Sunday, 27 February 2011

SL Uncut

If you would like to know more about SLUncut, please contact me inworld

This is the kind of thing UKUncut is doing at the moment

Reclaiming the banks: Activists turn British banks into creches, classrooms and launderettes in protest over public service cuts

Plot Tracer

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Saturday, 26 February 2011

MENA UPDATE February 26th 2011

by Siri Vita


MENA UPDATE February 26th 2011
Events in the Middle East & North Africa region (MENA) are unfolding quickly as protesters across the region, calling for regime changes, freedom and democracy refuse to back down, even  in the face of ruling regime brutality.

Libya
Calls for action against Gaddafi  by the US and the United Nations escalated as evacuations were completed and the danger of a hostage crisis receded. However, Gaddafi appears to be holding the entire city of Tripoli hostage as fighting escalates around the capital. Cities all around Libya has come under control of the opposition with the entire eastern half of the country celebrating freedom from his 41 year dictatorial rule.

Gaddafi’s forces are made up of Special Forces loyal to his two sons, about 5,000 regular army soldiers and mercenaries brought in from Chad and Niger. Army, Navy and airforce personnel have defected and  come out in support of the opposition forces after being ordered to attack civilians. Reports of mass killings by Gaddafi loyalists of soldiers who refused orders have surfaced over the last few days with video evidence supporting the claims.

Opposition forces are reluctant to enter Tripoli without a no fly zone being enforced. They fear bringing on an aerial bombing attack that would destroy the city and cause extreme civilian casualties.  A no-fly zone over Libya would also halt the importation of the foreign mercenaries bolstering Gaddafi’s dwindling loyal forces. The U.N. security council is meeting in special session today (Saturday) amidst calls from all quarters to establish this no-fly zone.

Estimates are that thousands have died in the conflict to date with thousands more wounded, arrested or missing. In Tripoli, snipers opened fire yesterday on worshipers leaving Friday prayers and roving bands of armed mercenaries cruised the streets.  Gaddafi called his own rally, attended by about 200 loyalists, in which he gave yet another rambling speech in which he stated he would throw open the armament stores for his loyalists to use against the opposition. There are grave concerns that as he sees his chances of regaining control of the country dwindling, he will commit mass murder within the capital. Defectors from his inner circle state that he is quite capable of such action and the current focus of everyone is looking for a way to avoid a bloodbath in Tripoli.

An  interim government has been formed in Benghazi until#Tripoli is liberated.  The former Justice Minister, Abdul Jalil Mustafa, who resigned in protest of the crackdown, has been named interim president.

Bahrain
Tens of thousands gathered in Manama, Bahrain Friday on the official day of mourning for the 7 dead since protests began there on February 14th..  The government called security forces off the streets a week after protests began and things have been relatively peaceful since. Thousands marched in Pearl Square chanting “Leave Hamad” & “Down Hamad” referring to King  Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa

The King has fired 3 ministers in an attempt to appease the protesters.

Yemen
Demonstrators protesting the rule of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh were attacked in brutal crack down in Aden on Friday with reports of up to 19 dead.  Other protests taking place in the capital of  Sanaa and Taez have also seen violence since protests began.

From EA Newsfeed:  “More on the difficulties for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh from the apparent defection of two of Yemen's most important tribes to the anti-regime movement.

Powerful tribal leaders, including those of the Hashid and Baqil, pledged at a gathering north of the capital Sanaa to join protests against Saleh.
"I have announced my resignation from the General People's Congress in protest at the repression of peaceful demonstrators in Sanaa, Taez and Aden," Hashid tribal chief Sheikh Hussein bin Abdullah al-Ahmar was quoted as saying.
The Hashids are considered Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation and include nine clans, among them the Sanhan, long a bulwark of Saleh's regime”

Egypt
Protesters in Tahrir square and at the Parliament building had gathered to mark the two weeks since Mubarak has stepped down. Protesters have vowed to come out every Friday till the military cedes power to a civilian government.

In a move which has now angered many and may prove extremely counter-productive for the Egyptian military, forces moved in on the protesters last night dispersing them with tasers and whips while chasing them through the streets.  There were reports of many arrests and beatings amid the ensuing chaos.

The Egyptian military apologized today on it’s facebook page!  All those who were detained last night have been released.
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/6450/Egypt/Politics-/Egypt-military-attacks-Tahrir-sitin,-army-apologis.aspx

Tunisia
From EA News Feed: “As more than 100,000 people demonstrated in Tunis, Tunisia's interim Government said Friday that elections will be held by mid-July.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi's Government also announced that it had seized financial and real estate assets belonging to 110 more members of the entourage of former President Ben Ali. Similar action had already been taken against 46 people, and arrest warrants had been issued for Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi.”

Iran
A march from Azadi square  is being planned for March 1st.

Iraq
PM of Iraq said: we are a democracy we don't fear demonstrations. He then  imposed curfew and sent police to shoot at protesters. Reportedly at least 7 dead.


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Recent Posts Menu

"Speak to me your song of greed," Redzone and the Economics of Fear - Scylla Rhiadra - HERE

Scylla's follow up article -Son of Redzone: How to Protect Your Privacy, Why You Still NEED to Protect It, and Why the Landed Gentry Are So Annoyed at You.  HERE

SPOOKS IN SECOND LIFE - Private Security Contractor Pitched Second LifePsyOps Campaign to US Military by Kanomi-   HERE

Anti-Austerity measures MEETING ON MONDAY 28th Feb HERE

Demonstration in support of the people of Libya - HERE

Find your way around our parcels - HERE

Help needed - HERE

What's to be done about Unity (Station)? Plot Tracer - HERE

Proposal for SLUncut - HERE

On SL Marxists, Networks and Platforms - Plot Tracer - HERE

Tempests, Teapots, Death Threats and Commie Parasites by Scylla Rhiadra HERE

Anonymous Revolution Online HERE

SLLU CHARTER, AIMS AND PRINCPLES - HERE

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Friday, 25 February 2011

Spooks in Second Life

Private Security Contractor Pitched Second Life PsyOps Campaign to US Military

In mid-2010, private security firm and defense contractor HBGary Federal proposed a psychological operations campaign to the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) that would take place within the virtual world of Second Life.

SOCOM is the arm of the military that oversees "covert and clandestine missions", according to Wikipedia.

The Second Life PsyOps proposal appears in an Ars Technica story by Nate Anderson and based on more than 40,000 e-mails taken from HBGary Federal’s email server. The company’s emails were seized by the hacker group ‘Anonymous’ and released on Torrent sites, in retaliation for an HBGary Federal employee’s attempts to infiltrate their group through social engineering.

In Anderson’s article about the emails, which describes at length the various root-kits, back doors and other hacking tools the firm was developing for corporate, government, and military clients, is an unusual description of a psychological operation to be launched within Second Life.

The firm’s proposal stated: “HBGary personnel have experience creating political cartoons that leverage current events to seize the target audience's attention and propagate the desired messages and themes.”

