Editorial for 10/19

The failure of criticism

For many years I’ve had issues with criticism. My particular issue was as narrow as feeling like post-left anarchism being being “just a criticism” has made itself too rarified for the long term. I personally have found a critical eye, and more importantly a kind of rigor around criticism, to be one of the most important things I’ve learned from anarchism BUT I think that part of that perspective is also thinking clearly about what assembling options are available after a concerted dissassembly process. Post-left anarchism, IMO, hasn’t done a great deal, if any, of that and I think we are less for that.

This week in the context of discussing the last podcast someone dropped a link to a podcast I’ve never heard of before but I am aware of the type (which is more evidenced by the site design than by me taking a deep dive into their material. It isn’t that interesting). The Corbett Report is very concerned with the representation of Climate Change by politicians, the media, and the UN. The video shared was a parsing of the messaging around Climate Change and many of the points were fairly put. We agree that something as big and epic as general human made climate change is not going to get an honest reading in the media. To the extent to which the issue is huge and requires buyin from rival factions of the Power Industrial Machine an honest reading is by its very nature impossible.

But instead of discussing propaganda Corbett seemed to live in the critical space of making fun of (with citations) the recent UN report. The bigger question was basically left untouched. If we care to save humanity what would it take, in the context of climate change? Authoritarian rule? Robot armies? Bigger arms to hug each other and the species dying around us? This is where Corbett’s critical take and anarchists have similar orientations. We aren’t capable of making the change we’d like to see in the world so we are left as commentators. What needs to be done, alongside deciding what needs to be done, is so big that we tend to rely on some larger “other” be it the state, google, or the goddess to do it for us.

If our, as in anarchisms, greatest and sharpest minds have been critizing the libertarian response to our sick society for the past two decades, perhaps now is time to turn that analysis towards data collection, model building, and thinking about the consequence of what a couple hundred, maybe thousand, people could do who desire attack, love, and an end of authoritarian rule. What does a black flag anarchism project look like that isn’t prefiguration, a platform, or fighting every fight on every street that no one else in the world cares about.

Editorial for 10/12/18

Sometimes I write little editorials for the @news podcast. Here is one from a few weeks ago.

Editorial – Anarchist Principles redux

For a number of years I’ve been thinking that the old school anarchist principles have needed updating. In the old days a lot of anarchist questions were answered by using the litmus of Solidarity, Mutual Aid, Direct Action, and Voluntary Association to do it. Anarchists may have squabbled but ultimately Solidarity informed their behavior to one another. When a task was larger then one person or group could accomplish Mutual Aid was the way in which coordination was framed. And Direct Action was how most anarchist activity was described where desire and coordination met. Finally association with each other was (and is) voluntary. We are not compelled to associate with each other.

But today most of these principles are mere shadows of what they were. The idea of anarchist solidarity outside of a demonstration or publication is nice but rare. Most anarchists are barely surviving in an economy on fire and have been mostly flung to the periphery of the periphery or to full time jobs that has little time for coordination against the Empire. Voluntary Association is more often than not about it’s dialectical twin Exclusion.

While exclusion is certainly an important part of defending oneself and ones community it has seemed to have become a perversion of self-defense. Perhaps this is a generational thing but exclusion seems to be the goto tool in many situations where one used to argue for ones positions, feel frustrated, not heard, and through a process of improving ones argumentation, thinking, and changing ones mind would come to a new plateau of positions, feelings, and relationships.

What has happened instead, and largely this is due to exclusion, is that anarchist circles no longer talk to each other and, at its worst, no longer each other. Ie this is an inter-circle issue and an intra-circle issue. The result is isolation, a shrinking of the circles (and the meta circles), and a terrible future for anarchist projectuality in the medium to long term. We have eaten our young, we have have largely eaten each other, and now we range the desolation on social media and the left looking for more protein.

I have imagined that a new set of anarchist principles would follow from the Free Software model, from contemporary anarchist thinking, and other sources but it’s hard to see that happening in the condition of isolation-exclusion we find ourselves in. While transparency is a modern principle that makes sense in a certain way for anarchist projects it is bedeviled by the urge for our projects, protests, and publications to be anonymous and untraceable. While we may desire meetings that are less bureaucratic and differently participatory, we have seen that those with the most experience and enthusiasm tend to take their energy elsewhere.

