During this past week’s class discussion, we focused on communication, power and counter-power, and what these affordances make possible within society.
Manuel Castell, in Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society states, “throughout history communication and information have been fundamental sources of power and counter-power, of domination and social change […] the fundamental battle being fought in society is the battle over the minds of the people” (Castell, 238).
Consequently, counter-power works to fight against social norms and create new networks or frameworks within society. These actions work to change the system in place, contest current power structures, and undermine their credibility in the hopes of “disrupting the domination” and creating an opening for discussion. Throughout history there have been many notable individuals that have displayed courageous amounts of counter-power. For example, Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus, the unidentified individual who stood up against a column of army of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989, Lt. Ehren Watada who refused to be deployed to Iraq because he didn’t feel the American Invasion was right, and many more besides! These individuals acted deliberately in defiance of the status quo, acting against the dominating power structure in place, assuming freedom.
Lt. Ehren Watada, “the first commissioned officer of the U.S. armed forces to refuse deployment to Iraq” disrupted the domination system in power. Watada believed that participating in the war would make him guilty of crimes against humanity. Speaking up against the systems in power was not simple; Watada not only received significant backlash from the mainstream media and other individuals in the army, but was charged with numerous offences and faced potential prison time. Watada was not practicing the “preferred behaviour” of an individual under the ‘domination’ of the U.S. Army, but represented himself through an action of counter-power. Watada’s act of counter-power initiated anti-war demonstrations and other rallies, creating a ripple effect on previously closed networks. Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization focused on human rights, put out a press release in response to Watada’s sentencing stating that imprisoning Watada would violate international rights and they would not stand for this. Acts of counter-power can therefore affect larger networks to adjust and transform, shifting the configuration of power between the ‘dominator’ and opposition. Engaging in counter-power for something we believe in might be challenging, yet it is necessary in order to create the possibility of change in the existing social domination . The acts of counter-power discussed above are courageous and inspirational acts of counter-power that have transformed human rights.