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A HOWTO for Geek Political Involvement

By radar bunny in MLP
Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 05:26:23 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

I've just completed a first version of a HOWTO entitled Tech Political Involvement HOWTO. It's located at http://freeweb.pdq.net/blast/howto. I am really interested in what the K5 community feels about something like this, and what they feel has been or needs to be left out.


This HOWTO has basically been born out of two articles others have posted and a few comments I have made. The two articles of most importance are:

Giving Cyberspace a voice

Politics lacks intelligence, geeks look the other way

Others have been posted, but these were the two primary ones.

The HOWTO is broken down into five parts with heavy emphasis on the different types of actions that can be taken. It breaks down the government into it's three branches and points out where each can be influenced. Admittedly, it is very US centric, but it is my HOWTO on affecting my government. To anyone that takes issues with this, I would welcome you to create one for your government.

What ever happens, what ever you do--- do something. There are a lot of ideas in here for getting things done, and they all involved doing more than sitting in chat rooms or on websites and complaining. remember, politics is a system, and it's very hackable.

This Document is being released freely for others to do what they will with it. It is currently v.5 as I have just completed the core aspects of it. I plan on adding sections for dealing with the press, and even a section on how to actually run for office. However, I am also asking for any input everyone here at K5 might have.

Thanks

dk jensen

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Poll
if interested enough in an issue, I'm willing to
o complain 11%
o vote 4%
o write my congressman 15%
o help others run for office 8%
o run for office myself 8%
o start a scandal 3%
o bribe someone 2%
o break out a molitov cocktail 44%

Votes: 107
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o http://fre eweb.pdq.net/blast/howto
o Giving Cyberspace a voice
o Politics lacks intelligence, geeks look the other way
o Also by radar bunny


Display: Sort:
A HOWTO for Geek Political Involvement | 42 comments (32 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
Like the idea of... (2.75 / 8) (#11)
by paul on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 05:52:29 AM EST

the political system as being a hackable one

A brief thought however: (according to Jon Katz, no flames now, this happens to be a viable opinion) young tech savvy voters are on no one's political agenda. I think that i agree with this (discard it as an opinion of a naive 16 year old) but the thing is that would I want to be on someone's political agenda? Would I want to be lied to about issues I care about if/when I go to the voting booth in 2 years, and from then on? I have formed the opinion that no one intelligent runs for office that doesn't want something out of it and win. So there are three qualifications here: intelligence - strategery, 'nuff said, wanting something out of office - be it image, power, whatever; and the last part about winning - seems like the majority of the people is afraid to have a leader who is smarter then them, or one who does not have a self gratifying plan and therefore must lack leadership abilities. (it still kills me to have heard a bush supporter say that they didn't want to vote for gore because he was [too much like a career politician].) So I really think that actual hacking of the system is required before we can make the changes we want, we need the whole political system changed, IMO, it is just unlikely that our votes will overpower those of uninformed or misinformed Americans (I can't speak for this being a problem elsewhere). It's a given that I lack the expertise in this, as well as other matters and concepts in general but the biggest difference between me and some of the other (future) voters is that I am willing to acknowledge my mistakes, and learn, whereas most other people don't change their opinion, or even form one. With that said, this is probably someone else's rant and battle, but the fact that it stuck with me must mean something, no? The education of the whole country is a bit discouraging, is it possible to eliminate ignorance and apathy (just within our ranks may be a start, but I'm talking about the country as a whole) If not, then we need to rethink the political process that we use, and alter it. Control is an issue, as we lack it, but that will change with time and education.

Your vote (1) was recorded.
This story currently has a total score of 81.

You're the straw that broke the camel's back!
Your vote put this story over the threshold, and it should now appear on the front page. Enjoy!

--Paul Ivanov

----------Differential Manchester?
I.I..II..II..II.
00101010
erroneous cynicism (1.00 / 1) (#38)
by streetlawyer on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 07:36:45 AM EST

I have formed the opinion that no one intelligent runs for office that doesn't want something out of it and win

On the basis of what evidence? Come on, you're so keen to convince us all that you're a rational, issue-oriented person, who's so utterly superior than those stupid, lying, self-interested politicians. Perhaps you'd care to write up the extensive research you did into the motivations and intelligence of political leaders this century and put it on the web.

