Brian Dominick on Wed, 9 Dec 1998 02:49:01 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> EDT: A Tactic Looking for a Cause

I have been asked to forward the following letter, which I wrote, to 
these lists. 

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
From:          Self <bad>
Subject:       EDT: A Tactic Looking for a Cause
Cc:  ,,
Date:          Mon, 7 Dec 1998 21:11:27

I have decided to briefly weigh-in on the issue of Electronic Civil
Disobedience (ECD), at least as employwed by Stefan Wray and the
Electronic Disturbance Theatre (EDT). I feel this is important because as
an administrator of the NorthEast Zapatista Solidarity Network, and
co-founder of NEZSN with Stefan, I am peripherally associated with the EDT
stuff, at least in some people's eyes, it seems. I am also a member of TAO
Communications. Please forward as you see fit... 

The EDT is a reckless band of activists who are fueled
more by hype about themselves than the causes they portend to be engaged
in. They are a tactic looking for a cause, and they seem to care naught
about the effects of their actions on anyone but themselves. They
repeatedly ignore requests from those engaged in various movements to
cease and desist their (virtual) activity, and this is irresponsible. 
Activists in all movements should be wary of the Electronic Disturbance
Theatre -- they may be coming to "help" YOU next! 

Now that EDT has been around for a while carrying out
their little FloodNet actions, and now that Stefan Wray has made a name
for himself as someone more interested in attracting attention to the
Theatre than to actual causes (or so it seems from his recent letters to
the Left), I think the heart of the problem has been exposed. 

I can think of three cases where EDT has acted extremely irresponsibly. As
leaders or organizers or however EDT fancies itself in their sleek,
Net-savvy mumbo-jumbo, the group has demonstrated more interest in its
tactics of choice ("hacktivism") than in the causes the group purports to
be working for. 

Earlier this year, in an open letter to EDT, the Mexican human rights
organization AME LA PAZ, fearing repercussions, requested that EDT not
perform FloodNet actions against Mexican Web sites, particularly those of
the Mexican Government. Shortly thereafter, EDT went after President
Zedillo's web site, ignoring AME LA PAZ's plea. 

More recently, in the case more people are familiar with, when Stefan Wray
posted an open message calling for hackers to attack various web sites
associated with the case against Mumia, he was criticized by Mumia's chief
council. EDT had circumvented the established, long-standing movement to
free Mumia and simply jumped into the ring carelessly. Stefan has not
rescinded his call. 

Later this fall, EDT performed a FloodNet strike against the web site for
the US Army School of the Americas, in conjunction with an actual civil
disobedience action against the base by more than 2000 real human beings.
Again, EDT just jumped on the wagon from it's Cyberspace perch. EDT has no
history of involvement with the anti-SOA movement. (In October Stefan and
I discussed EDT's intentions to participate in the action, and he did tell
me he wanted to get in touch with people at SOA Watch, who have been
leading the movement to close the School of Assassins since 1991. I told
him I would try to find people in the movement who would be interested in
discussing the tactic, but I didn't expect to find anyone interested in
the tactic.  My attempt failed.) Father Roy Bourgeois and SOA's webmaster
Michael Katz-Lacabe have both made statements of concern about EDT's
tactics.  Bourgeois seems to think they are ridiculous given the fact that
there are people doing jail time for actual civil disobedience against the
SOA (including himself from time to time), and Katz-Lacabe is concerned
about First Amendment issues. 

Now, I recognize that individual leaders, especially in a nondemocratic
movement like the anti-SOA scene, do not speak for the whole of a
movement, and have no right to exclude certain tactics.  However, it is
the responsibility of every activist/organizer to investigate and assess
the probable effects of his/her actions, especially on others already
engaged in a certain cause. And in the three examples above, we are
talking about EDT rubbing against the groups and individuals who have been
involved for the long haul in various movements. Whereas EDT seems to go
in and out, like some kind of techno-mercenary squad (hired by no one, of
course), remaining unaccountable all the while. 

For this reason, I think it is important for activists in all movements to
be wary of Electronic Disturbance Theatre, which is not a movement
organization but rather a tactic-based group. 

I don't actually have much else to say about the ECD and FloodNet as a
tactic. I don't really understand the premise of why they are supposed to
work, and I don't fully understand the effects they will have inside and
outside movements. 

When EDT first came around, I didn't know what to think. I even
participated momentarily in one of the early ECD actions against Zedillo's
site, just to figure out what it was all about. As far as "activism" is
concerned, that was probably the least inspiring action I've ever engaged
in. It didn't bring me closer to other activists, it didn't provide a
sense of accomplishment, and it didn't even energize me. Even standing in
demonstrations that really have no hope of making objective change, at
least I usually feel somewhat better about myself for having been
surrounded by like-minded people. There was no sense of this provided by
the ECD action. So I haven't done it since, and wouldn't do it again. 

All I know is that when you are repeatedly asked to stay out of the way of
a group that has been doing serious work for a long time, you had better
be equally committed to doing work toward the same goal as that group is,
or you should indeed get out of the way. That seems to be a safe maxim to
abide by. If EDT activists were devoting their entire lives to work on
behalf of Mumia or the Zapatistas, or against the SOA, I wouldn't be
writing a letter like this, since I don't understand what ECD is all
about. But I do understand that the EDT folks have a lot to learn, and
very little to teach, about how to make a revolution. 

Sincerely, Brian Dominick Syracuse, NY

Check out my new HomePage!
I put some new stuff on it, 
including essays and a link to
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Oh yeah, and...
"We wish not to seize power, but to exercise it."
   --Subcommandante Marcos, EZLN

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