Noirceur Parfaite #1 — Friday, September 8, 2017
a txt by shadowsmoke
Anarchist News has a bad reputation, which is not undeserved.
It is not a safe space from transphobia, homophobia, racism, or sexism, for one thing.
It is not a particularly user-friendly site. It’s hard to hold coherent conversations with people.
A lot of content posted is boring as fuck (every genre of anarchy is responsible: the ones I rep, the ones you rep, and the ones getting repped by that loser commenter – you know the one!).
If you read it long enough, you will encounter everyone’s favourite thing, the perennial discussion about children and consent.
I have been reading Anarchist News (or @news for short) since 2007. Around 2014, after years of sporadic and anonymous commenting, I started commenting more regularly. Most people encountering this column on @news will already know something about me, my opinions, and my bad habits, but those encountering this column via local counterinformation projects in Montréal hopefully will not (unless those counterinformation projects fail completely, in which case… no shade directed at anyone, but it’s happened before, lol).
I still like @news and its associated projects (LBC, anarchy101.org, etc.), and that might be in part because my point of comparison is not with any of the slick English-language anarchist internet projects from North America that principally concern themselves with the Disaster, revolt, solidarity, and security (examples: It’s Going Down, crimethinc.com, sub.media, Gods & Radicals, etc.), but instead to a very different breed of websites: Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter. For everything that is terrible about @news, these sites are worse.
I do not intend to talk much about myself in this column, but one thing you should know is, I’m internet-addicted. It’s not cool and edgy like certain cyberpunk fantasias taught us it might be. I am not TWEEKING on a drug called tek! that I administer by supersonic w/aaa/aaa/aaa/ve. It’s just me typing in my bedroom after midnight. What I’m doing isn’t even criminal, for at least two reasons: it provides for better state control by a number of metrics, and certain people are making a lot of money.
The people behind @news are not making a lot of money, and even if you don’t consider them trustworthy (who do you consider trustworthy?), they aren’t buddy-buddy with law enforcement, managers, and prison guards. You don’t have to like them (or any particular one of them), but they’re not Mark Zuckerberg. There will be idiocy, ignorance, oversharing, criminally prosecutable speech, and more on the internet. There will also be an audience for it. This will be true in anarchyland just as much as outside of it, because although we are different from the rest, we are not separate. @news sucks plenty, in the same way that I am sure a state-sanctioned safe injection site sucks. I would rather have it than not.
I’m not interested in ending my internet addiction right now, although perhaps when I am, this column will abruptly end. More likely it will abruptly end sooner, and for stupider reasons. No matter. Onwards.
There was some nonsense at an anarchist bookfair in Seattle. Someone ripped a copy of Atassa in half – and didn’t even pay seven bucks for it first! The LBC tablers proceeded to attack this person, in a pretty brutal way for a bookfair I guess.
This column will not be a place for backstory. Needless to say, if you don’t know what the fuck this is about, ask someone who knows their shit about ITS, eco-extremism, or Atassa.
A lot of readers to know the story, and might be a bit upset right now, because I have just encouraged people to read up on these subjects. There are a lot of folks, perhaps less likely to try to rip a book in half using only hand strength, who nevertheless think Atassa should be pulped and who want eco-extremism "no-platformed". I have a lot of sympathies for this demographic, because reasons, but I do not want to get Counter-Reformational on this shit. It is a dangerous book, but I do not want to respond to that danger by suppressing it or destroying it. People should read and write what they fucking want. Possibly some psychos will latch onto some fucked-up stuff, rather than just taking it in and moving on, but that’s already the case with Daesh eschatology and North American rahowa. It’s a psycho problem, not a dangerous book problem, and the solution looks a bit to me like counterterrorism, i.e. the regime of physical, psychological, and cultural control that will always be worse than the odd fucked-up loser.
I suspect that this Seattle incident will not be the first incident of its kind. No one tabled Atassa at the Montréal anarchist bookfair in 2017, but it may very well happen next year. Personally speaking, I think Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois’ biography being on display is a lot more objectionable than some copies ofAtassa, but I don’t really want to ban those from bookfairs either, nor anything else I would prefer to see printed on toilet paper. I am also in favour of an anarchist approach to information – that is, as little governance as we can get away with. So I will not raise a single finger, of my own volition at least, to no-platform Atassa in anarchist spaces.
Tabling Atassa is provocative, though, even if not always intentionally. I’m not sure if his cheerleading is "postmodern" or not, but the last line of the Indybay reportback otherwise describes very well the general vibe of Abe Cabrera, main spokesperson for the Atassa project. Abe Cabrera is not exactly isometric to Atassa, is not exactly LBC, is not exactly the people tabling LBC in Seattle, Montréal, or anywhere else… It doesn’t matter once people are emotional, and people are definitely emotional since eco-extremists have taken on both trolling and threatening behaviour. This will not be the last bookfair skirmish over this not-worth-the-trouble journal.
