The Great Firewall of the US and “Wasteful Spending”

I’ll be the occupying editor of Occupy Everything for the rest of the month, because I’m currently an internet refugee. Since UCOP has made it clear that they can and will send the police and the FBI to our door if university servers are used for creating electronic disturbance, my own personal blog has become a space that I can no longer use to write what I want. Everyday it becomes clearer that the internet as a space of freedom is a rapidly disappearing dream. With the latest news about Wikileaks, that the US has cut off their domain name, the country I live in has joined the UK, China, Iran and other countries which filter and control what information can be seen by their populace online. The UK joined this club last year when they took the Pirate Bay offline for UK residents. When I saw Jacob Applebaum speak at The Next Hope hacker conference in New York, I was moved but still held a fundamental question about Wikileaks, will the “truth” change anything? Wikileaks seems to be based on some very modernist notions about truth and democracy, imagining that if people everywhere just knew the truth of the injustice of the Iraq war, that they would rise up and stop it. And yet, such notions as truth and revolution prove to be increasingly bankrupt and the possibility of an uprising presupposes that political passion could overcome the crushing realities of poverty and hunger, or the constant fear of death and the loss of family and friends that so many of us seem to be right on the edge of as we try to just maintain our lives, or the struggle to survive that so many queer people, people of color, differnently abled people and more feel everyday in a society that wants us dead. Still, I am consistently impressed at how much of a threat governments see Wikileaks as, stopping and searching their volunteers at borders, exploiting border control legislation to further political ends, sending federal agents after founder Julian Assange, jailing Bradley Manning for submitting data to Wikileaks and threatening to execute Assange. For links and so much more amazing news, if you haven’t already, see Wikileaks’ twitter feed. Here’s a tweet I appreciated:

RT @JPBarlow:
The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops. #WikiLeaks

Another amazing story in this information war is that of AAARG.ORG, but that is a long post for another day.

Apparently the control over information and protection of copyrights for corporations is a far higher priority for governments than freedom of expression, and yet this is just the latest example of how the crisis of capital is really a crisis of priorities of the rulers. While the economy is supposedly taking a downturn and corporations get billion dollar handouts while students and workers are asked to work more for less money, there are always funds to send the police to kick down doors to protect Apple’s patents and the FBI to protect UCOP’s servers. All around me, the effects of the budget cuts that we’ve struggled against so hard are taking effect. Next school quarter, I might not have a job or health care, and my partner and many of my friends are all scrambling to find a way to pay for their education, as all of our jobs have been cut. The class that I’ve been teaching for a year at UCSD has been cut from the curriculum in response to the budget cuts, and as classes are cut TA jobs for those classes are also disappearing.

As the situation continues to worsen in California, the resistance seems to have slowed, hit with the weapon of bureaucracy as hundreds of us respond to investigations and criminal charges for our actions to resist the cuts. Part of this response to stop the resistance has included shutting down information flows, including noncompliant websites that facilitate disturbance, communities that value human expression over copyright controls and communities that value human life over keeping secrets. To try to stave off this loss of online freedom, some have proposed that hackers and developers take direct action and route around the information oppression. The Pirate Bay has proposed the creation of a P2P DNS system, which would prevent governments like the US from taking down sites who’s political views they disagree with, since of course copyright is just another political position and copyfight is a form of resistance. I also proposed, along with other bang lab members, a plan to use wireless routers and mesh networking to rout around phone companies control over the infrastructure of the internet called autonet, which we unfortunately have devoted very little time to making happen. These projects can be seen in the spirit of Fluxus’ call for artists to create infrastructure, except instead of creating magazines to mail out, we have to create an entire postal service. I can only hope that this post, the beginning of my online occupation of this site, is not deemed too disruptive to the information controls to be deported from the online public space of the internet.

Still everyday new resistance springs up, such as 400,000 Italian students taking the streets with the slogan “You block our futures, we block your cities” and universities all over the UK have been occupied, blockaded and have gone on strike. These events serve as a huge inspiration to me to keep on livin. New right-wing forms of resistance, though, are also popping up. Nick Knouf, who created the MAICgregator project which inserts into websites an augmented overlay of information about military and pharmaceutical ties, recently posted about the latest right-wing crowd-sourcing project and his attempts to thwart it. Nick writes on his blog:

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Attacks on NSF Funding

Eric Cantor ( R ), the incoming House majority leader, is asking people to look for ‘wasteful’ National Science Foundation (NSF) funding. In his view, this would include projects that can be found using the keywords “success, culture, media, games, social norm, lawyers, museum, leisure, stimulus”. Cantor asks people to search for these keywords on the NSF website, make note of the offending award numbers, and submit them to a web-based form. This is an instance of so-called “crowd-sourcing” being used against the very researchers who are key in developing and studying this phenomenon.

I have written a simple script to upload your own “suggestions” to this form. These suggestions consist of texts such as Alice’s Adventues in Wonderland, Capital, Communist Manifesto, and works by De Sade. Additionally, the uploads come from referers such as “http://let.the.air.force.have.a.bake.sale.to.raise.money.gov” and “http://learn.about.research.before.you.cut.what.you.dont.know.gov”. The project follows in a long line of similar interventions such as the FloodNet by EDT and b.a.n.g. lab.

Note: the script that processes the results of the form on Cantor’s site is actually hosted on the personal site of Matt Lira, well-known technical operative of the GOP. Thus this script never connects to any .gov website.

The script and accompanying text files can be downloaded here. All you need is python 2.5 or higher to run. Comments at the top of the file explain any changes you might want to make.

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In the spirit of blog writing, this is just what I’ve been thinking about. Maybe you just thought tl;dr. Hopefully, I’ll be posting more throughout the month. I look forward to your feedback! Enjoy…


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