This sort of cynicism doesn't make you appear clever and worldly-wise -- it just makes you look intellectually lazy and mean-spirited to boot. The truth of the matter is that most politicians are either extremely intelligent or extremely hard-working (which amounts to the same thing). And most politicians could earn a lot more outside politics; they are in the game because they have a view of how the world should be, and they think it's important. To accuse them of "wanting something out of it" is silly; if you'd done a scrap of research instead of just repeating platitudes, you'd know this.

I know the poster is only fifteen, and this post may be considered harsh. But it's justifiably harsh. The young should always be forgiven for over-enthusiasm, lack of knowledge or naivete. They should never be forgiven laziness or cynicism.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

I forfeit my statement (none / 0) (#41)
by paul on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 10:35:27 PM EST

I am sorry to have pushed a button here.
The young should always be forgiven for over-enthusiasm, lack of knowledge or naivete. They should never be forgiven laziness or cynicism.
Can one not be cynical if he does not know any better? Will you not forgive me if I learn from this? I thought that I was pretty clear about the post being the opinion I have formed, and was it not my right to share that opinion with others, so as to get feedback from people such as yourself? Thank you for yet another good point, about my youth. I am not yet a voter, it is not my responsibility, nor is it part of my civil duty to understand and follow politics. I do appreciate the constructive criticism (although it had it's own lack of evidence) but I urge to rethink your position about what youth should and should not be forgiven for. You can excuse over-enthusiasm with youth, just don't forgive it, I don't it's not your place to judge (which is what it sounded to me like you were doing). Hard not to be cynical, when using the [according to you invalid] technique of qui bonum when learning about a capitalist country (from a communist background). I'm just here to learn though, not to be forgiven, and i don't belief one should forgive based on age (when will I cease to be young?).
Paul
----------Differential Manchester?
I.I..II..II..II.
00101010
[ Parent ]
The mainstream geek community (4.30 / 10) (#12)
by JohnHopfrog on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 07:23:39 AM EST

Hello,

I feel that there is a particular danger in such concepts. I value the internet world because of its freedom for the individual. But "geeks" seems to be converging to common goals - use linux, protest against big cooperations etc. Such HOWTOs are defining your life - they are making the geeks a community, where the collective voice becomes more important than the individual voice. I am suspicious of people who label themselves geeks and feel that they belong to a community that needs to protect itself. We do not need a geek group or a geek leader. If a person is interested in an issue, he can lobby and get enough supporters to get it through, but not through HOWTOs, which will later become increasingly formal as the size of the community increases.

John Hopfrog

Groups are Good (3.50 / 6) (#14)
by Khedak on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 10:25:56 AM EST

There's nothing wrong with free association. As long as any geek can enter the group and leave it at will, there's no problem. It's when geeks try to bully other geeks into doing things that they really don't agree with that problems occur. If geeks have similar interests, then it makes sense for them to cooperate. I for one disagree with this HOWTO, and I think that although your concern about geek beliefs becoming dogma is apt and important, just remember that it's not dogma yet. Leaders aren't necessary, but sometimes groups (horizontally organized of course) are quite useful.

[ Parent ]
Re: The mainstream geek community (4.00 / 3) (#15)
by radar bunny on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 12:14:10 PM EST

they are making the geeks a community, where the collective voice becomes more important than the individual

We do not need a geek group or a geek leader


I intentionally left out anything on how to bring geeks together and unite them and intentionally put in there that many geeks have vaired interest in the different issues. The idea that someone would try and speak for me is one that gets under my skin and I have always had problems with people who "come down from the mountain to enlighten us" or some crap like that. This howto was intended as a basic if YOU are interested in getting involved and affecting the issues then here are some legal opotions YOU might want to consider. If YOU dont want to get involved then you're free to whipe your ass with this HOWTO so to speak :o).

