Who Watches The Watchmen?

Why, Anonymous, of course.

Anonymity has a long history in both rebellion and conformity. Whether it has been women protesting in print, hackers attacking the Church of Scientology or the faceless masses of crazy right-wingers, it is a mask that is as terrifying as it is liberating.

With the arrest of members of Anonymous over their support of Julian Assange (amongst other hacks), it brings to mind whether those who have been entrusted with guarding the law are really the ones being wronged here.

Anonymous has gone after groups such as The Church of Scientology, Visa, Mastercard, Sony and movie and music distributors. They have yet to attack a Marie Stopes website, or an atheist website. But when one considers the growing call for funding cuts to women’s health issues as well as the mostly unchecked power of religious groups who are anti-gay, I can’t help being privately pleased by the growth of a group like Anonymous.

I know that Anonymous and LulzSec have the power to be very, very dangerous groups. They could hack into power grids or hospital mainframes. They’ve already shown the ability to get past the firewalls of major credit card corporations, which means that they could theoretically attack banks. There’s a lot of scary things they could do. It is also worth reading fellow blogger and internet denizen Tallulah‘s piece on Anonymous here.

But we also forget that long before the hackers there have been governments, and they’ve shown a remarkable ability to destroy economies, societies and freedoms with the backing of the all the legislation they can write. Whether it is apartheid legislature (which is making a comeback in the Protection of Information Bill) or the Patriot Act in the States, Shariah law or Catholic dogma, there is no guarantee of security from the bodies that promise it. Governments no longer fear their people, if they ever have, except for groups like LulzSec.

What the hacker groups represent is power that does not involve guns or jackboots, and its something that governments don’t know how to handle. Arresting members of Anonymous might be the most dangerous thing they could have done considering that they have very little knowledge of the size and reach of the group. Even the group itself is not unified enough to take it out with a few arrests: there are different factions, all with different goals. While I personally agree with the attacks on Scientology, I disagree with the flooding of internet support groups for epileptic groups with flashing images.

In America there are things such as ‘free speech zones’. The stench of Orwell aside, these are the kind of laws that generate groups like Anonymous. When legitimate and constructive areas of criticism have been taken away or ignored, then force becomes the norm. Personally, I love the idea that the American government is scared of Anonymous. I hope they’re terrified. In the face of governmental impunity, in the deaths of one million Iraqis that no one will talk about and an education system that is as lamentable as it is irredeemable, there should be someone who pulls them in line. What happens when Anonymous wins is anyone’s guess. Maybe there will always be something for them to fight, especially for as long as people abuse cats and they find out about it. Maybe they’ll legislate that every day is Caturday and replace the school syllabus with their version of Wikipedia. Its hard to predict a group like this, especially since they don’t seem to have a clear leader or even goals other than ‘for the lulz’ and “Man the fucking harpoons.”

I wish we had our own Anonymous here, someone who can find a way to disable the processes that are creating the Stalinesque secrecy bills. Someone who could actually infiltrate and change. Although we have not yet exhausted all our avenues of protest (someone has yet to actually physically kick one of the ANC party members involved), I think some kind of digital vote is required, especially since we might not have one left to us.

It seems trite to quote Fight Club or V for Vendetta but they are appropriate texts because they’re anarchical and believe in the strength of many as opposed to a few super people (like Ayn Rand does). But the point is that, as V says, “the government, Evey, has forgotten the voice of the people. And it is much, much louder than they care to remember.”

From Wikipedia's article on Anonymous

Love Song for the Internet

I’ll be the first person to say I suffer from Facebook envy and Twitter confusion. I see everyone’s photos of their trips and their parties, their excellent events and adventures and I can’t help feeling just a little pathetic in comparison. And with Twitter, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the information that ticks through at an impressive rate of 190 million tweets per day. It is impossible to read them all (and to be honest most aren’t worth reading) but there’s something special about the swell of so much information.

But I love the internet. Like the XKCD cartoon, I love many of its crazy folks and beautiful blogs and exciting websites. The internet gives us things like We Feel Fine, an idea that wouldn’t translate anywhere else. There are TED talks, lectures that can change your life and make me excited about all the great things going on out there. It often feels like there isn’t much good news, but an excellent Cracked article pointed out something important to me the other day. The media will always go by the manifesto of ‘if it bleeds it leads’, because Malema will sell more newspapers than a story of an orphanage having a really great adoption rate. Because of this, we often forget what the world is about, that it is far more nuance than we give it credit for. While we all focus on the terrible dolphin slaughter in Japan, we don’t notice that the two biggest chicken suppliers in the States have switched over to the humane method of Controlled Atmosphere Killing, saving billions of chickens an agonizing and slow death. The beautiful thing about the internet is that it allows all the stories to proliferate, good and bad.

