Friday, June 5, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
NEFAC-Quebec (in their new incarnation) would too:
As would the Open Anthropology blog, with videos on the Haymarket tragedy:
Molly Mew with an IWW look at the origins of this May Day:
And a Marxist take, in the musings-and-mutterings of A Very Public Sociologist:
Go to a picnic in San Francisco:
Or check out 'the funkiest' EuroMayday:
If you are in Montreal (as, unfortunately, I am not) the 'Festival of Anarchy' - which includes the Bookfair in two weeks time - kicks off with a MAy Day anticapitalist demonstration:
Friday, MAY 1, 5:30pm @ Parc Cabot (corner Atwater and Ste-Catherine – métro Atwater)
That's RIGHT NOW!
And for more on the 'Fest:
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Sorry for yelling...
Monday, April 13, 2009
Basically, this particular run of theory relates to Lewis Call's (2003) notion of 'postmodern anarchism', as described in previous posts. This idea links the political thought and expression of some strains of anarchism (demonstrated, for example, by some of the more 'poetic' texts translated on some blogs, and more generally with the idea of discursive contestation and resistance to the spatio-temporal foreclosure of struggle or rebellion as 'event') with a more general social trend in the presentation, reception and manipulation (non-pejorative sense) of information - in line with what I've described in previous posts as 'laterality'. Indeed, this run may speak to Dr. Forte's question of whether there is something about the infrastructure, use and culture of online communications that makes anarchism a more tenable or attractive political ideal (or label). In part, at least in Call's analysis, hypertextuality contributes to a relative pluralization, destabilization and possible democratization of the claims to 'truth' in defining the social, power dynamics, and lived experience - not to mention in describing particular aspects of refusal and resistance, and 'events' such as those cast under the rubric of the Greek uprising.
One of the first texts I read in January was the short piece on 'virtualities' by Rob Shields, and I've subsequently picked up his book ('Virtualities', 2003) - which I will employ as a helpful supplement to Call's ideas, essentially mobilizing the notion of the 'virtual' set out in that initial two-page piece (as the real-ideal, but opposed to the concrete). This notion, which I won't treat in depth here, and which will enter my paper in a trimmed form, posits the virtual as a necessary philosophico-theoretical category in describing the possible impact of social (or activist) imaginaries on the unfolding actualization of events. I think that this is a very pertinent consideration, displacing critiques of ideas (such as those of anarchists) as 'merely utopian' and emphasizing the action of the ideal on the real in social processes (as is also discussed, for example, by Derrida)...
I also noticed that a number of texts from Greek collectives translated on some sites, and indeed some of the anarchist or 'social antagonist' textual productions coming out of Europe more generally, frequently refer to 'the spectacle' as an important element of contemporary capitalist social arrangements and a target for resistance. While I'm not comfortable reducing this idea to a single historical text, I think it is useful to consider this in light of Guy Debord's (1983 [orig.1967]) 'Society of the Spectacle', in which he describes the spectacle as a social relation mediated by images, and remarks on the commoditization of time (and leisure experience in particular), the supercession of lived experience and 'authentic' life. Debord's dialectical project, he writes, use existing concepts "simultaneously aware of their rediscovered fluidity, their necessary destruction (205)."
Call places Debord's Situationism along a theoretical trajectory towards Baudrillard's notion of simulation, and the need to take resistance off the plane of the language of political economy and into the realm of symbolic contestation (it's not just about distributative justice; welfare reform and more jobs are not the gift that heals the rift), battling for the boundaries of the spatio-temporal 'actuality' (by contesting the spectacular representation of society to itself and emphasizing the 'virtual' as potentially-actual) . This is where Shield's strikes me as highly pertinent...
Indeed, Shields notes that sociology - and other 'social sciences' - deal in 'virtuality' when claims are made about 'underlying' social processes (as these are not articulable mechanisms, but posited dynamics 'in essence, if not in fact' - a tendency common from folk wisdom about human nature to high-level economic planning and the legitimating discourses of dominant institutions).
Coming back to the question of whether there is something about online arena's that might foster some version(s) of anarchism as a political orientation, it's worth noting that Shield's discussion includes the following quote from M. Poster:
"the history of electronic communication is less the evolution of of technical efficiencies in communication than a series of arenas for negotiating issues crucial to the conduct social life; among them, who is inside and who is outside, who may speak, who may not, and who has the authority and may be believed" (quoted in Shields 2003: 16).
This clearly reflects the kinds of issues concerning Uri Gordon's (2007, 2008) 'contemporary anarchists', and is clearly a point of contention with regard to independent information sources (such as some of the more interesting blogs, news postings and discussion board contributors addressing the Greek uprising and ongoing situation). I would argue that, in some ways, this could be seen as an extension of a legthy process such as that which Walter Benjamin already glimpsed in the early 1930s in newspapers' attempts to assimilate readers by raising them to the level of 'collaborators': "the conventional distinction between author and public [...] is dissapearing in a socially desirable way. The reader is at all times ready to become a writer - that is, a describer or even a prescriber" (Benjamin 2008: 359). Geert Lovink (2008) argues that blogging often tends to be parasitic of the mainstream, and discussion focuses on whether bloggers (or 'citizen journalists,' etc. are competent journalists or reasonable commentators) - and clearly this is important in many ways (see 'Does the Truth matter?' post, below), but the project of contestation and flattening out of hierarchical relations in the ability to disseminate/receive information is perhaps more clearly visible in the case of some of the online treatments of the Greek situation I've been looking at. The very terms of contestation, in many cases, are radically different, and in some, definitely not those of political economy...
This is perhaps a rough and disjointed rundown, but time is drawing nigh; I'll clean it up in post-production.
Benjamin, Walter. 2008. The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility [...]
Call, Lewis. 2003. Postmodern Anarchism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Debord, Guy. 1983. Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black & Red.
Lovink, Geert. 2008. Zero Comments: blogging and critical internet culture. London: Routledge.
Shields, Rob. 2003. The virtual. London; New York: Routledge.
Friday, April 10, 2009
"the introduction of 1.300 cameras in the capital, the training of a special forces corps of 2.500 ex-underwater destruction and mountain combat units of the Army, to change the legislation concerning academic asylum, to implement severe measures against mask and hood wearing, and to launch a law and order campaign against crime and indiscipline. The issue was the topic of a day-long Parliamentary session two days later, where the government was heckled by the opposition as parochial and a danger to civil rights. The Fascist Party (LAOS) expressed its content stating that the PM speech was in effect a bricolage of its own communiqués of the last few months."
The poster of the original Libcom.org piece appears to be rather prolific in updating interested English-language online types - and provides a great deal of background and commentary. Clearly, a definite familiarity with Greek history, and almost certainly the Greek language, makes it possible to make the kind of detailed posts I often see on Libcom (which in turn parallels some of the other more interesting sources that have been posting on this context, such as the On the Greek Riots blog and the now-inactive Tapes Gone Loose blog).
