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Faking capitalism: communication, hacking and information disruption in order to attack the immaterial dimension of production

Some obstacles in the contemporary social struggles, how they connect with the immaterial dimension of capitalism, and the need to overcome them. Communication and hacking techniques as a chance of experimentation for overcoming the repression and finding new tools for social struggles. Different reasons why these tactics can be useful in our fights against contemporary capitalism. Proposals for basic experimentation.

For the people involved in social struggles and movements, it is not less than a fact-and sometimes rather bitterthat as the movements grow, the repression that follows is harder and harder to bear or to overcome . At the same time the new industrial organization is more and more decentralized, flexible and based on outsourcing. The hierarchical structure of companies and of institutions is shifting from the form of internalization, to the form of external control, based on subcontracting, indirect control, flexible systems of production and interim work. In this framework, many former tactics come often off less sharp. For instance, let's take the example of the strike. If a company is able to deal with the stop of the production quickly recurring to a subcontractor or to a temporary agency, it is much less harmed. Also, it is much more difficult and less clear to organize a strike in a reticular structure with asymmetric and flexible relations more than in the classical fordist large company. Some similar reflections can be done about the post-fordist transformation of repressive institutions. Through history we can be surprised by the inventive ways people have found to resist, but we have to realize that these inventions are not automatically generated. They are practical answers to issues that appear in the struggles as in everyday life itself.. In our opinion,in the present moment there are many issues that become serious obstacles in our way , and we consider it vital to evolve our means of struggle and to experiment trough different mediums and ways of action to go through these obstacles. If not, the shortcomings that we do not solve can come back and haunt us. Capitalism never rests. It always learns from our strong and weak points. This text was written because of the reflections of some individuals around the transformation of society and power. We want it to be a contribution to the experimentation that we just mentioned. It deals with certain strategies in order to attack the immaterial dimension of capitalism, and thus the informational aspect of power. It is not a coherent work. Theoretical reflections are presented here in a loose way and we don't present something ideologically defined, even though we have our own ideas. This is because we consider that the strategies that we are dealing with are useful instruments for a large range of social struggles and present an opportunity to act overcoming repression. We don't wish to push a specific strategy as the ultimate right one. Everybody can decide for themselves how they want to fight. We don't oppose the traditional means of resistance, but we think that many practices are becoming from useful tools, rooted traditions that stop being questioned. In the end some of these traditions, regarded as safe and politically correct tend to repress innovative efforts. For us there is no evolution without (self)criticism. In this text you will find our ideas about the strategies that we want to discuss in a very basic form, followed by tips and ideas for undertaking new ones. More specifically, we base our ideas on the examples of actions in the last years involving communication guerrilla, hacking, creation of fakes.... Some of these practices have been already widely experimented, while others have in our opinion a very interesting potential not unleashed yet. Therefore, what is mentioned here can be connected with many different practices but we will focus here on what we call Information Guerilla (IG). (This is a bit of a constraint, but it is just a conventional definition aiming to the clarity of the text). We define IG as a form of direct action aiming in diffusing information or creating confusion in order to cause economical or political damage. IG relates to communication guerilla and hacking activism, but it has some peculiar features that are worth exploring. We think that a mixture of some basic informatics tools, a mimetic of the enemy's communication strategies and a bit of information gathering can produce very interesting and effective tactics, that are often easy to experiment with.

