Internetworking and the Threat of Democracy

Dave Neal

From Practical Anarchy #10 (Winter 1997/1998)

Part One: Mass Media Versus Massive Media

THE HEADLESS BEAST

There's been a move among think tanks (particularly RAND) and policymakers to come up with ways of dealing with the "problem" of the Internet. It seems they are concerned about decentralized, popular, democratized media, and want to get busy finding ways of bringing the Internet under control, like the other mass media: newspapers, radio, film, and television. Characteristically, they use militaristic euphemisms to define the coming "netwar" of the future, which amounts to the destruction of popular democracy on the Internet in favor of centralized, sanitized control.

Much of this has come up in the wake of the Zapatista "misuse" of the Internet (in the eyes of the power elite). That is, the "wrong" people making use of available Internet technology to get their message out worldwide. The "Zapatista Problem," as governments see it, will only increase in coming years, unless something is done about it.

Media access generally relies on a "pay to play" basis–that is, only those who can afford the enormous costs involved get the luxury to be heard. Now, in bourgeois "democracies" freedom of speech is endlessly (if facetiously) defended, but the real freedom that matters, the freedom to be heard, remains safely tucked in the vest pocket of the person with the financial means to acquire a newspaper, magazine, a radio or television station, or a movie production company. In bourgeois "democracies," most have the freedom of speech; the freedom to be heard, however, carries a very steep price tag. Or it did, before the Internet came along and messed everything up!

When you look at enormous conglomeration amidst traditional media, you see that very, very few people own a huge amount of media; very few people own any media at all! It's definitely not a game your everyday person can play. You can't go out and buy a radio station from the corner store, let alone run and broadcast it. You can't print a 100,000 circulation newspaper out of your basement.

Until recently, that is. Three parallel innovations have come on the scene–zines, pirate radio, and the Internet, which are democratizing the media (or at least have the potential to). They arose out of changing and improving technologies, which lowered the startup costs involved in media production.

For the first time in decades, the "mass" reappeared in the media, with amazing rapidity. However, there are still limitations. Zines, for example, have limited distribution, and are still intimately tied to the economic wherewithal of the publisher, and depend strongly on the zeal of the person to take the time and energy to get the piece out.

Consequently, zines are an acceptable medium from the point of view of the power elite, because your most popular zine still can't compete with any established, professional media out there, who have the money, the distribution network, and the staff to outperform any amateur efforts. Pirate radio suffers from similar problems, along with problems of technical expertise and being chased down by cops, who seek to shut down such "offenders" when they broadcast.

That leaves the Internet, which has aroused the ire of the ruling class, and has wrinkled many a patrician brow as they figure out how to stop the "headless beast" (e.g., popular democracy) before it gets out of hand.

Now, before I proceed, it's vital to note that Internet access is still an elite medium–several prerequisites are needed: 1) you have to have access to a computer; 2) you have to have access to the Internet; 3) you have to know how to use both of the above.

As a result, Internet access for now remains largely upper and middle class-based–the poor don't have the means to even access it yet. In fact, from my own experience, working class people view computers with a mixture of suspicious awe. Some won't even touch them. This is a useful reaction from the point of view of the ruling elite, as will be seen later.

But despite this limiting factor, the Internet and the personal computer have put media into more people's hands since the time of radio, and that's a cause of considerable concern among those who actually run this society.

What's worse (again, from the point of view of control of ideas), is someone with a Web page has worldwide distribution at extremely low cost! Which is why the perils of the Internet has been a consistent feature among the Massive Media for years.

This worldwide distribution capability is why the Internet scares the ruling class, whereas zines merely earn a smug grin from them, and pirate radio is ignored as irrelevant. Prior to the Internet, distribution required money, which limited your players to those who could be trusted to behave "responsibly;" now, it only requires the willingness to put your ideas onto the Net, and awareness how to publicize your site, and presto–you are suddenly part of the mass media!

