Weekly Bulletin #15; May 17, 2014
By Nick Mottern
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“This year in the Ramona (CA) Rodeo Parade (Saturday 10 am, May 17) our entry is called “Drone Pork Drop”. An MQ-9 drone delivering “pork” to defense contractors. Don’t get in its way or it’ll blow you up! Note the jeans with money pouring out of the pockets. The parade theme is tattoos, so we’re going to tattoo the pig with $623 billion military spending.”
Here is a link for the Ramona Rodeo Parade: http://www.ramonarodeo.com/#!parade/c1zfg
This was a week in which few counter-drone war actions were held, so this is an opportunity to refer you to some valuable reports on drone warfare.
1. “AIR FORCE - Actions Needed to Strengthen Management of Unmanned Aerial System Pilots” – U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). April 2014. http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662467.pdf
This report is definitely essential reading because, among other things, it reveals that the surge in drone attacks has resulted in many Air Force officers being forced to continue being drone pilots longer than they want and being forced to work very long hours and irregular shifts to the point of threatening safety. Further, officers are not getting proper psychological attention, and all this is having an impact on their family lives. In addition, it appears that record - keeping on drone attacks may not be being done adequately, given complaints from drone pilots about administrative loads.
For those under drone attack, all this points to the likelihood of large numbers of casualties as compared to manned air attacks, none of which, of course, should be happening. This concern about casualties is supported by this report that appeared in The Guardian last year: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/02/us-drone-strikes-afghan-civilians
(Editor’s note: The Guardian report makes a distinction between civilian and non-civilian casualties, a distinction that serves to reinforce the U.S. narrative of drone attacks being conducted to kill “bad guys”. The fact is that the killing of thousands of indigenous people is occurring in illegal wars of occupation or in “covert” attacks in which the U.S. is the aggressor. Under these circumstances, all those under attack by the U.S. have a legal status that effectively make them all “good guys” with respect to their right to life.)
It is important to note that the GAO report does not examine conditions faced by Air Force drone sensor operators, who are enlisted personnel, and who are doubtless feeling similar pressures to those felt by officers. Brandon Bryant, featured in Unmanned: America’s Drone War was a sensor operator. The report does not cover CIA drone operations either.
It would appear that people in Afghanistan are those most affected by the conditions facing drone operators because this appears to be where the Air Force is flying most of its missions. But these conditions are likely to affect people in other countries as well, given that the US apparently has about 65 combat air patrols (CAP) in the air 24/7, with three drones for each CAP.
The report provides this map (below), that is extremely valuable in identifying the locations of Air Force drone operations and training centers in the U.S., giving additional information to what is already known or surmised.
While the report identifies psychological strains faced by drone pilots in leading double lives as combat drone killers on the job and civilian family members at home, it skirts dissecting this reality.
The followiwng quote suggests that a significant minority of Air Force drone pilots do not find value in their work: “RPA (remotely piloted aircraft, or drone) pilots in 8 of the 10 focus groups we conducted reported that they found it rewarding to be able to contribute to combat operations every day through the RPA mission.”
Reading the report indicates that vigils, walks, leafleting and civil resistance focused on drone control and training bases are extremely important and may be having much more impact than might be apparent. I can better understand why the commander of Hancock drone control center outside Syracuse would seek an order of protection to try to keep demonstrators away from the base.
Further, the report makes it very clear why the military is extremely interested in research that will replace human drone pilots and sensor operators with robots, such as the research being done at Georgia Institute of Technology. It is important to identify other schools doing this research. (See IDEAS section below.)
Having said all that, this report needs to be read carefully and thoroughly because a summary cannot touch on all the important understandings that will flash when you read it. It is truly an expose.
Thanks to Bob Barton, in Pennsylvania, who alerted me to this report.
2. “Drones: A Military Revolution” – A video report by France 24.
Joan Nicholson, also in Pennsylvania, directed me to this video report that looks at: what U.S. drone pilots do; basic features of drones; drone war protest; drone business; and the spread of drones overseas. At 18 minutes, it is excellent for teach-ins.
3. “Targeted Killings: How the U.S. Perpetuates Terrorism” - A graduate thesis by Sarah Goodrich, Westminster College. May 2014. Download: http://www.knowdrones.com/spring-days-of-action-2014/Key-Reports/Goodrich-Thesis-Targeted-Killings.pdf
Sarah Goodrich has done a very thorough listing of the ways in which CIA drone attacks violate international law, and she provide interviews and other documentation addressing the ways in which drone attacks are like throwing gasoline on a fire, if they are in fact intended to fight terrorism.
