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#13: Ones and Zeroes, Scoundrels and Heroes
Clara: The Ex-Worker;
Alanis: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Clara: A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Alanis: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Alanis: Welcome back to the thirteenth episode of the Ex-Worker! If you are listening to this podcast, chances are you are engaging with digital technology. Computers and the internet are increasingly central to how we experience the world today, as well as to how we understand the new rebellions popping off around the world. So in this episode we’re going to engage with the new CrimethInc feature called “Deserting the Digital Utopia” and look at some of the limitations and possibilities of digital resistance.
Clara: We’ll share an interview with a supporter of Jeremy Hammond, the radical hacker currently in prison for actions against a variety of corporate, police, and intelligence websites. We also have a groveling apology to make in the listener feedback section for an unforgivable mistake we made in our last episode - duh duh duh - and of course plenty of news, upcoming events, and more. I’m Clara,
Alanis: And I’m Alanis, and we’ll be your hosts. On our website, crimethinc.com/podcast, you can find plenty of links and more information about all the things we discuss on today’s episode. And we’d love to hear your feedback or suggestions via podcast at crimethinc dot com, by calling us at 202–59-NOWORK, 202–596–6975, or rating us on iTunes.
Clara: Off we go!
THE HOT WIRE
Clara: First things first: let’s go to the Hot Wire, our round-up of resistance going on around the globe. Alanis, what’ve we got today?
Alanis: November 5th was a international day of action called by the hacktivist movement Anonymous . Events were planned in over 450 cities across the world; on our website we’ve got links to reports on “Million Mask Marches” in Denver , Atlanta , Washington DC , and London .
Clara: Incidentally, as part of our ongoing effort to report on police tactics against resistance struggles, we read a report that at the DC march, an undercover cop attempted to solicit cash donations from the crowd ostensibly for use in bailing out the marchers who had just been arrested. So, if you’re ever at a march, be sure not to hand wads of cash over to people you don’t know who claim to be using it for a good cause!
Alanis: And speaking of sketchy undercover cops: in Wales, members of the Cardiff Anarchist Group are protesting the government’s decision to investigate their complaints into police infiltration of the group via a secret tribunal . Welsh anarchists have spoken out against police informer Mark Kennedy, who targeted women for sexual relationships as a way of building trust within the radical groups he infiltrated.
Clara: Remember John Pike, the infamous pepper-spraying cop from the University of California at Davis, who tortured a bunch of college kids during an Occupy protest with pepper spray to the eyes with an utterly indifferent look on his face ?
Alanis: Oh yeah, he was an internet meme for a while, right? With that Tumblr of famous art scenes detourned to show him pepper-spraying people ?
Clara: Yep, that’s the one. Well, turns out he has been awarded $38,000 in worker’s comp for the so-called “mental distress” he suffered when he became the focal point of a nation-wide backlash against police brutality.
Clara: That’s right. At UC Davis, not only can you make over 100,000 dollars a year as a brutal cop, but you can even get paid thousands of dollars on top of that when you get more or less fired from your job for being exceptionally brutal!
Alanis: And unfortunately we have more bad news about California cops. 13-year old Andy Lopez was shot to death by police in Santa Rosa, California , allegedly for holding a toy gun, prompting hundreds to protest in the streets .
Clara: Enough about cops. In some good news, after an eight day hunger strike, imprisoned animal rights activist Kevin Johnson successfully defeated the Woodford County Jail’s ban on books . Authorities had moved him to an isolation unit and threatened to force-feed him, but he refused to be intimidated and ultimately won his demands. Way to go, Kevin! If you want to send him and his co-defendant Tyler some books to celebrate their victory, you can get their info at supportkevinandtyler.com.
Alanis: Protestors in New Zealand are blockading the Coromandel Harbor to prevent a mining exploration company from taking samples,
Clara: while blockades and confrontations escalated at the site of a proposed hydroelectric dam in Sarawak, Malaysia that will displace hundreds of indigenous people and flood 400 square kilometers of rain forest.
Alanis: A new development in animal rights news: activists in San Roque, Brazil liberated nearly 200 beagles from a nasty vivisection lab without masking their faces, with cameras rolling, using social media to find them new homes. The lab has now been shut down.
Clara: In our second episode, we heard from an activist against genetically engineered trees; last week, a speaking tour spreading info about the risks of the GE tree industry was banned from the University of Florida and threatened with arrest. Why? Well, turns out the school received millions of dollars in grant money in conjunction with a biotech corporation to develop GE loblolly pines – and didn’t want pesky protestors exposing the threats to biodiversity and native forests posed by GE trees. You can learn more at stopgetrees.org .
