >
> >--<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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	Jesse Hirsh - -
	P.O. Box 108 Station P Toronto Ont M5S 2S8 Canada
	  IWW x346204 |--PGP-->
		   Tao K'o Tao Fei Ch'ang Tao

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Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 14:17:49 -0500
From: Stefan <>
Subject: ECD: WHAT IS THE INTERNET FOR? Response to Ford, Hirsch,
  Gerry, Lilley

ECD: WHAT IS THE INTERNET FOR? Response to Ford, Hirsch, Gerry, Lilley

The following is part of a conversation about Hacktivism/ECD/FloodNet and
related subjects that is beginning to take place on a number of email lists
at the same time. It began with a response from FAIR to an individual
message I posted suggesting web sites to hack with political messages about
Mumia Abu Jamal. SW

Next FloodNet Action Against School of the Americas, Nov. 22
Electronic Disturbance Theater Archive

by Stefan Wray
November 12, 1998

     1) What is the Internet for?
     2) How ought radicals use the Web?
     3) Can there be Direct Action in Cyberspace?

These questions seem to be at the heart or root of recent postings from
Tamara Ford, Jesse Hirsch, Lyn Gerry, and PJ Lilley regarding the efficacy
of using FloodNet, engaging in Electronic Civil Disobedience, or
approaching other forms of Hacktivism. Rather than now trying to answer,
point-by-point, each of the responses from the above-mentioned people, I
want to first briefly look at these broader questions. 

In doing so, I don't wish to ignore the detailed points that have been
raised, especially by Ford and Hirsch, however, I think what we are talking
about warrants stepping back slightly and looking at it from a wider camera
lens. We can get to all those points soon enough. There is time.

I contend that our conversation over the last few days is part of a much
larger conversation that really is attempting to answer the question: 

     1) What is the Internet for? 

Several months ago I wrote a short piece that looked at the metaphors or
models that we use to construct our way of thinking about the Internet. I
suggested on the one hand we have the Paris Salon model and on the other
hand we had the Boston Tea Party model.
( The Salon is what Jurgen
Habermas refers to when discussing the origins of the Public Sphere. The
Salon is a site for conversation and the sharing of ideas in a public
manner. Habermas' ideas about the Public Sphere are behind ideas on
Electronic Democracy. Proponents of Electronic Democracy see the Internet
as a site for a communicative process, the Internet infrastructure as an
interactive means for shared dialogue, discussion, and discourse. This
notion is closely associated with an early hacker ethic that information
should be free. That a democracy is more likely to flourish when access to
information is open and free. 

In this piece I contrasted this Paris Salon model with that of the Boston
Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party being a metaphor or model for direct action
and perhaps even a precursor to today's political hacks - i.e. Hacktivism.
What did they do? The Tea Party members used masks to alter their identity
(simulation). They gained access to the ship itself (hacking). They
destroyed property by dumping tea into the harbor (data dump).

	2) How ought radicals use the Web?

We can use this Salon/TeaParty dyad, or this discourse/action dyad, to map
out some of the arguments that are being raised either for or against
FloodNet, Electronic Civil Disobedience, or Hacktivism. And we can examine
what some of the suggested appropriate uses are for the Internet
infrastructure. I argue that the bias of the Web has been toward the Salon,
toward the discursive. The Web as Salon is the dominant paradigm.

I think we have a situation in which some people think that the Web should
solely be a place for conversation and sharing of information, while there
are others who while agreeing with that also think the Web is a site for
action. Let me list these positions, so it is clearer. In our conversation
there are:

A) People believing the Internet infrastructure should PRIMARILY be a site

I think this is the opinion of most people on the Internet. And this may be
a dominant position within radical groups as well.

B) People believing the Internet infrastructure should be BOTH a site for

This is clearly a minority position for the Internet as a whole. The idea
has greater currency within radical circles, but it remains contested terrain.

C) People believing the Internet infrastructure should PRIMARILY be a site

This is an extreme position. I'm not so sure there are people in this
conversation who believe this. I've heard this position articulated, but it
is one of the possibilities arising from this communication/action dyad.

Maybe it is useful to look at a specific example. In a recent post from
Ford (Criteria for assessing ECD tactics) she writes:

"Wray and Dominguez have adopted the slogan 'the revolution will be
digitized' and I'd like to clearly distinguish their efforts from my work
(with the ZapNet Collective) of the same name. The ZapNet project does not
use or promote 'denial of service attacks'. On the contrary, our project is
about creating new ways of accessing and interacting with useful information."

