Re: Defining boundaries?
Wed, 08 Sep 1999 08:41:10 -0400
[: hacktivism :]
Where does the line get drawn?
Jack Przemieniecki wrote:
> [: hacktivism :]
> I am a little new to the whole 'hactivism' scenario. I have followed the
> messages for a little while now and have seen some interesting debates
> and conversations on the whole hactivism issue.
> However, there is one thing that is bothering me a little : Where is the
> line drawn?
There is no line, there is no determination as to which cause to take up
in a generalizable (group) way. This question has been debated to a
significant degree already, and no conclusions have been drawn because
none can be. As much as hactivism (or activism for that matter) are
collective projects, they are still born out of an individualized
humanist project; a project we cannot avoid as primarily (first) world
concerned citizens. So the line gets drawn only in so far as
individuals make ethical, moral, or stupid choices as to what
constitutes an acceptable practice of hactivism. Not only that, but as
far as I can tell on this list, most of us are only
semi-computer-proficient, meaning that few of us even have the technical
know how to generate a significant disruption in the Internetwork --
This reality leaves us choosing to follow those who might be able to "do
something" anyway. The most I could personally do would be to send an
e-mail (and even then it would probably take me a long time to find the
address to which I should send any given e-mail)...So if any line is
drawn, its drawn around technical capacity.
> Ever hear the saying, "One mans terrorist is anothers freedom fighter"?
I think we should clear this up once and for all. No matter what anyone
wishes to claim, there is nothing terroristic about activism,
hacktivism, or even out right hacking. In the most spectacular of
imaginings (the movie hackers for instance (or even War Games))
practices of hacking could be considered terroristic. But as far as I
know, there have been no cases in which someone's life was physically
threatened by a hack. Sure maybe someone's money has been stolen,
someone's website corrupted, someone's harddrive erased, or even their
hardware short-circuited, but these things are not terroristic...At best
one could hold a computer for ransom or political change...Most hacks
find their effectiveness or lack there of in the ability to upset the
symbolic structure under which the hack takes place (whether that
symbolic structure is the re-inscription of information on a website or
the actual manipulation and reformulation of code), but upset
representation (while potentially terrifying to some) has very little to
do with terrorist acts on the material environment. The process of
conflating any hacking which does not threaten real material bodies has,
I think, been more of a construction of media (because terrorism makes
for good copy (in fact terrorism is a modern form which could not exist
outside a system of "free" corporate media) or its a construction of
spin doctors to reify their positions of power (Can't you hear the grey
immanence now? "If their are these digital terrorists out their then we
need someone to protect us from them, I'm that man.").
> So, this is where it gets sticky. Mainly because so many people with so
> many different views are involved it is almost impossible to judge how
> far the term 'hactivism' can extend. Since there is no actual governing
> body (that i see anyway), individuals are supposed to take it upon
> themselves to start initiatives. Because of the scale of the internet,
> anyone around the world can have a say in what initiative to take. Since
> each individual has their own heritage, their own ideals, and their own
> views on these matters they are bound to have their own take on what a
> 'hactivist' group should do. So here is a problem, which initiative to
> There are so many causes to fight for, which one is chosen above
> Look at UNs invasion of Serbia, for example. UN went in on a sort of
> global police mission to save countless lives. However, they are now in
> a position where they are expected to take on any problem anywhere
> around the world. If they do not they will be labeled as cowards or as
This was not about labeling, it was in fact true. The UN was
inefficient. However, this had more to do with the US failing to commit
itself to the UN as an entity not under US command and control. In many
ways, the UN might have headed off the problems in Yugoslavia long
before they ever became as devistatingly hateful and tragic had the UN
been accepted as a world political entity and not hollowed out by US
dominance. The UN probably should take up any problem around the
world...If its ever given the power to act (other than as a US proxy)
then its actions might have power.
]So, which conflict do they chose? Which one deserves the
> most attention?
> Sadly, it seems to me that the answers to those questions become overly
Not overly political, overly technical...
> In our scenario, how do we decide where to launch the next "virtual
> sit-in", or which person to e-mail, or which organization to condemn?
> Any thoughts?
There is no we to decide, we debate maybe, we construct discourse about
it maybe, but the actual decision, of course, ends up being made by
those who can technically make it possible, and more importantly each
individual sitting behind his or her screen. If he or she happens to
feel s/he has time this or that particular day to participate in
whatever movement happens to be going on at the time, she will; If she
doesn't have too much to do and agrees with the particular act, she will
participate; if s/he's hasn't been getting any, s/he might participate
twice as vigorously.
We all need to remember that hacktivism requires three very important
conditions to be met in order for it to have any effect whatsoever.
First, someone has to have the technical abilities and willingness to
contribute those abilities to "the cause." Second, in participatory
cases, individuals behind individual monitors must have the time,
energy, willingness, and concern to participate. Finally, and I think
we all forget this sometime, there has to be a technologic
infrastructure allowing these things to take place. In a very real and
easy way this entire debate could simply cease existing. I mean, if you
really think about it, I suspect about 95% of the world users of
Internet technologies still access remotely through phone lines, and if
the phone companies were mobilized (for national secrity reasons (or any
other reason) to shut down service, all fantasies of revolutionary
hacking completely disappear. I bring this up to suggest that the
question of how to make decisions about what issue to take up needs to
be evaluated (or rather doesn't need to be evaluated) so long as the
medium for hactivism continues to exist, whatever causes can be taken up
should be taken up. Those with the technical know how and energy to put
into it should just fucking do it while it can still be done.
Consolidating hacktavism forces is a ridiculous idea anyway; its like a
group of novelists coming together to decide what plot line they should
all focus on for their next novel, as if there is one which would be
more important or meaningful than the other....
sorry if I rambled too much,
> -Unit 1
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