Alanis: And we’ve got an update from the Support Marie Mason campaign :
On October 21st and 25th, an international campaign demanding the transfer of imprisoned environmental activist Marie Mason out of a repressive, high-security federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, kicked into high gear. Mason’s supporters flooded the federal Bureau of Prisons with phone calls and postcards demanding that she be moved out of what they describe as “a cement hell hole." Mason is serving an almost 22 year term for non-violent eco-sabotage including a Monsanto research office, the longest sentence ever given for environmental direct action. More information is at SupportMarieMason.org.
Clara: And now it’s time for listener feedback… ok, everyone gets the joke with the squealy sound. so we don’t have to do it anymore, right? Great.
Let’s see, what have we got today… Oh, god. Alanis, do I really have to do this one?
Alanis: Yes, you do.
Clara: Ugh, but this is so embarrassing…
Alanis: C’mon, you brought this upon yourself, Clara!
Clara: The Ex-Worker hangs its collective head in shame, dear listeners. We have been called out for our closet Communism, our arcane authoritarianism, our subtle secretive Stalinism! Within mere hours of our last episode’s release, multiple listeners wrote in, brimming with absolutely justified outrage that we, a supposedly anarchist podcast, had used for the blog post and logo image for our twelfth episode a photo (admittedly an awesome-looking one) of an anti-fascist combatant in the Spanish Civil War who we THOUGHT was an anarchist… maybe with the Durutti Column, about to march off to doom and eternal glory in the storied annals of anarchist podcasts… but little did we know. LITTLE INDEED DID WE KNOW!!
We quote from one listener:
Alanis: The photo that you used for The Ex-worker #12 is of Marina Ginestà . She was a member of the Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (JSU), the youth organization of the Partida Comunista de España (PCE) and the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), the Stalinist and state communist parties in Spain. Both the PCE and the PSOE were the central forces in repressing anarchists during the revolution, particularly during and after the May Days in Barcelona. Ginestà also worked as a translator for Pravda (the official newspaper of the Soviet Communist party) during the revolution.
I guess my point is that there are plenty of photos of anarchists during the Spanish revolution, and it makes me kinda sad when anarchists instead (unintentionally) choose photographs of members of groups who murdered anarchists to represent the Spanish revolution. Obviously, y’all didn’t know or I’m sure you would have chosen another photograph, but it still makes me mourn deeply. I know, it’s just a photo for an issue of a podcast…but I do feel that these little things erase parts of our history.
Clara: Another listener confirmed our grievous mistake, adding:
Alanis: I just thought I’d point it out because I see anarchists and anti-fascists using her image a lot, and while she definitely fought against fascism with all her heart, I don’t think we should consider her an anarchist role model!
Clara: The shame, the shame!
But in fact, the infamy does not end there. Upon reading this feedback, one of the Ex-Workers discovered – and this is a true story, we swear by Bakunin’s beard - that he or she had affixed, to the very laptop computer on which episodes of this podcast have been edited, a Spanish-language anti-fascist sticker that used THE VERY SAME PHOTO in the background! We are surrounded! There’s no escape! We’ve been infiltrated so thoroughly we didn’t even know we had become mere peddlers of authoritarian iconography. Mere unwitting tools in the factories of despotism! Mere sheeple in the leftist barnyard!
I assure you, long-suffering listeners, that we are merely the latest in a long line of victims of this deceptive Stalinist charade. We sincerely apologize to all of the historical victims of state socialist terror and to all of you affronted listeners who we’ve let down with this inexcusable oversight. We are not, contrary to rumor, secretly members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, just waiting to spring on you that Mao was actually really cool and that revolution is pending if we all just kiss Bob Avakian’s feet rather than our boss’s. No, we were duped, and we prostrate ourselves before you in our ignominious disgrace. But we vow to you, from this day forward: THE CYCLE ENDS HERE. Never again will we allow the allure of a well-composed image to dull our critical faculties to the authoritarian abomination lurking beneath.
Alanis: To atone for our sins and by means of apology, we humbly offer a spate of links on our website to various online anarchist image archives, including collections of photos and posters of anarchists in the Spanish Civil War and Revolution.
Clara: Please, dear listeners, continue to abolish us! No gods, no masters, no podcast hosts! Point is: we are obviously incompetent fools, so keep us honest at podcast at crimethinc dot com.
Clara: And now it’s time to share today’s entries from the CrimethInc Contradictionary . This episode is brought to you by: Technology and Screen.
Clara: For more explorations of the war in every word, visit crimethinc.com/contradictionary.
FEATURE: DESERTING THE DIGITAL UTOPIA
Alanis: OK, Clara, what else have we got for this episode?
Clara: Well, I’ve been reading this interview with Bill Gates . Guess what?
Clara: He says – get this! - the internet will not save the world!
