Limitations to Resistance

The master's tools will never destroy the master's house.

(Audre Lorde in Sister Outsider)

The institutions that are in power create the technology that helps them.

(Kirkpatrick Sale, qtd. in Robin 1996)

What limitations are there to hacking as a source of resistance? Structurally Sale argues that the technology in the computer revolution is designed to be undemocratic. He thinks we should take a Luddite position and reject the digital revolution. He pessimistically forecasts that the elite will win the fight for technopower. The statistics on inequality in Internet use back him up.

More critically, the illegal hackers, who meet the most accepted definition of hacker, show potential for resistance, but also major problems before that potential can be realized. Namely, overall hacker support for progressive causes outside of libertarian issues is shallow. While one might expect hackers who by operating anonymously can be free of their sex, race, and sexual orientation to be very accepting of diversity ("We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias..." – The Mentor), this is not the case. Probably 80-90% of hackers are male and they tend to act sexist. Phrack includes many letters that were generally accompanied by sarcastic editorial comments. If the letter-writer’s name or handle was female, then the editor would usually suggest that they "hook-up". In past summer conferences organized by hackers and Phrack, people hired strippers and watched pornography videos (along with drinking) as a form of entertainment. Women are generally treated as sex objects. Men who try to get help from more experienced hackers or phreaks have trouble, but women receive favorable treatment, probably in hope that they will return the favor. Phrack ragged on one hacker, Oryan Quest, for being a Mexican ("illegal alien") and using Spanish commands on his BBS. However as they also attacked him for a series of other things (Ex. to try and boost his reputation he filed fake news stories to Phrack) so one cannot know whether the editors were primarily motivated by racism or not.

Some hackers are more concerned about their status within the movement, than about building the movement. There is a lot of teaching happening in the underground with BBSes, webpages, electronic journals, files, and chat rooms; however hackers need to change their attitude. Instead of assuming that everyone who has an AOL account is a loser and kicking off an Internet Relay Chat channel anyone who asks a question (just because they seem a little new), hackers need to write a friendly response and bring the newcomers into hacking culture like other social movements do. By contrast, if a new person shows up at a National Council meeting of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (large national progressive student environmental network) they get a lot of attention and are welcomed into the fold. If they are willing, they will end up with a very high level of responsibility.

Theoretical Framework
Hacking History
Phone Hacking
What is Hacking?
Juvenile Discourse, Black Hats, and White Hats
Hacker Language
Juvenility and Carding
Problems with the White Hat Hacking Discourse
Nostalgic Discourse
Problems with the Nostalgic Discourse
Law Enforcement and Computer Security Discourse
The Legal Discourse
Problems with the Law Enforcement Discourse
Media Discourse
Hackers as Resistance (illegal and legal)
Limitations to Resistance
Works Cited