It uses a cartoon of Iranian president Ahmadinejad controlling an ayatollah on a puppet string as an example of the kind of desired message they could promulgate.

Messages could be spread through Second Life via "an in-world advertising company, securing small plots of virtual land in attractive locations, which can be used to promote themes using billboards, autonomous virtual robots, audio, video, and 3D presentations,” according to the document examined by Ars Technica.

They even proposed modifying the Second Life client to more efficiently track the dispersion of their message, according to the report, though it’s not entirely clear what is meant by altering the client to produce: "valuable usage metrics, enabling detailed measures of effects,” as quoted in the report.

While Ars Technica notes that there’s no evidence the proposal was accepted by the government, and the Second Life PsyOps scheme is probably just a footnote in the larger story of Anonymous vs. HBGary Federal, the fact that such an idea was put together with Second Life in mind does raise questions about the vulnerability of SL to other such operations, and whether or not Linden Lab itself is aware of any other psychological warfare or propaganda efforts which have been deployed in world.

Another issue it raises is user privacy and the integrity of third-party clients, given that HBGary proposed modifying an SL client and has experience with phishing, creating rootkits and other forms of espionage, as the Ars Technica piece details.

Linden Labs’ new CEO has spoken recently about his commitment to user privacy, telling Dusan Writer: “People don’t want other people to connect the dots from their avatar to their real life person – or even, for that matter, to an alt. One of the ethical obligations we have is to protect people’s privacy.”

Given that firms like HBGary are, as Forbes' Andy Greenberg notes, involved in: “cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns, phishing emails and fake social networking profiles, pressuring journalists and intimidating the financial donors to clients' enemies including WikiLeaks, unions and non-profits" a statement from Linden Lab and new CEO regarding the HBGary Federal PsyOps proposal and related issues would probably be welcome at this time.

I contacted Linden Lab regarding this, and received this official response from Peter Linden, PR Manager of Linden Lab:

Hi Kanomi,

Thank you for your email. While we appreciate the opportunity, we will not be offering comment on this proposed use of the Second Life platform.
Best,
Peter

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Son of Redzone: How to Protect Your Privacy, Why You Still NEED to Protect It, and Why the Landed Gentry Are So Annoyed at You.

Developments on the Redzone front are moving very quickly. Recent changes to the Linden Lab's Community Standards Document, and resulting changes to the scripting and interface of Redzone itself, have somewhat reduced the threat to privacy that Redzone poses. These changes now require that anyone who wishes to access the names of your supposed "alts" (i.e., anyone who has been scanned into the RZ database using the same IP as you, whether they are in fact "alts" or not) must now obtain your consent before doing so. If someone seeks that consent from you, you will receive a drop-down menu that provides three options: "Yes, consent," "Stop Asking," and "No, decline."




IMPORTANT: Make sure that you click "No, decline." Aside from the fact that no one has the right to know who your "alts" are, it is still unclear what other ramifications may result from clicking "Yes." At the very least, you may be exposing the alts of other people without their consent. Do NOT choose "Stop Asking," as it is worthwhile knowing who is trying to obtain your information from you.

In general, this is a good development. At the same time, it is important to understand that

  • Your consent is NOT required by RZ to scan and enter your avatar name, IP, and other information into the off-world RZ database. This will happen if you have media and music enabled regardless of your wishes.

  • That database is outside of the jurisdiction of Linden Lab. Neither LL, nor its residents, have any control over who accesses it, or for what purpose.

  • If you are banned from a parcel, all of the "alts" associated with your IP will be banned simultaneously, in effect creating a list of your supposed "alts" without your permission.

  • If someone else who has been scanned using the same IP as you consents to listing the names of her or his alts, YOUR avatar(s) will also be exposed in that list, WITHOUT your express consent.

For these reasons, it is important to continue to employ defensive measures against Redzone. The Phoenix viewer development team (and other TPVs) is promising to include patches in their next releases that will allow you to block Redzone scans, but for the moment the ONLY way of effectively blocking a scan of your avatar is to disable streaming media and music in your viewer preferences. You must also disable "cookies" in the "Web" tab of your preferences. To see a graphic of this, follow this link to a post on the SL Forums:

http://blogs.secondlife.com/message/629074#629074

You may also wish to consider purchasing the free HUD "Greenzone," which detects scans from Redzone devices so long as you wear it. It will NOT protect you against a scan, but it does tell you WHO is doing it. Please note, however, that the code for Greenzone is invisible and no mod, which means in effect that we cannot know for certain what ELSE it may be doing; I therefore hesitate to fully recommend this product.

https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/GreenZone-Detect-zF-RedZone-Keep-your-privacy/1907392

On a different level I encourage all members of the SLLU to contribute to the fight against Redzone's lucrative and deceitful data scraping and privacy-invading operation by:

  • Refusing to consent to revealing alts, and resisting scans as noted above.

  • Adding yourself to the "watch" list of this JIRA, which is opposed to Redzone.

https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/VWR-24746?

  • Boycotting known stores, vendors, clubs, or other parcels that use Redzone, and informing their proprietors that you are doing so, and why.

  • Tweeting your opposition to this device's data mining and privacy invasion at @rodvik and @secondlife.

For those who wish more information on this subject, I can recommend two sources that are continually being updated:

http://no2redzone.wordpress.com/

http://www.sluniverse.com/php/vb/general-sl-discussion/47314-zf-redzone-disclosure-secondlife-alts.html

Please note that the last listed is very, very lengthy.


Why the Landed Gentry Are Upset at the Uppity Commons

One of the more interesting tropes appearing and reappearing in the Redzone official forums is one that emphasizes the "fact" (unproven though it is) that the conflict over this device is between sim owners on one hand, and the "freebie accounts" (i.e., "griefers" and "copybotters") on the other. The language is nakedly that of moneyed privilege; were there any question about which side of the ideological divide the Redzone users position themselves, a few of these quotes from the RZ forums should dispell it:

From zFire himself:

"This all could be temporary anyway. If 20000+ Tier paying residents united
against 700 GZers, I would expect yet another change.

How many Millions of US Dollars do 20,000+ users pay LL per month? What if a Union of the users threatened to strike?"

From his followers:

"Due to the new Linden Labs ToS that effectively neuters the ANIT-griefing tool REDZONE, I am in need of an UNLIMITED BAN list, as 500 is far too few due to all the grifers, thieves and copybots that hit this sim. Please remove the 500 user limit in my ban lists ASAP. Better yet, escalate this ticket up to whomever made the decision to side with griefers instead of Tier-paying and TOS abiding users."
"zFire did make a good point that we the sim owners should may form some kind of union to protect im thinking of making a group that represents the wishes of us the tier paying sim owners. Its about time Linden Labs looks after our rights instad of the free users."
"I agree. Its a proprietory network. Linden Labs own the lot, but while sims are leased from them they could at least have the foresight to see that the only things that make money for them are Land, security, shops and the value of the L$ against the $USD.
the rest may make a bit of money but nothing like those things
"
"I also do not feel Linden Labs has a right to tell us we can not have this, as we are paying around $320.oo USD a month for our sim, plus the cost of running and maintaining it, for people in SL to enjoy. . . . Every one has a opinion, this is just mine, but one thing for sure, is this is against my right as a sim owner and any sim owner, I will seriously consider looking into another game where they take care of the ones that keep them in business, and not cater to the ones that want everything for free and maliciously hide behind alts to cause problems."

