The Social Pitch

Where society is the final frontier.

Hacking as symbolic violence

The cyber warfare between the Philippines and China is often celebrated by citizens of each country because the aggressive exchanges of online tactics bring forth an unimaginable excitement to the general public as the standoff will show who will decisively be the boss of the Spratlys and  Scarborough Shoals at the end of the day. A few days ago, Chinese hackers made their way to the website of the University of the Philippines. A few days later, Filipinos shot back. Earlier today, the DBM website became a victim of Chinese vengeance.

The global debate on the threat of China as a superpower is intense. China is getting bigger. China claims this. China claims that. The ongoing territorial disputes occuring among China, Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries within the region bring the the military capability of each nation under the spotlight. While actual military violence is being reserved as the final option, the recent cyber showdown between the two countries do breed dangerous implications that are subtle and often ignored.

While the act of hacking done by parties from both countries has been labelled as witty, sneaky, funny, and even downright shitty, little attention is given to the possibility that such acts can be considered as forms of symbolic violence. Symbolic violence, as coined by Pierre Bourdieu, points out to conscious actions that have unconscious discriminatory meanings.

It doesn’t take an extraordinary eyesight to see and realize that this online standoff is not, in any way, a threat to each nation’s survival as it does not possess the killing capacity of a Chinese Type 99 tank. However, even through online discourses, we can see here how the effects of the dirty game of international politics can trickle down to our daily social habits.

Glorifying the online attacks can indeed cultivate an identity that fosters a strong sense of nationalism among the citizens of the Philippines and China. But does it come with a high price?

On a daily basis, we expose our five senses to an overwhelming variety of social patterns that we usually take for granted. Here comes the danger of symbolic violence. With the hot-blooded dispute between the Philippines and big China and the subsequent online skirmish which is being applauded by many, people are at a vulnerable position where their ideas of prejudice can be easily redefined and intensified in the long run. Think about it. After getting emotional and identifying yourself as an online defender of the country, what crosses your mind when you see a Chinese gentleman who is walking down the street? What comes into the mind of a Chinese hacker when he sees a Filipino family spending time in a particular public park? And just to add, how genuinely Chinese are these so-called Chinese hackers?

The fight for territory becomes a breeding ground for bigotry against an identified “enemy”. Conflict at the micro level becomes magnified. Our patterned behavior may be unconsciously altered as we express hidden discriminatory messages in daily dominant discourses whenever we interact with somebody who belongs to “the other side”.

With the constant pressure from the populace and the random acts of symbolic violence done by the citizens, I can only hope that the present social arrangements will allow a space for an effective diplomatic settlement.

A cyber conflict is risky enough. An actual warfare is the last thing we obviously need.

7 comments on “Hacking as symbolic violence

  1. sa21c
    April 26, 2012

    Reblogged this on sociologyanthropologyc1213 and commented:
    Hi Class,
    Here is an example of a sociological blog talking about the the series of website hacking connected with the Scarborough shoal issue. This article might inspire you get started with your own blog entry.

  2. johnlevimasuli
    April 27, 2012

    I agree for the most part, and my anxiety escalates specially when I remember our history lesson on how World War I started. However I am not ready to assent on the idea of symbolic violence breeding irrational prejudice. While political conflicts, even violent ones, inevitably spawn micropolitical consequences such as racist hatred, I still believe hacking is a legitimate political action. In this particular case, however, we are obviously at the losing end since China is a technological and economic behemoth. In the end, I propose that Filipinos should do more than hacking or any other form of ‘cyber protest.’

    • Thanks, JLM.

      I’m associating hacking as a form of symbolic violence which will possibly give way to the redefinition of prejudice because the action itself implies a certain degree of domination of one group over the other. While claiming this territory as ours, we assert ourselves in order to achieve the end goal. The language used and the meanings conveyed by those people who have the ability to hack are imposed on the rest of the members of the population of a particular race or state. With this, people might tend to overgeneralize.

      Legitimate political action or not, the act of hacking done in this context is targeting a particular government and people — there will always be subtle consequences that may include stereotyping, misjudgment, and one-sidedness. But don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean I’m in favor of what is happening between us and China. You’re right — we are at a disadvantageous position when it comes to armed conflict capacity. Even though the US is claiming that it will always be our big brother no matter what, the real outcome just might upset and disappoint the people.

  3. Trish Kotarski
    June 5, 2012

    Thanks for all your valuable hard work on this site. My daughter loves conducting internet research and it is obvious why. Almost all notice all of the lively manner you make useful ideas via the website and as well inspire participation from visitors about this concept then our princess has been learning a lot. Take advantage of the rest of the new year. You’re doing a really good job.

  4. Charles Taualii
    June 6, 2012

    Awsome article and right to the point. I am not sure if this is really the best place to ask but do you folks have any ideea where to get some professional writers? Thank you :)

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This entry was posted on April 25, 2012 by in Polity and tagged , , .

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