As part of my job I meet a lot of book reps, and I see a great number of books. There is a growing trend in business and psychology books that suggests that the Internet is making everybody dumber because of the rapid-fire nature of the Net. That Twitter’s homeopathic novels (tweets) are causing us to demand information in bite-sized chunks. Facebook is apparently isolating us from each other because somehow being more connected is bad?

I think the problem is that the Internet is being blamed for sheer human laziness. The same way that everyone thought television would destroy human progress and intelligence, books are coming out warning that the nature of the Internet is lowering our capacity for understanding. This research has obviously not been conducted on a significantly long term basis, which means that a lot of the conclusions are hypothetical for now. Also, what’s wrong with wanting concise information? Why fight through twaddle just to get to the clear facts? If I wanted unnecessary padding, I would read Lord of the Rings. And for all its length, Lord of the Rings is vastly inferior to a great many important books a fifth of its length with a hundred times the message and passion. (Catcher in the Rye, Fight Club, To Kill a Mockingbird, Beloved).

The Internet isn’t making us stupid. With Wikipedia making information available on a much wider basis compared to the pay-to-view expensive encyclopedias, news feeds from hundreds of reputable news stations and the simple joy of social networking, we are enjoying unparalleled access to information unlike anything before this. Maybe this is what it felt like when the Gutenberg Press freed books from their handwritten cages. This is why having Internet access is now a human right, and should be available to everyone. Information should be freely available. It isn’t yet, but I dream of a world where it is. What matters here is the ability to sift through and understand, a skill that is not taught by the internet, but by parents and schools. Of course, its much easier to blame the Internet and video games and television for bad children instead of shitty, uninterested parents.

Look at the Columbine shootings. The kids were neo-Nazis, were able to get their hands on weapons and were openly violent and aggressive. But instead of asking where their parents and teachers were in the run-up and how it got so bad, it was just so much easier to blame Quake. Somehow its always bad children, not bad parents. Bad chat rooms, not bad legislation. Likewise there are all these hysterical stories about mad boyfriends killing their girlfriends because they saw her in a photo with another guy on Facebook. Somehow, its Facebook’s fault, not the psycopath boyfriend who was just looking for a reason to kill the ungrateful crackwhore. (As his logic surely must work.)

The internet is full of crazy people. It has the b/tards and LulzSec and religious fundamentalists and animal haters. But these people have always existed. The Internet is just the mirror of society, but it enjoys something closer to true democracy than other countries. Blaming the Internet for giving bad people a place to exist is akin to cursing the Earth for having landmasses for us to live on. And unlike meatspace (real life), if you don’t like what you see, you can close the tab and never go there again. Its unlike schools, where atheist kids might be uncomfortable, or kids might not be able to get away from sexual predators posing as teachers. Or like being dragged to those awful family dinners where people whom one is unfortunate enough to share blood with let loose racial epithets that would make Huckleberry Finn blush. Unlike the Internet, annoying family members can’t be alt-tabbed away.

I love the Internet. It gives me a space to write and be heard, something print media does not afford to everybody. I can gather information at a rapid pace without having to go to a library. Please don’t get me wrong: I love books. They’re my trade and my lifeblood and have been since I was very little. But the Internet is like having a library at my fingertips, and I don’t have to deal with any bitchy librarians. (Wow, the Rhodes librarians were a bunch of miserable fucks.) The Internet is always the first to be blamed for anything, but it’s a tool. It can be used to change the world, or just post a blog or even share videos of kittens falling asleep just to cheer people up. It provides welcoming communities, such as Bodies Under Siege and Post Secret so that no one has to feel alone.

Everyone will take what they want from the Net, but to blame it for making us stupid is to deflect responsibility. I want the whole world to have the Intarwabs, to join this giant heartbeat of the planet. It’s like the Discovery Channel song says, ‘I love the whole world, its such a brilliant place’. The Internet, in my opinion, is the greatest thing to have been invented because of its mind-boggling potential and almost sentient presence in our lives.

Here are some excellent quotes about the Internet, more available here at Quotegarden.com.

