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The counter-revolution will be networked

Written By: - Date published: 12:51 pm, April 18th, 2012 - 38 comments
Categories: class war - Tags:

Don’t know if you saw Ruth Richardson’s wee rant in the Herald yesterday. Never realised she was such a bad writer. That was awful. Just a bunch of catchphrases and insensitive mention of Christchurch so she could use earthquake metaphors. Her thrust seems to be that the social media age will make us all free-market libertarians. Couldn’t be more wrong.

She fundamentally misunderstands the effect technological change is having on politics. Smart phones and social networks aren’t promoting the kind of rank individualism that neoliberalism depends on. They’re creating a generation of ‘networked individuals’, who are socialised into cooperation, horizontal social relations and radical transparency. Deeply cynical of opaque and hierarchical power structures, whether state or corporate.
The result is Tahrir, Syntagma, UK Uncut, Occupy, the Arab Spring, and even the London riots.
For Richardson to argue that the rise of the network is going to promote the interests of the global capitalist elite is as absurd as some medieval bishop arguing the invention of the printing press would bolster the position of the Catholic Church.

38 comments on “The counter-revolution will be networked ”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    The use of technology to expand social networks will lead to anarchy – which, I’m pretty sure, she doesn’t want as it will remove the overly paid idiots like her and then she and her clique will have to start actually working.

    • Bored 1.1

      Ruth has not got a clue: social media and cell phones etc will get very limited use organising the foot soldiers of the revolution. Here is why:

      To begin with, there are certain things that are inappropriate to discuss.

      These things include:
      -Your involvement or someone else¹s involvement with an undergound group
      -Someone else¹s desire to get involved with such a group
      -Asking others if they are a member of an underground group
      -Your participation or someone else¹s participating in any action that was illegal
      -Someone else¹s advocacy for such actions
      -Your plans or someone else¹s plans for a future action

      This is from a Black Bloc website, and it specifically says that any communication is dangerous, and that the less you do the better especially across insecure means (cell phones, texts, the web). Its going to be face to face communication between trusted parties who may not even be able to identify one another. Forget social media, it is too open to intercept..


      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        Exactly. Relying on tech networks/social networks is will cause your movement to be crushed abruptly and thoroughly, and everyone of your members identified and rounded up, once the going gets nasty.

        • Zorr

          Which was why the London riot organisers used that app that allowed a completely anonymous messaging service…

          • Colonial Viper

            Do you really believe it was completely anonymous?

            Or that false messages could not be “spoofed” and sent out? All it takes is a good old fashioned inside job/covert agent planted (if you look it up the UK police have done it to the Green protest movement for years) to get access to the passwrods/laptops.

            They can also turn off/jam cell phone networks and internet in specific areas as they wish to. If you are relying on those systems for organising a day, you might suddenly be blind.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.2

        It’s stuff like PGP and Virtual Tunnelling that makes silly things like filters useless. I used to use an Instant Messenger software many years ago because it had built in 128 bit, real time, encryption across most Instant Messaging services.

        • Colonial Viper

          Gene Sharp. The author of the definitive guide to non-violent revolution. I understand that later versions of the guide say to avoid organising over the internet. When shit goes own, you want to have a hard copy and local copyof this guide, not one in the cloud.


          And – perhaps higher degrees of tech interconnectedness actually harms how people relate to themselves – and hence to others.

      • Peter 1.1.3

        The first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club

  2. vto 2

    i-technology hasn’t revolutionised anything and has not created anything new on the planet.

    All it has done, like most technologies, is make things faster. Same old thing, just faster. Communication is faster and more frequent, that is all. Nothing else.

    • tc 2.1

      Dunno vto, I now know what pair of shoes lady gaga bought and the ansgt ridden process that drove the decision.
      I wouldn’t of known that without social media so my life’s so much more complete now.

      • vto 2.1.1

        lol exactly. But you see, lady gaga could have told you by pigeon-post, newspaper delivered by steamship, or even letter. No different to internet etc, just slower.

        Most of technology is a jip, unless one enjoys their life going faster and faster and faster ……

        • Colonial Viper

          vto is quite correct – the truly revolutionary stuff is few and far between. Was the iPod revolutionary? No, there were MP3 players for many years before the iPod.

          And its arguable that no passenger plane has surpassed concorde in speed and luxury since it was designed.

