Hello, yes, the site has been pretty quiet for a while now. Between prepping for the last workshop, traveling, decompressing from traveling, and getting my life back in order I haven't had much time to work on civil resistance stuff. But that's changing! Lots more to come soon, and for now enjoy then new reading list page where I've uploaded lots of great articles that have informed my thinking. Good reading while you're trapped indoors during a hurricane.
via: The New Republic
Stop me if you have heard this one before. A group of citizens are unhappy with the government. A viral communications network is born, spreading words of dissent throughout the land. The authorities crack down with a vengeance. This may sound like the story of a Twitter or Facebook “revolution” in some repressive corner of the world. In fact, it is a tale of how illicit poetry spread through the streets of eighteenth-century Paris.
I admit at the outset that I do not know a lot about eighteenth-century Paris, unlike Robert Darnton, who seems to know a great deal. It is as a student of communications networks and their social and political implications that I presume to write about Darnton’s thought-provoking and uncannily relevant book. In his new study, Darnton demonstrates that even in a semi-literate society, information can travel far and fast. He challenges us to re-examine our assumptions about today’s new and “unprecedented” information universe. As he rightly observes in the book’s introduction, “The marvels of communication technology in the present have produced a false consciousness about the past—even a sense that communication has no history, or had nothing of importance to consider before the days of television and the Internet.”
Poetry and the Police begins in 1749, when politically controversial poems swept through Paris. A police lieutenant was sent out to nab the dissident author of an ode with the line, “Monstre dont la noire furie,”or “Monster whose black fury.” The monster in question was Louis XV, and referring to him in such terms was an act of lèse majesté. (A little less than two centuries later Osip Mandelstam wrote a similarly irreverent—and personally catastrophic—poem comparing Stalin’s mustache to the bristles of a cockroach.) Tracing the origins of the poem was no simple matter. The poem had crossed paths with several others, and each took its own route. The verses were copied on pieces of paper, dictated, memorized, or sung to the tune of popular songs.
The police deployed a legion of spies to get to the bottom of the matter. They interrogated a medical student who had recited the poem, and he identified the individual who gave the poem to him. A string of arrests followed, ultimately filling the cells of the Bastille with fourteen individuals accused of taking part in unauthorized poetry recitals. (The incident is thus known as “The Affair of the Fourteen”.) The poem was apparently passed along by a relatively young group of students, clerks, and priests. The original author was never found.
Ricardo Dominguez is one of the original theorizers of electronic civli disobedience. Working with the Critical Art Ensamble in the 90s, he helped establish some of the basic principles and modes of ECD that would influence hacktivists for years to come. In 1998 he developed floodnet with the Zapatistas, using DoS attacks for political aims. Today, he continues to further develop the idea and practices of ECD, most recently with his Transborder Immigrant Tool and a "virtual sit in" (like Floodnet) to push for education reform at the UC San Diego, the college that employs him. Despite being threatened with de-tenuring, and worse, he continues to push the evolution of civil disobedience.
Protesters supporting WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning managed to infiltrate a private fundraiser for President Barack Obama on Thursday morning in San Francisco, interrupting his remarks with a song.
As Obama was speaking at the $5,000-a-plate breakfast fundraiser, California activist Naomi Pitcairn (above), sitting at one of the tables, began humming and singing a modified version of the song “Where’s Our Change?”, decrying Manning’s treatment in prison. Pitcairn removed her blazer and shirt to reveal a T-shirt with a picture of the young Army intelligence analyst who is suspected of leaking a massive cache of classified and sensitive documents to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks.
As the rest of the group at Pitcairn’s table joined in with her song, they held up signs that read “Free Bradley Manning“.
“Each of us brought you $5,000 — we’ll vote for you in 2012, yes that’s true. Look at the Republicans, what else can we do,” the group sang.
As White House aides escorted Pitcairn from the room, she said, “Free Bradley Manning. I’m leaving. I hope I don’t get tortured in jail.”