We consider these tactics interesting or effective for several reasons. Information is profit. Or to say it differently increasing amount of profit is based on information. In the current phase of capitalism, the cognitive dimension is increasingly important. The immaterial dimension of production is taking a central role in the process of valorisation. At the same time every aspect of life is increasingly becoming commodified. Be it about social relations, values or imaginaries, knowledge has become a very valuable source of profit. The image of a firm towards customers, retailers, shareholders, and its capacity of generating immaterial value are often more important than the efficiency in physical production of goods. Information is an important resource for companies to control customers, foresee the strategies of other companies and to be able to draw scenarios about the financial market. Furthermore, the success of a financial institution stands on its capacity of influencing the flows of information on financial markets and of accessing them in real time. In the post fordist economy the creation of flexible marketing strategies targeted to every single consumer is a central aspect of profitability, and this is the reason why the constant control and the traceability of the individual behaviours of everyone are so valuable. For instance, Google is collecting its huge profits spying the Internet users habits, selling them and providing targeted advertisements. As the complexity of the world economic system is increasing together with uncertainty, access to information in order to make a good forecast of the future has an immense economic value. Especially in the financial markets, -where the valorisation process is linked to the expectation of the financial actors and to strategies based on a behavioral rationality-, information gathering and rapid scenario drawing play a crucial role. The expectations regarding a company and the courses of its stocks, its reputation and the information circulating over it are heavily influencing the attitude of the market toward the shares and therefore the plus valences related to financial valorisation. As profit is becoming more and more dependent on immaterial production, the tactics aimed to hit the immaterial aspect of profit will become increasingly more powerful. If a company spends millions building their reputation, for drawing a good marketing strategy and for building a good information management system, that is a good weak point to hit. Furthermore, these kinds of actions may lead firms or institutions to rearrange their operative procedure/communication system/working environment, in order to protect themselves in the future. Even physical sabotages or attacks against property, are often producing more indirect damage (loss of reputation, need to rearrange a working procedure) than direct damage (often company goods are insured, and anyway property damage is often negligible compared to the large turnover of a company). In a post fordist capitalist system, post fordist tactics of struggle seem to give us some good chances to fight back effectively. Capitalism exploits our brain - our rationality, our social skills and emotions our whole life- as an instrument of profit. It exploits our cognitive functions not just during work-time, but also in all our life span. Our daily behaviours, our imaginaries, our intellectual creations, become easily, directly or indirectly, appropriated as a source of profit. As they involve our brains in their immaterial production, we often dispose of several information and skills (eg. people who work in a company can know, at the same time the policy and the language of a company and possibly possess the skills to use its technology and systems). Why not share the information and the skills we have to counter attack? Furthermore, some people find it difficult to be openly involved in struggles. Many don't feel like taking part in a social struggle or exposing themselves, but have relevant information and can be keen in smuggling them. In a precarious condition (in a broad sense), it is not always obvious to start a struggle openly and in first person. But struggle can be also sharing information we have and using them to conspire against them. Loyalty is a growing strategy of corporate and institutional power for controlling people, and just refusing it can be a form of resistance. In the 70's, the massive disloyalty in the work environment proved to have a huge impact, and for sure we cannot assume that all the people who were claiming sick or going late to work had the same political ideas.. Finally, the social movement often faces this dilemma: how to deal with the mainstream media? Refusing to communicate with them as they are completely embedded- involves a risk of having our message or our action less visible. Communicating with them, has the risk of being manipulated and of the message being deformed. What about striking back and trying (just for a moment) to revert the relation between radical movement and press, trying to turn their constant disinformation against them? What about trying for once to use them, as a vector for spreading fake information? They are rewriting the reality every day, because they are submitted to the politic and economic power and have an almost religious reliance on big press agencies. Many journalists let themselves believe and reproduce all the information they get from certain sources. Why not to take advantage of this weakness for a subversive use, and to use the media without being used for once? Why

not playing around with them and intervene in their 24 hour propaganda? For the reasons above, information is a strategically good terrain to attack. Of course in the last decades many people have already experimented in this field: hacktivism, communication guerrilla, subvertising, etc... Many actions have already taken place diffusing fake press releases, but they usually had as main goal the creation of awareness over an issue, denouncing the policy of a specific company/institution, detouring the dominant discourse and unmasking the daily order of things (even though some of them had without doubts tangible economic impact). Other actions involved cracking, blocking servers, defacing websites, etc, causing serious damage. What rarely activists tried to achieve, however, is causing a negative economical impact by spreading fake information on a company. And doing this may be requiring really simple informatics tools, a meticulous study of the "target", some knowledge of the sector and sometimes the help of some "insider" willing to pass some information, templates, etc. Some ideas could be: - Fake news to be published on the media in order to affect the reputation of a company and disrupt it's communication strategy. - A fake mail from your boss, from a public servant, etc can create conflicts or make evident some hidden behavior. It can be a powerful weapon of retaliation or a way to come off their hidden deal. - A fake press release from a company under campaign reporting some fake financial facts in order to affect the stock market. - Etc - according to your creativity! These examples can serve for every kind of campaign, social struggle, daily problems... They exploit our brain - our rationality, our social skills and our emotionality -and our life as an instrument of profit. They daily mess around with our life through financial markets, media spreading irrational fears and rotten ideals, kafkian bureaucracy. Why not counter acting at that level and messing up with their beautiful models and their woderful procedures? Let's organize! Let's share their information and the skills we have to counter attack! We can turn their immaterial processes into their material nightmare! For our stolen time and for all the reasons of the world, DIRECT ACTION NOW!

