An Interview with Ricardo Dominguez by Hans Peter Kartenberg
Ricardo Dominguez on virtual sit-in's and the upcoming trial against on-line activists in Germany. Hans Peter Kartenberg e-mailed the co-founder of The Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) on 2005-6-12.
> On your website at thing.net there was a call for a virtual sit-in on the website minutemanproject.com from May 27th to May 29th 2005. Who are the minutemen and what was the idea of that action?
Swarm The Minutemen was an e-action developed by a group of activists in the San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico border along with Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT), in order to call attention to The Minutemen. The Minutemen are a non-governmental group of people vowing to patrol the US/Mexico border with guns in order to stop migrant people from crossing the border. They represent an intensification of the trend of violence towards migrant people and people of color that has increased since 9/11. They have received right wing state government support from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and from anti-immigrant media. EDT called for a three day virtual sit-in in solidarity with Swarm who had called for a number of e-actions to take place: a 24/7 telephone call campaign, a fax action, an e-mail action and sound pollution actions on the border. Since the Minuteman say they love the silence of the desert - because they can hear the dirty rats (the people trying to cross the border) making noise - by creating lots of loud sounds it would keep the Minutemen from finding, stopping and harassing these people. These on/off line actions took place on the same days the Minutemen were holding a convention in Las Vegas.
> How were the effects of the campaign?
More than 78,500 people from around the world joined the non-violent mass virtual sit-in on sites hosted around the world against the MinuteMen. It seems that in a time when almost all the space in the United States has been privatized and free speech zones have been reduced to cages topped with barbed wire, the internet can still serve as a commons where people can gather together to create positive social change. There were reports that at times the MinuteMenProject.com server was not responding and at times the WakeUpAmericaFoundation.com server was unresponsive as well. Apparently the swarm had an effect. Within the MinuteMen circles the action was discussed as well.
> 2001, you were visiting the activists who organized the first virtual sit-in in Germany -- they had been inspired by the Electronic Disturbance Theater. 13.000 people took part in the sit-in at the Lufthansa-website to protest against the business the company was doing with the German state, transporting people who are deported from Germany.
I was invited by 'no one is illegal' and 'Libertad!' to speak in different cities in Germany in June 2001 about the history of Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) and Electronic Disturbance Theater's (EDT) use of mass non-violent direct action online since 1998. I helped to spread the word about the Virtual Sit-In on Lufthansa during the yearly shareholder meeting on June 20th. I spoke to small and large groups of activists, media, artists and hacktivists.
> Was the Lufthansa-action any different from the sit-in's organized in the US?
This action functioned exactly like our recent SWARM action. The 'Deportation class' action followed all the protocols of transparency that had been established for ECD since the first 'netstrikes' by the Italian activist communities in the mid 90's. All the activist and artist announced the dates and reasons for the actions online, in the streets and inside the shareholders meeting - nothing was hidden. This is important because ECD is about bringing together real bodies and digital bodies in a transparent manner which is the same tradition as Civil Disobedience - that people are willing to break a law (like blocking the street) to uphold a higher law.
> On June 14th, Andreas-Thomas Vogel, he is the one who registered the domain libertad.de, where in 2001 a call for the Lufthansa action had been published, will be prosecuted in a high-security-courtroom in Frankfurt, where on other occasions terrorist trials are being held.
ECD should be judged by local, national and international courts as a civil act of disobedience and not as a crime. As Dr. Dorothy E. Denning of Georgetown University stated in her testimony before the Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism Committee on Armed Services in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 23, 2000: '... EDT and the Electrohippies view their operations as acts of civil disobedience, analogous to street protests and physical sit-ins, not as acts of violence or terrorism. This is an important distinction. Most activists, whether participating in the Million Mom's March or a Web sit-in, are not terrorists.' Lufthansa and the German government knew who, what, when and why these actions were going to take place. ECD is not a secret and anonymous 'cracking' into servers and enslaving in order to set off Distributed Denial of Service-attacks (DDoS). These actions only represent one or two hidden people. ECD is the unbearable weight of human beings on-line in a civil and transparent protest - whose main goal is to question and spread information about what they feel is a social condition that must be corrected to create a better society for all. This act of transparency is important for civil society and the courts to understand - ECD is and should be treated as another digital condition intimately tied to the long and deep Western tradition of Civil Disobedience - nothing more and nothing less.