In one of the interviews, Professor Amos Guiora, a former officer in the Israeli Defense Force with experience in the Israeli drone program, says: “I will argue, and I’m willing to debate anybody, the Obama administration’s drone policy is illegal, it is immoral, and it is ineffective.”
(Note: Professor Guiora believes, however, that drone killing is supportable if the correct targeting criteria are used. See: http://www.knowdrones.com/spring-days-of-action-2014/Bulletins/Guiora_TargetedKillings.pdf
Sarah’s report also places drone attacks within the context of US policies intended to achieve military and economic dominance.
Finally, Sarah has created these post cards for increasing public awareness and resistance to drone attacks.
4. “Armed and Dangerous?: UAVs and U.S. Security” – RAND Corporation.
This is a very detailed report with a pro-drone war bias that is understandable given Rand’s deep involvement with government. However, it is definitely worth reading, in digestible bites, because of its valuable information about various types of drones and some observations that are clearly in the minds of the many military and civilian officials who are invested in drone killing and drone surveillance.
For instance: “In short, armed UAVs (drones) offer policymakers another option for intervention. They will use armed UAVs in some cases where they would otherwise do nothing…”
And the observation that drones are particularly effective “against insurgent movements or others that lack even basic air defenses.” This relates to the report’s discussion of the use of drones in Afghanistan in the wake of U.S. troop reductions there and, of course, to the desire to control resources that abound in extremely impoverished nations around the world.
The report gives much information on proliferation of drones and issues of legality, discussing these as matters of concern and offering ways for the U.S. to handle these concerns and still maintain drone superiority.
The report suggests: “U.S. leadership in shaping norms (for drone use) is important to prevent either of two extremes. Overly restrictive norms may deter allies from obtaining armed UAVs and could restrict U.S. use. A lack of norms, on the other hand, may make it more difficult for the United States and its allies to discourage others from acquiring and using armed UAVs in ways that threaten regional stability or the laws of war.”
Yes, one can say this is a cynical piece of work, but it does provide very important information and perspectives that must be understand and felt. Possibly one or more of the authors is trying to tell us what we should be paying attention to.
5. “Why U.S. Drones Aren’t Flying Over Nigeria (And What They Could Do if They Were)” – NBC News Report by Robert Windrem and Jim Miklaszewski – May __, 2014. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/missing-nigeria-schoolgirls/why-u-s-drones-arent-flying-over-nigeria-what-they-n102031
In most conversations about drone war, either in sidewalk outreach or at speaking engagements, someone will ask: “What’s so special about drones, aren’t they just another weapon?”
I am including this NBC report among formal studies about drone war because it gives simple, very clear statements, with specifics, about the unique capabilities of drones. Further, it gives a clear picture of how, with drones operated in cooperation with satellites, we are moving very quickly toward having a global surveillance system serving the United States and its corporations.
It is worth noting, in relation to the NBC report, that apparently the Nigerian government was reluctant to have drones used to find the school girls abducted by Boko Haram. Nigeria is extremely rich in oil, and while its governments have historically been very compliant with oil corporations, it is conceivable that the current government is concerned about national privacy.
5. “The Potentialities and Limitations of Digital Social Networking in Facilitating Unarmed Resistance.” A graduate paper by Declan Rolitt-James, Cardiff University, United Kingdon. Attachment A.
I am including this short report because it raises questions of limitations of social media in organizing for non-violent civil resistance, and, by implication in any form of political organizing. As you will see if you read it, I was interviewed for the study, and I am impressed that someone is asking the following questions:
1) Would you say that digital social networking has bypassed the more traditional methods (such as face-to-face networking) in facilitating unarmed resistance? Why?
2) Do you think it is more difficult for resistance leaders to exercise control when social media websites are used to facilitate unarmed resistance?
3) How far has the problem of determining like-minded inactive individuals from active participants been exacerbated by digital social networking?
4) In which ways can activists’ use of social media websites be used against them by authorities?
Work is underway on the website for the forthcoming Honeywell Boycott/Divest campaign. The primary news is that Chelsea Faria and Mathias Quackenbush have agreed to be co-directors of the campaign.
Chelsea, a graduate student at Yale Divinity School, was a member of the CODEPINK delegation to Pakistan in 2012, and she has been involved in counter-drone war advocacy in Western Massachusetts and at Yale. Her senior thesis at Hampshire College in 2012 examined how the Obama Administration manufactured consent for the drone war through the mainstream media and problematic legal justifications.
Mathias, as many of you know, has been doing counter-drone war work for the last two years with the April Days of Action in 2013 and this year’s Spring Days of Action, and he has been preparing material on Honeywell over the last several months. Mathias, who is a graduate of Reed College, lives in San Francisco where he is a rehabilitation counselor.
