Kickstriker would make The Yes Men jealous.
Created by three NYU students — two of whom I spoke with — the website labels itself as “a funding platform for activists and engineers working to resolve global conflicts,” then goes on to suggest projects one might fund — Kony 2012, a DIY Drone Strike, arming Tibetan militas to fight back against China, and a mobile black site/interrogation van.
After reaching out and making 100% sure the thing wasn’t for real, I had the following exchange:
EF: Who first thought of the idea?
Mehan Jayasuriya: The three of us were all in one of Clay Shirky’s classes together (“Political Uses of Social Media”), discussing the Kony 2012 campaign when James had a moment of inspiration: “What’s stopping a group like this from just hiring Academi (aka Blackwater) and sending in a private militia to capture this guy?” I then asked why not take it a step further and create a crowdfunding platform that would allow people to directly fund private military interventions in various conflicts? After we all stopped laughing and cringing, we realized that we couldn’t not build the site.
EF: What kind of discussion led up to the project? Were you guys more concerned with framing the idea, did you talk about — say — David Cameron’s TED talk, where he pretty much discussed devolving sectors of government to an idea like that, the way citizens in Vancouver used social media to track hockey rioters down, or … ?
MJ: Our starting point was Kony 2012. We all really liked Teju Cole’s piece in the Atlantic (“The White Savior Industrial Complex”) and were talking about what James has called the “commodification of altruism”. Our initial idea was to use the project page for Kony to take that idea to its logical, ghoulish conclusion. From there we came up with the DIY drone idea—since we’re all DIY technologists of a sort, it was easy for us to imagine a project that would appeal to many geek sensibilities (open-source! Arduino!) in a way that would pull people in, despite the terrifying implications of putting something like this out into the world. And from there we just started spitballing ideas for projects—whatever made us laugh the most made it in to the site.
In terms of issues, we hope that people who land on the Kickstriker page will walk away thinking about the privatization of warfare, the long-term ramifications of ‘clicktivism,’ and the somewhat unique sense of entitlement that we, as Americans, feel to prescribe solutions to conflicts that arise in other countries.
EF: Okay. An impossible question as a follow up: given that this is an awfully good, almost Situationist-y satire: what do you think constitutes an elegant, non-discordant application of power? Mossad’s intelligence work before The Six Day War, perhaps?
James Borda: Hey, Evan. This question was passed on to me, though I haven’t the slightest idea how to answer. “Elegant” and “application of power” are not two concepts that I’ve ever considered putting in a single sentence. And my knowledge of the six day war is limited to what I just read on Wikipedia.
I suppose the most elegant application of power I can think of is encapsulated in Lincoln’s quote: “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?”
Few conflicts are intractable when you get the bigots and ideologues out of the picture. Therein lies the rub.