Josephine Bosma on Mon, 14 Sep 1998 11:16:17 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> RTMark interview

    "Corporations don't have a right to privacy. If they do,
     it is a false right and it should be changed."


RTMark was part of Open X at Ars Electronica this year. They had their
information stand, with slick corporate video and all, which was manned by
two of its members, who, for this occasion, were called Ernesto Lucha and
Fransisco Gerrero. RTMark had a substantial influence in the Infoweapon
Award jury. This jury, which consisted of several die hard art terrorists,
managed to be an infoweapon itself by giving its prize to the village of
Popotla, Mexico. This village appearantly has been destroyed during the
filming of the movie Titanic there. As the big money prize of the Prix Ars
Electronica went to a team that worked on Titanic, giving the Infoweapon
Award to Popotla was not only a statement but also a mild subversion
within Ars Electronica itself. 

In an interview made for the newscast from Open X, RTMark and Vuk Cosic
(president of the Infoweapon Jury) told how they have tried to persuade
the winners of the Prix Ars Electronica to give the money involved to the
people of Popotla. It is not yet certain what will happen. From an RTMark
pressrelease: "The real problem we are trying to focus on is not with Ars
at all--the real problem is what 21st Century Fox is doing with Popotla,
and what many, many other corporations are doing in the Third World." The
following interview is not the one from the news/webcast, but was made the
next day at the RTMark stand. It appeared on the AE webmagazine site in a
rough version, due to time pressure. The webmagazine can be found at click: infowar. It is unclear up till this date when 
and where soundarchives of the webcasts will come to be. 


JB: When was RTMark founded?

Ernesto Lucha: In 1991 it was founded by a small group of people who were
concerned with the power that corporations had errogated over the years,
and thought they had gotten way too far in getting rights as citizens. In
the United States corporations became people, became citizens in the equal
of people in 1886, when they used the fourteenth amendment of the
constitution to gain rights. Now the fourteenth amendment was written to
ensure that freed slaves became people and had the full rights of
citizens. Corporations quickly moved in and got the supreme court to
decide that corporations could benefit under the fourteenth amendment.
They got the rights of freed slaves, they got the rights of people. That
has enabled them to own land, to sue in court, to do all kinds of things
that people have the right to do.. to bear arms. With these powers
corporations have simply amassed more and more power over the years, until
finally they are what we know them as today. What that is, is simply
trying to rework the entire world into a mechanism that will feed the

We wanted to attack that, criticize that. What we are criticizing is the
actual system, and the people involved that have allowed this to happen.
We want this to stop. Nobody can criticize corporations themselves because
corporations are not people. Corporations do not have brains. They are
simply organic entities, as has been repeatedly pointed out, but they are
organic insofar as say blobs of acid plasma that eats through anything in
its path can be considered organic. I don't know much about organic
chemistry, but I think it is a pretty broad field. There is a lot they
could be called, anything from sharks to amoeba, to carnivorous plants. 

Corporations are basically just these big blobs, these big stomachs, that
have only the imperative to grow, eat more, to improve their mechanisms of
intake and to just devastate anything in their paths in the interest of
growing. If that means they can't do it immediately, they figure out
mechanisms to do it in the long term. 

JB: How many people is RTMark? 

Ernesto Lucha: About five at the moment, it is a fluid entity, as
corporations are. We have a varying membership. We hide behind the name
Rtmark, we avoid personal liability for things that RTMark might be doing. 

JB: Is that so you can fight them on the same level? 

Ernesto Lucha: Exactly. We hide behind the corporate entity that is
RTMark. We avoid liability that way, so as people we are not responsible.
We can simply say: RTMark did it. If RTMark gets sued, then RTMark
dissolves and the people behind it are not responsible. It does not matter
whether we have devastated rainforests or ruined villages in Mexico or
simply have simply attempted to further subversion of policies like
devastating rainforests or destroying villages in Mexico. 

JB: What are your methods? 