Within the next week you will receive a boycott “call” for your signature in anticipation of the launch of the boycott/divest campaign, which should begin by late May or early June.
On Saturday May 10, 2014, Sue Ann Martinson reports, Women Against Military Madness sponsored a “Fly Kites Not Drones” event at Como Park in St. Paul, MN, attended by about 30 people, “plus many watchers”.
Here is her description of the gathering:
“A day to bring the children, they decorated their own kites and then flew them. We attracted a lot of attention and several people who were just out for a nice day joined us to fly kites. We handed out flyers and No Killer Drone stickers to people who stopped to watch. The video does not do credit to the large kites made by Roger Cuthbertson, who has been flying No Drones kites for several years. They are quite spectacular.”
Here is the video mentioned by Sue Ann, which is not edited but gives a sense of the day: http://youtu.be/xgs3W3kKqz8
NOTE OCTOBER 4
Circle Saturday, Oct. 4 as a Global Day of Actions Against Drones, which will involve events in the United Kingdom, Germany the U.S. and possibly elsewhere. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink is working on this, and planning is advanced in Germany, where, Elsa Rassbach reports, kite flying will be featured.
Leafleting and sidewalk outreach, essential parts of any political activity, are basic to anti-drone war work, with effectiveness often difficult to gauge. The work seems simple, but, as with any performance, it requires practice, patience and coaching.
Here are several recent examples of leafleting and some tips from experienced sidewalk educators. Please send in your experiences and, especially, suggestions.
Granny Peace Brigade – New York City
On April 24, about eight members of the Granny Peace Brigade, based in New York City, did sidewalk outreach in Union Square, New York City, in their campaign to get the New York City Council to approve a ban on drone surveillance and drones carrying weapons. The day was warm, and beautiful, and people were often inclined to want to talk.
I asked Joan Pleune, one of the Grannies, if she has any tips for doing sidewalk education, and she responded:
1) Don't huddle with each other--this IS number 1.
2) Give folks a chance to talk and LISTEN TO THEM AND TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY unless they're of the "kill them all" variety.
3) Smile and be friendly and don't get discouraged. Try to engage.
When you get discouraged, take a little break and charge your battery.
4) Don't hand out fliers just to get rid of them. Look as though you value the message you're trying to disseminate. Besides, fliers aren't cheap.
Here is a link to leaflets used by the Grannies:
Veterans for Peace - San Diego
Dave Patterson, a member of Veterans for Peace, Chapter 91, in San Diego reports:
“I had a wonderful time at Earth fair in San Diego this year hawking our drone ideas. I spoke with a drone operator, engineer, and several other people that work at General Atomics. I had conversations with war hawks and peace lovers alike, almost all ending well. Most people were with us on drone use and many were well informed.
“One person yelled that if the drones prevent us from sending our troops into combat they were all for them. I yelled back, isn't that what we should do if in a war, send our troops? They scurried off after the exchange!
“The drone operator topped them all, telling me that he thought it was great that he could kill people from his operator chair near home, and not worry about getting injured himself. I told him that he was obviously the perfect person to be a drone operator.
“I left after 8 hours of talking with people and handing out lots of VFP fliers, thinking how fortunate I am to be able to engage so many people on a subject close to my heart. Wow am I lucky!”
Dave has this advise on sidewalk education:
“My advice is to talk with anyone that will talk. We have to remember that most of us come from the same "war is a good thing" mindset, at some point in our lives. So we have an opportunity to bring others into the peace movement eventually possibly with a few chosen words alone. If I could remember all the conversations from Earth Day, the best ones involved civil discourse with people that thought that war is constructive, Drone technology as well. They just don't get to talk with people like us much, so we have to be patient! If you have the chance to talk with 5 people or 5,000 people, the opportunity can't be missed.”
Here is the flyer Dave has been using:
Catholic Worker – New York City
On weekends, Felton Davis, who works at the Catholic Worker’s Maryhouse, in lower Manhattan, wheels a replica of an MQ-9 Reaper drone six blocks in a cart to Tompkins Square Park, where he assembles it and engages people in conversation about drone war, as depicted here: http://thevillager.com/2014/05/01/taking-aim-at-drone-warfare/
“Saturday or Sunday afternoons depending on the weather I pass out leaflets at Tompkins Square Park, and so far have been allowed to set up the model drone which attracts a lot of attention. Many people are already alive to the horrible implications of this high-tech, remote control killing, and are happy to join in the discussions -- the demonstration, if you could call it that, happens on its own as soon as people start asking questions.
