What if…?

Bad artists copy. Great artists steal.

-often misattributed to Pablo Picasso.

The statement in a somewhat longer form originally came from this essay:

One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

Eliot, T.S., “Philip Massinger,” The Sacred Wood, New York: Bartleby.com, 2000. 

I discovered this because somebody wrote a post called Good Poets Borrow, Great Poets Steal… and took the time to research the quote and include the relevant snippet in their writing. And Bartleby’s allowed free access to that original essay.  That’s called fair use in the copyright world, to be able to take a snippet from someone else’s writing and put it into your own to illustrate a point. Artists have been doing it for centuries. So have forgers. So have print makers. What about that Salvador Dali print you had hanging in your dorm room in college? You probably couldn’t have afforded the original. So somebody pays a licensing fee and runs off a couple of million Dali prints (at least). Secondary spinoffs of original productions often make a lot more money than the originals do after they are first sold. Artists don’t actually get a share of profits of re-sales of originals. Picasso’s estate would be owed a bundle if that were the case.

That is not unlike the music or book publishing industry as well. The original creative item for the average musician or writer may sell enough copies to allow the creator to do further work if they’re lucky. The real money comes from the ancillary marketing efforts such as merchandising, concerts and appearances, secondary rights such as video games, movies and script options, translations, second and third editions in different formats such as paperback, feature articles, photo shoots for big publications and so forth. The spin off is potentially huge. And so are the profits. Unfortunately most artists and writers represented by the big publishers have had to give up a lot of these secondary rights in order to get signed under contract in the first place. Is it any wonder that these corporations are so protective of their real revenue stream?

This is much on my mind lately due to the SOPA protests going on in the US and around the world. If people outside the US think it doesn’t affect them, think again.

The purpose of the bill is allegedly to stop piracy. I personally don’t think piracy is a problem and that it’s far more of a benefit than a detriment to marketing of creative materials. Apparently I am not the only one that thinks like that. The huge tech publisher O’Reilly has written a great piece on why SOPA and it’s ilk are really bad for business and why they don’t chase pirates. O’Reilly Media – Stop SOPA BTW the pirating of tech books is probably higher than of any other kind of book if counts on torrent sites are any indication. Yet O’Reilly’s business has grown continually. Isn’t that interesting. I, like a lot of people who have worked in tech and information related fields have probably bought more then 50 O’Reilly tech books in my lifetime, still have a couple on the shelf, even though I am very aware of where I can download them. Sure quite a few of them were bought at Book Warehouse or the Half Price Computer book store when they were remaindered, which is the phase just before they are shredded. Yes book sellers and publishers shred what they can’t sell. How many dollars of “potential revenue” is that worth? Similar fates await old CDs, DVDs, merchandise and other “potential revenue” sources governed by the SOPA pushers.

So what is vociferously protected today with copyright violation hysteria is tomorrow’s garbage.

The question arose as to which blog I should put this piece on. I decided to put it here because I’ve addressed the issue of piracy at great length with a post here before; Steal This Book (or not) which was partly in response to the Shambhala Sun’s  post Digital dharma downloading: Is it sharing? Is it stealing?.

It would be interesting to know if any of the publishers of dharma material have ever shredded their own publications once they’ve gone out of print. I do know they send out an awful lot of review copies, for free, postage paid, because I have 2 books sitting beside me with another on the way.  They’d save a lot of money and staff time if they’d just ask those who will pirate the books to provide reviews on Amazon or elsewhere. They’d probably have a lot more reach than this blog (or any blog) as well.

And something else. If I review the book I will probably download a copy of it from somewhere if I can. Why? Because I don’t have time to retype all the paragraphs of quotes I might use in a review or an excerpt. I’d probably excerpt a lot more that way too. I am not a stenographer for the publisher.  It’s a lot more efficient to cut and paste for a review article, for which I am getting paid in the form of a free book which I may or may not have read had I seen it on a book store shelf, and which ultimately will become a shredded pile of paper at the end of its marketing life cycle. One publisher did start giving electronic copies. It requires so many logins and account setups that it was like I was trying to penetrate the Pentagon to get at the book. The book was then copy protected so I couldn’t cut and paste. To top it all off it was a time limited book, so it essentially deleted itself before I finished the review. So I deleted the review I had been working on and won’t review for them again. I can’t think of a way it could have been made more inconvenient.

