frontline vol. 2 issue 3.
Digital Rights and Second Life Struggle
A demonstration against a fascist group is underway. SSP members are leading the way in organising against the fascists and are helping organise anti-fascists from around the world to drive them out. These were real fascists and real anti-fascists but the demonstration took place online, in the 'virtual world' Second Life. Confused? Second Life residents Plot Tracer (aka Neil Scott) and HiggleDpiggle Snoats explain.
Bored in my sick bed during October, I switched on my laptop and decided to give Second Life a go. I hadn't a clue what it was about. Someone had told me it was a game. A place you could 'fly', 'shoot' and chat to people. I'm not a 'gamer' so I really didn't think it would hold my attention for long - but it was something to do through the sneezing and uncontrollable coughing fits. Four and a half months down the line, I have rarely had a day I have not been Plot Tracer!
In the first couple of days of Plot Tracer's life - my second life, I learned about a Saints day in Portugal and the tradition of eating chestnuts; I learned that there are people in the US who regardless of the propaganda pumped out by the US propaganda machine are at complete loggerheads with their government over internal and international policy and I learned that what happens in Second Life (SL) can be zeitgeisty and newsworthy - there has rarely been a week since October that the business pages of a newspaper somewhere in the world has not reported on this new system of information-delivery-plus. In January, for example, Peter Gabriel was 'inworld' (on SL) under the auspices of the WTO extolling the virtues of this new medium as a way to combat the over use of fossil fuelled transport- why travel to a conference, when people can meet and interact realtime online?
Since discovering the potential of this 'place', I made it my SL mission (in fact - raison d'etre) to meet like minded people to realise an educational forum that not only would be an exchange of ideas and forum for lecturing - but a place were people could truly come together and learn about each other and each other's real life (rl) situations, pressures and ways to navigate the quagmire of capitalist exploitative politics and control.
I quickly found some like minded souls, and we created 'Second Life Left Unity' (SLLU). SLLU can be found on most searches of the internet now. It was an idea waiting to happen. People from all over the grid joined our group - and we set up a base in a simulation called 'Scotland'. Many Scottish people wandered into our office and we recruited and pointed them in the direction of the SSP through the links included in the building.
During January, SLLU became involved in something truly groundbreaking and worthwhile. When we discovered LePenn's Front National using the spaces of SL, we organised demonstrations and ensured a press interest in this by contacting the'Technology' sections of the main press. When the Guardian (1) and the Telegraph printed articles on us, suddenly we were deluged with requests for interviews and press statements from TV and press from all over the world. CNN, the BBC, Channel 4 - the SLLU's name has been printed in Newspapers from Australia to Europe to the US. For a little organisation started ad-hoc by three people - Dick Marellan, HiggleDpiggle Snoats and I, this has been no mean feat!
In taking part in this demonstration, we helped politicise people who where perhaps only vaguely so in rl. The reins of this demo were then handed over to those who can carry it on most effectively - the French anti FN parties and people. Through our efforts in stimulating press interest which led to the story hitting main news programmes in France (with Headlines such as, 'Pig Bombs against Le Pen!'), the French have gone from being a very small percentage of the SL demographic to the second biggest group on SL after North Americans. Linden Labs owe us something, I think!
After sustained pressure from demonstrators - and their 'sim' being slowed to near stop by the amount of people on it (when a sim becomes overcrowded, it slows down and can crash), the FN were forced to move. This and the fact that the SLLU bought a parcel - a piece of land - next door - a place from which all people that the FN had banned from their land could launch their demonstrations, forced a retreat. All of this has produced something else extraordinary. The French elections are being played out on SL with all of the candidates now having offices on the 'game' - Royalle even made a speech directly through the medium and Sarkozy, apt enough with his noises towards Le Pen, has an office beside the FN.
The latest news as I type this, is that FN have at last given in to our demand and are indeed in the process of moving to a 'mature' region in SL - right next door to a white supremacist group. Linden Labs should act now - the existence of these groups go completely against their Terms of Service. This news will be updated and placed in our online and inworld newsletter, the SLLU Voice. We have dispensers in different parts of SL and we send a copy out to every member. It also appears on our blog - http://slleftunity.blogspot.com/.
SLLU has not been without its problems. We have recently had the problem of entrists and wreckers. When the entrists found they could not subvert the structures we have in place they tried to wreck. This is a real shame, I cannot understand people who would want to wreck a left unity project because they view their particular left ideology as the 'one true way'.