Alanis: Wow! If I only had 72 billion dollars, maybe I could come up with similarly brilliant insights!
Clara: You know, Alanis, I love being an impoverished anarchist podcaster, but sometimes I like to pretend like I was a brilliant capitalist entrepreneur who only cared about making profit. Sometimes I imagine what the ideal capitalist product would be.
Alanis: Oh yeah? What’s that?
Clara: Well, it would be something where the entire human race would be constantly working for free to increase its value, yet it would only be accessible through corporate products, so I could get rich off of it. It would be totally indispensable, but the people whose labor it drew from would be dispensable. It would bring together all human activity into a single unified terrain… but here’s the kicker: it would accomplish all this under the banner of autonomy and decentralization, or even “direct democracy.”
Alanis: Hmm… sounds vaguely familiar…
Clara: Now, as an imaginary capitalist, I can see how this would be my wildest dream come true. But the funny thing is, in this totally hypothetical world, probably we’d see some well-meaning anti-capitalists proclaiming that this same product would pave the way to revolution and freedom, if we could just subtract capitalism from the equation.
Alanis: Sure. Dissidents who believe in progress can look at the the new infrastructures of the ruling order and imagine their utopias emerging from them. Remember how pumped both Karl Marx and Ayn Rand were about railroads? But even Bill Gates can see that computer technology isn’t going to solve all the problems we’ve got.
Clara: Hopefully radicals have got some things figured out that he hasn’t yet.
Alanis: Of course. But I think the technology produced by capitalist competition tends to embody its logic and impose it on all of us. If we wanna escape this order, we should never take its tools for granted. When we use tools, they use us back.
Clara: So let’s see what we can identify about the ideology built into digital technology, and how we might engage with it.
Narrator: THE NET CLOSES. In our age, domination is not just imposed by commands issued from rulers to ruled, but by algorithms that systematically produce and constantly recalibrate power differentials. The algorithm is the fundamental mechanism perpetuating today’s hierarchies; it determines the possibilities in advance, while offering an illusion of freedom as choice. The digital reduces the infinite possibilities of life to a lattice of interconnecting algorithms—to choices between zeros and ones. The world is whittled down to representation, and representation expands to fill the world; the irreducible disappears. That which does not compute does not exist. The digital can present a breathtaking array of choices—of possible combinations of ones and zeros—but the terms of each choice are set in advance.
What is a computer? A computer is a machine that performs algorithms. The term originally designated a human being who followed orders as rigidly as a machine. Alan Turing, one of the founders of computer science, named the digital computer as a metaphorical extension of the most impersonal form of human labor: “The idea behind digital computers may be explained by saying that these machines are intended to carry out any operations which could be done by a human computer.” In the fifty years since, we have seen this metaphor inverted and inverted again, as human and machine become increasingly indivisible. Turing writes, “The human computer is supposed to be following fixed rules; he has no authority to deviate from them in any detail.”
Since the beginning, the object of digital development has been the convergence of human potential and algorithmic control. As the Net grows to encompass our whole lives, we have to become small enough to fit into its equations. Total immersion.
Clara: Sorry, Alanis, I’m not totally sure I understand just what an algorithm is.
Alanis: OK, an algorithm is basically a set of instructions that determines the output from a given input. Like if you’re building a LEGO set, you have the little booklet that tells you what actions to take and what pieces to use, and if you follow it, it produces the output of whatever set you built.
Clara: So far, so good.
Alanis: So computer programs work via algorithms – that is, a process of organizing outputs from given inputs of data in binary format. In this analysis, we’re looking at how the digitization of the world is inserting more and more of our “choices” into these flowcharts with predetermined outcomes. Anarchists care about freedom, but freedom isn’t just selecting between the options given to us by authority figures…
Clara: Like voting for Republicans or Democrats…
Alanis: Exactly - but being able to determine the possibilities themselves. So anarchists need to understand how the expansion of digital logic into more and more areas of our lives gives us the illusion of choice in so many realms while restricting our ability to determine the playing field in which we make our choices more than ever.
Clara: Hmm… say more!
Narrator: THE DIGITAL DIVIDES. Well-intentioned liberals are concerned that there are entire communities not yet integrated into the global digital network. Hence free laptops for the “developing world,” hundred-dollar tablets for schoolchildren. They can only imagine the one of digital access or the zero of digital exclusion. Given this binary, digital access is preferable—but the binary itself is a product of the process that produces exclusion, not a solution to it.
