Topic of the Week: What is the Role of Anarchist Media?
Despite various degrees of agreement between common tendencies in anarchist thought, the tools that we use to engage with our politics in the virtual realm of media may complement, contribute to, provoke, or otherwise engage with the actions or other lived experiences. It’s hard to deny the potential role of media to re-contextualize the ways we view or chose to interact with the world around us, as well as the ways it can inspire us intellectually or emotionally.
Would explicitly anarchistic actions be undertaken without the direct influence of media? As a school of thought or western philosophy, anarchism seems to be inherently a result of the creation and exchange of media. Direct cultural relationships such as groups of friends or scenes may inspire or influence anarchist thought or action via word-of-mouth or shared influence on behavior, but it is difficult to imagine any such group thriving or even coming into being without some sort of literary (e.g. philosophical and academic political texts, zine/pamphlets), visual arts (e.g. films, propaganda posters or street art), musical (e.g. punk, metal, hippie culture, etc.) or similar forms of media. Engagement with the sphere of information on some level seems to be an elemental aspect of most projects, at the least being a flyer or promotional aspect that draws collaborators to direct engagement or group action.
We at Anarchist News are attracted to the non-sectarian aspects of media that allows for a broad range of engagement or interaction, displayed in formats such as our infamous comments section or broadly inclusive submission material. We share a similar affinity to print media that allows for critical submissions, provoking ranges of responses, stimulating conversations and engagement in these big questions that stir and propel such seemingly impossible yet relentlessly attractive ideas. As our ideas grow and change we can reflect on those anachronistic texts or cheesy songs that stimulated our [anti-]political sensibilities in the past. The excitement felt in those times gives us a dreamy sort of optimism towards discovering or stumbling upon that rare or newly-translated text, which revises our outlook and rattles our thoughts with the potential that could grow within our newly formulated perspectives or shattered misconceptions.
Many anarchists are attacking or engaging with these media fronts from positions that are less industry driven and therefore lacking in material resources, professional training, or time to devote to creative endeavors outside of exhausting day-jobs. With this in mind, how important is it for us to work independently towards producing quality media without asserting the interests of the dominant capitalist-driven cultures around us? How do we incorporate human (i.e. the individual) elements into the things we create without serving up fodder for corporate marketing firms, or should we disregard the apparently constant re-appropriation of art and culture by refusing to allow our course of action to be a response to their supposed domination of ideas? The Situationists responded to this by détourning media and altering it contextually towards their own ends. But their critical assessment of recuperation remains a daunting notion, which appears at this point to overpower détournement and counter-cultural approaches (as witnessed in the successful corporate marketing of punk, hip-hop, or other alternative sub-cultures.)
The role of media is debatable, but its influence is inescapable. Factions within the milieu would claim that those involved with its manipulation are false-revolutionaries with insincere motives. Is there any substantiality to these claims? How do we prevent media interaction from drowning out or overtaking direct interaction or the motivation for action entirely? How do we create quality media without surrendering the perception of what constitutes quality to those who have infinite financial and material resources? Discuss, debate!