Hence we return to the Zapatistas. They took their cause to the Internet, reaching a wider audience than any rebel group has ever done before, and they did it by bypassing "propoer" channels.

In earlier, safer times, you had to rely on the trusted Massive Media to deliver you the information, which they gathered for you, and sold to you: now, with the Internet, you can look on your own, taking the middleman out entirely, going straight to the source, and it's almost free! Imagine if the Sandinistas had put out a Web page!

In other words, the Internet has the potential to put the Massive Media out of business (the business being thought control), which is why they've made it their personal crusade to tell folks how dangerous a medium the Internet is! It also explains why control of this fascinating resource has become an issue with the government, interest groups, and think tanks who decide how our "free" society runs.

THE NATURE OF THE BEAST

What are the qualities and abilities of the Internet that facilitate this democratic impulse that so worries those who run the show in this society? First off, like any good medium, the Internet facilitates communication, and is, in fact, faster and more immediate than any traditional medium out there. News and information pass along servers at an incredible rate, in some cases "scooping" the professional news providers. It is a decentralized, mass distribution network, which forms the basis for elite opposition to it.

NETIZENS

One "problem" that has arisen based on the enormous value of the Internet to Business revolves around Internet access at work. Every day, computers play a more important role in day-to-day work, particularly as service industries continue to grow. Computer literacy has become a survival trait among the disempowered workforce today. E-mail has gone from a novelty to a necessity in the modern workplace, as fast, reliable, and cheap communicative means.

What that means is that a generation of computer-literate workers suddenly found themselves able to access the Internet–quite unintentionally from the point of view of management–the workplace adopted the Net for its own purposes, and worker [ab]use of this medium was an unintended side effect.

Most workers don't have computers at home, but many do have access to them at work–which means that work computers bypass the economic barrier that keeps most people off the Internet. In fact, computer-literate workers bypass all of the barriers I'd mentioned before: computer access; Internet access; ability to use both.

Ability to use this technology, when paired with inclination to use it (spurred on by boring work), means that Internet access in the workplace is a big issue, which makes control of access Priority One.

This is another part of the impetus to create filtering programs (see below), to control what people can access on given computers. For example, there are programs out that allow management to: 1) determine whether or not you can access the Internet; 2) determine what you can access on the Internet; 3) determine what you accessed on the Internet. These programs are of considerable interest to forward-thinking management, in that the nature of the Internet is inherently seditious and threatens work discipline. Of course, the discretion is left entirely to management, who alon can be trusted to make the right call as to who can and can't have Internet access.

The problem is that Internet access is useful to business, which is why Intranets are so important (see CyberFiefs, below). The Intranet will allow workplace connectivity and communication, but in a limited sense. Communication with the outside world is prevented (for workers) or discouraged (for lower management) by the existence of an Intranet, which will carefully control who goes in and out of the given local network. In other words, an Intranet allows you most of the positive (e.g., commercial) functions of the Internet, without the negative (e.g., personal, social) side effects.

Another key constituency on the Internet are young people–teenagers especially, who have grown up with computers and popular culture and naturally indulge their curiosity by exploring the Net, most often from their parent's computers, but also at school, and later in college (colleges are now using Internet access as a selling point among them). Young people are far more computer literate than their elders, and are thus the first true "Internet Generation."

I suspect the Internet is also interesting to young people because it is interactive–it involves self-directed exploration on the part of the young person. Whereas older people prefer the passive input of television, young people, who are already used to television, find the activity on the Internet exciting.

The communicative means of the Internet, and the willingness of people to use it, has created an online community–netizens–who are literally people from all over the world (although currently concentrated among the industrial North, and further concentrated in the U.S., where the technology was first created). People who, pre-Internet, would have never known each other existed, are suddenly able to communicate with one another, and share ideas–and realize that others share their ideas, too. This is the basis upon which social movements arise.

The political ramifications of this are enormous. Pre-Internet, people of a given country were forced to rely on middlemen–the Massive Media–to tell them what's going on where. After the Internet, people could suddenly do that themselves.