Apparently, if you pay for a sim, you should be entitled to violate the privacy of, well, everyone who doesn't.

Damn, whose idea was it to free the serfs anyway????

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Thursday, 24 February 2011

SLUncut Meeting on Monday - please read

by Plot Tracer

I firmly believe SL, like the real world, is a place people can co-operate and help change society and societal “norms.”

How do we do this?

Education is the key.

I wrote this little piece on my blog - HERE

Also read this on the SLLU blog about the demo for the people of Libya, which expresses the importance of political organisation within SL… HERE

We are all in a system and from within it is sometimes difficult to see our part in it.

Those in power are certainly aware of their place in society. They are, at present, ensuring they hold on to their millions / billions /bonuses etc. and with their control of the world’s mainstream media, are peddling the lie that “We are all in this crisis together and are all working to fix this unforeseeable phenomena that wrecked our financial institutions.”

As activists, most of us have seen through this lie. We watch as the weakest in society are now expected to suffer in order to “fix” this crisis – not of their doing. We the working people and poor are being expected to bear the brunt of cuts to our social services and amenities and pay and working conditions while those who caused it, ensure the system in which they cream off billions of pounds is safe. Those at the top pay legions of accountants to ensure they pay little or no tax. So where is the fairness in this “bank bailout?” In what way are “we all in this together?” The platitude is rhymed off and many now are engaged in a synthetic battle between workers and poor to hold on the the scraps we have been thrown down from the high table. Divide and conquer – the tactic used by imperialists from the times of the enforced enclosure of Ireland, through the middle east and into communities within the developed western world – a tactic constantly used in the headlines of our billionaire controlled press and media.

 Fuck Fox…

No more. There are other ways to pay for the banking crises… closing tax havens; closing tax loopholes; a huge reduction in arms proliferation and the economics of war and an investment in the economics of peace and ecologically sound energies… I could go on.

In the real world we see communities fighting to retain their libraries, their schools, staff for their schools, community police, leisure facilities, heating allowances (in the more northern climes), maternity facilities and allowances etc etc. And rather than these groups fighting for the $/£ limited by Govt, why shouldn’t we all fight together for a better ran world?

Across the world, from Wisconsin to Glasgow, London, Madrid, Paris, Athens and beyond, people are taking to the streets and demanding their right to a better world. One were resources are not hoarded by billionaires and their millionaire lackey politicians, but where resources are shared. If we are all born equal, then why are some children born into a world in which they will always have more than they need while other children in the same countries must struggle from the word go to eat?

Proposal
I feel, if we can reach as many large groups and sims in SL and ask them to put on an event at which people are asked to either sign a worldwide petition (wording to be agreed) AND/ or are given a notecard with simple facts about the economic crisis, we will be part of a chain that is educating people about how they are being oppressed by the people who caused this crisis, but who sit in their tax free ivory towers telling us we are all in this together.

I propose we set a date (perhaps sometime in April) in which all of SL will be awash with events from art events, political rallies, music events, poetry, exhibitions, writing “dashes”, political discourse, club nights etc – but all publicising the petition and notecard – and ask people to send the notecard to a friend or some friends – so this spreads further.

I propose this group of organisers spread the word of this event to owners of groups and media outlets attached to SL.

I propose that this group become the core who collate all of the events people are proposing and release them to various websites, from our own organisations websites, to places on mainstream media websites such as cnn where we can add reports and comments.

I propose that this group draft and then agree on a statement for the notecard and also set up the petition site, and draft the wording of the petition that will ensure the involvement of as many people across the political spectrum as we can without diluting our message.

I propose we open a new group for people who want to continue the struggle against the austerity measures by exposing the tax misadventures of the corporations in much the way UKUNCUT and now, USUNCUT are doing – I have created a group called SLUNCUT – and will open this group if we decide this is a good idea.

Please come to the meeting on Monday 28th February (time tba).  I also propose a second meeting at a time that suits other time zones. Please let me know when this could take place and I will inform the group of a time that will suit most of the others.

Please pass this message on to others you feel may be interested.

---ooo000OO---STOP PRESS---OO000ooo---
Excellent article as to why education is key... HERE

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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Find your way around Flagg/ Lori parcels...

Click HERE to visit us inworld


To join the group, click here- HERE
Group Profile HERE

right click on images and open image in new tab to see bigger versions


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“Speak to Me Your Song of Greed”: Redzone and the Economics of Fear.

The most compelling story tearing its way through the forums, in-world groups, and internet blogs of Second Life users these days is the tale of the “anti-griefer” and “anti-copybot” tool Redzone.

It’s a riveting tale indeed, fraught with drama, rhetorical flourish, and passion. It has villains and heroes (although the identity of these depends upon one’s perspective) and holds forth the promise of a potentially apocalyptic conclusion.

It is also a story founded upon the social dynamics of fear: fear of griefers and of content pirates, working hand-in-hand with a fear of our own vulnerability to public exposure. Despite it's undoubted entertainment value, it is not in fact a very gratifying tale, speaking as it does to this most base and basic of human emotions, and to the willingness of those who value profit above all else to exploit this. But it is also a most instructive little fable, for what we see exposed herein, in perfectly formed miniature, is the model of an unfettered free market capitalism in full throttle.

Redzone is a scripted spyware product created and marketed by the content creator zFire Xue at the not-unsubstantial cost of L$3,999. It is on offer to the content creators and public sim owners of Second Life as a means of 1) detecting “copybot” viewers that can illegally copy content in SL, and 2) identifying “griefers” who may appear in stores, clubs, or other public places to be disruptive. Redzone is classic case of marketing on fear; it first feeds on legitimate worries about content theft and griefing, inflating these concerns into something like panic, and then offering apparent “peace of mind” to those willing to shell out the purchasing price. As the SL Marketplace ad for the product (since removed by its maker) put it:


You may or may not worry about copybots with nothing rezzed for them to steal.
You may not care about griefers with Build or scripts disabled on your land.
What about that social sabotage confidence artist you banned that came back across your ban lines with an alt? (RedZone would have killed them!)

A dramatic little machinima is part of this marketing campaign: it shows a sim overrun by a small army of griefers and copybotters, and demonstrates their detection and rather messy elimination (the banned avatars are replaced by an animation showing “screaming, shattering bones” and bloodstains when the miscreants are “killed”) by means of the device:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEOEc9rzLlA

This marketing has proven astonishingly successful: according to the manufacturer, there are now over 20,000 copies of Redzone operating within Second Life, which have collectively scanned over 9,000,000 avatars, resulting in parcel bans for over 70,000 residents.