[ Parent ]
What is missing ? (4.50 / 2) (#18)
by mami on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 01:49:29 PM EST

What I would expect from the geek community (let's say from real programmer and IT experts, who are used to write code and think logically and being creative in finding solutions) is that they analyze legal code and its influence on political manifestations of people's will with as much scrutiny as they would do with their own code to analyze their program's output ? Which code causes what kind of result ?

I haven't seen that discussion. Nobody seems to discuss the questions about how the current legal code determines the way the political will of the people is represented.

That amazes me even more, as so many in the geek community voice the opinion that their political thoughts are not represented. No one discusses why. If it's a design question, then logically one would have to ask in how far it is ethical to have the courage to mark certain legal code as "bad design" . Then one would have to ask the question if there is a defined process to change the legal code with an acceptable, reasonable chance to succeed. If the overwhelming answer is no, (what many lawyers seem to think as soon as it comes to constitutional amendments, especially to federal ones), then one would have to ask, if it is unethical not to obey the laws which one has analyzed as being wrongly designed the purpose they have been established for.

Just to make an analogy from an outsider's point of view. One of the main justifications of the German's WWII generation to their children (that's mine, I am same age as President Clinton) , when asked why didn't you try to oppose the Nazis, was that they (the tweny something people in the 1930's) just obeyed the law and we were afraid of repercussions (loss of job, incarceration etc.).

The argument that you have to obey the law no matter what, is one which has to be considered with great care. Of course I don't preach civil disobedience or anarchistic, mob-like protest. But at least exploring all legal avenues to change legal code to represent the fair and just cause and discuss those avenues in public, I would have expected.

That has not happened in the "geek" community. The HOW-TO doesn't address this either. I don't know why, but either this community doesn't exist or is very young or is not as analytical as I thought.

[ Parent ]
what's the origin of this concept of "geek&qu (none / 0) (#20)
by monkeyfish on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 02:24:48 PM EST

as a body politic, or even as a community? the first i heard of this idea was from senor jon katz in a wired article. i, too, find it a little hard to swallow.

first, because i suspect that the thread of interest in technology may be too weak to hold together such a diverse community in any kind of meaningful political struggle. i.e., i'm a fairly staunch liberal, and i imagine there are likewise staunch conservatives who read this site (i know they're on /.) . maybe technology is enough of an intersection of interests to bind us, but i have my doubts.

second, i've never really self-identified myself as a geek. though i grew up as a voracious sci-fi/fantasy reader and avid student, i always felt pretty good about myself and my friends, though in some cases we were outside of the norm. to me, using the word "geek" to describe this online intellectual community reeks of self-pity, and a desire to see one's self in the role of victim. it *is* easier to motivate one's self when you feel you're the underdog, but shit, i always just thought i was cool and a free-thinker. anyone else?

third, looking at the list of issues in your document, which looks like a solid list, these aren't identity politics issues, as "geek" would suggest, but technical and free speech issues. so, what defines "geek"? is this an identity politics community? does it include non-technical people who are active online? is it only technical people? is a 27 yr. old black, female, punk-rock listening coder from new york in the same interest group as a 50 yr. old white male fundamentalist christian it manager in tennessee? (these are two people actual people that i know)

[ Parent ]

what about GREEKS? (1.66 / 3) (#22)
by monkeyfish on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 02:33:31 PM EST

i think it's time for a greek political leader to rise and lead this nation! who shall be our agamemnon? my blood quickens at the very thought of storming troy.

[ Parent ]
Downplays Corruption (4.11 / 9) (#13)
by Khedak on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 10:15:29 AM EST

A very nicely written FAQ, if you accept without question that "working within the system" can always achieve your goal. All of the things he recommended are of course viable routes of action, but he doesn't (or does only very briefly) consider other forms of action such as, but not limited to:

  • Increasing Peer Awareness (although I assume that's what he intends the FAQ to do)
  • Political criticism (paper and electronic)
  • Supporting alternatives (if you don't closed-sourced OS's, support free OS's)

These are all very broad categories, which are perfectly legal, and were not addressed by the author. But what really annoys me is the way he dismisses (with no references or support for his claims) the theory that special interests play too large a role in government to ignore. He asserts that the primary influencing factor for the majority of elected officials is the public's genuine opinion (as opposed to the public's influenced opinion through advertising and campaigning). Special interests don't just target politicians, they target constituents as well.

