TOTW: The medium and the message

  • Posted on: 6 August 2018
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

Since it is often said that if you can't say anything nice you shouldn't say anything at all... I've been standing mute for some time. I'm sick of it but I am exhausted by all the hate and all the different permutations of how my words can be, and usually is, misrepresented by the listening audience. But I get it, attempts at humor are best landed to a very sympathetic audience and snark never sounds good if you don't agree with the snarker...

Here is the thing, it did used to be different. When we didn't know each other we could hear Bob Black, Bookchin, or even Becken for the cranky opinionated personalities they were and not need to take it further. We could both disagree with an anarchist personality AND be excited for the next time they published or spoke. I love the Internet because of how accessible the information about our tendencies have become but I hate it for the ways it appears to have not just polarized our different positions but defanged them too.

How? This is a topic for a different time but it does seem that the gap is widening between the different kinds of roles involved in our little space. In the example I use above we are referring to three "white men" who happen to write. None of these men work particularly well with people (ie are seen as lone writers and not, for instance, organization men) nor did any of them write a classic text (although Abolition of Work and maybe The Ecology of Freedom are modern minor classics). They are partisans of The Idea and are valuable for that.

Here is the topic. Was it the pacing of book (and perhaps periodical) writing that created our different, perhaps less hostile, sense of who authors were or was it the distance? Is anarchism a movement of essays or of books? Is authorship the issue (as in death of the author and/or anon writing) in terms of how to end stupid hostility in the Internet Age?



Just began a book called In the Swarm by Han. It’s all about how digital technology has fucked the way we talk to one another. Typing and hitting send as a comment is a vastly different world than say typing/writing a reply that will be published in a journal or as a polemical text. The latter requires slowing down and this creates reflection and respect, even if you don’t like the person you are replying to. Commenting, especially with anonymity, just requires hot air or outrage. The outrage doesn’t produce anything reflective. Just a shitstorm. One of the things his book covers is the phenomenon of internet shitstorms too. Very short read, I recommend that and his Psychopolitics as a good framing and criticism of digital communication.

Exactly. It's the shit-side of the coin for lightspeed communication, as if all the distracting noise inside of our heads has made the jump in to cyberspace along with us. On top of that, there's the very low stakes for being a random hostile AND the ease with which malicious actors can hide in the noise and channel it.

Yeah I think this is structurally impossible, and hardly a new observation. Those of us who said it a decade ago were slammed as pretentious naysayers and elitist abstentionists, but look who’s president now... focusing on concrete communication and evading surveillance was for “tiqqunists, primmies, lifestylists” etc. but I’d like someone to explain exactly what’s been the benefit of anarchism diving into the social media trash gyre

The trick is to be able to read Meìn Kampf objectively without putting the author into a stereotypical category.

but if trolling is the clearest example of internet tendencies, then maybe it's worth considering. i just was learning about someone's theory about trolling, called disinhibition something, and it included a "lack of authority".
it leads me to considering the inherent authority (is there any?) in the infrastructure of book-making (people who are prepared to write that many words in a single place, regardless of how coherent or interesting they are, people who are willing and able to create those words in a material form that can be read by many people..., etc).
how that shifts now that both the technology to make books, and the practice of writing masses of words, are more common/easily accessible.
and what does authority mean in the context of (online) communication, anyway? is it only the ability to say "no" (removing comments?), or is there more to it than that? are the different ways to say "no" that actually matter online?

I just wanted to say I have always appreciated your comments, dot.

Can anyone tell me who Becken is in the above prompt? I thought I knew a lot of anarchist writers from the late 20th century, but I don't know this one. Thanks!

That would be Jon Becken, the main person who is behind the publication "Anarcho-Syndicalist Review".

What has changed for me is knowing personal details about an author that, before the internet & social media in particular, I would not know. I could read a book or an article in a magazine and take it at face value. (More or less, depending on the author).

Maybe it is better to know all the sordid details of someone's personal life before meeting them in their written work, maybe it is not. None of us is blemish free, though. I think we miss out on interesting exchanges of ideas if we reject out-of-hand the ideas of problematic people. On the other hand, we probably should at least consider the fuller person when engaging critically with the written word.

It seems to me that interacting with ideas gives us one way of engagement with a text, and excavating the psychology of the author gives us another and at this point we do both (and more) more or less at random, depending upon if we like or dislike the author.

For me, if someone is writing about ethics I would want them to live up to their own sense of ethics, for example. (Extrapolate to other fields as you see fit.)
But other than such blatant hypocrisy if they don't, does it matter?

Ideas can stand or fall on their own for sure. But the psychology of the author does matter, at the very least it demonstrates what kinds of psychologies will be attracted to the ideas in question.

i don't think you can parse things that way. first it's an odd way to use "psychologies", second, the fact that nazis liked what they knew about nietzsche's thoughts doesn't mean that anarchists are like nazis.
third, i think the only valid thing that readers can get from guaging an author's behavior as related to their ideas/writing is to flesh out any confusion in the writing. if someone's a friend, then there are other possibilities. but the idea that readers as readers should get into writers' personal lives to judge whether they're living by their writing or not seems horrible to me.

Different commenter; It "seems horrible" because anonymity is highly desirable for a whole host of reasons obviously BUT I'm the sort of person who doesn't think you can separate ideas from the people who dream them up OR the people influenced by them. It's all connected and usually, people try to separate them for dubious reasons.

ie. I really like this idea but then I found out that this writer came up with it for [blank] where [blank] is reprehensible to most people so now I want to try and pry this idea away from the person who came up with it.

OR maybe it goes: this writer came up with an idea that influenced [blank] to do [blank] where most people consider [blank] to be reprehensible. I'm going to try and dismiss that sequence of events because I like this writer.