This all sounds very impressive, and would seem to suggest that the device is doing precisely what it claims to do. In fact, however, the claims made about Redzone’s efficacy and accuracy are highly dubious: even Redzone itself claims to have a “hit” rate for copybotters of only 0.024% (i.e., one twenty-fourth of one percent).

Its method of identifying alts may be even less effective and reliable. What Redzone actually does is harvest IP (Internet Protocol) addresses from anyone who comes within scanning range of the device, and who has enabled media and music in her or his viewer preferences. The IP address is the supposedly “unique” number associated with the internet connection that one uses to access Second Life: log in to SL from the same computer using different accounts, and the IP address theoretically remains the same. What this should mean is that one can associate different accounts by identifying their common IP address, thereby proving them to be “alts” of the same user. If Redzone discovers that the avatar being scanned has an IP address matching that of other previously scanned avatars, or has been previously associated with other avatars, it alerts the device owner, who can take appropriate action, normally by banning the resident.

The flaw in this procedure is that IP addresses are by no means stable, nor need any given address be associated with one unique individual. Many internet connections use “dynamic” IPs that change regularly, and it is also not difficult to “spoof” a fake IP. At the same time, users employing a common internet connection may find themselves falsely associated with other users. If you are logging on from work, from a university dorm, or from a Starbucks, you may be sharing an IP with anyone who has done the same. The result is, of course, “false positives” and a very, very questionable degree of accuracy.

But why should the sim owner ban an avatar who is associated with other alts anyway? Well, the reasoning runs something like this: most griefers employ freebie one-off disposable accounts to wreak their havoc, and therefore will generally have many alts associated with their IP address. Ergo, it can be assumed, through a fallacious and deeply troubling abuse of logic, that there is a good chance that any avatar with alts is a griefer. It’s a shoot-first-ask-questions-later response to dealing with a legitimate problem, a fear-driven approach that is based on the reasoning that griefers are scary enough to warrant the collateral damage, consisting of all of those non-griefing avatars who are caught in the shotgun blast. It’s a little like targeting an apartment building with an air-to-surface missile because it shelters a terrorist leader: the broken, maimed, and bleeding bodies of the innocent sifted out through the wreckage afterwards are (of course) merely collateral damage, a “regrettable, but necessary” price that is part of the cost of the vital “war against terror.”

Redzone’s marketing, and the rhetoric of its boosters similarly slides quietly over the potential costs incurred in the use of this device, but an increasingly large body of critics of the device have begun to highlight these in a public campaign against Redzone that has been gathering speed and strength over the past few weeks. No less than three JIRA features have been opened, demanding that Linden Lab disable the device (here, here, and, most imporantly, here); the last of these has attracted a near record number of votes. At the same time, the anti-Redzone movement has spawned dozens of blogs and blog posts, and an exhausting number of threads on the official SL forums (as for example this), as well as other off-world forums. Even within the manufacturer’s own forum, an increasingly vocal opposition has been mounting.

What this opposition highlights is the fact that, while Redzone has marketed itself as an antidote for fear, it has itself generated an enormous amount of panic and alarm. This has much less to do with concern over being banned from sims that employ Redzone (many opponents of the system are actually asking to be banned from such locales, or calling for boycotts of them) as it does with concerns over the existence of Redzone’s enormous and growing database of “alts.” While there are, of course, many people who are quite open about their alts in Second Life, there are a great many more who prefer to keep their various “identities” within Second Life separate. Here is what the new Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Lab, had to say on the subject of avatars and identity in an interview with Dusan Writer:


See, there’s the me who goes to school meetings with my kids and that’s a very well established identity. And there’s the me who plays shooter games online and I don’t want those separate identities to mix up. It’s not appropriate.
Now imagine the case of a resident whose “main” is publicly linked, for whatever reason, to her real life identity. Perhaps she is an IT professional, a college or university teacher, or just someone who is normally open about who she is. Imagine what happens when that “main” becomes linked – correctly or, just as plausibly, falsely – to an avatar “alt” whose groups and picks include, say, a number of sex or BDSM groups. What if our straight and conventionally married “main” is associated with an avatar who is experimenting with LGBT? And what if these associations – which, again, may well be false -- become public knowledge in real life?

It is not hard to understand how this obvious threat to privacy within Second Life has generated a great deal of fear and concern: one needn’t be actually involved in “unsavoury” activities to be concerned about the possible ramifications. The fact is that this enormous and potentially damaging database is in private hands, on a web site that is completely outside of the jurisdiction of Linden Lab. How might it potentially be used? Indeed, any Redzone owner is given immediate access to the names of all the putative alts of anyone scanned by their device. Redzone also comes with an optional HUD that can be worn outside of one’s own sim or parcel: it is possible to roam freely anywhere in Second Life and scan anyone within range. The potential for abuse is enormous, and a number of instances of this have begun to come to light, of which this is but one example:


Earlier in this thread, I mentioned a few times that the person whose land I live(d) on has a Redzone on his parcel, for reasons of attempting to keep an old stalker from coming back. He has already outed one alt of mine(for an adult roleplay, at the time I had a child avatar that I used to speak to him), and when I told him it was a creepy and stalkerish thing to do, he said that it was his right to know. This bothered me, but I moved on, since he was still my friend.

Yesterday, he told me that he had been going to sexually themed SIMs with the Redzone hud and scanning the people around him for alts. If he found people with alternately gendered alts, he would out them. In local.

I told him, again, that it was a creepy thing to do and I asked him why he wanted to know these things about total strangers. He said it was just a game to him. I told him some of what I've learned about Redzone, and I linked him to this thread. He became angry when I insisted that what he was doing was wrong. He said that he has his opinions, and I have mine, and not even all the people speaking out against it would make a difference to him.

Meanwhile, criticism of Redzone is liable to evoke threats designed to ratchet up the level of fear: a warning on the Redzone forum notes that one should “Keep in mind most everyone on this channel could be mean enough to ban you, your alts, and your unborn alts forever from somewhere you may later wish you could visit.” Be careful what you say about Redzone, or you could find your Second Life ruined forever.

The escalating level of fear and paranoia among Redzone users themselves is reinforcing this. While Redzone can only effectively scan an avatar who has enabled media or music streaming, the device includes an option allowing one to identify and ban those who have disabled these options, under the assumption that they must, of course, have something to “hide.”

One might think that the growing opposition to Redzone would have the maker of Redzone worried. In point of fact, the fear and loathing generated by his product plays right into his hands, because those who purchase the product can choose to hide their own alts on the database! So, what then is the best and surest way to protect oneself from being victimized by Redzone? Why, to drop L$3,999, and buy one’s own copy of the device!

It will be interesting to see how this intense little drama plays out in the next few weeks or months. One thing is certain: zFire Xue will have made a tidy little fortune from his product, whatever the outcome. Not only has he profited from sales of Redzone to both those interested in identifying, and those wishing to conceal alts, but he also finds himself in possession of an enormous, and potentially very lucrative database. One way of viewing Redzone, in fact, is as the most successful instance of datascraping in the history of Second Life.

