Monday, December 13, 2010

Wikileaks (virtual world) versus lynching the Prince of Wales (real world)

David Seaton's News Links
On Saturday the 11th of December, about 50 people demonstrated in favor of Julian Assange in front of the US Embassy in London. The demonstration was organized on the Internet. 

Two days before, in the same city, a crowd of rioting students nearly lynched the Prince of Wales and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall. The royal couple's bodyguards were at the point of drawing their guns... imagine the political repercussions if they had smoked a few students... or had even fired warning shots into the air.

Before going any farther I must say that nobody loves the Internet more than I do. Thanks to the Net I have been able to triple my modest income, not to speak of all the fun and opportunities for self-expression that I have found on it. Having said that, I have lately become a bit skeptical about the political power of the Internet.

This recent skepticism of mine has it origins last spring, when the Spanish right wing was trying to crucify Judge Garzón. There was immediately a page in FaceBook supporting him and thousands of people "friended" it. Shortly after its online, viral success, this page, with thousands of "friends" and an enthusiastic stream of hourly outpourings of support on its wall, called for a demonstration of support for judge Garzón in a plaza in the center of Madrid, near the Court House, where Garzón had his offices. The page was all abuzz, you thought we were about to storm the Winter Palace.... The wife and I got on a bus and went... about twenty other people actually showed up.

Not long after that the major left wing institutions: trade unions, political parties etc, organized a demonstration for Garzón in the Puerta del Sol: the official center of Spain, and my wife and I went to that one too... thousands upon thousands of other people showed up too. This demonstration made a big difference, the right still want to crucify him, but they are more afraid to make their move now.

This experience was the filter through which I have observing all of this. Virtual people are virtual people and real people are real people was the conclusion I came to.

Wikileaks and the hacktivists that are attacking Twitter and MasterCard etc are going to do little more in the medium and long run than make some people very rich. Anyone who comes up with the technical answers to making the net secure for governments and large corporations will now not only have the blessing of China and Russia, but also of the USA and the EU and carte blanche, unlimited budget. This will make the net less fun and less free, but governments are not going to fall. That only happens when people actually take it to the streets.

But, Englishmen physically attacking the Prince of Wales... That is significant. England is not Czarist Russia or Bourbon France... The English don't do that sort of thing... Till they do it. 

Except in black neighborhoods during the 60s, Americans don't take it to the streets either, just like the English don't try to beat up the heir to their throne, right?


Here is how an old hound whose been around, Arnaud de Borchgrave, succinctly describes the present situation:
The progressive Paladin in the White House is no more. There are 15 million jobless and even more if one counts those whose benefits have run out and those who have stopped looking. There are several million of still vigorous over 50 who can see neither job nor retirement benefits for the rest of their lives.
Friend Beetlejuice sent me this text from  a very interesting article in TruthDig by Columbia University professor Moshe Adler entitled "Low Taxes are the Problem, Not the Solution":
"It is not inconceivable that 13 months from now, after the extension of unemployment benefits expires, the Obama/Republican plan will result in the kind of street riots we’ve begun to see across Europe, led here by the unemployed. The larger-than-ever deficit will make renewing the extension of unemployment benefits unacceptable, particularly to a Republican-dominated House. University students fed up with higher tuitions and employed workers fed up with the high prices for government services could even join in. In an economy with an impoverished middle class and political instability, investors will become even harder to find."
I am not belittling the significance of the harm that WikiLeaks has done to elite communication and the harm it may do to some governments who will be embarrassed to have their citizens become aware of their subservience to Washington, but those 25 million jobless and "vigorous" over 50s that de Borchgrave is talking about could care less. When They get violent, then things will move... they may get much, much worse, with real repression and the US Army being employed in American streets under Bush's Homeland Security Act but they will move. When they break out the tear gas and the rubber bullets, mouse pushing is willy pulling.

So that is why I take the attack on the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall more seriously than the DNS attacks by "Anonymous".

Zeitgeist it is called. DS


Anonymous said...

I don't know. Logically, you'd think that when Americans are left with nothing they'd finally act, but I can't picture the course of events that gets there from here.

I live in a rural area about 25 miles from Washington DC. Except for those people who are federal employees and commute from here because it's a cheap place to live, people here are poor. Local facilities are mostly limited to gas stations, dollar stores, dozens of small churches of flamboyantly-named denominations you've never heard of, and fast food. So local job opportunities are awful. Once the commuters have left for the day, people here walk everywhere, regardless of distance or weather or the lack of sidewalks or even shoulders, because cars are out of reach and there is no public transit. With the exception of a few rather out of place McMansion developments that are themselves slowly becoming depopulated, housing is small-scale, old, and increasingly bank-owned and falling apart seeing as just because the bank puts your house up for sale doesn't mean anyone wants to buy it. So everything falls into neglect and disrepair.