Of course the argument against principles takes us in yet another splintered direction. In the anarchist hyper-youth culture, which looks more-and-more embarrassing as we grey, our disdain for our parents prevents us from admitting we have them in the first place. We have all sprung from Zeus’s head. We have been taught nothing by nobody. We are the first people doing everything for the very first time. We refuse such a beast as anarchist principles because of course they are just trying to tie us down to stupid shit, to rules, to their order which we reject!

After this rant I guess the best I can conclude with is the potential of articulating what my anarchist principles are that drive my work, my projects, and my relationships with others. I desire freedom and think that timing, attack, and my voluntary associations are necessary to achieve it. Before I am free I think the preconditions of freedom are worth methodically going through, I do this by way of publications but I recognize there may be better ways that require a different social organization than the one I have access to. But in this space of creating preconditions I attempt to be transparent, poetic, and open with who I work with and how we do it. I strive for an environment that is both/and rather than either/or. Indifference, exclusion, and isolation are forms of hate. Attack is a form of love.

TAPTBSI – episode one

Talking a project through before starting it

I haven’t been blogging lately for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m getting pretty tired of responding to “hot takes” as if they are real engagement. They aren’t. I want anarchy to be a project we are all partaking of but I’m feeling not exactly butthurt (but maybe) but indignant at how different what I’m talking about is for other people. Which is to say that I think the anarchy unleashed at WDC, Berkeley, Portland over the past month isn’t. I think responding to right wing idiots is beneath us. I really do. And debating these points has been a straight up losing proposition so I wont do it.

This is bonus sad because of course I do have “experience on the ground” with this particular topic but that experience is what has led me to this point in the first place. Many topics aren’t worth talking about, except f2f, with friends. That’s a change for me. If you aren’t willing to truly destroy those who are your enemy (as in kill them in cold/warm blood) then you are either engaging them in a version of political discourse or you are walking away from that discourse. I advocate doing the latter.

Enough about that. I’m trying to get wound up to do a new project. It’ll probably be a weekly call in show, it’ll probably be very Internet focused, it’ll probably attempt to appeal to a wider audience that LBC + Anews + other projects. I’m kind of hoping that appeal will be because of humor but finding the right tone is a real problem. Here, and before this new project begins, I’m going to brainstorm about how to do a better @ projects based on the lessons I’ve learned from doing a lot of different projects and project types.

It’s worth mentioning that I have always used @ projects as an excuse to do things I’ve been inclined to do anyway. I was inspired by DIY Hardcore and explicitly projects like Dischord Records. But what I like about Dischord is a lot like what I like about anarchism, breadth.

This project is motivated by wanting to figure out how to speak about @ to a larger audience and wanting the experience of doing something like a call-in show (technically). But it’s hard to imagine me starting a project like this and not getting bogged down in idiocy. To keep it straight I’m going to have to do a dual thing that I’m not quite sure how to organize. One, how do I keep a show like this topical and fun. Two, how do I not get mired in the shit talking that I can easily slide into and that I have a crew of people who’d love.

One, let’s take this week and a for example, should an anarchist topical show talk about the death of a US senator. I’ve generally ignored the US government when it comes to @ projects but it’s clear there are a lot of funny things one could/should say about politicians and dying but it’s a hard call. Can one do it w/o sounding like a liberal? Without sounding heartless? Without sounding like a late night comedy show? I guess the latter wouldn’t be terrible but finding that line w/o a room of writers… not so easy.

Two, it is so tempting to talk online anarchist shit. To talk about JZ or the latest FB drama. I think it is incredibly not interesting to anyone outside the 100 or so ppl who engage in both but how can we get to the heart of what are complicated political disagreements without miring every episode in a ton of exposition that is boring, sectarian, and something-else. That something-else is the death of this project from a long-term perspective.

Anyway over the next couple months I’m going to think this project through with the goal of launching it with a full audio package of effects, organization, and back up plans by the end of the year. Any thoughts/insights on how to do this well would be appreciated. You can get at me at aragorn@littleblackcart.com or add a comment to this blog and if you want it to stay unpublished it will.