Not only that, but besides this he dismisses in barely half a sentence any revolutionary means of resistance or insurrection. He insists that if you break the law to make your point, you must pay the penalty. He doesn't say why, he simply assumes that we will accept the law as a matter of course. If we illegally download MP3's using napster or similar agents, we should be ready to pay $500k per infraction. I say that's bullshit. And beyond that, he even says that civil disobedience has only been "occasionally useful", and in two sentences is done with his coverage of the issue.

I guess my point is, I see no evidence that this person actually has any experience in effecting political change. His FAQ may be useful for some, but not for those who have a fundemental gripe with the political system, or the system of law enforcement and lawsuit.

mos def (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by monkeyfish on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 02:38:30 PM EST

i'd like to add in response, to radar_bunny's thought, "Second, most smart congresmen know that the people elect them", i'd say that most smart congressmen know where their bread is buttered (i.e., special interest groups). when campaign finance is of such importance to winning an election, moneyed interests can't be swept under the table as a "prevailing myth"

[ Parent ]
Civil disobedience (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by infinitewaitstate on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 12:39:13 AM EST

Not only that, but besides this he dismisses in barely half a sentence any revolutionary means of resistance or insurrection. He insists that if you break the law to make your point, you must pay the penalty. He doesn't say why, he simply assumes that we will accept the law as a matter of course. If we illegally download MP3's using napster or similar agents, we should be ready to pay $500k per infraction. I say that's bullshit. And beyond that, he even says that civil disobedience has only been "occasionally useful", and in two sentences is done with his coverage of the issue.

Civil disobedience seems to be a major issue people are not happy with regards to the article.

The one thing that gets to me is that a fair number of people who mention this seem to miss out on the fundamentals of civil disobedience. Firstly, it is a last reasort, second, it is (usually, and preferrably) non-violent, thirdly, you have to be willing to pay the consequences. Encycleopedia Britannica has this to say on the matter.

To me, it's the 2nd and 3rd points that are the most relevant.

First off, if you can't find a non-violent means of protesting, then you've lost, simply because you are showing that you cannot articulate dissent in a positive, or even socially acceptable manner. People don't react well to children throwing tantrums; adults don't need to pull hair to show their frustration.

Secondly, if you do not have the strength of you own moral convictions, why do it? It obviously doesn't much to you. The difference between a crusader and an opportunist is that former will stick to his or her guns, and hence will find admirers, while the latter will wander off when they no longer are getting the attention they feel is owed them.

Sure, this is more of a MLP, but perhaps people should look up the classical definition of something, especially when discussing an issue that has a long history (both positive and negative) in modern democratic thought.


---
... but then again, what do I know?
[ Parent ]

Another link (none / 0) (#34)
by sugarman on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 04:10:28 PM EST

thirdly, you have to be willing to pay the consequences.

Definetly the point. I love this quote:

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.

--sugarman--
[ Parent ]
Illegal != Immoral (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by Khedak on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 07:05:54 PM EST

I did not claim that my views represented the classical school of thought (or any school of thought) about civil disobedience. Your assertion seems to be that sensible adults will not use violence or do anything illegal. That's a childishly simple view. Example: You are a Jew in a concentration camp. Does it make sense for me to tell you to work within the system to protect your interests? Or should you take any opportunity to break the rules? Jews were frequently told in concentration camps that if they worked hard enough they would be let free. This was of course a lie.

You say that if I can't find a non-violent means, then I have lost. Does that mean that the American revolution was a failure? Plus, I wasn't only talking about violence, but all illegal means. Will the author of censored material by more successful if they stop distributing the material, obeying the censorship? Or should they defy the censorship and spread the word? And if you think censorship doesn't exist in the United States, you're wrong. It's mainly confined to state laws about hate speech and drug information, which you may or may not agree with, but you certainly can't say that Racists have 'lost' if they continue to propogate their racist propaganda. Rather, the censorship is designed to eradicate the racism. Also consider the underground railroad in the south, an illegal means of transporting escaped slaves. Are you saying that slaves would be more effectively freed without this illegal method of support? Clearly that doesn't follow. There are plenty of examples of succesful violent and non-violent illegal movements that have effected positive change. Don't you agree?