Newsgroups, for example, which are derided (by the Massive Media) as the cesspool of the Internet, is really a great concept: you have groups that at least ostensibly reflect particular interests, and which are frequented by people who espouse that interest, and wish to talk more about it. The newsgroup became something of a cybercafe, where folks of all types meet and share ideas. Nowhere is the anarchy of the Internet better seen than on the "anything goes" newsgroups.

E-mail listservers, too, provide yet another level of involvement. So, if you found enough people (usually through newsgroups) who were interested in a topic, you could then create (and advertise) a listserve on that topic, and then the program spits out information automatically to the members of that server. It becomes an instantaneous forum, although more private than the newsgroup. Whereas the newsgroup is like a crowded bar, the listserve is a private room at the back of the bar–a speak-easy where you have to join to get in.

Personal Web pages are the showhorses of the Internet world, where you can strut your stuff, and, ideally, present worthwhile content. Whereas listserves and newsgroups aren't visual media, the Web page is, which further empowers the average netizen considerably, once they learn how to use HTML and make their own pages. Best of all, you can put up email, newsgroup, and listserve links on your Web page, so it ends up being a great way of advertising your ideas–again, at very low cost, given the exposure you get.

The idea of Internetworking is a new one, and is entirely related to the democratic, anarchic nature of the Net. Where before, geographical distance and complete ignorance of one another was the previous barrier that prevented like-minded people from getting together, and which forced reliance on media middlemen for information, the Internet suddenly sweeps all of that away. You get people from all over the place in touch with each other, and most important of all, comparing notes. Empowerment and direct action flow around each other–the more you can do, the more you do; the more you do, the more you want to do. It's sort of a positive feedback loop.

Sadly, for the authorities, the Internet offers precisely these types of opportunities to everyday people–exposure to foreign ideas; meeting new people; sharing interests; Internetworking–all of it means a more democratic society, but in a truer sense of the word, rather than in the sham sense of bourgeois democracy.

THE SYSTEM FIGHTS BACK

Clearly a "democratic crisis" (to use the Trilateral Commission's terminology) was occurring with the Internet, something which far exceeded the expectations of the Internet's creators (who didn't factor in the role the personal computer would play in democratizing computer power)–back when most computers were mainframes, the Internet was a safe idea, because only rich institutions had them. The personal computer messed up that cozy, tidy arrangement.

It's important to note that the evolution (or devolution) of the Internet isn't part of some Master Plot to keep us all enslaved–rather, it's a natural progression based upon two things: 1) the aversion to popular democracy inherent in the leadership of all bourgeois societies; 2) the lack of popular democracy in all bourgeois societies.

Control of communicative means, in the Age of Information, is as important as control of productive means was, in the Age of Capital. The language of the authorities puts these things on the level of "national security." It's no conspiracy–rather, it's simply a logical progression from an uncontrolled situation to a controlled one, the former being termed dangerous and bad, the latter viewed as desirable and good.

THE CDA

First came the predictable clumsy legislative efforts: Senator Exon's "Communications Decency Act" which was to put the fear of God into all of us nasty Internet iconoclasts, and show us who was boss. The rallying cry of "protect the children" was naturally invoked (as an aside, there are two rallying cries to use, when in doubt: one is "we have to protect the children" and two is "we have to fight terrorism" {the latter used to be "we have to fight Communism" but since Communism's dead, terrorism is the new buzzword of choice]). However, the CDA was struck down as unconstitutional, so it was Strike One for the ruling elite, although you can't fault them for trying.

BREAKING THE BACKBONE

Next came a more indirect, insidious attack on the Internet, which was the enclosure of it–this occurred in April of 1996, when the Internet backbone–that is, the server network that made it run, was handed over free of charge by the National Science Foundation to private providers like IBM, Sprint, MCI, Sun, and other corporate entities. The "wilderness" of the Internet suddenly became a massive Louisiana Purchase, with the existing netizens in the role of Amerindians, and the companies in the role of settlers (or, more accurately, the robber barons). This free handover went almost completely without comment in the Massive Media; I caught a couple of references to it, but little more. The handover actually paralleled what happened to radio and television–where public resources were put in private hands, for private profit, and there they remained, and will remain.