What interests me most about all of this, however, is the way in which the dynamics of both the success of Redzone and the growing opposition to it have revealed some of the hidden pulleys and chains behind the Second Life’s paradigmatic free market system. And what strikes me most when I consider this is the relationship between fear and financial success for the enterprising capitalist. Redzone brilliantly leveraged a real concern – about intellectual property rights and griefers – into something like a panic that has convinced thousands of Second Life residents to not merely buy the product, but to accept, apparently without moral qualm, its extremist shotgun approach to those problems. And faced with a wave of apprehension and concern over the effects of his own product, zFire has been able to further exploit the climate of fear, by making Redzone the only effective “antidote” to its own egregious trampling of privacy rights.

The question remains: how did fear become such an effective marketing tool in Second Life? The answer to that question lies in the very nature of the laissez-faire capitalism that characterizes the Second Life economy. Now, it is true (as some have noted) that the Second Life economy is not truly an unfettered free market system: Linden Lab retains control of a number of levers, as for instance the supply of Linden dollars, that allow it to tweak the economy as needed. Overall, however, Linden Lab pursues a largely hands-off attitude to commerce in-world. Its Terms of Service are vague and unprescriptive, and there are few mechanisms by which an individual resident may appeal for “official” redress from scams and rip-offs. It was this hands-off attitude that permitted, for some time before the Lab took action, in-world “banks” to operate what were, in essence, ponzi schemes.

Most significant is Linden Lab’s refusal to intervene in the case of “disputes” between residents, even where these involve significant amounts of cash. Here is the key provision with the Linden Lab ToS that spells this out:


10.1 Linden Lab is NOT liable for its users' actions, and you release Linden Lab from any claims relating to other users.

You agree not to hold Linden Lab liable for the Content, actions, or inactions of other users. As a condition of access to the Service, you release Linden Lab (and its officers, directors, shareholders, agents, subsidiaries, and employees) from claims, demands, losses, liabilities and damages (actual and consequential) of every kind and nature, known and unknown, arising out of or in any way connected with any dispute you have or claim to have with one or more users, including whether or not Linden Lab becomes involved in any resolution or attempted resolution of the dispute.

In effect then, while Linden Lab will intervene in cases of copyright infringement and intellectual property or content theft, it declines to regulate, or be held responsible for, the financial conduct of entrepreneurs, landowners, and content creators with regards to their customers. The motto of anyone doing business in Second Life should always be caveat emptor – buyer beware! At the same time, the Lab’s measures against content theft have been so lackadaisical and ineffective that no one has any faith in the ability of the system to protect them against copybotters.

And it is this failure to regulate or police the economic system within Second Life that is the primary root of the fear into which clever capitalists like zFire Xue have tapped. The failure of the system to protect content produced the vacuum into which zFire inserted Redzone, while the utter lack of faith that most residents have in Linden Lab’s willingness or ability to regulate or disable a product that so clearly infringes upon privacy rights is the cause of the rising opposition to the product, as well as further sales of it. All of these are owing to the nature of the unfettered free market system that Linden Lab has not merely permitted, but encouraged, to grow in Second Life.

Of course, to some proponents of free capitalism, this all seems rather wonderful. Prokofy Neva’s response to my suggestion that Redzone and the moral panic that it has generated is the result of the atmosphere of unfettered capitalism in SL is particularly telling, as she lauds a world in which “products are made and sold freely in the marketplace; where other people make and sell other products to counteract them; and where we have a free press to report on all this.” Capitalism, Prok seems to concede, may have created the “crisis,” but that’s actually a good thing, as we have other capitalists who are more than willing to ride to our rescue by creating “products to counteract them” – at a substantial profit, of course. Crisis? What crisis? It’s really just a glorious business opportunity! And in this way, the “system” need not rely on the natural mechanics of demand: it can generate its own demand by artificially creating a panic from which others, in turn, may profit! Think how much healthier the Second Life economy would be with even more assaults upon privacy!

In her song “The Whore’s Hustle and the Hustler’s Whore,” PJ Harvey speaks of a world of unbridled greed, competition, and fear:

Speak to me of Universal laws
The whore’s hustle and the hustler’s whore
All around me, people bleed
Speak to me your song of greed

Well, we know who the “hustlers” are. And the whores? Well, that would be us, our electronic identities harvested, collected, bought and sold. And what most truly makes us “whores” is that we are willing accomplices to the hustle: we are the ones, after all, who are buying Redzone and its putative remedy, Greenzone, and who are zFire Xue’s active if perhaps unknowing agents in the field, building for him his database of avatars and alts, herding ourselves and our fellows into electronic pens buried somewhere deep in a basement hard drive.

Speak to me of your inner charm,
Of how you'll keep me safe from harm.
I don't think so, I don't see . . .

So, who will keep us “safe from harm”? zFire and his Redzone? The next coder to capitalize upon our fear through the marketing of yet another lucrative scripted gadget, enabled by the very system from which it promises to protect us? Will these save us from our fear?

I don’t think so.

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Monday, 21 February 2011

SL Calls for Gadaffi to go!

The power of networks that have been painstakingly and carefully set up in SL really shone through when the United Nations Association Sim was flooded with people calling for Gadaffi to leave Libya and for the bloodshed of the Libyan people to stop.
right click on images and "Open image in new tab" to enlarge


The call went out from Hatim Back, a Sudanese activist who is not part of the traditional activist channels in SL. This call was heard by activists in various Art groups, such as Art Gallery Diabolus and through individuals involved there, the call went out to activist groups across SL.



I spoke to Hatim –

[11:44] Plot Tracer: Hatim - who called this?
[11:44] Plot Tracer: Was this through a group?
[11:44] Hatim Back: there is almost 400 people killed and thousands are Injured because Gadafi Libyan Dictator open fire against peaceful demonstration
[11:44] Hatim Back: No Groups
[11:45] Hatim Back: just people whom met before in Egypt sim
[11:45] Hatim Back: demonstrate against Mubarak
[11:45] Hatim Back: some are arabs
[11:45] Hatim Back: some are from the whole world
[11:45] Hatim Back: no label here
[11:45] Plot Tracer: cool
[11:46] Hatim Back: simply we gather to demand freedom and democracy

Some people call the effectiveness of SL activism and demonstrations not worth the effort. I disagree with their scepticism. The Sim was flooded by real people, who had connected through the call that went through many groups from art groups, through to pro-actively political groups such as SLLU to writers groups and groups that are usually used for nothing more than fun.

The people who turned up had a need to show their support for the Libyan people – and everyone who did became politicised in real life. Every avatar is a real person sitting at a desk, in a living room, in an internet café, where ever… and everyone of those people have links through their other social media and real life networks. All activism is about more than the act – it is about reaching people from the streets through to the people in power. SL is part of that pyramid of political pressure and I am proud that SL Left Unity is part of the activist core who can spread word of these actions and help pressurise our political representatives.

Gadaffi may not be on SL, but the voices of those who were at this demo will add to the voices chasing him from his murderous reign.