All this will be very irritating for anyone involved in making anarchist bookfairs happen, especially if they have some principled opposition to banning this book, or friendships with people dumb enough to table it.
I am stoked that there is a regular CrimethInc. podcast again. The Ex-Worker was certainly the best work in its particular genre, and I expect The Hotwire, now weekly and a bit shorter, to fulfill the same role. That said, I am going to be critical.
I do not disagree with the sentiment behind the following statement from https://crimethinc.com/podcast/hotwire-3>the September 6 episode, but I definitely disagree with the wording: "Every border is a crime against humanity." I also take some issue with how the word "crimes" is deployed later, too, in reference to Argentina during its most recent military dictatorship. What would have made subversion a supposed crime, rather than a crime plain and simple?
Crime is the opposite of law, and law is a function of the state. Nonsense like international law, natural law, and higher law shouldn’t be taken seriously. There is, in the real world, only whatever state you are forced to deal with in whatever territory you find yourself in – or perhaps you have to deal with warlordism, but that’s a whole tangent and not really applicable to most readers I’d bet. If you are an anarchist, and very likely if you are not, you will come soon come into conflict with the law of that territory, and you will be in the camp of what the state deems crime.
I really appreciate the efforts that some have made to push back against the normalization of « terrorism » as a category in, for lack of a better term, social justice movements; CrimethInc. itself recently took such a stance in its excellent contribution "Not Your Grandfather’s Antifascism". Although the word "terrorism" has some historical and institutional use as a clinical term, with technical specifications, its use in wide society does not meet this description; it is not a descriptive word but a constructive one, being used to build narratives of legitimacy and illegitimacy. This is not a battle that anarchists can ever hope to win, so better for us to attack relentlessly against these very concepts. Destabilization is the name of the game, not participation.
Crime is a much older, much plainer word than terrorism, and it is more baked into our langage, our culture, everything. It should not be surprising at all that we deploy it for metaphor, even to communicate thoughts that are solid – but it still has a negative effect. The association of darker colours with evil has had real effects on real people, as has the association of femininity with weakness and foreignness with untrustworthiness. The association of crime with ethical wrong may perhaps have negative effects for any outfit called CrimethInc.
On an entirely different note, I was also irritated with the "against communism" bit in the podcast. You couldn’t even put a word like "state" in front of that shit? Anarchists love communism in about the same measure as they love fighting with cops, veganism, naked time spent with friends, and hardcore – perhaps a lot more in this increasingly sexless, surveilled, and stressed-out era! Soviet kitsch fandom and ostalgia (more broadly than for just the old East Germany, obviously) are expanding as good memory of Actually Existing Socialism fades in the CrimethInc. target audience of young college age students, and while the sex appeal of figures like Rosa Luxemberg simultaneously expands. I was so stoked about this IWW-GWOC committee statement, reported on in the episode, aimed at realizing a material solidarity between juggalos and other groups targetd for state repression. It feels like this approach to things-that-seem-kinda-stupid-but-okay-sure has yet to be generally applied.
People are too hard on prescriptivism. To be sure, as a linguistic philosophy, it is absolutely bankrupt, and imposed upon society by any institution vested with state authority – like, for instance, the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) – it is irritating as fuck. But without a bit of prescriptivism here and there, people are going to embarrass themselves. Correcting a person, in a respectful way, can be an act of mutual aid.
There has been a lot of discussion in @news comments recently about how Aragorn! relates to other people in his life. I take a lot of these theories with a grain of salt, but then, there is one strange example. In at least two audio recordings, I heard what I was a ludicrous but not entirely impossible incorrect pronunciation of the name of a particular country. I laughed about, but did not think much of it. But this week, I came into a copy of Black Seed #5 and read Aragorn!’s article, "An Old Green Anarchy", and I determined that Aragorn! actually thinks there is a country that can reasonably be identified as Catalan.
The established name for this place in English is "Catalonia", famously part of the title of George Orwell’s book about his experience fighting with the POUM during the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia. There is also, in some well-polished anarchist publishing (for example, with CrimethInc.), some precedent for using the orthography "Catalunya", isometric to what the country is called in the Catalan langage itself. I have seen references to "the Catalan lands" in books about much older history than what Aragorn! is talking about, and "the Catalan countries" in reference to a larger geographic space in which Catalan or related dialects are spoken. But I have never seen this country, or any place, referred to as "Catalan" before.