What if?

One thing I’ve always enjoyed is playing with the “what if” idea. It’s the kind of thing trend trackers, futurists and science fiction writers make their living from and it’s an interesting exercise in that one has to look at both the past and present deeply in order to draw out whatever factors of plausibility might be available for a particular future scenario.

Since SOPA/PIPA and related bills in Europe, Australia, Canada and India (and elsewhere) are up in the news I want to address censorship and the whole idea of file sharing. When a law is overwritten and too broad it tends to become a catchall for lots of unrelated things. Consider the Patriot Act in the US, which bolsters Homeland Security, the TSA, Fusion centers and other draconian institutions.

The trouble with poorly written laws that have too much scope is that they generally tend to get pushed to their legal limits and then beyond them. The spirit of the law gets lost along with the letter of the law. People think they understand the intent of it and keep expanding their authority under those suppositions. Who knew the Patriot Act and it’s cousins would lead to old men getting their colostomy bags emptied out when they are trying to catch a plane to see their grand kids or that security agents would be groping the crotches of toddlers? Certainly not the Patriot Act law makers.

Here’s a few things that SOPA and it’s cousins could engender if we use our imaginations a little bit. And you can be sure corporations have people to do just that if it means an extra squeeze on the marketplace.

-banning re-tweeting on Twitter. Technically by re-tweeting you are using someone else’s content to bolster your Twitter status, retain or obtain followers, and possibly make money. If Twitter is part of a public persona that you maintain in any way related to commerce, your job or any money making endeavor you could be charged unless you have paid a licensing fee to each and every person you retweet.

-banning all sharing on social networks including Facebook, Google+, Diaspora and others. Same as the Twitter scenario

-banning about 80% of YouTube content due to minimal usage of songs, images or ideas that originated with someone other than you. Every photo, including an album cover scan, image of an artist, piece of a song, or even a single chord played in a way particular to a certain artist could at minimum get your account closed down.

-music lessons would be confined to the classics and public domain works. Your child may not learn to play Stairway to Heaven on the guitar in 8th grade without the proper paperwork or you and your children will be fined or imprisoned. And she certainly couldn’t sing a Lady Gaga song and get famous for it.

-closing your Flicker or other photo sharing account due to infringement.  If you take a picture of your kids and they have Disney logos on their clothes for example, that is grounds to close your account. If you post a video on Facebook of your kids watching TV, if any of the TV images are visible or the sound audible and identifiable, that is grounds to close your account.

-all links in any blog post you make must be checked thoroughly on the site they link to in order to insure that the linked site does not further link to material that might violate SOPA. I don’t just mean the post you link to but the entire site you link to. For example if you link to a story in the New York Times, you must examine every page of the NYT to insure they haven’t linked to anything related to piracy. Of course they can afford not to get shut down for it but can you?

– Wikileaks or anything like it will be prosecuted (as if it isn’t already!) All whistleblowers will have to write first hand accounts of events and will not be allowed to use any documents from the source. Hence all whistleblowing will die, because either said accounts are heresay according evidence rules in most courts and inadmissible or they will involve the 5th Amendment, that is the person will have to incriminate themselves as a participant to wrongdoing.

-public utterances, including speeches will no longer be available. What public figures, legislators, law makers say will become the property of various rights holders including those who provide the media on which it is recorded. They may decide to keep it out of reach completely or charge a fee for it’s access. This is happening already. It costs $10 to watch Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech.

-Fact checking will die. Any site that publishes or links to content ostensibly belonging to someone else can be shut down. So if a newspaper links to an original document that someone claims copyright on they would be liable.

-fair use will be further squeezed and finally eliminated.  You may not quote anyone without their express written permission.

