Nature and Substance of Infoanarchism
The related ideals of opposition to centralization of social mechanisms emerge in varying degrees in all things capable of occupancy, community and derivative. We have yet to find anything like the Internet that is capable of going against this. It appears very much to be the outer instance of replication and growth seen in the evolution of animals, instead in social systems. Break-aways and growths. Any concept with a formula and inner-working cells can counteract other cells that form barriers, seemingly devouring the encompassing formula for itself. This is the idea behind anonymizing networks, encryption and independent platforms of communication. These form the defenses of open, vetted communities and services against the gatekeepers of the Internet and the malice of investment in control. Striking against malicious cells. From this idea melded with critique of property rights over files, the source and distribution of information and the private ownership of technology exists a trend that stresses democratic control of a shared online space, total freedom of public information and free ownership of technology. That is the summary of Infoanarchism.
Its almost certainly impossible for any anarchist to pass up the realization of their proposed social system in smaller contained instances which serve as testimonies to the natural universal draw to anarchy. In our place in modern time, we can’t help but encounter that fashion of effusive disorder in every basic interaction. Even in structured areas of communication, the underlying fibers are decided by consensus. This seems to be information at large. The distribution of media is multiplied by the initial numbers of people who discovered and shared something. A descending order of heightened volume, regardless of what system it happens under. Natural anarchy, the ends determined by the participants. That is, of course, until the ruling occupation deems it harmful and dispatches its combatants.
This alone puts anarchism in a different light than physical civilization in which Proudhon or Kropotkin centered their attention, and infers that things can spring from within just as uniquely as from insurrection. The hacker culture, though not explicitly dissident to the state, made the earliest form of this. Richard Stallman’s GNU project in the 1980s at MIT spearheaded a quasi gift economy model for the exchange of source code between developers and end users, leading to the modern open source community that created the Linux kernel and a myriad of other free software unrestricted by private ownership of the technicalities. Here started the first major questioning of money being important to software: The programmers being the ones developing and distributing the technology, they should have free agency to grant rights to end users to reproduce and share the code under the same conditions.
A decade down the road, the influx of the BitTorrent protocol and file sharing networks as a whole became the first major discord in the information age between free access to media and the profit interests of the entertainment industry. This was the shift from owning and sharing ones own work, to opposing the institution of private ownership of other work. A radiant and perfect concept that ideas made public are common property and transcend regional and material boundaries, not compatible with capitalism. When The Pirate Bay in Sweden was first being legally hammered by the United States, it was a matter of (international) state action against content-sharing in defense of property rights. In this sense, the perfect storm for Infoanarchist ideals was created. Disregard for capitalist and state monopoly on data and direct action to circumvent it. This would play out significantly during such incidents as Aaron Swartz’ harassment by the federal government for downloading JSTOR academic journal articles, investigative journalism by Barrett Brown and Project PM, and the leaks by Manning and Snowden. Upon knowledge being made public of the United States and cooperating global powers engaging in clandestine monitoring of all telecommunications — imperialism of the airwaves — perhaps the largest modern pulse of state malice to rejuvenate Infoanarchist involvement against force in all forms had been found. Privacy efforts like campaigns by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, GnuPG and an array of encrypted instant messaging applications were among a new wave of tools for concerned hackers and anti-authoritarians in the 2010s. All these continue now to contribute action against tyrannies who aim to suppress justice, however only in the context of current society’s pressing hunger for accountability than a full recondition of institutions and associations that anarchists would wish to see most.
The two above points of significance, unrestrained technology and conflict between monopoly and anarchy, seal the endeavor for Infoanarchists. Its more or less the essence of the whole matter: Free information; free people. With natural similarities to Anarchist Communism and Revolutionary Syndicalism, its essence is inseparable to the broad core of socialism. Now affirmed as an exceptional current of anti-authoritarianism, the question of practical use is in need of answer; something I don’t think has been seriously examined, since perhaps this was never thought to be a serious school of thought outside the Internet, since the piracy crowd was thought to be only of angry, unruly teenagers until worldwide pirate parties formed and later began leading in polls in Iceland in 2015.