A report by SL reporter, Nadia Lane - HERE
A report by SL Reporter, Flor Nachtigal HERE
A report from SL Marxists HERE

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Plot's projects!

If you want to help, click HERE

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Friday, 18 February 2011

Red Plenty by Francis Spufford

Review by Plot Tracer: HERE

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Thursday, 17 February 2011

What's to be done about Unity?

by Plot Tracer

(visit Unity Station HERE )

As SLLU comrades and friends move in to SLLU Flagg/Lori space, reinvigorating it with bookshops and informal political chat (and other things, soon to be announced!), We ask, what’s to be done about Unity Station?

Unity Station was the first place SLLU purchased as a “hub.” All our land purchases before that had been places on the same sim or beside various fascist groups etc, to ensure activists had space they would not be kicked off of while demonstrating against these nutters. Meetings had been carried out on these spaces or in small buildings we rented in other sims.

The Station (or the “Hub” as it was originally known) soon became a place for activists to meet and plan SLLU events and actions. The first build, a three platform “cog” design, designed and built by Higgledpiggle Snoats, was built with the unique properties of SL in mind – people flew to each level and held meetings when it suited.

The second, and present design, was by Tooter Claxton, who owns parcels nearby. He designed the look from specifications given to him by SLLU members –building a nine floor block of run down flats, that fit well in the hobo atmosphere of the rest of the Oculea sim. Some of these floors had to go in order to ensure prims were kept for displays etc. The building has had the nod of approval with it becoming an official stop on the Linden Railway.

As time went on, and SLLU needs changed, most of SLLU meetings and work moved to the Flagg/Lori site (the first event that brought that about was the Greek uprising in 2009).

(Flagg, during the Greek revolt of 2009)

Unity Station, although still visited by residents as part of the Linden Railway experience, is not being used by SLLU members.

So, Lefties, what’s to be done with Unity Station?

Please leave your suggestions here on the blog – or send an inworld notecard to Plot Tracer - and we will publish your thoughts – hopefully then after a short period we can meet and decide on the great building’s future.

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Monday, 14 February 2011

Proposal for SLUncut (Italiano - Proposta sotto)

Please email me at plottracer@googlemail.com or contact me inworld if you wish to see changes in this draft document or wish to help)


PROPOSAL

As the financial solution of the business leaders and their chosen political representatives to their financial crisis across the world is now impoverishing people, we need to first of all make people aware of the origins of this crisis and how those who caused it are being financially cushioned. Secondly we need to come together and share experiences on local fight backs and help plan and become part of a bigger fight back.

We, (SL Left Unity) as an anti-capitalist group- and a loose confederation of groups and individuals, recognise that this fight back will include people who do not share our anti-capitalist view. As we see students taking to the streets across the world, and countries ridding themselves of their profiteering dictators who were imposing grinding poverty upon their citizenry, we understand completely that this fight against the bankers and billionaires who caused this crisis and who refuse to pay taxes to alleviate the problems they caused, cuts across all classes, pay grades and communities.

We celebrate the small victories of communities retaining their local schools and village halls and disabled parking spaces as well as the fall of dictatorships and the clawing back of unpaid taxes by corporations making billions in profits. We believe we should through an organised space/group, share these victories and in doing so, inform others who are beginning struggles for the same ends.

We in SLLU propose a grid wide day of music, political discourse, poetry, exhibitions, demonstrations and whatever else our talented SL’ers can come up with in opposition to the solution the billionaires are forcing our politicians (we also recognise that some politicians are complicit!) on meting out upon us, the poor, working and middle classes. The losses incurred by their crisis were OUR losses – our taxes were used to bail them out so they could continue their bonus and massive profits lifestyle – while we are being made to pay twice – now by way of losing our social services and jobs.

SL can be part of the fightback!

Contact Plot Tracer if you are interested in helping!

SLUncut?

(The model of fightback began by students and people who are being made to suffer because of this “crisis” is spreading across the world – most recently the US – see here - http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2011/02/us-uncut-is-born/ )

WHO WE ARE.

SLLU came together back in 2006 to try to create a hub for the anti-capitalist left in SL. We have been successful in doing that both by way of our group and the physical spaces we manage and allow people to use our facilities for meetings and as hubs to their own spaces. We have a blog stretching back to 2006 and stands as a reasonable record of what we have achieved and facilitated other people achieving over the past five years. http://www.slleftunity.com


PROPOSTA

Visto che la soluzione degli imprenditori e dei loro rappresentanti politici e’ quella di è impoverire la gente, dobbiamo prima di tutto rendere le persone consapevoli delle origini di questa crisi e avere chiaro le responsabilita’ di coloro che l’hanno causata finanziariamente . In secondo luogo abbiamo bisogno di incontrarci e condividere le esperienze sulla scia delle lotte locali e contribuire a progettare e diventare parte di una lotta più avanzata e generale.


Noi, (SL Left Unity) come gruppo anti-capitalista e facente parte di una libera confederazione di gruppi e individui, riconosce che questa lotta include persone che non condividono il nostro punto di vista anti-capitalista.


Come si vede gli studenti scendono in piazza in tutto il mondo, e molti paesi si sbarazzano dei loro dittatori. Capiamo completamente che questa lotta contro i banchieri e miliardari che hanno causato questa crisi e che al tempo stesso si rifiutano di pagare le tasse che potrebbero servire per alleviare i l’impoverimento di tutte le classi sociali.


CONTACT Plot Tracer plottracer@googlemail.com


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Saturday, 12 February 2011

Join SL Left Unity Inworld!

To join the group, click here- HERE


Group Profile HERE

Visit us in SL!

CLICK ON THE MAP

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Thursday, 10 February 2011

On SL Marxists; Networks and Platforms

by Plot Tracer

I haven’t written on this blog for quite some time, and indeed I haven’t been involved in SL for quite some time; flitting in and out to read notices and update viewers etc. but have always been keeping up to date with what is going on in the group. Firstly I want to put something straight.

The Charter and Aims and Principles entitled “For friend and foe alike” on our blog is NOT the most up to date one – it was mistakenly copied from an earlier version. The most up to date version is BELOW. The version that was agreed in 2008 was the forth incarnation. Slight tweaking of our “constitution” took place over the preceding period.

A source of pride has been the continuance of SLLU work through the SLLU Feminist Network. This group of people, who share an idea of left feminism, but not a rigid blueprint to feminism or of what feminism should be, have been an inspiration. They have been organising events, meetings, websites, information hubs and demonstrations and have been a huge part of other events and places and activism throughout the huge SL world. They are, and we are, a small group in a huge world, but a group who have influence from one end of SL to another (In the second ever post on this site, Bob Marley was quoted, and how true this is of our group - "If you are a big tree, we are a small axe."

