electrohippies Occasional Paper No.1a,

Key concepts: Electrohippies, anticorporatism, packet wankers, Denial of Service (DoS), Freedom of Expression, hacktivism versus [h]activism.

One Liner: The Electrohippies are trying to rationalize Denial of Service attacks and violate the First Amendment privileges of their opponents. oxblood ruffin, foreign minister, Cult of the Dead Cow

The Electrohippies have published an occasional paper (EOP) that asks whether their recently published DoS application is a valid campaign tactic or a terrorist act. After introducing a quote from the New Testament that transmogrifies Jesus Christ into a packet wanker scourging the Internet of E-commerce, the question is then answered with an argument that crucifies all common sense. This essay will address several errors from the EOP that require correction.

[All quotes taken from the EOP and appear sequentially]

"As Jesus ransacked the temple in Jerusalem because it had become a house of merchandise, so the recent [DDoS] attacks on e-commerce web sites are a protest against the manner of its [sic] recent development".

This is the first and most egregious error that the Electrohippies make. It betrays their lack of understanding of hacker culture; it also creates a false bridge to their own anticorporate bias. As no statement of claim was made by the DDoS perpetrators, left-leaners, Adbuster sympathizers and wishful thinkers projected their own raison detre onto the event to construct an illusory foundation for their personal projects. In fact the DDoS attacks of early February were nothing more than packet wanking at its finest, or as hackers would say, going for the full woody.

It was irrelevant that the targeted sites were commercial and had e-commerce components. They could just have easily have been the Vatican, a Britney Spears fan site, or Aunt Beuears fan site, or Aunt Beulahs Jam page, that is, if those sites represented the same level of prestige and notoriety as the actual targets. Theres a lot of juice in the packet wanking world associated with taking down a large site. It has nothing to do with e-commerce no matter what the Electrohippies, The Village Voice or other projectionists wish were the case.

"Whatever the views of particular people about the development of e-commerce on the Net [sic], we must not ignore the fact that as another part of societys public space the Internet will be used by groups and individuals as a means of protest. There is no practical difference between cyberspace and the street in terms of how people use the Net [sic]".

E-commerce is a technology. It is used across the board by not-for-profit groups, independent record companies, and transnational corporations. It is this last group, one assumes, that the Electrohippies take issue with. But there is no effective difference between this method of exchange and the use of cash or credit off-line. By attacking e-commerce the Electrohippies create the impression that they are Luddites when what they mean to say is that they are anticorporate. Like many people, the Electrohippies have been confused by technology. They are trying to filter their agenda through the Internet rather than focussing on first principles.

The Electrohippies further compound their misunderstanding of the Internet by assuming that the same rules hold in the digital realm as they do down on the street. They do not. Where a large physical mass is the currency of protest on the street, or at the ballot box, it is an irrelevancy on the Internet. Or more correctly, it is not always necessary. Of course many people can make a difference on the Internet if one is talking about site traffic. High visitation boosts domain value; conversely its absence will decrease it. But to think that it takes a lot of people to execute an act of civil disobedience on the Internet is naiive. Programs make a difference, not people.

And and as a last thought, I know from personal experience that there is a difference between street and on-line protest. I have been chased down the street by a baton-wielding police officer on horseback. Believe me, it takes a lot less courage to sit in front of a computer.

"the difference between the two actions [DDoS packet wanking and the WTO on-line protests in which the Electrohippies participated] is the one of poplular legitimacy versus individual will. The structure of the client-side distributed actions developed by the electrohippies means that there must be widespread support across a country, or continent in order to make the system work. Our method has built within it the guarantee of democratic accountability".

The Electrohippies are laboring under several false assumptions here. They believe that there is some nexus between their on-line actions against the WTO and the DDoS attacks against Yahoo, et al there is not. And they think that somehow if many people perpetrate a DoS attack as opposed to just one, then that is, ethically speaking, a better thing. Bollocks.

Denial of Service, is Denial of Service, is Denial of Service, period. The only difference between a program like Stacheldraht [a DDoS application written by The Mixter] and the client side javascript program written by the Electrohippies is the difference between blowing something up and being pecked to death by a duck. And if numbers lend legitimacy - as the Electrohippies propose - then the lone bomber who tried to assassinate Hitler in his bunker was wrong and the millions who supported the dictator were right.

If the Electohippies wish to take actions that involve large groups then they should leverage their supporters against their targets in more practical ways. For instance.

Lets say the Electrohippies take exception to the business practice of a large transnational that exploits child labour in developing countries. And let's say that this same transnational has an e-commerce enabled Web site selling its merchandise. So if the Electrohippies were to organize fifty thousand people to make a purchase from said Web site, then return the item with a letter of protest and a demand for a refund, then they might lodge a protest with the transnational that it would seek to remedy. This particular suggestion would have to be tweaked according to the target but it makes the point. Creating an intolerable snag in running a business is a far more productive use of protest action than disabling a Web server for a short time, the ethics of such notwithstanding.

"the electrohippies collective believe that the acts or views perpetrated by the targets of a DoS action must be reprehensible to many in society at large, and not just to a small group. It is on this basis that the collective undertook the action against the WTO during their conference in Seattle, and it is also the basis upon which we are planning future actions".

Denial of Service attacks are a violation of the First Amendment, and of the freedoms of expression and assembly. No rationale, even in the service of the highest ideals, makes them anything other than what they are -- illegal, unethical, and uncivil. One does not make a better point in a public forum by shouting down ones opponent. Say something more intelligent or observe your opponents' technology and leverage your assets against them in creative and legal ways.

Hacktivism is about using more eloquent arguments whether of code or words to construct a more perfect system. One does not become a hacktivist merely by inserting an "h" in front of the word activist or by looking backward to paradigms associated with industrial organization.

One does so by living in the present and recognizing reality. We live in a post-Newtonian universe although too many people are unaware of this.

There is still talk of left and right, of a centre to the margins sensibility. This world was blown apart by Einstein. The universe is no longer explosive, it is implosive. And to take part in social and political discussions one most move inward to the centre rather than outward to the extremes. Being a centrist is the new reality; everything else is reactionary.

While the Electrohippies cannot be faulted for their dedication and good intentions, we all know how the road to hell is paved. And if the they are as dedicated to the Scriptures as they appear to be, then let them ponder this.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
-- Proverbs, I v7.

I dont think that the Electrohippies are fools.

oxblood ruffin!cDc
foreign minister
"cDc. We put the hack into hacktivism"

© 2000 the electrohippie collective. Produced by Paul Mobbs. Released under the GNU Free Documentation License
(with invariant sections being the document title and author identification, no front-cover texts, and no back-cover texts).