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Provoking an arrest to gain publicity and highlight a law's unjustness is one civil-disobedience tactic, but I don't see it as the only one, or a particularly canonical form. Thoreau's original essay on the subject focused on the moral imperative to ignore unjust laws through noncompliance. That might result in an arrest, or it might not; the important part was noncompliance, and provoking an arrest was simply a necessary evil that might result, not the point of civil disobedience, or something to actively seek.

I hadn't thought of Al Capone as an example of civil disobedience, but that's an interesting point, and I'll admit that example does strengthen your point, because he isn't what people usually think of as civil disobedience. There are many more examples than Al Capone of aiming primarily to change the situation directly, rather than mainly aimed at provoking a symbolic arrest, though. Would you consider the Underground Railroad an example of civil disobedience, or of something else?

Even in cases where there is a desire to provoke a high-profile, symbolic arrest, widespread flouting to render the law unenforceable is often part of the strategy as well. For example, Gandhi's famous Salt March had two components. On the one hand, Gandhi personally, very publicly and openly, announced his intention to make salt, and began a march to the sea where he'd do so, in a symbolic gesture to violate the British salt laws and provoke arrest. But equally importantly, the Salt March was intended to kick off millions of Indians making their own salt, rendering the law so widely violated that it became completely unenforceable. You (and Kerr) seem to be thinking of the first part of that as the only thing that counts as "civil disobedience", but the second part was critically important to the success of the Salt March, and I think it's fair to call it an example of widespread civil disobedience.

I think being an a abortion provider in countries where it is illegal is a totally valid form of civil disobedience, with the goal being to successfully provide services, not to be caught and convicted.


I think the discussion about civil disobedience is largely a straw man to steer the conversation in a certain direction.

The point of his actions in this case (if as described in the blog post, which hasn't been concluded) was to directly change the way the data was distributed and therefore better described as a 'direct action'.

For a description of 'direct action', see the third paragraph of the first page in this book: http://books.google.se/books?id=W15vhV6EiSQC&pg=PA1


It's actually criminal - known as murder.


Abortion when outlawed usually had separate laws (as far as I can tell), although the punishments were equally high.

Also pretty sure "civil disobedience" precludes violating criminal law vs. merely civil violations. The requirement is general non-violence, although that's more specifically "non-violent civil disobedience". Abortion or euthanasia are unclear if they're violent.


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