“What kind of organizing effort will be required to curtail extrajudicial assassinations, or does this program already have so much momentum behind it that it is too late? So along with the frustration there is a built-in fatalism about drones -- the underlying paranoia has created its own reality, fueling more surveillance, which causes more fearfulness, and therefore more paranoia, and so on in a vicious circle. And very few passersby are willing to accept that the United States systematically targets wedding parties in country after country.
“How can so much bloodshed be caused, without the country whipped up into a mad hysteria? Attached are the two leaflets that I have handed out so far, along with the map of US drone bases.”
Here are links to Felton’s handouts:
Here also is a flyer that Alice Sutter uses in anti-recruitment vigils in the Washington Heights section of New York City:
Leah Bolger, former president of Veterans for Peace, is sewing together squares for the sixth quilt in her Drone Quilt Project as two displays of the project are on the road – one with four quilts in Bloomington, IN and the other with one quilt in Syracuse, NY.
Each quilt has 36 squares, with each square dedicated to a person killed by U.S. drones and each square created by a volunteer. So far, more than 150 deaths are represented.
On May 7, the Syracuse Peace Council held a “Piece-Making Party” on May 7 at which five people made six quilt squares for the project.
“Of course we’re still killing people every day with drones”, Leah said, “so its not a project that will end any time soon.”
Indeed, if the quilt square makers are to even catch up with those who have been killed by American drones - probably 5,000 including those in Afghanistan - they will have to produce more than 130 quilts.
But as the picture in this article in Bloomington’s Indiana Daily Student shows, even one or two quilts are very moving evidence of the ongoing killing of the U.S. drone program brought simply, directly and silently to public attention. http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=98178
With the quilts are placards that provide information on U.S. drone attacks, and handouts are also available (See Attachment B).
Leah got the idea for the project when she was asked by women in the United Kingdom to make a quilt square for a person killed by a drone that would be put into a book and presented to Parliament. She decided to ask people to make similar squares but for a quilt. She is also inspired by the “Eyes Wide Open” tour of the American Friends Service Committee, a traveling display centered on pairs of shoes representing people called in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
For full details on the project, including instructions on how to make a square:
The cost of the project has been borne by Leah herself and relatively small donations. The cost of shipping the quilts and the placards that accompany them is borne by people in the communities where the drones are displayed.
However, Leah will be extremely grateful for contributions to cover materials for the new, sixth quilt and other expenses. She wants at some point to put quilts on display in Pakistan and Yemen as evidence that there are people in the United States who care about people who have been killed in those countries by drones. Please send contributions to: http://dronesquiltproject.wordpress.com/donate/
The quilt display in Bloomington, sponsored by Bloomington Peace Action Council and the Bloomington branch of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, will run until May 18 and then go to Plainfield IN public library and the Art Sanctuary in Martinsville IN.
Here is a report of this week’s organizers conference call:
Darren Wolfe – Montgomery County, PA – has been at protests against the opening of a drone control base at the Air Guard field in Horsham, PA and was joining the call for the first time, largely to listen.
David Sladky – St. Louis, MO – reported that on May 26 he will be taking a drone replica to Columbia, MO to set it up in a park and do outreach during Memorial Day events. He said that organizers of the Memorial Day parade there have banned the replica from being in the parade. He also reports that activists who are supporting a drone ban for St. Louis will not condemn drone attacks overseas because, as Democrats, they do not want to criticize President Obama. He is looking forward to taking the replica to the Gay Pride Festival on June 21 and the Garlic Festival, June 28 – 29, where he will encounter thousands of people.
Daniel Riehl – Lancaster, PA – said the pastor of his church, a Mennonite church, had thought about having a wailing wall for those killed by drones and that this idea developed into creating a scroll on which people would write the names of people killed by drones. Daniel also presented the idea of having post cards printed with each displaying the picture of a person killed in a drone attack and asking people to send these to President Obama. A conversation developed over whether the post cards are a good idea or a waste of time. More on that later.
Kevin Caron – Atlanta, GA – an organizer of the recent march from Ft. Benning to Georgia Institute of Technology to counter drone war and military drone research, said that he is hoping to organize a debate soon between Mark Gubrud, a research associate at Princeton University, and Professor Ronald Arkin, a researcher in robotics at Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Gubrud is a member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), and Professor Arkin is an advocate for robots that can make decisions to kill on their own.
Here is a link to a debate between Professor Arkin and ICRAC’ Rob Sparrow that considers a ban on lethal autonomous weapons.
http://icrac.net/2013/11/georgie-tech-techdebate-ron-arkin-vs-icracs-rob-sparrow/ (Editor’s note: This video is worth watching to understand more of where drone research is heading.)
