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Doves Rallying Round the Web

Organizing war protests is now almost as simple as a keystroke.

January 12, 2003|Nick Schulz

Two weeks after President Bush's now- famous "axis of evil" speech, the neoconservative intellectual Norman Podhoretz spoke to several hundred tuxedoed compatriots at a Washington gala, where he announced: "[Of] one thing we can be sure: As the war widens, opposition will widen along with it."

At the time -- this was just five months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a patriotic wave was sweeping across America -- most of his assembled colleagues thought such a notion nonsense.

And yet, just one year after that speech, a budding antiwar movement may be congealing and making its presence felt. If so, what explains the rapidity of the change?

The answer may be as close as your mouse.

In the past, efforts among peace activists to mobilize and get mainstream press attention have generally been slow, costly and localized.

During the Vietnam War, opponents of that conflict communicated with one another through fliers handed out on college campuses, word of mouth and in the pages of left-wing and radical underground press organs like the Village Voice and the Berkeley Barb. But since Internet technologies make physical distances irrelevant, antiwar warriors at colleges today can link up with other peaceniks at universities across the country, quickly multiplying their forces.

And the Internet reduces the costs and time constraints of organizing and publishing too.

Jay Moore, a history professor at the University of Vermont who created Jay's Leftist and Progressive Internet Resources Directory (www.neravt.com/left/frontpage.html), has pointed out that "instead of duplicating work, activists in one area can use the Web to download leaflets and posters produced elsewhere, making local modifications as needed and quickly getting them on the street."

Today's antiwar activists have learned Internet strategy and tactics from anti-globalization and anti-capitalism activists who over the last half-decade have used the Web to successfully organize protests against the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral organizations, often drawing protesters from around the globe.

For anyone eager to find protest information and history, radical viewpoints and antiwar arguments, or to meet other, like-minded activists, the Web is a bottomless resource.

Even as recently as the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, this wasn't the case. Cheap, reliable and efficient tools of communication and organization simply didn't exist.

Antiwar activists have for months been circulating information online calling for large protests in Washington, D.C., and California over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday next week. In Madison, Wis., for example, word has been circulating via e-mail and the Web about free bus rides to and from the protests.

Similar outreach efforts are happening all over the United States.

Any American dove has the information and resources he might need to make his voice heard publicly.

In the past, if protests proved a bust, organizers could point to the difficulty in organizing and getting the word out as reasons for a poor showing, keeping alive the belief -- fictional or not -- that there was widespread and passionate opposition to military engagement. But now organizing and engineering protests is almost as simple as a keystroke.

If the current antiwar movement in the U.S. has become deep and wide, we may see it next weekend.

*

Nick Schulz is editor of TechCentralStation.com.

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