The project of computerizing the masses recapitulates and extends the unification of humanity under capitalism. No project of integration has ever extended as widely or penetrated as deeply as capitalism, and the digital will soon fill its entire space. Amazon.com sells tablets below cost because they acknowledge it as a business investment. Individual workers depreciate in value without digital access; but the working class isn’t collectively better off when we’re all available at a single click, compelled to compete intercontinentally in real time in a global race to the bottom. Capitalist globalization has already shown this. More mobility for individuals does not ensure more parity across the board. To integrate is not necessarily to equalize: the leash, the rein, and the whip are also connective. Even where it connects, the digital divides.
Like capitalism, the digital divides haves from have-nots. But a computer is not what the have-nots lack. The have-nots lack power. Rather than a binary of capitalists and proletarians, a universal market is emerging in which each person will be ceaselessly evaluated and ranked. Digital technology can impose power differentials more thoroughly and efficiently than any caste system in history. Already, your ability to engage in social and economic relations of all kinds is determined by the quality of your processor. At the lower end of the economic spectrum, the unemployed who have smartphones can snap up the cheapest rides on Craigslist (whereas all the technology you needed to hitchhike was your thumb). At the upper end, the high-frequency trader profits directly on the processing power of his computers (making old-fashioned stockbroking look fair by comparison), as does the Bitcoin miner.
It is unthinkable that digital equality could be built on such an uneven terrain. The gap between rich and poor has not closed in the nations at the forefront of digitization. The more widespread digital access becomes, the more we will see social and economic polarization accelerate. Capitalism produces and circulates new innovations faster than any previous system, but alongside them it produces ever-increasing disparities: where equestrians once ruled over pedestrians, today private jets and stealth bombers sail over motorists.
The problem is not just that capitalism is an unfair competition, but that it imposes this competition on every sphere of life. Our social networks have become a new commons to be enclosed by capitalists, quantifying and monetizing the most intimate aspects of our lives. In the social networks of the future—which advertisers, credit agencies, employers, landlords, and police will monitor in a single matrix of control—we may only encounter each other insofar as we affirm the market and our value on it.
THE SYSTEM UPDATES. Competition and market expansion have always stabilized capitalism by offering new social mobility, appearing to give the poor a stake in the game just when they had no more reason to play along. But now that the entire world is integrated into a single market and capital is concentrating in the hands of a shrinking elite, what could forestall a new wave of revolt?
Henry Ford was one of the innovators who responded to the last major crisis that threatened capitalism. Raising salaries and increasing mass-production and credit, he expanded the market for his products—undercutting the revolutionary demands of the labor movement by turning producers into consumers. This encouraged a slice of the working class to aspire to inclusion rather than revolution.
The following generation’s struggles erupted on a new terrain, as the demand of producers for self-determination in the workplace was reprised by consumers in the marketplace. The classic imperative of the do-it-yourself counterculture—“Become the media”—became the motor of new economy; where the old media had been top-down and unidirectional, the new media derive their value from user-created content. Meanwhile, globalization and automation eroded the compromise Ford had brokered between capitalists and part of the working class, producing a redundant and precarious population.
In this volatile context, new corporations like Google are updating the Fordist compromise via free labor and free distribution. Ford offered workers greater participation in capitalism via mass consumption; Google gives everything away for free by making everything into an unpaid job. In offering credit, Ford enabled workers to become consumers by selling their future as well as their present labor; Google has dissolved the distinction between production, consumption, and surveillance, making it possible to capitalize even on those who have nothing to spend but time.
Looking ahead down this road, we can imagine a digital feudalism in a benevolent dictatorship of computers (human and otherwise) maintains the Internet as a playpen for a superfluous population. Individual programs and programmers will be replaceable—the more internal mobility a hierarchical structure offers, the more robust and resilient it is—but the structure itself will be nonnegotiable. We can even imagine the rest of the population participating on an apparently horizontal and voluntary basis in refining the programming—within certain preset parameters, of course, as in all algorithms.
Digital feudalism could arrive under the banner of direct democracy, proclaiming that everyone has the right to citizenship and participation, presenting itself as a solution to the excesses of capitalism. Those who dream of a guaranteed basic income, or who wish to be compensated for the online harvesting of their “personal data,” must understand that these demands would only be realized by an all-seeing surveillance state—and that such demands legitimize state power and surveillance even if they are never granted. Statists will use the rhetoric of digital citizenship to justify mapping everyone in new cartographies of control, fixing each of us to a single online identity in order to fulfill their vision of a society subject to total regulation and enforcement.
In this dystopian projection, the digital project of reducing the world to representation converges with the program of electoral democracy, in which only representatives acting through the prescribed channels may exercise power. Fused as electronic democracy, they would present the opportunity to vote on a vast array of minutia, while rendering the infrastructure itself unquestionable—the more participatory a system is, the more legitimacy it can claim.
