You'd never know it from their boring hey, hey, ho, ho chants, but the millions of people who marched in the streets worldwide this weekend were the best informed anti-war protestors in history.The suits in the U.S. military, with their video-game-style bomb footage, have always known that information is power and have tightly controlled that power to keep the public on their side in wartime. This weekend saw the culmination of a tremendous shift in that dynamic, one that wouldn't have been possible without our global immediate-communication revolution.
E-mail isn't new to the protest game. Massive mailing lists and the forward feature on e-mail browsers can get information out to vast numbers of people in seconds. For the most part, though, the info that's been sent worldwide has been limited to hopeless Internet petitions and, in the case of anti-globalization protests in Seattle, announcements of where rallies would begin.
But the information passed around has now become much more substantial. Never before have there been so many anti-war protests before a bomb is actually dropped.
Some of the anger on the streets is undoubtedly a purely visceral reaction to George Bush and Tony Blair's warmongering, but much of it comes from the fact that people are informed about the diverse reasons for the upcoming war. In the pre-e-mail age, finding out about the geopolitical machinations that various governments would rather you didn't know about would require you to dig through magazines like the Nation or risk being put on an FBI list if you subscribed to Covert Action. The communication revolution has democratized that information, making it far more accessible to everyone.
The latest Michael Moore screed, lengthy essays on attempts by Iraq to destabilize the U.S. economy by switching its oil currency from dollars to euros, MPEG files of The Goats' anti-government song Typical American -- it's all suddenly available to millions rather than thousands. Someone in Cleveland sees an interesting article on war protestors heading to Iraq to act as human shields, copies it to all his friends and within hours the story has travelled around the world.
When essayist Wendell Berry bought a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times a few weeks ago, criticizing the American government's post-9/11 National Security Strategy, the Orion Society -- the organization that sponsored the ad -- encouraged readers to go to www.orionsociety.org and e-mail the article worldwide. Within hours, copies of the ad started to appear in my in-box. At last count, 35 people had separately sent me the 5,000-word rant.
For those suspicious of the official line or simply curious about what their newscasters aren't telling them, it's great news. For those with the bombs, this is one war that, right now at least, is unwinnable. firstname.lastname@example.org