The relative expertise and raw labour (in researching and writing a large number of detailed english-language updates w/commentary and background) of this particular poster has not gone unrecognized elsewhere - note this post from the .urbandissent blog on the torching of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn headquarters a month ago, which acknowledges this gift (while also noting some reservations about the poster's stance on guerilla violence). More an more, as I get a feel for what's out there on the 'anarchist web' and nearby concerning the Greek unrest and the situation there at present, this point (and the one made by .urbandissent) continues to jump out. Particularly after the initial wave of street actions, the most interesting and informative content tends to be produced by a very small number of individuals with a relatively high level of knowledge and commitment. Indeed, this is also somthing I've noticed on at least one major anarchist message board, where the major body of information being conveyed came from one Greek ex-pat in an English-speaking country who gave rich historic and contemporary detail of the political situation and supplemented this with personal experience (at points, some threads looked like question-and-answer sessions). This may seem like an obvious point in some ways (that a few dedicated and knowledgeable individuals keep things going and keep the rest in the loopl), but it does stress a certain tension with the 'early' Greek story of 'snap mobs' and 'many-to-many' communication...
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
As is, I'm really just out to set up the basic problems and context, spend a minute on methods and locus, jump into explaining how both mainstream and underground attention to the situation of Greek anarchists largely evaporated by mid-January and how it was used to connect/segue to other issues...then to present the case of Konstantina Kouneva as an attempt to avoid the foreclosure of the Greek uprising as a limited 'event' to be looked back at and analyzed between its neat set of brackets, to suggest that Uri Gordon's characterization of 'contemporary anarchism' as a political culture (particularly his notion of 'domination') provides a good backdrop for articulating a basic 'collective identity' among anarchists, including the online examples at hand, but that this commonality is shot through with divisions. My kicker consists in highlighting one pole of one of these 'axes of difference': between more traditional, modernist anarchisms concerned with the logistics of organization and what, after Lewis Call (2003), I'm calling 'postmodern anarchisms' - highlighted, for example, in both the carnivalesque elements of street-level protest and the poetic texts issued by some of the occupations, etc, translated and posted, which in some cases (I provide an eloquent example) explicitly resist the containment of the spirit of the December events in its spatio-temporal representational package...
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Here's an interesting dissonance of perspectives that might highlight one of the most basic differences between (at least some) 'anarchist' perspectives and those commentators who have more faith in 'liberal democracy' - and I think this ties into the discussion of postmodern anarchism below, but might also bring up seriously problematic issues of justification and standards for truth...
Andrew Liam, quoted on the Gauravonomics blog:"As witnessed in Greece, the failure to verify information by the public and media professionals can be tragic. There was a universal assumption in Greece that the teenager was shot in cold blood, and no one bothered to wait for the coroner’s report. The policeman’s claim that he was innocent – that he had shot into the air to disperse the crowd– was summarily dismissed. It is a dangerous world, indeed, when citizen reporters are completely trusted, both by the media institutions that incorporate them and by the audience who consume that information. The role of the mature news organization, one should think, is to filter real news from pseudo news, rather than treating all content as equal."
One American 'post-left' anarchist blog, CSA, suggested the following, by contrast, in a discussion of an early-January shooting of a Greek riot police officer that had provoked some 'conspiracy theories' at the time:
"Of course, the precise identities and motivations of the shooters is no more important in this case than in the shooting of Alexis Grigoropoulos [ed note: the teen shot by Greek police, provoking the first wave of demos and rioting in early December, referred to above]. Hopefully Greek anarchists will avoid being sucked into the melodrama of bourgeois justice and will continue building on their impressive gains of the last month."
I think the contrast is particularly interesting in that it does an end-run around the need for the kind of refutation of the former comment which is actually juxtaposed to it on the Gauvaronomics blog (from Katrin Verclas, claiming that there was no shortage of 'professional' information provision and publicised debate), and gets at something much bigger; certainly - if facts don't matter - it takes the fight to the arena of simulation or the spectacle...
It's worth keeping in mind that this (CSA) is a US site, and only one example, but other statements that link up an almost holistic, but rather poetic, world-picture of injustice perpetuated by a vision of authority and capitalist/consumer culture do seem to play into the 'postmodern' anarchist radicalism Call (2003) describes...
...and this could well be a troubling thing, in some ways.
As Patrick Meier suggests on his blog:
"The mainstream media has an increasingly important social service to play in the Twitter age: distinguishing fact from fiction"
...and he goes on to suggest (a key point, I think) that the initial riots need to be understood in context (what is it about Greece in particular?), though the first wave of information going viral, as that term suggests, may indeed be understood via a kind of 'contagion' model.
It is also worth noting that while initial forensics on the December 6 shooting scene indicated a ricochet (potentially corroborating the officers story that he fired a warning shot in the air), it was later reported - after Meier's and Liam's initial postings - that the ricochet was near ground level, and indicated that the officer shot at the youths, killing Alexis. Incidentally, even BEFORE the story told about inaccurate online info-sharing that jumped the gun on the coroner's report as the catalyst for the initial riots, there was a video and eye-witness testimony to the account eventually borne out by later forensics.
And in the 'context' connection, I think that the fact that things are still going on - if less intensely, in some ways - around the kinds of social struggle called out by anarchists and others in December certainly indicates that the CSA position that the detailed facts of a single incident may not be the heart of the bigger story continues to carry some weight contra the alarm of those focusing on what turned out to be an erroneous claim that the officer was not at least partially (or indeed, entirely) culpable in this case...
Saturday, March 28, 2009
In order to describe difference among what I wish to conceptualize as an analytically cogent 'group', I need a broad basis for 'collective identity'; in my reading, I feel that I've found a serviceably broad base in Uri Gordon's (2007, 2008) conceptualization of the 'political culture' of contemporary anarchism - which constitutes a 'field' of 'collective identity' in very general terms, and which I can proceed to cut up according to my observations and interests.
Gordon (2007:29), who wrote an excellent piece for Ha'aretz on the Greek situation in January, suggests that contemporary anarchism is marked by three “conceptual clusters”:
(a) the construction of the concept of ‘domination’ and the active opposition to all its forms and systems,
(b) the ethos of direct action as a primary mode of political engagement, both destructive and constructive, and
(c) the open-ended, experimental approach to revolutionary visions and strategies, which endorses epistemological pluralism and is strongly grounded in present tense action.
The key concept of ‘domination’ for Gordon is best described as “a disvalue: what anarchists want to negate. The word in its anarchist decontestation serves as a generic concept for the various systematic features of society whereby groups and persons are controlled, coerced, exploited, humiliated, discriminated against, etc.—all of which dynamics anarchists seek to uncover, challenge and erode” (ibid:37-38).
Contemporary anarchism, by Gordon’s account, is a relatively new coalescence of previously distinct struggles, a development that he traces back to the New Left of the 1960s, but the full ‘fusion’ of which he dates to the late 1990s and the advent of the global movements against neoliberal globalization. Contemporary anarchism, in this conception, amounts to a ‘political culture’ corresponding to forms of organization and ideological orientation identified with the ‘keywords’ “anarchism, anti-authoritarianism and horizontalism” (ibid:32).