The second thing that has impressed me in the past few months is the new “platform” within SLLU – SL Marxists (I will come back to the differences between platforms and networks in a while). Some of the people in SL Marxists have been on a political journey not unlike my own when I first came into SL. When I arrived in SL in 2006 there were a plethora of left wing groups – SL Socialist, communist, Leninist, Trotskyite and Marxist groups – all of whom rarely spoke to each other and none of whom got together for joint work. As a member of a real life left unity project, I thought I would try to get representatives from all of these groups together and come up with some sort of “hub” group – a group we could all use to plan and talk about projects we could work on side by side. I used the existing group’s IM facilities and membership lists to contact people to meet in the old SL Socialists building on Bora Bora. Two people turned up - Higgledpiggle Snoats and Dick Marellan and within our first or second meeting, we created SLLU (after a debate about it’s name! – SLLU could well have been SLUL!). Within weeks we had set up SLLU’s first HQ on a Scottish themed sim and membership rose relatively quickly. We set up the blog and rented a couple more premises on different sims, and people began to come to our meetings.

We formed a committee and issued invitations to others to join – and join they did!

Shortly after our formation, one of our new French members, Laura Gagliano told us that the French Front National had organised in SL for the French elections – setting up an HQ and recruiting “shop”. I went along and found that there was only one avatar sitting outside the Front National building with a placard. We sent the word out that we were organising demonstrations against them and more people turned up. We then sent out press releases to press organisations across the worlds both SL and RL, and both the demonstrations and SLLU took off!

Our membership at one point was over 700. It was agreed that every year we cull members because of inactivity for more than two years as it is preferable to know exactly how many active Second Lifers are in the group. We are at present 500 strong.

Why do I compare this journey to that of SL Marxists? Well, the fact is that the fight against Front National, and how big it became (at the time it has to be remembered that SL was still zeitgeisty and we hit major Television news channels and news papers across the globe) honed the committee and how we interacted, and it was the experience during the massive fight against Front National, with a cast of thousands, that informed our Charter and Aims and Principles. We very quickly, and “on the hoof,” came to decisions that have formed the basis of how SLLU conducts itself and is now “organised.” Consensus and a loose organisation were seen as essential. (I cannot understate, by the way, the work carried out by Higgledpiggle Snoats in this. She is a sadly missed founding member). SLLU FemNet have taken this further with their organisation and meetings structure. Within FemNet, there are people who agree on some things and disagree on others, but consensus is the key, not a creation of oppressed minority within the group through shouting loudly or voting to keep others views out of the mix. Listening is the key. FemNet is a true network – feminists from across the left with no “line” coming together with genuine intent to find consensus.

Where SL Marxists differ, is that they have an agreed a line – a minority one within the wider left, but a valid one nonetheless.

Back in the early days of SLLU, it was agreed that people could affiliate as an “affinity group.” This never really happened more or less because it was based on the RL anarchist system that had worked well from Seattle through to G8, Scotland in 2005 and onwards. What we found was that this didn’t translate to SL so well. We looked at how other political Unity groups worked and it was agreed we encourage people to affiliate either a full operating group, like SL Socialists (which never happened as it died) or create groups that could become platforms or networks within SLLU.

This was what was agreed back in 2007 (and was enacted only when SLLU FemNet and SLLU LGBTI were created much later).

Platforms

1 Members have the right to organise in Platforms or Tendencies. The SLLU, as a pluralist group, recognises that a range of political points of view is a healthy source of debate and new ideas.

2 All Platforms/Tendencies should be open – their constitution and aims & objectives should be brought to the attention of the wider group.
3 Platforms/Tendencies have a right to be heard, to organise meetings, to produce literature and to distribute materials at SLLU meetings.
4 Platforms/Tendencies are not expected, however, to organise public campaigns against the overall aims or policy of the SLLU.



Networks

1 Members can organise in Networks.

2 (a)Networks can be set up to encourage the self organisation of members of SLLU who suffer from specific discrimination and to enable them to organise collectively in campaigns against oppression and to take a lead in the wider group on these issues.

(b) Networks can also be set up to bring together members of SLLU interested in campaigning on a specific issue. Such networks can help to bring together members who are active in campaigns in order to intervene more effectively, coordinate activity, promote the group and feedback
experience into the party.

To sum that up, Networks tend to be based around identity politics (youth, women, feminism, Black, LGBTIQ) and platforms are traditionally sub-parties which have a specific left anti-capitalist stance (eg. Marxist; Marxist-Leninist; Anarchist etc). They are autonomous, but use SLLU to find consensus and share experiences with the SL Anti-capitalist left and indeed the anti-capitalist left across the world.

RL Left anti-capitalist political parties can also be part of SLLU by affiliating as a platform. However, those who claim to be representing a real political party must prove this as difficulties have sprung up in the past when enthusiastic members of RL groups have affiliated and then the RL group has disowned what they have claimed!

Oh – I also want to add, people do-not have to be a member of a network or tendency or platform or working group to be a member of SL Left Unity. Some prefer not to be identified as any of these things – or some – or all!

SL Left Unity is a hub for all who agree with our Charter and Aims and Principles. The work carried out by SL Marxists during the Egyptian protests has been superb – and inclusive. The work they did during the wikileaks demos was also exemplar – they ensured they did not upset the Swedish owner of the sim they wanted to demonstrate on and indeed, condemned the griefing of another left group. For their hard work and proven want to help build a non-sectarian left unity hub in the spirit of the SLLU during the defining months of late 2006/early 2007 I welcome them as a platform.

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SLLU Charter and Aims and Principles

What it is to be SLLU! reproduced from HERE
Charter:The SLLU seeks creative, non violent means to foster revolutionary social dialogue. We oppose capitalism, as well as racism and sexism as a part of capitalism. Our goal is to develop socialism in order to maximise left activity and thought on SL. SLLU is part of a world wide left unity movement in SL. We are a diverse group, united around social justice and anti-capitalism. We are a democratic collective.


AIMS & PRINCIPLES

1 Our name shall be Second Life Left Unity (SLLU)

1.1 The group offers the means of a left environment, the term Unity does not claim anything since there is no monopoly. It is a proposition.

2 The SLLU stands for the transformation of society. To replace capitalism with an alternative classless, stateless economic system based on collaborative democratic ownership and control of the key sectors of the Second Life (SL) economy. A system based on physical freedom; artistic freedom and environmental protection rather than private profit and promotion of Real-Life mass produced corporate products.

3 The SLLU will provide political support and solidarity to all those who are involved in fighting back against injustice, whether it be trade unionists, community organisations, tenants groups, anti nuclear protesters, animal rights campaigners, anti racist organisations, feminists, anti-war groups, mental health advocacy groups, LGBTI rights organisations and other campaigns and protest movements.

4 The SLLU will oppose discrimination in any form on the basis of race, religion, language, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age or ability.

5 The SLLU will campaign for an environment where each individual user is fundamentally considered to be equal: we stand in opposition to the divide between haves and have nots, both in online environments and in real life and seek a balance between technocratic power and citizen power. Recognising that in SL as in RL, sovereignty resides, and ought to reside in the people, we will endeavour to highlight, oppose and redress corporate and governmental oppression, in whichever environment we find it.