All of these could take place even without a charge being laid. At present, under the DMCA, all that is required is an accusation made by someone with sufficient pull in the entertainment industry, to pull down a website.

Additionally there have been all kinds of secret warrants issued to get information on people who have expressed themselves under the #occupy hashtag on Twitter. The Boston DA has subpeona’d from Twitter all the user information (including DMs) on a large number of people who used that hashtag including journalists and including foreigners. Many people are fighting back attempting to quash these fishing expeditions. It’s a whole other post (or 10) to get into all the details. Suffice it to say there’s a lot more going on in this vein, against ordinary citizens, than CNN or your local newspaper is telling you. And it’s going to get a lot worse.

The Nightmare Scenario

Suppose you’re not even in the United States and you link to some resource on the Internet. Suppose that resource has used downloaded material without authorization. Happens all the time. I do it and you probably do too, knowingly or not.

Suppose then that you are arrested, removed to the US, locked up indefinitely without trial (under the NDAA which recently passed), sent to Guantanamo or Syria (extra-judicial rendition is current practice), tortured for the hell of it, maybe released in 20 years or maybe you just disappear. The end result will be determined by how much money you have.

At present even under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) passed in 1998 one can be extradited to the US to face charges even though such a scenario involving linking is not a crime in one’s own country. This is happening right now to an English student who’s never even been to the US because of a “crime” that’s not even illegal in England. The guy ran a website with links. (Just like Buddhist Torrents) No copyrighted material on it at all. Here’s a couple of media links in case you think I’m bullshitting.  ‘Piracy’ student Richard O’Dwyer loses extradition case , ‘Piracy’ student loses US extradition battle over copyright infringement  The US has not even submitted prima facie to the English courts to bring this scenario about in many extradition cases of a similar nature. Yes that’s a failure of English lawmaking. But most other countries who have extradition treaties with the US face similar situations.

This is the future plan for Julian Assange BTW. Sweden has an extradition treaty with the US that greatly favors US interests, even moreso than the English treaty.

Here’s more on the foreign angle from Australia

Long arm of US piracy law will reach further than you think

And from the US publication Ars Technica

What does SOPA mean for us foreigners?

So this is not just an American problem it is a global problem. This kind of Corporate Colonialism, in which we are subject to the overreach of a foreign government acting at the behest of the entertainment industry cartel, affects everyone, everywhere. That’s why it’s got to be stopped. That’s why I placed signs on this and my other blogs and spent the day signing petitions and writing letters and this blog post.

Better Remedies

There are many other ways that copyright issues can be handled.

Here are a few better ideas I’ve come across:

Creative Commons Licensing is probably the best model we have at the moment. But it’s not really been legally challenged. How would it hold up in court? Many of the provisions of it could be written into law if the legislators could get their minds around other ways of looking at copyright.

CopyLeft essentially places creative items into a public domain but in such a way that modifications of the item are accounted for. It is affiliated with GNU software licensing which is often used for Open Source projects. 

There are others. Individuals have also added comments that could be easily implemented if the law makers could get over the pre-Internet mindset with regard to intellectual property.

Mumon wrote on Facebook:

One commonsense reform: if a corporation decides to take something "out of print," its copyright should be greatly weakened. An ancillary effect would be people could pay for textbooks for their kids at the basic university level.

Here are a couple of videos from well known individuals addressing these matters as well. These are people who would allegedly directly benefit from SOPA. They don’t seem all that distressed about piracy.

Neil Gaiman


Joss Stone


Thom Yorke


Trent Reznor – Steal It

re-Occupying the Cabaret-short version

[a longer version of this post will appear on SBC]

I wanted to make a decision about an old blog site. Then I ran across something that reminded me of why I began it in the first place.

Bill Schwarz recently wrote:

When we shut up online, as Buddhists, in the context of people talking about Buddhism on the internet, we do more harm than we do in speaking about our respective practices. In the dharma center, the norm of minding your own business in this regard is perhaps a good idea. I am of the opinion that it is a bad idea for Buddhism online. I believe that we need to occupy this space, instead of conceding it to those who are here for commercial interests.