[ Parent ]
Morality and Legality (none / 0) (#39)
by infinitewaitstate on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 09:17:31 AM EST

I never asserted that sensible adults don't break the law. I'm all for civil disobedience. IIRC it was Thoreau who asserted that it was necessary at times, and in times of oppression, the duty of rational men.

Civil disobedience *is* about breaking the law. Otherwise how is it disobedience? - "Yeah, Hank, let's be bad and cross with the lights, that'll show 'em!"

My point was that civil disobedience need not be violent; in fact violent civil disobedience should only be the last resort.

And, yes, I know, the Holy American Revolution, was started by an act of civil disobedience. OTOH Martin Luther King Jr. protested much more aggressive systemic and social oppression without resorting to violence.

Both are valid points, however, in an allegedly "enlightened" era, there is <u>almost always</u> non-violent means of achieving goals, so why not explore and exhaust those first before even discussing violence?

As to the morality aspect... You said "If we illegally download MP3's using napster or similar agents, we should be ready to pay $500k per infraction. I say that's bullshit." Civil disobedience without a willingness to bear the consequences is, as you put it, "bullshit". If you aren't willing to pay the price, then don't do it. You're not engaging in civil disobedience, you're just rationalizing being a petty criminal, since the morality of the act is obviously not important enough to you.


---
... but then again, what do I know?
[ Parent ]

Simple act, simple consequence (2.50 / 2) (#40)
by Khedak on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 12:24:59 PM EST

As to the morality aspect... You said "If we illegally download MP3's using napster or similar agents, we should be ready to pay $500k per infraction. I say that's bullshit." Civil disobedience without a willingness to bear the consequences is, as you put it, "bullshit". If you aren't willing to pay the price, then don't do it. You're not engaging in civil disobedience, you're just rationalizing being a petty criminal, since the morality of the act is obviously not important enough to you.

I would agree with you if MP3's were a highly charged moral issue, but they are not. I consider their illegality to be ludicrous in the extreme. It's as if someone made breathing air punishable by death. Compeletely ridiculous. Surely you don't believe that all just men should die, in this extreme example. If MP3 copying were a "high crime" then yes, your argument would bear weight because the just being imprisoned for it would lead to reform, but as it stands, it's obvious that the system is punishing people for it so heavily that no private individual can break the law in the name of civil disobedience unless then have $500k handy. That's how the law was set up. The punishment should fit the crime, and if it does, then your argument bears weight. But with patently stupid laws like these, what do you suggest? "Well, if they execute you for breathing, a just man will die." seems to be what you would say. From the point of view of civil disobedience, sure, that's our only logical course of action. But as I said before, I believe in going beyond that level.

But you're telling me that downloading illegal MP3's makes me a "petty thief" and that if I was really concerned with the matter I should be willing to go to jail for 5 years or pay $500,000 or both for every MP3 I download? Please explain your rationale. You should get off your damned high horse and think about what you're saying. We're talking about effecting change, this isn't a moral dick-measuring contest. And until you address effectiveness, I don't think we have anything to discuss. Downloading MP3's is not violent, so the first four paragraphs of your post didn't address it at all, you dismiss it in the last as petty theft without explaining why. Explain why. It makes no sense to me. If everyone is downloading MP3's, and the music industry is unharmed (as nearly all estimates show it to be), then won't public awareness of this fact be useful in effecting change? Most of the people I know are opposed to the DMCA and such because they use napster. They don't say "Oh, that's immoral, you're a petty thief. I am going to write my congressman and go pay $17 for another Britney Spears CD". This doesn't just mean self-interest. It's communal. Sharing of information. If that's a crime, then so be it, but you tell me I should be willing to go to jail? I say "No." Explain why, without vagueness about who has the moral highground, in terms of effectivenes.

[ Parent ]
Suggestions? (2.00 / 4) (#16)
by hardcase on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 12:43:14 PM EST

To me, the idea of a HOWTO for political activisim seems kind of oxymoronic, particularly since "geeks" tend to be smarter than the average citizen, but for those who can't decide what to do first, maybe it's not such a bad idea.