But genuine freedom means being able to determine our lives and relations from the ground up. We must be able to define our own conceptual frameworks, to formulate the questions as well as the answers. This is not the same as obtaining better representation or more participation in the prevailing order. Championing digital inclusivity and “democratic” state stewardship legitimizes those who hold power and the structures through which they wield it.
It is a mistake to think that the tools built to rule us would serve us if only we could depose our masters. That’s the same mistake every previous revolution has made about police, courts, and prisons. The tools of liberation must be forged in the struggle to achieve it.
Alanis: Hmm… these are some pretty grim projections. On the one hand, we could have a capacity to weigh in on the decisions governing our daily lives to an extent unprecedented in human history. At the same time, the people who set the terms of the programming and control access to the information collected about us, and the technology we need to access it, would wield power that kings and robber barons could have only dreamed of. It’s crazy how thoroughly the new economy has appropriated what used to be radical demands for participatory and DIY forms of media and culture. Clara: I think my 90’s anti-consumer politics will be enough for me here, in the way they rejected the process and format, and not just the content of consumption. As an anarchist, I’m not arguing that 500 channels are not enough, that I need channels designed specifically for me, but that I don’t want to spend my life staring at a screen designed to pacify me and sell me products.
Alanis: But back then, it was this big counter-cultural statement to live in your collective house that didn’t have a television, right? Now everyone watches Netflix on their laptops, which are the same machines we use to organize protests or record podcasts or whatever it is we think of as resistance. This net is closing around us so that there’s less and less space to challenge the structure of life as governed by the digital technocracy. And even all the work we do to contribute new content to it ends up just reinforcing our collective dependence on it -
Clara: Not to mention generating capital for those gatekeepers who profit from the participatory information economy.
Alanis: So what do we do? How can we imagine resistance from within this web?
Narrator: THE FORCE QUITS. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Integration creates new exclusions; the atomized seek each other. Every new form of control creates another site of rebellion. Policing and surveillance have increased exponentially over the past two decades, but this has not produced a more pacified world—on the contrary, the greater the coercion, the more instability and unrest we see. The project of controlling populations by digitizing their interactions and environments is itself a coping strategy to forestall the upheavals that are bound to follow the economic polarization, social degradation, and ecological devastation wrought by capitalism.
The wave of uprisings that has swept the globe since 2010—from Tunisia and Egypt through Spain and Greece to the worldwide Occupy movement, and most recently in Turkey and Brazil—has largely been understood as a product of the new digital networks. Yet it is also a reaction against digitization and the disparities it reinforces. News of Occupy encampments spread via the Internet, but those who populated them were there because they were unsatisfied with the merely virtual—or because, being poor or homeless, they had no access to it at all. Before 2011, who could have imagined that the Internet would produce a worldwide movement premised on ongoing presence in shared physical space?
This is just a preview of the backlash that will ensue as more and more of life is fitted to the digital grid. We can be sure there will be new opportunities for people to come together outside and against the logic of capitalism and state control. As we witness the emergence of digital citizenship and the identity market, let us begin by asking what technologies the digitally excluded non-citizen will need. The tools employed during the fight for Gezi Park in Istanbul in summer 2013 could present a humble starting place. How can we extrapolate the tools that will be necessary for insurrection and survival, especially where the two become one and the same? Looking to Egypt, we can see the need for tools that could coordinate the sharing of food—or disable the military.
Understanding the expansion of the digital as an enclosure of our potential doesn’t mean ceasing to use digital technology. Rather, it means changing the logic with which we approach it. Any positive vision of a digital future will be appropriated to perpetuate and abet the ruling order; the reason to engage on the terrain of the digital is to destabilize the disparities it imposes. Instead of establishing digital projects intended to prefigure the world we wish to see, we can pursue digital practices that disrupt control. Rather than setting out to defend the rights of a new digital class—or to incorporate everyone into such a class via universal citizenship—we can follow the example of the disenfranchised, beginning from contemporary uprisings that radically redistribute power.
Understood as a class, programmers occupy the same position today that the bourgeoisie did in 1848, wielding social and economic power disproportionate to their political leverage. In the revolutions of 1848, the bourgeoisie sentenced humanity to two more centuries of misfortune by ultimately siding with law and order against poor workers. Programmers enthralled by the Internet revolution could do even worse today: they could become digital Bolsheviks whose attempt to create a democratic utopia produces the ultimate totalitarianism.
On the other hand, if a critical mass of programmers shifts their allegiances to the real struggles of the excluded, the future will be up for grabs once more. But that would mean abolishing the digital as we know it—and with it, themselves as a class. Desert the digital utopia.
Clara: Ok, so… are they saying I should delete my Facebook?
Alanis: Oh, hush.
