Tag Archives: protest

No2010 and the Death of the Left

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan

-John Lennon

Last week the Olympic Flame was diverted from its intended path in front of the BC Legislature by protesters. The downtrodden and disenfranchised of this province rose together in glorious revolution to disrupt an integral cog in the all-consuming Olympic machine – the photo op.

Every time I see the No2010 protesters on the news, I am filled with armrest-ripping rage when I see their flakey, malnourished leaders make  a speech on the evils of capitalism. Is it because I’m just shy of my 30th birthday? Is it because my factory farm fed existence is being threatened? Have I sold out to the corporate machine, put on a blazer and started selling real estate?

Not exactly. Well, at least I’m not selling real estate. I’ve been following protests like these in the news since the so-called “Battle of Seattle” at the meeting of the G8 countries in 1999. In that time, wars have broken out, oil prices have skyrocketed, the cost of computer storage has plummeted, and every year these protests seem to be less about affecting actual  change and more about making noise and ruining things.

The Olympics are a particular sore spot for me because it is only tangentially related to the problems the protesters are trying to address.  Are any of the torch runners greedy land developers? Did any of the snowboarders widen the sea to sky? Should the Olympic flame be blown out as Terry Fox’s mother might carry it to the podium? Most of the people involved with the Olympics are simply trying to achieve their hopes and dreams. Disrupting that proves nothing. If the protesters are complaining that society sees them and the poor as human garbage, they do themselves no favors by acting the part.

You might say that making an out-dated and kyriarchal sporting event slight less enjoyable is a small price to pay in the never-ending class war between the rich and the poor. Over time these efforts will result in the anarchist paradise that supposedly we’re all hoping for. But let me ask you this.  Is there any mention on the No2010 website of actually talking to government officials? Will they be sending any bills to Parliament? The Legislature? City Council? Strata Council? Are they knocking on any doors? Raising campaign funds? I must admit I haven’t been looking all that hard. There’s only so much rhetoric I can take at one time. I did find a lovely Riot 2010? Riot Now! pamphlet, though.

Even if No2010 achieved its goal of stopping the Olympics, then what would happen? There never seems to be any plan with these movements, be it No2010, the Green Party, the Marijuana Party, or even the current NDP. I think that there is such deep-seated hatred of authority in these organizations that any kind of leadership or coordination is immediately shouted down. Meanwhile, the BC Liberals will probably be in power for the next 100 years. You can be sure they will pass any dumb idea that the Fraser Institute can cough up. It’s not because the Liberals are necessarily on the take. By the time the Fraser Insitute presents an idea for a bill, they’ve got all sorts of studies and petitions that make the legislature’s job much easier. The only people who even pay attention to protesters are running paranoid military juntas. Canada is nothing of the sort, so we’d do best to start acting like it.

The Story of #iranelection

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#iranelection was for many people the top news source for the aftermath of incumbent President Mahmoud Amedinejad’s so-called victory over reformer candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi last Friday. It’s not a new cable news channel, or even a news website. It’s what is known on twitter.com as a “trending topic”, a self-declared association of posts on the micro-blogging site. Every post with the word “#iranelection” self-identifies as having something to do with the Iran situation, be it opinions, links to mainstream news articles, or even first hand reports. It’s a new form of primary historical document, one that combines the intimacy of personal letters, the immediacy of video or sound recordings, and the openness of a mass media broadcast.

Twitter is by no means new technology. I find it very similar the web-based chat rooms I myself used in highschool. What is different about it is that it has repurposed current technology to be used in a unique way. Where other systems wanted to emphasize privacy and security, Twitter emphasizes publicity and openness. Most of the 140 character “tweets” are meant for the rest of the Twitter community and the internet at large. It’s easy to write it off as some kind of narcissistic toy, I’m guilty of that myself. However, Twitter’s status as a toy rather than a serious social networking site probably kept it from being blocked in Iran within the first few hours of the protests. Other aspects of the site, like the 140 character limit and interoperable architecture have allowed bloggers in Iran to deal with shoddy connectivity and the government’s attempts to block communication from within the country.

The result is a riveting stream of human emotion, rumor, and anonymous people from across the globe communicating like they never could before. Take a look at this feed from @Change_in_Iran

from the looks of it they are waiting to arrest all the students! it’s also explains the vans9:14 PM Jun 13th from web

some people are now parking their cars in middle of the street trying to block the vans. #iranelection9:16 PM Jun 13th from web

Police is trying to stop people from gathering around while Intel guys still holding a line in front of the gates #iranelection9:05 PM Jun 13th from web

police demanding people to move their cars and start crashing car windows. more people are coming. I will try to get a better view9:18 PM Jun 13th from web

Down with the dictator! Mousavi, Karoubi; support us! #iranelection9:30 PM Jun 13th from web

my eyes are burning hard to keep them open #iranelection9:46 PM Jun 13th from web

I’m dizzy but ok. some people are getting shelter in the nearby unfinished bank building. police arresting a middle aged man10:11 PM Jun 13th from web

@ahmadinejad no wonder you are OK Mr president 24.5M10:13 PM Jun 13th from TwitterFox in reply to ahmadinejad

it’s 9:54 AM -Amirabad street near Pasargad bank and to be honest I don’t have the courage to leave the roof right now #iranelection10:27 PM Jun 13th from web

There are more accounts like this on #iranelection interspersed with rumors of riot police stings disguised as Moussavi rallies and burning ballot boxes. Some tweets supply the Iranians with lists of proxies to get around the government’s internet filters. A hacker’s toolkit of programs to shut down Iranian propaganda websites is making the rounds. From the rest of the world, there are notes praying for the safety of the protesters, “retweets” of some of the more vital bits of news for fellow bloggers, and criticism of mainstream media outlets for their lack of coverage on the events. To see people communicate like this on such a personal level, the future of totalitarian regimes is doubtful. Any government that oppresses its own people on the basis of the threat of an external enemy cannot survive like this. The Great Satan has no horns or pointed tail, and he’s able to send a twitpic to prove it.