Andrew Dalton and Barbara Kidney – Drone Alert – Hudson Valley – Andrew reported that their group is planning to do counter-drone war outreach on May 17 on the railroad bridge walkway between Poughkeepsie and the west bank of the Hudson River. In addition, Barbara said, they will hold an outdoor memorial for drone war victims in New Paltz on May 24 that will include offering people a way to not only write the names of the dead on sheets of paper but also make drawings or other creative messages. Notice of the event will include an invitation to people who are artistically inclined. Barbara also reported that she has arranged to make a presentation in September at the Cornwall Quaker meeting.
Joan Nicholson – Kennett Square, PA – Joan said she had just seen an excellent video report on drones on Channel 24 (see above). She is also attending Quaker meetings asking them to originate resolutions, call “minutes”, opposing drone attacks.
Post Card Discussion
With respect to the idea of creating post cards, each with the face of a drone victim, Darren said initially that he thought that sending the cards might make the sender feel good but that sending them to President Obama would have no practical effect. Barbara thought the cards were “a great idea” and that a variety of approaches have to be tried continually, that there is no “magic bullet” that will end drone killing. Joan favored the cards, saying that people would see the cards “along the way” as they pass through the postal system. Kevin also supported the idea, saying it is really important that people see pictures of drone victims. The discussion seemed to have satisfied Darren’s concerns. PLEASE SEND YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE POST CARD IDEA.
Here is a listing of selected up-coming events:
San Diego, CA
May 15 -17 - San Diego “Drone Days of Action” will include a street theater drone attack; a light display by the Overpass Light Brigade; a protest at drone maker Northrup-Grumman; a demonstration at the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, responsible for, among other things, intelligence and surveillance; and a “Stop the Drones” planning convergence. For details: http://www.sdcpj.org
May 17 - 6-9 pm – Drone protest of the keynote speech by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh at the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce banquet at the Sheraton Uptown, corner of Louisiana and Menaul NW. For more information: (505) 858-0882.
May 17 – 1 – 3 pm – Anti-Drone Action on Market Street between 5th and 6th with speaker Medea Benjamin, Co-founder of Code Pink, sponsored by the Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia. Contact: Barbara Cicalese - email@example.com or (215) 896-9839.
Minneapolis / St. Paul
May 17 – 1 pm – “Stop the Wars, Ground the Drones” rally, initiated by the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition (612-522- 1861/ 612- 827-5364) Gather at Hiawatha and Lake Street, Minneapolis.
San Francisco, CA
May 17-27: A 10-day "WALK TO PEACE, To Resist Global Militarization and Drone Warfare". Any help offered will be very welcomed! For details:
Kansas City, MO
May 30 – June 1 – Trifecta Resista – As follows:
Fri., May 30, 4-9 pm: Kickoff of weekend at DeLaSalle Education Center 3737 Troost, Kansas City, MO, 64109, with nonviolence training, supper, input on Trifecta sites, and small-group sharing.
Sat., May 31: Demonstrations at Fort Leavenworth (at 10 a.m.—Chelsea is now serving a 35-year sentence there) and Bannister Federal Complex (at 3 pm), and meals and gatherings at DeLaSalle. At 7 pm, talks by Kathy Kelly, Brian Terrell, Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright and others.
Sun., June 1: Early breakfast, then departure from DeLaSalle at about 11 a.m., a gathering at Knob Noster State Park at 1 pm, and demonstration at nearby Whiteman AFB at 2 pm. See http://www.trifectaresista.org
Chicago, IL – Battle Creek, MI
June 3 – 14 – “On the Road to Ground the Drones” walk from Chicago along Lake Michigan’s south shore and through Michigan to Battle Creek, proposed site of a new drone command center, 165 miles, organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence. For more information:
Snowden Drone Blowback
It appears that the U.S. drone war was one of the key things that led Edward Snowden to try to expose the massive U.S. surveillance system, as reported in the May 14 Democracy Now interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald:
GLENN GREENWALD: One of the things that he (Snowden) told me was like a turning point for him was he had an NSA job in Japan, where—and this was the job right before Dell—that he said he was able to watch the real-time surveillance being fed by drones, in which you could see an entire village in a place where America is not at war, like Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan. And you could see literally little dots of people and what they were doing, and then you would have intelligence about who they were and who they were calling and this vast picture that was able to be created of them by not even physically being in the country. And the invasiveness and the extent of that surveillance, he said, was something even he, working inside this community, had no idea even existed. And—
AMY GOODMAN: He was watching a village before it was struck by a drone?
