Apparently, hackers are going after the HealthCare.Gov site:
For those who don’t know, a DDoS attack is where a computer code or whatever generates activity on a particular site, trying to overwhelm its technical capabilities. Most sites are only set up to handle a certain amount of operations, because actual humans using the site will only ask for it to do so much and no one has unlimited resources. A DDoS site creates a lot of site activity, much more than actual human users would, in an attempt to drown out normal site traffic. Kind of like what T’Pol did to hide the way she transported a crewmember into an alien prison in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Detained.” (If you don’t recognize the clip and have Amazon prime: watch it here, starting at around 34:07.)
The Ars Technica piece notes (rightly, as far as I can tell) that we don’t know who put the tool together, or even who’s been using it. There’s a lot of crossover between the Silicon Valley crowd and political libertarianism, and something about the text included with this tool just screams Silicon Valley to me. On the other hand, I was sure that the Boston Marathon bombers would turn out to be from the Tea Party. I could be wrong. Whoever’s behind it, if it’s politically motivated (rather than just hackers trying to prove they’re king of the mountain), it’s rather despicable.
What fascinates me, though, is their use of the word civil disobedience. I’m in favor of true civil disobedience. MLK and Gandhi are some of my political heroes, and I’ve always been quite inspired by Thoreau’s writing on this topic as well. True civil disobedience doesn’t just mean disobeying the law, much less interfering with other peoples’ ability to benefit from it. It means you disobey the law in a very specific way so it actually supports the basic legal system you’re dealing with.
Rvd. King, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” addresses a question put to him: how can you urge people to disobey the law on the one hand and then rely on the good work done by the law on the other, like in the Brown v. Topeka Supreme Court case. King’s answer: we don’t disobey the law to destroy it; civil disobedience is supposed to change the law into something better but still preserving the good effects of law and order. As King writes:
Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
So the point of breaking the law isn’t to not have to follow the law, or not just that. Because when people flaunt the law, act like it doesn’t apply to them, this sends the message that it doesn’t apply to anyone. And really, Rvd. King knows better than that: if he’s allowed to break the Jim Crow law without consequences, what’s to stop the bigot from disobeying Brown? King could point to the morality of one law and the immorality of another, and that is useful as we decide which law to actually protest against. But if we use it to decide which laws apply to us, that’s making each of us into our own judge and jury. It becomes a struggle of might-makes-right at that point.
Civil disobedience puts a subtle twist on it. You’re free to refuse to obey the law, but you can’t give the impression that the law simply doesn’t apply to you. If you want to protest Jim Crow you break the law, take your punishment, and then use that to start a dialogue. Similarly with the ACA: you refuse to buy insurance or offer it or whatever (like with those companies that object to the contraception coverage). Then you proudly take your penalty and you use that as evidence of injustice. Or if you’re smart about it and can create a crisis before the law goes into effect, that’s even better. (“Come January 1, this is the unfair choice I’ll be faced with.”) But you do it in a way that actually leads to a dialogue, that address the problem.
You don’t simply decide for yourself that Obamacare shouldn’t exist and so you’re going to go after it. You don’t tear down the idea that Congress can pass laws within the boundaries of the Constitution, and that the Supreme Court gets to interpret whether those boundaries actually have been crossed. And you sure don’t wreck the whole system so no one else can make that kind of decision either. You create a crisis in a way that calls attention to how bad things are (if they are), you create a constructive crisis.
And this? Whatever it is, if it’s politically motivated at all? It’s not that.