TOTW: Sign of the Times

  • Posted on: 23 July 2017
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

If the latest controversies have taught us anything it is that the newest generation of anarchists (and anarchist-adjacent) deal with political disagreements differently than we have in the past. The story is likely apocryphal but it is said that when Johann Most (German anarchist who immigrated to the US in 1882 to join the labor movement here!) talked shit (generally implying that the Berkman assassination attempt against Frick was not what was claimed by Goldman) Emma whipped him across the face.

There was a time in past decades where social exclusion was the mechanism by which disagreements were resolved. Green did not socially participate in red functions (and visa versa of course) and some functions embraced all. This big tent never really covered everyone but was a conceit generally shared.

The Internet change this of course. It was possible to fragment into smaller and smaller political persuasions and still find a crowd. It was also possible to go across the full arc of a anarchist life (from baby anarchist to old time jaded) and never meet another real living anarchist in meat space.

Largely this has meant that political disagreements happen less. We aren't forced to share the same infoshop, or town, and since we can find a crowd we appreciate we don't necessarily associate with those we disagree with. Or if we do, our disagreements rarely rise to the level of being public because, what's the use? This placid scenario runs right into the other political phenomena of our time, call out culture, where fucked up behavior has become the primary concern of a new class of political operative.

Where does this new interpretive vision of anarchist political disagreement leave us? Does it represent a positive term because individual personalities and relationships no longer matter because only ideas and actions matter? Or does it represent a new era where context is trumped by... something else? Rather than talking about whether it is good or bad our hope is to talk about how information technologies have changed how we relate to each other and how we practice our politics.

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Comments

Sometimes you have to whip some eggs.

I love that bbc documentary hypernormalization, the crux of which suggests that these online echo chambers are at best, a distraction or maybe much worse! Possibly a means of infinite and instantaneous recuperation of dissent. So if that's true, then information technology hasn't really changed much of anything about how we relate to each other. It simply lured us further away from the real thing, off in to a hall of mirrors.

There's no true substitute for face-to-face relationships, this applies to politics too. Technology should only be augmenting relationships, not trying to replace them.

Is one answer to the lacunae left in the ToTW. I think this is especially clear in a great deal of the content being produced by certain online voices, whose reach and analyses seem to vastly outsize their real world experience.
And don't get me wrong, it's not just a function of people putting out their ideas despite their relative lack of knowledge. Building celebrity isn't just done through self promotion, it takes a particular kind of receptivity on the part of the audience, to paraphrase, 'you'll get the master's you desire'.
I don't want to leave this in to vague a state either, so let's get some millenial callouts going here;
1) many people turn one man's relatively short travel experiences, grandiosly written about though they might be, and elevate them to a level of factual objective reportage, as though from an expert. PZS' writings should really tell you more about what it looks like for someone who experienced a formative social movement to continue to search for connection and excitement as they age, and not as some kind of state of the nation address on global anarchy.
2) Aragorn!. You turn him into an expert and he has more then enough narratives to satisfy you, but why take those that he puts out which touch on things outside of his life experience for more then just another anarchists opinion?
Barely sliding in a 3) dr. Bones, whose budding cult of celebrity is far more telling of the state of some online anarchists, with seemingly very little real world experience of insurrectionary anarchism, taking cues from a spectacular performer who, from the many glaring holes in the things he has written, has also had very little experience of insurrectionary anarchism in his actual life.

As a final note, the problem as I see it is not that these three put themselves out there. I wish more people would. It's that their readers take their opinions for more then they are worth, inflate them out of their context, and bandy them about as though they'd come down from the mountain with the new truths.
The internet and its ability to deliver frequent updates from their daily lives as faux-connection plays no small role in this.

Simple: don't mistake, confuse figureheads for fountainheads.

You mention audiences. Obviously there are more people interested in those conversations than you point to. The people in the room are the primary organizing influence, not the man at the podium.

And please, no more apologia for any of the political forms of anarch-ism. The insurrectionary ism came out of a specific context with a predominantly homogenous culture, in a small so-called country.

You point to three people, but i can think of way too many more terrible ideas, theories, and forms people have tried and failed and gone to jailed or died to promote, from way too long ago. Marighella's ideas are from 1969, and have given way to forms that remain as canonical and without question, to everyone's detriment.

