Monthly Archives: February 2013

Anonymous: can a non hierarchical structure work for hacktivists?

Disclaimer: This article expresses opinions about a hacktivist group that I have no inside knowledge of; these opnions should not be taken as facts about Anonymous. This is only a representation of my thoughts about Anonymous from a non-anarchist non-hacker outsider’s perspective. This post may contain incomplete or unintentionally untrue informaton.

The hacktivist group Anonymous is a truly democratic – and yes, I know anarchists hate the word! – movement. And nothing proves that more than their method of initiating new members.

Wjen I’ve seen people online tweeting Anonymous from non anonymous accounts and asking to join, I thought it was stupid because it only demonstrates how inexperienced you are about the basics of anonymity and therefore how unsuitable you are for the job. I thought you got in by communicating with them anonymously and demonstrating your hacking skills. But apparently Anonymous consider everyone to already be in their group, and it’s up to us to help Anonymous by raising awareness of issues and communication technologies or run our own (legal or illegal) ops (what Anonymous calls its hacktivist operations).

This non-hierarchy in itself challenges the way in which the State, and especially the Law, see cybercrime. Because according to Anonymous you’re already helping them if you’ve ever blogged against a corporation or tweeted a link to an anonymizing tool. Instead of responsibility being cut and dried (you either did it or you didn’t) Anonymous blurs the lines.

This concept also challenges traditional activism. Historically most activist groups want to make sure their members are committed and that they all believe in the same values. But although Anonymous are anarchists, you don’t have to be an anarchist to join – in fact, you don’t really ‘join’, you just start doing an op and communicating with other members of Anonymous.

The reason that Anonymous claims “we are legion” is not only because it’s probably true, it’s also because they don’t know how many are in their group. In cyberspace identity is fluid and if you’re doing ops – even if you’re doing them legally – it’s probably advisable to change your name, if not for each op, then at least every now and again. Anonymous’ own definition of who is a member is very blurred – we’re all in Anonymous, or at least those who publiciise Anonymous’ activities without running ops are. Whether or not you’re in Anonymous becomes a case of self identity (similar to identifying as a feminist).

Will this unique organisational (non)structure work out for them? I’ll list the pros and cons, starting with cons:

CONS

They won’t have control over their media image. Because Anonymous has no official spokesperson or official twitter account (there are multiple social media accounts) they cannot effectively make official statements or press releases. Whatever an Anonymous twitter account says can only represent the views of that particular person.

Their movement may become hijacked, like feminism is sometimes hijacked by the American moral right. Because anyone – even an anti-anarchist – can call themselves a part of Anonymous and start doing ops that the majority of Anonymous don’t agree with.

The movement may become unintentionally hijacked or sidetracked by individuals doing one-off hits on their enemies. To use exanples from the sex positive and atheist online communities, what if Pat Bohannan or AsheIstheRaven/Della Winters had been outed in Anonymous’ name? Outing trolls, especially those who are influential or who’ve attacked others’ anonymity (like Amy Ponomarev) or have the resources to sue (like Pat Bohannan) might be safer if done in Anonymous’ name. And outing trolls in Anonymous’ name will attract more media attention especially from media outlets which specialise in internet news (e.g. the Daily Dot, Gawker).

A non-hierarchical structure may also make a movement become directionless, with everyone out for themselves and disagreeing with each others’ ops.

Not knowing how many people are in your group might make it hard to organise (but it’s also a pro- see below).

PROS

However, there are good points too. No hierarchy means all members are equals working together and might facillitate the distribution of tasks to those who are the most suited to those particular tasks, instead of the popularity contest which characterizes elections and corporate promotions. This structure may also mean that only those who are enthusiastic about particular projects will end up working on them.

Not knowing how many people are in your activist group is a good thing because if you know something then theoretically the State can drag that info out of you. If you don’t know in the first place, you can’t tell the police.

By not being able to talk to the press, Anonymous force us to confront the existence of an anarchic organisation and accept that anarchism can work (at least in the case of Anonymous). In this way, they’re setting an example of their political non-system for the rest of us. Instead of constructing our own narratives about Anonymous from our own cultural experiences and political beliefs, we can only watch what they do. The corporations which give us our news can slag off Anonymous but they can’t really engage with Anonymous or use their words against them. Bloggers and journalists who want to speak to or write about Anonymous have to research them and speak to several different members of Anonymous – which gives them a clearer, more truthful picture of Anonymous than they’d get from a press release or looking at a site for a couple of minutes.