This obviously does not cover all bases (actually, I think it might obscure a bit the opposite pole to the one I am about to describe, a more traditional, modernist, class-struggle aspect of anarchism that rest in realism, the pseudo-scientific problem of decoding the meaning of given sets of conditions, etc.), but serves as a decent launch-pad, in its high generality, for a tracing of the axes of difference that jump out at me in what I've been looking at. The commonalities of much of the 'anarchist' content seem to fit well with this definition, and many of the interesting divergences and debates seem to hit on questions of how to deal with problems that can - at their most general - be framed in this kind of vision.
One of the particular axes of difference jumping out at me, and the concern of this blog post, is the notion that a number of sources (see, for example, the my post on the text reproduced on the On the Greek Riots blog regarding the recent occupation adjacent to the Athens Polytechnic, or some of the material translated in the Tapes Gone Loose blog prior to its passing) seem to exhibit an affinity for poetic language, an artistic bent, and a loose idiom which seeks to link all 'domination' and struggle while maintaining a creative and provisional flavor that seems bent on fighting on a plane very concerned with representation - that challenges the language of the quotidian, and which really emphasizes the aspect of the 'experimental approach' and 'epistemological pluralism' Gordon points to.
It seems to me - and this actually emerged in the data forcing me to account for recurring themes - that there really is a strong tendency consonant with what Lewis Call (2003) calls 'Postmodern Anarchism' ( also the title of the book). This vision of anarchism takes up Baudrillard's notion that Marxism "may be radical in its content, but certainly not in it's form, which retains the language of bourgeois political economy almost in its entirety" (6-7). The idea here is that the PoMo critique of PolEcon "must stand entirely outside that seemingly hegemonic system" (8). Calls 'postmodern anarchism' calls out a critique of the sign a la Baudrillard, and weaves it with the common threads of certain contemporary feminisms, socialisms, subaltern theories, and - of course - anarchisms, that seek to reverse the flows and configurations of the micropower-based social reproduction mechanisms of the larger and more apparent structures of formal power (and the undercurrents associated with them). Call evokes an 'anarchy of the subject' and and 'anarchy of becoming', in terms of self-overcoming as perpetual project, and suggests a more capillary offensive against 'power' (as domination).
Interestingly, a major field here is the 'net - as simultaneously hyper-commodified and site to "the most outrageous revolutionary declarations" (14). What is big here is a revolution in signification, in semiotics - the kind of decentered and perpetual subversive attempts one might link to May 1968 in France via the influence of the Situationist International. To again cite Baudrillard: "even signs must burn" (23).
"Today simulation has become a massive social and cultural fact; it is therefore in the realm of simulation that any meaningful political action must take place" (ibid.). This takes the form of a "powerfully anachistic neo-Situationist politics" (ibid.) - which I will try to demostrate as an effective characteriztion of an important pole to be described in the axes of difference which cut across the field of contemporary anarchism described by observation of the presentation of the Greek scenario in anarchis/radical-left online contexts...but that's for next post. I will mention, however, that I have noticed a lot of talk of 'spectacle' a la Guy Debord in some of the revolution-speak reproduced from Greece online. Now I have to read Society of the Spectacle!
In terms of theoretical backcup on this point, Richard JF Day ('Setting up shop in nullity: neo-situationism and the new protest aesthetic', 2007) similarly highlights the neo-Situationist aspect of much contemporary anarchist - and other radical-left - protest, and connects it with the notion of a resistance which refuses to petition 'power' (government, the formal political structures of authority) or simply try to topple existing structures and take the reins - but rather seeks to work around, outside of, and in the interstices of formal power operations and to refigure the subjective aspects of micropowers and thus subvert their 'objective' manifestations...Graham St-John backs 'em up, focusing on the 'carnivalesque', etc...
I'll try to comment on this if I have the time, but do like to post new stuff (even if this function of blogging is not exactly that of posting project updates and more in-depth thoughts...)
radical theoretical/perspectival pluralism, in-group/out-group communication, links and mainstream amplification...
It has come to my attention, for example, that one radical-left blog which hosts one the most extensive collections of anarchist/radical-left links on the web (of which I am aware) contains a couple of deliberate exclusions - based on a theoretical/perspectival disagreement with some sites tendency to maintain a radical theoretical pluralism which includes a relatively significant amount of content linked to certain strands of 'anarchism' (after all, a loose term) like anarcho-primitivism, anti-civilization, post-leftism, and what I'm going to cal 'riot porn' direct-actionism. All of these strains tend to be antagonistic towards more broad-based and long-stading strains, such as the various forms of anarcho-communism, syndicalism or more general 'libertarian socialisms'.
There's a whole history here (going back to some major polemics in the 80s and 90s by Bob Black, John Zerzan, etc. and more recently manifested in a dispute between AK Press and 'Anarchy: a journal of desire armed' in which the latter was blacklisted - i.e. dropped from distribution - by the former powerful 'anarchist' publisher/distributor for printing a brutal polemic against AK in the form of a letter by the aforementioned Black). The journal's response (in this editorial) is perhaps a classic defense of radical theoretical pluralism, railing against 'sectarianism' in favor of, well, a sort of solidarity with anyone calling with some connection to anarchist ideas, no matter how acerbic, antagonistic, divergent, etc. This is the kind of view to which at least one major anarchist 'hub' site - which I myself visit for news and forum discussion - also seems to subscribe, and this is the more notable of the linking exclusions on the blog I mentioned in the previous paragraph. The blogger there holds that implicitly supporting these strains is unhelpfult, that they are actually counter to any possible anarchist political successes, and that they mobilize just plain bad ideas. This probably only notable in that it does seem to be the case with many sites that more or less strong forms of radical pluralism (in many cases link-inclusive of sites that present perspectives that fall quite far from the linking origin site) are notable, and no comment is offered...that is, they link without making links.
I think that this connects with the notion of 'laterality' I discussed in a past post a couple of weeks ago - in that this presentation of hypertextual possibilities reinforces the idea of radical theoretical/perspectival pluralism itself, as it often does not make strong differentiations or evaluations between multiple sources. Clearly, it would be possible to go into more depth here - I'm thinking of the relatively complex analysis of hypertextual links in the xxxxx (????) reading here - but I think this a bit beyond my scope right now. I also think that the dynamic here is similar to the way in which posters on many anarchist news sites, and many blogs (including some of those specifically covering the Greek uprisings) repost/amplify mainstream news coverage without offering commentary - even when coverage focuses on how violent and unreasonable the presumed comrades or sisters/brothers in solidarity of the reposting parties are. When selection in some contexts seems to be based on extremely broad categories of relevance (this is about Greek anarchists, or protests, etc.) and increasing information flows, but less so on discriminating (in either sense) selection of information - the question arises, as it does with radical theoretical/perspectival pluralism, of the possible tension between in-group and out-group communication.