Here we see a clear positioning, leaning more toward a value system that
privileges the Internet as primarily a communicative site and not a site
for communication and action. A nod toward the dominant paradigm of Web as

Fundamentally, then, the Ford critique may boil down to a difference of
opinion regarding the degree to which Internet infrastructure should
transgress communication/discourse/dialogue and move into the realm of
action, whether 'symbolic', 'actual', 'simulated', or 'real'. This broader
difference of opinion needs to be addressed before a point-by-point
response to the specifics of the suggested criteria for assessment of ECD
as a tactic and strategy for the left.

But before pursuing this trail of thought, I should also note that part of
the contested terrain we are traversing deals with definitions of action.

     3) not Can there be Direct Action in Cyberspace?

Lilley makes the claim that FloodNet or other types of Electronic Civil
Disobedience and perhaps even these other forms of political hacks are not
direct action. Hacktivism is not Direct Action. Therefore Hacktivism need
not be discussed or mentioned on the Direct Action Media Network list.

Well.... is it Direct Action? What is direct action? How can there be
direct action in cyberspace? Do we dismiss direct action by using state
language and categorizing it as 'denial of service'? Do we dismiss direct
action by saying that it is symbolic and therefore not doing anything?

Again, it may be useful to break this down by taking a look at Direct
Action as 'symbolic', 'actual', 'simulated', or 'real'. I think in our
conversation we have people who believe following is true:

A) There are those who believe that an 'action' can NOT be considered to be
Direct Action if it is primarily symbolic and simulated. 

This position holds that 'action' must be actual and real in order for it
to be considered as Direct Action. And by definition, then, because
cyberspace is viewed primarily a symbolic and simulated space, there really
can be no direct action in cyberspace. This, of course, discounts the fact
that the telephone company is real, that servers are real, that the
Internet infrastructure is real and actual, despite the mythology and
fabrication of 'space' in cyberspace.

B) There are those who believe that symbolic and simulated 'action', while
not technically actual and real, can be considered Direct Action.

Just as the marginal view of the communication/action dyad sees Hacktivism
as a transgressive act, moving beyond the confines of Web as Salon and into
the realm of the Boston Tea Party, so too does Hacktivism move from a pure
materialist worldview into the realm of symbolism and simulation.
Hacktivism sees BOTH the symbolic and the actual, the simulated and the
real, working together as symbiotic partners, feeding off each other.

C) There are those who conflate symbolic-simulated 'action' and real-actual
'action' and of course see a symbolic-simulated event as Direct Action.

Taking the second position to an extreme, the virtual and the real become
completely conflated, leaving no boundary, no border.

I've written all this because I think it is important to identify and
recognize the meta-frames that we use as portals into 'reality'. And, to
remind us that the claims, the statements, the accusations, the criteria,
that we utter and attempt to establish are reflections of these broader
ways at looking at things.

While I don't disagree that it is important to examine the minutia and
micro-critiques, I do believe that if we go down that road then we must
simultaneously explore the ideological frames.

Fundamentally, some of the critiques directed against FloodNet have been
representations of broader ideological positions that until now have not
been clearly named. For example, one hacker critique is that FloodNet clogs
bandwidth and is therefore not a good thing. What is behind that argument?
An ideology that puts bandwidth up on a pedestal. A reification of
bandwidth. Holy bandwidth. Of course, from an ideological worldview that
reifies bandwidth and the need for constant, continual, unhindered access,
FloodNet is a bad thing, perhaps.

I say, rather than first attempting to establish criteria for evaluating
ECD, let's first establish criteria for evaluating the belief structures
that each of us holds when we enter into this conversation.

If Ford holds that the Internet infrastructure should primarily be a site
for communicative acts, and NOT a site for direct action - however DA is
defined on the simulated-real continuum - then we need to recognize that
Ford's proposed criteria emerges from a more basic conflict with the
Hacktivism perspective; A perspective that places value on BOTH the word
and the deed, that sees room for radicals to engage in direct actions in
cyberspace in ADDITION to using that infrastructure a communicative device
to build community and expand networks of resistance and solidarity across
international borders.

