Anarchism As Spectacle

  • Posted on: 12 October 2015
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

From Destroy Everything

The “anarchist scene” is currently in an uproar. If people aren’t upset about Michael Schmidt’s racist remarks and possible “infiltration”, they are gossiping about the recent feud between Aragorn and Bob Black. Anarchism has, in the span of a few weeks, been reduced to the petty gossip of tabloids. Those at the head of these events are doing nothing but spectacularizing the events. In the Michael Schmidt case, AK Press decided to prematurely announce things, then wait until they could secure a more mainstream outlet to publish on. In the other case, we have seen a barrage of social media, along with a eulogy for Mr. Black, in a written/semi-physical war which could just continue ad nauseum. Why do we care about these things, of which the majority of us have no direct involvement? Why has reality entertainment reared its ugly head in anarchism?

I believe Squee comes very close to answering this, when he talks about anarchism as an actual “scene” ala a movie or TV set. The “scene” is simply the people that are there, in the “scene”. While I agree with Squee on the analogy, I think he misses a vital point. Most people are not actors in the scene, but mere scenery. Maybe someone like a Michael Schmidt or a Bob Black gets to be in the scene as an actor, but the rest of us are barely present. We are beer glasses, or chairs, next to the living actors in the scene. This may be fine in other so-called “scenes”, but we are supposed to be anarchists who are opposed to something like the hierarchy this creates. Are you content with being a chair, and sitting there, after the set has closed, and everyone has left for the night, discussing the acting of Aragorn vs Black? I’m definitely not.

A real anarchist scene would have us all be actors, but so many of us have chosen to remain props…scenery to that which goes on around us. Enough to the point that news of opposition to the system, or any news relating to the anarchistic, takes a backseat to the newest gossip. Pretty soon, we’ll all be talking sharing updates about each kidney stone that John Zerzan passes. (sorry John!)

The worst thing about all of this is that it’s NOT EVEN NEWS!!! Any person who has read Schmidt’s rants should have called out his crypto-racism a long time ago. Any person who has read Black’s defenses of himself should have also known what a batshit turn he could take in the name of self-preservation. The things everyone has been gossiping about have been blatantly apparent this whole time. We might even have had the power to direct these scenes, yet still we remain props…a tree in the background, barely in focus…absorbing information but not acting upon it.

“There is, indeed, a spectacle of society, but there is no society of the spectacle. Our society is a spectacle for each and every slave that inhabits it, precisely because he or she is a slave, because he or she is isolated and separated from the other slaves and from society as a whole, because slaves do not govern, slaves do not communicate and, therefore, slaves do not act.” - Jean-Pierre Voyer



That's an interesting direction to take it. Did you listen to the FRR episode, read my @news comments, or both? I elaborated in slightly different ways on the podcast. Either way, I didn't make the point that you have, but it's valid. I think there's something of a size cap on "scenes" that are almost entirely composed of actors. A friend of mine would say it's Dunbar's number ...I tend to agree. The most exemplary form of a scene-as-actors I have been part of has been poetry/performance art centered around a specific venue or two. The practice was to go up on stage and perform the stuff you were working on off stage with others there and everyone eventually went up on stage. It spawned some intimate friendships, travel partners, and the sense of inclusion I would think is counter-spectacular. I'm curious about the ability for anarchist scenes to get beyond what you describe in your piece.

Thanks for opening up a dialogue with your essay. Also, that blogging software looks interesting.

If you think anarchism has become infatuated with gossip "in the span of a few weeks" I can only assume that's about how long you've been around it.

Get off Facebook. For real.

Frustrated with how little anarchists are actually doing huh?

I appreciate the author trying to get yourself away from this sort of thinking and behavior, but I assume most anarchists don't get tangled up in people's personal drama when it's plastered all over the internet to begin with. (Or maybe I'm projecting my own life on to others, as pieces like this do themselves).

Too often anarchists assume the only things happening in real life are the ones they read about on the internet.

I read the headline and moved on. Not affected, won't be the first time or the last. Petty squabbles are petty, they have nothing to do with anarchists or anarchism.

You are clearly ignorant and/or misinformed about the history of anarchism and the practice of anarchists. Sorry to have to point out that squabbles (petty or otherwise) have been an integral aspect of anarchism for more than a century, whether you like it or not.

the quote from voyer at the close of the article is typical of the diaolgue that accompanies the scene. always something provocative, dramatic, daring, the scene needs typical props to remind everyone that they are in the scene. but it needs the sounds too: words from intense, intelligent, and intimidating anarchists theorists who have attained a god-like vantage point and critique the entirety of the scene not to mention the whole of capitalism, modernity, and the state.

politics has always been for hipsters.

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