About 50 meters from where I'm writing this, my next door neighbors are sitting outside their house, warming themselves around an open fire made of branches they scavenged from the woods. Their house has been foreclosed, their electricity and water have been cut off, and they are living in their own front yard. They are far from being the only people round here living in the shell of properties they once owned, dependent on what they can forage, and the goodwill of neighbors.

And inasmuch as they are in any way political, they're Republicans. They like that George W Bush showed the world that America knows how to kick ass. But that's all politics is. They don't seem to link their own dire situation with what goes on in the White House just 30 miles up the road. They know how rotten things are in their lives, but they don't seem to view it in any political context. If there is a wider context to daily life here, it's not politics, but religion, which is ubiquitous, and I think that's a big difference between here and Europe. And it's not a questioning, striving sort of religion, but the kind of religion that circumvents challenging thoughts by attributing everything to the will of God, and so tends to make people quiescent rather than critical...

Anonymous said...

...Like a lot of people round here, none of my neighbors finished high school. They are functionally illiterate and only bought a house in the first place because the grandparents could read, and took care of the day-to-day administrative stuff. (So we're regressing by generations). And since the grandparents died, no-one in the family seemed able to grasp what you had to do to keep a household functioning. So they have no education or training or even basic life skills. For employment they relied on casual labor in the booming construction industry, where you could always get another job if you got fired, which they did with some regularity because of their own admittedly crappy work habits. So they have no resume to offer either. And when construction collapsed, they ran a small scale prescription drugs franchise out of their house which brought them to the attention of the local sheriff which dragged them into a whole new slew of problems. When people in Washington reduce the unemployment issue to a matter of deserving v. undeserving poor, you can see where my neighbors might fall, but the whole debate is irrelevant. The point is that - no matter how they got there - we are seeing develop a group of people whose problem is not "just" that they are unemployed, but that they are completely disarmed of any of the practical or informational resources that would allow them to actively shape what happens in their own lives.

So it's hard for me to imagine the unemployed rebelling. It's not that people are necessarily apathetic, but they're unarmed (I mean in things like useful education, intelligent political discourse) and bombarded with jingoism and bread and circuses nonsense. And beyond the deficit in political awareness, there are the practical problems of always being cold and tired and sick and having all your energies taken up with just getting by. Every year here we have an event where they put up a sort of big top tent in the supermarket parking lot and for one weekend uninsured people (and people who are insured but have found out that having insurance doesn't necessarily mean you get treatment) can come and get some basic health care from volunteer medical staff. It's a big event, and this is how thousands of people get their basic needs met. It's not just that people are apathetic, but I think perhaps they are overwhelmed by a situation that seems utterly beyond the means of ordinary people to influence. If salvation is from the proles, I can't imagine what the process is going to be that gets us from here to there. If you're talking however about a general descent into violent disorder for everybody outside of the gated communities, rather than some kind of political awakening expressed through violence, that would be easier to envisage.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

For the misery of these people you mention to have any significant impact would require the existence of a classic "vanguard of the proletariat". There was no group of people more downtrodden and apathetic than the serfs of Russia and look what happened when somebody organized them.

bailey alexander said...

Protesting is key, of course. I can recall marching in 2003, walking throughout all the grand piazzas of Rome, for 8 hours, against the war, in unison with, I dunny, maybe a million, 2.

Went home that nite, turned on the tele, boh! Silvio had eliminated all media coverage. Do not think for a minute that man is any more corrupt or able to control his media empire more than any other leader in the western world.

I find 4Chan fascinating. Otherwise known as 'anonymous', those pimply faced, undersexed geeks, telling Mum they're going to chat on FB....and listen, coders and geeks will always come up with better code, there is no endgame with them. There is always a better solution. Always, nothing will be sealed, ever.

I with you were right about the protesting, but again, must agree to disagree. The Royals? Who cares? Maybe it's because I lived on the top floor in Seattle when WTO happened, I had three terraces and on that nite I ran from one to the next watching it unfold, the anarchists had entered the fold. So what. Just gives gov'ts more ammunition to stop protests. Which the English will do.

I'm so happy I grew up in America, where else could I have made such stuff happen, but having lived, banked, posted, argued with so many neighbors in so many countries, I realize how docile, how truly docile and one dimensional is our thinking, I sometimes wonder if this has something to do with our educational system, almost all multiple choice, no essay, no way to broaden the reference points.

The whole TSA think kills me, it's like having lived and studied in London some 25 yrs ago, having traveled and having done biz there, watching it unfold consistently, constantly for 25 yrs. I would say to my friends when visiting, 'don't the cameras bother you'.

"Why no, I've nothing to hide."

LOL, it's just so incremental, the rights are given away so casually..