        • Vicky32

          , lady gaga could have told you by pigeon-post, newspaper delivered by steamship, or even letter

          I am reminded of something darkly funny, which I heard on the World Service on Sunday. Their Titanic memorial programme was put together using the Morse transmissions sent to and from the Titanic that day, all spoken by creepy synthesised voices. At the start, the ‘chatter’ was all by and about a woman called Dorothy Gibson, who was conducting a long distance romance by wireless message with some guy. (I believe I heard she was the Scarlett Johanson of her day.) As time wore on, the wireless operators started telling the sender of messages to her to STFU, they were having an emergency…
          Very public! Today, she and her swain would be doing it by IM or by Twitter, and only the paparazzi would care, as she wouldn’t be clogging anyone’s communication channels…

    • McFlock 2.2

      Broadly true (i.e. I rolled it in my noggin for a bit and no flaws seemed evident, but I didn’t bother looking at it through my magnifying glass) that all IT has done is speed things up a lot.
      And all the rifle did was increase military engagement  ranges by a lot. But it still completely changed the dynamics of warfare.
      Don’t discount the bonus of faster information processing – it enables us to analyse protein folding, find low-incidence high-consequence associations in the health records of every citizen in entire nations, reduce logistic loads by adopting lean supply chains, and  allows thousands of people to collaborate on developing, funding or supporting projects (and I don’t just mean clicking “like”).
      Sneezing baby pandas and millions of hours of high-quality porn are just happy bonuses on the deal 🙂
      I can do in minutes what took teams of people literally years to produce 70 years ago. Because of that work, point-of-contact professionals can make better decisions. And as the situation changes, it doesn’t take decades for the  new issues to be reflected in the analysis outputs.

  3. Mike 3

    Yes and No I reckon. Social media is great for those that can think, join dots and read between the lines. But looking at my nieces generation (she’s 8), social media also gives the elites a brilliant platform for brainwashing. For example, advertising techniques are moving along rapidly as always and a generation of youngsters are growing up with advertising wrapped up as the latest games, from which they come to expect the advertising as the norm and as part of the game rather than for what it really is, thus allowing it to easily get into their subconscious. Another example of the downside I’ve noticed is where a child will “like” something simply because their friends have clicked on “like” rather than thinking for themselves whether it is ‘likeworthy’ or not.

    However, I also think that by the time she’s 30, the worldwide monetary and economic system will have collapsed if it isn’t drastically altered from what it is currently, so it might not matter so much about things like advertising on social media.

  4. captain hook 4

    tc. you are not completed till you have a leaf blower, chainsaw, hardly davison, angle grinder, horizontal planer and been to Macchu Piccu.

  5. ghostwhowalksnz 5

    The stuff Richardson spews out is comparable to the ‘online bullshit generators’

    “No matter where on that spectrum of the citizen/state divide, a new normal prevails.
    On the upside, the i-era means the locus of power is with the individual.
    The dynamism of empowered individuals knows no boundaries and the forces of innovation and enterprise are being unleashed to the unambiguous good of society at large”

    or if you go to emptybottle.org the results are

    syndicate peer-to-peer network effects
    incentivize blogging life-hacks
    capture user-centred communities

    or another site
    integrate revolutionary content
    maximise extensible partnerships

    or another site
    rectify transparent systems
    regenerate post-industrial infrastructures

  6. Lanthanide 6

    “as absurd as some medieval bishop arguing the invention of the printing press would bolster the position of the Catholic Church.”

    Actually it did let them make a lot of bibles very quickly.

    • Deano 6.1

      yeah, that didn’t turn out well for the power of Catholic Church though, did it?

    • Te Reo Putake 6.2

      The Gutenburg printing press was used to mass produce the King James Bible on behalf of the Church of England, not the Catholic Church. It was named after James the King of Scotland and England and leader of the COE.
      Happily, the sacred was quickly followed by the profane, with the publication of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales soon after.

      • Colonial Viper 6.2.1

        Funny the ways that new technological advances always get used. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  7. captain hook 7

    the thing is this country is run by and for accountants.
    what passes for public discourse is necessarily just a device to see who is toeing the party line.
    as bob would say, “just meaningless foam from the mouth”.
    so which side are you on?

  8. hoom 8

    Curious that she uses Apple as a model O_o
    Apple charges a massive 30% ‘tax’ on everything sold thorough iTunes/Appstore.
    Their financial success is largely because they have built a highly integrated, centrally planned, heavily regulated monopolistic system.

  9. alex 9

    What the hell was her point?

  10. Bill 10

    They’re creating a generation of ‘networked individuals’, who are . Deeply cynical of opaque and hierarchical power structures, whether state or corporate.
    The result is Tahrir, Syntagma, UK Uncut, Occupy, the Arab Spring, and even the London riots.

    Hmm. That’s a number of really big calls there.

