Thursday, November 1, 2007

Downloading and Resistance

The corporatocracy relies on its propaganda organs to fight this part of the counterinsurgency operation, but the web of lies they attempt to weave in their subjects' heads wither with just a single exposure to truth. That is so elementary a principle that it almost qualifies as a natural law: truth cancels lies, but lies cannot cancel truth. Still, once you've woken up, and realized with growing horror the depth of the deception in which you've been buried, there's the question of, "Well, what the hell should I actually do, now that I know all of this?"

In truth, all sorts of things: spreading the word to friends and family is a start, as is going out in public and distributing flyers, leaflets, handbills, DVDs. You can start a blog, get a youtube channel, start podcasting or do whatever you can to get in on the production end of the infowar. Anything is good, because the infowar - the process by which people are woken up to the fact that the free world has been occupied by stealth by a consortium of banks and corporations - is half the battle.

But only half. It wasn't long before those under Soviet domination ceased to believe a damn thing their authorities told them, but by the time they woke up it hardly mattered, so total was the control matrix that had been built around them.

Well, then, what to do? Political activism is a possibility, but in the end marches and protests don't accomplish much: the media ignores them, so the public ignores them, which means the corporations can ignore them, and thus nothing changes. The only exception being if there's a riot, in which case they're all over it like flies on corpses: it make the protesters look bad, the violence obscuring whatever point the protesters were trying to make, and it lets the media show images of imperial stormtroopers restoring order with tear gas and rubber bullets, which reminds the populace of who's in charge.

Armed insurgency is an attractive option for some, but it's a futile path, even worse than rioting. Inevitably branded as terrorism, it only serves to drive the public further into the arms of the state, justifying greater revocation of liberty and centralization of power. This, combined with the fact that there's basically no way in hell a ragtag band of insurgents can best the perfection of technology and technique of the military-industrial complex, makes any attempt to resort to violence utterly wrongheaded.

Kevin at Cryptogon has a fascinating essay where he takes up just this subject, and suggests a meaningful way in which war can be waged against the corporatocracy: militant IP piracy.

Who know that downloading music, movies, and software without actually paying for it could be a revolutionary act? Obvious in retrospect, really, but still. I'm going to enjoy expanding my media library even more from here on.

Kevin applies the idea primarily to media and software piracy, but I think it can be taken much further than that. The primary basis of corporacratic power is economic: by controlling the money supply, the control almost everything. To fight against the corporate state, it's economic basis must be undermined. Nothing else can possibly work.

Now here, there are all sorts of angles of attack. Currency is the one: if underground currencies could be spread (for instance, plastic tokens with flakes of gold embedded in them, so that they had actual value in and of themselves), the power of banks would be undercut. A similar angle is to use peer-to-peer banking systems like Prosper for lending and borrowing money, cutting banks out of the transactions entirely and thus helping to starve them. I can well imagine a synergy between peer-to-peer banking and private currencies contributing greatly to undermining the power of banks.

But the economic structure of the corporatocracy is not merely financial; it is also industrial. The means of production now involve massive global supply chains, with a dozen countries involved in the manufacture of virtually every product. On the one hand, this system harnesses division of labor to drive prices lower than ever before in history. On the other hand only huge corporations (guarded by massive navies) can efficiently manage these supply chains. And on the gripping hand*, differences in currency valuations can be used to artificially concentrate industry in one district whilst denuding another entirely.

The tactic Ghandi used to help free India from the British Empire are instructive here: stop buying clothing from the British, sit down at a loom, and make your own. When that practice was widely adopted, one of the principle instruments of economic control over the subcontinent was broken. It wasn't long at all before India was its own country again.

Similarly, rapid prototyping technology is ever-improving. The Fab Lab at MIT is exploring the best ways to learn and interact with a technology that can build anything; the reprap project is concentrating on a rapid prototyper that can print out a copy of itself. It won't be long, no more than a few years and maybe less, before fabbing technology begins to take off, and once it does the industrial wherewithal to rapidly make anything one wants (so long as one has the designs for it) will be available to anyone who wants it.

It's hard to imagine the corporatocracy being able to survive conditions in which they are utterly deprived of the lions share of media, fiscal, and ultimately manufacturing revenues. If you're searching for a reason for why things are accelerating politically like never before, look no further: the technocratic elite that entrenched itself over the past few years is comprised of smart people, and they can see what's coming as well as, hell better than, anyone else. They know that if they don't act soon to lock down the entire planet, they're prospects even ten years from now are grim indeed.

So the next time you want to watch a TV show, listen to an album, go to a movie, or use some software, do freedom a favor and download it. Starve the beast just a little bit, and keep the networks alive and strong for the day when you can download a car instead of Gran Turisumo.

*Kudos to anyone who got that obscure sci-fi reference.

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