Read everything. Talk to everyone. And apply anarchism where you see fit. Technology has helped anarchists come together in a lot of ways but it should serve as only a tool for further research, reach and understanding. Call out culture (like most things adopted by baby anarchists ) was meant as a way to reclaim space for victims and bring to fruition the safety required to fulfill our innate spontaneous creativity, but has instead turned into a form of micro-dictatorship. It's not that it's not useful it's just not used properly. It wasn't meant to gain power it was meant to dismantle it, and young anarchists have forgotten that (in my experience). In my opinion anarchism is not something you live but something you apply. At all moments we should seek out and destroy hierarchy and coercion or at least subvert it wherever possible. The echo chamber politics has not helped us reach a greater undesratnding, and that is unnerving.

I don't think you should look at it as though the original purpose of callout culture has been forgotten, it's always been a way to open space for anyone willing to take on the identity of the victim by wresting power from whomever they can label as an oppressor, and in that way, it's never been anything more then a strategy to channel power along different lines, never to get out from under it.
But hey there's no getting out from power relations maaaaaan

Tho that means potentially having to gtfo of band politics, which includes the sacrosanct Affinity Group, activist network and the milieu they are creating. I think you can't think of the commonality outside of these sub-capitalist politics if within the social space of capitalism. You'd need a reclusive cult in the hills in order to be developing an inherently anarchistic relation without most o the weight from the system around.

Its not true, it's not true, I can't hear youuuu

*shaking and slapping you in the face... Then abusing it*

Get real, son! The world is wrong.. about time to get some realpolitiks.

At least one of you is destined for a cave on a mountaintop somewhere. Nothing inherently wrong with that but I think you've .... transcended any need to bother talking about politics or relationships anymore.

If all relationships turn in to toxic power dynamics for you, go become a hermit with the blessing of anarchists everywhere ;)

Shout out when you're strong, call out when you're weak. Sign of the times is right. You got to know what it's all about to make any use of it.

The main problem with call out culture is that it doesn't believe in itself. Everyone knows this. It doesn't know what it wants.

While there are many odious and reprehensible things to believe in, what's almost impossible today is to believe in something plainly and strongly, regardless of what it is. Plainly and strongly believing in something is alone a kind of victory.

Replace call outs with anarchist mock show trials a la Stalin (in absentia could work for Internet anarchists as it did for Trotsky)

It's true that call outs are for the weak-minded who're too scared confronting those nefarious "individuals" f2f.

When I was in the Balkans I once was shouted at right on the sidewalks by a women for behaving like a sexist douchebag with her. That sobered me up for a while. Women in East Europe don't let themselves be played with like in the West where they'll just let dickheads just dick-heading around and dominate, dominate, dominate even more... That weakness ain't the roots of all evil of course, but more like the solid trunk required for the branches to grow and spread.

Notice how this person needs to be forced to respect strangers and blames the weak for failing to demand respect..? Innnteresting.

For 150 years a predominant emphasis on a political orientation has left too many anarchists eager to line up and get themselves killed as merely an informal opposition Party.

There are frustratingly far too few examples of anarchists emphasizing actualizing anarchist activity. And often it seems like when folks point out what should be obvious in the above statememt, they get accused of promoting 'do-nothingism.'

So, the bigger question is can people who often believe they're pure and right through history be able to learn? Can we make our articulations around conflict be more productive toward learning from mistakes and disagreements and not being afraid to be wrong or just know something?

It feels like both the right and the left feel they cannot be wrong. The conversations are flattened when people move into mental gated communities.

This is what is needed. Anarchists and anarchism were always at their core a configured political economic expression. What is needed is a post left post anarchist anarchy, Neo Anarchy as I call it.

Instead of postulating from the big founding 3 we can start from the likes of Stirner and Fourier instead. Those combined ideas are not political-economic. A Stirnerian Egoist Fourierian phalanstery would be a good starting foundation for everyday anarchic activity. Perhaps some remnant of anarchist/anarchism based language can be used when talking to politcals but that should be marginal at best.

Anarchy must go from being a position to an everyday practicing activity.

Can someone fill me in about what the latest controversies are - I don't live on your continent. Context may be useful.

Very minor shitshow about an old patriarch egoist writer getting suckered by an alt right publisher and then a social media tempest in a teapot over it. Certainly nothing for the history books.

Nice. That's very well done. Don't forget to throw in a weird ego commie sorcerer journalist attempting to expose this travesty and getting poo poo'd for attacking the anarcho-patriarchy, as well as for self promoting throughout the row.

Yes, that too! I always thought bones had a silly charm. We're both Thompson fans, he's funny, whatever. Occasionally he makes serious points but the vitriol directed at him from the shadowy corners of the egoist milieu was more damning than the original issue, in terms of "problematic associations" haha

I think this ToTW is digging at something that takes a lot of work to unpack.

