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Anti-war, anti-blogging...?
February 3, 2003 4:02 AM   Subscribe

Anti-war and the Internet John Perry Barlow of the EFF talks about online activism and anti-war feeling: "Actually I'm discouraged with the role of the Internet in the antiwar movement. Because so far what I see happening is that cyberspace is a great place for everybody to declaim. There are a million virtual streetcorners with a million lonely pamphleteers on them, all of them decrying the war and not actually coming together in any organized fashion to oppose it." Easy to read this as referring to blogs. People shout and scream in their journals, but where is the organised anti-war effort? Is the great hope and potential of the Internet to connect people and create movements floundering when it comes to one of the most serious issues facing us today?
posted by humuhumu (30 comments total)

 
Or, as is more likely the case, is the screaming is all bark with no bite?
posted by mischief at 4:14 AM on February 3, 2003


The Net is emphatically pro-war. The loudest voices I hear are male, middle-class, smug, right-wing, libertarian, and American.

What kind of dissent does this Barlow person represent? Stealing music and calling the president a Bozo. Big deal.
posted by dydecker at 4:26 AM on February 3, 2003


Well that's the internet, while it puts power to communicate in people's hands it also dilutes that power as it now comes from a multitude of divergent sources.
posted by PenDevil at 4:34 AM on February 3, 2003


I didn't think much of this quote from him: Right now, it's very easy for your standard suburban television idiot to assume that this is all about people who are not like him. And his rights are not involved.

He's not going to convince people of the seriousness of the situation by calling them 'idiots'. It's the RIAA-lets-call-our-major-customers-criminals idea.
posted by humuhumu at 4:34 AM on February 3, 2003


I find it curious that he's credited as being "the man who coined the term 'cyberspace'," twice in the article. I thought that epithet belonged to William Gibson?
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:55 AM on February 3, 2003


People shout and scream in their journals, but where is the organised anti-war effort?


Uh, it's in New York on Feb 15th and San Fransisco on Feb 16th. And, it's here and here and here and in a bunch of other places that are available to anyone who takes ten seconds to look. Talk about apathy! What does everybody expect, protestors to come to your door and carry you in a sedan chair? Half of my family went to DC for the protest, were you there? It's possible to make yourself heard, even if it's not going to change things overnight.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:52 AM on February 3, 2003


I find it curious that he's credited as being "the man who coined the term 'cyberspace'," twice in the article. I thought that epithet belonged to William Gibson?

Yes, MoJo is not quite right, but partially. Gibson coined the term, but Barlow was the first to apply it to the internet.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:27 AM on February 3, 2003


What kind of dissent does this Barlow person represent? Stealing music and calling the president a Bozo. Big deal.

... and helping to found EFF, and, oh, all this stuff, too.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:30 AM on February 3, 2003


He's got pretty daughters, I suppose. Other than that, well...

I can see why someone would oppose the war, but allow the government information access to conduct a police kind of effort. I can also see why someone would support military actions, but fight against government information access (because terrorism without the support/protection of states is much less of a threat).

But the people who oppose BOTH military actions AND information sharing are just ignoring the people who are out there and want to kill us, and our way of life.
posted by dagny at 6:56 AM on February 3, 2003


dagny, I happen to both oppose the war and allowing the government free reign to information. A lack of information isn't what allowed the attacks in 2001 to happen. The information was there but nobody looked at it or took it seriously enough to investigate. It sat in files or couldn't be translated quickly enough to provide warning or was just ignored. I haven't seen any proposals to address these situations at all, instead I see proposals that will provide the government with a few orders of magnitude more information while not fixing any of the problems with the interpretation of the information.

Instead not only are they adding more information, they're adding more information of dubious quality. This is only going to make it easier for attacks like these to happen. Suppose that the government has some mechanism that has a 90.0% success rate in tagging suspicious activities for investigation. If 10 out of 100 persons has some ill intent towards the United States then for every valid red flag there will be an equal number of invalid red flags. With the 90.0% accuracy 9 out of 10 of the valid suspects would be identified. Interrogation of those 9 stands a good chance of identifying the 10th. Out of the 90 innocents 9 would be tagged as suspicious. Those nine would also have to be interrogated.

There are about 300 million people in the United States, so at 90% accuracy and 10% of the population harboring ill will towards the US 54 million people would have to be interrogated (27 million of which would be a complete waste of time and resources).

10 out of 100 is an artificially high number though, maybe in reality its closer to 1 in 10000 (purely pulled out of thin air). In this case there would be 27000 valid suspects to interview but 30 million invalid suspects. Clearly trying to gather information on the public at large is the wrong way to go since the more innocent the general population the more overworked the government becomes.

Most people that study data mining operations feel that there is no way the government could attain a 90% success rate in data mining for terrorists as well.

