Since I've already posted about a fairly tangible resistance method and a tactic that's a bit controversial, I thought I'd go more in the direction of something that bloggers could buy into pretty easily. First, a reminder:
Activism, by definition, cannot be done online. At best you can be an online advocate.
Advocacy is a necessary thing, and I certainly do not dismiss the utility of the blogosphere and twitterverse in that arena. But let's not have any illusions that nice rants online do not equal picking up a musket (metaphorical or otherwise).
With that caveat in mind, I'd like to consider rejection of authority as a tool in our efforts to effect change.
This is a sub-category of political noncooperation (from Gene Sharp's The Politics of Nonviolent Action):
Political noncooperation is the third subclass of methods on noncooperation [the others being social and economic, like the Move Your Money campaign]; these methods involve refusals to continue the usual forms of political participation under existing conditions. Sometimes they are known as political boycotts. Individuals and small groups may practice methods of this class. Normally, however, political noncooperation involves larger numbers of people in corporate, concerted, usually temporary suspension of normal political obedience, cooperation and behavior.
The aim of the political noncooperation may be to achieve a particular limited objective or a change in broader government policies. Or it may be to change the nature or composition of that government, or even to produce its disintegration...
The political significance of these methods increases in proportion to the numbers participating and to the need for their cooperation for the operation of the political system...
Political noncooperation may take an almost infinite variety of expressions, depending on the particular situation. Basically they all stem from a desire not to assist the opponent by performance of certain types of political behavior.
One way to refuse cooperation with a regime is to engage in Method 122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance:
In many situations, the making of speeches and the publication and distribution of literature which call on people to undertake some form of nonviolent noncooperation or nonviolent intervention themselves become acts of defiance and resistance. This is especially so in those countries where any call for resistance, especially for illegals acts of resistance, is itself illegal or seditious.
Now sedition is a rather subjective thing, and often used too loosely to describe a variety of acts (e.g., Michelle Malkin loved throwing the word around, and so do liberals these days). I think for our intellectual exercise today we can apply it in a more colloquial sense as "advocating stuff that upsets the status quo," so it could include rebellious progs calling out Obama and the Dems on HCR, for example.
I can't allow any seditious discussion take place without bringing up the quintessential practitioner, MK Gandhi. A year before his arrest for sedition, he wrote in Young India on March 30, 1921:
If sedition means disaffection towards the present system of Government, it is a virtue and a duty. But we do not need to preach it...We cannot paint the system blacker than it appears to the average audience today. All we need do is to show the people the way to destroy it. That way is self-purification. We shall put the Government in an uncomfortable corner...
Hitherto the word "revolution" been connected with violence, and has as such been condemned by established authority. But the movement of non-co-operation, if it may be considered a revolution, is not an armed revolt: it is an evolutionary revolution, it is a bloodless revolution. The movement is a revolution of thought, of spirit. Non-co-operation is a process of purification, and, as such, it
constitutes a revolution in one’s ideas. Its suppression, therefore, would amount to co-operation by coercion...
Inaction on our part will kill Government madness. For violence flourishes on response, either by submission to the will of the violator, or by counter-violence. My strong advice to every worker is to segregate this evil Government by strict non-co-operation, not even to talk or speak about it, but having recognized the evil, to cease to pay homage to it by co-operation.
I don't know if that specific article was used as part of the basis for the sedition charge, but certainly his writings in Young India in general were. Fans of Attenborough's movie might remember a stirring court scene that encapsulated the trial which ended with this statement (necessarily summarized in the film):
I know that I was playing with fire. I ran the risk, and if I were set free I would still do the same. Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also last article of my creed. I know that my people have sometimes gone mad. I am sorry for it. Their crime consisted in the love of their country.
I am here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest Penalty. In my opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co-operation with evil. I am here to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be the inflected upon me for what in law is a deliberated crime and what appears to me be the highest duty of a citizen.
The only cause open to, judge, is either to resign post and thus dissociate yourself from evil if you feel that the law you are called upon to administer is evil and that I am innocent or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country and that my activity is therefore injurious to the public weal.
We in the US have had a long history of trying to suppress dissent via sedition laws--almost as long as our nation has existed. From the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in during John Adams' tenure in 1798 to the Sedition Act of 1918 under Woodrow Wilson to the Smith Act that was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt and remains on the books to this day.
Lest you think charges of sedition are in the remote past:
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico...demanded an explanation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for investigating a federal employee who published an editorial critical of the Bush administration in a local newspaper.
In her letter to the weekly Alibi, Laura Berg, a clinical nurse specialist, criticized the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War, noting that, "as a VA nurse working with returning...vets, I know the public has no sense of the additional devastating human and financial costs of post-traumatic stress disorder." She urged readers to "act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit."
In September 2005, VA Information Security employees seized Berg’s office computer because they claimed "government equipment was used inappropriately...during government time for drafting an editorial letter." No evidence was recovered to support that belief.
"The VA had no reason to suspect Laura Berg used government resources to produce her editorial," said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. "She signed the letter as a private individual. From all appearances, the seizure of her work computer was an act of retaliation and a hardball attempt to scare Laura into silence."
In a November 9th memorandum to Berg, Mel Hooker, Chief of Human Resource Management Service at the VA, conceded that no evidence was found implicating the use of Berg’s work computer in the writing of the editorial. However, he justified the investigation by saying "the Agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition."
A year later, Rep Jane Harman (D-CA36) introduced the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, a lovely little bill:
Odette Wilkens, the executive director of the Equal Justice Alliance, a constitutional watchdog group, compared the legislation to the McCarthy Commission and to the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which infiltrated, undermined and spied on civil rights and antiwar groups during the 1950s and 60s.
"The commission would have very broad powers. It could investigate anyone. It would create a public perception that whoever is being investigated by the Commission must be involved in subversive or illegal activities. It would give the appearance that whoever they are investigating is potentially a traitor or disloyal or a terrorist, even if all they were doing was advocating lawful views," Wilkens said.
Terrorism is the new sedition, seems to me, and Code Pink or anybody who talks about altering the existing order could be accused of it. Harman's bill was passed by the House but fortunately died in committee in the Senate and apparently has not been reintroduced.
But I digress. Regardless what legal framework exists, we all must be seditious in calling for change through individual and collective actions to disrupt the current power structure. As it stands, GOP obstructionists and Democratic corporatists are actively preventing passage of meaningful healthcare reform, and simply relying on standard electoral politics is not going to get us anything but more of the same.
It can be depressing these days as we're stymied on so many progressive issues: Obama is escalating an increasingly deadly and unpopular quagmire; marriage equality has been rejected by ostensibly friendly States; MoveOn, labor and other supposedly liberal entities work furiously on their cognitive dissonance as they justify the bribes they've accepted to support the Healthcare Deform Act of 2010. When I despair I think of something Thomas Jefferson wrote at the time of the Alien and Sedition Acts (with many apologies to my dear friend Hecate and her co-religionists):
A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to it's true principles. It is true that in the mean time we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war & long oppressions of enormous public debt...If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, & then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are the stake.
So keep patiently, passionately preaching revolution, and don't forget to actually participate in it. I'll keep posting ways to do so and hope you'll join me in some merry sedition in the process...