What I hate about the Internet and what it means for the future of Anarchism

In another life I work with technology for a living. This means I keep up to date on Internet technologies and the theories that inform them. I just scanned a solid article from new TOR board member and security researcher Bruce Schneier and the power struggle between the feudal internet and those of us who are working for distributed power (by many other names). While Bruce’s goal isn’t necessarily mine, I do think that considering the modern anarchist project one of deliberately distributing power (and working for this distribution) isn’t far off the mark.

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What I hate about the Internet, of course, is that it has quickly moved from a decentralized cacophony of voices, perspectives, and mediums for transmitting different ideas, into a channeled, mediated, controlled, and censored medium replicating most of the media flaws that lead to the popularization of the Internet in the first place. In the context of the anarchist internet this means that the first wave of anarchist controlled internet1 have almost entirely disappeared. Anarchist Internet discussion has almost entirely moved to Facebook and/or the ephemeral snapchat, instragram, and twitter contexts2.

Real life has politically split with the Internet to limited affect. In the activist version of real life (that in my past life as a post-situationist I would call the double abstracted life of the spectacular present) this means issuing communiques on the Internet (with the most secure https and the most blurred of faces) but never discussing strategy or criticism (outside the clique). In the diy version of real life this means rooms with fewer and fewer people talking from the basis of less and less knowledge. Abandoning the internet, as smart as it is from one set of assumptions, has as its major downside a lack of interconnectedness. This fabric of relationships is the one thing I would point to as the most necessary thing to any vision of a future world that isn’t dictated by the feudal concerns of state, capital, and centralized power.

In a different context I am entirely on the side of real life. The meaningful relationships I want to build with individuals lives there. I live there. But that is only one part of what I do with my time. Another part, that of a publisher, propagandist, and curious monkey, lives on the internet. To the extent to which I continue to want to entertain and be entertained I think the feudal internet has to be fought but this seems like such a desperate and lonely fight. Returning to Schneier’s essay here is a nice way to think about the problem.

The truth is that technology magnifies power in general, but the rates of adoption are different. The unorganized, the distributed, the marginal, the dissidents, the powerless, the criminal: they can make use of new technologies faster. And when those groups discovered the Internet, suddenly they had power. But when the already powerful big institutions finally figured out how to harness the Internet for their needs, they had more power to magnify. That’s the difference: the distributed were more nimble and were quicker to make use of their new power, while the institutional were slower but were able to use their power more effectively. So while the Syrian dissidents used Facebook to organize, the Syrian government used Facebook to identify dissidents.

Now I’m not exactly sure I agree that we (the unorganized, marginal, and dissidents) should race to get ahead on tech like quantum computing or VR or whatever. But I am quite sure that whatever innovation happens here (by the unorganized, marginal, and dissident) has to do what it is going to do quickly (and probably in such an uncompromising and vicious of a way as to be entirely disagreeable to most of the unorganized, marginal, and dissident) so as to not lose to the logic of big institutions. The internet wasn’t destroyed the day amazon went live but it took years for us to realize how big of an impact that day was and some of us haven’t learned it yet.

1 spunk, radio4all, indymedia, infoshop, etc
2 Astute readers (and trolls) will notice that I am not mentioning my own sites/work here. Love or hate my projects but you have to admit they are self-organized and not financed or profitable.

The Casual LBC Tour

I am about to head out to the 49th parallel for a two month motorcycle tour. That could be fun.

  1. April 17th – Portland OR: Anarres Infoshop
  2. April 18th – Seattle WA: Left Bank Books
  3. April 24th – Victoria BC: Camas books
  4. April 25th – Vancouver BC: 38 Blood Alley
  5. May 3rd – Minneapolis MN
  6. May 6th-10th – Western Michigan
  7. May 12thish – SE Michigan
  8. May 15th – Hamilton @ The Tower
  9. May 16th – Toronto
  10. May 17th – Kingston
  11. May 18th – Rochester NY
  12. May 20th – Providence RI
  13. May 21st – Boston MA
  14. May 28th – Montreal QC
  15. May 31st – Pittsburgh?
  16. June 1st – Cleveland
  17. June 3rd – Columbus
  18. June 4th – Toledo
  19. June 5th – Bloomington
  20. June 6th-8th – Chicago
  21. June 11th – Tulsa (Oklahoma bookfair)
  22. June 9th-on – Somewhere West of Chicago near the I80

famOtyar