The Electronic Disturbance Theater

From ricardo dominguez <rdom@thing.net>
Date Fri, 27 Aug 1999 14:40:11 -0400
Organization The Thing


[: hacktivism :]

[thought this might help frame what we have been doing--for those who
might be new]

Electronic Disturbance Theatre
By EDT


"We are all the network, all of us who speak and listen"
--The Zapatistas

    The Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) was created by  Carmin
Karasic,
Brett Stalbaum , Stefan Wray and Ricardo Dominguez in April, 1998. EDT
recircuits agit-prop actions to mobilize micro-networks to act in
solidarity
with the Zapatistas in Chiapas. By staging virtual sit-inís on-line.
This
networked performance is structured as narrative the temporal frame
of which is bound by the length of the struggle and its needs. The
staging
of the action is html and Javascript  based tool called FloodNet, which
reloads a URL several times a minute, which slows the site down if a
critical mass join the sit-in. The masses, the media, and site on which
the
virtual sit-in will take place, which ninety percent of the time is the
Mexican  Presidentís website, are hailed via e-mail postings
on multiple listservs.

Digital Zapatismo is and has been one of the most politically
effective uses of the Internet that we know of since January 1, 1994.
It has created a counter-distribution network of information with
about 100 or more autonomous nodes of support. This has enabled
the EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army) to speak to the
world without having to pass through any dominant media filters.
The Zapatistas use of communication on the Internet, e-mail and
web pages, have created an electronic force field around these
communities in resistance. Which has stopped a massive force
of men and the latest Drug War technologies from annihilating the
EZLN in a few days. The Zapatistas themselves really did not
expect to live very long after January 1, 1994. The Zapatistas
used the moment that NAFTA began in order to protest the
Ďperfect dictatorshipí of Mexico and itís genocide of the
Mayan communities of Chiapas, Mexico.

The primary use of the Internet by the global pro-Zapatista movement
had been as a communication tool. However since the Acteal
Massacre in Chiapas at the end of 1997 in which 45 indigenous
people were killed by A paramilitary group supported by the
Mexican Government. The Internet has now become not only
a site or a channel for communication, but also as a site for direct
action and electronic civil  disobedience. Information about the
Acteal Massacre, and announcements of Mexican consulate and
embassy protests, was transmitted rapidly over the Net. The
largest response was in the form of physical street protest,
drawing crowds of between 5,000 and 10,000 in places like Spain
and Italy. But there were also calls for actions in on-line. On the
low end of digital activism people sent large amounts of email
protest to selected email targets of the Mexican government.

 The Anonymous Digital Coalition, a group based in Italy,
issued a plan for virtual sit-ins on five web sites of Mexico
City financial corporations. They issued information about
the time zones so people could act together when it was
10:00 a.m. in Mexico City. They instructed people to use
their Internet browsers to repeatedly reload the web sites
of these financial institutions. The idea was that repeated
reloading of the web sites would block those web sites
from so called legitimate use. This idea was the jump off
point for the Zapatista FloodNet which is an automated the
reload function to happen every 3 seconds. The more people
join the Virtual Sit-In, the greater the disturbance.

    Since its inception, EDT has staged a number of  "acts".
 Our actions  have marked such historic dates as  the anniversary of
Emiliano Zapata's  death,  Mother's Day,  the fourth
anniversary of Second Declaration of the Lacando Jungle,
the third  anniversary of the Aguas Blancas Massacre, the
tenth anniversary of the  biggest election fraud in recent Mexican
history,
Emiliano Zapata's  birthday; Mexican Independence Day, the
30th Anniversary of Tlatelolco  Massacre, 506 Years of colonization,
the 15th year anniversary of the birth of the EZLN, the first
anniversary
of the Acteal massacre in Chiapas, and the fifth anniversary of the
Zapatista Revolution. We also organized an action as civil disobedience
against the infamous School of the Americas military training site.

    This reconfiguration of street theater facilitates direct access
between  macro-networks and non-digital networks. The Electronic
Disturbance Theater has also been able to re-route the conduits of
information in the media to focus on issue of Chiapas, Mexico.
The strategy has been to push the mythology of CyberZaptistas to
new level of activity in order to counter the rise of the Mexican
Govermentís *low intensity warfare* after the Acteal  Massacre
at the end 1997. These Internet actions have caused not only
Mexican Goverment to respond, both on-line and off-line, but the
U.S Department of Defense on one occasion counter-attacked EDT
by using browser based code. The digital highway has become the site f
or a new mode of non-violent actions for Human Rights.

The Electronic Disturbance Theater has also become
the staging area for the heated debate about electronic
civil disobedience and hacktivism. Many on the Left and the Right
speak of these virtual sit-inís as digitally incorrect actions that
block bandwidth. These networks believe that clogging communication
pipelines is not only immoral, but an act of what US
military intellegince commutities push as the rhetoric of
cyberterrorism. Politically concerned  networks actors must
only put up signs of protest and never walk out  into the
middle of the highway. Individuals and groups who lack the
exact knowledge to hack a into a system should just be good
netcitizen and just click.

The Electronic Disturbance Theater has been very
successful in the media sphere. At the Ars Electronic
Festival, Linz, Austria, on InfoWar we attracted the
attention of print, radio, and television journalists from
Germany, Holland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Spain,
Denmark, Switzerland, and other countries. Here in
the US we were on the front page of New York Times,
a number of similar dominant media journals, as well as
activist journals and zines. This is exactly what the
Mexican Government and NAFTA fear the most.
That the global civil society will begin to get information
that counter neo-liberal propaganda.

    The digital agit-prop actions of The Electronic
Disturbance Theater call for research and development
of html democracies and the right to block data for
human rights. These networked performances have
also opened access and communication between three
important micro-networks: net.art, net.activism, and net.hackers.
What mutation will arise from this swarm is impossible to foresee.
Resistant Internet use will continue to evolve and reinvent itself.
The Zapatista networks will continue to explore and dream of new
gestures  always staying a few steps ahead of the forces
of the State and late capital. The States sees all, but only
in spaces it knows, Digital Zapatismo is about what cannot
be known, the site of impossibilities that are more than InfoWar.
Digital activist will continue to create new territories and acts
that can bear witness the state of devastation brought about
by the globalization of neo-liberalism. Click = action.

CyberZapatistas
http://www.eco.utexas.edu:80/Homepages/Faculty/Cleaver/zapsincyber.html

The Electronic Disturbance Theater
http://www.thing.net/~rdom/ecd/ecd.html



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