AKA (Was: Re: Hactivism comments by EFF)
Flint Jones <email@example.com>
Tue, 12 Oct 1999 13:22:41 -0400 (EDT)
[: hacktivism :]
> "A lot of groups are claiming that they're hacking into sites for a
> higher moral purpose, but they're hiding beyond anonymity or
The common liberal interpretation of the civil rights movement in the 60s
that all was done completely publically and transparently, is looking back
with pinko colored glasses. Further, civil disobedience, activism, etc...
is far older and far more varied than how certain activists groups today
I've been to entirely to many demonstrations over the years where the only
"civil disobedience" going on was largely a sham, a show, a regularly
orchestrated ritual of protestors standing/sitting/chaining themselevs to
a certain space they were "not allowed" to be in. Then, law enforcement
would do its "duty" and arrest these protestors. Papers would get
processed and everybody would be out in a hour or two and have to show up
later for a court date where the charges would probably be dropped. This
is pathetic, and does hardly any good outside of symbolic value because
the media rarely covers any of it, so your only reaching the people who
already showed up. Many activsts are proud of the number of arrests
they've gotten. Many are tied up with some ideas of 60s-civil
rights-hippy revolution that was hardly the reality of what was going, and
further hamstring themsleves by only using their civil disobedience to
influnece the powers that be, rather than making a real change in the
Sitting where you weren't supposed to sit, going where you weren't
supposed to go... because of racial segregation was direct action. People
took their lives into the own hands and made the world they wanted right
then and there. Often, they were arrested, beaten and imprisoned for
violating laws. When they got together and took a stand against a law
collectively... their simply aren't enough prisons (well, there weren't
then. ;) Ofcourse, all kinds of groups were taking actions that are
unthinkable by most activists today. There is a whole range of tactics
between pacificism and violence that many activsts ignored today (atleast
Going back to an earlier examples of civil disobedience... lets look at
the Wobblies (the IWW). Their free speech fights led to the formation of
the ACLU. Their criticism of the First World War and the draft almost
destroyed the organization. Their direct action on the job ranged from a
simple refusal to do work to all manner of sabotage. Despite the boss'
press rumormongering, the wobblies were actually a pretty nonviolent
bunch... less fighting and dynamiting than their fellow workers who
condemned sabotage but actively practiced its most destructive forms.
Anyway, before I get off on a tangent about sabotage, I'll get back to
anonyminity. The entire idea behind being overtly public with civil
disobedience is that once activsts go to jail for their convictions, then
the courts, juries (though ) and law makers will face massive public
protest and see the immorality of existing laws and change them. Thats
the idea anyway. You buy into the system, think it works... it just needs
It didn't used to always be that way. The Wobblies used to soapbox on
corners all the time. The cops would come by, beat 'em up, throw 'em in
jail. This worked reasonably well when there were only a few Wobblies.
So, the IWW took to bringing wobblies in to town.. thousands of them.
Usually, in small towns this over burdened their local jail... their
simply wasn't room for all the wobblies they arrested, so they let them go
and got rid of their anti-free speech laws as unenforcable. And, its
struggles like this that often involved more than just Wobblies... that
brought the ACLU into being.
But how did the Wobblies make out? After the first world war, many
members had to keep their memership in the union secret (just like earlier
labor organizations like the Knight of Labor had to). They carried their
union cards in their shoes. Special laws were specifically written
against "criminal syndicalism" to directly target the IWW. Members were
imprisoned or deported (and some were executed on trumped charges, others
ust disappeared). At the very least, they could expect to be blacklisted.
And all of this against a union that was largely non-violent using just
the power of folded arms.
Syndicalism is hard pressed to survive a tolitarian society, and
governments have usually gone in that direction to deal with it.
The gall of some people to claim that say, hackers in Indonesia that are
trying to do something to slow the genocide of people in East Timor,
aren't behaving responsibly since they use psuedonyms or act
anonymously... is pretty much the height of middle class liberal
reformism. If hackers in Indonesia were up front with who they are,
they'd be dead. Ditto for China. If some totalitarian government
intelligence database on dissidents gets deleted... I'm not going to shed
any tears about the destruction of "intellectual property".
One interesting note is that the courts have allowed the radio pirates
with Steal this Radio in NYC to use their dj aliases in their case with
the FCC. While not facing death... they do face substantial fines and
perhaps imprisonment. Whats interesting is they are taking a more
confrentational stance and attacking the FCC legally before it attacks
them. However, most radio pirates usually use psuedonyms and often exist
in a world between public transparency and clandestine operation. But the
direct action, is the going on the air illegally. And its making the
world they want in the here and now, instead of just chaining themselves
to the front of the FCC as a symbolic gesture. And the actions of pirates
have brought us much closer to a divserfied radio legally, by such
proposals as the LPFM (Low Power FM). There is a range of people in that
movement... there are traditional street protests (with puppets!),
lobbying, court battles... but I believe the most important part of that
struggle has been the direct action carried out largely anonymously.
If governments are killing people, it seems that almost any action can be
morally justified... whether it is done anonymously or transparently,
whether it involves the destruction of property or not, trespass or not.
To accept something different and ineffectual is being complicit.
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