04 November 2003

over leftover curry, laurel and i had a long conversation about activism, radicalism, and cooperating with folks with whom you don't fully agree. some favorite points (some more mine than hers, some vice versa):

* you don't need to be mean, bitter, or contemptuous to be radical.
* people who claim to be radical egalitarians should conduct themselves accordingly.
* radicals, like people of deep faith, should understand that they are gifted and have some understanding for well-meaning folks who aren't.
* radicals, who often like to talk about privilege and recognizing privilege, should be willing to understand their access to radical ideas as a form of privilege.
* radicals are asking others to change their worldviews very fundamentally. they should be willing to do so as well.

those are a few. does anybody have more?

the radicalism discussion was prompted by the total lunacy of the diebold corporation, which has threatened to sue swat activists for storing and posting a wide variety of diebold memos and e-mails on their site(s). the situation is like this: diebold's shoddy product, and shoddier ethics, make a mockery of any "free and fair" election in which the company is involved. this became extraordinarily clear when the company accidentally posted a host of intra-firm e-mails and messages on its public site. note that, however accidentally that happened, diebold did post that information itself. now they are scrambling to keep a lid on that information. luckily, people all over the place have downloaded the memos and made them available.

at swarthmore, students kept the memos on their personal webspace until diebold threatened a copyright action (?!?!). the college then caved, on that point at least, threatening students with the loss of internet access unless they took down the memos. the college is treading a tough line here -- they don't want to be exposed to legal action, but they have a responsibility to support their students' efforts to expose the truth.

so far, i've been not very impressed with the college's reaction. dean gross, in his statement, implicitly stated that diebold's copyright action would be lawful, and that students were "complying with the law" in taking down the memos. this is not the case. the more nuanced recent press release (here) gives a slightly better spin, stating that the college is proud of its students. swat also has a collection of national media reports on the takedown controversy here.

as often, the swatties sounding the most vociferous alarm about diebold's illegal actions (both with regard to the 2000 elections and with regard to the current controversy) are the often-irritating radicals at why-war. these are the folks who prompted last night's dinner table discussion. i'm impressed with their reaction to this controversy, but have often been annoyed with their attempts to construe Every Single Thing related to institutions and/or moderation as corrupt and worthless. at least this time the debate represents an admission that elections, even in the united states, are important. i do worry, however, that the inflexibility i've often seen on the part of why-war and other swat radicals (not to mention radicals out in the world) will, in the end, be counterproductive.

in the meantime, go visit their site, make note of all the places where those memos are stored, and go read them. then maybe paper your community with incriminating excerpts.