Ernesto Lucha: We operate at present by means of a worldwideweb list of
projects that involve the sabotage of commercial items, of mass produced
products. We have traditionally operated from the inside. These projects
suggest to workers in companies ways to sabotage projects and they offer
monetary rewards which are also posted by visitors to the internet. So a
project usually begins it life by being suggested by a visitor to RTMark.
It is posted on the RTMark list, one or the other RTMark lists, we have
several and we call them mutual funds. This project which has been posted
by a visitor is then funded by another visitor or perhaps by the same
visitor or somebody offers funds for its accomplishment. 

JB: So people actually earn money while doing this? 

Ernesto Lucha: Very minor money relatively. It amounts to a few thousand
dollars perhaps for any given project. We can't give a social safety net
or anything like that. It is just that there are honorariums to indicate
popular interest in actions of this sort. 

JB: I have a horrible question: is this art or politics? 

Ernesto Lucha: We don't really want to define it. Whichever context it
works in will define it appropriately. For example at Ars Electronica
Manual DeLanda said: "It works as art, but not as politics." If it is
impossible for somebody like that to stomach as politics, for whatever
reason, then we are happy to be absorbed as art. Although art is much less
powerful usually. If that is the only way it can be absorbed, that is
fine. It is not. It is whatever context. When we present ourselves to the
media of course art is not in the picture at all. If we present ourselves
at a conference like this, art is one acceptable way of perceiving us if
somebody is incapable of perceiving us as anything else. 

Somebody like Manuel DeLanda for instance is incapable of perceiving
anything outside of his very narrow definition of leftist critique as
politics. That is sort of paradoxical, because eventhough people like him
have this narrow definition of what constitutes a valid leftist critique
(if in fact we want to bother calling ourselves leftists, that is another
issue), their definition is incredibly lax when it comes to what is valid
corporate behavior. In fact what their philosophy ends up becoming is an
embrace of the corporate system, equal to that of the right. The new
leftist, or whatever you want to call it, I don't think they even have a
very solid name, they are trying to be fluid and corporate actually, what
their approach amounts to is simply an embrace of corporate culture,
corporate politics, the corporate system as it is today. 

JB: And yours is not? You are a corporation. 

Ernesto Lucha: We are using corporate effects on the outside to tell a
story that attacks corporations. It is kind of Jiujitsu or a judo move. We
are using the effects and strength of corporations, the strength they have
arrogated over the years, to unseat them and to attack them. This much is

JB: Have you had problems with the law? 

Ernesto Lucha: A little bit. We have gotten a few cease and desist
letters, but they quickly realised that it's not really worth persuing.
For example the last cease and desist letter we got from the BMG music
company which owns Geffen, who actually both issued cease and desist
letters at different times, and we took this letter and spun it into more
news items. We took that letter and it quickly became ten more articles in
various newspapers. They stopped at that point. They realised anything
they do with us is going to result in publicity, and that there is a lot
of interest in the sort of attack on corporations that 'Deconstructing
Beck' representing the attack on copyright law, the attack on corporate
use of the law.. and they did not want to risk further erosion of their

JB: How is the attention for your work in the United States? 

Ernesto Lucha: It is much better in Europe. The US has been colonised to
an incredible degree by American business, much more then Europe has. It
looks like about the same as in the US: everything is corporate,
everything is sponsored, you have Sunica, you have Sun, you have the ICA
in London instead of Packbell Stadium. Like say in the US everything that
is popular is basically run by a corporation, but people still have a
tradition of thinking for themselves for some reason here. In the US it
has been much more thorough. It is a much younger country. 

Corporations have been in control for longer, socialism has been gone for
a longer time, and people are simply through and through completely the
tools of corporations. I am speaking in general terms and in terms which
somebody like Manuel DeLanda who has got a specific kind of leftist
critique would call irresponsible, but in fact that is just castrating and
may reflect a sort of political impotence of his sort of thought--thought
that has arisen to replace the impotence of old leftist thought, but ends
by being absorbed into a corporate boot-licking kind of illusory strength.
It's the way this sort of thing always works. 

