Introducing Agency, the World’s First Anarchist PR Firm

  • Posted on: 20 May 2015
  • By: worker

From Konbini - by DJ Pangburn

Since time immemorial, anarchism has had a PR problem. Its many ideological strands have never truly controlled their respective images and terms of debate in the public consciousness. Instead, for over a century this ground has been ceded to politicians, mainstream media and big business, who have separately and collectively framed anarchism as — to borrow the term once leveled against Throbbing Gristle — “wreckers of civilization”.

This, however, might change now that anarchism has a PR collective. Founded by Jen Angel and Ryan Only last October, the fittingly named “Agency” aims to insert the anarchist perspective into mainstream news and public dialogue, and more effectively communicate its ideas to the masses.

we are everywhere

Giving anarchism effective public relations will be a herculean effort. But, in the anarchist opinion, it is a vital ambition given capitalism’s (and western civilization’s) near constant economic and socio-political spasms.

Quietly, anarchism has explored alternative types of living, economy and social organization, with successes and failures like any ideology. (Look at Common Ground Collective‘s efforts in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and Occupy Sandy‘s work in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.) But most would never know of the successes since violent anarchist rioters tend to make the news.

We want more people exposed to anarchist ideas and one way of doing that… is to use the mainstream media.

Angel recently spoke to Konbini about the Agency’s PR effort. Unlike the slick world of capitalist public relations, Agency’s method is restrained and modest, which is quite unlike the snake oil sales pitches of traditional public relations efforts. In conversation, Angel went into Agency’s inception and where it plans to go in the near future.

“Ryan and I have been anarchists for a long time, and we both do PR professionally, and so around Occupy [in 2011] Ryan and I had very serious conversations about how to use our public relations skills to influence the way the mainstream media and the public were talking about anarchism,” Angel said. “The media would talk about anarchism and just not get it right, and one of the reasons is because people aren’t giving them better information, or they interview the same people all the time like David Graeber.”

'The Anarchist Cookbook'

‘The Anarchist Cookbook’

Angel believes that part of the reason the media so often interviews David Graeber — author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years and The Utopia of Rules – is that they don’t know who else to interview. So, Angel and Only wondered if they could be more proactive and give the media more people to interview. The two had no illusions that the media would always get it right, but they thought it worth trying to influence the media toward a “more accurate representation of anarchism”.

From these discussions Angel and Only began strategizing under the umbrella of Agency. They then brought on an advisory board that includes noted anarchist and community organizer scott crow.

“We want more people exposed to anarchist ideas and one way of doing that that’s not just preaching to the converted is to use the mainstream media,” Angel said. “There are different ways to get the mainstream media’s attention, and that’s where our strategies come up. We’ve just started, so we don’t have any huge successes, but Ryan and I both have experience in getting the media to pay attention to various causes and campaigns.”

agency-screenshot

Angel said that one of their strategies is reactive, where a member of the media — whether in print, radio, television or online — says something inaccurate about anarchism, and Agency calls them to talk about it. They also send letters to the editor about any reporting inaccuracies. Agency also pursues a proactive strategy, where they contact media with information about what anarchists think about topics, both domestic and global.

Our goal isn’t to sanitize anarchism and make it palatable. Our goal is to make all the different ideas within anarchism more accessible.

But with all of anarchism’s strands — from individualist anarchism to mutual aid — will Agency’s approach require various tactics? Angel certainly thinks so.

“Our goal isn’t to sanitize anarchism and make it palatable,” Angel said, “our goal is to make all the different ideas within anarchism more accessible. That means sometimes there will be contradictions: some anarchists think one thing, and some anarchists do not.”

Agency, for instance, published a reader on what anarchists think about gay marriage. Angel said that some anarchists totally oppose even talking about state involvement in intimate relationships. Other anarchists, however, acknowledge that there are real material gains wrapped up in the political process, and that it might be worth working towards.