Better to take it all as data, the ugly parts perhaps being the most important.

That's ridiculous. As one poster pointed out, one should kill the author when reading Mein Kampf, and judge it solely on its content, which by the way is so mediocre that one literally feels like finding the author and killing him for wasting 20 hrs and 10 dollars out of my life!

what i get out of writing is ideas about how to live my life, or not. i do not usually get (or care about) information on how some other person who i don't know has decided to put into practice their ideas in their own life. putting too much (sometimes, *any*) emphasis on understanding what a stranger does or meant is usually a way to distance myself from my own experience and capacities. it leads, as far as i'm concerned, to celebrity culture, and alienation, and ultimately... you know... the kardashians.
surely no one here wants that!?

so … you don't want to understand why other people do things. Ok then.


if mein kampf had a cure for cancer in it (along with all the other crap), would anyone ignore/destroy it because of hitler's views on race etc?

If we follow idpol logic, then only cancer survivors have valid opinions about cancer, and if someone discovers a cure for cancer and this person isn't themselves a cancer survivor, they're guilty of epistemic violence and their "cure" should be dismissed.

its not an absolute.

Im sure sometimes people who've never had cancer say dumb things that people who have had cancer roll their eyes at because it shows just how little effort the non-cancer-havers put into understand what the experience is like.

If its anything like identity that happens on a frequent enough basis where they just start ignoring people who've never had cancer and get annoyed any time one of them tries to speak about it because 9/10 its just weird sounding nonsense thats not to different than listening to a child talk.

holy shit. even a simple analogy involving cancer has to be spun into identity politics?

the point was: take what - if anything - makes sense for your life from *any* writings. and leave the fucking rest. if you're gonna attach the failings of every author to their writing, you will have a hard time finding anything worth the shit in your diapers.

I have a cure for cancer which is simply a logical no children before the age of 50 yrs. The cancer can be bred out of the species because it will die off in the younger generations before it can be replicated by having children. I know this is extreme and impossible to achieve except by some Borg type totalitarianism, but its food for thought. Of course there will still be the occasional rare cancers that occur at all ages, but very very rare. The maths logically proves that cancer can become cleansed out of the gene pool by this very draconian restriction. Just saying . This is how the internet is lining up those in the red corner versus those in the blue corner. This short video is well worth watching.

It's funny to look back on the time before internet politics with some nostalgia. I was pretty naive in my anarchy, but also the bad experiences didn't seem so complete and total and anarchy seemed bigger. There were always other ideas and other things to try to get involved in, and even if the local scene was dominated by things I didn't like, even if the zine library or the discussion group had a lot of things that were alienating to me, those things somehow didn't take up so much psychic space and the things that were inspiring and life-saving glowed more brightly and gave more heart. Now it seems like the less tactile and tangible the discourse is, the more it exists in virtual space, the less there seems to be an outside to it even though *outside* is exactly what's outside of it and obviously what's more important to me. I'm finding that lately, more and more, text seems like an interactive Library of Babel and a trap designed to lead away from rather than engage with the world in any meaningful way. Which is, of course, sad.

how this has deprived of so much of our potential!? We basically know what/who we were pre-civilisation, so what is this potential that we're lacking today? How would we be THAT different? We know what it is like to relate to each other voluntarily, we know what it is like to share etc. This 'loss' which often repeated in the message as if we are now lacking a limb we once had. I doubt we would feel all that different.

because everything around us would be different? In other words, the world around us will be different and so those nuances will make all the difference in making us feel different. Potential is weird one. I mean, social workers are employed to work with children to help the children 'maximise their potential.' This is as vague as JZ's in my view.

" Beingness " is not a quantitive awareness, well even expressed the other way around, "Awareness is not a quantitative measure of perception or cognitive parameters. This is actually illustrated by the connectedness one feels with others when quantities of thought and attachment to the objects of civilization are reduced. Feeling different in JZ's hypothetical society of non-tech is attainable on the subway roaring beneath New York if one has attained the power of disengagement with technology and developed a compassionate amoral intimacy with people.

"We basically know what/who we were pre-civilisation"

really? so you have complete confidence in the interpretations of biased contemporary scientists (on all sides of the anthropological divide) of what actually existed - the nuances of life and relationships - tens of thousands of years ago? not me...

Like the old Biblical saying ----Thus, it is not thoust song that thoust sings, but the inner voice of thoust own soul which speaketh the truth---- or in plain English, ---Its the singer not the song---- And so challenging Roland Barthes theory that the psychology of the author has no relevance to the work produced, there is however a subliminal transference of emotional projection which is expressed, and this is expressed as the style of the author, the aesthetics of the author, which convey the essential awesome soul in a subtle conveyance of secretive projection, which the author tries to cover with flowery expressions and meaningless sentences, to disguise his total ignorance on a topic, it happens often on internet forums, where some moron just goes on and on, quoting names like Wittgenstein or Marx or Richard Nixon, and then discuss certain epochal events and revolutions and dates they occured, then say it was caused by THIS PERSON/AUTHOR, or by THAT AUTHOR , and everyone then says , Kill the author, like Roland Barthes, BUT DON'T kill the author, okaaaaay?

Interesting that this crops up now... 20 years ago, people were writing about how empowering the internet is for social movements. How the diffuse networked nature of communication and the difficulty censoring it, plus the possibility of anonymity and pseudonymity, made it easier to organise protests, expose injustice, get around blockages arising from media monopolies, etc.

I'm not sure if the changed climate is due to the rise of social media/corporate capture and censorship of the Internet or if it's due to the wider political context. The thing is, if people are pissed off and stressed, the stuff they post online will reflect this. On the other hand, there's structural features of social media which encourage groupthink and intolerance. So it's hard to say.

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