Sunday, July 03, 2011
Anonymous launches cyber-retaliation in Orlando over law prohibiting feeding the homeless
by Larry Geller
Orlando city officials passed a law against feeding the homeless. They have arrested protesters attempting to defy the law. Last week the apparently well-off city officials found their personal salaries and the value of their expensive homes posted by hackers on the Internet for all to see.
And the contrast is stark—a rich elite dealing with the almost universal scourge of homelessness not with sympathy and understanding but with starvation.
It’s hard not to have sympathy for the latest action by hacker group Anonymous. Hawaii has no law prohibiting feeding, but a governor’s initiative is trying to do the same thing here.
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie and his homelessness czar Marc Alexander have asked charities not to feed the homeless in parks on Oahu, but it is not illegal. Orlando has seen protests, arrests, and now suffered cyber-attacks as the public reacts to oppose their action.
Anonymous has already taken down websites in Orlando, if only briefly. An article on the Forbes website brought nationwide attention to the cyber-attacks and to the retaliatory posting last week, of financial information about certain city officials.
”… Since early Tuesday hackers have been launching attacks on Orlando-based targets including OrlandoFloridaGuide.com and the websites of the Orlando Chamber of Commerce and Universal Studios in retaliation for arrests of Orlando workers for the non-profit Food Not Bombs who lacked permits.
“These are the folks that wrote and are enforcing a very brutal law against very poor people,” Commander X, who says he is serving as the current “editor in chief” of the two sites, wrote to me over instant message. ”They themselves appear to be very very rich, so we thought we would point that out.”
[Forbes, Anonymous Launches A WikiLeaks For Hackers: HackerLeaks, 6/30/2011]
Thanks to Forbes and other media coverage, Anonymous has reached far more people and raised far more awareness than they might have by simply relying on tweets and social media. Probably, many readers are fully sympathetic with the protests, if not the methods, which are certainly illegal.
As to the data, salary data for Hawaii government workers has been posted on the web first by Civil Beat while still behind its paywall, and in the open by the Open Data Project. Home value data is available in many cities (including Honolulu) on publicly viewable websites. So it is not clear whether the data posted by Anonymous was necessarily obtained illegally, or that posting it is illegal. To most people it will be taken as an obvious form of cyber-retaliation. To Orlando city officials it will be one more pressure on them to revise their thinking. Orlando, as a popular tourist destination, must be as sensitive as Hawaii is about its public image.
In Hawaii, pandering to APEC motivates attack on poor
Hawaii media and blogs have strongly criticized the Governor’s announcement of a 90-day program to combat homelessness as a transparent move to sweep the streets and parks clean before the November APEC 2011 summit in Honolulu. The Governor’s press conference itself was coldly clinical in regard to the feeding, promising social services (which the state has already cut back to the bare bones) in conjunction with the food cutoff. It’s not clear whether the public nor the many serving agencies will cooperate. After all, why not promote social services in addition to providing food.
Most people are aware that many homeless have jobs but cannot afford rent. In this economy, those who have lost their jobs may also find themselves in the parks. Probably (I can’t find current numbers) fully 1/3 of the homeless are children. So calling for starving them out of the parks is not likely to be popular, and is no substitute for investing in proven methods to assist the homeless that have been put in place in some other cities.
Particularly, those religious organizations that include feeding in their outreach can be expected to resist.
"The governor's policy about not feeding the homeless? That's going to be a tough sell to Christians who take Jesus seriously when he condemns those who see the hungry and do not feed them, and who see the thirsty and give them nothing to drink.
[Star-Advertiser, State clarifies advice on feeding homeless, 6/4/2011]
In that article, czar Alexander is quoted as saying he never said to stop feeding the homeless, but the article quotes his words demonstrating that he did.
Alexander countered with his own invocation of Jesus:
Among other values, "Jesus is about leadership and giving them not a handout, but a hand up. Instead of giving them a fish, teach them how to fish," said Alexander, former vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.
Advocates for the homeless outside of Hawaii point out that teaching someone to fish is a great idea, but that assumes that there are fish out there to be caught. In an economy as devastated as we have today, there simply are no jobs even for those with strong qualifications and extensive experience. Alexander’s response seems crude and ill informed, only strengthening the impression that it is motivated more to present a smiley face to APEC delegates than to seriously provide assistance for those living outside of homes.
At least Hawaii has not emulated Orlando by codifying bad policy into law. By the time the next legislative session opens in January 2012, APEC will be but a memory and the budget crisis will likely create new social service concerns.
Homelessness is one manifestation of a class war that has devastated all but the most well-off members of American society. Public consciousness is growing across the country even as Republican-led state governments move against workers’ rights and depress pay and benefits even further. The hacker attack against Orlando is but one aspect of this class war.
Anonymous has succeeded in pointing out that those who would starve the poor are quite well off themselves. That’s as true in Honolulu and elsewhere as it is in Orlando.