An anarchist march in Montreal, protesting austerity measures. Image by Gerry Lauzon under Creative Commons license.

An anarchist march in Montreal, protesting austerity measures. Image by Gerry Lauzon under Creative Commons license.

“So, within the anarchist community there is some dissension about gay marriage, but there are a lot of real critiques about marriage from the anarchist perspective even with the contradictions,” Angel said. “Having healthcare or immigration tied to marital status is a critique that is widely shared, so I feel comfortable with promoting a diversity of [anarchist] perspectives.”

Agency also wrote an editorial on the ebola crisis, using it as a platform to talk about how a public health crisis would be dealt with in a world without states. Agency also has an “Anarchists In The News” section, which is an “ongoing list of anarchism and anarchists discussed or mentioned in mainstream media outlets”, where they encourage anarchists to respond to pieces with comments and letters to editors.

The Agency site also features a “Critical Voices” section, which offers analysis on news and perspectives. And, perhaps most importantly, Agency offers up press briefs to give mainstream media a repository for anarchist sources, quotes and interviews.

Will this all be enough to influence mainstream media and the public consciousness? Anarchism certainly faces an uphill battle and maybe even an impossible task. But Agency believes it’s a battle worth waging. If they don’t control the message, then mainstream media, which isn’t always an adversary of government and business, will do it for them.
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Comments

I don't even know where to start... The reformists are back in open season against radical anarchists, like back to the pre-2008 years.

And no, that "anarchist march" in Montreal was NOT ANARCHIST. Just because one or two protesters carry an @ flag amongst a sea of NATIONALIST and labor union flags doesn't make it "anarchist".

(as note to the uninformed foreigners, the "lily flower" is the common symbol of Quebec nationalism/independentism)

But this article -and project- is sooo full of wrong that the only valid answer is to attack these liberal fucktards.

Thankfully you're an ineffectual blow-hard, so "attack" clearly means write comments about other people's projects on a news. I'm sure folks working on Agency are trembling.

They're just feeling too safe in their petty bourgeois niche for that. But don't worry... we'll just wait 'till they gain capital and success for burning their German cars and smashing their offices, then just steal their precious studio equipment as spoils of war. Har har.

(Also your bragging does little to damage-control all the blatant nonsense contained this text, that only people with zero knowledge of contemporary anarchist praxis would write)

Your recuperation attempt will fail no matter what.

You realize that your "contemporary anarchist praxis" represents a tiny fraction of actual anarchists, right?

If even this effective communication is "recuperation" then we're pretty much fucked.

Please explain how you come to the conclusion that this person represents a tiny fraction of anarchists - compared to a much larger fraction? Or among many tiny fractions? Or not representative of anyone at all?

Also, please explain how this project constitutes "effective" communication, with effectiveness defined as "furthering anarchist goals".

It's "effective," probably, because it deals with issues important to anarchists, like Bill Cosby. Most anarchists think the best way to subvert hierarchy and control is by analyzing elderly comedians, linking to Rolling Stone articles about Green Day, and responding to some senator's attempt to ban a book that isn't even anarchist.

One of the best Anews comments ever !!!! Worker, please make note of this for next Anews ceremony/celebration.

Cranky @news trolls aren't all anarchists and don't reflect the views of just about any other site/sect/group of @s you could name?

As for "furthering anarchist goals", I would define them as something other than endlessly wasting away in endless hipster nihlist obscurity.

"Something other" is not something that you defined, it's negatively avoiding the definition of this something. You still haven't got any substance in your theory, just like this total BS article above, that all feels like either a huge prank or a snitching scam.

My "theory"? Get the fuck over yourself, this aint a journal submission, im responding to a bunch of unsubstantiated shit-talking.

I don't see how denouncing a complete BS article is "shit-talking". It's already complete shit. Who/what are you standing for here?

I'm not an @news troll, I'm just a person. I don't see how you can say that @news commenters/trolls are somehow a distinct and disconnected group (with internal consistency?) compared to any other grouping of anarchists out there.