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. I mean, these were surveillance drones, typically. And so, it wasn’t even necessarily that the drones were killing people, though a lot of times they did. That was the reason for putting these villages under surveillance, was to decide who to kill. But he could watch just how much the U.S. government covertly could put entire populations under a microscope. And the fact that this had been done without any democratic debate or without his fellow citizens knowing about it was extremely alarming to him. And the more he came to see just how ubiquitous this system of suspicionless surveillance was, the more compelled he felt not to keep it a secret.
Thanks to all for being intrepid.
Analyse the potentialities and limitations of digital social networking in facilitating unarmed resistance.
The discussion that surrounds the use of digital social networking in the facilitation of unarmed resistance is a contentious topic among scholars and activists, with conflicting views on whether it should be used for this purpose. To understand the arguments that are associated with this debate, an analysis of the potentialities and limitations of digital social networking will allow this essay to distinguish how effective a method it is in facilitation. Potentialities such as the extent of interactivity and connectivity that digital social networking has enabled with others will be compared to the limitations it can effectuate, such as the seclusion of local communities. Examples of when governments have exercised significantly less control over this form of new media and their effects will be explored then compared to authorities’ recent adoption of this technology into their counterinsurgency strategies. By outlining and comparing these potentialities and limitations with traditional methods also, this analysis will discern whether digital social networking has been a positive or problematic development for the facilitation of unarmed resistance.
One of the potentialities identified by academics and commentators is how unarmed insurgents’ use of digital social networking allows them to easily interact and connect with fellow insurgents. According to Coopman (2011, p. 169):
Digital networks prove central in building effective bonds necessary for articulating a consensus on the system’s failure, cultivating relational density through ease of interaction, and enmeshing latency and mobilization into one process.
Essentially, digital social networks are now seen to be a vital component in resistance by allowing groups to create a global audience free of the filter of the media. Tremayne (2014) argues how social media can encourage people to participate, as it informs them that many others share the same opinions and ideas on political issues. This was seen as crucial to the success of the Arab Spring, where social media helped broaden networks by addressing new and other communities, as well as creating a space for semi-public debate. Howard and Hussain (2013, p. 25) reinforce this opinion:
digital media helped turn individualized, localized, and community-specific dissent into a structured movement with a collective consciousness about both shared plights and opportunities for action.
On the other hand, where social media allows activists to easily establish connections, particularly at a distance, this can mean face-to-face networking and the local element of resistance becoming increasingly ignored in favour of these new methods. Mottern (2014) asserts that electronic communications has had a demobilising effect with respect to unarmed resistance:
Email, websites and Facebook serve useful functions with respect to announcing times and places of planned events and exchanges of information but not organizing, which involves trust, commitment and inspiration.
Gerbaudo (2012) further argues that digital social networks enabling connections at a distance and establishing ‘virtual proximity,’ can prove problematic, as they run the risk of isolating individuals from their local community. By increasing the number of participants from a distance and ignoring those closer to home, movements can risk diluting their message or losing control if no clear leadership can be established or no clear goals or methods are articulated. This is why face-to-face networks remain essential to enacting resistance as it is seen as an effective method in averting these aforementioned problems. A further problem associated with the distance aspect of digital social networking is the difficulty in identifying those movements’ active participants from inactive individuals. Hintz (2014) recognises that although social networking has made it easier to identify and mobilise like-minded individuals, because participation is more fluid, the levels of commitment are lower. Digital social networking encourages protestors to communicate with those who have similar ideologies even if they are at a distance, whereas before communication with these people were more limited. However, the problem that arises from the inclusive nature of digital social networks and the distance activists can communicate from is that although like-minded individuals are easier to identify, they are harder to distinguish from non-active participants. Mottern (2014) asserts that this technology creates the notion that active participants can discern another person’s feelings and intentions without meeting face-to-face, when in reality this is not possible. McNaboe (2014) however pinpoints methods to avoid this limitation, such as measuring and analysing interactions and extended social networks in determining the strength of that individuals tie to a movement. Still, the very use of these methods by organisations and groups to distinguish participants from non-active individuals indicates how digital social networking has made the facilitation of unarmed insurgency complex. In conclusion, digital social networking has significantly broadened the parameters of communication and community, providing activists with a tool to organise collective resistance. Although this poses new problems for organisations and groups such as potentially reducing the extent of control they exercise or being able to distinguish active participants from like-minded individuals. Thus the traditional methods of networking still have a certain importance in the facilitation of unarmed resistance and should not be wholly dismissed in favour of these new methods.