The Internet is clearly about more than sports scores and email now.  It’s a place where we can conduct our democracy and get very large amounts of data to very large numbers of people.  ~Frank James

The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control.  By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation.  ~Vinton Cerf

I have an almost religious zeal – not for technology per se, but for the Internet which is for me, the nervous system of mother Earth, which I see as a living creature, linking up.  ~Dan Millman

The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.  ~Bill Gates

The Internet is a giant international network of intelligent, informed computer enthusiasts, by which I mean, “people without lives.”  We don’t care.  We have each other.  ~Dave Barry

Using Twitter like a dandelion uses the wind… Spreading messages, not exactly knowing where they might go, some taking roots and blossoming, some making a adventurous journey through the air but not falling on fertile ground.  So what?  A process of beauty and joy.  ~Detlef Cordes, detlefcordes.org

The Battle Continues

As many of you may, or may not know, Graham and I are writing a book. Not just any book, but what we hope to be the definitive atheist handbook and reference guide. At least, the best one in Africa, looking towards Dawkins, Hitchen and Harris for guides.

As such, we are collecting articles about atheists, atheism and the non-religious battle and often come across numerous interesting titbits. Gaze upon the awesomeness of hackers in action here: Evangelists Hacked Off. Now, there will be the invariable bleating about ‘wah the evangelists are entitled to spread their word’. But let’s look at the nature of evangelical christianity. Who can doubt that it is nothing but a money-spinner? These falsely charismatic priests are often flashy and expensively-dressed, and often prey upon the poor. After all, atheism is something more often found amongst the rich, who have no need to hope that an imaginary friend will help them make money. So, the evangelists often exist to prey upon the frustrations and ignorance of those who simply can’t imagine letting go of Mr Jesus. Also, one has to wonder where they get the money from for a huge conference in very expensive Cape Town. Carbon footprint much?

Evangelism also suggests a more aggressive christianity. (I wish spellchecker would stop trying to capitalise that word. I refuse to do so until it tells me to write atheists with a capital A.) The following comment was attached to the hacker article:

“The growing war against Christianity, morals, respect and decency”, he says. Add to this the current Pope’s frankly ill-informed comment:

“Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where his existence is denied? If the human creature’s relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the ‘final authority,’ and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible.” (Pope Blames Atheists for Global Warming)

Wait, what? When we deny god, we burn baby rabbits? What’s going on here? Was it not the Bible that gave dominion of the environment to man (not humankind, because remember we live in a patriarchal world)  and initiated centuries of animal abuse and environmental degradation? ‘God gave it to us, neener neener’ seems to be the response. And yes, I was at a braai, and three christians told me they could eat pork chops and lamb because god said so. (I thought pork was banned, but anyway.) This was not the best argument, and as one can imagine, they lost that one.

Atheists are apparently amoral and godless and therefore violent. Considering that atheists aren’t bombing anyone in the name of no one, please consider the following list of current religious wars and combat zones:

Current Wars:

Afghanistan:……Extreme, radical Fundamentalist Muslim terrorist groups, non-Muslims. Osama bin Laden heads a terrorist group called Al Quada (The Source) whose headquarters were in Afghanistan. They were protected by, and integrated with, the Taliban dictatorship in the country. The Northern Alliance of rebel Afghans, Britain and the U.S. attacked the Taliban and Al Quada, establishing a new regime in part of the country. The fighting continues.

Bosnia:……Serbian Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholic), Muslims. Fragile peace is holding, due only to the presence of peacekeepers.

Côte d’Ivoire:……Muslims, Indigenous, Christian. Following the elections in late 2000, government security forces “began targeting civilians solely and explicitly on the basis of their religion, ethnic group, or national origin. The overwhelming majority of victims come from the largely Muslim north of the country, or are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants…”
A military uprising continued the slaughter in 2002.

Cyprus:……Christians, Muslims. The island is partitioned,creating enclaves for ethnic Greeks (Christians) and Turks (Muslims). A UN peace keeping force is maintaining stability.

East Timor:……Christians, Muslims. A Roman Catholic country. About 20% of the population died by murder, starvation or disease after they were forcibly annexed by Indonesia (mainly Muslim). After voting for independence, many Christians were exterminated or exiled by the Indonesian army and army-funded militias in a carefully planned program of genocide and religious cleansing. The situation is now stable.

India:……Animists, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs. Various conflicts that heat up periodically producing loss of life.

Indonesia, province of Ambon:……Christians, Muslims. After centuries of relative peace, conflicts between Christians and Muslims started during 1999-JUL in this province of Indonesia. The situation now appears to be stable.

Iraq:……Kurds, Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, western armed forces. By mid-2006, a small scale civil war, primarily between Shiite and Sunni Muslims started. The situation appears to be steadily degenerating.

Kashmir:……Hindus, Muslims. A chronically unstable region of the world, claimed by both Pakistan and India. The availability of nuclear weapons and the eagerness to use them are destabilizing the region further. Thirty to sixty thousand people have died since 1989.

Kosovo:……Serbian Orthodox Christians, Muslims. Peace enforced by NATO peacekeepers. There is convincing evidence of past mass murder by Yugoslavian government (mainly Serbian Orthodox Christians) against ethnic Albanians (mostly Muslim).

