some q and a for the press

From answers@dev.null
Date Fri, 5 Nov 1999 11:27:03 -0500

[: hacktivism :]

<moderator's note: a sample of some typical q and a>

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 5 Nov 1999 11:23:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: questions--

> 1. In a recent Spin article, Ricardo Dominguez says, "We were skeptical at 
> first that any hackers could be politicized. They're an insular group of 
> teenagers, basically."
> Do you think activists have had this doubt that hackers could be 
> politicized--in the past?

i think activists (in general) have in the past, and still to this day,
no clue who hackers are or what role hackers play in the society. there
really still is a cultural divide that is only slowly being bridged.

> Why do you think this attitude exists/existed?

both cultures (activism and hacking) are insular and border of their own
fundamentalism. the zealotry of both creates a self-referential culture
that makes transcendence of that culture, or exploration of others, very
difficult. the hacker culture is very connected to the dominant corporate
culture, manifest as an individualist or libertarian element (inside) of
the same (corporate) culture. activist culture tends to be outside of
corporate culture, and in response to (public) political state culture.

> Has this attitude changed?

not really, but it is changing, as activists realize that hacking is a
powerful tacktic/strategy, and as hackers realize that they must become
activists to survive (state persecution).

> Would you agree or disagree that hackers are, in general, an insular teenage 
> group?

i disagree. they are no more insular than any other social group in
society, and many are not teenagers (whether younger or older). their
insularlity is not as relevant as their ability to be open and share
information. they certainly tend to do this better than activists do at

> Do you think the (young/teen) age of hactivists is reflected in their 
> political savvy and maturity?
> Why or why not?

not at all. i think the (perceived) lack of political savvy and maturity
amongst 'hackers' results more from the prevalence of money and power that
infests hacker circles. it is easy for many skilled hackers to get
ludicrously high paying jobs, as wel as command high (and valued) peer

> Do you think that younger (teen) hactivists can be less effective in their 
> protest campaigns?

no. effectiveness comes from many factors, namely openness, ability to
learn on the fly, and willingess to work with othes who are different.
many times it is younger kids who have these qualities.

> If so, would that be due to: lack of activism experience or life experience, 
> lack of understanding of hactivism "ethics", ego (any or all of the above)?

there is a value in having more life experience, but really what is
valuable, as a starter, is 'difference'. in these open networks, power and
strength comes from diversity. the hacker groups who succeed do so because
of a diverse range of talents, skills, aptitudes, and capabilties of a
team of people, who build and learn off each other. ethics and other
valuable frames of reference arise from this shared diversity.

> 2. According to some media sources, it seems there are two groups: 
> accountable hactivists and the ones who's irresponsible hacking is giving 
> hactivists a bad name.
> Would you agree?

no. there are no accountable hacktivists. there are accountable political
leaders, but very few engage in anything near hacktivism. as well, not all
hacking is either irresponsible, or giving hacktivists a bad name. i mean,
hacktivists don't deserve a name yet, and whatever it is, it should be
bad, that is until they can legitimately prove themselves to the public.
there's still a lot of public education that needs to take place so as to
enable the public to support if not effectively participate in hacktivist

> Is the hactivist community concerned about its image?

not so much as concerned about *being* an image. it still exists in an
infancy that obsesses with media exposure, while ignoring the ethics or
effectiveness of its activities. so its not yet concerned with what its
image is, rather it is concerned its own images, as many as it can
generate (and sell to the press).

> What do you think is important in terms of hactivist image?

openness. diversity. accessibility. justice. accountability.
sanity. tolerance. patience. humility. attentiveness.
responsiveness. integrity. balance. holism.

> What are the reprecussions of irresponsible hacking?

legal persecution. vigilantism. unjust lynchings. mass hysteria.

> Is infowar a real concern in the hactivist community?

no, its not a community, it is the infowar.

> How can it/gov't retaliation be avoided?

it cannot, it is the ethos.
infowar is government retaliation.
the question is then which government?

> Again, do "accountable" hactivists tend to be older?
> If so, why do you feel that is?

no not necessarily

> Is the hactivist community planning to outline a kind of net protest 
> "etiquette" or protocol?

first of all, there is no hacktivist community. just hacktivists (and
their networks). secondly, the protocols that arise do so for a myriad of
reasons, that have nothing to do with etiquette, and rather reflect a mix
of effectiveness and fetish.

> Do you think internet activism can be irresponsible and haphazard because 
> hackers are physically distant from the issues they protest?

not so much irresponsible and haphazard, but definitely dynamic as a
result of the distance. i mean many activists in the real world can be
both irresponsible and haphazard, its not the distance that does that, but
the distance does add new tensions and elements to an action.

> If yes, how can this be remedied?

responsibility and care in politics comes from open collective organizing
with diverse individuals and groups.

> Do you think hactivism on its own (without other forms of protest) is 
> enough?
> Why or why not?

it depends on what you define as hacktivism. but if that definition
exlcudes a broad range of many tactics, approaches, styles, and
formations, than no, it's not enough. but hacktivism is as broad, if not
more so, than activism, so it can pretty much appropriate what it needs
into its framework.

> Do you think hactivism, on its own, is any less earnest/soulful than 
> physical protest (picketing, sit-ins, petitions...)?

there is no reason why hacktivism cannot involve physical protest. we
never really lose or leave our bodies. they are always there. standing
outside of a bank's hq yelling crap at it will have much less effect than
running that bank's stock into the ground via a carefully co-ordinated
internet campaign.

> How can the hactivist community deter irresponsible hacking?

it can't. the state will make sure of that.
if hackers were responsible, they would govern,
those that are, do.

> Do you think there will ever be some kind of reward/punishment system for 
> effective/ineffective (read: irresponsible) hactivist conduct?

besides the law and peer pressure? not really no.

> Do you think this would be a bad or good thing?
> Why or why not?
> How can young hackers who are new to political activism get direction on how 
> to orchestrate responsible, effective net protests?

practice and patience mixed with an open mind.
honestly though, they need to spend time working with diverse political
groups in the real world (of all ages) so as to learn what works, what's
good, and what they'd like to change or improve or discard.

we don't need a new generation of mindless zealots or fanatical martyrs,
but rather a host of different perspectives that can build into what's
been a centuries old struggle for genuine freedom and social equality.

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