Hackers and Politics


It’s always important to have context. And the why I wrote things is probably more important than what I wrote. So, here is the context. Frédéric Bardeau, founder of an ethic communication agency directed to NGO (Agence Limite) is gravitating around the problematics of collaboration between Hackers and NGO and he gave an interview to Reflets.info: Hacktivists must change their stance [FR] which started a sort of flame war inside the so-called hacker scene.

Basically, he’s stating that the hackers are wrapped around their ego claiming that they don’t care about people issues. He also pretend that hackers must go further along the political process and grow a political consciousness.

I won’t answer point by point to his interview. You should read it (and goes beyond the sometime aggressive tone he uses), the comments and grow yourself an idea. I will try to put what Politics and Hacking means to me and, frankly, at this time, I do not know where I’ll land.

Politics and motivations

You do politics when you’re working on things that will impact life of the others. So you’re doing politics when people are saying it. So, when media asks the hackers if hacking is a political act the answer is necessarily yes. Even if you’re not conscious of this fact and especially if you’re not doing it for a political motivation. And yes hacking is politics (since you subvert things to do other thing with it than their initial purposes).

The question is not if hacking is a political act in fact. The question is the motivation of this act. And this is, I think, where hackers differs from activists. Activists act for a cause, hackers hack for their personal interest.

Yeah, it hurt. But this is the truth. The only reason I’m hacking things is because I want to either understand how they work, because I need to achieve something and I have nothing ready at hand and I will twist something to achieve my goal or because it’s fun. I’m not hacking things for the only purpose of helping people and help them to change their life.

Frack, who the hell I am for that? It would be insanely pretentious to tell you how you must change your life.

Activists, on the other hand, acts following a political agenda on purpose. If an activist is doing something it is because they think it will help them to achieve their political motivations. NGO are, by essence, groups of activists. They have a political agenda and all the things they’re doing is related to this agenda.

And for this reasons, NGO are quite effective in their field of specialisation. But you cannot asks Green Peace to send medical supplies to Syrians. This is the main problem with entities and people who have an agenda. They can’t spend a lot of resources on non related things.

While hackers, and the doocratic system, can. It is the cathedral versus the bazaar. One reason I do like working in clusters of hackers is that I can do just that: What I want, what interests me.

Politics unconsciousness

People, and Frédéric Bardeau among them, says that hackers lacks of politic consciousness. I second that. But I do not think it’s important. Most of the people who says that you do not have politics consciousness generally means that they do not share your ethics.

Politics consciousness means that you are aware (or you try to) of the impact of your actions on other people. Not that you have a political minded message nor that you fully understand two hundred years of political history. It means that you’ve think about the impact on the society of your actions.

Hackers, as weird social animals, tends to dodge discussion they think are unnecessary.Mainly because you can talk or do, but not both at the same time.And if you want to hack, you can’t talk about it while you’re hacking, mainly because it is like trying to solve a puzzle in the dark. You know what you want to achieve (more or less), but you do not know how you’ll get there and you have to think about it, not to speak about it.

So yeah, sometimes (who said most of the time?) hackers looks like freaky monster that will eat your soul because they haven’t slept for two days and are dosed with caffeine (may the Spaghetti Monster be blessed for the caffeine) because they are doing things that matters to them.

They do not care if it’s a democratic or republican issue, or if it’s a left or right one. What hackers tend to care about is how. You can blame us for being political unconscious. But you know what? Maybe it’s the basic principle of political consciousness which need to be changed. I mean, politics should be done by people. Not by a political cast or system that place itself above the others.

Political consciousness haven’t change much things those thirty years. At least in France. Not in the same order of magnitude that internet and counter-culture have changed. And I’m not sure the beatniks had a political agenda when they build internet. They needed it, so they built it it’s quite simple.

Thinking about how your actions will change the world instead of doing them will result in a lot of text, but not that mush things done. I do not care hackers should acts without thinking, but that’s why ethics is for.

I claim the freedom of acting without being questioned on my politics agenda for I have none. You can question my ethics (after all ethics exist to be discussed and confronted) or the way I’m doing things, in fact,you must question ethics and the actions of people.

Hackers are closed on themselves

People blame hackers for not helping them on various topics. Let’s get some things sorted first. Imagine you’re a mechanics. You like fixing and improving engines of famous cars and you do that on your spare time. And people came at you asking you to change their tires, check their oil level, or change a light bulb. All of them being trivial operation that can be achieved by simply reading the manual and actually trying to understand how things works.

Imagine that those annoying people came to see you several times a day. Asking for your time for no compensation while this engines is just waiting for you to take care of it. And those non-skilled operations, operation you’re already doing for a leaving, takes you time.

You can be the good guy. And losing your time hour after hour. Or you can, after having patiently helped three people who do not understand anything about mechanics, send the other to hell.

And yeah, the guy will looks like a bastard who do not want to help people. It is the same thing with hackers. Someone saying me they do not know how to use the mail system without a webmail is someone that did not even tried. I can do it for my pay-job, but I’m paid for it. I won’t do it on my free time.

If you want help, then you need to invest yourself and you need to understand how things works. The fact that you’re a computer illiterate is your fault, not mine. However it’s not a fatality. I mean, I know Syrians that had a computer culture of almost nothing a year ago and who are now able to teach to other how GNU/Linux works, how to set-up a VPN, to understand some weird network problematics and to work around the censorship issue they have there.

And they do not even speaks a good english. So if they can, you can understand how it works. You just need to accept that computer tech is not black magic. You must helps me to helps you. And you must abandon the idea that fail is something bad. Fail harder fail better as we say.

So, if you come to see us without this in mind, yeah, you will be called a fucktards, a noob, an asshole. It’s not because we are closed on ourselves or imbued by our ego (ok, it might be),it’s because you do not make the necessary effort of trying to understand.

But I’m moving out of my original topic. We are not building a hacker world, if we are building a world at all, we are building a free and open world. Most of the hackers are adept of the sharing of knowledge across the world. We need to access the knowledge we’re going to need to do things. People tends to think that internet is our private playground. It is not. Internet is not a place, it does not belong to anyone.

Cats, tubes, computers

Internet is now a part of the society. It’s a fantastic multi directional read/write media available to anyone. Internet is used by activists to carry on their message, and by government to spy on their people. Internet is a political act by essence. And a lot of hackers will stand and fight for it as it was when Osni Moubarak shat down the tubes in Egypt.

And the internet is the media of datalove. It has been built for exchanging data across long distance at a reasonable rate. If you want to restrict the sharing of data, you’re then interfering with the internet. The fact that some might be shocked by the fact that their personal data are found online must not blame the datalove and the hackers for that, but rather the entities that have built those files, collecting their personal data.


Yeah, I think it’s time. I’m getting lost. Hackers are – mainly – humans. They are far from perfect and some of them do not care about politics. But I think that most of the things people blamed hackers for are the same you can blame most of the people.

Do not forget we have the doocracy. We have caffeine. But most important of