The Brilliant - Episode 100: Revisiting (anarchist)Nihilism

From The Brilliant

Ultimately I am not a nihilist but this might be a de jure vs de facto kind of distinction that people hate hearing people drone on about. No matter how we land on this question the little thing I wrote nearly 20 years ago on the question did force it to be an ongoing concern of mine. The question about whether there is a difference between belief in the good (ie anarchy) and christianity is more important now than ever. Additionally, who does faith in ongoing social change (in a good way) benefit? But the truth is that there have been better, more pithy, less chained critics of activists and other christians than I have been.

This episode we discuss some of these critics and having a balanced approach towards that most anarchist of problems. This is done in a modern context. With Nev Ferox.

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ideas. More of this would be appreciated. What happens to people who believe in anarchy as they get older? How do such people keep going, continuing with their anarchist perspective without 'selling out?' I don't have time for academics as it is easy to pontificate without putting such pontifications into action. Anarchist theory changes nothing when it remains theory. Has anything been published such as anthology of how aging anarchists have managed to cope with living under the state? The young idealistic anarchist becomes what/who as they age?

Jason McQuinn on Jason's 'Critical Self-Theory; Towards an anarchist critical theory of the self and society'? Of particular interest to me is how Jason applies this in his daily life. Also, has Jason refined or changed any aspect of the original text and why? Thanks

Been thinking for a while of recording a FRR podcast with Jason about the impetus behind that pamphlet and how his thoughts on critical self-theory have changed since writing it. Hopefully it will materialize soonish — your interest has reignited mine...

Soonish (within the next few months?) Will you be posting it on ANews. Looking forward to it. Would you ask Jason if he has considered or be interested in having his Critical Self-Theory on Anarchist Library?

FRR did an interview on exactly that subject a few years back

"Bellamy interviews Jason McQuinn about his essay “Critical Self-Theory,” playing devil’s advocate by voicing some criticisms with which he is familiar but doesn’t share. Later, they discuss free will (42:45); the journal, Modern Slavery (45:05); and what a post-left anarchist praxis might be (54:47). “Critical Self-Theory” appears in Modern Slavery #3. The interview took place on February 26, 2015."

The title is a misnomer, and I don't mean this as nitpicking, but as a way to discuss what was said during the podcast.
They're not so much revisiting, but looking back from they are now. Looking back in terms of remembering things past (historically, textually, memories) but also looking at a place that's behind them (a certain type of clique or milieu or event).
Why does this matter? Revisiting nihilism would look much different, it would nullify so many things and leave nothing to be said (after painfully dissecting them all).
The amount of things they're able to say it's in proportion to their distance and their recovery from an encounter with nihilism.
Nihilism is like what they describe a DMT trip to be. It feels profound when you have it, but you can't grasp it or bottle it or take it with you once you get out of it and language will fail you to express it and convey it. Of course, both this things are different experiences. It's not hard to come by things at which we are at a loss of words.
Clearly nihilism as the many things that have been labeled as so, has shaped them, but they're clearly not there anymore and they don't seem interested in going there anymore, and that's fine.
One could even veer off the topic of nihilism, as they did, and say that they've even left behind insurrectionary anarchism as a point of interest, as they did.
So I think that the chance for a more provocative title (only provocative because it would be coming from them and it would go against the misconceptions outsiders have of them) was missed and it could have been "A departure from nihilism and insurrectionary anarchism: towards something else entirely".

