Bet the Pentagon Didn't Intend This…


An article in The Nation examines the use of the Web to enable decentralized political activism, with a focus on left groups like, which has recently been in the news a fair amount.

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  1. Yeah, I bet the Pentagon’s really shaking in their boots at the awesome power of organizations like MoveOn. Oh my god!!! Not Kucinich!! Help!!!

  2. Eric:

    I believe the Pentagon ref was simply an ironic allusion to the net’s origin as a DARPA project.

    And while “Move On” may not be much cause for concern, this GENERAL type of organization has definitely appeared on the jackboots’ radar screen:

    David Ronfeldt. The Zapatists “Social Netwar” in Mexico MR-994-A. Rand, 1998.

    This paper argued that the internet presented a huge potential for decentralized organization of resistance. At very short notice, a loose network of activist organizations could throw together large-scale demonstrations, letter and phone-call campaigns, media saturation campaigns, and generally swarm the media and state with large-scale pressure with little or no warning. Ronfeldt explicitly drew comparisons with far-racist groups’ practice of “leaderless resistance,” as promoted by Louis Beam. So the anti-militia hysteria and the anti-anti-globalist hysteria of the police state are part of a broad phenomenon.

    And note that the paper focuses on the worldwide sympathy movement for the Zapatistas as the primary example of the phenomenon. That’s because the Seattle movement hit the news AFTER this paper was written, and after this form of resistance had already drawn attention from the State.

    As for how elites reacted to the anti-globalization movement, look at the high places in Heimat-Sicherheits for which Tom Ridge and John Timoney have been selected. Timoney, as Philly police commissioner during the 2000 GOP convention demos, was absolutely hysterical about the “international anarchist conspiracy” to swarm local venues, and called for the use of RICO to break it. Ridge provided political cover for it. For a detailed study of how Timoney and Ridge dealt with it locally, check out:

    Paul Rosenberg. “The Empire Strikes Back: Police Repression of Protest From Seattle to L.A.” L.A. Independent Media Center 13 August 2000, at

  3. A few weeks ago, only the serious political wonk had ever heard of MoveOn. Now that they?ve adopted the Dean campaign, all of a sudden we have dozens of reports of decentralized political activism.

    NPR gave a report last weekend crediting the downfall of the Philippines? Estrada to the demonstrators? use of cell phone text messaging. Now we have the Battle in Seattle and the story of the 400K New Yorkers marching in support of Saddam. Even editorial cartoonists have picked up on the Deancampaign/MoveOn/decentralized political activism story and they are a notoriously slow bunch to be sure.

    The Dean campaign is the spindly, lifeless skeleton of a story here and the rest of it is a weak attempt to give it life.

  4. Since when is a Stalinist rag like the Nation interested in decentralization.

  5. Right, Doug! And we can never get information from any source we disagree with about anything!

    And they’re not stalinists; they’re Hillaryoid NPR liberals, which is actually worse.

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