Technology and Civil Unrest: 3615 LIBE
France has a long and storied history with revolution, which has manifested itself in the modern day as a propensity for the French populous to engage in protest. One particularly noteworthy period is the 1986-87 student led demonstrations. Beginning in November of 1986, the protests began as a reaction to the Devaquet laws (Bryson, 1987). Previous to the Devaquet laws, there were few selective universities in France, with the majority of secondary education institutions practicing open admissions to any who applied having graduated a high school equivalent education (Lief, 1986). In November the laws passed allowing for these previously open universities to begin restricting their admittance, along with the introduction of non-national diplomas. A large portion of students saw this as the adoption of an elitist American education system.
After the passing of the Devaquet laws students across France began engaging in peaceful protest, with thousands blocking the route to the national assembly building in Paris. It is estimated that 600,000 demonstrators participated in Paris and its suburbs with millions taking up the cause across France, with many protesting outside governmental buildings and local university campuses.
Following the first wave of protests a committee, which consisted of over 300 delegates who came from 60 different universities, was formed as the strategic head of the movement. On December 2nd 1986 a general assembly meeting was held at the University of Jussieu, at this general assembly meeting it was decided that the movement needed a concentrated and accessible base for information, and within the day 3615 LIBE was created (Demars, 2019).
Minitel was an online network that ran through the dialing of telephone numbers, often beginning with 3615. The service was introduced experimentally in 1980, and was unveiled commercially by the French government in 1982. By 1986 Minitel had solidified its place as a widely used service in France. A bureau of 14 members was elected by the demonstration coordination committee for the purpose of creating a Minitel line for the demonstrations. The bureau elected to have the magazine publication Libération host the Minitel line. 3615 LIBE served as a place where demonstrators could collectivize their thoughts on the movement through “blog” posts, find relevant information regarding governmental activities, and a map which depicted dates and times of demonstration events across the country.
This specific line demonstrates the use of modern technology in aiding rebellion. Similar to the use of the AfroNet BBS, 3615 LIBE served as a place where the social movement could be defined for outsiders along with providing a non-geographical gathering place and source of information for insiders. This centralization of the movement shows how important it is for protests to have a clear goal and access to information. Sadly the line did not play a key role in the movement itself after its inception.
Two days after the advent of 3615 LIBE a large protest was held in Paris, during which a student was killed by police. This launched the movement into a frenzy, inciting riots which were met with tear gas and rubber bullets on the part of the French Police.
The violence of the following day prompted Alan Devaquet to resign from his position as Minister of Higher Education along with the withdrawal of his bill. In the end 3615 LIBE did not have the time to get off the ground and incite real change, with users numbering only in the tens of thousands. But Libération magazine continued to use the Minitel line after the protests (Libération, 1995). Along with the magazine line 3615 CQFD, which was used for games, 3615 LIBE was used by the publication as their online news site (Hanne, 2012).
While the use of 3615 LIBE was not integral to the 1986 student movement, it does point out the key relationship communication has with revolution. This can be easily taken for granted now in an age where information has been at our finger tips for the past two decades. But the advent of this Minitel line is reminiscent of organizational group chats and web pages such as that of Black Lives Matter today (BLM, 2021). The demonstration committee realized that protest of a minority against a government is an uphill battle, and they singled out the internet as a means of possibly leveling that playing field. And we can see in modern day social movements just how right they were.
Bryson, Scott S. “France through the Looking-Glass: The November-December 1986 French Student Movement.” The French Review, November 2, 1987.
Demars, Brice. “Le Minitel Et l’Étudiant.” Terminal, no. 125-126 (2019). https://doi.org/10.4000/terminal.5508.
Hanne, Isabelle. “Et La Presse Se Mit Sur Son 3615.” Libération, June 12, 2012. https://www.liberation.fr/ecrans/2012/06/12/et-la-presse-se-mit-sur-son-3615_956893/.
“Home.” Black Lives Matter, August 26, 2021. https://blacklivesmatter.com/?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=pmd_7VxF95o79ZtA_5eEnClQ_bmyjUjBBDHCVt_gzwoVWC0-1633107294-0-gqNtZGzNAhCjcnBszQhl.
Lief, Louise. “Behind French Student Strike: Worry over Society’s Direction. Immediate Concern Is over Proposed Education Reforms.” The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, December 5, 1986. https://www.csmonitor.com/1986/1205/ostu-f.html.
“A Nos Lecteurs. Pour L’indépendance. Dites-Le Nous Ici.” Libération, December 6, 1995. https://www.liberation.fr/medias/1995/12/06/a-nos-lecteurs-pour-l-independance-dites-le-nous-ici_152959/.