One of the big reasons that Green didn't participate in Red functions and vice versa is that Green was busy spiking trees (or sitting in them), while Red was busy attempting to increase IWW membership.

However, this TotW doesn't address changes in anarchist activity since the Turn of the Century ...or earlier. Even in the case of Berkman and Frick, Goldman and Most, conflicts were situated in a different context of anarchist activity that says just as much about how conflict was handled as the acts of whipping someone across the face, or publishing some kind of call-out.

So first of all, what are these anarchists doing today?

In the cases cited in earlier comments, what these anarchists are doing is mostly in the world of publishing. Even if they travel to Rojava, their activity is some sort of writing ...Internet or not. Both their activity and the way that their activity is dealt with (the so-called conflicts) begin and end with publishing. More broadly, the conflict that is happening today is a conflict over representation. It's a conflict over identity, over voice, and over association. It's hardly a conflict over tactics and strategy. For the most part, it isn't organizations getting called out for what their treasury funds are going towards, or what their membership policies are, or what actions they are willing to stand by. The way a specific Black Bloc navigates the streets isn't getting called out. A land project isn't getting called out for its choice of land. None of this...

And this hasn't been the situation for very long. The arguments over anarchist projects used to be much more prominent than reporting on this or that writer's hypocrisies.

So... why is there such a crises in representation, in identity, in voice, in anarchist publishing, and such to begin with? Why do we give a flying fuck about the personal lives of these people? I don't think it's because there isn't anything else that anarchists are doing: there is. But apparently, what is more important than so-called projects and their consequences are ideas and the way those ideas impact representation of anarchism in general.

I think your analysis when it comes to those fights which originate around Ideas is really close to my perspective as well. However, I do think it bears pointing out that their definitely are conflicts which come up around practical matters and find their way onto the internet, such as the ways that black bloc tactics unfold in protests, and I don't mean just between those who want vs don't want to see them at protests, but between social groups who participate in that tactic but have differing visions of how it will go in particular demonstrations.
You seem not to be aware of them, which leads me to think that you may not see them for what they are when references are made to them in communiques, and it may appear theoretical while to someone actively engaged in that local scene the context and bearing of the argument are clear (I feel like the context which generated any particular ideas-piece here often goes over my head).
I can't speak as to whether this used to be more prominent or not, but I feel like I've seen many of those things that have happened around me reflected in quite a few texts here and on IGD.
Maybe practical questions are posted to this website less these days, however.

I hear you and I agree until you get to the end. I don't think "ideas are more important". They're as important as ever but the shift away from activity and on to specific online personalities and their pet theories is an unfortunate part of larger social media trends and a different format that younger folks are more comfortable with. It's fucking stupid and part of the cult of the self bullshit, give me a humble tree spiker who barely mentions what they did any fucking day. The alternative being some narcissistic idiot yammering in to a web cam about all their fucking irrelevant opinions for hours ...

re: Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 15:51

I don't think ideas are more important, either. I meant that in the contemporary discourse we're discussing, ideas have become the focus more than tactics, strategy, and other more practical concerns.

Yeah, I'm old enough to remember when we all mocked those people a lot more. "Paralysis through analysis", "less talk, more rock!", etc

I'm aware of practical discussions surrounding tactics, but they're not the play-by-play feature event that exposing writers and publishers has become. I don't want to deny that my news filters shape my perspective on this though, either.

What this TotW question addresses:

1) At the turn of the 21st Century, one of the highlight disagreements between anarchists in North America was Red vs. Green anarchism.

2) Disagreements were often dealt with by just ignoring each other, what is being called "social exclusion".

3) Since the Internet has made it easier for people to associate based on more subtle differences of theory, they are forming together into smaller units of political affinity.

4) Since anarchists are associating together into ever-smaller groups, they don't have to find common ground as often with other anarchists.

5) Callout Culture targets the more public theorists of these (micro)tendencies ...because?

Alright - so there's a lot going on here, but the trailing question (#5) is based on some key points that gloss over a lot that has changed in the past (almost) 20 years; not just for anarchists, but for everyone. One of those key points is that what we're seeing with call outs is mostly a way of managing disagreements; and, that this can be compared with social exclusion, or Goldman whipping Most, etc. Another key point is that this has something to do with the ease with which anarchists are able to associate based on ever more subtle differences in theory.

What I'm saying is that those key points aren't the most forceful causes of anarchist call out culture ...that this isn't just a difference of conflict management.

So as an alternative analysis, I'm saying that a lot of what is driving these things has much less to do with theoretical differences and much more to do with a sort of identity crisis that is pervasive today beyond anarchist space. And I'm suggesting that callouts are a response to a deep identity crisis.

