Weapon of choice

Image from arstechnica

From today’s Guardian

Crucially, the attacks aimed at bringing WikiLeaks and its cache of diplomatic cables offline are being countered by a mass effort of technological support for the whistleblowers’ site.

Counterattacks have been mounted against companies that have dropped WikiLeaks. Each of the six companies, including Amazon and eBay, that have severed ties with Assange and WikiLeaks following political pressure have quickly become the subject of sustained online assaults. It took just hours for the Swiss bank, PostFinance, to be brought offline after announcing it was closing Assange’s account.

The ephemeral Anonymous group has claimed responsibility for the attacks as part of what it calls “Operation Payback”.

Are these the battle lines of the future being drawn up before our very eyes? Washington cites ‘homeland security’ as it rallies corporate America to disavow legitimate customers, before a single prosecution has been completed, a single conviction gained? Double-pronged attacks on the economic and technical infrastructure of the militant wings of a diminishingly free press, retaliation for which falls to an anonymous ageographical network of tech-savvy ideologues, weaponising data in defence of the truth.

Joe Lieberman might think he has the heavy artillery, bringing the big guns of Visa and Mastercard to bear upon the enemies of the free world, but who exactly is he aiming at? Only the neo-narcissists, men like Assange, sticking their heads above the parapet for the satisfaction of having them shot off. The beheading of Wikileaks will only see one head replaced by two, and two by four, precipitating the binary proliferation of an insuppressable underlying principle. They tried it with Napster, and look where that got them.

If I was Lieberman I’d be thinking about my supply lines. Advertising; marketing; distribution: the conduits of the rampant consumerism on which capitalism traditionally relies, all are in the process of being digitised and decentralised – which is to say democratised, in the true sense of the term. What happens if Amazon’s warehouses start to fill up, and Paypal’s coffers run dry, as their customers realise that they’re only one outspoken opinion away from being outside the law. That’s the problem with alienating the outspoken and the opinionated – they never shut up about it.

Ever since reading Michael Herr’s Dispatches I’ve liked the idea of being a war correspondent. Problem with this battle is that the correspondents are the cavalry – even in the early skirmishes the signs were there. Seems like certain members of the Frontline Club might be about to find out exactly what that means.

As for me, I’ll be keeping my helmet on and my powder dry, dodging stray bullets and keeping an eye out for less stray ones. And I’ll be bearing in mind the words of JFK, who knew a thing or two about bullets, but whose weapon of choice was the truth:

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[Update 11.11am – 08/12/10] Techcrunch is reporting that 4chan have taken www.mastercard.com down with an orchestrated DDoS. More info on Operation Payback apparently available here, although at the time of writing this is also offline.

[Update 15.30pm – 08/12/10] Turns out that if you pick a fight with Wikileaks you might find your cable being fast-tracked to the front of the queue. How many businesses must be keeping their heads down and their phone of the hook in case they get a call from Joe Lieberman?