And: "doing something" isn't inherently better than "not doing something". Sometimes it's actively counterproductive. This is a really, really bad answer. If you can't articulate why something is a good idea, you probably need to think about it more.

@News has a pretty distinct flavor compared to just about any other anarchist community, online or off, one could name (as do most others). As evidence for this I'd offer up:

a) Comments made by people on this site about other such communities (infoshop, anarchistmemes, libcom, etc).
b) Comments made on those sites about @news.
c) Comments made on @news about @news (this one really says it all).

This site is notorious. You'd have to be living under a rock to miss that. Most @s I know who visit it vehemently deny it to their friends, and most who don't just shake their heads and laugh every time it comes up. Among other things, it's known for being cynical, hyper-critical douchebags who shit all over every new project/proposal which comes along.

a) Libcom and Infoshop deserve all the "cynicism" (the term stands for the usual Leftist narrative of actual criticism, because anything that the anarcho-leftists "do" is sacralized with some moral aura where any critique simply can't exist) they get from being mostly desperately Left-wing dolts recycled from 2004 who haven't got any notion of the "soft power" or any picture of what capitalism is and how it works in the current world. Anarchismemes... seriously?

This site is notorious, yes. It's all good in my book to be notorious because that's how you get the upper hand on this society, and it was also always the character of anarchists of being notorious... well at least before the hey days of your pathetic civil anarchist tendency/networks who really get the kicks from being victims and losers.

Thanks for illustrating exactly what I was talking about.

If you and your friends take offense to any of the above then you're part of the fucking problem and good riddance to you anyway.

And also go back to your socialist "communities" and have fun there, especially with product placements for J.K. Rowlings books.

What that you're a fucking pathetic leftist with a victim complex?

A couple of things here. 1) You're writing off everyone who criticizes this project as an "@news" troll as a way of evading critique. 2) Your definition of "furthering anarchist goals" is meaningless because it defines itself only as the opposite of "hipster nihilist obscurity" and therefore encompasses a wide array of activities are explicitly NOT anarchist. 3) You're clearly trying desperately to construct strawmen to define yourself in opposition to. "Hipster," "nihilist": what do either of these words even mean to you besides "things I don't like." I guess you also missed where all the "hipster nihilists" (whatever that means) are also in love with pop culture and trying to appeal to imaginary masses (only they call them antagonist youth).

you mean as in VICE News? How capitalist, no fascistic one has to become in his praxis in order to "reach out to the masses"? I suppose you may as well buy or start a big telecom business so you can set up MORE antennas and coax cables so the masses get brainwashed by your anarchist media conglomerate instead of State capitalist media... WHY NOT!? Fucking moron.

And still no word about that "anarchist march in Montreal". Maaan, that was humongously gross in such a shallow way. Like a supermassive cop fart.

doesn't bode well for the ability of these folks to speak intelligently to critical audiences

"But this article -and project- is sooo full of wrong that the only valid answer is to attack these liberal fucktards"

= criticism?

Naw, that's just shittalk trolling, at best.

And who says the response to that comment was "these folks"? Practically everyone who writes comments on this site is an asshole, at least while they are doing so.

No, to say that the article is "full of wrongs" is, in fact, criticism. To call for attacking them is another thing.

From Dictionary.com:

"Criticism"
noun

1.
the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
2.
the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding."

But...

"Practically everyone who writes comments on this site is an asshole, at least while they are doing so."

Now THAT, mistah, is what we call "shit-talking" in teh backcountry!

but yes, still criticism. the "liberal" is the start of an argument, anyway.
and surely, if the goal of agency is to be a good faith bridge between anarchists and the rest of the world then the ability to communicate with anarchists who find danger in that tactic would be relevant?
either that or the anarchists who disagree with the consequences of such so-called bridge building are going to be rejected and denied as not being audience-friendly (you know, "not really anarchists, just trolls and assholes"), which is surely part of the concern.

and "everyone on this site is an asshole etc" is a charming way to not take responsibility for whatever conversation you're involved in here. by which i mean, of course, not charming at all.

