I tend not to be much of a believer in political "parties." They always seem to get lost in groupthink around what's best for "the party," rather than what's best, period. I even tend to have issues with groups like The Pirate Party. While I support many of the ideals and concepts within the party's platform, I don't agree with everything they have to say, and still think the use of "pirate" in the name, while attention grabbing and perhaps useful in the short-term, is quite limiting long-term. And yet, I'm certainly intrigued by a lot of what's been happening over the past few months, in terms of somewhat ad hoc groups coming together and protesting things they just know
are not right. While I still don't agree with the denial of service tactics
of "Anonymous" and its Operation Payback, I've been saying for a while that this really is a moment when centralized top-down legacy systems are coming into conflict
with distributed, decentralized, bottom-up systems -- and not understanding them at all.
points us to an opinion piece from lawyer Douglas Wood, in which he does a nice job describing what he refers to as "The Party of We,"
which he notes is already in control
I think that final point is the part that is the most interesting, and the least understood in many of the discussions around what's happening online. In the past, with traditional systems, if you didn't agree with something, you would just protest. But if you look at what's been happening lately, when the public doesn't agree with something -- official secrecy, draconian copyright laws, censorship, privacy violations, etc. -- rather than just protesting, they're simply routing around those things. It's an incredibly important point. They're not protesting by saying "this will not stand." They're protesting by saying "your laws don't matter, because we can simply route around them."
That's a hell of a lot more powerful than most people realize.
Of course, I already know that some will mock this, saying that it's just a bunch of kids (probably "entitled" kids -- or maybe "freeloading" kids) "breaking the law" and such. Or they'll say that the recent arrests of a few folks show that they can't really route around the system. But I think that significantly underestimates the long-term impacts of what's happening. Whether or not you want to call it the "We Party," it does seem clear that a large (and growing) group of people have realized that code trumps laws
, and no matter what laws are put in place to try to beat back code, code will always win.
What's most important is the tipping point, spawned not by Assange but by a new body politic -- a new party of individuals bonded by commonality of interest not defined by national or geographic boundaries. The Party of We.
In response to the attacks on Wikileaks, this virtual We Party, comprised of citizens of the world, unleashed an unprecedented -- and united -- attack on parts of the infrastructure that transact payments and sustain eCommerce and for a brief moment shut critical parts of it down.
This was unprecedented not because it hasn't been tried before (even with some success), but because its success, however brief the moment may have been, was only reversed by those who started it and who had a change of heart. Furthermore, it was novel in its motivation not to hack a system or engage in fraud or greed, but rather in support of a cause -- a belief in the idea and purity of unencumbered speech.
What's left out of this is that it's not actually a party. It's not actually an organization at all, which is part of what makes it so powerful. With an organization you can attack the organization or cut off its head. When it's just a whole bunch of people who understand the power of technology, plucking out a few people that can be tracked down does nothing other than attract more people to the power of code.
Whether or not you agree with the concept of "The We Party," or what they're doing, it's difficult to not recognize that what's been happening is significant, meaningful and important.