RTMARK admin on Wed, 26 Aug 1998 08:52:20 -0700 (PDT)

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Syndicate: the ejido's request that Ars Electronica facilitate an informal meeting

Here is a little note to call attention to a funny situation in which a
village is destroyed, the destroyer is rewarded, the village is invited to
the destroyer's award ceremony, and the awarder (a festival called
"Infowar", whose subject should be self-explanatory) attempts to control
information about the village's anger. We hope all this results in a laugh
or two here and there.

The situation begins in Popotla, Mexico, with the construction of a
cheap-labor movie studio (maquiladora) by 21st Century Fox, for the
filming of a big blockbuster movie, Titanic.  Fox builds a giant wall
topped with razor wire to keep the Popotla people out of their expensive
studio, which contains a giant fake Titanic.  The precious giant fake
Titanic leaks badly, and it leaks into the sea, and this leakage from the
giant fake ship destroys the livelihood of the Popotla people, who are
fishermen, by killing the sea urchins, which the Popotla people use as
bait in their fishing, which keeps them alive.  So now not only is the
Popotla people's purview destroyed by the wall, but their lives are

As it happens, Fox's original public relations about the Popotla location
(http://www.tri-national.com/titanic.html; San Diego was passed up because
"there was too much civilization around") implied the studio would benefit
the local economy. This has of course not happened at all.

Popotla reacts to all this unfortunate behavior by decorating the studio's
defensive wall with nice artwork, because it has no tanks and cannot
really influence 21st Century Fox.  (This has changed: the Mexican
government has somehow been forced to sue Fox for the sea urchin fiasco.)

Meanwhile, Ars Electronica's Infowar jury awards $10,000 to a Fox
contractor that worked on the Titanic in the Popotla maquiladora. They
seem like nice people; "When we create our movies," the contractor
explains in a Wired article
(http://www.wired.com/news/news/culture/story/14294.html), "it's
essentially in a temporary setting. As soon as you're done, you sweep up
and you're on to the next one; you try to be as unobtrusive as possible" . 

Ars Electronica's Infoweapon jury awards $1000 to Popotla for its
wall-decoration behavior.

But when we (RTMARK, as members of the Infoweapon jury) speak with the
Popotla people, we realize they are nevertheless very angry, despite this

They seem to be angry, for one thing, that Ars Electronica is not flying
them to Linz, even though they are flying the Titanic people who destroyed
the livelihood of Popotla.  (The Popotla people will come anyway; their
flight will be funded by RevolucionArte, a group that knows how to raise
funds for this sort of thing.)

The Popotla people are also angry that Ars Electronica has not put them on
the schedule in Linz.  (This oversight has now been cleared up, and was
due to a misunderstanding.  An official Ars document will be presented.)

But most of all, of course, they are angry because the Titanic studio,
and/or its contractors, has destroyed their village without giving them
anything in return. They do not care that this contractor has said he
cleans up, they have noticed he hasn't and are really very angry.

We (RTMARK), not wanting anyone to be embarrassed or endangered by the
angry Popotla people's behavior at Ars (where the Titanic contractor will
be, after all), send the following text to some Ars Electronica people,
and we also post it on the Ars Electronica list about things to do with
the Infowar festival:

"We have been informed that the ejido [fishermen's union] of Popotla is as
a whole rather angry at the Titanic's award, and that its representatives
may not be in the most agreeable mood while in Linz, despite the
hospitality of Ars. In order to prevent any behaviors or activities that
might embarrass the Titanic awardees or awarders either during the
ceremony or afterwards, we have been asked to convey the ejido's request
that Ars Electronica facilitate an informal meeting between the ejido and
the Titanic awardees (and any other Fox representatives, contractees or
employees who might be on hand).  This could not only help build a so-far
nonexistent bridge between the studio and the ejido, but also provide an
excellent public relations opportunity for Ars Electronica.  Thank you
very much for your attention....  We are excited at this excellent
opportunity to further a dialogue between the two sides of a very
unfortunate economic situation."

Unfortunately, no one at Ars Electronica responds to this request, and in
fact they refuse to post it on the once-open, now suddenly moderated list,
infowar-en@aec.at .  Several attempts to post it finally result in the
following note from the new moderator:

"why do you think this has to be posted on the list?"

to which we respond defensively that whatever our motives, it is
interesting, it is Infowar in some tiny way, and these matters should not
be hidden from view but rather aired openly, for all to enjoy, at least on
the Infowar list.

There has been no response and no posting.

We think that this is very funny, even funnier than the whole silly thing
about the village and the contractor--very funny that a technology
festival called "Infowar" would so blatantly try to control information in
this way.  We hope that at least a few members of the infowar-en@aec.at
list will see this and find it as funny as we do.  We thank the moderators
of these other lists on which this is posted for their curiosity,
openness, and generosity.

For those who wish for yet more stuff to read, following is our interview
with the Wired reporter; you will see if you compare the text to that in
that article mentioned above, that we were accidentally called by the
Infowar director's name.  This is also funny, because we are not in fact
the director at all.

Date: Thu, 6 Aug 1998 22:31:05 -0700 (PDT)
To: David Kushner <dkushner@mindspring.com>
From: RTMARK admin <rtmark@rtmark.com>

>I am writing an article for Wired News (Wired magazine's online news
>service) in the USA and would like to ask you a few questions about the
>InfoWeapon prize. My deadline is tomorrow, so please respond immediately.

>1. Why did you award the people of Popotla with the InfoWeapon award? 
They displayed, with their work, the best use of technology possible.  The
Popotla wall directly and beautifully serves the people who made it, and
delights and satisfies many others as well. So much technology does the
opposite--oppressing instead of delighting, horrifying instead 
of uplifting, discouraging instead of aiding.  The story of the Titanic,
as related in the movie, is a story of class struggle, overcoming economic
and technological barriers placed in the way of the poor--and we find the
counterpart of this in the Popotla wall, paradoxically.

>2. Who else did you consider for the award?
The Zapatista Floodnet
the lucent personalised web assistant (http://lpwa.com:8000/) which serves
as an anonymous proxy service,
muffin (a java-based proxy server, at http://muffin.doit.org/),
and about a dozen others were finalists; we had about five hundred

>3. How much is the cash prize?  
The prize includes $1,000 and travel to and accommodation in Linz for
the winner (in this case, two representatives of Popotla) for the awards
ceremony and the Infowar festival.

>4. Do you feel that it is ironic to also present an award to the Titanic
Yes, it really highlights some important issues.  Fox made Titanic
at a cost of $200 million (the price of 200,000 typical Popotla fishing
and utilized the techniques of Nike and other companies to keep costs
low--establishing a maquiladora, most notably.  The movie is about
overcoming class barriers--and a real-world example, much more real and
immediate than any such examples in the movie itself, is the Popotla wall.
The movie Titanic presents to the viewers--including the legions in the
Third World who will see it--a picture of hope, resistance, and
possibility. The people of Popotla, by decorating the Popotla wall,
express their hope and resistance, and explore possibilities.

Bringing IT to YOU.