Kickstriker: Crowdsourced Violence

When Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign went viral, much of the internet was horrified at Kony and the violence towards children in Uganda. They wanted something “done”. But what? And by whom? Kickstriker, a website started by Josh Begley, James Borda and Mehan Jayasuriya, three NYU ITP students, asked those questions.

Kickstriker offers funders four campaigns to support – a mobile interrogation unit, capturing Kony, weoponized drones and helping a Tibetan militia resist Chinese rule. The website is a parody, of course, but asks an interesting question. What happens when you marry crowdsourced internet campaigns and private security forces? Doesn’t this technology already exist? And who has the right to use it? As the website says, “Kickstriker is our attempt to cut out the middleman in online activism, allowing funders to directly support the causes they care about.”

I emailed with James Borda, one of the students who created the website, about the response to Kickstriker. “A small percentage got the joke right away. Some were relieved when I revealed the joke. A lot of good conversations ensued – a few people insisted that the scenario was far-fetched and if anyone actually built Kickstriker it would immediately be shut down. ‘By whom?,’ I asked. What if the site is mirrored in a dozen rivalrous countries?”

“The United States hasn’t declared war on any state since 1942,” continued Borda. “Getting congressional permission to fight has in effect been declared a political anachronism. I think what’s so scary about Kickstriker is it illustrates how military-level force is becoming available to many more parties, and how the deliberative processes that were designed over the past few centuries to facilitate decisions about the use of force are becoming obsolete.”

“A fancy word for terrorists these days is super-empowered non-state actors. The Internet offers tools that any organization can use to become ‘super-empowered.’ It has been generally accepted political theory since Max Weber that nations have a legitimate ‘monopoly on violence,’ but that monopoly is being broken up by a bunch of non-state upstarts, like Mexico’s narco-gangs, the Iraqi insurgency, and Blackwater private security. No one knows how a new balance of power will be struck, or how much violence will ensue before that equilibrium is found.”

“I personally believe that the Internet and other communications tech have let this genie out of the bottle, and it can’t be stuffed back in.”

(Photo: Charles McCain/Flickr)