Action tactics – going full circle

I noticed a link coming into the Rhizome blog from another blog talking about the recent UK census and resistance to it. The author and some of the folk they quote liken the tactic of messing up the form to ensure it had to be read by a person rather than a machine and generally took much longer and cost more to process to a paper-based denial of service (DOS) attack. A DOS attack?

“One common method of attack involves saturating the target machine with external communications requests, such that it cannot respond to legitimate traffic, or responds so slowly as to be rendered effectively unavailable. Such attacks usually lead to a server overload” Wikipedia

This made me smile (and feel old!). Anyone remember when we started using the term “fax blockade“? Instead of turning up to a company or government office in person and physically blockading the premises we’d saturate their switchboard with phone calls and send them a series of long faxes to clog up the ‘high-tech” end.  Long gone tactics. Now we launch DOS attacks (when I say we, I mean those clever enough to do so, obviously). But it seems like now we’re circling back and naming tactics from the other end of the technological spectrum. Sending a form to a company or government office is now a “paper-based DOS attack“.

“If you want to subvert a government which wishes to drive its policy-making via a huge virtualisation of data collection, the easiest thing you can do is to take advantage of and deliberately deepen the digital divide by reversing the process – and demanding paper-based application forms for this, that and almost anything you have to provide in the future.”

There’s maybe a tentative moral to the story – something about embracing old tactics as well as new ones, of sharing stories to share tactics and approaches. Of not becoming so reliant on technology-based tactics that we can’t use any other…

A couple of examples of successful ‘denial of service’ style tactics that I’m aware of include:

  • people queuing in banks and depositing a small amount, then joining the back of the queue only to withdraw the same amount, then rejoining the queue and starting all over again
  • residents campaigning for safer road crossings forming a human chain and crossing and recrossing the road halting all traffic

Neither is an occupation or a blockade but both worked a treat. I’m sure you know of more, or can see possible innovations on the them (in which case, share them please).