He had a little more to say than that. But it sparked or re-sparked a few ideas.


Over the past month or so I’ve been considering re-starting my old blog Smiling Buddha Cabaret. I stopped writing there almost a year ago for a bunch of reasons. Then I started this blog and the political one called Memeo. Now I want to keep this one for more personal and mostly non-Buddhist related stuff and that political one going since they provide a certain focus for topics that I have interest in.

On this one there have been a couple of posts that would have been better on the SBC site. More along the lines of the theme there.

A thing that has been kind of mystifying me is that people keep subscribing to that old blog even though there hasn’t been a post there in many months. As well the readership of it is currently higher than this one and my political one combined, again even though I don’t write anything there. That’s kind of odd.image

It’s just sitting there. Rather derelict. Not even squatters have moved in. That’s a bit of a thorn. A perfectly usable space going to waste, passersby looking for something to happen there, the owner an absentee landlord just letting it fall to ruin. OK, it’s my social responsibility to do something with it. Otherwise I might get some protesters outside. Better to keep them inside, in the comments section where I can keep an eye on them.  {image:Salvador Dali-Cabaret Scene}

It just so happens I also have a bunch of posts in the queue that seem to fit better there than here and I really do want to finish them. And since I’ve renewed my interest in performance and slam poetry I just might put some of that on YouTube and stick it there as well.

So tighten up your corset and put your fishnet stockings back on because the Cabaret is opening soon.


It’s a Joke!

Someone I know on Facebook wrote something in their status a couple of weeks ago that I took great exception to. It was a little story. I’m going to include a redacted version here because it was too vile for me to feel comfortable reproducing completely.

A study has revealed that the kind of face a woman finds attractive on a man can differ depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle.

For example: if she is ovulating, she is attracted to men with rugged and masculine features. However, if she is menstruating or menopausal, she tends to be more attracted to a man with [redacted because of extreme violence some of it of a sexual nature]

No further studies are expected on this subject.

When I read this the first time my response was WTF?

One commenter, a man, responded first:

This is very disturbing.

Then I made several comments. [of course] A summary, for they were long ones:

Why do you want to perpetuate this ridiculous stereotype? Do you hate men? Do you hate women?

On Twitter a couple of weeks ago there was a meme going around which was #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend (Reasons to beat your girlfriend) A lot of guys put some really nasty shit there. Much of it related to women and their hormones. A lot more people objected to not only the hashtag itself but the vile content. Some guys said "It’s just a joke"…

Violence is not a fucking joke. Portraying women as hysterical out of control maniacs is not a joke. Men and women have enough problems trying to understand each other without people reinforcing the problems and exaggerating things… this is just vile. If you have some issues deal with them…don’t make it worse for women and men who are trying to overcome that with this kind of joke.  If this is what passes for humor among your Mafia Wars crowd or other friends then maybe you ought to examine the company you are keeping.

The original poster had written BTW, in response to the first comments that objected to the content:


Screamed at the reader in big bold ALL CAPS!!! Which got the response:

Would it be a joke if a woman was being described as being violated in that fashion? It’s a joke doesn’t cut it an an excuse.

That resulted in an unpleasant personal message to the effect that I should have kept my comments to myself and if I couldn’t then at least sent them privately even though the item was posted publicly. Then I was unfriended. And blocked. And this person, who happens to be a close relative, has not communicated with me since.

Interestingly though, the posting was removed and an apology to everyone still in the loop was posted instead. OK.

This kind of thing is a fairly common occurrence. Places like Facebook have rape joke groups/pages and Twitter hash tags often have this kind of material. On the Facebook issue, Violet Blue has written a post Facebook Finally Removes Its Pro-Rape Pages.

Sexual violence can be directed at women or men, although a far larger amount is directed at women. It’s just distasteful at it’s mildest and offensive and incitement to criminal activity in the more extreme cases.

