New York Times Gives Face to Hacktivism

If you’re on the nettime mailing list (mailing lists for culture, politics, and tactics of the nets), you are likely to have noticed the following message last week:

In response to The World Economic Forum Meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City (January 30 to February 3), RTMark investors have sponsored several new projects to fight the corporate takeover of public space and expression:

Yes a group of our favorite net activists, net.artists, promoters of virtual and real world disobedience, searchers for self-determination ­ RTMark, the Yes Men, The Electronic Disturbance Theater, and The Institute for Applied Autonomy amongst others converged upon the World Economic Forum (WEF) this past week. And surprisingly their actions were actually acknowledged by the main stream media.

Reuters covered the story “Hackers Hit Global Leaders' Summit” that the New York times ran last Friday, February 1st. The story opens... "An invisible cyber assault has cut off access for the second day running to the Web site of the World Economic Forum, organizers of the gathering of the world's political and business elite confirmed on Friday..." Of course the WEF spokesman Charles McLean merely calls such action and so called hacktivism a nuisance that does not effect the gathering of the wealthy elite. The only thing that crashing the WEF site achieves is a loss of dialogue. McLean actually refers to the WEF as being "in the dialogue business," sure dialogue amongst those with common interests: how do we make more money, and this year, how can we keep those god damn terrorists from screwing up our capital. McLean even suggests that their web site is a dialogical space, when it is merely used to broadcast, that is as a one-way communication.

So if the crashing of the site and the various online actions against the WEF does not disrupt the conversations in the Waldorf, or at the elegant lavish cocktail parties, what's the point of these net.activists? Why bother to crash the WEF site when it has no real life effects? Well, that nuisance was enough to grab the attention of Reuters and enough for the NYTimes to run the story, a story that will be an introduction to virtual activism for a large audience. The story creates greater awareness that there exists a large number of people dissatisfied with the division of wealth in this world who are prepared to take non-violent action both in the streets of New York and in the electronic public sphere of the Internet and the Web. Any attention to this sort of action might stir a bit of reflection in that anonymous person who rarely steps out of her/his daily routine and feels little motivation to enact change.

Closing Note:
The Patriots have just won the Superbowl, and there's a commentator on the radio stating that the fact that a team called the "Partriots" won the Superbowl is manifest destiny due to 9/11, what the hell is wrong with this country?

Ricardo Miranda Zuñiga