Re: Hacktivism and I: An Introspective

From Paul Mobbs <>
Date Tue, 06 Mar 2001 11:59:32 +0000

[: hacktivism :]

At 09:14 02/03/01 -0000, you wrote:
>Hacktivism. Hacktivism. Hack-tivism. I repeat the word
>until it becomes a meaningless sound. Meaningless,
>so I can re-evaluate what it means, to me, the hacker
>formerly known as "The pr0phet". For my own reasons,
>I am now known as Neon_Opticon, of Division 6. Hacktivism.
>What does it mean to you? To me it means a new wave,
>a collision of two cultures into an amalgamate there to
>shatter the consensus.

True. Agree 3.2E+7. In fact, for the rest of this email I'm going to
replace 'hacktivism' with 'JOY'.

But in naming an alternative I think we have to play on the prejudices of
those who don't like JOY. When deciding a name for the group who later
became known as 'the electrohippies' we had this debate. In our view JOY,
because of the screwed up perceptions of the media, doesn't convey the true
meaning of what many of those engaged in JOY are striving for. It doesn't
encompass the concept of free software, it doesn't encompass equality of
access, and it doesn't encompass Internet exercisable civil rights. Most of
all, it conforms to the definitions and identity imposed upon those
undertaking JOY actions because we don't have control over that word/label.

Recently, I got so pissed with the media that I started to use the term
'cracktivism' to differentiate perfectly legal JOY from the claims that JOY
is illegal, because I was so tired of explaining the difference between JOY
and cracking. But the lexicon of the IT industry is currently dominated by
the IT security goons who want to stamp out any kind of non-corporate
independent thought on electronic networks. We have to break their control
over the lexicon by subverting their control over it -- by using terms that
make them contradict or ridicule their own position.

For example, if we anyone who promotes free/open source software
"Gates-Busters", are Microsoft really going to be able to, in all pesonal
seriousness, attack those groups using that terminology without looking
like total fools themselves? Likewise, if people stop using the term
"encryption" and start calling email communications either "Big Brother
friendly" or "Big Brother unfriendly" (a little like EFF's use of 'Big
Brother Inside' in relation to key escrow) we psychologically redefine the
basis of the debate in favour of our view of what the use of cryptography
is all about. The skill of the political, media or PR people who attack
groups perceived as 'dangerous' is to define an identity or label for them
that takes part of the meaning from an issue or activity which the identity
or actions of the group will probably not support --  but it works to the
creator's negative perceptions. We must do the opposite -- take a literal
approach to the terms we use and define our actions by what they actually
are, thereby restricting the opposition's opportunity to redefine our
actions in the negative.

The whole point about the term 'electrohippie', from the situationist
perspective, is that it provokes an instant involuntary response. Serious
and sober UK police chiefs interviewed about electrohippies have broken
their persona and smiled (one almost sniggered). Politicians instantly
begin talking about their perception of hippies, which is nothing to do
with us, and just makes them look stupid and out of touch with reality
(which, let's face it, they are). Like Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters,
the strength of the name is in the failure of those opposed to it to be
able to quantify it. We need to adopt the same approach in redefining the
source of the word 'JOY'.

Peace 'n' love



"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government, nor are we for
this party nor against the other=85 but we are for justice and mercy and
truth and peace and true freedom, that these may be exalted in our nation,
and that goodness, righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity
with God, and with one another, that these things may abound." (Edward
Burroughs, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations,
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 8HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864


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