    What’s a ‘networked individual’? Someone who relies on internet flows of information (or tweetr etc) and refers to others interested in the same info as ‘their’ network? Rather than real world networks – such as talking to, getting to know and acting with real people in real life and expanding on political or activist opportunities granted when common ground is found?

    And what is this

    socialised into cooperation, horizontal social relations and radical transparency

    ? using a ‘one step removed’ interface is anything but social and if anything encourages anti-social traits and inaction as the world of 0’s and 1’s assumes a primacy and the ‘virtual’ actions it encourages replace real action. As for ‘radical transparency’ I immediately think of the corporate dragnet that is facebook forcing transparency on people through their lack of concern for on line privacy.

    And are we to believe that people never felt

    Deeply cynical of opaque and hierarchical power structures, whether state or corporate.

    before the advent of the internet and such like?

    As for all the above resulting in the events mentioned…sorry, but that’s bollocks. Sure, social media might have been used by some participants in the events mentioned and some events might even had a hell of a lot of social mediums being used, but did the social media cause those events or make them possible? No. They changed some aspects of those events is all.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      Egypts not a great example either. The military rule, oppression and cronyism is just as severe as ever. Same show, different actors.

      Libya would have been a big zero for the people without the EU going totally NATO on Gaddafi’s case.

      And in the US. They pretend to have an election and the people (roughly 46% of them) can pretend to vote.

    • felix 10.2

      “Rather than real world networks – such as talking to, getting to know and acting with real people in real life and expanding on political or activist opportunities granted when common ground is found?”

      I hear you Bill. But I reckon the artificial social networks have a role in teaching us some of the stuff that a few generations of TV helped us to forget about real social networks.

      • Colonial Viper 10.2.1

        Just making sure everyone saw this. The more electronically connected we are, the more alone and incapable to really learn about ourselves and each other, we seem to be getting.

        Now they are creating robotic pets which respond to try and give people a sense of being not alone.

    • muzza 10.3

      Personally I don’t see the “digital natives” being anything other than sucked into what they have been bread to be, which is the foundation of the future corporates. The class schooling system, and the predetermined “privilege” that comes from those few who are the next elites out of the blocks, that will be more than ready to execute the final “sell off” of the state sector.

      The chance of real resistance will come from a broad spectrum of the “non digital natives” who in the case of Gen X have the advantage of being half analogue half digital, and this is a unique position that we will hold as the only generation to have this perspective. Gen X have functioned in either world, and as such the social skills now regarded as outdated, that is the face to face interaction which digital natives simple do not have, will provide the genuine leadership of any revolution.
      The digital natives stand little chance of making meaningful change, it has been bread out of them by the technology, and the example of Tahir etc as success, are little more than failing using social media…the strategy and execution was all wrong, as can be seen by the state of the country now. Digital tools will play a part, but what if those tools are no longer available, those digital natives will likely be lost in what would require, analogue solutions to run any revolution, should it have to be old school.
      Leadership does not come from an individual whose head has been stuck in a screen, leadership is born, and that is going to become harder and harder to find, but I am sure it is there!

      • Colonial Viper 10.3.1

        Digital tools will play a part, but what if those tools are no longer available, those digital natives will likely be lost in what would require, analogue solutions to run any revolution, should it have to be old school.
        Leadership does not come from an individual whose head has been stuck in a screen, leadership is born, and that is going to become harder and harder to find, but I am sure it is there!


  11. captain hook 11

    I hope so.

  12. Rodel 12

    Methinks Ruthie has done a weekend course in Post modernism twaddle.
    Love to get Richard Dawkins views on her writing style.

  13. M 13

    ‘The Generation Z politicians, the so-called digital natives, will instinctively understand the demand to constrain the reach of the state. The style will be one that celebrates diversity, honours personal opportunity and responsibility, and eschews the privileges of insiders. The focus will be on outcomes and a championship of the individual choices that can better lift performance and so promote better outcomes.’

    ROFL – she’s shitting me right? Constrain reach of state? CERA anyone?
    Celebrates diversity? Huh, only in NAct’s different ways of slagging off the less fortunate and brown people. Eschews privileges of insiders? Fuck, about the only way people can get things done these days but only if you’re a RWNJ.

    Thank fuck it wasn’t a video – at least her nauseating voice that sounds like it’s got a thick river of snot permanently trapped in her throat didn’t assault the populace’s ears.

  14. gnomic 14

    Just fancy that – there really was nothing inside that tiny noggin. Perhaps just a little Brownian motion and echoes of the deranged Ayn Rand.

  15. John72 15

    Most of the comments are some form of negative remark. The authors must be misery to live with. There was a beautiful sunrise this morning. It was peaceful out walking and listening to the birds. Do some people enjoy life?

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