QUALITY CONTROL

Now that the Internet was in private hands, the next step was "quality control"–taming the intellectual wilderness of the Internet–to render it as safe and controllable as any other massive medium. This required more care, as the Internet was found to be of enormous use to the business community, so one couldn't be too heavy-handed, naturally. To date, several approaches have been undertaken in settling the newly privatized Internet.

First, the idea of scarcity of bandwidth was invented; this was done to raise those startup costs again, which by now you can see is a consistent theme, where the Massive Media are concerned. By raising concerns about scarcity of bandwidth, issues of "wise use" and "resource allocation" became central to the debate. It also increased the value of the property in question, by declaring there to be a limited supply of it.

Second, content control was made an issue–this is the use and abuse of censorware, popularly known as "filtering" programs. In this way, useless (e.g. noncommercial) material on the Internet could be denied an audience by declaring it objectionable, and the filtering programs allowed you to block out all sorts of material. Of course, they invoked "cyberporn" as the buzzword to get people up in arms about the apparent porn-o-rama on the Internet, but filtering programs also made it a habit to block political sites, particularly left-wing political sites, in the interests of "protecting the children" and sometimes without justification at all.

Filtering is particularly important where public access of the Internet is possible–in other words, if the economic barrier to Internet access couldn't keep most people away from it, you had to rely on something else to keep wrong ideas away from people/ The two public forums of Internet access–libraries and schools, are thus the two battlefields for the pro-filtering crowd. If you can't keep people away from the Internet, what you must do then, is make sure they can't get anything controversial on the Internet. Anything controversial becomes anything the filterware providers decide is controversial.

Third, an attack has grown whereby Internet browsing is to be displaced in favor of prepackaged, safe product and rating systems. In other words, the Internet user was to be channeled.toward sanctioned sites, instead of simply going out and looking around on their own. Self-directed exploration–browsing–was to be displaced by controlled, passive Net surfing, much the way a couch potato channel surfs. So the Internet browser goes from a direct participant–either making their own page or browsing by keywords for topics of personal interest–to a passive consumer of prepackaged, homogenous Internet product, which parallels the traditional Massive Media model.

Fourth, and related to the above, is the development of Web TV, by Microsoft. Web TV is Microsoft's answer to the computer illiteracy problem–providing the unwashed masses Web access on their televisions, so they don't have to use a computer to get to it. This area is still in development, but it will surely make issues of quality (e.g. content) control a priority, which will certainly revolve around expurgating left-wing political views from Web TV so as not to poison young and impressionable minds.

A rating system for Web TV will almost assuredly go into place, with some self-appointed censors determining what gets the nod, and what gets blocked. The rating system itself is a model of bourgeois maneuvering, in that only sites which get a rating–say, the Ford Motor Company Web page–will be accessible on Web TV. There are no bad ratings; rather, there are approved sites, and sites that just don't get rated, with the tacit assumption that they're not worth rating. This is a phenomenon common to the postindustrial "free" society–that which raises uncomfortable questions is simply ignored, rather than challenged. You can only challenge it when you can no longer ignore it.

Finally, the next front has opened in the battlefield that is the Internet, and this is Internet II–in other words, *alternatives* to the Internet. This will enable all the positive functions of the Internet to be carried out–date transfer, access to databases and libraries, etc.–without the "negative" side effects–uncontrolled popular democracy. When this change occurs, the original Internet will be in serious jeopardy, in that it will no longer be of use to Big Business–rather, they will have an alternative to it, which means that the government will then be able to intervene more forcefully, since business interests won't be threatened–only amateur, civilian, popular interests. And, since this "Alternet" will have been made specifically for business, academic, and military purposes (much like the first one was), the authorities will work to ensure that access remains restricted to these groups, so as not to repeat the same "mistake" that was made with the Internet.