By this I mean to refer to the fact that amplifying negative mainstream coverage seems an especially ineffective strategy for building support among anyone who might not already be considered an adherent to the ways of seeing the world that might be common to many anarchists/radical-left-thinking people. The assumption, as I alluded to in a past post, must be that the audience is likely to come to the kinds of conclusions that the poster would - e.g. that these are accounts of interesting events, and that the characterization of anarchists, or of protesters, etc. is not the best possible view. That is, the assumption is of an 'in-group' audience - that the site is there as a community of interest rather than a (counter) public-relations node. In terms of the issue of radical theoretical/perspectival pluralism, the same assumptions either prevail, or much broader ones - that we should suggest, say, critique and even slander anything and everything, and that this (I'm inferring, though I'm playing with other possible logics) is the case either due to an irreducible value of difference, an need for agonistic struggle, a more-or-less ideal vision of the public sphere, or a progressive process such as the dialectic...interestingly enough, this almost seems to imply a view that information and ideas speak - and work - for themselves. The epistemological and political implications of such an assumption (and how they might 'link' to networked flows of information) are something that I will address in future posts, and in my paper.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
1. What effect do you hope to have with the blog, posting updates and original material on the situation in Greece, especially now that a lot of the mainstream and underground coverage has lessened since December? How does online media make a difference in struggles like this?
2. What role do you see for those of us outside of Greece in keeping up with events there, and what can perhaps be learned from the situation there?
3. How do those of you working on the blog decide what to post there (given that there has to be quite a bit of news and info out there...though perhaps not so much that I can find in English that's current)?
...and I'm not quite prepared to forward my thoughts on the much-appreciated response. More later [repeat as mantra].
As a bit of an aside: rude awakening (followed by a joyful moment) in the past 10 days, as one of the major anarchist hub-site message boards on which I've been conversing shut down completely without notice for several days, then returned - but without the messages posted to many topics over the past six (8?) weeks! Technical infrastructure issues invade the social space of the online forum, eh? In my case, this meant all of my carefully considered posts, which I otherwise have no record of. I found a thread when it came back up which described a technical problem with servers and transferring data (don't really get the jargon), in which one poster noted this loss (with a little lament). A response to that post expressed surprise (this hadn't been noticed), and a subsequent suggested that it would be just too much work to resequence everything to get the contents of the gap back online. Yet, lo and behold, my last visit - to check the latest - yielded the full temporal span. A reminder of the fragile materiality of the persistent background of accumulated energy, thought and interaction that get put into these things...
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
It clearly behoves me to try to trace out the networked paths and locations I've been circulating in, and some of my key observations...soon!
I've had a few interesting exchanges on major anarchist discussion forums over the last couple of months; generally on the slow side of asynchrony, given that I'm pretty focused on Greece and the situation there has seen a major slowdown since December...
I've also tried a number of avenues to get a bit of direct input from the bloggers I've looked at, including a couple more peripheral to the Greek news but who've put up interesting commentary on the subject. In general, I've found that many are impossible to contact, most that can be are unresponsive (literally, tout court), and a couple kind and quick-thinking types have graced me with some kind of reply: one ongoing and one pending (but promised)...and a number of emails floating in the ether.
I've got some serious reading on the go, with Jeffery Juris (and others) on 'networked social movements' and the web as public sphere, Uri Gordon, Francis Dupuis-Deri and David Graeber on contemporary anarchism in general, Geert Lovink and Michael Dartnell on tactical media, online insurgency and blogging, and a particularly welcome find in an Owens and Palmer (2003...then grad students at UNC Chapel Hill) piece on anarchist use of the net to reach out after the early anti/alter-globalization surge, which introduces the simple-enough but - I'm thinking now, anyhow - potentially productive idea of a tension in online activist circles between in-group and out-group communications (which I think links to wider issues as well...)
And I must check out that iRevolution bit recommended to me...
The Occupied London blog is still seeming somewhat regular (others less so, if at all), and putting up interesting material to keep things hopping...and various items of news and commentary seem to pop up intermittently, which keeps me close to my Blogger RSS, anarchist Twitterers and assorted alternative-anarchist-radical-left news sites when I can spare the screen-time...
Alas, back to lecture writing on social deviance, contestation, social movements and the anti-police brutality march this past 15th!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
"From 8 a.m. this morning (19.03) tens of comrades occupied a building on the corner of Patision Ave and Skaramaga Str (right between the Athens Polytechnic and the Economics University – trans). Works inside have already started; a soundsystem has been set up and the subversive Carmen sang by Maria Kallas (who, many claim, was born in this building) is echoing across the buzzing Patision Ave. There are many people in the building right now, increasing by the hour. You can come to the beautiful building and gaze at the sea from its rooftop.
The new Patision Commune is here. Strong, sober and uncrushable."On the Greek Riots blog, from a new occupation effort adjacent to the Athens Polytechnic (launched 8am this morning, 19/3/2009 Athens time) explicitly rails against this foreclosure:
"[...] the state, the bosses and all the mob that has a high interest for nothing to change no longer. From the moment when they managed to regroup they were anything but spectators. They claimed the return to normality by usng all means in their disposal. From riot police and para-statal thugs to the sociologists and the sensitive artists. From the established talk about extremists, gangs, saboteurs, greek-haters, all the way to the peaceful citizens’ claim to the right to celebrate their christmas. From the hypocritical self-criticism of the adults to their kids, to the arrest of 265 revolted and the incarceration of 65. They did whatever they could do, in other words, in order for December to turn into a “sad bracket” where in the end the extremists were punished and those who followed were admonished."
The language used in connection with this new occupation is that of strong affect and collectivity, reminding me of Michel Maffesoli's (Time of the Tribes, 1996 - fr. orig. 1988) distinction between the 'social' and 'sociality.' The former is linked with modern forms, rationalized, individuating and functional, in which group are bound by contractual bonds - such as the social contract notion that structures the self-conception of the 'citizen.' The latter is post-modern, linking persons by their role in affectual 'tribes' (Maffesoli's tern is tribus). 'Tribalism' is used as a metaphor to capture the primeval everyday aspect of human connection he calls "the collective sensisbility which issues from the aesthetic form [and] results in an ethical sensibility."
Take the following:
“The biggest expectations lie ahead of us and we find ourselves in the joyous position of seeking ways to drift along with them"Or:
"[The December uprising] abolished, even if temporarily, gendered and spectacular roles since thousands of people managed to act as one body amidst events where what mattered was what was happening, not who was doing it."
"Reality continues to gain meaning from December’s revolt in an accelerating manner."
Perhaps Maffesoli's analysis of post-modern populations as marked by a resurgence of sociality and the 'tribal', along with a concern for 'proxemics' (that which concerns the spatially and experientially immediate, the quotidian) is manifested in a heightened form when groups take this kind of collective action against formal order. Immediacy and affect are highlighted in a number of recent social movement scholars' work (such as that of Kevin McDonald on anti-capitalist protesters in Australia and the US, the transition of logics from "solidarity to fluidarity" and "oneself as another", Graham St. John's on the 'carnivalesque', and Richard JF Day on the "new Situationism" in contemporary radical-left political dissent), and the kind of language used by these most recent communards is relatively widespread in certain sectors of the radical left - and bears some comparison with the original Situationist International (note the use of the concept of the spectacle, linked with Guy Debord) and its concern to break down barriers between art and everyday life in pursuit of a radical-left politics.
