Mobilizing Online Against War
By Cynthia L. Webb
Tuesday 11 March 2003
The Pentagon is proudly displaying its technological superiority as it ramps up for a possible war with Iraq, but antiwar groups too are engaged in a high-tech mobilization to protest a U.S. military intervention.
Hundreds of Web sites -- many cross-linked to sympathetic groups in a grassroots effort to drum up support -- are urging Americans and people worldwide to take action. Site visitors are urged to download antiwar posters, sign online petitions and send chain e-mail letters to friends and lawmakers. The Internet is allowing antiwar groups to communicate nationwide and across the globe in ways hardly possible during any other conflict in American history.
Last month, Moveon.org (http://www.moveon.org/) and the Win Without War coalition (http://www.winwithoutwarus.org/) organized a "Virtual March" on Washington, asking Americans to call their members of Congress and inundate Capitol Hill with e-mail and faxes. The groups claimed more than 85,000 people participated in the online protest.
On March 15, groups opposed to a war with Iraq are planning protests in several U.S. cities, including Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Over the next several days, washingtonpost.com will survey the antiwar movement's use of the Internet to spread its message, looking at how national, religious, student and other groups are conducting their organizing campaigns. On Friday this feature will look at online campaigns employed by groups supporting President Bush's policy on Iraq.
Yesterday, Moveon.org and other antiwar organizations were posting a letter on their Web sites for readers to sign and submit online to protest President Bush's push for a second U.N. Security Council resolution to authorize force against Iraq. Moveon.org said it planned to submit the letters to members of the security council.
While e-mail has been used to flood lawmaker's inboxes, online faxes have become another powerful tool of the antiwar movement. Washington-based True Majority -- an education and advocacy nonprofit group -- offers a link on its home page (http://www.truemajority.org/) that users can click "to send free faxes to Congress and the president telling them we can win without war and they should let the inspections work."
Antiwar groups are also using the Web to raise money, hawking T-shirts and other goods online, such as the New York-based antiwar group Not In our Name (http://www.notinourname.net/). Not In Our Name also issues talking points on its Web site to help war supporters chime in on the debate about war in Iraq -- a common tool in the online antiwar world to aimed at getting activists everywhere to speak with one voice.
Activist tactics developed by the AIDS movement's loudest voice, Act Up (http://www.actup.org/), are being disseminated by antiwar groups. The London-based Active Resistance to the Roots of War (http://www.j-n-v.org/) links from its Web site to the ACT-UP guidelines on how to carry out protests. Arrow also is circulating an online petition for antiwar support on its Web site, telling readers: "You can choose whether to pledge to directly participate in nonviolent action or whether to pledge to play a support role which does not risk arrest."
Message boards and e-mail discussion groups are home to ongoing dialogue about Iraq. Yahoo! hosts a number of discussion groups, including a small group of Arizona residents who are opposed to war, and a 450-member discussion group by a group called the National Network to End the War Against Iraq (http://www.endthewar.org/). This site blends tried-and-true tactics with online ones, advocating traditional snail mail letter-writing campaigns while also providing downloads of fliers. The site links to yet another group protesting the potential war, International ANSWER, "Act Now to Stop War and End Racism" (http://www.internationalanswer.org/). The group is part of a coalition that is preparing to join the March 15 protests to speak out against a war with Iraq.
Some organizations -- including the Education for Peace in Iraq Center -- are linking to an online peace pledge (http://www.peacepledge.org/) for readers to register their opposition to a war in Iraq. Some 70,000 signatures have been gathered so far, according to the site.
Meanwhile, the group Cities For Peace uses its Web site (http://www.citiesforpeace.org/) to encourage people to write to their local lawmakers to protest action in Iraq. The site even provides links to a sample opinion piece and other activism tools.
Patriots For Peace has a button on its home page that lets readers send out links back to the site (http://www.patriotsforpeace.org/), and it offers geographically tailored antiwar posters for download. The site, like many others, also features downloadable posters and has a Paypal account set up for people to make donations.
One loud voice against war has its roots in radio. Amy Goodman, host of the Pacifica Radio network's "Democracy Now!" show (http://www.democracynow.org/) is broadcasting daily shows on the radio and on the Internet, offering a "daily polestar for those who crave the antiwar perspective that mainstream networks and newspapers often consign to the margins," The Washington Post reported Monday. "War coverage should be more than a parade of retired generals and retired government flacks posing as reporters," Goodman told The Post. "Why not invite on some voices that are not Pentagon-approved?"
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