It's so easy these days to tie two things together in an instant. Some guy writes some article that resonates or is funny, and guess what, it's tagged anarchism on a popular website. Now this name and that word are intimately linked because someone needed to step into the light and if he didn't, it could be engineered anyway. And then people sitting on chairs at computers hear, read, think, and talk about it for long periods of time. "Oh that's not my anarchy, so you know!" Because after all the call-outer tags themself an anarchist, and now the word has been sullied by some idiot on the internet and all the offensive things they said. And then some forensic analysts are hired to go through the actual article and determine if that article actually was anarchist, written by an anarchist, was it blanched enough? It's too close to call, the analysts are divided, and then a big discussion and soul-searching. I assume that's what you meant by a response to an identity crisis.

Re: Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 19:19

There's a lot behind what I mean regarding Identity Crisis and I am not good at summarizing it, nor do I want to take up a ton of space with my ideas on that ...but that isn't what I mean.

What I mean is that there is a very broad struggle in the United States (and some other places) lately to solidify various identities. A large portion of debate in online forums, on podcasts, in official political discourse, and elsewhere is currently dedicated to this. I used to think that this was mostly just the Left's latest form of political agitation, but it's really everywhere. It's as much on the Right as well, with MRA, alt-Right, etc. It has as much to do with the way social media (especially Facebook) pushes people to reflect on how they represent themselves, their ideas, and their associations as it does with the ongoing march of capitalism through crises that displace people from the localities that they had formerly created meaning with their neighbors in. Today ...more than any time I can remember, we incessantly question our identities and strive to find/create stable ones. And there are a lot of factors, but I believe this is the status quo of our times.

So when this is the case... when it's difficult to hold onto anything and build an identity with it (a town, a music genre, a career, a political party, an ideology), representation in the form of writers and publishers and other microphones become handles to hold onto for a sense of who someone believes they are, the qualities they are associated with, the purpose of their daily activities, and where the can find themselves on the map of the social landscape. This is even more intense when it's difficult to maintain long-term brick and mortar venues, projects that demand stable commitments, and other such things.

In a sense... what a lot of us are left with are ideas that we defend harshly. And with that, those microphones for ideas are also harshly torn at: call outs, threats, bodily injury, property destruction, getting people fired from jobs, etc. Again, not towards any actual leaders of any sort of functioning group of whatevers... but towards writers, speakers, publishers.

Like... PZS, Aragorn!, Zerzan, Schmidt, Bob Black, Hakim Bey, Dr. Bones, etc. etc. etc.

These people are all writers and such. They're not my landlord, my boss, they're not paying my rent, they're not people I'm in a co-op with, they're not part of my street crew, my collective house, my land project, my union, or anything of the sort. They're not involved in my life in any practical way. At most, these are people who impact my identity as an anarchist, as this or that sort of anarchist, and what other people maybe think anarchists are and are about. Calling them out is about this latter sort of impact. They are people that are at the forefront of anarchism's representation. Association with them is a problem of identity. So it isn't disagreements that are really behind the call outs. It's that anarchists (like many many other people in NA) are absorbed in a problem: What Do I Identify With? What CAN I Identify Myself By? How Am I Identified?

Part if this is the growth of social media, no doubt. How you're identified and who you're identified with can get you evicted, fired, etc. and social media broadcasts these associations. But ultimately this is all of a different class of problems than the deforestation in the Pacific NW or the exploitation of Starbucks workers. And this isn't happening just because anarchists have scenes or milieus. This is a change that is everywhere defining politics.

Can you think of a reason why this may be the focus and not the more practical gains anarchists had been concerned with 20 years ago?

Thanks for the thought provoking response.
I think your last point about call outs as a kind of response to a crisis in identity is an interesting one.
For my part, I've been somewhat obsessed lately with the idea that a great many of the voices I interact with (even passively), in the online anarchist space, have never participated in anything even remotely looking like an IRL scene. Which isn't to say that you can't be an anarchist without being included in these social groups, but it's a bit odd to discuss ideas that so heavily pertain to daily life with people whom are seemingly very well read on these subjects and yet utterly lacking in that experience. Sort of like talking with post-leftists who never identified or went through the left/activist scene. At the very least, in the scenes in which I have moved through, many anarchists have widely divergent views on anarchy and yet its unquestionable that they are *all* anarchists, our lives are far more dependant on what we actually do together, and its in regards to practical decisions that we really disagree. If that experience did not exist, and the anarchist space was identical to the internet forums and facebook groups one frequented, I imagine that identity would play a far deeper role, and be much more concerning.

