In the previous entry, I talked about how wikileaks opponents were breaking the law and called for appropriate governance when it comes to dealing with the organization. I tried to bring the conversation back to a realm where wikileaks could literally have its day in court, allowing all of us to see it being given due process.
However, asking that the government follow proper governance is not the same as endorsing the actions of all Wikileaks supporters. And in this entry, I look at how the pro-wikileaks side is on the wrong side of the law.
Much has been made in the past week of the response by Anonymous, a hacktivist collective that has been using its own tools to shut down web sites of companies that were opposed to Wikileaks.
Using a process called Distributed Denial of Services (or DDOS, for short), these groups would basically send a lot of traffic to a web server, effectively overloading it until the server was unable to server regular customer. Many have compared it to massive sit-ins, where the goal is to disrupt business operations by making it impossible for customers to perform business with the target.
I personally have quite a few issues with that strategy: for starters, I do not believe that lawlessness on the part of wikileaks opponents is appropriate justification for lawlessness on the part of its supporters. My view is that to take those types of moves is to take a road that essentially lead to anarchy (as an aside, many have compared anonymous to V, the anarchist in “V for Vendetta”).
We are a society largely based on laws. A few centuries ago, brave men and women defied an empire to establish the United States as a country based on principles of free expression and a free press. Those very rights were embedded in the US constitution, giving its citizenry great power.
But, as any Spiderman follower knows, with great power comes great responsibility. So while we do have a right to free expression and a free press, we, as citizen do not have a right to abuse. And the freedom of expression does not constitute a free pass on lawlessness under the guise of free expression.
Some have claimed that the actions of anonymous are a form of civil disobedience. My question here is simple: if the people behind anonymous truly believe that their actions constitute acts of civil disobedience, why are they performing them anonymously?
To truly perform civil disobedience, one must be willing to be arrested for your action. The veil of secrecy fails that test (and amusingly enough, seems to be the very thing that wikileaks is trying to tear down).
To claim that anonymous DDOS is similar to civil disobedience acts undertaken by protesters in the physical world also feels like it diminishes the actions of people who have performed civil disobedience in the past.
Let’s take two people:
Of those two people, which one is the more defiant of government control? Each equality believes in his/her cause but the level of comfort in their support is radically different. Drop the veil of anonymity and that comfort goes away, creating a situation where both models are more in line with each other.
A last question that I would throw into this mix is the one of motives. The veil of anonymity makes it easier to question the motives of the anonymous party. If it is fear of prosecution that forces you to hide, then you are not committing an act of disobedience: you are only breaking the law and being a coward. However, if you are hiding because your intents are different, then you are not only breaking the law but you are using this merely as a cover up for your true intent and that, in itself, should be enough to prosecute you with no justification for your side.
© Tristan Louis 1994-present Some rights reserved.