A lot of it has to do with gender stereotyping. Here’s another example from the beloved [I’m going to color all snark a puky green] online publication Elephant Journal Are Women Mentally Ill? [link is to the Google cache version because of the paywall-you can find all their stuff in that cache BTW without having to let your browser touch their actual website] The article is an attempt at humor, I am supposing, since I can’t find any other reason why anyone would want to write something like that. I’m not going to get into specific critiques of EJ articles much any more as that could potentially become a full time job and the pushback tends to be a irrational mess of irrelevant ad hominems and other non sequiturs. Mindful insults I suppose.

There was another piece there about “Yoga for Black People”, ostensibly a joke or attempt at humor of some sort as well. That particular piece came along with public humiliation for those that questioned, no matter how politely, the wisdom of such postings.  Nathan at Dangerous Harvests summed the situation up nicely in the post Elephant Journal’s Got Issues and the comments are equally interesting. But I don’t want to dwell on these specific situations when this trend is becoming ever more common.

The trend I mean is one of diminishment of others [and sometimes one’s self] for the sake of humor followed by a dismissal of their hurt.

The It’s a Joke Rationalization

Humor has a lot of uses in society. Humor is useful for illuminating many of the uncomfortable aspects of our society without seeming to be critical or dour and to avoid directly offending an audience. Professionals like George Carlin and Chris Rock do this very well. But since it is mainly described as entertainment, contrasted with “serious” work, there is also the tendency to attempt to justify pretty much anything as humor in order to give it a pass rather than serious examination.

From another perspective humor is an effective means to normalize and continue social stratification, exclusionary behavior and oppression. It very much depends upon who is making the joke and who is the target of the joke. Power relations play into that.

This also has a long history wherein those labeled “Other” become the butt of jokes involving stereotypes. The powerful, in whatever capacity are often deemed more acceptable targets since they often have means to silence/ignore their critics in some form or another. The humor at their expense does not endanger their positions or security or well-being. The marginalized however have a different and somewhat diminished degree of protection in this regard. They do not often either have the power to silence nor do they often even have the power to respond with a similar level of social impact. Yet with the label of “just a joke” we are conditioned to laugh and dismiss commentary of this nature. It is generally meant in the latter case to disguise hostility and enforce existing power relations. Those who do not go along become similarly marginalized. This is the same sort of social mechanism as the average bully uses to bolster their position and security. A thin disguise indeed.

Shame and guilt are very strong motivators for social behavior. Humor when directed at the more powerful is about shame and guilt for behaviors that diminish others who are less powerful. It is a form of social address that has been invoked for centuries. That’s why the political comic genius of a George Carlin still contains strong messages. The court jester was tolerated and the member’s of the king’s court laughed at his mockery of royal power for exactly the same reasons. It is a social leveling mechanism in these kinds of instances.

Now I have personally used this sort of shaming humor, generally in the form of snark, in a response to organizations/publications/individuals in positions of power. Deliberately. And I will no doubt use it again in a situation where I am speaking from a position of a)defense b)against a relatively powerful corporate entity c)marginalization d) injustice or wherever there is a justifiable power differential in play that diminishes the less powerful.

In other instances, where the target is one of lesser social power there is no social leveling going on but a reinforcement of hierarchy and status quo power positioning. I won’t personally go there (no matter how tempting) and will, if I have the energy, challenge that which does. In that instance, humor and accusations of lack of appreciation for a particular form of humor are used as a way to shame, silence or misdirect people so that they don’t question or challenge what the joke actually means or what effect it has in a larger context.

In that case those who seek to induce a sense of shame or guilt in others by using such humor and attacking those who don’t go along, are attempting to control the behavior. When one questions or objects to an offensive joke some people are quick to remark that you are being overly sensitive, weak, negative, ruining the community, too serious or lacking a sense of fun or a sense of humor in general. 

Most people don’t want to be written off as the overly serious, stuck up person who can’t take a joke. Why are you getting so upset? It’s just a joke! This is the threat of social ostracism and marginalization. It means “If you don’t go along you’re out of the club.” According to the psychologist Maslow (hierarchy of needs) a sense of belonging is a significant human need in order to have a fulfilled life. To have this sense threatened is a powerful psychological motivator.