Another thing i'd like to discuss: they mention something about extreme positions and about tankies, and political effectiveness, they mention something about science and about knowing things in a way which is not ideology or spook...
something about a world where anarchism is a thing, not just "negation" which seems to them a boring and passé term they've had enough off long ago and the mere mention makes them hurl...
thinking of the futility of changing anything by way of petty acts of destruction, a self-satisfaction with petty acts of destruction, if that could be achieved, could seem like "an anarchism"...a lifetime of petty acts to fill the time and to get kicks out of spiting what you hate? this is rarely pursued, and many intuit they would not get a kick out of it...out of those that do pursue it, many may be deluded that their acts are not as futile or as petty as they are...
obviously there are so many much more interesting lives that do not fall inside a conversation of anarchism or nihilism or neither of these topics.. so maybe it's just interesting and appealing and enjoyable things what they (and everybody) is after and these things and the way to them are not particularly anarchist, so maybe the pretense should be dropped altogether...but they might think it's too late to get out?
they mention the people at the table metaphor, where some might leave the table and label themselves "libertarian socialists" etc
maybe if such a table were to be held, and the conversation sincere and rigorous (and boring) enough, no one would remain on the table, no anarchists or anarchism to be had (like something close to what Shawn P. Wilbur is finding or has shown)...
all these eccentric bland flavored socialists which sometimes lit fires or fired guns at unexpected directions gave it an air of grandeur a lot got conflated for something different...boring economic theories that are not distinct from liberal industrial whatevers like Prodhoun which "coined" anarchism...just inflated rhetoric cuz that's how people write/wrote
in such a table...the opposite of gatekeeping...who's claiming the term? who's running for the door?
is anarchism a bland dish no one wants to eat, but everyone is assured that it's healthy? is it the only thing these people sitting can afford to eat? why is this handled like a captive market?
so much tepid fumbling about of anarchism gives me disgust. this is not meant as a slight to the people speaking in the podcast, it think it's a thing of the times or whatever, of the development of these ideas or movement i don't know, but i know i don't like it.

I frame this problem a bit differently, as a tactical one: when all representation is truly rejected, you're obviously left with what you're actually willing to do. Unfortunately, most people are only willing to do petty vandalism attacks or worse, nothing.

Everything else worth doing is just a lot of work and most people seem to not know how to even begin and/or are incompetent and/or are cowards but is that the fault of anarchist ideology? Like you say, "a thing of the times".

most people can't do "nothing" (i can't) just to halt full-stop. which would have some effect (?).
to begin to be incompetent cowards is a step. the tactical problem you mention is what to do.
the thing that pushes you is what moves you. the phrase milquetoast liberal gets thrown around a lot, but there's a lot of milquetoast anarchists too. this is not to say they're liberals, though they fail to pose any effective opposition.
they might sketch out this or that tactic that could only be proven effective or ineffective if they tried it.
but in summary: emotions get in the way or they propel.
agitation may be ineffective, sometimes hearing people rant works better for them to get moving. there's no easy recipe.
the thing is the couch potato momentum of this system will burn the world a thousand times over before enough people could muster enough impulse to have their first try at failing. so the most i could hope for is to gawk at the painfully beautiful people who have burning passions and are already midflight doing their thing, or read about those who already crashed.

there's also all the painfully horrible and grotesque people who have an enthusiasm and an appetite for even worse things, and they're also energetic, and there's a portion of the bland masses that cheer them on.
is that something to look into? how to be better or more effective cheeleaders? XD
hard to beat the stick and carrot of the economy/government.

for starters, what makes you think you know what is "worth doing" to anyone other than yourself?

Gonna argue I don't have the burden of proof with a statement like "anarchists could be doing more"? Should you choose to accept your mission, it'll be to die on the hill of proving that anarchists are already totally doing everything they can and have achieved full anarchy satisfaction lol

WTF SOT is gonna heroically lead the anarchist army up Capital Hill guns a blazing and screaming "This is how you do it you lazy useless armchair anarchists"

but for real tho, clearly too many folks are spending most of their time gazing in to the electric pool of narcissus, no?

‘Do nothing’ is an immediate reflection of ‘do something’ and its moral apparatus, which is how we characterised the activist scene. ‘Do something’ is an agitated reflex to stimuli, a theorisation of turning yourself into a bridge, there is a perceived urgency and a presupposition that the doer is doing something important but ‘do something’ also suggests ‘do anything’, a desperate injunction to press every button to save the world. We disliked the connotations of ‘do something’, and were aware that all the other stuff wasn’t getting talked about in the rush to make protest appear on the streets. ‘Do nothing’ means thinking about the reproduction of authoritarian and capitalist forms within this political milieu, it also ties in with our notion of revolutionary subjectivity and what is appropriate for the pro-revolutionary role.

‘Doing nothing’ is what the vast majority of the world’s population does. This is the basic proletarian stance and attitude. If most people do nothing then it is important to attempt to understand why this is the case, to see things from their point of view, and to understand why they may be right.

