Monday, December 13, 2010

Musings: Cyber Revolution

After a day of rain, and a forecast for more, I was surprised and elated to emerge from the house into a pre-dawn thick with stars. Looking up, I immediately saw one shoot across the sky, making a bee line for the coast, and as Koko and I walked down the dark road numerous meteors — some faint, some bright— streaked across the black canvas, heading off in all directions.

We were heading mauka, and so were the constellations, with Orion slinking toward Waialeale and the Big Dipper pouring the contents of its cup onto Makaleha. I recognized the boxy shape of Crow, just to the southwet of Venus, which shone so golden and pure that it gave the peaceful, still scene a feel of silent night.

Well, except for the TV on blur whose garbled nonsense was carried into the street. But never mind, the sky was brightening with a hint of pink, revealing mist overflowing from the bowl in the pasture, and soon the birds were singing the world awake with an insistent exuberance.

I’ve been similarly exuberant about the “hacktavists” waging cyber war on those who have attempted to stifle and stymie WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, who is now languishing in a British jail awaiting Tuesday’s extradiction hearing. Who would have thought the sensible Swedes would have been involved in something so bogus, allowed themselves to be such pathetic pawns of the U.S. government? Because that's who really wants Assange.

And who would have thought that the response of the “hacktavists” would reveal not just a new form of civil disobedience, but quite possibly the means for waging a nonviolent, truly grassroots, international cyber revolution, if people put their minds and PCs to it?

Consider this report from the LA Times:

Rafix was set to attack. The target was The weapon: a battery of personal computers ready to jam the site with millions of simultaneous log-in requests.

"FIRE at WILL, gentlemen!" Rafix wrote in an online message. "Enjoy the epic battle of glory!"

Within seconds of the battle cry, the attackers crippled the website of the world's largest credit card company. Unable to weather the massive surge in traffic, Visa's site remained out of commission for most of the day.

Visa came under fire for its decision to suspend processing donations to WikiLeaks, the controversial website that has been publishing confidential U.S. government documents. The attack was coordinated through an Internet chat room where more than 1,000 online activists were signed in, massing for the call to fire.

"This is the first time we're really seeing a mass movement of cyber-sabotage with political overtones," [Marc Cooper, a professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism] said. "Whatever the legality and morality, I think it has an undeniable Robin Hood type of resonance with lots of people."

Damn straight. Because much as a media-driven culture that worships the cult of personality is trying to make this all about Assange — right down to the contrived sex scandal, calls for his assassination and reports of a secret grand jury convened in Virginia to consider espionage charges against him — the WikiLeaks story is essentially about corporate and government attempts to maintain control and stifle free speech.

And the “hacktavists” are a people’s army that has spontaneously risen up in opposition to it, united and directed not by generals, but chat rooms and social networks, and armed with nothing more than than their conscience and an Internet connection.

The WikiLeaks story raises many critical questions that aren’t getting much attention. Like how “free” is the Internet when its traffic and commerce are controlled by corporations that cave at the slightest pressure, its neutrality by an industry-dominated government commission? What do we the people do now that it’s confirmed — once again — that our government lies to us and other nations, and does very bad things? Just how far will our terror-fixated, post-9/11 government go in trampling the First Amendment and stifling dissent?

And now a new one is emerging: What will people do with their newfound cyber power to drive corporations, governments and other targets to their knees, even temporarily — without having to leave their homes or get blood on their hands in the process?


Anonymous said...

"calls for his assassination and reports of a secret grand jury convened in Virginia"

Interesting fact: Whenever the Feds can charge someone in any State, they will most often choose Virginia or New Hampshire - because the citizens in those states will indict and convict anyone. Common knowledge in Federal law enforcement.

Anonymous said...

Virginia did just declare US healthcare unconstitutional...

Anonymous said...

e-governance is the way of the future - some forward thinking communities have been very progressive.

Anonymous said...

Ya, that's viglante mentality will work really well. I would hope all those attackers are forced to pay dearly for time and materials of the targeted company.

NYTimes: Defenders of WikiLeaks Swarmed Wrong Target

Joan Conrow said...

Didn't you read the link? No one attacked the company and the owner "anticipates some gains from the publicity."

Anonymous said...

So we're supposed to condone random misguided cyber attacks against the innocent because some one might profit.

That sounds pretty screwy to me.

art ralston said...

Really sounds to me that we need solutions.

Joan is only writing what she does to spark our imagination.

Can we aim our comments to that end?

All we have to do is get together as a community. It's really not that hard. Spend money only on the things you need, not on plastic crap from China. How many people were at Walmart Black Friday?

To me, that's embarrasing. Show the gift your giving someone has shown you actually thought about it, not some easy grab off the corporate shelf.

One thing I've really noticed is our lack of enertia, we're basiclly lazy people looking for the easiest solution, our gift.

You live in one of the most prolific natural commodities there is known to man, Get with it people, learn to work for christmas, it's not a given.

Show the people you love you have the spirit of christmas by giving them a plant or something they can relish for the ages.

Otherwise you'll just be another dudd, A Walmart Dudd!

Carly Foxtrot said...

The answer lies in Wikileaks itself. The peoples of the world need to organize globally and act locally both synchronously and asynchronously to expose the lies of every government to everybody. The truth is Wikileaks committed the sin of setting a good example. Wikileaks success will be seen when/if other truth distribution networks propagate like algae so integrally infused into the internet that it cannot be removed without destroying the host upon which it feeds. When the entire world knows the truth and are capable of worldwide coordinated actions to make manifest their desires what a wonderful world it would be!