In the end, I accept Ford's assertion that criteria for evaluation of ECD
and related techniques should be established. And I also think some of
Ford's specific criterion suggestions are valuable ways to begin a
conversation, although I do contest many of them. But I believe that such
criteria - if emerging from and supported by a broader ideological
framework that privileges the Web as Paris Salon model over the Web as
Boston Tea Party model - will be skewed criteria that will serve the
interests of the dominant Net paradigm that posits the Net as primarily as
a discursive space.

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Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 00:47:55 -0600 (CST)
From: Tamara Ford <>
Subject: Addendum to Criteria for assessing ECD; Response to other postings

(Apologies to those who receive multiple postings of this message.)


I want to correct a mistatement in my post of 11/11, citing Ricardo
Dominguez as one of the authors of "Electronic Civil Disobedience". The
book (Autonomedia, 1996) was authored by the editorial collective Critical
Art Ensemble (CAE), who also published "The Electronic Disturbance" in
1994. Though Dominguez was once part of of CAE, I have been informed that
he left the group in '93, and was not part of the editorial collective
when these works were published. I regret this error and hope this clears
up any further conflation of CAE's work with Dominguez and Wray's
"Electronic Disturbance Theatre" (EDT). For further info on CAE see their
website at:

While I don't want to engage in dialogue with Wray's recent response to my
my and others' posts on this subject, I'm concerned that too many things
are being conflated. It's too bad that Wray tries to use Habermas and
Baudrillard (among others) to turn this into a debate on direct action-
instead of responding to the issues at hand. In addition to the points
Rendall raises in his open letter, particularly relevant are the tao
folks' concerns about their server and Lynn Gerry's concerns about the NYT
coverage of Radioforall. By refusing to answer the most serious concerns
that have been raised around the deliberate or inadvertent participation
of EDT in counterproductive actions, Wray has again revealed that his
engagement in dialogue with activists is not in good faith and wastes
everyone's time. 

I'm very glad though that we've started this discussion and that others
have responded with meaningful dialogue on this issue. It might now be
useful if someone could create (or designate) a separate list for this
topic so that discussion can be concentrated and also not interfere with
other list traffic. Such postings would then be archived in one place and,
of course, could be sent out to other lists when relevant. -Tamara

Tamara Villarreal Ford
Accion Zapatista:
ZapNet Collective:

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Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 13:45:45 -0500 (EST)
From: Grugnog <>
Subject: The Net, Hacktivism, ECD & Direct Action

Firstly I would like to agree with all the other posters in this rather
distributed debate that it is really good to see some discussion and
critisism of Hacktivism and ECD so far.

 - = -

The Net, Hacktivism, ECD & Direct Action

As I see it, the main questions/issues, at the moment, are:
* Is the Net for action or just discussion?
* Can you have electronic direct action?
* What is the deal with censorship?
* How does a hacker-activist crossover happen?
* How could it be accessable, yet still covert?

 - = -

As a set of communities, the first thing I think we should do it try to
come up with some definitions, not neccesarily something that we all agree
on, or something that is unchangable, but something that we could use to
explain to any net user what each term means. We also need these because
we need to know what each other means.

Here's what I propose - as some kind of starting point:

Hacktivism: Use of hacking as a form of political or social activism.

ECD: Targeted use of computer network in a way discouraged by the state as
a form of political or social activism.

Hacking: Use of technology in a creative, low level or explorative way.

Cracking: Use of hacking to breaking into computer systems for non
explorative motives.

Direct Action: Stopping a process by the most direct means available.

Action: Stopping a process by a non direct route or applying political or
social pressure.

What other definitions are there out there?

Cult of the Dead Cow has come up with:
Hacktivism:  a policy of hacking, phreaking, or creating technology to
achieve a political or social goal.

Stefan defines:
Electronic Civil Disobedience:  a form of mass decentered electronic
direct action, utilizing virtual blockades and virtual sit-ins.

 - = -

Stefan asks: is the Net for action - or just communication? As an activist
I see no distiction whatsoever between information and action.
The proof is in the pudding: If there was no information there would be no
action, hence information causes action. However information does not
neccesarily cause action. Bearing this in mind simply consuming
information - without acting on it - is nothing, wheras producing
information can be considered to be action, as it has the potential to
cause action.

In this simple sketch the essence of the Net - and the real power it gives
to activists is summed up. All users have the power to create and
distribute information - and cause action - without necessarily having to
even leave their chair.

Herin lies a small paradox - the number of people devoted to only
producing and distributing information is inversely proportional to the
value of their role.