In another psychological way there is something satisfying about transgressing boundaries. It reinforces a sense of autonomy. The edge, which is where boundaries are transgressed, has an excitement to it that is hard to resist. There is something that feels a little like courage or bravery to go against the grain. Whether it actually is courage or something else depends a great deal on the variables of the situation.

The biggest variable relates to the issue of power relations. It does not take courage to  mock others who are at the same or lesser social level than one’s self. That’s pretty easy since the weight of an institution, a crowd or other forms of heavy social capital are not even needed and may even be on one’s side in those instances. In that case it is something else, most likely fake bravado disguising insecurity or actual lack of courage to look at the more powerful rather than the less powerful. Any oaf can squash ants but not many want to look within for the resources to challenge that which is larger. Lots of reasons why that happens. Then again there are a few who don’t see a difference as long they are not on the receiving end. Perpetual perpetrators who cry victim if they are called on it. Or in it for the lulz, as popular parlance would have it. Either way the type of empathetic insensitivity, often accompanied by grossly exaggerated and distorted personal sensitivity that comes with that kind of terrain is too mind boggling to get into. [AKA Troll motivation 101]

Moving on.

Here’s an interesting piece that appeared recently on Scientific American blogs, The Joke Isn’t Funny—It’s Harmful. The author is voicing criticism of another blog piece that appeared on the site Nature, in which a lot of stereotypical gender behavior is used in an attempt at humor. That happens every day but it doesn’t generally happen on internationally known science based websites. So there was controversy.

The author does a good job of outlining the concept of stereotype threat and how it affects individuals and groups in terms of social advantage and disadvantage. You can read that for yourself at the link but one point that is brought up in the comments is the idea that these sorts of “jokes” are somehow validated by science, that is women are by way of evolution less rational, particularly regarding certain social behaviors.

A stereotype is a social instrument to validate those in positions of power and privilege. People become conditioned by social means which appears to validate stereotypes but this does not provide factual or provable means of demonstrable proof. Some women may themselves say they become “insane” due to hormonal changes. This does not mean it’s a scientific fact, only that upon encountering the stereotype long enough it becomes inculcated as a behavioral pseudo-explanation. Sort of like religion and its “The devil made me do it.” Pure bullshit based on pop cultural reinforcements.

It’s the same kind of “argument” (though it’s not even worthy of that term) as “men are “natural” providers/athletes/fathers/leaders/lovers/mathematicians etc or white people are more “naturally” rational/accountable/responsible/etc.

These are all culturally defined/conditioned/sanctioned/emphasized/learned behaviors. There is no universal human gene for “leadership” just as there is none for “shopping ability” despite what some “evolutionary psychologists” might postulate-and that is all they can do is postulate because they haven’t proven a damn thing with their status quo reinforcing theories. (tempting to go into the tangent of so-called “alpha” behavior, as in “alpha-male” or “alpha-bitch”[notice the dehumanization when the colloquial “alpha” term is applied to the female?] as that’s equally as culture-bound, learned and fully bogus, but I’ll save that for later)

There’s the difference between a truism/stereotype and a demonstrable factual explanation. This gets into all kinds of things like logical fallacies and rationalizations used as fact. The Colbert truthiness factor abounds.

a dharma talk from Anonymous

As someone who has an interest in and has studied social change movements within the context of the social sciences it’s always interesting to note the way many of them develop over time.  Opinions and actions from the margins are what actually frame the larger scale social debates in societies even though they are rarely acknowledged openly. One cannot tell how big an issue is unless one seeks out or at least feels the influence of those margins.

The movement that has been labeled Anonymous is very diverse, has no unifying stated goals (except maybe lulz) and seems to embrace a huge spectrum of political opinion. The one thing that I can put my finger on about it is a certain amount of discontent with the status quo from a very small personal scale to a very large global scale.

imageBy and large religion is eschewed within the group as far as I have noticed unless it is for the purposes of criticism. This criticism has taken its most public form by way of of attacks and protests against Scientology (Project Chanology) and against the Westboro Baptist Church,whose website has been downed more times than I can count. The latter seems to be something of a sport similar to shooting at highway signs from moving cars.