It is ‘the struggle’ and not the activist which decides what should be done. Thus, it is perfectly legitimate to go home and wait until the struggle reaches such an intensity that it drags pro-revolutionaries into it (against their will) — because that is the only point at which the pro-revolutionary can make a decisive contribution.

tl;dr: no u.

lol why are you so nasty to your poor little strawman? and who's the royal "we" in this scenario of yours, exactly? the "proletariat" who want to feel better about being too exhausted or lazy to do something besides netflix? fuck off with your trolollol

look, this was never a serious discussion because nothing was defined at all. if you want to have a serious discussion, you could define parameters but otherwise we're left with a pointless exercise about which tone of discussion better suits people's mental health or personal preference or whatever? aka: another online circle jerk about nothing. I certainly didn't say anything for you to reasonably conclude that I'm all about trying to class reductionist to street battles FTW therefore activist shame cuz you didn't want to put pants on all week. That said, rest assured I'll keep stopping by to make these jokes until the grid fails or I'm too old to smash the keyboard, whichever comes first.

Pour your coffee or tea, or water on your keyboard please sir. Thankyou. Some sleep perchance.

Where does NihCom fit in this taxonomy? With the 00's NA discussions mentioned, or as an additional independent category?

your guess is probably better than the next person who might reply to you as if they knew

i would like to read this discussion, but fear no one might respond sincerely or promptly.
i'm not qualified to comment on it. i'd like to read your opinion about it.

At one point in our discussion, Aragorn mentioned quietism and it’s here that I think Dupont fits in... For me, the juncture of anarchy and nihilism implies an (amoral, antipolitical) stance of attack, irreducible to activism or class struggle. For Dupont, nihilism is a withdrawing; an inability to recognize oneself in the projects of the revolutionary project, which leads to their “pro-revolutionary” subject. Having talked quite a lot with Frére, I think he would have no problem admitting to quietism, as the only option left. Or maybe you could use Vaneigem (by way of Nietzsche)‘s distinction between active and passive nihilisms — without the attendant moralism, of course. And while I refuse to deny myself the possibility of quietism (passivity?), I feel like I want to choose it for myself whereas the Dupont stuff seems to argue that social structure ultimately determines, making liberation all but impossible.

I think the element these approaches share is the use of nihilism as a critical hammer, having the audacity and playfulness to submit all one’s certainties to naught and trace shapes in the resultant abyss. But at its core the Dupont writing feels grounded in a realist metaphysic, whereas my nihilism sees reality as just one more truth to be strangled.

really enjoyed the episode and your thoughts on the topic. where to find more of them? **redacted**

when i say it has a realist metaphysic, i just meant that it treats the world, and by extension reality, as in some sense given. it identifies a ‘real’ independent of my perception of it, whereas i’d call myself anti-realist in the sense that i consider each of our realities contingent upon the being that experiences them. i guess that’s also another way of talking about nihilism: as an experiment in refusing ‘truth’, ‘reality’, ‘meaning’, etc. conceived as absolutes, as fixed values to be discovered rationally.

David Bohm and Jiddu Krishnamurti have a series of dialogues where they dive deep into what these terms possibly mean. For those who find this subject matter interesting, I highly recommend: They come to similar perceptions as Alfred Korzybski, as explained in his structural differential, that there is an infinite, pre-symbolic, movement going on, of which we are inseparably a part. This movement is not reality. Korzybski and Bohm/Krishnamurti both refer to this infinite, pre-symbolic "thing" with different terms (eg. 'WIGO' and 'actuality'). 'Reality' is the conditioned, subjective experience, so eloquently put by Robert Anton Wilson (influenced by Korzybski) as a 'reality tunnel' due to it's idiosyncratic nature (i.e. private mixture).

Through understanding the nature of these things, I agree, nihilism necessitates the dissolving of belief in the righteousness of one's reality tunnel (i.e. reality) and any [fixed] meaning and/or truth drawn from or through reality.

I think that's shoe-horning big concepts together into twisting notions accepted into common language. i.e. making sensorial reality become consensus reality while making abstractions become the sensorial reality. There is only one reality: the one we are allowed to perceive, and that is a subjective, and consensual reality. Never complete, always relativistic.