Everything on the Net is information. Hack a site - that isn't action -
that is information. Floodnet the government - all you are doing is
changing the flow of information. This may seem like a criticism of these
techniques - but it's not - the limited evidence we have so far seems to
indicate that these have the potential to cause as much (if not
more) action as the conventional methods of creating information.

 - = -

Can you have direct action on the Net. Well, if you accept my definition,
then you can't, because it will never be the most direct way of stopping
something. The most direct way will always be physically putting yourself
between the cause and the effect.

Some people may respond to that by asking what the most direct way of
stopping information which is being produced by someone nasty. The most
direct way of doing this is censorship - which leads us nicely onto my
next point.

 - = -

A large number of Hactivism and ECD techniques so far have involved
denying (or attempting to deny) access to information. I have a problem
with this because - whichever way you look at it - it's censorship.
There are many reasons why censorship is bad, but the simplest is because
people could not see the other side of the debate if they wanted to -
which means that your argument is effectively fashist.

There is a lot of truth the the hacker saying that 'Information wants to
be Free!' - as activists there is no need to restrict the flow of
information, as it will only hinder us in the long run. Some hackers may
be learning some politics off activists - but that doesn't mean that
activists have nothing to learn off hackers!

Stefan tries to bypass this question by saying that DoS actions are
Theatre - and do not actually need to achieve their aims to affect their
cause. This may be true - but it is like saying "Torturing children is OK
as long as we don't actually succeed". You either succeed - and are
hypocritical - or fail - and nobody listens because you don't want to

Don't get me wrong - I am not writing off all Hacktivism/ECD - I am just
pointing out that tactics that rely on censorship are used unwisely. There
are many other tactics out there that are just as radical, just as
effective, just as easy and just as subversive - that don't need us to
censor information.

 - = -

So far there has been equal movement from both the wired activist
community and the underground hacker community towards a goal of
hacktivism. This has mainly been through numerous e-mail campaigns and ECD
by activists and throught MilW0rm, KaotiK and various Mitnick hackers.

What has been the problems with the aproach of these groups in their
interpretation of hacktivism?

* E-mail campaigns are pretty unradical
* Lack of technical knowlege
* Lack of outreach to non-activist/hacker infospace
* Problems with how to apply mass distributed actions without blocking

* Not enough effort put into content for pages
* Not accessible enough for newbies
* Rubbish media work
* Lack of outreach into activist infospace

One problem which is common to both is that currently they are organised
by a small number of individuals (despite the efforts of the individuals
themselves). Although we have all experienced the problems of getting
people on an electronic forum to act together there is no excuse for not
consulting all the relavent people and organisations & trying to
target information so that participants can help with the next action.

With this said I have proposed a new list on called hacktivism,
which will hopefully be a place for interested parties from both the
activist and hacker communities to debate. I see the potential for new
projects and organisations to be quite high.
If the proposal is a success I will write some kind of invitation.

 - = -

Finally I would like to look at what is perhaps the main failing with both
hacktivist communities, although more so with the hacker community -

Actions must be accessible if people are going to feel empowered to act.
They must also be accessible if the actions are going to be successfull -
as success is more likely if more people imput time.

Accessibility is, however, a big problem.
Stefans view, that identities and information should all be out in the
open is very true - but only for actions where counteraction is difficult
because of mass participation. Cracking actions need small groups of
trusted people, because otherwise the holes will simply be fixed. Think of
it like announcing on a flyer that you are going to meet outside a hole in
the fence of an army base - not a good plan!

One possibility is to come up with networking plans - with some main tags
hacking groups can affiliate to, or central websites or e-mail lists, or
distributed SWARM style ideas. These are good up too a point, but the
whole thing just becomes too 'planned' and unrealistic.

As I see it, the one project which would increase accessability for both
sides is some kind of information exchange - where activist information -
underground political news ect - is spread to hackers, and hacking news -
resources - is spread to activists. Then, both types of information is
spread to the public. This could be a simple starting point - it could use
existing networks, and could develop into some of the structures above.

As for solving some of the other problems this will come naturally - but I
think it could be helped by some kind of guide in the vein of the 'Ethics
and Etiqute for the Digital Terrorist' talked about previously (Though I
don't really like the 'War' analogy of connatations). Other guides are
needed, summing and composing strategies, techniques, tools and ideas for
all to use.

Hacktivism does have a future, and is going be a highly effective tactic
for everyone - let's do it!

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