Contemporary Social Movements and Media: The Emergent Nomadic Political Logic and its Nervous System

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On January 1, 1994 thousands of masked guerillas stormed the capital of Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, declaring the birth of a new revolution. In the spirit of Mexican revolutionaries Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, the largely Mayan uprising declared “Enough Is Enough” and took the name the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). The initial uprising took place on January 1, as that was the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was due to go into effect. Leaders of the Zapatistas argued that NAFTA was a “death sentence” to subsistence farming, which was the predominant way of life in rural Chiapas. The Zapatista uprising lasted ten days, and the goal of the EZLN was to call

the rest of the poor and oppressed in the country into an open struggle with the “Mexican federal Army, the pillar of the Mexican Dictatorship.” The EZLN vision was to march on Mexico City and defeat the Mexican army, which would lead to “forming a government of our country that is free and democratic.” However, as the military action continued, the Zapatistas became increasingly isolated and overpowered by the Mexican military. The Zapatistas retreated into the mountains of Chiapas and the Mexican mili-

tary aimed to pursue them with the intent to wipe out this resistance. At this moment, the Zapatistas and their networks of support changed tactics, utilizing pre-existing networks and the growing power of the internet to intervene in the struggle. Their timing was fortuitous, as 1994 was the birth of the cybernetics age, and it was a moment when the internet was emerging as a central communication tool. Thus, EZLN supporters utilized email lists and other tools to mobilize people to swarm to Mexico City and Chiapas as well as Washington D.C., to demand an end to the armed conflict. This strategy was successful, and an armistice was called, which ultimately led to a peace accord.

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Contemporary Social Movements and Media: The Emergent Nomadic Political Logic and its Nervous System, in J. Smith, M. Goodhart, P. Manning & J. Markoff (Eds.), Social Movements and World-System Transformation, Routledge