This is not to say that Twitter and services like it are going to replace more mainstream froms of news gathering. CNN doesn’t deserve its own #CNNfail channel for the coverage of the Iran Election. The network has to tread carefully to get the kind of access it has. President Obama had just recognized the USA’s involvement in the 1953 installment of the Shah only a week before. The US would do well to keep its distance and establish that it has nothing to do with the current unrest. Besides, it doesn’t matter whether True Blood is the higher trending topic or the mainstream media has to wait a few dozen hours to report on what it finds. That’s not what this is about. We all have an opportunity now to witness history. If we can’t take to the streets, if we can’t tend to the wounded, if can’t tweet from our laptops on the roof, the very least we can do is watch and pray that freedom wins out.

The Tibet Problem

I only used to deal with Free Tibet every time there was a club day at my University. I regarded it with the same curious sidelong glance that I would give “Free Mumia”, “End Circumcision” or any other pet issue that required more charity than sense. Now that Beijing has decided to enter the first world and host an Olympic games, the Free Tibet issue has now plopped into everyone’s cornflakes and everyone seems to have their own opinion on it. You have the Free Tibet movement that wants everyone to boycott the games, the Chinese government and many immigrants who say nothing is going on in Tibet, the Tibetans themselves who are peacefully protesting and getting truncheoned for their trouble, the athletes who just want to participate, and everyone else in between. I guess it’s time for me to weigh in.

First off, no one has anything to gain by boycotting the Olympics. Not the Chinese, not the Athletes and most certainly not the protesters. Free Tibet tried to block Beijing’s bid to the games, but the move seems silly in retrospect. By taking a fire extinguisher to the Olympic Torch Free Tibet has gone from annoying buzzing sound to the elephant in the room. They couldn’t have garnered more international attention if they tried. Once the games are on, there’s a good chance they can actually be heard within China itself, whether it’s through smuggling propaganda or calling on a few athletes to make their voice heard.

And as for China, I have no sympathy. They want to have open trade and relations with the free world, yet the government believes it can pull all this Soviet-era crap on its own people. They cannot have it both ways. Their actions in Tibet may make sense to them. It may have been an authoritarian Theocracy before they took over. Foreign powers may have used dissident provinces of China against the nation at large in the past. But if they truly want to join the first world, they’re going to have to learn that the last thing you want to do to malcontents is make martyrs out of them and then lie about it to a media-savvy world.

I believe that the games are a wonderful venue for the world to come together in a spirit of friendship and competition. I also believe that engagement can do much more than trade embargoes and boycotts ever could. However, there is no place for secret police and national firewalls in an increasingly democratic world. When one country engages in such practices, it affects everyone. Companies and individuals are made to kowtow to a dictatorship that they never voted for. Sure, China’s a different culture, but at the end of the day we have to accept that some things work and some things do not work. China’s response to Tibet is not working.

4chan


“…if natural-gas safety precautions were so poor that entire city blocks could explode via broadband modem, we’re certain the guys at 4chan would have done it by now.” -Cracked.com

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There have been a lot of rumours going around about this group called “Anonymous” that set up a world-wide protest against the Church of Scientology. I’ve been trying to figure out just what Anonymous is and what’s the deal with their internet home, “4chan”. There are media reports, articles on wikipedia, but just like the film “The Matrix”, no one can be told what 4chan is. You must experience it for yourself.

Actually no, you shouldn’t. The Random Image board of 4chan.org (also known as /b/) is not for the faint of heart nor the faint of gut. 4chan is a place where the only rule is that there are no rules. It is an internet image bulletin board system that has the unique distinction of not requiring a log-in of any kind. In an age where social networking sites collect personal information the way some old ladies collect cats, it’s refreshing to come to an on-line community that asks for your opinion but not your social insurance number.

The highest valued commodity on 4chan is laughs or “Lulz”, as 4chan users call them. Any expectation of taste, truth and accountability is promptly punted into orbit for the sake of ‘Lulz’. Board members call each other “fag” the way communists call each other “Comrade”. A common thread subject would be “Laugh and you lose” where users post the funniest images they can find. 4chan is a source of a great many internet fads or “memes”, the more popular of which being the “LoLcats” meme where funny pictures of cats are given captions in pidgin English. Other popular thread topics include matching pictures to a specific caption, “Dear Anonymous” advice columns, and one thread where Sinistar was eating through the webpage, flying around your browser and screaming “I LIVE!” It’s possible to use 4chan for mere entertainment purposes. It’s kind of like fishing. You may find yourself wading through many a proctologist’s nightmare to score that one picture of Batman riding an elephant.

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So there you have it. If you see some protesters with “Anonymous vs. Scientology” signs out there, I hope I’ve shed a little light on where they come from. While there’s no doubt some of those Guy Fawkes look-a-likes are out there on good intentions, I’ve got my own theory about why the denizens of 4chan are out on the picket line. There are religious organizations that are much more dangerous than Scientology, but the legacy of L. Ron Hubbard has a certain flavor of Wacky that the pranksters of the Anonymous want for themselves. Convincing celebrities that they’re infested by dead aliens is a prank of sublime proportion. If it’s not done for the Lulz, it shouldn’t be done at all.