Thursday, December 09, 2010

Web Attacks and Student Protests: What's the Link?

Politics is getting really interesting again in Britain.

Street politics, I mean, rather than the managed politics of official parties and the Westminster Village.

When was the last time we saw the two top stories on the mainstream news programmes covering direct political action by ordinary citizens? The student demos and the web attacks against Visa, Mastercard and PayPal even managed to take priority over snow stories today!

It's been common in recent years to hear of decline in popular political activity - but this has tended to be measured primarily in terms of turnouts at elections and in membership of political parties.

Today's events reveal that a spirit of largely peaceful protest has started to galvanise sections of the population both in Britain and elsewhere.

Is there any connection between the apparently disparate actions of students and other protesters in central London and those hacking and coordinating DOS attacks on sites that have withdrawn their support for Wikipedia?

The theme that runs through both actions seems to be an anger against perceived economic and political elites who, in both cases, are being held responsible for presiding over a number of inter-related and unwelcome developments in Britain and America:

  • the increased concentration of economic power in the hands of smaller numbers, and the corresponding increase in economic inequality
  • the use of public money to subsidise the failures of banks
  • aggressive overseas militaristic ventures
  • restrictions on freedom of speech, particularly attempts to attack Wikileaks

All in all, interesting times.

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