6 The SLLU actively promotes the international solidarity of the world community and oppressed to defeat capitalism and imperialism. While preserving its political and constitutional autonomy the SLLU will build the closest possible links with peace loving, left
radicals, socialists and left revolutionaries. across SL and the real world (RL).

7 We oppose the use of violence as a group strategy within SL. By violence we refer to the use of symbolic RL or fantasy weaponry and/or the imposing of our will on others by forceful means. Rather, we are committed to encouraging the empowerment of all individuals, through education, debate, and consensus.

8 SLLU firmly stand for the bringing of international cooperation and awareness through education and the discussion of the issues raised by capitalist hegemony which the RL mainstream media systematically fail to report. SLLU believe that by avoiding authoritarian teacher- pupil models of education and based on peoples actual experiences and continued shared investigation, every human being, no matter how impoverished or illiterate, can develop a new awareness of self which will free them to be more than passive objects responding to uncontrollable change. As Freire said, and SLLU agree, each individual wins back the right to say his or own word - to name the world.

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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tempests, Tea Pots, Death Threats, and Commie Parasites

Many of you have, I know, been participating in the in-world demonstrations in support of the Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters, first at the Egypt sim, and later at Terra Egypta. Much of the impetus for and organization for these virtual demonstrations has come from SLLU member Czarny Zsun; he and others have done a great deal to raise awareness in-world about the ongoing struggles of the Egyptian people, efforts that have been rewarded by extensive coverage in a number of Second Life news sources, including New World Notes.

Predictably, these demonstrations also caught the eye of the ever-bellicose and reactionary Prokofy Neva, who blogged about them on Saturday under the eye-catching headline "SL Commies Parasite Off the Egyptian Revolution." Prok's basic thesis is that the SLLU and associated Left groups in Second Life are exploiting the crisis in Egypt to score points. Castigating the SLLU (and me personally) as "a bunch of hard-left opportunistic sectarians," Prok notes:

[At the Egypt sim] I saw the commies' rent-a-crowd -- various unemployed furries pressed into service with big boxes on their heads (so that they didn't have to try to rez a sign object on the ground). They were all *non* Egyptians -- the usual British, Australian, etc. socialists and outright communists who make up SL Unity, which is..."united for unity" like the old parody song has it.
All of this is to be expected from Prok, who tends to assume that anyone to the left of John McCain or David Cameron is secretly a card-carrying operative of the Comintern. Attempting to debate with him is, as I have discovered in the past, a largely futile exercise; after posting a couple of responses, I decided to leave well enough alone. Czarny Zsun, however, took up the slack, responding more aggressively, and at times very effectively, to Prok's attempts to paint Second Life leftists as unredeemed Stalinists.

Trouble arose however, when the rhetoric became more heated. Czarny, unfortunately, seems to have lost his temper and, in response to a comment by Prok supporter Laetizia Coronet to the effect that she would be associated with communists "over my dead body," Czarny responded "We can arrange that."

This was, we will most of us agree, a stupid, ill-considered, and frankly distasteful thing to say. It isn't necessary to take this seriously as a death threat (which clearly it is not) to feel that it is a highly inappropriate response.

Still, a tempest in a teapot, you may say -- and I'd agree, but for one thing: because of the context created by Prok's attack upon the SLLU, it seems to have been assumed that Czarny was speaking on behalf of, or in his capacity as a member of this group. Czarny himself makes no such claim, and would (I am guessing) probably feel more comfortably associating himself with the SL Marxists group in any case. Nonetheless, the impression created has been that a member of the SLLU is now issuing "death threats." One commenter responds to Czarny's post with the suggestion that "if Czarny is an officer of SLLU I'll be leaving this group ASAP," and the expressed hope that "some of the officers of SLLU post in this comment section a strong denunciation of what Czarny said, because it was reprehensible."

Well, one officer of the SLLU -- yours truly -- attempted to do just this, but without success: my comment is either awaiting moderation (which has never happened before when I have posted on Prok's blog), or I have been blocked from posting. If the latter is the case, then Prok will have, in effect, created the impression that the SLLU endorses Czarny's comment by preventing us from repudiating it. [*Note: My comment has since appeared on Prok's blog.]

What follows below is the comment that I attempted to post on Prok's blog. I need to emphasize, for the reasons given within the comment, that this is not in any way an "official" response of the SLLU: it is very much an expression of my personal feelings (as, of course, is this entire post).

A couple of points:

First, Czarny Zsun is not (so far as I am aware) an officer of the SLLU, although he is a member of the group (along with nearly 400 other residents).

No one posting here -- not Czarny, and not me (and I am not merely an officer, but an owner of the SLLU) -- speaks "for" the SLLU. That (despite Prok's portrait of us as a highly organized and centralized "party") is simply not the way we work. We don't produce "official" communiques or have "official" spokespeople: the diversity of the perspectives held by our membership would likely make that unworkable. Czarny and I are cases in point: he is a Marxist, I am not. And that's fine: the SLLU comprehends many shades and varieties of "Left."

The SLLU is, by its charter, explicitly and entirely nonviolent: we don't "do" violence, nor do we threaten it, even in a "jokey" manner. Czarny's comment is not only incompatible with the SLLU's own charter, it represents, I regret to say, the very opposite of what our group is striving for: "a creative, non violent means to foster revolutionary social dialogue." There is, in this sense, no need for the SLLU to "repudiate" Czarny's comment, as it does not in fact emanate from the SLLU, nor does it in any way represent what the group stands for.

On a personal level, I am disappointed that Czarny has expressed himself in this way, precisely because I know him to be a tireless activist on behalf of social justice. He also happens to be one of the prime organizers of the SL protests in support of the Egyptian people, a task for which, I know, many in the SLLU would want to thank him. As ill-judged and highly regrettable as his comment here is, it does not erase the good that he DOES do.

I would like to suggest that maybe the rhetoric on all sides of this debate should be toned down -- a lot. Yes, it is reprehensible to appear to threaten someone with death. But it is not a great deal better to imply, as Prok does here, that anyone on the Left is, de facto, complicit with the murder of millions of people under Stalin. Nor does the crude labelling of anyone on the Left as "commies" assist in establishing civil and constructive debate.

Perhaps we should ALL chill out a bit?
As a sort of addendum to what I say above, I'd like to affirm and emphasize three things, drawn from the SLLU's own charter, that seem terribly important to me.

The first is that the SLLU draws its greatest strength from its diversity. "Party discipline" or the enforcement of a single "party line" would rob us of the insights that come from hosting a great many different perspectives and approaches.

The second is that, despite or perhaps, in an odd way, even because of this diversity, we are ultimately bound together by our determination to seek social and political justice everywhere, through alternatives to an appallingly unjust system built upon capitalism.

And the third is that we do stand for nonviolent action and resistance. Perhaps the only thing really left to "learn" from this whole absurd little imbroglio is that we must be mindful, always, to ensure that our language reflects this absolutely central tenet. It is, in my view, not merely as important as our principled pursuit of social justice, but an actual precondition of it.

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