Digital Zapatismo

by Ricardo Dominguez

Zapatismo has infected the political body of Mexico's "perfect dictatorship" since January 1, 1994. This polyspacial movement for a radical democracy based on the Mayan legacies of dialogue ripped into the electronic fabric not as InfoWar--but as virtual actions for real peace in the real communities of Chiapas. As of September 1997 reports of The Mexican military training and arming paramilitary groups with the intent of moving the "low-intensity" war to higher level began to circulate among the Zapatista Network. It took the massacres at Acteal to focus the world on something that was already known--the constant tragedy of late-capital.

As manifestations took place around the world in remembrance of the Acteal dead on January 1 and 2nd, the Mexican military with the full support of the PRI government began the next stage of the war against peace. As the West stumbled about in celebration of a new year--the first report reached out across the net and slapped us awake once more with the brutal reality of the neo-liberal agenda.

1.0 Beta Actions

This time Zapatista Networks responded with a new level of electronic civil disobedience beyond the passing of information and emailing presidents. On Sunday the 18th of January 1998 a call for NetStriking for Zapata (from Anonymous Digital Coalition) came in via email with the following instructions:

In solidarity with the Zapatista movement we welcome all netsurfers with ideals of justice, freedom, solidarity and liberty within their hearts, to a virtual sit-in. On January 29, 1998 from 4:00 p.m. GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) to 5:00 p.m. (in the following five web sites, symbols of Mexican neoliberalism):

Technical instructions: Connect with your browser to the upper mentioned web sites and push the bottom "reload" several times for an hour (with in between an interval of few seconds).

This virtual sit-in not only brought the possibilities of direct electronic actions to the forefront of the Zapatista networks, it also initiated a more focused analysis of what methods of electronic civil disobedience might work. Several questions were brought up on the issues of net traffic, ISPs, and small international pipes. Speculations on the technological implications of these actions began to focus on questions of Who is most likely to be damaged by this move? The Mexican target banks or the Internet Service Providers, ISPs, who route data to these banks?

As these discussions were taking place a group of Mexican digital activist on February 4, 1998 hacked into a Mexican government home page on the Internet and placed pro-Zapatista slogans on the front pages of  the site. Soon afterwards an MS Dos Ping Action program from the ECD group arrived to hit Mexican Banks and Chase Manhattan Bank on February 9.

The next level of possible ECD began to emerge at the end of February: an automatic mail engine from the New Humans and Java based site that automatically began to PING the Britsh Mexican Embassy URL every 7 seconds once you logged-in.

2.0  InfoWar

To move beyond these Beta actions we need to map the general condition of  InfoWar at this shifting point in time.

Command and control systems (CCS) within the Military and Intelligence Communities have been re-shifting their definition of war for sometime. That surveillance systems like Project Echelon would become a priority is no surprise. The NSA (National Security Agency) and the (NRO) National Reconnaissance Office have been working on implementing new functions for themselves since the end of the post-Cold War.

They had to re-invent themselves into hyper-surveillance networks that can accomplish defensive intelligence gathering and rapid containment missions for the lowest cost possible. Now it is more
 important to attack an opponents information infrastructure, than it is to destroy its armies. Actions, like the Gulf War, are now only useful for limited screenal political gambits.

The enemy is now hosted by the global public commercial networks. InfoWar tactics must now maintain a constant analysis of all information flows and a continuous tracking of the backbone routes.  In search of the most effective way to bring down specific zones of resistance within an enemies political or economic structures:

Of course one of the problems faced by these IW scenarios is that military and intelligence systems here are also routed within public commercial lines.

The scenarios of possible implosions faced by the decentralization of command and control are increasing at a co-equal rate with the speed of access to hardware, software, and training. Late Capital demands that this equation grow even faster and to the farthest reaches of the globe.
The necessity of the rule of association and strategic coalitions between military and intelligence networks with mega corporation webs, universities, independent ISP´s, electronic political cells, individual research and analysis creates a general state of pan-anarchy.

Thus IWW (Information World War) has already started and it is haunted by its own shadow. It must face the task of dealing with an open network that has at least 5 vulnerabilities:

In order to deal with this growing vulnerability of the electronic infrastructure with the on set InfoWar. The State has redefined command, control, intelligence and resistance. InfoWar tactics are now moving beyond the theoretical questions about the rise of "network power" and the end of hierarchies. Instead, Military and Intelligence groups are now experimenting with pragmatic hybrid structures that can retain control over networks, while allowing network autonomy to expand within a specific types of command structures. In order to contain the rising soft power of small groups that can organize themselves "into sprawling networks" threatening hard power structures.

3.0  Hacking the Future

Digital Zapatismo has always been an open system of sprawling networks—this has been the force multiplier of the movement. It used digital cultures most basic system of exchange, e-mail between people to disturb the Informatic State. Now that we know that they are using, as we always suspected, hyper-surveillance filters to regain control of the network.

We must begin to invent other methods of Electronic Civil Disobedience:

The Zapatista Networks, in the spirit of Chiapas are developing methods of electronic disturbance as sites of invention and political action for peace. At this point in time it is difficult to know how much of a disturbance these acts of electronic civil disobedience specifically make. What we do know is that neoliberal power is extremely concerned by these acts.

Since Jan 1, 1994 the analysis of the Zapatista Electronic Movement has been at the top of the list of the Military and Intelligence research agenda. For now all we can do is continue to forge ahead and always remember that all of this electronic activism is about a real community in search of a real peace. A community that has been calling for a world the makes all worlds possible.


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