If we can imagine the radical difference the present world would experience had the circles around the printing press and audio recording suggested an importance in owning technical capacity in common, we can determine the importance this plays in the contention for an anarchist society. The means to build groups concerned with liberation cannot be kept in the hands of the few as rival interests utilize them. This is a clear case of welcoming the Trojan horse into the gates, the perfect moment to pull the rug from beneath opposition. Enter the need for free and open source utilities as a means to build an anarchist platform instead of simply relying on facebook groups and twitter accounts, all under private firms cooperative with global surveillance and censorship.
Ground-up creation of association, connecting messages with palpable specimens of injustice and authority, their injection into working class populations and the rallying of frustration into a democratic platform of direct action and expropriation is the best approach at beginning an effective movement that I can condense into one sentence. None of this can be possible without every component from beginning to end being owned wholly by participants. This is true in the same way that democracy cannot be attained nor sustained through structured authority for one moment at all.
The outstanding trait of Infoanarchism is probably its development as a distinct community practice before a defined theory. Hackers always prided themselves as opponents to authority in some form or other. Be it simple liberal dislike of government tampering, capitalist minarchism or attacking hierarchies in their own communities, they all simply want to keep their transactions safe from coercive power. Ian Clarke’s inception of freenet and its coverage by TIME in 1998 demonstrated this very basically.
Clarke is the creator of Freenet, a computer system which allows anything that can be digitalized from political tracts to pirated music videos to child pornography to be traded anonymously on the Internet. “Anarchy means without a ruler and that sums up the architecture of Freenet,” says Clarke. “It does not have any kind of centralized control. In fact, it is designed in such a way that it is impossible to control.”
[…] While it will allow anonymity and free speech on the Internet to flourish, Freenet will also pose a serious threat to intellectual property rights and the firms that profit from them like book publishers and record companies. “It would be nice if the system were used only for wholesome purposes such as allowing people in China to access political information they might not otherwise get,” says the boyish-looking Clarke. “But I know it will also be used for other purposes such as distributing music without paying for it. You have to take the bad with the good.”
“The problem [with going after Freenet] is there is no there there,” says Bob Kruger, Washington D.C.-based vice president of enforcement at the Business Software Alliance, which represents leading software developers such as Microsoft and Apple. “We have to think long and hard about who would be the target for any type of enforcement action. It’s like a wheel when you can’t attack the hub then you are forced to go after the tops of the spokes and here we may be talking about lots of people.”
Emphasis should be put on a device, e.g., freenet, being impossible to control, but essential to direct. As far as I can tell, this is the situation we want to start at across the board, from the people the platform bring in to the power they take up in communication. A message is not to be controlled in such a uniform way or adhere to any quota, but to exist in many forms that comprise a fluidly directed meaning. Each concern from individual voices inevitably meets the goal that we all subconsciously compel ourselves toward if we are met in a particular situation; a phenomenon of psychology. No matter the individuals’ concern, it is destined to exist in the context of civilization’s benefit in a self-correcting, self-sustaining informal system of associations. We could think of ten or twenty sub-problems, but two or three of them will quickly prove to be the key to demolishing wage labor and social privilege in a given geographic region.
The stressing of information ownership seems to suggest if like concerns are an entrance to revolution. The intense passion by International Pirate Parties in response to state and private attacks on technology have thus far been the only known instances of related mobilization, more or less desperate proclamations of their existence to the mainstream political sphere. But while we’ve yet to see banks being smashed and cops being overpowered as the direct consequences of the anti-copyright mindset, we can infer revolutionary scenarios coming from severing ideas and culture from capitalism before the bulk of production as well. As stated previously, the hacker ethos is very closely tied with anarchism when the issue of control over software, hardware and the flow of information is a major issue. The popular sentiment of stealing music and making starving artists being deeply accepted maxims cannot go unchallenged by all fronts for long, should large scale challenging of wage labor also manifest. The innate contempt for authority and the gravitation toward betterment of information exchange and efficient employment of computer science, regardless of political leaning (though its commonly left nowadays), leaves very little room for sectarian divide, that we need only apply copyleft principles of information to labor and quality of living for them to be fully communist.
