Anarchist AgitSat

April 19, 2007

I’m a bit late to the party here, but check this out for interesting — if possibly far-fetched — ideas. Over at Carnival of Anarchy, Brad has posted some thoughts about putting an anarchist satellite into orbit:

Imagine a 10cm x 10cm x 10cm aluminum cube with solar panels, a tiny Linux server and a 2.4 Ghz band radio modem. Circling the Earth in orbit, it could be contacted via radio modem from anywhere on Earth that it passes over in order to download its data payload.

Well, we have the Internet, and radio modems aren’t in common usage anyway — so why do this? Simple. It would be more difficult for The Man(tm) to shut down. It could be used as a distribution point of last resort for state-thwarting hacktivism software such as ScatterChat and classic anarchist propaganda.

More importantly, the launch itself would be an unparalleled propaganda achievement in the field of radical politics. It is precisely the large scope of the project that could potentially move mountains of public opinion about the supposed unworkability of anarchism. Here would be a statement about the power of voluntary cooperation. Here would potentially be a way to expose the mischaracterization of anarchists as merely hooligans seeking only mayhem and misery for our fellow human beings as the slander it truly is.

Over at Human Iterations, William Gillis also kicked in with his thoughts:

Better yet, imagine a spattering of these as relay nodes and micro-datahavens. Genocide prevention kits, electronic currencies and censorship breaking software. With $85,000 we could do billions in continuous damage to major governments and begin to circumvent Echelon. Regimes like the PRC would have a fucking hernia. Forget the measily propaganda coup of broadcasting Kropotkin or Rothbard, we can secure a major stepping stone for the EFF folks and finally get the circle-A back as a proactive force in the free speech movement.

I’m not so sure that such an undertaking — which won’t be easily, logistically or financially — is worth it for propaganda purposes alone, especially with the likelihood for sabotage. Though I suppose that even sabotage of the project could be a propaganda victory of sorts, especially if it was something high-profile like testing a sat-killing weapon. Unfortunately, sabotage attempts are much more likely to be black-bag ops or the type of influemtial pressuring that would prevent the project from ever launching. Even if it gets into orbit, I wouldn’t be surprised if the satellite became a test subject for jamming and electronic negation attempts. It’s very likely that the state already has plans for dealing with operations like this — can you imagine the US response to an al-Qaeda or Hezbollah satellite?

Gillis is right — where this project really has a chance to take off is by making alliances with electronic freedom and privacy groups who could promote the project as a way to bypass internet censorship and other blockades of information flow by authoritarian regimes, or maybe even one of those wanna-be-data-haven groups like Sealand. And groups like the EFF might actually have money to sink into a project like this.

You have to admit, the idea is ambitious — and just crazy enough that it might actually work. Some interested folks are already getting together to discuss it. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

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