Second Life is going to take over the internet. It is the perfect communication tool - one in which people, although not actually in a room together - seem to be. Each person is individual - it is not like communicating through a chat group or an email group - when you speak with people all of the conventions of everyday speech are involved. There are many people who have been made disabled by todays society who use SL - people who cannot leave their homes can meet people from all over the world and can travel to places like the Dublin sim or the Darfur sim. Others on the Aspbergers or autism spectrums tell me they find communication easier on sl as they do not have to read peoples gestures or faces. They are treated as part of the society rather than feeling apart as they have expressed they feel in real life.
But the interface is being exploited by the big businesses and by criminals from real life. Already, because real money can be made by trading in 'Linden dollars' and selling products and services, sweat shops have been set up in Thailand in which people are paid low wages in order to sit in front of a computer screen and control an avatar standing in a shop or to make the avatar clothing and accessories people want to buy. Real life pimps and prostitutes are using the streets of 'Amsterdam' sim to make linden dollars and also to set up real life rendezvous. And the large multinationals are setting up shops to sell second life versions of their real products. SL is the perfect market research tool after all. People in real life are being exploited for the second life simulation.
The next project the SLLU are working on is the G8. We are going to create a space where people can come onto SL and not only learn about the G8, but learn how to become involved in real-life (rl) and show the cabal how they feel. We are going to have a website dedicated to the SL G8 plans and demos - with lots of rl information as well. Demos on SL are limited, but what has to be borne in mind that every wee cartoony character holding a placard is a real life person who has been politicised and this may be the only demo they can reach. If G8 decide to use this space for publicity, I guarantee SLLU will be there to confront them. After our real life experience in being herded down Auchterarder High Street a couple of years ago, and the closing of all routes to last years high heid yins meeting, SL may offer a way for protesters to get into the press and even to get a message directly to those directly involved in G8 (politicians have been on) - or some of the distractions around the big men - Bono has been known to pop up in sl, as have other pop stars.
If you decide to come to Second Life, please use the search facility to look up myself, Plot Tracer. Or search for some of my SLLU colleagues from around the real globe - HiggleDpiggle Snoats, Trevor Caldwell or Meekal Kilara.
We oppose capitalism and are for creativity and social intercourse without exploitation or violence.
We are not 'the revolutionary party'. We seek to develop socialism in order to maximise left activity and thought on SL. We oppose racism and sexism and we see them as subsets of the struggle against capitalism. SLLU originated from members of the Scottish SSP - though we are a world wide left unity group.
SLLU is diverse; united around social justice and anti-capitalism. We are a democratic collective
SLLU AIMS & PRINCIPLES
- Our name shall be Second Life Left Unity (SLLU)
- The SLLU stands for the transformation of society. To replace capitalism with an alternative classless, stateless economic system based on collaborative democratic ownership and control of the key sectors of the Second Life (SL) economy. A system based on physical freedom; artistic freedom and environmental protection rather than private profit and promotion of Real-Life mass produced corporate products.
- The SLLU will provide political support and solidarity to all those who are involved in fighting back against injustice, whether it be trade unionists, community organisations, tenants groups, anti nuclear protesters, animal rights campaigners, anti racist organisations, feminists, anti-war groups, mental health advocacy groups, LGBTI rights organisations and other campaigns and protest movements.
- The SLLU will oppose discrimination in any form on the basis of race, religion, language, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability - and on SL - species.
- The SLLU will campaign for a an environment where each individual user is fundamentally considered to be equal: we stand in opposition to the divide between digital haves and have nots and seek a balance between technocratic power and citizen power. Recognising that in SL sovereignty resides, and ought to reside in the people, the SL citizens, regardless of membership privileges, as opposed to the fiefdom of the Lindens and will always seek the citizens' prior consent to any transfer of powers outside SL.
- The SLLU actively promotes the international solidarity of the world community and oppressed to defeat capitalism and imperialism. While preserving its political and constitutional autonomy the SLLU will build the closest possible links with peace loving left radicals, socialists and left revolutionaries. across SL and the real world (RL).
- We oppose the use of violence as a group strategy within SL.
By violence we refer to the use of symbolic RL or fantasy weaponry and/or the imposing of our will on others by forceful means.
- SLLU firmly stand for the bringing of international cooperation and awareness through education and the discussion of the issues raised by capitalist hegemony which the RL mainstream media fail to report. SLLU believe that by avoiding authoritarian teacher-pupil models of education and based on peoples actual experiences and continued shared investigation, every human being, no matter how impoverished or illiterate, can develop a new awareness of self which will free them to be more than passive objects responding to uncontrollable change. As Freire said, and SLLU agree, each individual wins back the right to say his or own word - to name the world.