However...if you are serious about this as a guide for people to use for knowledge, take some time and check your spelling and grammar. Little errors are hard to find and easy to forgive, but there are some huge, glaring misspellings and grammar errors!

=h=

haha dont make me laugh (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by maketo on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 02:25:46 PM EST

"Geeks tend to be smarter than the average citizen"...

Before I break doen in tears of laughter, care to explain this common attitude? Based on what? On the inability to do your job? On the 99% out of 100% software full of crap and bugs? On the number of geek-made-millionaires? What is your statement based on? I find __some__ geeks to be smart, just like there are __some__ people smart in each social group or profession. But overall, lately geeks seem to be the ones with the most attitude, not brains. Just because the times favour a profession does not mean that its members are all good.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
[ Parent ]
Laugh if You Want (none / 0) (#24)
by hardcase on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 02:58:16 PM EST

Based on what?

Based on personal observation. Script kiddies and 1337 haX0rs aside, almost every person that I've met who fits what I feel is the definition of a "geek" is smarter than what I believe is the population norm. Some are smarter than others, but as a whole, the geek population that I've met (and it's a pretty large number, I think) is pretty smart.

Quality of software isn't a measure of "smartness". I guess I could ask you what your basis of measuring "crap and bugs" is, but I understand what you're saying...just as you can understand what I said (but apparently chose not to). Geek-made-millionaires? I don't know any. But I know what I've seen and I know those whom I've met. And I'd say that my sample size is large enough to make an extrapolation to the population.

I stand by what I said. As a sample, the "geek" population is smarter than the population as a whole.

[ Parent ]

werd up (none / 0) (#27)
by monkeyfish on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 05:54:51 PM EST

back in the day, being a blacksmith was pretty cool, too. when was the last time you saw a blacksmith outside of a renaissance fair?

[ Parent ]
"Smarter than..." (none / 0) (#33)
by sab39 on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 02:29:53 PM EST

> > "Geeks tend to be smarter than the average citizen"...

> Before I break doen in tears of laughter, care to
> explain this common attitude?

I'd say that geeks tend to be smarter than the average citizen for the same reason that construction workers tend to be stronger than the average citizen, or that cab drivers and truck drivers tend to be better at controlling motor vehicles than the average citizen, or that politicians, journalists and teachers tend to be more articulate than the average citizen. You build the skills you use.

Stuart.
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]
Still needs work... (2.00 / 4) (#17)
by weathervane on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 01:39:30 PM EST

Some of your article is well thought out, especially in the sections about how to work within political campaigns to make your issues heard. These are the tactics that have been sucessfully used by many lobby groups and I do thing there is a sad lack of understanding of these sorts of things in the geek community.

If you want to overthrow the system, then go get yourself a balaclava and some palm tree fertilizer and make some forceful points. But unless you comtemplate terrorism and insurrection we have to work within the existing political system to effect change (unless all we want to do is remain 'under the radar' of the repressive elements in society). A lot of the 'our system is too messed up to reform' talk is really just an excuse for apathy.

But there are some weaknesses in your text. It scrupulously avoids all mention of the EFF. It could be argued that the EFF has strayed from its roots and needs to be replaced or supplemented by a broader, more grassroots, movement of political pressure groups. But you didn't address that argument, you just avoided mentioning them.

It also doesn't mention protest and publicity tactics, which can also be effective in gaining support from politicans for change. This is vaguely glossed over in the dismissive paragraph on civil disobedience but there's a lot more to it that that. A publicity event doesn't have to be illegal, but it does have to be constructed and planned to play to the media. Public awareness and pressure can be incredibly effective in getting politicians to wake up and embrace your issues.

All in all, a worthy document, but it's still an early beta. Needs some debuggging.

Too messed up to reform. (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by Khedak on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 03:39:01 PM EST

It's not that the system is too messed up to reform, it's that it seems, to many, to be designed to resist the sort of radical reform we would like to enact. It's hard to work within a system that was set up to avoid what you're trying to do. And I think that many of our "democratic" methods in this country were established to protect the class interests of the wealthy.