Anonymous can never be quoted out of context if they cannot talk to the media.

Although it’s not the only hacktivist group, Anonymous is a unique entity and its truly anarchist structure is a perfect fit for its values of anarchism and full equality. Anonymous reminds me of the fictional planet K-PAX in the trilogy by Dr Gene Brewer – a governmentless, leaderless and utopian society. Whether you agree with its activities or not, Anonymous is the in-your-face proof that we don’t need hierarchies to accomplish our goals.

http://expectus.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/how-do-i-become-part-of-anonymous.html

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Employment discrimination: protection for some

Employers aren’t allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion or sexuality; we all know that. But what about other things that are connected with those things? If a man has long hair, some employers don’t think it looks professional. So if this man is discriminated against and not hired because of his long hair, that is a form of gender discrimination (because a woman with the same length or longer hair would not be discriminated). In the same way, an employer might discriminate against a white man who wears cornrows or dreadlocks while a black man wearing the same hairstyle might be fine because it’s a part of his heritage. So, isn’t that race discrimination (of a white person)? Similarly, black women sometimes damage their hair with relaxers or hot combs to get a ‘professional’ look as they feel that their natural hair isn’t quite good enough.

Your family choice is also not protected. If a potential employer doesn’t hire you because you’re a young parent or live in a polyamorous household, there’s no statute to protect you. However if you are fired because you are an unmarried mother, the case Flynn v Power is an EU case that, by EU Law, is now a part of UK law. So you can’t be fired for being an “unmarried mother”. (This happened in Ireland in the 2000s.)

And while LGBTQ people are protected, a lot of heterosexuals aren’t. If you’re kinky, poly or have ever worked in the sex industry – no matter how long ago that was – you can be fired. That’s what happened to a Criminal Justice social worker who told a colleague he went to SM clubs and had a small online business selling fetish clothing. Melissa Petro was fired for being a sex worker in her student days over a decade before. So maybe you should think twice before telling your work friends about trying to 50 Shades your boyfriend or hilarious anecdotes from your sex life at college.

There are also no laws to stop you being discriminated because of your hairstyle, piercings or othher body modifications. Oviously we need more anti-discrimination laws, or at least tightening of the ones we’ve got. But changing attitudes is the first step. Discrimination wouldn’t exist without stigmatising attitudes, and when there is no more discrimination there won’t even be any need for discrimination laws. Employers won’t usually be stupid enough to say “I’m not hiring you cos you’re a queer” so even for protected people, it can be difficult to prove discrimination on sexuality, race or religious grounds. The same problem would arise if protection was extended to other groups.

So, while extending such protection is necessary, changing attitudes will ultimately bring about the greater good.

Little girls are princesses – the feminist way

I’m sure a lot of feminists will say that the Daddy’s Little Princess meme or children’s books (from fairytales to contemporary fiction) about princesses – or teen fiction such as The Princess Diaries – is inherently harmful to feminism. And it’s not surprising they would take that view – what is a princess? She’s the daughter of a king – which means that a woman’s status and worth stems from that of her father, which is a patriarchal idea. The expectation of both fictional and real-life historical and contemporary princesses is that they’ll marry a prince, or, failing that, at a rich Prince Charming will do in contemporary Britain. This constraint on a woman’s choices and sex life, as well as the fact that a princess’s main duty is as a baby-making machine (something thhat can no longer be doubted after the ‘royal baby’ media coverage) is obviously problematic, as is thhe heterosexism inherent inthe princess stereotype.

But the problem isn’t with the word “princess” itself. There would be nothing wrong with calling our little girls by the pet name if it didn’t mean all of the above and if it didn’t strongly imply an unrealistic and narrow standard of beauty (nobody thinks of cropped hair, jeans, a size 16 dress or hairy legs when they hear “princess”, do they?) A princess would have to buy into all the consumerism to achieve a look thhat the media tells her she should have. Despite Disney’s efforts with Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog, the princessly feature of long wavy hair is not easily achievable by all ethnic groups without damage to the hair (relaxing or hot combing) or money (a weave or braid extensions).

But what if the word “princess” when used for little girls meant a future queen instead of the daughter of a king or the future wife of a prince? It could be used to mean that a girl will grow up to be successful, educated or even famous, because of the intelligence, determination or talents she already possesses as a child. A successful businesswoman, a celebrity, athlete, media personality or Nobel Prize winner is today’s equivalent of a “princess”. (Or a politician, well known writer, inventor, and so on.)