Objectivism is despotic bullshit, and perhaps the biggest philosophical foundation for authoritarianism.

pertaining to: "And while I refuse to deny myself the possibility of quietism (passivity?), I feel like I want to choose it for myself whereas the Dupont stuff seems to argue that social structure ultimately determines, making liberation all but impossible." Have I chosen passivity or have I been forced into it? That is something I contend with. If I have chosen it then surely that is being active and from there I move on regardless, but always from my initial choice. Or am I like the dog experiment where I succumb to learned helplessness: I am making active choices within a forced context? Is my cage getting smaller? How do I know what liberation looks like? Is freedom merely a word and only exists as a word? The human condition inside the hall of mirrors!!!
It would be interesting to hear Jason's take on all this and how he juggles the quandaries which arise when one embarks on such paths.

I guess Dupont in their intellectual dishonesty are taking the ontological shortcut from "social pressure" to "social determinism", which is, in itself, the mark of a determinist, and a reactionary conservative. Because people are systematically being pressured to be careless and apathetic (not passive... as society is driven by values of productivity and performance through work), it is an inescapable force of nature, as society is everywhere...

Yet that forgets that humans are still ('til the day we're sure to have a god AI ruling over mankind) the producers and actors of "society", a society that, in turn, is also an illusion of the mind. The Leviathan is society, but is not the dictator of every single person. Proof: there are criminals and pirates. There are anarcho-nihilists that negate the consensus and its bullshit status quo.

I'm curious as to why you think the existence of criminals and pirates is "proof" of social actors outside the constructs of Leviathan. My understanding is that even the illegalists themselves acknowledged that their illegalist praxis was just a job, even if one outside of state/social norms, and that it was therefore just as subject to the problems of capitalism as any other job. We also know that the existence of pirates directly correlates far more with economic conditions in an area than even things like how much law enforcement/private security is currently in use (Somalia, in particular, has very clear economic indicators that these forces have effectively used to allocate/deallocate resources in advance of the tidal shifts in pirate activity). Are you claiming that something has to be *legal* to be an aspect of Leviathan?

Some things to clear up about the Green Scare Anarchist Bookfair bit...

First, all vendors were emailed the reason for the name. Perhaps LBC didn't receive that email? Our apologies if not.

The name "Green Scare Anarchist Bookfair" was chosen in response to the fear that many leftists have today of green, nihilist, individualist anarchy. And as predicted, almost immediately after the event was announced the facebook event was flooded with leftists "concerned" about "green fascists" and "mass genocide ideology". The name has nothing to do with the state -orchestrated "Green Scare".

The event was in fact public. There was a facebook page for it. Posters were put up all around Menomonie a few nights before. The call for tablers and bands was public.

People came from all over and first met at this event. Many connections and friendships were made. Most people were strangers. Not everyone were friends.

Quite a few "nihilists" or whatever you want to call them these days arn't focused on history as much as they are focused on the present. While some history and reading has been influencial, learning about anarchy in practice is primarily the focus.

This event was not tightly organized. And that was the point.

*Some* workshops were organized based on affinity and trust, because some workshops (may or may not have) involved illegal activity.

*Some* people just didn't like Aragorn. But not everyone felt this way.

*Some* people didn't like Atassa. But others were fine with it.

The "organizers" or this event had nothing to do with the loss of Attassa. LBC is welcome to bring them back this year. All vendors will this time have the option to store their books where they will not get stolen, burned etc.

GSAB is not a place where LBC or Aragorn don't belong.. They are welcomed to table again, and with a table and chairs rather than a couch.

Any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at greenscareanarchistb­ookfair (a)riseup (dot) net

"GSAB is not a place where LBC or Aragorn don't belong.. They are welcomed to table again, and with a table and chairs rather than a couch."

But if any of the attendees of the book fair perceive aragorn as "bein a dick" or rude or "generally annoying" and decide to do some chicken-shit thing like put crap in his gas tank while he isn't looking the response is a mealy-mouthed form letter a year later.

Just because you have articulated this dangerous space policy doesn't mean you can't take a fucking stand on the matter. Or would that alienate your clique?

