Stefan Wray on Mon, 14 Dec 1998 20:22:30 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Late thoughts on net-based direct action


No activists working for a long time with the Zapatistas have asked EDT to
butt out, as you say. There has been ONE, that's right ONE person, way
back in April from a group called AME LA PAZ in Mexico City who was
concerned about EDT and Electronic Civil Disobedience. (This person has
since engaged us in dialogue and even invited us to Mexico City to an
event there.) While this particular person and his particular group may be
broadly categorized as part of Mexican civil society, it is a far stretch
to say that he speaks for the Zapatistas. For that matter, I myself have
been actively involved on the ground, off the Net, since early 1994 with
the Zapatista solidarity movement in the United States. I have as much
claim to being part of the Zapatista movement as he does. 

While the comment I made regarding hacking websites as a means to
demonstrate rage against the Pennsylvania Superior Court decision
regarding Mumia Abu Jamal may have been a frivolous statement made by me
alone late at night after an evening of Halloween revelry, the actions of
the Electronic Disturrbance Theater, as a collective, as an on-line
affinity group, as a cyber cell, are totally consistent with Zapatista
politics, and have been done deliberately, with forethought and
conviction. We, in the Electronic Disturbance Theater, have not received
any word from any official representative of the Zapatistas or from the
FZLN suggesting that we discontinue doing what we do. Until we do, any
discussion as to whether the Zapatistas themselves support or denounce the
Electronic Disturbance Theater is pure speculation and idle chatter.
Moreover, the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico, a group that
has been deemed the "official" representative of the Zapatistas in the
United States has on a number of occasions reposted our announcements and
in several instances come out in support of what we are doing. AGAIN, I
stress, we have never received any communication from the Zapatistas, from
representatives of the Zapatistas in Mexico, or from representatives of
the Zapatistas in the United States condemning our activities or asking us
to stop. 

The recent comment from Brian Dominick, which was made after nearly a
three week spell of silence on the matter of EDT, but more so, my personal
transgression regarding the suggested use of hacking to express rage at
the impending state execution of Mumia Abu Jamal, was, I believe, a very
dangerous sort of attack for a so-called friend and comrade to make
against another. I've known Brian actually just since the beginning of the
year. My sense is that an underlying motivation for his assault on me,
which in legal terms I would call defamatory and libelous(but I'm not a
lawyer), was to clearly distance himself from me. This was even stated in
his missive. Rather than respond on the numerous listservs to which Brian
posted that message, I engaged him personally for about a 24 hour period
following his first post. After a certain point in our conversation he
became apologetic and conceded that had he known what I had told him and
had he known that the "issue" had been quiet for a time, he might not have
replied. Moreover, he said he didn't really want to continue debating it.
Fine. Throw out all sorts of charges and accusations agains someone, many
of which can not be substantiated when put to a rigorous test, and then
say, well, I don't want to pursue it any more. I'll leave that one alone. 

But on the whole I would have to say that the bulk of the criticism waged
against us, I think, is a product of misunderstanding and misconception. I
will, of course, admit, that some of my respons, in particular, to the
FAIR letter (the one bringing up the Mumia issue) was flippant. And that
this flippancy in this instance may have contributed to an aura of
uncertainty as to what our actual motivations and interests are. And I
admit that we need to do a better job of elucidated our project. 

We just had a very exciting weekend last in which we spent the evening
with Chris Gray, author of the Cyborg Handbook and Postmodern War, and
with Manuel De Landa, whom I assume you know, and several other people.
Chris Gray made the point to me. He said that after talking with us (us
being myself, Ricardo Dominguez, and Carmin Karasic) that he had a much
different sense of who were, what we were about, what we stood for. He
told me that he thought we had quite a complex and sophisticated analysis
and understanding but that unfortunately that this has not always come
across in what gets transmitted via text on email. 

So I contrast those sorts of statements of praise and support against the
negative critiques and warnings. The conclusion is that I think some
people love us and other people hate us. That's glib. I know. Sorry. But
it may come down to that. I think some of the critiques, negative ones,
against us are rooted in all sorts of things, including jealous,
ignorance, fear, and an array of emotions. There is not always a rational
explanation as to why someone does or does not approve. Thinking something
is "cool" is not rational, but emotive. And we have had people write to us
simply saying they think it is "totally cool". 

Different camps come from different ideological perspectives. The hardest
nuts to crack may be the digitally correct community. You know, those that
worship almightly bandwidth and believe that any disruption or consumption
of bandwidth is blasphemy. Yes, I know. Bandwidth is not free. Someone has
to pay for it. Small servers like TAO get their bandwidth eaten up when
people like me send many email messages to many lists that are on the same
server. But that is not what I'm talking about here. I'm talkin about
what, for simplicities sake, I call the Dutch Hackers Critique (DHC). We
in EDT were exposed to the DHC while in Linz at Ars Electronica. There
seemed to be two fundamental points of the DHC. Point one had to do with
bandwidth reification problem. Point two had to do with their analysis
that our work was ineffectual and they insisted that had we really wanted
to take down a site or whatever, that they knew how to do it properly and
that we were wasting our time with these inconsequential actions that were
debatabke as if anything actually happened. They said. 

Another recognizable critique is the Media Sphere Adoration Critique. It
is the critique that says EDT has become so enamored with the media
attention we are getting that we totally lost site of what moved us in the
first place and that we are only interested in marching forward to
continue to receive more media attention. This is not true. No. Off
target. Guess again. Granted, there is a position among some that media
related actions, or rather actions that reverberate in the media are not
really that useful. Fine. Mostly I agree. The media is not going to solve
our problems for us. But most people get their information from the media
in one form or another. And even if we get a word, or two words, or a
sentence out there which is a dissident voice, a critical stance, a jibe
at what is status quo, this is important. It is the collection of all of
us doing this that matters. Not our individual or small group noise

Finally, and I really want this to be finally. We need to articulate more
that we see ourselves as an affinity group or as a cell. And more
importantly, we need to express more that we see the need for a multitude,
a plurality, of many little cells or small groups. Cyber-cells.
Cyber-nodal collectives. Whatever. In our group we have a programmer,
artist, visionary, writer. We need a lawyer. We think FIVE is a good
number. There should be hundreds, thousands of small units, small gangs.
Cyber gangstas, if you will (or won't, whatever). We want to spawn. We see
the expansion on the horizon. There already are. There already are all
sorts of groupings. Nodelets. Linklets. We see ourselves, as a sort of
cyborgean cyber cell structure that exists across territory. We are
existing in the heart of the digital/cyber/informational econonmy. We are
in Boston, New York, Austin, San Jose, and soon, maybe, if a fifth joins
soon, Seattle. All key places. We need this. We need the inversion. We
need the unintended consequences, others like us to converge. When we talk
about convergence we should not only be talking about TV mashing into the
Internet. Convergence means, too and more critically, the explosion of
cyber-cells. The proliferation of unintended consequences rising up from
the gene pool, inside the Sprawl (if you will, or won't ;-)) The global
information economy is a cancerous growth. We need strong anti-bodies to
peck away at its edges, to dissolve its tumors. A federation, an
agglomeration, a network, a rhizomatic underground/aboveboard, fluid, free
structured imaginative overlapping mixed group of small, nuclear,
embryonic cells of dissonance and disturbance needs to electrify and send
shock waves all throughout the matrix.  It can't go on as it has anymore.
Things need to be disturbed. 

I need to go to sleep.

- Stefan Wray
Electronic Disturbance Theater
(Brooklyn Bunker)

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