If we changed the meaning, reinforcing to our daughters that they are “princesses” would be a good thing. It would be a feminist thing. Little girls would say they are princesses not because they like pink and are wearing blonde extensions at age nine, or because they’re a teen who loves all things girly, but because they can imagine a successful career-driven future for themselves.

Slut shaming and victim blaming: Why we shouldn’t do it

This might seem too obvious to a lot of you who’re reading this, but internet comments as well as the ignorance I’ve seen in real life kind of inspired me to write this. Weirdly, women slut shame and victim blame more than men (in my experience); with men, the only ones who victim blame seem to be doing it for darker reasons, such as excusing violent behaviour by other men or themselves. This post isn’t aimed as these (thankfully very few) individuals. So I’m aiming this at other women.

It’s pointless

Girl, you might feel superior snickering at your colleague’s short skirt or bullying that “slut” in your History class. But see that girl sitting at the back? She calls you a slut behind your back. That woman in reception calls her a slut in that prim, proper voice of hers. That Asian woman over there thinks you’re all sluts for watching porn or reading 50 Shades. And that girl with her hair covered thinks the Asian woman is a slut, for flirting with men and showing her hair like some £20-an-hour crack whore.

Call as many women a slut as you want, but the same number are calling you a slut. It’s a never-ending slut shaming chain.  Depressing and pointless, right? Time to grow up, then, and stop using the word.

It’s cultural, not real!

The examples above were cultural stereotypes, as what a slut is varies even within a culture, even within different regions of a country. But it’s broadly true that if you talk to boys, show your hair and party, millions of women in many countries in the world consider you a slut.

And the definition of a slut changes not only with the country, but with the decade. We’d all have been considered sluts fifty years ago, and our daughter will be very slutty, but by that time they won’t be considered slutty. So what’s the point? If nobody can agree on what a slut is, then sluts aren’t even a real thing.

You’re doing it out of fear

We call women sluts because we’re afraid of being called a slut ourselves. We want to present ourselves as pure.

You’re complicit in your own oppression

Did you get to decide what you can wear or how much sex you can have or how far you can go before you’re a slut? Would you have decided that only women can be sluts, but men are studs? No, you didn’t. This was decided long ago by rich men who are dead now – priveleged men who shaped society around their interests, who probably marginalized or oppressed (to some degree) your ancestors, who were most likely unpriveleged and powerless.

As a woman, it’s stupid to collude with the patriarchy to shame women but praise men – why would you want to be sexist? And it’s stupid to collude with the priveleged class who decided this.

You’re only hurting yourself – what if you get attacked?

Suggesting that a what a woman is wearing (or how much she was drinking, or how she acts) makes a man rape her is not only ignorant and hurtful, it’s hurting yourself, your friends and your family. Do you really think that contributing to a victim-blaing culture is going to mean you can expect sympathy and understanding if someone sexually assaults you, your friend, sister or daughter?

Anyone can be called a slut

These are the people I’ve heard being called “sluts”: lone mothers, a young woman who cheated on her boyfriend, a 14 year old girl who kissed 3 boys in a month, a 14 year old girl who had sex with 2 boys, a girl flirting with a boy at a party, a woman who wore a short skirt one day, a 19 year old university student, a woman walking alone in the street at night. So, any woman can be called a slut. You don’t even need to be sexually active – wearing the “wrong” clothes, being a mother, kissing, even walking in the street can provoke someone to call you a slut – because you’re a woman.

Sisterhood, yeah?

If you call yourself a feminist, slut shaming and victim blaming are out. Slut shaming and victim blaming are a form of misogyny, which is what feminism is against. (Though certssin high-profile feminists do not seem to have realised this).

It hurts men, too!

Blaming and shaming rape victims or calling other girls sluts doesn’t exactly make their boyfriends, brothers and sons happy, right? Men hate it when their mum or sister is slut shamed.

Slutocrat x

The Ancient alien theory: New theory or 21st century Creationism?

First, we had Creationism. Good, old fashioned, utterly baseless Creationism. But then people started using their critical thinking skills and those pesky, pesky scientists soon had the masses believing in science and fact instead of the One True Word of God (told to the Middle Eastern Jews and adopted by the whites. Who, during colonialism, gave it to everyone else). There is a lot of understandable frustration surrounding the fact that Creationism still exists in one of the most developed and technologically advanced countries in the world. (You know the one I’m talking about – the one where religion gets into politics and they end up being against birth control). But at least it was good honest Creationism.