I think for terminology like this the term libertarian might be more appropriate then anarchist.

This has gotta be a prank!

will never represent me!

The platform saves all! If not the rhetoric than what? How can 'we' impose 'our' ideal revolt without advancing modern physics and capitalism under the banner of flowery language?!?!

Will someone please think of the transhumanists??!!??!!

This is the funniest thing ever!

The reason that people like Graeber are interviewed so often is that most anarchists refuse to engage with the capitalist media. This project, or its "antagonist" sibling Mask Magazine, do little but reduce anarchy to another option in the democratic market of ideas or a niche market for aspiring capitalists. Anarchy is a nightmare for public relations: we are "wreckers of civilization, or should be.

"The media is part of the power structure, and, as such, is our enemy. We can’t play their game and win." - Caught in the Web of Deception

Sorry to be a dick but this comment is pure stupidity.

There is such a MASSIVE difference between engaging with capitalist media even on their terms at some points in time and creating an anarchism that looks like another choice in the market of ideas. Huge difference. Anarchism and the push towards anti-authoritarianism in general has to engage with anything and everything. Why the fuck not? What this project is doing is taking the idea that anarchism must engage and really fucking it up in a totally incoherent way.

Graeber doing interviews with the Guardian and maybe saying silly shit sometimes is eons away from this project. Anarchists in some areas of the country who come straight at the media and get attention are probably some of the most forward thinking people pushing our ideas in the USA. I am thinking specifically stuff coming from the west coast minus PDX. The areas that have said fuck you to the USA anarchy status quo and have connected with the public because they actually offer real alternatives minus the subcultural insanity while taking that social capital and throwing it back at the media and local governments make other cities look like a 1997 Food Not Bombs gathering.

It's actually laughable. Specially when the "I want to be in the anarchy USA crowd" still tries to function in this environment.

"There is such a MASSIVE difference between engaging with capitalist media even on their terms at some points in time and creating an anarchism that looks like another choice in the market of ideas."

S'cuse me, but the only massive difference here is purely of rhetorical nature. As in there's massive difference between an half-empty and and half-filled pint of beer.

" The areas that have said fuck you to the USA anarchy status quo and have connected with the public because they actually offer real alternatives minus the subcultural insanity while taking that social capital and throwing it back at the media and local governments make other cities look like a 1997 Food Not Bombs gathering."

Uh, in Seattle, the subculture is quite insane and as present as ever. If anything, as media-attackers drop off from the scene for various reasons, the city feels more and more like 1997 FNBs style activism.

The battle of ideas, and participation in media are mandatory for revolutionaries. Remember the printing press, back in the day was at least as potent as dynamite. Mass communication enables collective action.

There is no getting around it. Now mischaracterizing a nationalist march as an anarchist demonstration, if true, is bad journalism on the order of NBC or Fox.

We cannot wreck things by ourselves. Period anarchists will always be a minority, it is only when the ideas, tactics and frameworks start taking hold in social movements then a revolution based on anarchism is possible. Still you never get over 10% revolutionaries.

Revolutionaries are those impractical people focussed on an improbable goal the realization of the ideal at a likely cost to themselves.
You know people get down when all the food on the shelves is free.

Instead of abstention critics should create media and organizations that reflect their ideas. Remember this is open source revolutionary social science, theory and practice can only validated or invalidated by social experiment.

They are funny but let's see how much their project is effective.
I heard for this project many months ago and still when I check their domain at myip.ms, I see: < 200 visitors per day

If they are PR professionals, they should know how to promote their website, they should know more about media: ownership structure and connections of owners with government (now 6 corporations control thousands of media: http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-me...), dependance of media from corporations about ads/profit (therefore they make nice relations with corporations or they will loose profit), journalists and editors working for FBI/CIA (read the intercept from glenn greenwald: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/04/former-l-times-reporter-cl...), etc.