Clara: But how am I gonna keep in touch with my friends? Or organize protests? Or-
Alanis: Listen, Facebook is not the point. You know, in that Bill Gates interview, he makes fun of Mark Zuckerburg, the Facebook CEO, for saying how it has to be a priority to get the five billion people who don’t have internet access connected, when things like basic nutrition for children and a vaccine for malaria might actually be a lot more relevant.
Clara: The thing about these conversations about the internet is that they get so distracted from the material reality of life on this planet. This analysis doesn’t really touch on this, but one of the most obvious things that always gets left out of discussions of digital technology is its enormous devastating impact on the earth. The staggering amount of electricity gobbled up by data centers, the toxic manufacturing processes, the destructive mining of coltan and other minerals, etc etc…
Alanis: That at least helps put the brakes on some of these optimistic visions of the internet as a prefiguration of the anarchist future. I think it’s significant that you can like things on Facebook but you can’t dislike them; the only power the digital world offers us is gradations of affirmation, never actual rejection or resistance… just like voting for politicians in the analog world.
Clara: Hmm…it almost sounds like you’re making an argument for trolling, as the dogged persistence of the urge to negate spewing forth from the dark recesses of the digital utopia…
Alanis: Well that certainly wasn’t what I meant. But it does make us ask ourselves some difficult questions about the projects we’re undertaking. For example, will producing this podcast help foment anarchist revolution? We hope so. But will it outweigh the destructive impact of the tools we use to create it, or the unquantifiable alienation of mass digital society?
Clara: Either way, there’s no purity possible. We’re all enmeshed in the web of ones and zeros, whether we like it or not. Engaging with the various tools and networks of the digital age will be strategic in some circumstances and not in others. Probably the pathways towards radical transformation won’t look just like the hyper-digitized utopias of cyber-democrats, nor like neo-Luddites ripping out the series of tubes and lassoing the satellites and drones with wild-crafted hemp ropes. Anarchists and lovers of freedom will be fighting on every front, from Anonymous hackers to tree sitters to Black Blockers and infinite other creative variations. But the expansion of the digital world shifts the terrain on which we struggle, so let’s do our best to understand the doors it closes and the windows it opens.
Clara: In this episode we’re thinking about resistance in the digital era, so for today’s Mugshot we wanted to learn a little bit about some of the internet-based actions anarchists have taken recently. The past few years have seen an explosion of high-profile attacks by hackers on the computer systems of a variety of different corporate, government, military, and intelligence targets, under the names Anonymous, LulzSec, and others. One of these hackers is Jeremy Hammond, who faces prison time for his hacks that challenged surveillance society and racist policing. Today the Ex-Worker caught up with Grace, one of Jeremy’s longtime supporters, who’s helping to prepare for Jeremy’s sentencing hearing later this week.
Grace, could you introduce yourself and tell us how you got involved in support for Jeremy?
Grace: Sure! I am a friend of Jeremy’s; we met through mutual activism that we both were doing, and we became friends. Unfortunately I moved away from Chicago, the Chicago area, not too long before he was arrested; but it turned out OK, because I’m actually pretty close to where he is now. So he asked me several months ago to step in and take over his website, which I have done, so I am now the administrator of his website, helping to keep people up to date with what’s going on with him and his case.
Clara: So who is Jeremy Hammond? What kinds of actions is he facing time for, and how were they significant?
Grace: Who is Jeremy Hammond? Jeremy Hammond is an activist; he is an activist that has dedicated pretty much all of his life to the things that he believes in. He’s an anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-fascist… any form of oppression, Jeremy is pretty much against it. He has dedicated his life to fighting those forces of oppression in various ways, whether it be through his computer work, or he does a lot of offline work in the real world as well. So that is who Jeremy Hammond is.
Jeremy Hammond was arrested back in March of 2012 for allegedly hacking the website to Strategic Forecasting Inc, otherwise known as Stratfor. They’re a global intelligence firm that supplies intelligence to governments around the world, as well as private firms. Not too long before he was arrested there was a large leak of data from Stratfor that included emails, databases from their website that revealed eventually that the US government is spying on a lot of people – not that we don’t already know that, but it really revealed the extent to which they are doing that. It was released through Wikileaks; they’re known as the global intelligence files . I’m not sure if they’re all still up there, but you can go to the Wikileaks website and find them . But they really reveal just how extensive the spying is on peaceful activists. The government’s spying on occupy, the government’s spying on PETA, the government spying on everyday people.