Examples of relevant past actions

Few examples of inspiring past actions Yes Man and Bhopal Dow bought Union Carbide in 2001, and with it the legacy of the Bhopal catastrophe. Dow claims the company inherited no liabilities for the Bhopal disaster, but the victims aren't buying it, and have continued to fight Dow for having economic compensation. That's a heavy cross to bear for a multinational company; perhaps it's no wonder Dow can't quite face the truth. The Yes Men decided, in November 2002, to help them do so by explaining exactly why Dow can't do anything for the Bhopalis: they aren't shareholders. The Yes Man create for do so a fake website imitating the Dow Jones style, Two years later, in late November 2004, an invitation arrived at the 2002 website, neglected since. BBC World Television wants a Dow representative to discuss the company's position on the 1984 Bhopal tragedy on this, its 20th anniversary. On the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, "Dow representative" "Jude Finisterra" (a Yes Man playing this role) went on BBC World TV to announce that the company was finally going to compensate the victims and clean up the mess in Bhopal. The story shot around the world, much to the chagrin of Dow, who briefly disavowed any responsibility as per policy. The Yes Men again helped Dow be clearer about their feelings. Dow takes two hours to notice that, the full interview therefore runs twice, and for two hours the story is the top item on CNN reports a Dow stock loss of 2 billion dollars on the German exchange. After Dow notes emphatically that it is not in fact going to do right by those non-shareholders in Bhopal, the retraction remains the top Google story for the rest of the day. After two hours, Dow express itself more fully by mailing out a more formal retraction: "Dow will NOT commit ANY funds to compensate and treat 120,000 Bhopal residents who require lifelong care.... Dow will NOT remediate (clean up) the Bhopal plant site.... Dow's sole and unique responsibility is to its shareholders, and Dow CANNOT do anything that goes against its bottom line unless forced to by law." For a while, this becomes the top story on Fake financial results of BAM BAM is a construction company involved in the construction of a big detention complex for illegal migrants in the Netherlands. For this reason activists started a direct action campaign against this company. On the 3rd of March 2011, the announcement of the annual BAM group financial results was expected, together with a press conference and a press release addressed to journalists of the sector. On the 2nd of March 2011, a press releases announcing fake financial results was send by BAM to several hundred of journalists; it announced relevant losses for the group, giving the image of a disastrous year for the company. This release was a fake, but completely mimed the style and the graphics of the real releases sent by BAM, and it came from the BAM address used for email alerts. After 1 hour this fake release was circulated, BAM sent a press release for disproving the false one.

Fake Standard and Poor's Press release announcing a downgrade of G4S. G4s is the largest European private security company, attacked for several reasons by activists. It is involved in the Israeli colonialist politics and in the European deportation system, for which it runs several detention centres. On June 2012, a press release was sent by Standard and Poor's announcing a downgrade of G4s. The reason justifying this downgrade was a suppose G4S's loss of all the justice sector contracts in UK, due the ambiguous death of a detainee in a company's detention centre. The press release was a fake, but it was sent out from the original Standard and Poor mail and apparently reached thousands of contacts actually on the S&P press list. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services denied the downgrade after 4 hours with a text statement declaring they has become aware of a false information in the market indicating their rating on G4S has changed, while they have actually not taken any rating action on G4S.

Some practical ideas for DIY information guerilla actions: sending fake press releases
Information guerilla actions may have a large variety of forms and different way to be realized. Here we give hints for a specific idea: sending a fake press release from a company or an institution.