Perhaps this is an apt way to express such a message that seeks to evade the foreclosure of the event and register an immediacy of priority and strength as well as of collective identity and affective intensity. In any case, I will be watching closely...
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Here in Montreal, those who spoke at the beginning of the rally (assembled outside Mont-Royal metro) definitely emphasized the recent case of Freddy Villanueva, shot by Montreal city police officer Jean-Loup Lapointe along with two other unarmed youth in a north-end neighborhood where they were playing craps outdoors. Lapointe and his partner were apparently touching base with Villanueva's brother, who was said to have been associating with individuals forbidden by a court order. In any case, a lot of people in the community were upset, and there was a significant march and some 'rioting' in the days that followed - as well as some articulate questions raised, and community organizing taken up in hopes of addressing aggressive patterns in police behaviour towards local youth.
The Collectif Oppose au Brutalite Policiere have held a rally against police brutality on March 15 for the past 13 years; it is also marked in other cities internationally. From the start, the police presence was overwhelming, with dozens of cars and logistics vehicles parked just to the south, mounted police, and Surete du Quebec helicopters circling overhead (which I do not recall from the past two years). The rally proceeded peacefully down St. Denis from Mont Royal after an apparent false start in which the crowd moved to proceed East on Mont Royal, but were blocked by a line of riot police. The exit onto St Denis was left open, and was to be the de facto route...once most of those present either caught on or were prompted to head that way (I saw a number of people coordinating this via celphone). From there to the Sherbrooke St intersection, protesters chanted and displayed placards and banners - and a great deal of photographs were taken. I saw a couple of paint bombs hit two windows (fashion boutiques) and two mailboxes overturned and dragged into the street. A few metal barriers from a construction site joined the march.
At Sherbrooke, helmeted riot police with shields and batons blocked the route to the south and west, and the march ground to a halt; the police presence here (with rented trucks from Jean Legare Ltee. and paddywagons) seemed to amount to a planned confrontation. And the stage was set. It is true that some then hurled rocks, one extremely loud firecracker, vegetables and a couple of beer bottles at the police lines...though I was reminded at this point of Uri Gordon's discussion of protest 'violence' in "Anarchy Alive" (2008, excellent read) which points out that 'violent' actions such as this, against police equipped such that the possibility of injury is negligible, have an almost ritual quality and seem to obviate the imputation of a real attempt to injure.
Sirens lit up, and I for one joined others in taking a distance (with a number of protesters and journalists) on the street corner, and saw a great number of people head East on Sherbrooke with police in close concert. From what I understand (I ended up weaving through the downtown core without coming across the few hundred people still keeping together) there were some who took more confrontational approaches than earlier in the day as the march wound up close to Place-des-Arts, and I certainly saw evidence of actions against property and 'public order', including trash bins dragged into the street, a fire in the middle of Sherbrooke, and cracked glass or the remains of paint bombs at Hotels, storefronts, etc. It seems that 221 people were eventually arrested (though initial media reports only mentioned the 30 or so arrested on criminal code charges; 189 were ticketed for 'unlawful assembly' and likely spent some time in captivity). The (revised) major English-media account goes like this:
I think that this raises a lot of questions easily linked to the Greek scenario. For example:
1) how are radical-left activists to deal with the fact that the protest march has been practically institutionalized and integrated into daily life in the Global North? One major complaint on the part of the mayor, who called for new regulations and policy to control such happenings. Check out the Gazette:
"Knowing the protesters’ intended route beforehand would enable a peaceful exercise of the democratic right to demonstrate, [Montreal mayor Gerard] Tremblay said."
This clearly attempts to set a boundary between 'legitimate' and 'illegitimate' protest, with the former defined not strictly by non-violence, etc...but by police control over persons and public space. I find it interesting that an open discussion in response to an earlier Gazette article about a proposed bylaw to ban facial coverings/masks in demos garnered a great deal of reader comment that seemed to target non-Canadians (by whatever definition, not 'us' but 'them') as the problem - linking the proposed bylaw with then-recent protests in solidarity with Gaza, rather than with the COBP protest that police mentioned in requesting the measure (suggesting that something like Sunday's events was no surprise to them).
2) What about 'violence'? There are major debates over whether things like throwing rocks and setting fires is justifiable (and whether or not this is 'violence' - a major point in examining media and public reaction). A paint bomb or broken window is perhaps less obviously the result of a 'violent' act and intention than, say, shooting someone. Gordon's (2008) definition of 'violence' is of interest here:
"an act should be considered violent if it generates an embodied sense sense of attack or deliberate endangerment in its recipient"
3) How does a protest event get constructed by the media, and how is it contained as a problem with a few unruly protesters? The response by 'mainstream' media appears to lament the entire protest action as a failure and a contradiction, it's all about violence, figures for the property damage, arrests, and the need for control. Protesters are lumped together (as they are on the tickets for 'unlawful assembly'); the 'issues' the protest sought to highlight, if noted in any detail at all, are typically in the bottom paragraph(s) - which journalism students will recognize as the least important information deemed worthy of inclusion. It's called the 'funnel.' The Link, Concordia University's student newspaper (members of which were actually arrested, and whose press credentials were laughed off) reported that a few random onlookers got swept up on the mass arrests, and that in one case a mother was denied access to her 16 yo son detained by police.
The Greek situation is obviously very different, involving street actions that lasted weeks, not hours, and now connecting with reports of bombing and firearms incidents linked to groups like 'Revolutionary Struggle' (although these have a lingering history in Greece)...not to mention the obviously disparate - though not unconnected - social, political, economic and historical conditions of the two geographically distant locales. Oh, and the COBP (who always do their best to draw out an international connection in their systemic analyses while highlighting local cases like Villanueva's, that of Mohamed Anas Bennis, or Anthony Griffin, shot while fleeing police in 1987) did indeed include a piece on the Greek unrest in their latest print publication!
Next post: blogging and critical response...then more on Greece.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Much 'ppreciation to A Very Public Sociologist (from a so far not-so-public one).