The other hacks that he pled to in the agreement, which can be read on his website, freejeremy.net, I believe they were all law enforcement targets. When these attacks were ongoing, a statement that was put out said that the people that were doing these actions wanted the police to feel the terror that they instill in people every day, basically. One of the hacks that people might be able to relate to the most is he pled to hacking the Arizona Department of Public Security, which is basically the Arizona police, releasing names and addresses of officers. And they entitled this hack “Chinga La Migra,” which means “fuck the border patrol.” And it was in response to the passage of SB1070, which basically said that if you are brown, you must carry documents on you at all times that proves that you are a citizen. If not, if you didn’t have those documents on you, even if you were a citizen, you could be put in jail. From an anarchist perspective, even though Stratfor is the one that’s gotten the most press coverage, the other hacks that he did were just as important and really deserve just as much recognition and, in my opinion, admiration.
Clara: A couple of months ago Jeremy wrote a statement from prison for a political prisoner fundraiser that lays out some of his politics. Could you share that with us?
Grace: Of course! I will share part of it. Of course, Jeremy starts out by shouting out to all other prisoners, but then he goes into the heart of his statement, where he says:
“We are up against a racist capitalist power structure that wages wars, destroys the environment and spies on our every move! They lock up millions of people in cages for “crimes” that corrupt governments and multinational corporations also commit on an everyday basis and on a greater magnitude, yet we are the criminals. They lock us up for guns and drugs when defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies are the top traffickers. They call us thieves when it’s Wall Street 1%ers who rob us blind, exploit our labor, evict us out of our homes, and get billion dollar bailouts.
They condemn hackers and leakers when the NSA, CIA, and FBI illegally spy on everybody, and wage cyber espionage through viruses and hacking for foreign government systems. They put signs everywhere that say “If you see something, say something” as if their extensive surveillance camera systems aren’t, they want us to become additional eyes and ears for the police against our own neighbors.
But if you point out suspicious activities of our own government, if you leak information that should be free and public anyway, then they will follow you to the ends of the Earth to put you in prison. Even if you simply report on these leaks, they will discredit you, subpoena you for your sources, or just put you in prison on a bunch of trumped up charges like they did Barrett Brown. They repress us, infiltrate us, entrap us, harass our families and friends, and call us criminals, terrorists, and traitors, and break their own laws to try to stop us because we work to expose the truth. They are scared that if people know the truth, the day will come when they will have to answer for their own crimes. But can we trust whatever “independent review panel” they put together to investigate the NSA? After all the lies and egregious illegality, do you think any of them will be charged or do time? Will we ever be satisfied with any reforms they promise?
The answer is obviously no. Justice can never be found in their courtrooms.
Yes, we need to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, but Attorney General Eric Holder doesn’t give a damn about prison overcrowding. The Obama administration is not interested in any such debate about “the balance of privacy and security” because they will keep spying on everyone, regardless of public opinion, until we stop them.
The time for talk is over, it’s time for collective refusal, civil disobedience, and direct action. We must support all those who risked their freedom and lives to expose and confront the power structure, and continue the struggle until we stop these wars and the prison walls come crumbling down and we can all be together again free and equal!
Yours for the revolution, Jeremy Hammond”
Clara: So what can our listeners do to support Jeremy?
Grace: Well, right now we’re in a little bit of a transition time. As you know, sentencing is in just two days on Friday, November 15th. We’re crossing our fingers that the judge will sentence him either to time served or to a short sentence; the maximum he can be sentenced to, though, is ten years. He took a non-cooperating guilty plea to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. So we’ll see what happens on Friday. Depending on that depends on how people can support him. Obviously if he’s sentenced he’s going to be moved - right now he’s in the Metropolitan Correction Center in Manhattan - so once he gets moved, he’s going to need probably money for his commissary. He’s going to need books; we have book lists, but please nobody send anything right now because he will be moved most likely and we need to see where he ends up so that anything anyone sends to him can actually get to him. But right now just keep him in your thoughts. And get active! He was inspired- he made a statement that he was inspired to do what he did by what Chelsea Manning did. So if you’ve been inspired by what he did: go out! Do something! Resist! Resist in whatever way you can, whether it’s digitally; whether it’s by helping a single mother; whether it’s by going and serving with Food not Bombs; whether it’s going out into the streets… in whatever way you can, just resist. Resist! That helps Jeremy more than anything else, to know that he has inspired people to become active and to change things, to do something.
Clara: Anything else you’d like to add?
Clara: Awesome. Grace, thanks so much for speaking with us!
Grace: You’re very, very welcome.
Clara: An update, as we go to press: on Friday, November 15th, Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to ten years in prison. We’ve posted a link to the statement he made at his sentencing hearing on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Clara: Alright! Now it’s time to close things out with Next Week’s News, a handful of radical events coming up soon that might be of interest.
Alanis: If you recall from our seventh episode of the Ex-Worker, we shared an analysis of the June 2013 uprisings in Brazil. Anarchists from Brazil are doing a speaking tour on the east coast of the US through November 23rd, sharing news, analysis, photos, and perspectives on resistance in their country. You can get the list of dates and locations at crimethinc.com.