JB: Would RTMark go as far as to do illegal actions that would be called a
more 'dangerous' form of infowar? 

Ernesto Lucha: Certainly we would, we don't generally. We are basically
like corporations: if we do illegal things we are not going to advertise
it. Whether or not we do them is a mater of privacy. It is our private
matter. It is not a public matter, we have a right toprivacy like any
corporation. We have a right to computer security. We exist behind a
firewall and you can't look behind it. You can't see what we are doing. 

The case of Chiquita Banana recently, a well known case in the United
States: a reporter for a Cincinatti newspaper I believe. He got some very
incriminating information by tapping into the voicemail system of
Chiquita. Chiquita were bribing governement officials. The journalist
exposed some incredible information and published it. The next day he was
fired and the newspaper payed ten million dollars to Chiquita and issued a
fullpage apology. That is the sort of thing we are dealing with. 

What we are doing that is illegal is our business. People have no right to
invade eachothers privacy, that is the dominant thing, and they don't have
the right to invade a corporation's privacy, because corporations are
people. This is the situation we are dealing with. Hackers often think
that privacy is the most important issue. Security. We think that is
bullshit unless a very strong distiction is made between corporations and
people. At this point it isn't. Corporations don't have a right to
privacy. If they do, it is a false right and it should be changed. They
should not have a right to privacy. What they do should be in the public
eye, you should be able to see what corporations are doing, their public
face as well as their private face. They should be completely transparent.
I for one would give up privacy if corporations would. 

The fear that seems to drive hackerbehavior, the fear of an orwellian
governement system that peers into everything is not really up to date,
that is not the situation we are faced with today. The danger we are faced
with today is corporate power by and large. Sure governements do terrible
things, they are forces to be feared. 

JB: But aren't they 'brothers in crime'? 

Ernesto Lucha: They are not exactly brothers. 

JB: Corporations own the government maybe. Then the hackers are still
right. It is just that then in the end behind the government are the

Ernesto Lucha: The governement is still an autonomous entity to a certain
degree. It is just important to see the issues as corporate issues. In the
case of privacy for example: why is Wired magazine, which is totally the
tool of corporations, blatantly, why are they so concerned about privacy?
Wired magazine is so concerned about security and not allowing the
governemnt to possess encryption keys to pgp and so on, so concerned about
privacy rights for individuals. Why? Because corporations are individuals!
And corporations need these rights to keep doing their dirty work, to keep
perpetrating their criminal acts without public knowledge, without being
seen by the public or the governement, because sometimes the governement
actually -does- respond to the people. 

The governement is not entirely owned by corporations. We still do vote,
you know, however flimsy that is. There is the potential at least for
people to influence the government, and there is no potential for people
to influence corporations. There used to be, when corporations were
chartered very limited entities, then people had full rights to ban
together and dissolve. We do have sometimes theoretical and sometimes
actual control of governement. 

JB: This makes me very curious for the role of the unions. 

Fransisco Gerrero: Unions are a very important part of the political
process. Increasingly we want to see more globalisation of unions. I think
it is the only way . With the global economy we can have some
accountability for corporate actions against labor and against labor
organising. There have been some heartening moves in the last two years or
so in the US. Labor has been re-envigorated and the unions are showing
more political power then they have in the previous ten or fifteen years,
certainly throughout the eigthies and late seventies. We at RTMark would
like to support unions as much as possible, allthough we are not directly
involved with union politics. 

JB: Unions of course work within the 'individuals' which corporations are. 

Fransisco Gerrero: There is a big debate right now in the US about union
political donations. There are in fact these large incorporated bodies so
to speak. They function in some ways like corporations do, but we do feel
like they function in the collective interest of labor, rather then in the
interest of capital. That is why we feel that they, even as these so
called larger bodies, are effective in delivering a more humane system, a
more humane way of living and working.

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