Monday, May 22, 2006

Silencing Those Who Speak of Those Who Are Not Silent

"Don't Pay Attention and It'll Go Away" Quoth the Tongue of the Mouth

A while back I did a Gothamist interview with  Artist and Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) Pioneer, Ricardo Dominguez. Electronic Civil Disobedience (aka Digital Zapatismo), is front and center at the heart of the 21st Century's invisible arms race for control of Cyberspace and beyond.

Think of ECD as a 1960's mass sit-in updated for the Information Age. In addition to brick and mortar spaces, protestors also occupy virtual spaces, and instead of 100 participants there might be a million participants variously converging towards a single online "target" or diasporically seeding trans-global flash-mobs. That's good news for "the people" out there yearning to have their voices heard in a world tending ever more towards corporate oligarchy, but it's bad news too because "the evil ones" have access to the exact same technological power as the "good guys." What's more, the barbarians aren't just at the gate; they are already inside it because everyone is everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Imagine North Korea hanging out by Times Square, The Eiffel Tower, The Coliseum and London Bridge all of a piece times a thousand and you can begin to get a sense of why Digital Zapatismo makes governments around the world quite nervous.

Now, in all honesty, while it seems to me that many of the ECD movement's tactics are harmless, amusing and even creatively and artistically poignant -- imagine for instance, flooding the White House Website with bogus URLs in order to obtain error log results that proclaim "Justice.html does not reside on" -- I can't say as I'm a huge fan of the movement, if only because it runs the risk of creating a world-wide web of Citizen Naders without 1/100th his integrity or intelligence. You only need a very small number of obstinate anarchists to really screw things up for the rest of us.

Say, for instance, (this is made up!) some animal activists attack "The Apprentice" website because Donald wore a leather jacket on the show? The thing is I need my Trumptosterone fix, I need to see that extra footage from the Board Room firing scene and those damn activists are getting in my way!

Point is, Electronic Civil Disobedience, just like bombs or guns or persuasive rhetoric, is a powerful weapon, and in the wrong hands can be used in quite destructive manner. Given that, you'd think, of course, that it would be something we might want to talk about. No?

So why this nagging dread that the mere mention of ECD will invite surveillance of my online activities by my own government?

How absurdly dissociated from reality we are when we can no longer even talk openly about the threats we face as a nation. If for no other reason, this exponential-noded silence laden with collective fear, suspicion and mistrust, is reason enough to think twice before discounting ECD all together.

How odd now how wrong Orwell seemed just twenty years ago.


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