CYBERFIEFS

Another parallel evolution in all of this is the Intranet–that is, the internal networks that are becoming more common; this is still being developed as well, but also poses a threat to the Internet, in that it moves from an overarching structure–the Internet–to a great void populated by secure cyberspace fiefdoms–Intranets. Access to these Intranets would be enormously restricted, instead of readily available as they are now. In fact, the first glimpse of these Intranets already exist among the more wealthy corporate enclaves, where passwords and access are tightly regulated and controlled. The evolution of the Intranet is really a corollary of the original handover–once the Internet was turned into private property, the creation of Intranets was inevitable. You staked out "your" claim, and next had to put up barbed wire around your area, and post "No Trespassing" and "Members Only" signs all over the place.

WHOOPING COUGHLIN

Alongside all of these developments is the Massive Media, who have been publicizing Internet horror stories like crazy–which, in PR circles, is called "creating the need"–in other words, you get enough people scared of the Internet, and then you can more smoothly create control mechanisms to get it under control. Sort of invoking Father Coughlin's ghost as a pretext for more control of an uncontrollable medium (or a medium that's "out of control").

What we've seen for the past few years in the media are a steady barrage of stories about children finding information on bomb-building on the Internet, hate groups on the Internet, child molesters on the Internet, wives falling in love with Internet correspondents and leaving their husbands, and so on. From the coverage, you'd think the Internet invented all of these situations–that before the Internet, there were no bombs, hate groups, child molesters, or unhappy relationships!

The media has worked hard to create an atmosphere of fear about the Internet, in order to pave the way for sterilizing it–making the Internet safe for "decent folks" to frequent, rather than the nasty, scary place it is now. It'd be an interesting sociological study to track media coverage of the Internet from around 1995 to present–perhaps someone should make a Web page on that, eh? Below are some of the issues the Massive Media have focused on, in their attack on the Internet.

BAD PRODUCT

A tactic the Massive Media have undertaken is castigating Internet "news" as unreliable and downright useless, if not wrong. This has been a consistent effort to discredit the Internet, seen most obviously with the TWA Flight 800 story, which continues to thrive on the Internet.

What Massive Media objected to most directly was new filtering out through "unauthorized" channels. The Internet is whistle blower's dream, in that there are a variety of ways of spilling the beans–you can create an e-mail and post it to listservers; you can e-mail someone and ask them to pass it along; you could file transfer sensitive materials, you can announce something on Usenet; you can pass it along to Webmasters; you can make your own Web page about a particular topic.

In other words, information control is nearly impossible when you have a functional Internet and a "wired" populace. The Massive Media responded by "warning" traditional media consumers that the Internet is an unreliable source of information, full of crazies, extremists, political weirdos, conspiracy freaks, neo-Nazis, pornographers, child molesters–all of those undesirable elements of society (interestingly enough, corporate profiteers are exempted from this rogue's gallery!)

The unspoken assertion was that if information came from the Internet, it's junk–with the also unspoken assertion that if something came from the official (e.g., professional) channel, it was thus worthwhile, and could be trusted. No "respectable" person would rely on the Internet for information–rather, you'd rely on trusted (e.g., sanctioned) channels of information. When respected Massive Media man Pierre Salinger piped up about Flight 800 information hed' obtained on the Internet, he was roundly chided and criticized by the industry.

Moreover, the implied view is that if you go out and do your own research, instead of passively relying on media middlemen, there's something wrong with you! The "normal" behavior is to simply rely on others to do the interpretation for you, for the experts to steer and guide you, and anything else is considered, in the Massive Media worldview, to be abnormal–almost seditious in character.