But when people stopped believing in Creationism, it could no longer be taught in schools. That’s when Intelligent Design stepped in. School boards across America were convinced that the Intelligent Design Theory differs from Creationism. Some might find this ridiculous, but is it that surprising that people were fooled? The ID theory doesn’t mention a god, much less a Christian one. It only teaches that life could have been deliberately designed (not created) and that animals, humans and plants appear as though they were designed.

So, is the Ancient Alien theory the next logical step to make Creationism cool? Some ancient alien theorists posit that humans were created by aliens or are descended from aliens, or that aliens assisted in or speeded up our evolution. ID took out the Bible and called God “a designer”. Ancient Alien theory looks to the Bible and all other religious scriptures for proof of its theory and calls God “aliens”. All three of these theories refute or ignore the fact that we are related to apes. They don’t acknowledge that we evolved from hominids (or in the case of Ancient Alien theory, it alleges that aliens helped us to evolve). Both Creationism and the ancient aliens theory dismiss cavemen – we knew how to farm instantly according to Creationism, while according to ancient aliens theory the aliens gave us technology and guided us. Like Jesus or King Arthur, the aliens will one day return.

And one notable ancient alien theorist is Joseph Farrell, who has a degree in theology and teaches at an unaccredited Christian institution of higher education.

I’m not suggesting that Creationists and Ancient Alien theorists are the same thing – the Creationists vehemently disapprove of ancient alien theory. But what I am suggesting is that the ancient alien theorists haven’t so much created a new theory as taken Creationism and replcaed “God” with “alien”.

 

The Magdalene Laundries: is this the West’s answer to honour killings?

Prime Minister Kenny said the Magdalene laundries, where “fallen women” were incarcerated, abused and used as slaves, were operating in a “harsh and uncompromising” Ireland. There was no apology, and no mention of stigma against unmarried mothers, or of whorephobia, or of slut-shaming. It was as if these issues didn’t exist.

We’re used to thinking of the Middle East as the region where women are not allowed to express their sexuality. The region (or the British community) in which honour killings can happen and a non-virgin girl is deemed worthless. But is the Free West really so much different? In Ireland, the last Magdalene laundry closed in 1996. Women were abused and brought back by police without the need of a warrant if they escaped. Many died and 771 women spent 10 years or more as slaves in the laundries. The State was complicit.

Is a state allowing the abuse and enslavement of women any better than a state which allows SMS messages to be sent to a woman’s male relatives if she leaves the country? And is this (organised, systematic and state-sanctioned) abuse any better than (unorganised, familial) honour killings?

And it’s not just the laundries. Savita Halapannavar died because she was refused an abortion – even though her foetus was already dying and rotting (which poisoned her and led to her death). In 1992 a 14 year old rape victim was given a Court injunction not to leave the country, because during the rape investigation her parents had asked the police if they should bring back her foetus’ DNA as evidence once she’d had an abortion in England. The Court didn’t want her to have an abortion. The girl became suicidal and was taken to a psychiatric hospital. The Supreme Court then held she could have had the abortion in Ireland all along, because her life was in danger.

And it’s not just Ireland – we have a lot of problems with victim-blaming and slut shaming here in Britain. And the purity cult and ‘war on women’ is going strong in the US, with anti-abortion laws being debated, politicians victim-blaming and 4 states with only one abortion clinic.

As for the laundries, nothing has really progressed. The state isn’t admitting responsibility or apologising. In fact, the Irish Government is listening to the Ruhama Agency in its Dail hearing on sex work. The Ruhama Agency is run by the same people who ran the Magdalene Laundries. Sex workers have so far been excluded from the debate, but the Ruhama Agency was invited. The Ruhama Agency are the biggest abolitionist organisation in the country, and are funded by the State. They are now influencing the state to criminalise the purchase of sex (known as the End Demand, Swedish or Nordic model) which will increase sex trafficking, force sex work underground and increase rape and murder of sex workers. Which is why Sweden now wants to change its sex work laws and throw out the End Demand model).

But hey, maybe that’s why the government isn’t apologising. How could they justify apologising for what Ruhama did while listening to Ruhama’s deadly politics at the same time?

So the consensus is still nuns=good and whores/unmarried mothers/minor crimes=bad. Progress. Don’t you just love it?