Public awareness can be created by "illegal" means, too. After all, it was public awareness of the police brutality and organized crime caused by alcohol prohibition, as well as the ubiquity of illegal alcohol that ended it. It's hard to keep something illegal when your parents and friends are breaking the law, coupled with violent crime in many cities. If everyone had "played within the rules", we'd probably still have prohibition, but the point is that if the public thinks rules are stupid, then breaking them leads to reform.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that we should start shooting people over technology issues, but I think that illegal activities can have a sway on the public opinion as much (if not more than) legal activities, depending on how they are enacted. It makes no sense to take the side of morality equals legality if you disagree with that idea. Instead we should think of effectiveness (regardless of legality), since as you said, public opinion is often what changes matters.

I guess all I mean is that we should examine whether illegal methods are effective or not, rather than dismissing them as immoral without discussion, since working within legal methods may not be effective enough to accomplish what we'd like Apathy, to me, is blandly accepting the status quo (including the accepted methods of reform) without questioning its causes and purposes.

[ Parent ]
from what persepctive (4.00 / 4) (#26)
by radar bunny on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 04:01:02 PM EST

I guess all I mean is that we should examine whether illegal methods are effective or not, rather than dismissing them as immoral without discussion, since working within legal methods may not be effective enough to accomplish what we'd like

and the molitov cocktail option on the poll is at 44% as i write this.

Maybe someone should put together someone on how to get results through other means. However, I'm someone with a BA in poli sci and history and working on a MA in poli sci with emphasis on technology and politics. I'm someone who has also worked with a few political campains and have met my congressman and one of my two senators. And, the one thing i've noticed is that they are just not hearing our side of the issues. When I have talked to politicians about these issues i am often met with wide eyes of curriosity as many of them dont even know the issues exist. So why then would you turn to illegal methods without first trying the legal ones.

You are not the first pperson to post in this thread about how easily i have dismissed civil disobediance (or illegal acts)--- but i find it odd that so many here would just as easily dismiss legal and highly effective means of making a point. After all, how many here vote, or have written or called anyone in any office? How many have ever gotten involved in an election? If you dont want to, thats fine, but if you haven't then how can you really speak to the effectiveness of these things?

Its odd that I consider geeks to be highly intelligent and open minded, yet on the issue of politics so many geeks tend to be just as close minded as many people we would snubbingly call "rednecks" who sit and say things like "aww hell, they're all bought and paid for anyhows, aint nothing we can do to be heard."

[ Parent ]
Participation. (3.00 / 2) (#28)
by Eric Henry on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 07:35:36 PM EST

After all, how many here vote, or have written or called anyone in any office? How many have ever gotten involved in an election? If you dont want to, thats fine, but if you haven't then how can you really speak to the effectiveness of these things?
I can't speak for anyone else, but I have called, written, visited, and worked on campaigns. I'd recomend that everyone here do it. It is absolutely the best way to discover for yourself how totally corrupt the American political system is. But hey, if we just ask them nicely to dismantle the system that keeps them employed, rich, and powerfull, they'll do it because they have to listen to us. Right?

Eric Henry



[ Parent ]
just getting warmed up (3.50 / 2) (#29)
by monkeyfish on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 07:49:54 PM EST

i'm just getting started on this whole political participation road (i mean, i've voted in two national elections, but that hardly counts), i agree that it's important to participate in the processes that exist. you've got to do that much. but i think that "rednecks" (by which i mean poor rural whites) and non-white minority groups have at least one thing in common, and that is that they've often been played to for votes, and rarely been served properly by their government. their distrust comes from experience.
legislation != change. at least, not always.

[ Parent ]
Open-mindedness. (3.50 / 2) (#32)
by Khedak on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 12:39:52 AM EST

It's funny that you're saying I'm closed minded for asking us to consider illegal methods of change as being as effective as legal means. Because that's what I said, I didn't tell anyone not to use legal means, nor did I discourage it. I simply explained the apathy, because you seemed to think that people who have apathy for the system are either closed-minded (geeks) or stupid (rednecks), and I beg to differ.