As an outside observer, it seems weird to me that the organizers of the bookfair would need to "take a stand" on some attendees being a jerk to another attendee out in the parking lot or wherever. Like, yeah, that might be nice thing to do, but it hardly seems like their obligation to babysit a bunch of oogles (similar, say, to how publishing Atassa doesn't mean LBC needs to take a stand on the matter of ITS). I understand why he's upset, but it feels like A! is over-analyzing the fact that some people can be hypocritical assholes -- which, in all honesty, is somewhat ironic.

Sure, they don't _need_ to and they aren't _obligated_ to, just as no one is obligated to take them seriously when this is how they respond. I am talking about their response, I am not saying I think they need to provide security for vendors. I am not even implying that they apologize or something like that.

"it hardly seems like their obligation to babysit a bunch of oogles"

That's one of the issues with their response. Being oogles themselves it's interesting how they have managed this conflict with a lot of plausible deniability -- see original comment where i call their response mealy-mouthed.

These responses seem pretty tone-deaf for purportedly green/nihilist/post-left/individualist-blah-blah-blahs to be making given that prior to the GSABF LBC had been been banned from multiple events. Consider the context.

Apparently those organizers as individuals endorse, through so much hand having, muddleheaded deplatform attempts even though they write: "The name "Green Scare Anarchist Bookfair" was chosen in response to the fear that many leftists have today of green, nihilist, individualist anarchy. And as predicted, almost immediately after the event was announced the facebook event was flooded with leftists "concerned" about "green fascists" and "mass genocide ideology"." Sounds like the fearmongering leftists were there!

"Just because you have articulated this dangerous space policy doesn't mean you can't take a fucking stand on the matter. Or would that alienate your clique?"

Alienate what 'clique'? Does Aragorn (or anyone for that matter) *need* someone to represent his feelings? Do you want a spokesperson from GSAB to "take a stand" and put out a press release on Aragorns misfortune? lol how patronizing and embarrassing. Stop infantilizing him.

You could substitute aragorn with whatever name least or most offends you. My point isn't to defend or represent anyone but myself and how i see what has transpired. My point was, how can we talk about and do conflict in a way that is better than impersonal form letters whose authors pretend to be neutral. Those are what is infantile, embarrassing, and patronizing.

"My point was, how can we talk about and do conflict in a way that is better than impersonal form letters whose authors pretend to be neutral."

the internet is hardly a place for these conversations in the first place. show up to the next gsab armed and create irl dialogue about it. and those who will want to listen will listen. those who don't won't.

Tho that does sound like a discreet acknowledgement that your bookfaire is, indeed, like your "Left" detractors are saying, giving a tribune to eco-fascists.

Also can't erase those WZ zines advocating a war on the Left, along with wolves on the front page. It's not because some Leftists got some thing wrong in their dogmatism that they can't get some things right. ARR for instance did a good job exposing Schmidt for the neofascist he was.

pretty sure there’s a difference between eco-extremists and eco-fascists. but like most leftists, you can’t be bothered with anything that breaks your knee-jerk allegiance to dialectics based on polarized binaries. as for a “war” on the left, well, if you’d paid attention to actual lived history, you’d know (and would be forced to acknowledge) that more anarchists have been oppressed, arrested, tortured, and murdered by leftists than by fascists. this indisputable fact is in no way some absurd opening to fascism among post- or non-left anarchists — despite the alarmist fantasies of ARR.

What "actual lived history" is telling me as well is that fascist regimes have also been torturing, imprisoning, raping and killing anarchists as much as Leftist regimes have. That's what fascist regimes in Italy, Spain, Chile, Japan as well as the Third Reich regime have been doing; it's a fact. That is the history from not so long ago. But if you, like neofascists tend to do, are dismissing these regimes as "Leftist", then the problem's with your own twisted, bad optics.

Plus there's also the definitely not Leftist police thugs all the West who've been actively repressing anarchos, and Anews has documented this up to a few days ago.

"pretty sure there’s a difference between eco-extremists and eco-fascists"

Okay, so what is it? Here's your golden opportunity. And please avoid bullshit logic fallacies like dodging logic itself because "meh, logic is civilized so..."

Not sure if a Z plot to get people "associated with anews" to show up so they can be "shot on sight" . . . . . .

Z is, or at least has been related to Warzone distro. If this is a dangerous space, that actually may be a dangerous space, also due to being in the middle or nowhere in a state with a significant neonazi presence, and more broadly quite conservative State politics.