This attitude is entirely in keeping with bourgeois notions of "democracy"--that is, "democracy" is when you passively rely on the political middleman to represent you, and if you get out of place, or rely on other methods than that of the middleman, then you go suddenly from a good citizen to an "extremist," "anarchist," "terrorist," or "Communist." It's the same attitude in both government and media.

This response was a natural one, but has made Internet-bashing a popular activity among official media spokespeople. I recall a number of syndicated columnists writing smug pieces mocking the bad information coming from the Internet, overlooking how selective and subjective Massive Media is. The Massive Media view is that if they don't cover it, it's not news. And if you went out and got your own news, then you were an extremist.

The Internet changes all of that; the media monopoly has been challenged, and they don't like that. So their attack on the Internet's reliability has escalated (and no one will contest that there is a huge amount of junk out there; but then, there's a huge amount of junk in the Massive media, too, but somehow that's different–professional junk is okay, but amateur junk is, well, junk).

This attack on the Internet's information quality, incidentally, reflects the product-driven bias of Massive Media. The traditional view of media is as a product which is made and sold for the public (the audience of the publication being the true product, with the advertiser as the consumer of that product, in terms of ad revenue). A slickly-produced PR piece, for example, is "good media"–well-executed and effective (in terms of shaping people's attitudes and thoughts). Whereas an amateur Web page or even a newsgroup article, is derided as "bad media" simply because it's not produced in the acceptable way. If the NY Times or Time run a story, that's one thing–if Joe Smith of Detroit makes a web page on the newspaper strike, well, who does he think he is?

In short, the Massive Media most certainly aren't objective in their bias against the Internet; they rightly see it as a rival–perhaps the Fifth Estate–to their position of privilege in our society. But they mask their bias in their concern for the welfare of your children, even as their programming ensures that children will see many thousands of murders and acts of violence, and many millions of advertisements. Who do they think they are?

ENCRYPTION

The "Clipper Chip" debate was yet another area the cultural commissars explored as a "remedy" for an Internet-related problem–secret communications between people. Encryption, particularly public key encryption, exemplified by Zimmerman's PGP, cuts the authorities out of the information loop. This was considered one of the worst threats posed by the Internet–information being passed and exchanged that couldn't be intercepted and read (and the parties in question punished). Why, you could have people talking about stuff and the government wouldn't be able to eavesdrop and take notes! Certainly this kind of free exchange has no place in a free society!

The Clipper Chip was seen as the Final Solution to the "problem"–allowing a government "back door" for the government to monitor communications. Of course, to all but the most committed ideologue, the ramifications of this idea are huge, for a supposedly free society. The government justified this measure on the grounds that drug dealers and terrorists would use encryption to maintain communicative integrity, at our expense. Had the Net been around in the 50s, it would have been international Communism as the justification for such measures, but new times required new monsters to scare folks.

Fortunately, three things stymied the Clipper Chip: one was Zimmerman's free release of PGP on the Internet, which put it in people's hands even as the Justice Department sought to stop him (notice how the Net allows the average person to circumvent conventional authority?) This Johnny Appleseed approach helped PGP spread like wildfire, and basically made the Justice Department's case moot–although really the case was about them getting back at Zimmerman for doing it in the first place.

Secondly, free speech and privacy advocates of all political persuasions had a field day with the Clipper Chip, working to get this measure rendered unconstitutional. A working coalition arose around this issue, which lobbied to stall this measure.

Finally, Big Business didn't want the government able to snoop on their correspondence, which really helped scuttle the Clipper Chip. It's one thing for everyday people to oppose government invasions of their privacy; quite another for companies to voice their disapproval–after all, companies fund congressmen, and the quickest way to a "representative's" ear is to tug on their purse strings.

ANONYMOUS REMAILERS

One control mechanism (e.g., "safeguard") the authorities relied on was that if you sent something on the Internet, you could be found and held accountable. However, the existence of anonymous remailers threatened that, in allowing a person to post something covertly, and for them to be potentially untraceable.