Kurdistan:……Christians, Muslims. Assaults on Christians (Protestant, Chaldean Catholic, Assyrian Orthodox).

Macedonia:……Macedonian Orthodox Christians, Muslims. Muslims (often referred to as ethnic Albanians) engaged in a civil war with the rest of the country who are primarily Macedonian Orthodox Christians. A peace treaty has been signed. Disarmament by NATO is complete.

Middle East:……Jews, Muslims, Christians. The peace process between Israel and Palestine suffered a complete breakdown. This has resulted in the deaths of thousands, in the ratio of three dead for each Jew.  Major strife broke out in 2000-SEP. Major battle in Lebanon during mid-2006. No resolution appears possible.

Nigeria:……Christians, Animists, Muslims. Yourubas and Christians in the south of the country are battling Muslims in the north. Country is struggling towards democracy after decades of Muslim military dictatorships.

Northern Ireland:……Protestants, Catholics. After 3,600 killings and assassinations over 30 years, some progress has been made in the form of a ceasefire and an independent status for the country.

Pakistan:……Suni, Shi’ite Muslims. Low level mutual attacks.

Philippines:……Christians, Muslims. A low level conflict between the mainly Christian central government and Muslims in the south of the country has continued for centuries.

Russia,Chechnya:……Russian Orthodox Christians, Muslims. The Russian army attacked the breakaway region. Many atrocities have been alleged on both sides. According to the Voice of the Martyrs: “In January 2002 Chechen rebels included all Christians on their list of official enemies, vowing to ‘blow up every church and mission-related facility in Russia’.”

South Africa:……Animists, “Witches”. Hundreds of persons, suspected and accused as witches practicing black magic, are murdered each year.

Sri Lanka:……Buddhists, Hindus. Tamils (a mainly Hindu 18% minority) are involved in a war for independence since 1983 with the rest of the country (70% Sinhalese Buddhist). Hundreds of thousands have been killed. The conflict took a sudden change for the better in 2002-SEP, when the Tamils dropped their demand for complete independence. The South Asian Tsunami in 2004-DEC induced some cooperation. The situation in mid-2006 is degenerating.

Sudan:……Animists, Christians, Muslims. Complex ethnic, racial, religious conflict in which the Muslim regime committed genocide against both Animists and Christians in the south of the country. Slavery and near slavery were practiced. A ceasefire was signed in 2006-MAY between some of the combatants. Warfare continues in the Darfur region, primarily between a Muslim militia and Muslim inhabitants.

Thailand:……Buddhists, Muslims. Muslim rebels have been involved in a bloody insurgency in southern Thailand — a country that is 95% Buddhist. The army has seized power and has agreed to talks with the rebels.

Tibet:……Buddhists, Communists. Country was annexed by Chinese Communists in late 1950′s. Brutal suppression of Buddhism continues.

Uganda:…. Animists, Christians, Muslims. Christian rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army are conducting a civil war in the north of Uganda. Their goal is a Christian theocracy whose laws are based on the Ten Commandments. They abduct, enslave and/or rape about 2,000 children a year.

Source: http://justsaynotoreligion.com/religious-wars/

Still waiting for a war funded and conducted by atheists.

My point is (and I do have one) is that christians and others refuse to acknowledge their complicity in global war, climate damage, animal cruelty and the suppression of human beings. Instead, everything gets blamed on atheists and atheism. While there are probably some mean atheists out there, there is absolutely no doubt that there are very many bad religious people out there. This article gives even more reasons just to oppose the Catholic Church, and does it well.

I wouldn’t mind so much if religious people accepted that they are part of a group of people who use a god (or gods) to motivate war, jihad and genocide. If I saw more christians and muslims and assorted other religious groups actually condemning the actions of their groups a bit louder, maybe we could have a dialogue. But all there is is tacit approval or silence. Too much bleating of  ‘but we’re peaceful muslims!’ There aren’t enough Catholics boycotting their churches because of Ratzinger’s defence of paedophiles, and 100,000 muslims were willing to march to call for Salman Rushdie’s death over a book that was not that inflammatory. These are not the actions of moral people.

Atheists are becoming a marginalised group, but we aren’t willing to turn to arms to defend ourselves. We don’t want to be as bad as the people that blame us for everything from global warming to nuclear war. So, we are using the internet, literature and documentaries as our places of defence. It is our hope that we can offer an alternative that does not allow violence in the name of an imaginary friend. So, I would like to add my blog to the peaceful movement that is atheism, and I look forward to a day when people stop looking at me funny just because I refuse to bow and scrape before Mr Jesus.