“That was a nice song,” Obama said as she finished singing. “You guys have much better voices than I. Thank you very much.” Then he turned back to his speech. “Where was I?”
Pitcairn told the San Francisco Chronicle that she paid $76,000 to get the protesters tickets to the event, which was held at the swanky St. Regis hotel downtown.
--Was this an effective use of $76,000? They got in front of Obama, they got press coverage because they were in front of OBama, beyond that though... Don't have a firm opinion yet, just mulling it over. Also, I need to look into this Fresh Juice Party.
--Update 4/26. OK, just watched the video of this. Pathetic. Total waste. If I had donated a dollar to this group I'd be outraged.
A Pentagon official yesterday leaked word to the Associated Press that accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning was being transferred out of the Quantico Marine brig where he has been held under inhumane conditions for 10 months, and moved to the Army's prison facility in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Pentagon did not even bother to notify Manning's lawyer of the transfer; he had to learn of it through the media leak. As most media reports on this transfer note, the move takes place "in the wake of international criticism about his treatment."
From there, blogs that barely existed even five years ago -- such as FDL -- coordinated a highly effective activism campaign to publicize and protest these conditions. Blog readers complained en masse to the U.N. and Amnesty International, which led to a formal investigation by the former and a formal condemnation and protest campaign from the latter. A few isolated media figures and politicians -- who regularly read blogs -- picked up the cause, with MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan providing ample coverage and Dennis Kucinich demanding official access to Manning and loudly complaining when it was denied (along with constant coverage from The Guardian). Rather than rely on the mediation of establishment journalists and editors, Manning's counsel largely confined his public commentary to his own newly-created blog, where he was able to control the content, avoid distorting editing practices, and be heard in full.
Substantial Internet-organized protests took place outside of the brig and elsewhere around the country -- aided by the vocal support of the classic heroic whistle-blower, Daniel Ellsberg, who was arrested protesting Manning's conditions -- bringing further attention to Manning's plight. Blog-reading and blog-writing law professors organized an eloquent but harsh condemnation of Manning's detention supported by 250 of the nation's preeminent scholars. And the ultimate tipping point for the story -- Crowley's condemnation -- came not when he was asked about Manning at the daily State Department briefing he gave for establishment reporters, but rather at a small group of Internet activists and social media writers when he was confronted with an aggressive question about "Manning's torture" from a Ph.D student at MIT.
But perhaps most significant is how the scandal finally seeped into full-scale establishment media focus.
So I've been away for a while. Doing what, I'm not really sure. It wasn't terribly important, but it wasn't a total waste of time either. I imagine. Anyway, it's unclear how often I'll be updating this site because there are other matters to attend to most of the time, and posting to my personal blog is usually rather low on the to do list. If you're feeling bored or lonely, though, there are still a couple other places to look for solace.
The Red Team Tumblr is more than So Much This could ever hope to be, because it's group genius instead of just my ideas.
Also, I'm co-hosting a radio show now with my friend and colleague Bronwyn. It's called Thunk Tank and you can listen live on 91.1 WFMU every Tuesday from 6-7 pm, or get the podcast here.
There, feel better?
This is a pretty amazing piece of journalism that accomplishes what the best storytelling does: it makes the Other familiar. Members of the insurgency, the big scary Islamic Extremists magically become human when they're shown sleeping, eating, complaining about being cold, and bickering. In the end, I'm still just left shaking my head and muttering, "What a clusterfuck," but maybe with a bit more insight now. I think the most remarkable aspect of the insurgency that's revealed here is what a mess it is. I knew, of course, that like all insurgencies, it's DIY all the way with people pouring handfulls of gunpowder into an empty shell to make IED's, but what I didn't realize is that like all DIY efforts, shit's breaking all the time. Bomb's fail to explode, lookouts are incompetent and yet they've still held the coalition at bay for almost a decade. People are digging up weapons they buried after the Soviets left--just in case someone else invaded--and now those RPGs are being shot at Americans. It's wild.