This is not a callout, and hopefully it’s not interpreted as mocking either. I am trying to do some good-natured ribbing. Aragorn! said something equivalent to "Africa is a beautiful country" or "The religion of Islams is Muslim" – both of which I’ve heard real people say. It happens, and in fact, I have said similarly stupid things myself, which I do not care to share (or remember, for that matter). A lot of people dislike Aragorn! and think he’s wrong about everything (or: everything that matters). In such circumstances, it is unfortunate that people will take an obvious example of wrongness and run with it. It is unnecessary to the case that Aragorn! is an idiot, probably even distracting from it, and that is unfortunate. But one also gets that it’s Aragorn!’s own damn fault in this case, because if he’s lazy in this respect, is it not reasonable to expect that he will be lazy in other respects? Laziness is not a characteristic I want to see in anyone whose opinion I’m thinking about taking seriously, and here, the repeated mistake about the "fields of Catalan" (does Catalonia have fields? is that where the critical battles were fought?) makes me wonder if he even has a first-paragraph-of-the-Wikipedia-page level of knowledge of this topic.
I am also left wondering about how much it matters.
There is a certain sense that Aragorn! is trying to forge a "new" language, to make a break with something else. In other words, separatism. It is definitely wrong to align this separatism along a narrowly geographic axis, but a certain theme I associate with the guy, rightly or wrongly, is "North American anarchism" (which should perhaps be rendered "Turtle Islander anarchism" instead). I feel about as passionate for this as I do about Québec independence. I accept it may happen, or I might even argue that it already happened, in a way that was incomplete or not quite as dramatic as some romantics might have wanted. There doesn’t seem anything much about, though, that is in anyway superior to the globalized alternative. Perhaps learning about the Spanish Civil War is passé, but that hardly means weird post-left newspapers from the ‘80s and ‘90s are interesting.
But that’s me, and others think differently than me, speak differently than me. I think it might be worthwhile to learn their language, understand their worldview and values, and whatever else if I intend to share space with them. To that end, I will be reading the rest of "An Old Green Anarchy" before long.
It is stupid to get hung up on a stupid error, and dismiss a text that might have value to you or your projects because of it. But it is also stupid to have made it difficult for others to correct you, even when you could benefit from some correcting.
Expect more corrections in future columns. I will close this section on something different. In recent weeks, there has been some cool shit going on in Gaspésie, a region whose indigenous name I do not know, but which exists at the periphery of the territory called Québec, and also comprises part of the much older territory of Mi’kmaqi. In this context, I have seen numerous spellings of "Mi’kmaq", and heard numerous pronunciations of the same. I will share what I know, from having spent a lot of my life in the broad region of Mi’kmaqi, and some of that trying to realize a solidarity with indigenous nationalists on this continent. Basically, the pronounciation mick-MACK (IPA: /mɪk-mæk/) is considered a touch racist in the Maritimes, so folks should try to avoid that. My impression is that mig-MAW (IPA: /mɪɡ-mɔ/) is far preferable. The best thing to do, though, would be to ask any Mi’kmaq folks you know about it or study the language yourself – not a project I have ever taken on.
I imagine future columns will be shorter than this one. There was a lot to talk about in the last week, and I guess I wanted to set a good first example.
I don’t really know what the scope of this column will be yet. I am interested in language, communications infrastructure, information and how the human brain handles it, and how all this relates to structures of power and possibilities for escape, revolt, and healing. I "believe in revolution" but I’m way too cynical to write that without quotation marks. I will probably talk about architecture, geopolitics, and sex sometimes.
I considered writing at least this paragraph in French, but thought better of it. I have nothing to prove. English is my first language, and increasingly relevant both to the human world at large to the smaller space of "global anarchism", which certainly includes Montréal anarchism. I have seen "radical spaces and events" in the Netherlands and Slovenia, and seen that Dutch, Slovene, and other local languages elsewhere are in decline in such spaces. This is not something I wish to see for Québécois and other forms of Canadian French, which are to some extent fading in the local anarchyland, but also facing pressure from the left flank in the form of a European French that itself serves as an agent of homogenization (tiqqunization?! lol j/k) and encourages the delusion that Montréal is somewhere that it’s not.
For these reasons and some others, I would be happy to see others translate this column into French. I will not be doing so myself. It is not my project, at least not in writing.
Leave some comments, tell me where I’m wrong, get in touch, or submit something worthwhile to somewhere that I’ll see it. I would prefer if you screamed into a pillow or, I don’t know, found love instead of writing some hateful bullshit, but you do you. I don’t use Facebook, thanks, so don’t chat about me there and don’t expect me to read your shit if that’s where you posted it.
Track Recommendation: "Today the Scene, Tomorrow the World" by Good Clean Fun