This morning as I was scanning the Twitter chatter I came upon an interesting piece of writing which was an exchange of views between a couple of self-identified Anons about the philosophy of the movement. Buddhism was brought up. This is not the first time I’ve seen Buddhist principles discussed in these open memoranda or on Twitter or elsewhere but it is one of the more comprehensive.

It’s not for me to say if this constitutes Right View or anything else of that nature but it’s interesting to note that one can run into discussions of Buddhism just about anywhere.

The discussion began with @AnonyOps describing the non-unanimous viewpoint of Anonymous…that it is not a cohesive whole following any one particular line of thought or motivation. That is the encapsulation of the argument mentioned as being reposted below the response.

The most poignant line in the response comes at the end:

Everyone, you’re on your own, but let’s all try to act like we’re not.

Here is the exchange verbatim. From http://pastebin.com/xGdJDQ5N 

First, read this: http://pastebin.com/4vprKdXH (also re-pasted below)

@AnonyOps makes a good point, but it doesn’t go far enough in explaining the problem, or how to go about solving it. It’s certainly an astute observation about the perception of this context-less tide of individuals and small groups called Anon, acting in some vague sense of service to others; namely, that it doesn’t get recognized as such. Noble intentions are obscured by the sensational examples of mayhem that inevitably sprout within a movement characterized by such an undirected release of energy. It is driven more by an ideal, a system to fight against, an e-Mubarak, than a coherent agenda and resulting organized action.

First, and most obvious, an uncontrollable movement by unpredictable people wielding asynchronous power and talent (the last of which is mostly all that distinguishes Anon from the tea party rank and file; go figure) is both the scariest prospect and juiciest opportunity for cooption one could imagine, especially in fragile times like these. Evil peaks even as good rises to meet it.

However, much of the source of the problem @AnonyOps seems to resent is probably less malice than laziness, naivety, and conditioning to abandon nuance for drama. The disappointment is natural, the reaction to plead for clarification on non-Anon-unanimity ™ is useful, but to succeed, we need context.

And no one provides context like the Buddha. No, seriously, it’s really simple. A timeless spiritual tradition boils down to one thing: slowing the mind down to the extent possible, with stillness representing the divine. But, change is constant along this vast spectrum of speed, and everything that is happening now, each moment, with each of us, falls along this spectrum.

The way that energy affects matter, moving it between the 3 states we know so well, is a perfect metaphor for this all-important spectrum, and it is this metaphor which puts the current struggle of Anonymous, and the struggle of all dominated people, in crystal clear context.

When matter is a solid, lots of inertia. Think of a sleeping herd of cattle; dead weight. This is the worst possible situation. This is the nameless, barely-penetrable state against which Anonymous rebels, at widely-varying levels of self-understanding.

When solid melts into liquid, that energy finally begins to move matter around. More energy, less inertia; cattle begin to stir as they’re warmed by the first rays of sun. Sound like now? But! The liquid result is more unstable than it was, sloshing around shapelessly, lapping tiny tsunamis all over as it settles in the path of least resistance. Sound like now? Surely this is better than inertia, but it is, shall we say, ineffective even against the astonishingly few true common enemies of humanity. What a surprise.

The gaseous state of matter rectifies the drawbacks of liquid shapelessness. Like the (unfulfilled) Anonymous ideal, it cannot be destroyed, captured or controlled, because it fills all possible space immediately. In individual Buddhist philosophy, this steamy mental state simply means focusing on one thing at once with full attention, with calm, patience, determination, and most importantly, a broader desire to serve others, or at least do no harm to others as you help yourself, or execute a means to a noble end.