Once more, phantom terrorists and drug dealers were conjured up as the justification for sacking remailers, in our interest again. Some noted remailer providers were sacked by some governments, and their records searched, in an effort to determine who were behind the anonymous accounts.

An effort was also put into play where anonymity was being used, to make it unseemly–again, the idea being if you weren't willing to stand behind you beliefs, that there's either something wrong with you, or something wrong with what you're espousing.

However, this overlooks the considerable attacks that governments of the world, particularly the US government, levies against activist groups. It's risky to be an activist in this type of "free" society–anonymity has its attractions.

Moreover, what's interesting is that government secrecy is seen as okay, whereas civilian secrecy is seen as criminal. The CIA continues to operate on a covert budget, under the aegis of national security. This is taken as normal and defensible, even though the CIA has a consistent track record of assassinations, violations of international law, coups, and wars under its collective belt. But if Joe Citizen desires secrecy, then he's a criminal, obviously, and must be watched more closely. It's a power trip inherent with all the authoritarians–they exempt themselves from the rules they impose on the rest of us.

A WORK IN PROGRESS

These strategies are still coalescing: they have not fully come together as of yet, but the savants are still working on it. There is a paradox in all of this–for example, RAND speaks of the value of the Internet in democratizing our society, while at the same time seeking to render it a safe medium, as controllable as the others. In other words, they want the Internet to energize our "democratic" institutions, but their understanding of what democracy is and means in antithetical to true democracy.

What's making this a real concern to those in power is that more people are accessing the Net every month; the size of the "virtual community" continues to expand, and new issues are arising faster than legislators can keep track of them. Moreover, as more people get onto the Net, monitoring agencies like the CIA, FBI, and NSA will find it progressively more difficult to watch everyone, particularly if more and more people use PGP and other public key encryption programs. Clearly, from their perspective, this process must be stopped before it gets completely out of control.

The end result, if everything proceeds according to the overall designs of the authorities, is this: by the time, by virtue of declining costs, everyday working people get their own computers and Internet access, the Net should be as "safe" as any other conventional medium–which is to say, devoid of popular democracy, and jam-packed with commercial enterprise. Only those with the economic clout to garner access will be able to create Web pages (e.g., product) on the Internet. It will become a "members only" club like all the other Massive Media.

Instead of a public forum, it ought to be, if all things go as expected, more like the world's largest shopping mall. To those who control our society, this is as democratic as the Internet should ever get.

Case in Point

In this talk about how the Internet facilitates communication between disparate individuals and groups on a level that the Massive Media simply won't accept, looking at what has gone into the creation of this issue is revealing:

For example, on contributor, Andrew Flood, lives in Dublin, Ireland. I live in Chicago, Joe Average lives in Kentucky, Alexis in Philadelphia, and Chuck lives in Maryland. I have never ''physically'' met any of these people, yet here we are working together to create a publication.

How do we know each other? Through the Internet, of course. I first saw Andrew on the Usenet newsgroup, alt.society.anarchy. I ran into Chuck via anarchy-list, an online listserver. We correspond through e-mail, and in the course of making this issue, file transferred copies of the articles to each other for editing and revision. Andrew, Chuck, and I all have our own anarchist Web pages, which we maintain and update as we see fit – they are all "works in progress" – there is no endpoint with them, as new information constantly arises, and we update them regularly.

Now, if the Internet wasn't around, I would not know that Chuck or Andrew even existed. We would have been operating in our respective areas, isolated in a variety of ways – through geography, vocation, residence, etc. In fact, pre-Internet, we could all have been in the same city (assuming a big city, like Chicago or New York) and might not have known about each other.

So, you see, the Internet possesses enormous potential for people to network with one another, and to translate that initial contact into concrete action. This is exactly the "threat" that so worries the authorities – something they are working to undo even as you read this.

NEXT UP

Part Two: Infowarriors

Dave
Anarchy for Anybody
http://www.radio4all.org/anarchy/

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Dave Neal
Publication: 
Practical Anarchy
Publication Year: 
1997