Another potentiality with social network websites is the degree of control authorities’ exercise over these media outlets is perceived as considerably less to other media platforms. The role of internet technology in the organisation and mobilisation of unarmed insurgents during the Arab Spring are seen by some commentators as one of the main factors in why authorities in Tunisia and Egypt failed to prevent these resistance movements. Howard and Hussain (2013, p. 24) recognise this potentiality in their assessment of the Arab Spring:
digital media may be among the most proximate of causes because the motivations for protest against authoritarian rule alone had been insufficient for years.
Whereas, traditional media outlets are controlled by the corporations that own them and censored by the regimes of that country, digital social media presented a platform where protestors could communicate and organise with less interference. Preceding the Arab Spring, the use of Facebook in mobilising Egyptian textile workers to protest in 2008, was seen by Mansour (2009) as the first time massive numbers of youth engaged in public life and actively expressed their opinions outside the traditional triangle of power – the governments ruling party, the secular opposition parties and the Muslim Brotherhood. Further protests in Egypt and the surrounding Middle Eastern countries, where social media was utilised by insurgents, meant these regimes were faced by an ever increasing threat. Whilst Tunisia and Egypt failed to successfully counteract insurgents use of social network websites, other non-democratic regimes have been more successful. Stephan (2009) disputes the view that authorities are at a disadvantage, ‘they have developed ways to censor, restrict, and in some cases completely halt cell phone and Internet use.’ Regimes have access to these websites as well and once digital social networks were successfully utilised in overthrowing the Tunisian and Egyptian establishments, many regimes have become increasingly vigilant and developed counterinsurgency strategies to oppose potential threats. This is evident in how digital social networking has made identifying protestors easier for authorities. Social media is being increasingly used as a method of surveillance, where in many countries protestors and activists have been arrested because they were tracked and identified on social media. McNaboe (2014) depicts how during the 2011 Syrian protests, the Syrian government legalised Facebook, not as an act of liberalisation in response to social pressure but rather as an attempt to monitor insurgents and disrupt the protest movement. This example of surveillance providing an essential and effective aspect to the Assad regime’s counterinsurgency strategy indicates how severe a limitation this can be when digital social networking is used by insurgents. A further limitation with the use of digital social networks in facilitating unarmed resistance is how easily compromised these networks can be. McNaboe (2014) emphasises how individuals can reveal passwords and contact lists to authorities, particularly when they are questioned under torture by intelligence services. This could lead to entire organisations and groups under jeopardy if aspects of their digital social networks are revealed to the authorities. In comparison to the traditional methods of networking, this limitation of using digital media to facilitate is particularly distinguishable. In summary, it is clear that when digital social networking became a prominent method to facilitate unarmed insurrection, countries such as Tunisia and Egypt failed to neutralise this threat. This is because they did not exercise enough control over digital social media and had no clear strategy to counteract the insurgents’ application of these websites. However, since regimes have become aware of the threat digital social networks can pose in facilitation, stricter measures have been imposed by authorities. Furthermore, factors such as surveillance of activists on these websites and the threat that important details of a digital social network could be uncovered by intelligence services, mean the use of digital social networking over traditional methods carries a certain amount of risk.
Overall, it is apparent from this analysis on digital social networking in facilitating unarmed resistance that there are significant limitations involved. Factors such as the reduced degree of control by leaders, being unable to distinguish participants from non-active individuals, the surveillance by authorities and the risk associated with network details being revealed to those they are resisting, all pose considerable problems to a movements’ adoption of these services. On the other hand, digital social networking has substantially developed communication and expanded the online community, where resistance movements in Tunisia and Egypt depict how digital social networking can be successful in facilitation. Still, in more recent years the development of the aforementioned counterinsurgency strategies and stricter censorship by governments has depleted the significance of these successes and potentialities associated with digital social networking. Therefore, activists must try to remodel their digital networking methods, perhaps as well as using them in conjunction with more traditional methods, so they can successfully avoid these limitations in future attempts to facilitate.
Coopman, T. M. 2011. Networks of Dissent: Emergent Forms in Media Based Collective Action. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 28(2): pp. 153-172.
Gerbaudo, P. 2012. Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism. London: Pluto Press.
Howard, P. H. and Hussain, M. M. 2013. Democracy’s Fourth Wave?: Digital Media and the Arab Spring. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mansour, S. 2009. Enough Is Not Enough: Achievements and Shortcomings of Kefaya, the Egyptian Movement for Change. In: Stephan, M. J. eds. Civilian Jihad: Nonviolent Struggle, Democratization, and Governance in the Middle East. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 205-218
Stephan, M. J. 2009. Civilian Jihad: Nonviolent Struggle, Democratization, and Governance in the Middle East. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Tremayne, M. 2014. Anatomy of Protest in the Digital Era: A Network Analysis of Twitter and Occupy Wall Street. Social Movement Studies, 13(1): pp. 110-126.
