31 January 2008

Protest

Warren Ellis has been following closely the recent series of spooky little propaganda videos posted on YouTube from the mysterious web anarchists Anonymous. The good people of Anonymous have taken exception to the Church of Scientology, and are initiating an anti-Scientology propaganda war.

The videos are incredibly compelling on every level—as crafty filmmaking, as propaganda, as cunning use of web technology. Warren Ellis observes ...

One of the things fascinating me about these video communications from Anonymous — aside from the obvious, an anonymous organisation of internet users communicating only through YouTube, which has implications and resonance of its own — is the sense of foreboding they manage to create. Contrast that to, say, the Yippies and the retarded gibberish they spouted every time they got near a camera. There’s a sense of control here, and, clearly, of threat.
The videos so far, which I encourage readers to check out:

Message to Scientology
Dear News Organizations
Call to Action
GLaDOS guide to february 10th

(I should observe here that Mr Ellis also links to a video from a major anti-Scientology activist who disapproves of Anonymous' approach.)

I bring this up because that last video has something of general interest to many of my readers, whether or not they care about the social effects of the web, Scientology, or film as an art form: the bulk of the video is an excellent guide to effective public protests.

I have a transcript of the complete rules for conducting an effective protest ...

These rules do not represent the writings and ideas of any one person. Rules may vary depending on your location.

The following video is intended as guide for Anonymous preparing to engage in their first real-life public demonstration. It will also provide a refresher for those of you who have experience with this modality of petition.

The purpose of the demonstration in a modern Western society is to convey a message to the public. In keeping with this objective, Anonymous has drafted 22 rules that Anonymous can follow in order to assure epic win and no loss of hit points on your part.

Rule #0: Rules 1 and 2 of the internet still apply. Your memes are not, at this juncture, something that the real world can appreciate. Although meme speak between fellow Anonymous is acceptable, focus on the target and keep it to a minimum.

Rule #1: Stay cool.

Rule #2: Stay cool, especially when harassed. You are an ambassador of Anonymous. Although individuals trying to disrupt your demonstration will get on your nerves, you must not lose your temper. Doing so will harm the protest and tarnish the reputation of Anonymous.

Rule #3: Comply with the orders of law enforcement officers above all else. Doing otherwise is harmful to the demonstration as a whole and may compromise your performance as a human being. Do not request badge numbers unless you are being treated in a very abusive manner, as doing so will anger officers.

Rule #4: Notify city officials. Most jurisdictions either have rules about public protests, or would prefer to be notified that they are taking place. Know the rules for your jurisdiction and abide by them.

Rule #5: Always be across the street from the object being protested.

Rule #6: In the absence of a road, find another natural barrier between yourself and the target of protest. Doing so will make it more difficult for individuals hostile to your cause to come and harass you.

Rule #7: Stay on public property. You may be charged for trespassing if you do not.

Rule #8: No violence.

Rule #9: No weapons. The demonstration is a peaceful event. “Your weapons; you will not need them.”

Rule #10: No alcohol or pre-drinking. Violating this rule may easily precipitate a violation of rules 1 and 2.

Rule #11: No graffiti, destruction, or vandalism.

Rule #12: If you want to do something stupid, pick another day.

These should be self explanatory. Violation of these rules during a demonstration will tarnish the reputation of Anonymous, harm the demonstration itself and leave you vulnerable to attention from law enforcement.

Rule #13: Anonymous is legion. Never be alone. Isolation during a protest marks you as a target for hostiles who wish to provoke an angry reaction from you and other hostiles. In keeping with this principle ...

Rule #14: Organize in squads of 10 to 15 people.

Rule #15: One or two megaphones per squad. A megaphone is helpful for maintaining the overall cohesion of a demonstration and spreading your message. However, too many will confuse the public and render you hearing impaired.

Rule #16: Know the dress code. Forming a loose yet reasonable dress code for protest members will help to maintain cohesion and get the public to take you seriously.

Rule #17: Cover your face. This will prevent your identification from videos taken by hostiles, other protesters or security. Use scarves, hats and sunglasses. Masks are not necessary, and donning them in the context of a public demonstration is forbidden in some jurisdictions.

Rule #18: Bring water.

Rule #19: Wear good shoes.

Following these rules will assure your comfort during the demonstration. Keep in mind that demonstrations may often be quite lengthy.

Rule #20: Signs, flyers, and phrases—have yours ready. Make sure that signs are large enough to read. Also ensure that the text on your signs and your phrases are pertinent to the target of the protest.

Rule #21: Prepare legible, uncomplicated, and accurate flyers to hand out to those who wish to know more regarding the motivations behind your actions.

Finally, Rule #22: Document the demonstration. Videos and pictures of the event may be used to corroborate your side of the story if law enforcement get involved. Furthermore, posting images and videos of your heroic actions all over the internet is bound to generate win, exhorting other Anonymous to follow your glorious example.

If you follow these simple rules, the success of your action is virtually assured. However, keep in mind that the success of the demonstration as a whole hinges on the good behavior of all those who participate. Ignore these rules at your own peril. Follow them, and victory will be yours.

We are Anonymous.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
And now, we are expected.

2 comments:

yezida said...

Those rules are only excellent for people unwilling or unable to risk arrest. Therefore, while they are likely excellent for Anonymous in dealing with Scientology, I would hardly say it is a good list in general. Actually, I found myself annoyed by it.

The gorgeous, inspiring, banner hangs of the Ruckus Society, for example, are highly illegal, as are some of the actions of Greenpeace, as is even something as simple as crossing onto Federal property.

Some things are illegal simply because we are being controlled.

Jonathan Korman said...

Aha, that's a clarifying objection. I hadn't been conscious of it until your comment, but it occurs to me that in my mind I sharply distinguish at least three different kinds of protest, which I would refer to as “civil disobedience,” “direct action,” and ... um ... “legal demonstration.” Anonymous describes a method for only the last of these three. And as you say, there is definitely a place for other types of protests.

In civil disobedience, interacting with the law by visibly and deliberately breaking it is part of the point, conveying a message about the law itself. Thus arrest (or at least the possibility of it) is part of the planned script of the protest itself. This would include your Federal trespassing example.

In direct action, protesters may break the law as a consequence of the protest action chosen, but the interaction with the law is not really the point of the protest itself. Protesters may accept and prepare for the possibility of arrest, but regard it as a risk of the protest rather than part of the script. This would include the Greenpeace actions you allude to.

In legal demonstration, interaction with the law is not integrally connected to the point of the protest, so arrest is only a distraction. This would include a classic picket line, f'rinstance.

With that on the surface, I realize that what was really appealing about the Anonymous directions is not only that they were good directions for that third type. It was also the implicit clarity about which type of protest they want folks doing.

Would that this were true of all protests.