We’re individuals, and all of our civilizationary systems are ostensibly, but decreasingly, built on individual rights, freedom, and choice; we’re separate. Hence, in Buddhist terms, we live in a world of separation (from each other). And yet, most of us, deep down, know what Gandhi told a ‘depressed’ 1931 America via delicate transatlantic radio: there is some indefinable thing that pervades everything and connects us all. Many feel it though none see it. It is this unseen connection which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that any of us perceive through our senses. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-Cc_9lKUHE)

Religion, blah blah blah, but really, the only remotely religious implication any of this paste has is that ultimately, though we die as individuals, we live together, and we are generally happiest when those around us are happy and safe. But assuming one can accept as truth that the current system seeks to divide us, and our task is to unite ourselves in well-meaning triumph, such acceptance implies and implores consciously attempting to follow something along the lines of the following principles:

1. Seek to act in ways that leave innocents unharmed. Why release bystander personal information for the rabble of exploiters when one could execute the hack to prove the vulnerability, warn all affected consumers and coordinate public embarrassment by the deserving target who left its stakeholders unprotected. This is easier than it seems, but it takes much more coordination than apparently exists now. By doing this, one puts others first, and it feels better to turn minions on masters than to punish minions for being minions, guaranteed.

2. Beware of trying to accomplish anything through tactics that harm others or generate negative emotions. Any darkness can be made light, so the negative solution, resorting to violence, is never necessary. Oppressors never look worse than when they crack down on peaceful protests, and never look or sound more justified than when they prosecute hooligans hurting innocents. Luckily, the vast majority of protests so far in this building crescendo of global revolution have been overwhelmingly peaceful. Despite the rushing release of rage, time is on our side.

3. The best way to ensure that energy can be released in effective ways is to slow down, do less out of emotion. It helps to realize that you are not your mind. Read that again. Think of your mind as a car you drive or a television you control by remote. It generates roads and channels, you dictate where you drive and what you watch. By slowing down, you can train your senses for optimal concentration and results, even while hax0ring. Most well-executed Anon publicity already has this element of thoughtful action, but most loic’ing and destructive ops, sadly, do not. It’s really something that only each individual can do, consciously, all the time, so this is probably the toughest nut to crack.

If you skimmed this, you didn’t understand it. Thanks for reading. Someone over my shoulder just said that some worthwhile coverage of the current mess in the bay area is being assembled by thenextweb, sf appeal, and the east bay express. Judge for yourself, and cultivate friendships with bloggers, so that you maximize the chances of true stories getting told. See? Connection is good.

Everyone, you’re on your own, but let’s all try to act like we’re not.

End of transmission.

Anonymous is not Unanimous.

Anonymous has a perception problem. Most people think we’re a group of shadowy hackers. This is a fundamental flaw. Anonymous is *groups* of shadowy hackers, and herein lies the problem. Anonymous has done a lot of good in just the past 9 months. It has helped with other groups in providing aid to people on the ground in countries where "democracy" is a bad word.
The mainstream media needs to understand that Anonymous isn’t unanimous. I’ve yet to see wide scale reporting make this distinction. A destructive minority is getting a majority of the press, while those of us who toil in the shadow doing good work for people at home and abroad go unthanked.
BART protestors didn’t spring up out of thin air this week. Protests against BART have been ongoing for years. Where’s the media coverage? If the media paid more attention to peaceful protests and general social unrest, I think hackers would be far less inclined to do things such as leaking data just to get the attention of the press.
Finally, hacking isn’t just about breaking into web servers and leaking data to the public. Far from it. Hacking is just as much about breaking out of things as it is about breaking into things. Hacking is lifestyle, and a mindset. It is about learning more about the technologies we use and social norms we are subject to.
Don’t let the actions of a few skew your perception of hackers as a whole.

This is not a Buddhist blog

Some time back I closed my old blog Smiling Buddha Cabaret to start to move away from Buddhist related topics. There are way too many nannies in the on-line Buddhist world who want to police everyone else’s speech and I’m tired of fighting that battle. Those topics are now at an end.

So ya’ll can go back to Tricycle now…for the OFFICIAL version.

Nothing to see here.