 Paul Paz y Mino. (2014) Amazon Watch, Email interview by Declan Rollitt-James, 12 May 2014.
 Arne Hintz. (2014) Cardiff University, Email interview by Declan Rollitt-James, 7 May 2014.
 Nick Mottern. (2014) Know Drones, Email interview by Declan Rollitt-James, 11 May 2014.
 Christopher McNaboe. (2014) Carter Center, Email interview by Declan Rollitt-James, 7 May 2014.
 Arne Hintz. (2014) Cardiff University, Email interview by Declan Rollitt-James, 7 May 2014.
 Nick Mottern. (2014) Know Drones, Email interview by Declan Rollitt-James, 11 May 2014.
 Arne Hintz. (2014) Cardiff University, Email interview by Declan Rollitt-James, 7 May 2014.
 Christopher McNaboe. (2014) Carter Center, Email interview by Declan Rollitt-James. 7 May 2014.
Resources for Anti-Drones Activism
1. Drone Warfare, Killing by Remote Control, by Medea Benjamin
2. “Living Under Drones,” report by Stanford and New York Universities, available on-line at: www.livingunderdrones.org
3. Will I be Next? Comprehensive drone report by Amnesty International www.amnestyusa.org
Videos and Films
1. 7-minute video describing highlights of the “Living Under Drones” report, produced by Brave New Films http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yMOzvmgVhc
2. Datta Khel Signature Strike Investigation, produced by Brave New Films http://www.bravenewfoundation.org/datta_khel_signature_strike_investigation
3. 4-minute video with Pakistani drone survivors, produced by Vocativ http://voc.tv/19xBfSu
4. Know Drones “Education Series” interviews, www.knowdrones.com
5. “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars,” www.unmanned.warcosts.com. Full length documentary by Brave New Films, available to show for free.
6. “Wounds of Waziristan,” www.woundsofwaziristan.com. A short documentary by Madiha Tahir.
1. www.knowdrones.org. This is one of the most comprehensive anti-drone sites available. Contains a lot of great information and resources.
2. www.droneswatch.org. Another excellent website for anti-drone activists, this website is monitored by Code Pink, which has been a lead organization for anti-drone work.
3. www.livingunderdrones.org. This website supports and expands on the “Living Under Drones” report and research done by Stanford and NYU.
4. www.banweaponizeddrones.org. Relatively new website devoted to the abolishment of weaponized drones.
5. www.hrw.org. Human Rights Watch-working with Amnesty International on drones reports.
1. Reprieve. A legal organization that advocates for human rights, including the victims of drones. www.reprieve.org.uk
2. Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Independent, not-for-profit investigative journalism to benefit the public. www.thebureauinvestigates.com
3. Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare. Network of anti-drone organizations; seeks to coordinate actions and campaigns. www.nodronesnetwork.blogspot.com
4. Code Pink. Convened drone summits and organized delegation to Pakistan to interview drone victims and protest drones. www.codepink.org
5. Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones & End the Wars. Organize regular protests at Hancock Air Base. www.upstatedroneaction.org
6. Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. www.space4peace.org
7. Veterans For Peace. www.veteransforpeace.org
8. World Can’t Wait. www.worldcantwait.net
9. Voices for Creative Nonviolence. www.vcnv.org
1. Educate yourself. Read Medea Benjamin’s book, Drone Warfare.
2. Educate others. Talk to your friends and neighbors about what you have learned.
3. Invite a speaker to your town. Many of the people from the Code Pink delegation to Pakistan have been speaking before audiences around the country. Look into the organizations and websites listed in the resources section to find a speaker.
4. Participate in the Drones Quilt Project by making a quilt block, or hosting the exhibit in your town. See www.dronesquiltproject.wordpress.com
5. Obtain a scale model drone, available through www.knowdrones.org Use the model to educate the public and/or have a die-in using the model as a prop.
6. Download fact sheets or informational fliers and pass them out.
7. Find out what drone manufacturers or drone bases are near you.
8. Organize or attend protests.
9. Write Letters to the Editor. The opinion page is the second-most read page of the paper after the front page.
10. Join or support organizations that are doing anti-drone work.
11. Find out if your member of Congress is a member of the Congressional Drones Caucus: www.unmannedsystemscaucus.mckeon.house.gov
12. Write or visit your Congressman and tell him/her of your concerns about drones.
13. Discuss the moral and legal aspects of drones in your church group or discussion group.
14. Have a drones teach-in; many videos are available on-line. Discuss the “Living Under Drones” report.
15. Host a showing of the four-woman play The Predator, by Jack Gilroy. Free download available here: www.paxchristieusa.org