Next up: a post on today's anti police brutality demo in Montreal (as I think this is a clear connection to the uprising-related events in Greece, if also a tangent from my discussion of the latter's online manifestations and representation), and an outline of the main aspects of the Greek uprising and aftermath online, as I've traveled its circuits. Details TBA.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
This kind of case- and local-linkage is of course common; it is in some ways rootless and unsatisfying (not to mention arguably ineffective) to mobilize around a cause 'in general'. Indeed, social psychologists examining activist 'framing' (how an issue or cause is described in itself and in its relations with a wider context) have suggested that a 'face' or a personality, a story that makes people identify with a specific individual is an effective means of generating empathetic identification with a cause and giving rise to the kind of motivational processes that might actually get people to do something (ref? Gamson 1995?). Naming, in-person speaking tours, video testimonies, first-person account and narratives rendered as those of individual lives may foster the possibility of empathetic identification over difference and distance. Clearly this is of interest in examining the role played by the shooting of Alexis Grigoropoulos in the initial unrest this past December (so many statements included phrases like "this is for Alexis..." and many accounts emphasize the role of youth who are sometimes quoted saying that they felt almost interchangeable with the Greek teenager shot to death in Exarchia) - and the case of Konstantina Kouneva appears to be the primary example of an individual case that continues to provide a point of focus for those continuing to emphasize the ongoing struggles and unrest in Greece. And today, International Women's Day, serves up an opportunity to focus on a particular angle of her story. A feminist reading of the means of attack used against Kouneva (she was kidnapped and assaulted with sulphuric acid) has been circulating in Athens; a translation to English appears on the On The Greek Riots blog, and is reproduced in the Jura Libertaire post linked above:
Thursday, March 5, 2009
This aspect is of interest in that it appears deliberately counter to the effects of piecemeal coverage (mainstream, Indy or otherwise) that sometimes seem to disarticulate time in their focus on the most recent developments - a set of effects which I feel might be ramped up by the quick-changing 'scape online, where I sometimes find myself not bothering to scroll past more than the past 12-24hours of the blog posts accumulating on my feed (whether I've checked in the past few days or not). Many-to-many means many-to-me, and I can only deal with so much.
This temporal economy extends itself to a sort of 'competition' between issues, locations and other forms of focus as well - which probably has a lot to do with many seemingly having 'moved on' from the situation in Greece both in terms of blogging and other more unidirectional productions (and it is seeming to me that most of the blogging on this is predominantly unidirectional) and in terms of commenting, discussion board activity, and other indications of audience/participatants' numbers and levels of interest.
However, as noted below, there does seem to be a bit of a spike in on-the-ground events, and online with the reinvigorated On the Greek Riots blog; the Social War in Greece blog has also been a bit more active of late (including re-disseminating the above libcom post), and I have seen a bit of chatter on one message board about a cheesily titled ('the potentiality of storming heaven') but well-produced and interesting 20minute video on the riots. It may be 'riot porn', but its definitely striking. Let's see what happens next...
Monday, March 2, 2009
Moving laterally, across both media types, forms of interaction and genres (not to mention sources) seems to be a significant possibility - and an apparent practice - in perusing the information that circulates among the various networks and resides in the various nodes that constitute my thematically & hypertextually linked locus of interest. To illustrate the variety one could stumble across in a single devoted session:
media types: text (in various forms), still images, image slideshows, video, audio
forms of interaction: relatively passive browsing, reading, looking, watching and listening, commenting, discussing, arguing, disseminating or re-disseminating (sharing or amplifying)
genres: re-desseminated and original-source 'mainstream' print and video content, independently produced 'news'-type accounts (i.e. IndyMedia), statements and manifestoes from Greek and non-Greek sources, various forms of commentary, discussion and argument (trolling and flaming, too), even edited video productions of significant length...with sources ranging from high-powered media conglomerates through independent journalists and political organizations to individual activists and sympathetic (or not-so-sympathetic) observers and commentators.
It seems to me that one major effect of this admixture is the dilution of the authority of 'mainstream' sources as sole carriers of information for those without direct ties to a far-away locale. However, as noted, this dilution is by no means an exclusion of more 'mainstream' sources; in fact, this one a preconception that has taken some adjustment on my part - as I had originally come into this with a notion that 'alternative' or sympathetic radical-left leaning sources would eschew the 'mainstream' content in favour of 'Indy' or 'tactical media' accounts that gave another view. To my surprise, a significant amount of information (at least in the post-December blogging, and occasionally on message-board discussions) that I've stumbled across in these 'alternative' networks is 'mainstream' content, ranging from very sympathetic (e.g. the Observer article I've noted below) to downright fear-mongering (e.g the newsday.com article noted on the 19th).
But the difference is - and this is where 'laterality' comes in - that, even when offered with minimal or no additional commentary (often the case), the 'mainstream' sources are part of a smorgasbord of other genres and sources. An artfully worded lament for Konstantina Kouneva issued by a Greek anarchist collective, info on a 'solidarity for Greek prisoners' event and talk linking the current financial crisis with struggles around the world, some message-board sniping over who's 'really' an anarchist, the text of a flyer circulating in Athens, a standard-prime-time-length documentary featuring montage footage, interviews and narration emphasizing the alienation, hope and anger of some Greek radicals (torrent download available at www.black-tracker.gr/details.php?=260.) All of this tidbits are on relatively equal footing with newsday and the Observer. And that's something different.
One of my initial impressions is that this juxtaposition (or blending?) of genres, sources and types of interaction (perhaps more so than, but undoubtedly in connection with that of different types of media) could be seen to represent a possibility for different 'language-games' (a la Lyotard or Wittgenstein; explicitly impassioned political discourses, 'objective' reporting, poetic renderings or casual commentaries) to be played out in the same big arena, to be uncovered and engaged in the 'lateral' movements of the same individual, to play off against one another in a way that would be unlikely to find much parallel - at least with regard to geographically distant events - even fifteen years ago.
Now, I'm not interested in simply cheerleading here - but this is already a long post, so further reflection awaits another one.
Friday, February 27, 2009
"So, where were we?
This blog stopped being updated in late January as the main contributors left Greece and things there seemed to be getting quiter. With so many developments in the country not covered in the least by national or international media, the need was felt for this blog to be reactivated… So here it is. Same “rules” as before apply: updates will be irregular; comments will be disabled in most posts due to excessive spamming (if any of you are familiar with the wordpress platform and think you can help out on this one, get in touch!)
Posts for the next few weeks will include a mix of translations of communiques, statements etc. released from Greece, updates on the prisoners of the revolt and news updates from the ground, by the new people that are reporting from Athens and Thessaloniki."
True to their claims, there have been recent posts providing background on the case of Konstantina Kuneva (a migrant with the temerity to make 'radical' demands for workers in the recently-privatized operation that takes care of cleaning Athens' metro, rewarded with a brutal attack involving sulphuric acid), a translation of a doscument circulating in Athens which provides a feminist analysis of the nature of that attack, and 'breaking' info pertaining to the grenade attack noted below...
Interestingly enough, the statement about disabling comments due to spam problems garnered an impressively quick couple of replies (within hours) - step-by-step on how to enable comment moderation, and a suggestion for helpful plugins. So pepople are interested (quick to notice this fresh activity), looking to keep that comment function operational, and pretty helpful, to boot.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
"It’s hardly news any more that demonstrations, riots, get out the vote campaigns are coordinated via social media. In other words…smart mobs."
...but it remains an open question what, exactly, 'smart mobs' (or any mobs) accomplish. It is certainly likely that the initial public response made it impossible for the Greek authorities to sweep the police shooting of Alexis Grigoropolous under the rug (think of the shooting of Mohammed Anas Bennis in Montreal three years ago, for example), and that weeks of actions have certainly made clear that a lot of people are not happy (with the Greek state, the Karamanlis government, police violence, capitalism, etc.). But specific demands, such as the disarming of police and Karamanlis' resignation...reamin outstanding. As one anarchist forum-poster put it recently, the main effect (as with most mass protest actions) could be seen as 'the propagation of dissent.' But what, then, are the resonances of this dissent when the initial wave of actions subsides into something less intense? And how do users of networked technologies deal with the seeming calm after the storm (even if the situation on the ground is not as calm as it might sem from afar)?
