This is a reprint of Our Right to Communicate by Heather Marsh, which first appeared April 16, 2013. Marsh is our favorite living political philospher (Zizek is of course a stand up comedian) and favorite ex-WikiLeaker. And some day we’ll publish that big, stonking interview with her we’ve been trying to organize for what, three years now?
You can buy her book Binding Chaos in English or Spanish. And you should. Even if you don’t read Spanish.
To the article!
The first right of any person in any society must be the right to communicate. Without communication there is no way to safeguard our other rights or for us to participate fully in a society. When your right to communicate is interrupted by those who would be your voice, your face or your representative, you are being subjected to the governance of another.
Horizontal governance does not mean no one gets a voice, it means everyone does. A person or group who attempts to suppress the voices of others is attempting to seize control. Official group channels are representative governance, regardless of consensus that may or may not lie behind them. A person who interprets another’s voice instead of amplifying it is assuming control over the originator.
People giving a foreign ‘face’ to a cause are standing between us. Media who pretend to write stories about groups whose voices are never heard but write almost universally through the lens of western men instead, are ensuring that all interpretations and solutions come from the same small segment of society. Wars are told from the point of view of arms dealers and politicians, disasters are interpreted by NGO’s, most issues are never covered at all. Official channels decide what will or will not be revealed and media are rewarded for their obedience by access to more official information.
New media in its current form has made this worse instead of better. Journalists write about those powerful in social media to have their stories amplified by the same people. The news – celebrity symbiosis has only escalated as writers vie for page views. We are at risk of having increasingly narrow news coverage as platforms like Twitter move to increase amplification of already powerful accounts and hide the less powerful opinions from view.
Concentric groups, knowledge bridges and epistemic communities outlined the pitfalls of celebrity replacing epistemic communities and the need for peer ranked value of expertise. It also discussed the potential scope of shunning, photoshopping and trolling to prevent all voices from being heard. As information and voice amplification become the new symbols of power, those who would assume control of society have moved to hoard voice amplification and control the message received by the public in new ways.
The pressure for marginalized groups to stay in their marginalized roles increases as does their opportunities to escape. While it was once possible to simply identify people in relation to a more powerful figure, as assistant, wife, staff, servant, serf, slave or other, the Internet provided the opportunity for all to have an equal voice free of relation to others. The backlash to this freedom has been violent.
Depending on the group, individual voices are told their message will receive greater amplification if it comes from another, the danger of speaking openly is so great they must be protected, their individual voices disrupt the harmony of consensus, or they are part of a collective and will be shunned if they dare speak with their own name. Most importantly, the free information beliefs of many groups which threaten power have been twisted to conflate credit theft with free information.
When you are told that the actions and thoughts you know were your own belong to the group or the cause and you will be punished for claiming your own voice or actions, you know you belong to a cult with a cult leader(s). Devoting all of your work to a brand that will be used to create a bloated central figure who will then be able to control the messages of everyone while dining out on ill-gotten celebrity and collecting brand donations is no different than passing all your money to the Unification Church. The cult leaders of the 1970’s demanded money; in the age of the internet they demand fame and information control. In the 1970’s anyone who did not sign all material goods over to a cult leader was called greedy and materialistic. Now anyone who does not assign all credit to the cult leader is called vain and fame-seeking. The irony and hypocrisy is seen in the multimillionaire cult leaders of the 1970’s or the internet and offline famous would-be cult leaders of today.
It is possibly pure coincidence that every movement today that threatens the powerful is taken over by those that seek to suppress individuals and control the messages which are heard. It is undeniable that as soon as those voices come under centralized control they have ceased to say anything that comes close to challenging authority. The lack of recognition for the real source of any work makes it possible for the opportunistic to claim credit and very quickly build a following with too much celebrity and power for anyone to challenge. In the case of an internet entity such as FBI informant Sabu, this can be disastrous for the gullible.
As discussed in Idea and action driven systems, it is frequently necessary or desirable for the origin of ideas or actions to be unknown. It is essential that ideas and actions branded as unknown origin remain that way and no one is ever allowed to assume credit for them either personally or under a group umbrella. It takes only the slightest glance through all past attempts at societal change to see where every group that subsumed individual credit to ‘the cause’ has ended up, from the Communist Party of China to every Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution that became the new tyrant.
To reiterate once more what was said in Idea and action driven systems, credit theft has absolutely nothing to do with free information. Credit for one’s work or ideas is the right of every person, the human dignity of societal recognition and belonging and an inherent part of their identity. There is no need to ever hide the origin of information unless the ultimate goal is to isolate them and suppress or twist their messages or use their work to glorify another.
To allow local governance and solutions, local voices must be the ones which formulate problems and create dialogue. When there is a need of emergency response of the world to local problems, we must have a way to immediately amplify local voices to a global volume. For this we do not need new media or any media at all. People who are currently faceless and voiceless do not need another to be their face and voice. We need a system where urgent local news can be collected and amplified globally when necessary, and where the people of the world decide which news is important, not official news channels or celebrity nodes.
A person who takes your idea and information to use and build upon is your collaborator, tester and colleague. A person who takes your credit or your voice is your enemy, a thief who steals your societal recognition and approval for themselves and would be your tyrant.
In 2010 she became administrator, editor in chief and domain holder for the Wikileaks endorsed news site Wikileaks Central. She used WL Central to tie Wikileaks releases to current events and advocate for social change under the slogan “News, analysis, action.” The Action section contained protest calendars, petitions, and information for activists. The site published in 16 languages and protests were listed for over one hundred countries.
As editor in chief and administrator of Wikileaks Central she used the media attention on Wikileaks in 2010 to 2012 to shine light on human rights and transparency issues and support revolutions around the world. “As Georgie she has been writing about the revolution since before the beginning, starting with A Stateless War in September 2010.” She wrote the first article referencing what became the US Occupy movement on the day it started, March 10, 2011, and covered many other day of rages within hours of their beginnings.
A Canadian activist, she created Take the Square Canada and worked with activists around the world to “encourage and facilitate connection and communication for the revolution”. Some of those groups were the South Korean Hope Riders, the North African Day of Rages, the Chinese Jasmine Revolution, the SpanishIndignados/Take the Square movement and the US Occupy movement.
She began writing A Proposal for Governance in November 2011 and was invited to the Berlin Biennale from April – June 2012 to work with other hackers on creation of the Global Square. She represented the Berlin Biennale hackathon at the World Free Media Forum in Rio in June 2012.
Featured Image The Bullhorn Poet Speaks to the Horizon by Lau on Flickr