A better way to prevent future attacks is to get more agents out their that understand the necessary languages, to make sure that mechanisms are in place so that leads are tracked and followed up on and signed off on.
posted by substrate at 7:48 AM on February 3, 2003


Where was JPB on October 26? On January 11 (not in Los Angeles, evidently)? On January 18, where massive protests filled the streets of San Francisco and Washington D.C.? Doesn't he ever come to Sunset Junction when he's in L.A. on a Friday night, and participate in any of the vigils? Isn't he going to Peace on the Beach February 15? I guess he's missing some significant events, because the pamphleteers I know certainly aren't lonely.

MoveOn and A.N.S.W.E.R. and Not in Our Name have made significant use of the Internet for the purpose of mobilizing In Real Life protests -- the numbers that turned out on 10/26 and 1/18 would not have been there were it not for the power of the Internet to circulate bus schedules, inform and persuade potential activists and update the media.

I respect Barlow on many issues, and appreciate his efforts to preserve our civil liberties online. But sometimes he just doesn't know what he's talking about, and he talks anyway.
posted by judlew at 7:48 AM on February 3, 2003


I agree judlew, the Internet has been instrumental in the anti-war movement, and people have to remember, people are protesting a war that hasn't even started. you can only think that the voice of dissent will only get louder.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 8:37 AM on February 3, 2003


But the people who oppose BOTH military actions AND information sharing are just ignoring the people who are out there and want to kill us, and our way of life.

I hear that a lot, that our "way of life" is at stake. Is that what we're really fighting for? I thought that they hated us because we were free. Of course, I don't really believe that, but shouldn't we at least be fighting for our own freedom, including a right to privacy, and not for a lifestyle? And, if we're not free anyway, if the government pries into every aspect of our lives, then we have lost whatever it is that we claim to honor in undertaking such efforts.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:38 AM on February 3, 2003


Where was JPB on October 26? On January 11 (not in Los Angeles, evidently)? On January 18, where massive protests filled the streets of San Francisco and Washington D.C.? Doesn't he ever come to Sunset Junction when he's in L.A. on a Friday night, and participate in any of the vigils? Isn't he going to Peace on the Beach February 15? I guess he's missing some significant events, because the pamphleteers I know certainly aren't lonely.

MoveOn and A.N.S.W.E.R. and Not in Our Name have made significant use of the Internet for the purpose of mobilizing In Real Life protests -- the numbers that turned out on 10/26 and 1/18 would not have been there were it not for the power of the Internet to circulate bus schedules, inform and persuade potential activists and update the media.

FWIW, this interview was conducted in December, and he was a bit disillusioned then. He has sent out a call to action on his private list since then (over 1000 people, some of whom are very influential or at least famous) to join in the anti-war marches. He's not enamoured with A.N.S.W.E.R., but he admires their organizing efforts, and he has fully comitted himself to the cause as such, if not some of the orgs per se. He has been at every march in San Francisco, FWIW.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:43 AM on February 3, 2003


There are a million virtual streetcorners with a million lonely pamphleteers on them, all of them decrying the war and not actually coming together in any organized fashion to oppose it."

Perhaps that's because the Internet makes it a lot easier to "be on a streetcorner," and in fact falsely exagerates the amount of opposition out there.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:46 AM on February 3, 2003


Yeah, but in meatspace - or rather, in cities where people walk - a streetcorner is part of the tapestry of life that is bigger than an individual. When you surf, or whatever, generally you live your cyberlife in an environment that you construct yourself. You're not as likely to run into some random nut talk whatever trash you disagree with if you only go to cnn, the new republic, and msnbc. The overwhelming number of streetcorners actually require people to seek out dissenting information.
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:04 AM on February 3, 2003


ParisParamus, i cannot parse that argument. are you infering that the online anti-war street-corner people are, what, not really opposed to the war?
i say no to manufactured consent. are you saying no to organic dissent?
posted by asok at 9:08 AM on February 3, 2003


I thought that they hated us because we were free. [...] shouldn't we at least be fighting for our own freedom, including a right to privacy, and not for a lifestyle?

I included the concept of liberty in the term "our way of life". We live (relatively) freely here in the West, and they despise us for it, because they think it's "decadent" and what have you.

Indeed, I think we should be fighting for our freedom, but as long as Bush is content to drag out time while meddling with the pointless bureaucracy that is the UN instead of protecting his own people, it ain't happening.
posted by dagny at 9:12 AM on February 3, 2003


the kids they dance and shake their bones
posted by muckster at 9:37 AM on February 3, 2003


Perhaps that's because the Internet makes it a lot easier to "be on a streetcorner," and in fact falsely exagerates the amount of opposition out there.

Kindly present those facts please.
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:39 AM on February 3, 2003


Partial summary of article = internet visionary looks at the web, finds out it full of people, and despairs". The anti-war slant is new but this story is so old that it's offensive.

Yes, the internet is full of people: they talk more than they actually do, they are sometimes silly, foolish and vain and they selfishly want to do what they want to do, not what the visionary wants them to do. In short, all those people act like people.