I think it's time for me to start proposing some relatively coherent answers to these central questions on the basis of what I'm seeing. In the next couple of weeks, that's what I'm going to try to do...in addition to my promised digression on 'violence'(both theoretical and actually described), my regular random updates and links, and a cursory treatment of the main questions outlined at the outset of this thing.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
What little commentary was offered suggested that it was strange that an 'anarchist' group would pay homage to a Marxist tied up with the aforementioned 17 November group...
...and segued into a major international news provider's thumbnail sketch of N17.
As far as the blogging aspect goes, this seems to be another example of the amplification and re-dissemination of mainstream media content on the Greek situation (though this one has yet to pop up on more greek-riots-dominated blogs I've highlighted, which are keeping pretty quiet). This is an interesting particular case, however, in that the article itself seems rather one-sidedly alarmist and negative in it's portrayal. Many on the left might believe that ''revolutionary action' of this type is problematic, but few (I would think) would be impressed by the tone and some of the implications here. Finding it offered, without commentary, on a radical-left blog can only lead me to conclude that readers are to make of it what they will - and that it is perhaps expected that most readers linking to such a source (i.e. the blog, not the original) might be inclined to 'get it.' One implication that I
It is particularly noticeable that this little artefact of the mainstream is exceptionally alarmist, drawing on 'talking heads': a former Greek minister, a criminology professor and a former US Embassy official in well-established style (though they do also quote from a communique of one of the groups, Revolutionary Struggle). The newsday.com article seems to represent a number of efforts or tendencies on the part of its authors/editors/contributing voices...
There is an attempt to establish that these groups are 'more violent' and have less popular support than past Greek examples (e.g. 17 November group) that are linked with fighting against Right-wing authoritarian politics and Amercian interference in that country, that they are 'more indiscriminate' than, say, Baader -Meinhof (Red Army Faction, W. Germany) - a winning combination that nudges an elbow (and gives a couple of winks) in favour of an implied comparison with "the style of the Irish Republican Army or Islamic jihadists." The suggestion is also made (in neutral, uncited journalistic voice) that these groups are 'exploiting' the December upheaval for essentially unknown and irrationally violent purposes. One apparently new group, the Sect of Revolutionaries, is described (in reference to a communique selectively quoted) as "striking for its cynicism and lack of political ideology or any attempt to garner public support." Not long after, a former US embassy official is quoted as suggesting that for these 'new' elements, "human life is no longer precious." This, my friends, would be what Alain Touraine would have to recognize as a major battle over historicity: come the currents described here seem to amount to cutting such groups off from any political motivation, from any (remotely legitimate) historical precedent, from any semblance of public support, from any association with moral or ethical considerations, etc...
The question of violence in radical anti-capitalist movements is highlighted here, in that the links between these groups and wider movements is questionable and ambiguous (many anarchists and leftists explicitly denounce this kind of thing for a variety of reasons), the tactical wisdom of of the notion may be less than apt (and should they ever decide to actually kill anyone, subject to some hard questioning as to its justificability), and the meaning of 'violence' seems a bit confused and ambiguous, unless it refers to rhetoric or property damage.
According to the former Greek public order mininter, "current militants 'are much more violent and much more murderous,' " than the well-kown November 17 group that operated from the mid-1970s to 2002 and killed 23 people and carried out a 100 or so attacks. They haven't actually killed anyone, of course.
I've posted a few select portions from the article, below; the real deal can be viewed at:
"ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A new and possibly more dangerous generation of Greek extremists is escalating attacks against police and symbols of capitalism, years after authorities believed they had stamped out domestic terrorism.
Nobody has been killed so far but authorities are alarmed that the terror tactics appear to demonstrate a desire to carry out indiscriminate slaughter.
They have sought to portray themselves as urban revolutionaries who champion the poor and fight for the oppressed, and espoused anti-capitalist, anti-American and anti-European Union rhetoric.
But experts fear the current generation, such as Revolutionary Struggle which first appeared in 2003 and is best known for firing a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy in 2007, are motivated less by ideology than a desire to carry out carnage, and have shown little interest in winning public support."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The ambiguities, debates and ambivalences around the topic of 'violence' are something I will have to blog shortly; I'm reading some interesting analysis by Uri Gordon (Anarchy Alive!, 2008, Pluto Press), Francis Dupuis-Deri (Les Black Blocs, 2007, Lux Editeur) and others on the academic side of things, and the discussion and general presentation of the 'violent' (do we include action against property, 'symbolic violence,' attacks against persons only?) in accounts of the events in Greece certainly furnish grist for the mill.
But for now, I'd just like to note that this is definitely ongoing - one aspect of it being the 'trolling' of anarchist forums by users who take any opportunity to suggest that all anarchists are essentially clueless, and to make explicit 'lifesyle' critiques equating the anarchists engaged in some of the more confrontational tactics (for example) with the supposedly self-indulgent adherents of subcultures built up around musical genres such as heavy metal or punk rock. Users of these forums, I might add, don't take this lying down, but actively dissect the unsympathetic messages (for example, noting that a poster is 'obviously a statist communist') as well as making the obvious observation that it may be less than productive or pleasant for people who think anarchists are clueless 'lifestylers' to spend their time trolling for a chance to intervene with essentially insulting 'contributions.'
Of course, there is also some degree of wrangling over the terms anarchist/anarchism/anarchy themselves, a rhetorical struggle that seeks to gain some measure of control over the 'definition(s)' and to lay claim to a perceived well of potential valorization to be derived from connecting oneself or one's aims to a particular set of historical theories, struggles and movements. In many ways, this is a valid and sincere exploit, as people are seeking to advance their own (sometimes very deeply felt and carefully analyzed) social-political ideas and positions. However, it also tends to entail a lot of sniping and can sometimes be a bit repetitious and predictable.
In terms of the construction of the Greek upheaval, one ends up - in some cases - with an interesting tension between a view of a given situation as a revolutionary 'seed' vs. a tendency to view manifold exaples of 'rioting' and struggle against authority as essentially equivalent [I have to note some that this notion has been highlighted in a recent exchange I've had on the subject with someone else]. Certainly, one of the earliest emphases of discussion s from back in December is the question of whether what was happening in Greece was likely to spread (for example, to the rest of Europe)...
Saturday, February 14, 2009
[thanks due to Molly for pointing this one out to her readers!]