 

 

Most famous Ancient Astronaut theorists have NO qualifications

The most famous ancient alien or ancient astronaut authors do not have degrees in any relevant field of study (or at all). They’ve made lucrative careers out of speculation. And the writer of Chariots of the Gods is a criminal. The craziest thing is, this is all from Wikipedia – that’s right, I didn’t have to do any research. So God Alien only knows what other stuff is out there for anyone who cares to research.

Erich von Daniken wrote the famous book Chariots of the Gods, which I always meant to read but now won’t. Daniken has done the most to popularise the ancient alien theory. He was a hotel manager and has several fraud convictions (he committed theft in Switzerland, fraud and embezzlement in Egypt and then fraud in Switzerland again) and was jailed. His book was published by the time of his trial and it enabled him to leave the hotel business and start his writing/PR career. Giorgio A Tsoukalos, who published Daniken’s articles and manages Daniken’s ancient astronaut research centre, has a degree in sports information and communication – a degree which doesn’t qualify him to speak about ancient astronauts/alien aliens.

Zecharia Sitchin has an economics degreee, and taught himself to read cunieform while doing the nine to five. Unsurprisingly, his translations have been criticised. He also visited some archaeological sites. Sounds like the kind of thing I’d like to do myself, but I won’t be presenting myself as an expert after reading Teach Yourself Hieroglyphs or Ancient Greek for Dummies*.

A book – or a ticket to a lucrative writing career?

 

David Hatcher Childress, one of the most famous proponents of the theory, is in fact a dropout who left university after one year without getting a degree. And Christopher Dunn didn’t go to university either.

Robert K G Temple, who wrote The Sirius Mystery does have a degree. A shame it’s in Oriental Studies and Sanskrit, and he wrote about the Dogon people (and later published two books on the Egyptians.)

Obviously it’s great that we have successful books by people from different educational backgrounds and classes. I have no problem with them writing these books, and I hope they continue to achieve success; after all, they deserve it for their writing skills and the time they spend writing.

What is wrong is that the prominent writers of other scientific or anthropology fields are PhDs, often well known in the scientific community and sought after by the best universities. They’ve spent years in education, researching and doing the fieldwork. Books by the less academically inclined are usually on topics related to politics and culture or are memoirs. These topics require little research because they are concerned with expressing ideas and in any case much of this kind of information is publically accessible and easily understood.

These ancient aliens theory writers are not qualified to talk about science. They of course have the right to write about it, but ancient alien theory should not be considered scientific. The History Channel also has a responsibility to tell viewers that these people did not study anthropology, history or archaeology at university and hold no qualifications in subjects that would be relevant to understanding about ancient aliens.

The only PhD in the bunch is teaching at an unaccredited Christian institute. The History Channel cannot pass this off as science. Most bloggers have more experience and qualifications to blog about their chosen subjects than the top ancient astronaut theorists have to write books and be interviewed on a History channel. The Ancient Aliens programmes should be taken off the History Channel and sold to Controversial TV or some other channel which deals with exploring ideas.

The ancient alien theory is valuable, because it’s a theory created by us,; a theory shaped by culture and history. Alternative theories are interesting and a diversity of opinion is a good thing. But, as the scientific community says, ancient astronaut theory is at best a pseudoscience or pseudoarchaeology.

 

But, you know, I’ve learned something today: it’s easy to become rich and famous writing crap you know nothing about and insulting other countries’ history and achievements in the process! I too am European and priveleged, and I want in!

So here is my pitch to the History Channel:

I do an expose on the ancient astronaut authors using Wikipedia and lots of footage of amazing monuments (while the voiceover does nothing to educate the viewer about them or the people who built them.) I interview all of my friends professional associates and tweeps I talk to on Twitter  the sex-positive blogger community and ask them why the authors pulled a fast one on us. We conclude that since we don’t know why, the aliens must be responsible. All this is stretched over eight episodes with all of us chatting about how the aliens took over the authors’ brains.

*Which is a shame, as me and one of my best friends could totally make a great ancient astronaut writing team. Between us we tick the boxes of having visited archaeological sites and being able to recognise a few ancient characters. And we even have a copy of the ancient Book of the Dead we could study!**

**Which I discovered while exploring a chain bookstore.

 

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_P._Farrell

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Childress

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_von_D%C3%A4niken

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giorgio_A._Tsoukalos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zecharia_Sitchin

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