Has anybody that went, last year -Aragorn! included- noticed any racist or Alt Right sentiment while being there?

"The Green Scare Anarchist Bookfair will be eschewing a 'safer spaces' policy in favor of a Dangerous Space Policy.

This means that we expect all attendees and vendors to be responsible for their own actions, and the potential repercussions of their actions. As hosts of this event, we refuse to assume the role of "police" or "security" to mediate conflicts that happen between people. We personally will not be used as a security apparatus to kick anyone out of this event, unless the conflict is with us directly. Everyone who attends is expected to utilize their own individual agency in directly dealing with and solving their problems with others.Therefore, this event is a dangerous space for anyone who disrespects the space and those occupying it."

Aragorn cant help but lie when he says the group of people with one of the most well known zine distros in US anarchist milieu don't read. Then he frames it as being cancelled over Atassa as if they dont distro ITS writings themselves. Get a clue bro.

"one of the most well known zine distros in US anarchist milieu"

LMAO! You certainly think highly of this little project, don't you?

why so much indie @ publishing shade?! WHY?!

Why your reading comprehension SO BAD?! WHY?! The "shade" was directed at the self-important "bro," not the insignificant zine distro ;)

what the fuk is he supposed to think other than the evidence provided, which is passive aggressive hostility, no back up from anyone, and all the twitter fire pics of atasa?
who's lyin' here, amirite?

I'll try and listen to this later, tried once but stopped listening when it got to the whole victimization stance taken by Aragorn because of some incident at a bookfair in the backwoods of the U$A. I get tired of all the victimhood nonsense and with this scene drama associated with this Green Scare bookfair stated right at the start of the podcast I just assumed it was going to be a whine and snark fest, but judging by the comments it seems it moved beyond this. So I'll try and give it another listen later.

First of all I would like to highlight what A said about nihilism not necessarily being negation. In fact that's why I tend to reject it as a formal position(I like to use the term nihilexistentialist) Egoism is better in that it is more open ended on either negation or affirmation. In essence it's a personal proclamation based discourse. To me it's just the more individuated orientation with some similar definition differentiations. You have active and passive for nihlism and you have intercoursive and atomistic for egoism. The anarch-egoist-anarchy that I subscribe to is negation and affirmation based with personal proclamation being the higher order of operation.

In regards to science as an object of escape in the 19th century I think what works in our age would be deconstructive mythology. One basically informs the other as I see it. To mythologize is to construct and deconstruction is what keeps ancestral and assimilating spooks and power practices at bay.

To the point about so-called open minded IDPols, fuck 'em. They are dead weight ideologues who are not ready for the future radical and reactionary orientations at hand. The only IDPols one should be interested in are those who are on the outs of that ugly latter day leftist ideology and to get them you have to maintain an unflinching anti-IDPol position. To not do this is to pay lip service to what is essentially maoist and other marxist structured ideology that has no relation to anarchism or anarchy whatsoever.

Also, Aragorn, are you really using the word rapey? Seriously? That's one of those words that's used to police and inhibit against more exciting and experimental human relationships. If we were to go back to the golden age of the counter culture circa 68-77 this term would never have been used within a milieu that was having LOTS of sex. Rapey is basically a way to control and police activists dominant spaces. It's also similar to the word 'creepy' which is deployed against certain types of males who are social societal losers. This isn't something that those interested in anarchy should be enabling.

Lastly, I really don't see what's useful about indigenous discourse. As I see it it's really just an American(indigenous historical) born concept that is mostly used to represent their own inner leviathan interests. I see indigenous ideology being connected to everything from maoist structured discourse to native american power projects like, say, the Dogwood project out of Canada. It's not really something I see congruent to anarchy. I understand the need to conceive of some kind of personal relationship with human ancestry in part as a way of fighting future facilitation driven historical construction and assimilation, but as the saying goes, 'this ain't it chief'. A far better word and concept would be the concept of archaic, archaicality and archaicism. Archaic as a concept and deployable discourse does not have the baggage that the term indigenous has and it jibes much better with anarchy. As I've said elsewhere indigenous is simply psychogeographic endogeneity and that is not anarchic or uncivilized in and of itself.

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