Even without this, its likely for an information revolution as the fortifier of physical skirmishes to come. The possibility of the frontlines changing place has never been more likely, almost certain, than now. The shift from footsoliders, to naval warfare, to thermonuclear terror is a noticeable continuation of how aggression is transformed. A long-overdue cyberwarfare campaign by anarchists bent on the deliverance of intelligence is both an ideal method of a platform’s origin, and the inevitable place to be filled in aggression transformation. Though the divides between the state apparatus and populations greatly limit the fair engagement in matched aggression against the state and capital (as far as nuclear weapons and naval gunships are), the mass connection to networks in all realms of life prove to be the greatest battleground. We’ve all heard the conspiracies of China hacking us and the NSA doing covert battle by keyboard; theres no doubt that an anarchist federation will take this form of battle unto themselves when the time is right.
No formal outline or hypothesis of this strain of anarchism exists, and I make no attempt to change that. The absence of any “Infoanarchism: Theory and Practice” is in itself a testament to methodological realization of basic principles subconsciously followed. That is, you realize you’re doing something good and effective before you write something on it. I assume scholars could venture to propose from this that all further ideas ought to reverse the chain of hypothesis and experiment, and instead seek an experiment in all social doings and record a pattern when noticed. But I think the constant focus on developing new theories stalls bringing the actual vision of the fore-bearers of anarchism to fruition. Concern seems far more needed in formulating how to achieve free communism than ideas to start over in. Infoanarchism seems to simply be the ideas of social anarchism in the context of property rights of media and the means of making information available, and considering our place in time, it could be the best amplification of getting to a free society.
This all adds up to understanding what Infoanarchism brings to the table that other tendencies fall short of emphasizing or correctly defining. In a sense it puts tried and true critique in a relevant environment. The great majority of people today are tragically apathetic to their own alienation by the boss, due partly to the shift in the standards of work and the multitude of escapes from the problem, breaking compulsion to tackle it. But intellectual property is a reachable topic to most people under the matter of capitalism. When TorrentFreak manages to get an article trending and people happen to read it, and it touches on our obligation to buy every digitized work of art, that acts as an entryway to thinking the same way about labor, money and markets. Of course most people think its wrong to copy media for yourself without paying for it, but that small bit of engagement alone means there is room to challenge it and form pockets of discussion. Nowhere is there conversation about if bosses are needed or if a state does the best for citizens, but knowing what the institution of copyright serves and there being some recognition of that corner allows us to talk about artificial scarcity and the massive profitability alone in court settlements, the corporate victim complex and harassment of teenage system administrators. This acts almost as an ambassador to anarchy more broadly, introducing first the objections to private control of media to disengaged people, before the next step of workers’ self-management, stateless society and so on.
The free culture movement and its progressive figures, who at best support fortified welfare provisions, have become the meeker sibling of radical seeders and bank vandals. I wish their endeavors in patent reform and free access to code the best, but with the warning that its far from the final stop in this issue. The two sides of copyright critique share a similar environment to the age-old conflict between social democrats and Marxists. The Battle of the Practicals, the Hunt for the Red Estate, Knight-errants of the workers. That same old hilarious spectacle of who can best represent the workers while representing their own conflicting establishment. The parade continues as the people begin to pick themselves up. Not simply socialists, but also indifferent netizens who just want a copy of that new film, take as they please and leave nothing for the hoarding pigs of industry. Proudly so, too. This single idea is the start of a greater flourishing, which continues when they unite in the understanding that we must apply this to all corners of social life, treat human society as a vast and free infinity rightfully open to all as a common inheritance, and put the future directly in the hands of all, starting with information.
Originally published at pseudogaffe.withknown.com on September 21, 2016.