I saw this up close in the boom - the great thinker screaming at the $12 an hour receptionist that the company was failing because she didn't buy into his vision.

By the way, complaining that the internet voices that are against the war aren't more effective than they are is like complaining that airline pilots should be better gymnasts since they both involve flying thought the air. The skillsets involved are not related - they're not exclusive of each other, but they aren't related.
posted by Jos Bleau at 9:54 AM on February 3, 2003


Is the great hope and potential of the Internet to connect people and create movements floundering when it comes to one of the most serious issues facing us today?

No kidding. They should take a lesson from terrorists, who certainly do utilize the "great hope and potential" of the internet to "connect people" and manage the highly coordinated and complex logistics of organizing their attacks.

(Oops, forgot. Studying their methods too closely might lead some to realize how easily chemical and biological weapons developed by Saddam could be distributed and released in coordinated attacks on major western cities - which would not exactly fire one up with anti-war passion. Never mind.)
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:23 AM on February 3, 2003


I have become involved with a group that is doing City Hall protests here in Dallas. (Meaning that I have marched with them in real life, carrying a sign.) I heard about their efforts by following blog links. If the peace movement were not so well-documented on the web, I probably would not have been aware of the options for individual action.

Even MSN has reported (ironically) that the media is downplaying the war protest efforts. According to this article, the "news gates" have not been opened to the protest movement because high-ranking Democrats have been "unwilling to challenge" the president.

Since bloggers tend to pick up underreported stories, this can counteract media bias in either direction (right or left). By simply reporting the facts (such as the number of protestors at a march, the extent of police action, etc.) webloggers and underground news sources can help to disseminate information that may not be widely available.

The antiwar movement is real, and the web can be a very real factor in bringing people together for it.
posted by TreeHugger at 10:48 AM on February 3, 2003


Re: "Even MSN has reported (ironically) that the media is downplaying the war protest efforts."

I would suggest that the Anti War movement might want to stage Anti War protests at the corporate offices of the worst media offenders: make an issue of this!
posted by troutfishing at 11:00 AM on February 3, 2003


But the people who oppose BOTH military actions AND information sharing are just ignoring the people who are out there and want to kill us, and our way of life.

What about people who manufacture and repress information in order to justify a preconceived military agenda? All this makes it very hard to trust their desire for military action or access to more information, or their ability to protect our way of life.

Also, what substrate said.
posted by homunculus at 11:20 AM on February 3, 2003


ParisParamus, i cannot parse that argument. are you infering that the online anti-war street-corner people are, what, not really opposed to the war?


Kindly present those facts please.

Well, in the first place, your views would sounds a lot more credible if you understood the difference between infering and IMPLYING.

I am saying it's a lot easier to post something on a Web site, or send an e-mail, or buy an anti-war domain name than it is to actually stand on a street corner for any appreciable length of time; say something on that streetcorner, hand out leaflets, or write actual letters. Similarly, it's a lot easier in 2003 to create a rally of, say, 100K people than it was in 1965 or 1980, since airfares are cheaper, more people own cars, gas is cheaper, and people have more money (to travel) than they did in the past.

In other words, I am not convinced more than 10% of the American populous is decidedly against an Iraqi war. And that number will likely go down once the disclosures of a certain former Iraqi bodyguard work their ways through the "media system."


posted by ParisParamus at 1:41 PM on February 3, 2003


Well, in the first place, your views would sound a lot more credible if you understood the difference between populous and "populace". Hey, make a grammar snark, get a grammar snark in return.
posted by ook at 2:52 PM on February 3, 2003


In other words, I am not convinced more than 10% of the American populous is decidedly against an Iraqi war.

Well ParisParamus, the LA Times didn't think the percentage was anything like 90 back in Oct. More like 60. You know the reason you never hear Bush throwing around numbers on how many Americans are for the war? Because even the most massaged ones they can get are pretty sad. According to the Washington Post last month, it's down to 50.
Okay, now compare that to the amount of television coverage anti-war efforts have been given. Is it anywhere near 50 percent?

posted by lumpenprole at 6:03 PM on February 3, 2003


ParisParamus: - "people have more money (to travel) than they did in the past." - the middle 3 quintiles of American families (the US middle class) have done - in term of wages - a bit better since 1968. This is due to the near complete disappearance of the single income family among the US middle class. Both parents are now working and so there is (marginally) more money available. Day care scoops up the bulk of this and, meanwhile, the kids get ignored. They then turn to drugs, crime, and cheap sex. Meanwhile, the botom quintile has lost income sicne 1968. The top quintile is doing well, and the top 1% fantastically well.
posted by troutfishing at 8:37 PM on February 3, 2003


Troutfishing: I don't understand your rant. I wasn't suggesting everyone, or that anyone is richer; only that it's easier and cheaper to get your message out and get to a rally.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:06 PM on February 3, 2003


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