It's true that I didn't provide argumentative support for illegal means any more than you supported legal means, I merely pointed out that you dismissed revolutionary techniques as ineffective, and I think that it's a position that we should examine.

Yes, you are correct about me thinking that illegality can be effective, but I did attempt (however briefly) to support my claims. I have to ask: was your involvement in political campaigns effective in causing any change in government policy on technology issues? I mean concretely, not just the senator nodding and saying "Gee, I didn't know, I'll look into it."

But regardless of how effective either of our means is, my point was that you dismissed illegal means, not that we should dismiss legal means. I simply said that (to paraphrase myself) illegal means can be as effective (if not more effective) than working within the system, and I called for discussion of that point.

[ Parent ]
civil disobedience (3.83 / 6) (#19)
by monkeyfish on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 01:55:54 PM EST

i'd say that you downplay, rather unfairly, the importance of civil disobedience. far from being effective in only a few "rare and extreme" cases, i'd say it has been the ONLY effective tool in American history for securing civil rights of any kind. if you look at the history of the labor movement, the anti-racism movement, the anti-slavery movement, the anti-war movement, i think that the evidence overwhelmingly supports aldous huxley's idea that, "Liberties are not given, they are taken."

hopefully, that's history speaking, and not the future, but i think history speaks pretty loudly.

Joiner Stuff... (3.50 / 2) (#30)
by eskimo on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 08:01:48 PM EST

I am not exactly saying that this story is useless, but I do want to point out that we are a pretty varied little hamlet, and though we have things in common, I think by applying a gigantic label to the community can only hurt. While I hope we all revel in our own quirks and foibles, I think it is whimsical to try and catalog said foibles to form a demographic. Just like Canadians resent Americentric stories here, I resent Geek-centric stories. Do you really think privacy is just geek issue?

The politicos are pretty shrewd. Did anybody every wonder whether or not maybe the 'geek' vote isn't courted is because there is no 'geek' vote? Maybe we are a community that defies characterization. Perhaps many of you have similar incomes and work similar hours, and have similar hobbies, but that is hardly something to base a movement on. Instead, I recommend we focus on the issues. If they are truly issues, then they apply to more than just geeks.

If we remained focused, and mobilize in a meaningful way, the labels will come. I guarantee it. Were there treehuggers before Greenpeace? Trust me, the establishment will bestow us with our name when we have earned it. It will be their first step towards dismantling us. Until then, we need to be proud of our diversity, it is our biggest advantage.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto

a citizen-centric internet (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by Jim Madison on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 06:51:39 PM EST

An interesting white paper about how sites like kuroh5in may actually be the beginning of a transistion from tradional politics of persuasion, control, spin and activation and instead be the politics of true cooperation and leadership through ideas. There was an interesting interview of its author at that other tech community site. Scott and I used these principles and that feedback to create our online townhall, Quorum.org. Hope that helps guys.

Got democracy? Try e-thePeople.org.
false dichotomy (2.00 / 2) (#37)
by streetlawyer on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 07:27:21 AM EST

a transistion from tradional politics of persuasion, control, spin and activation and instead be the politics of true cooperation and leadership through ideas.

Hmmmm .... bit of a contrast between form and content here? What are "co-operation and leadership through ideas", but "persuasion, control and spin", viewed from the other side. Very few political questions of interest turn on matters of settled fact; interpretation of ambiguous evidence and persuasion on questions of ultimate value are, frankly, what distinguishes the political sphere from the rest.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

a rebuttal (none / 0) (#42)
by Jim Madison on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 02:35:10 PM EST

first of all, i agree that political issues are matters of opinion and cannot be settled by facts alone. however, i would argue that "co-operation and leadership through ideas" is indeed meaningfully different from "persuasion, control and spin".

In the first case, you are open, seek diversity. you value these qualities in civic debate more than controlling the debate process to yield to your own personal agenda.

In the second case, you never acknowledge other points of view unless you are forced to. you dismiss other ideas out of pocket unless they come from people or organizations you can control.

Don't those sound like a real difference in approach to you?

Got democracy? Try e-thePeople.org.
[ Parent ]
A HOWTO for Geek Political Involvement | 42 comments (32 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
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