Someone said they didn’t donate to a particular progressive non-profit because they didn’t want their name “on the list”. We heard this exact same sentiment from people in Romania, Russia, and the US a few weeks ago when my team at Greenpeace was doing some user research. We were looking into what drives people to act. Action is relevant at the moment.
This idea “I don’t want to be on the list” had me thinking. I thought about writing a post about anonymous resistance. I started thinking about how I protect my privacy online. I started thinking about writing quick tutorials on how to shield your IP or just doing the bare minimum and using things like Privacy Badger and HTTPs Everywhere. Tiny things, you know, to fuzzy your identity a little. But none of that is really enough.
Even the small actions, that are easy for people to take, like signing a petition or donating money, put their personal data “out there”. Most of the petitions you see online need real identities and addresses. Donations create a trail of data. Without some serious skills, you can’t donate anonymously – the advice out there is like “donate in cash” or “have a pastor act as an intermediary” or “set up a foundation”. None of it is something most people are going to go through the trouble of doing.
I was noodling on this and ended up bringing it up to a former East German. Someone who was 17 when the wall came down. Someone who didn’t tell his schoolmates that his parents watched pirated news from the West because his parents had warned him not to. Someone who drove an ambulance and identified assailants when Neo-nazis set flame to a refugee house. Someone who knows what it means to actually be “on the list”.
I said, “How can I help people resist anonymously?” And he said, “You shouldn’t.”
“RIGHT NOW is the time to stand up,” he said. We still have the rule of law. We still have our constitutions and our manifestos, our proclamations and charters. It’s scary, sure, but if we don’t stand up and stand together now, the laws will be changed. And then we are really fucked.
You aren’t anonymous anyway. Our cities and counties are full of CCTVs. Facial recognition software is prevalent. You have registration numbers or social security numbers, drivers licenses, tax records. You are participating right now, you’re not anonymous.
Do not whisper your distain for the policies and actions your government officials are taking. Scream it. Argue with the white nationalists in your office. Call your representatives and tell them NO. Do not remain silent, and do not leave it to others. Do not sit there and think “Well, the kids at Berkeley are standing up” or “There were plenty of people at that march in London.” Because people thought that before, and the Stasi showed up anyway.
Your actions matter. If you can’t manage to protest, make a phone call. Donate to the many, many organizations that are resisting.
Put your name on “the list” and be proud of it.