Clara: On November 16th–17th, womens peace group Code Pink is hosting a two-day conference titled “Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance”, highlighting the horrific consequences of the US military’s use of unstaffed aircraft to surveil and kill people across the world.
Alanis: And also on the 16th and 17th, the Taala Hooghan Infoshop in Flagstaff, Arizona will host A Fire on the Mountain, a regional anti-colonial and anarchist bookfair featuring discussions, workshops, presentations, films, skillshares, art, & more. It’s intended to inform, agitate, and celebrate anti-colonial struggle and anarchist tensions.
Clara: Ordinarily we’d close with some birthday announcements about political prisoners, but we don’t have any for this chunk of November.
Alanis: So we’ll close with a challenge to all of you. Organizers of the Carrboro Anarchist Book Fair in North Carolina, coming up on November 23rd, have announced an Anarchist Primer Competition! The goal is to generate a whole bunch of new simple, introductory zines or pamphlets explaining anarchist ideas. At the book fair, a panel of judges will award black ribbons for the best primer in various categories, including: Best design, Best topical primer (i.e., written for a specific audience or purpose), Best all-ages primer, Best presentation (at the event on the day of), Funniest Troll Entry, and Best overall.
The parameters are: 5,000 words or less (the shorter the better), no more than 20 pages in whatever design format you choose, photocopyable for mass distribution, and intended to introduce anarchy and anarchist ideas to a wide audience. For people who can’t make it in person to table, you send your entry along with someone who can, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clara: Even if you’re not going to write your own primer, we’d like you to be thinking about how you define anarchism, because we’ll be asking you to write in and tell us what anarchy means to you for an upcoming episode when we’ll be taking on the million dollar question: what is anarchism? So put on your thinking caps and get ready to tell us what anarchy means to you in the coming weeks.
Alanis: So that’s all for this episode of the Ex-Worker!
Clara: This podcast is a project of CrimethInc Ex-Worker’s Collective. Thanks so much to Grace for speaking with us, and to Underground Reverie for the music, and to all of you for calling us out on our wretched photo choices. You can always get in touch with us by sending an email to podcast at crimethinc dot com, leaving feedback on iTunes, or calling 202–59-NOWRK, 202–596–6975.
Alanis: Till next time, thanks for tuning in!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
You can read the full text of the CrimethInc. feature “Deserting the Digital Utopia” .
To learn more about Jeremy Hammond’s case, visit freejeremy.net , which includes a transcript of his plea agreement and some of his writings . NOTE: if you want to donate to Jeremy’s commissary fund or other expenses, use the “Donate” button on freejeremy.net – he can’t receive money orders and such directly. His family & friends directly maintain the website, so it’s legit.
The statement Jeremy made at his sentencing hearing reveals the extent to which the Stratfor hack was driven by the FBI, as well as his trajectory of radicalization and reflections on his actions.
Here are the the global intelligence files from the Stratfor hack, courtesy of Wikileaks. Also, here is more info on other hacktivist cases that Grace mentioned, including Barrett Brown , w0rmer , the Paypal 14 , and the Payback 13 .
Also see a recent article comparing Alan Turing, Chelsea Manning, and Jeremy Hammond in a fascinating analysis of gender, sexuality, digital technology, recuperation, and resistance.
Here are the dates for the east coast speaking tour of our South American comrades reporting on the June 2013 uprisings in Brazil . UPDATE : In addition to the dates listed on the blog post, there will be an event in Atlanta on November 21st .
Check out the Carrboro Anarchist Book Fair’s Anarchist Primer Competition ! Parameters are 5,000 words or less, no longer than 20 pages, photocopyable for mass distribution, and intended to introduce anarchist ideas to a broad audience. The book fair takes place November 23rd… get writing!
Here’s the “Pepper Spraying Cop” blog satirizing John Pike, former UC Davis cop who was just awarded $38,000 in worker’s comp for “mental distress” after a national backlash against his brutality.
Reports from the November 5th “Million Mask Marches” called by the hacktivist movement Anonymous in Denver , Atlanta , Washington DC , and London .
And here you can read the interview with Bill Gates we referenced.
With embarrassed apologies, we offer the following links to internet archives with images of actual anarchists:
The Spanish Civil War and Revolution Photo Gallery, 1936–39 and Spanish Civil War and Revolution Poster Gallery , both from libcom.org, have tons of terrific images of actual anarchists we could have used, but didn’t. Sigh…
Anarchist Images: Posters from the Labadie Collection collects some interesting glimpses of past propaganda, while Pics of Famous Anarchists is just what it sounds like, including some Spanish Civil War hero/in/es.
Art and Anarchy offers links to various image archives. Very 90s, beware, but some gems lurking.