First step creating a forged mail: sending a fake mail from someone else's mail address That is extreamely easy. You can send mails from whatever address just typing few command lines in the erminal (on Mac or Linux) or in the prompt (on Windows). You don't need any password, just the correct name of the mail address you want to borrow. You need to use a program called telnet, which is installed by default on every computer. You can find around easy tutorials on how to use telnet, for instance here : it is very easy to learn! For doing that in a proper and effective way, you should consider some important points: Finding a good smtp server for your action Not all the smtp servers are appropriate for this kind of action. Some servers limit your time of connection with telnet, some servers limit the maximum number of recipients. You should test your server beforehand for checking if it let you send your mail to the desired number of recipients . The test consists in checking to how many recipients you can send an e-mail, and what happens with the sequential sending of mails. Sometimes a server limits the number of recipients for each sent e-mail, but it does not bother you if you connect many times in a few minutes and send many mails. In this case, there is no problem: for instance, if you have to send your mail to 100 recipient and the maximum number of recipients is 40, you can send your mail in three batches. Other servers lock out your ip for a while after you send too many mails in a short delay of time: in this case this server is not a proper one, try elsewhere. You can just use whatever mail address for testing, you can also invent some addresses. Good tip: Universities servers are often a good choice.

Writing the data field With telnet, manually creating the data field of your mail can be very time consuming. Luckily, you can easily skip that with a simple trick. You have to create two new e-mail addresses, a sender and a recipient address. The recipient should be an account on an e-mail server which let you see the whole original code of received mails (for instance Gmail, with the button show original message). You send your fake mail from the first account to the second, and then you just check the original code of the received message. You can copy this, and this will be the content of the data field in telnet when you will send the actual fake mail (actually you shall not copy everything, but just everything included between "From:" and the end of the code- you should cut away the first lines). Testing the good delivery of the message When you have constructed your data field, you can test your message. Just use telnet for sending your message from whatever e mail address to a test mail you created for this purpose. If the message arrived correctly and well formatted, then the data field was fine. Otherwise, or if the message arrives to the junk mail folder, there should be something wrong in the format (for the junk folder, the cause may also be an inappropriate HELO) choosing a good helo When you type the HELO command, you should insert an helo address coherent with the sender address ( helo mail from: If the two field are not coherent, many e-mail clients see the sender as a spammer and put your mail in the junk folder. making a lot of tests Making lot of tests is a good idea! Everything should be taken in account. You can create lot of test mail for your tests, and it is better you keep creating new ones for every test so you can harder be tracked. In the case you want to do something more complicate with a large press list: In the case your fake mail want to reach a large press list with an ambitious aim, a good thing to do is doing lot of tests before! Also a good idea is to write some script to automate the use of telnet - in this case you will have to learn some bases of javascript or bash!

Example an expect script (for Linux) for sending a sequential number of mails (useful for testing the server as well)
#!/usr/bin/expect -f set host "" set helo_domain "" set sender "" set recipients_file $argv # file with recipients mails set data_file "" #file with the mail data set rcpt_fileid [open $recipients_file r] set data_fileid [open $data_file r] spawn telnet $host 25 expect "220" { send_user "220" } send "HELO $helo_domain\n" expect "250" { send_user "250" } send "MAIL from: $sender\n" expect "250" set line [gets $rcpt_fileid] while { $line >= 0 } { send "RCPT to: $line\n" expect "250" set line [gets $rcpt_fileid] } send "DATA\n" expect "354" send [read $data_fileid] send "\n.\n" expect "250" send "QUIT\n" expect "221" exit

Second step - collecting a decent press list This is a very important point. For giving credibility to a fake press release you should send it to a good proxy of the original press list of your target, or to build a large press list for the relevant sector. How to get it? You have to study your target and its environment. You can find press contacts on some sites, you can ask to someone working in the sector to help out, some websites sell access to huge press list (and you can ask for a trial versions), etc. You should be very creative and very analytic, and informatics tools may help. Third step - studying your enemy Mimetic attitude is very important together with an accurate analysis. Studying the behaviour of your enemy and its communication style is at the core of the good success of an action. You can do many things: subscribe a spy e- mail in the press list of your target, in order to receive releases from it, checking all the material available on-line, making researches, etc.

Forth step - Find good insiders People that knows better than you the environment of your target can give very helpful hints and also handle some relevant information. Be respectful with them: don't use any information in a way that may expose them to some risks! Remember security is always the first concern! You should take good security measure. Use enough informatics precautions for protecting your self and your investigations and don't leave any track. Tor, proxies, encryption, amnesic operative systems may be useful allies. When you do the action itself you can use a public connection (remember to spoof your wireless card's mac!) or from an internet cafe/public library that don't ask for identity. Remember that sending mails with telnet is easily traceable (less if you use a Proxy with telnet, but that is not always comfortable), so consider the IP address of the connection you use will be quickly tracked! Have fun!