Expecting from capitalist media to spread nice picture about anarchists... that's comic. it is like that rockfeller kiss anarchists who would like to confiscate "his" property and give it to the society. There is no reason for anarchists to adapt in capitalist media than we must create our own media (websites, magazines, pirate radio, video and movies, etc).

Did you really think there was a single person here who hadn't heard about media consolidation? Congrats, you're officially as cutting and insightful as a copy of adbusters from the 90s.

I said it before when there was a previous post about this same project: Agency's praxis only makes sense in context with a much larger, more active anarchist movement. So come the day when there's a prolific, active, visible anarchist presence in your town that already organizes itself quite effectively and there's literally nothing else that they need you to do to help, THEN maybe you should consider abstract PR projects like this.

Where I come from, there's too much blogging and "discourse" already but nobody shows up to the logistics meetings, nobody knows how to run the sound system or try to break the cop line. PR is a ways down the list of priorities.

DID YOU FOLKS HEAR THAT THE YUPPIE MEDIA MISREPRESENTS US? WE SHOULD TOTALLY DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT!

Yes, comrade! We must become capitalists and REFORM the media. Then, only then can we afford to break cop lines and occupy, loot and smash things up while building living autonomous communities in the real world (because we'll be the State anyways, so...). But first... first let's reform Power.

it's "build dual power", now say it right or pay the price!

I think a more broad libertarian agency like this that doesn't pretend to try and bottle up the negational force of anarchism/anarchy might be interesting. If it were to try and be interesting liberalism as opposed to uninteresting anarchism I might lay off it.

No comment on Agency itself - but feel free to ask me in-person, if you know me and see me. My opinions may surprise you!

I want to note, however, that the march in the photography really should NOT be characterized as an anarchist march. I don't 100% know, but I would guess that this photograph is from a demonstration during this spring's student strike.

There are definitely some anarchists present, but they are a minority of the crowd. It is possible that the demo was called for by a group that has anarchists in it - which is, like, most of the organizations of the student anti-neoliberalism movement - and it's also possible (but unlikely) that it was called for as an explicitly "anti-capitalist" demonstration, but that seems unlikely. The crowd is way too big for that.

I don't even really know what would deserve to be called, in the Montréal context, "an anarchist march". I guess there have been a few over the years, including recently. But unless we're talking something that is primarily organized by anarchists, for anarchists, and if not entirely composed of anarchists, then at least hostile to visible manifestations of (among other things) Québécois nationalism, I don't think we can even consider "anarchist" as an appropriate description of a given demo.

I post like a million anon comments with perfect redaction, and then when I wanna sign in, there's always something. :/

Well anything one needs here to get that the claim of "anarchist march" is awful baloney is to know how to identify (1) Quebec nationalist symbols (2) Quebec labor union logos and (3) liberal leftists by their usual shallow/sheeple looks. There's no mystery here... aside than based on what intel (or lack thereof) the author has put something that terribly retarded in this article (among other lesser-obvious retardations). Anyways this appears to be that May Day march, or probably that big peaceful one earlier in the strike.

I do hope that you aren't sympathetic to those people, but I'll take the risk to ask you about them next tie we get across. But my bet is that they're related to those silly rich kids from the private schools who started an "anarchist space" downtown in some weird museum in a posh mansion. You know who I'm talking about.

- another guy from the "scene" that you know slightly

Yipes! This 'photogenic college girl' thing the syndicalists in Rojava used may evolve into muscular football jocks holding shotguns, eww?!

I knew Mad Men would end with a twist.

really? what part of it was the twist?

oh haha... no but seriously, let's talk about mad men. it was not just super entertaining but gave me a lot of food for thought in terms of the capitalist manufacture of subjectivity and the changing of the guard into post-fordism.

let's wreck civilization. that was the one good line i got from this article.

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