But I also distrust that this problem is limited to/rooted in those for whom anarchism is largely a shared online idea-space and a private philosophy.

FWIW: I'm really hesitant to just blame it on a millennial love of buzzfeed quizzes and a love of playing identity games but maybe its just the spirit of the times (no!)

The best time to be a modern anarchist are in the pioneer stage(1945-68) the cultural revolutionary stage(1968-77) and the early milieu stage(1979-early 90s) the rest is tertiary stage decadence. The post and alt leftists of the future must carve out their own meat space model for the coming post 2025 world. The current radical milieu has the same future that old first international formed anarchism had in the period leading up to 1945, none. The new ideas of anarchy will not be from those who waste time and space around a milieu model that is clearly in its decadent stage.

There is only ONE controversy and that is that Aragorn! and the other idiots who run this site (along with some marginal douchebags who lurk on the edges of the A! personality cult like PZS, A. Cabrera etc) thought that strangling random women to death in phone booths in Mexico City was excellent praxis and got all flabbergasted when the entire milieu turned against them, so now they are trying to distract us with total non-events like the Bones / Wolfi thing and this ridiculous, disingenuous TOTW. I'm sure Aragorn! and co. will find out the next time they try and attend any public anarchist event of any significance that new school anarchists don't mind resolving their problems with an old school whipping and some major social exclusion - IE no platforming for opportunistic dirtbags who thought they could ride the coattails of anti-anarchist reactionary scum like ITS without any IRL consequences.

I'm pretty sure you comment doesn't even deserve a reply, but here is a quick one.

#1.) no one you mention or thecollective ever said that it was good praxis. just a flat out lie. plz provide some evidence.
#2.) anews didn't publish those communiques from ITS, so you're wrong again.
#3.) anews took down the recent txt from ITS that mentioned one of IGDs translator.
#4.) i really hope "new school anarchists" learn to listen, read, understand, breathe, and communicate because right now your comment is not only a total waste of space and time, but it's also utter horse shit.

problems of association can be so visceral

it used to be that we would find 'a few jewels' in the sea of information that continually fountains forth, that would attract our interest, or the interest of a small group for a small time. it used to be the same with internet pictures of pretty girls and foreign places, there was still some freshness, innocence, romance, adventure, potential for discovery.

the flood of information has continued to escalate at an unbelievable pace and everything seems to be coming up stale, used, overdone, overexposed, too many pictures showing too much of the girls, overloads of tourist documentaries such as makes you homesick for a walk to your corner store, and in the realm of political discussion, loss of belief in anything. i.e. the information flow has turned into a sea of white noise like that which appears on a tv screen when the signal is interrupted, ... and we all keep staring at the screen, nevertheless, waiting for something interesting to push itself forth out of all the little dots, ... but nothing comes.

i'd say that information technologies have been taking us to the place that nietzsche predicted, to the realization that there is no 'objective truth'. as he put it;

"“What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms—in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.
.
We still do not know where the urge for truth comes from; for as yet we have heard only of the obligation imposed by society that it should exist: to be truthful means using the customary metaphors—in moral terms: the obligation to lie according to a fixed convention, to lie herd-like in a style obligatory for all. Now man of course forgets that this is the way things stand for him. Thus he lies in the manner indicated, unconsciously and in accordance with habits which are centuries’ old; and precisely by means of this unconsciousness and forgetfulness he arrives at his sense of truth.” — Nietzsche, ‘On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense’

if this staring into the endless supply of white noise continues without anything interesting popping up, maybe that will be the interesting thing about information technologies relative to political disagreement; i.e. to have hastened our enlightenment as to the false promise of rational inquiry.

perhaps this is the point of departure to do what the Zapatistas have done, re-cultivate a relationship with one another through the land.

Maybe some if us are already doing that and you're actually just talking to yourself?

by publicly declaring 'who we don't like'.

What you think is true that just ain't so

Just sneaked onto the prison clinic desktop, everything fine here, food here better than at home, library not bad, guards compassionate, better go, all the the best

PS Out on early release good behavior in 13 days wonderful experiences to retell until later,,,,,,,,

Nooooooooooooooo Waaaaaayyyyyyyyyy it's Le Way comin' our way in 13 (unlucky for us all) days!!!!!

what is apocryphal about the whipping story? the episode is included in "living my life" and is told by emma g herself. source on inveracity of the story?

I believe Barry Pateman said it was apocryphal (and that Emma exaggerated more than once in her book)

can i read/listen to him talk about it on the innernets or print medias?

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