I'm thinking that my reaching/branching activities (beyond the fairly obvious exploration of the timelines, reporting and commentary preserved on the blogs I've fingered already) should include some online-interview type discussions with anyone I can rope in from the blogs/orgs I'm casting first glances on (the weakensses of elicitation techniques notwithstanding, it would be cool to hear how people see the functions and effedcts of blogging on an ongoing(?) soical revolt/insurrection/protest/whatever)....and definitely entails widening my sphere of reference on the subject: lots of quick-click linking and exploration, keeping up on news services like A-infos (and IndyMedia), and digging in to some of the ongoing bull sessions on some of the bigger anarchist forums...not to mention Twittering, net-disseminated video, etc. The trick is to keep focus (to branch out from a virtual 'somewhere' already defined,to look at a few big 'themes' - and look out for surprises) and not get tangential. There's a lot out there, but the connections (and the differences) may be coming clearer...
On the subject of relative inactivity, independent news-dissemination and the ongoing/aftermath of the Greek riots that spiked in December, the following post from Molly'sBlog raises some interesting questions. Apparently, the occupation of the Athens Opera House widely reported in alternative sources, largely via a single widely-reproduced text, around the 6/7/8th of this month (having begun in late January; see post/link below) actually ended almost a week ago - and this is the first I've heard of it! Molly seemingly found some info on a Finnish Trotskyist site, of all places...
Monday, February 9, 2009
...and suggestions of shutting down Athens IndyMedia garnering an ongoing response -
...this is definitely a live one!
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I think that it is quite fair to point out that while technically, legally (and for most intents and purposes, really) online forums such as blogs or, to a slightly lesser extent, discussion forums are 'public' - i.e. anyone can take a gander at this stuff - that this may not fully justify a 'fair game' approach to any information that an ethnographer might be able to glean. Surely there are nuanced distinctions to be made between different forums and virtual locations, and more generally, a need to consider that being 'public' in this sense does not impy an unlimited right to re-dissemination.
On the question of dissemination of any possible 'findings' or conclusions (and of any information used to back these up), the vague criteria of 'good faith' is perhaps a little thin. Clearly it behooves me to not make an ostentatious show of any information I accumulate in such 'public' forums as the mass-media or to 'hostile' (online or offline) groups that might be inclined to cause trouble for radical-left observers of the Greek context. Simply put, a certain criteria of non-interference implies itself here - it is clearly up to me to make some efforts at limiting the possible uses to which a completed project may be put, and the effects that might derive from this.
I will, of course, try to be strictly attentive to any potential personal, professional or legal repercussions for others - particularly through my efforts at avoiding any identifying information. Similarly, I think that I am unavoidably bound to at least consider the actual (or probable) wishes of any posters, discussants or informants - though this is not to say that I would in any way relinquish my own goals and responsibilities without compelling reasons.
Techniques of fictionalization, the deliberate obscuring of individual (virtual) identities and a tendency towards increasing generality of discussion roughly proportionate to the potential sensitivity of topics or content or (likely) expectations of limited publicity might well contribute to a lighter ethical footprint for a project such as this one...without building up insurmountable barriers to generating a lively and informative piece of work.
A few notes on ethics, as promised: I'm just going to lay out the basics, and do so (in part at least) in order that I have a nice accessible ethical 'mission statement' that I can refer people to if any questions should arise about what I'm up to with this project. Which leads me to my first point...while I'm certainly not interested in broadcasting my identity or the (somewhat acdemic) nature of my activities in an unnecessarily public manner, I will certainly make a point not to risk any kind of misrepresentation.
In looking at the blogs I've noted, commenting or discussing connected issues in anarchist forums, or hopping around the Indy-and-otherwise hyperlinked cluster of accounts about the Greek situation, I feel little ethical compunction about furthering my plans for research without a blanket self-disclosure (beyond the basic obligations to fair re-presentation and avoiding identifying information - these are, after all, public forums for the dissemination of information and opinionated interaction). Nonetheless, if anyone cares to ask me what I'm up to or who I am (and, of course, in any case where I might seek online interviews, etc.), I intend to disclose the basic focus of my project and a thumbnail sketch of my own background; if this provokes particular interest, I will refer anyone so inclined to this blog - where, among other things, they can read this blurb on ethics. Particularly in the case of possible online interviewing, I am rather inclined to encourage potential discussants to read the blog (or at least give them a substantive account of what's on my mind)...as it seems to me that the more they know what I've been thinking, the more potential for productive discussion. Think of it as well-informed consent.
In part, these thoughts derive from last week's class discussion about interview questions (although they'd been brewing in advance); it seems to me that a good way to sidestep the problem of constructing questions that seek to elicit answers by isolating the information that I think potential 'subjects' might have hidden (extractable via the 'correct' question) is to try to foster more of a mutual-disclosure pact...something like a real conversation. Asking people about issues or questions/problems that matter to them (and perhaps more widely in 'communities' or 'networks') strikes me as a fine corrective for (some) more traditional social-scientists' - lol - tendency to guard their real objectives behind sharply instrumentalized forms of questioning.
As I consider the potential currents this project might drift along with, I am increasingly inclined towards certain ideas of theory-building and collaborative research from both an anarchist-academic and broader social science milieu, for example:
Gordon, Uri. 2007. “Practicing Anarchist Theory: Towards Participatory Political Philosophy” in Constituent Imagination: militant investigations, collective theorization edited by David Graeber and Stephen Shakaitis. Oakland, CA: AK Press.
Bevington, Douglas and Chris Dixon. 2005. “Movement-relevant theory: rethinking social movement theory and activism.” Social Movement Studies 4(3): 185-208.
...or even Jeffrey Juris' (2008) notion of a 'militant ethnography,' in which he attempts to reconcile genuine commitment and participation in the alter-globalization movement(s) with an ethnographic agenda. The theme to be emphasized throughout is essentially that the activists, bloggers, organizers, commentators, etc. have a great deal more knowledge (unsurprisingly) of their own activities and the nested contexts of their actions than a passing researcher - but that an academic undertaking an ethnographic project in such a sphere nonetheless has some responsibility to try to make a non-trivial contribution, in good faith and without any kind of deception or deliberately surrepetitious probing. An ideal that is somewhat collaborative, then, might allow the researcher to work towards this responsibility at the same time that it allows the effective mobilization of the 'endemic' knowledge of activists, etc., in a way that could conceivably mark a mutually beneficial process. Long story short: I'm not interested in getting into the hinterworlds of human action and explaining others from behind their backs - I'm interested in putting myself in a position to engage with what others are trying to do, even if I'm not necessarily 'on board.' And hopefully, this approach could prove productive of more than just grades, a class presentation, and another file on my memory key.
I should probably mention at this point that I do consider myself to have some definite anarchist inclinations (one might pick this up in some of my offhand references); I think that this fact, in parallel with my pre-established interest in anarchist and radical-left thought and movements, places me in a decent position to take part in, for example, online discussions and commentary among the radical-left followers of the recent (and ongoing) events in Greece...though my ambivalent thoughts on some of the difficult questions raised by the 'insurrection-inclined' will no doubt have a chance gain traction before this thing is done. And, hopefully, the (still limited) background I have in some adjacent spheres might dampen the effects of an extremely limited period of exploration. The fact that my academic and extra-academic interests converge here serves to keep things interesting - though it may also create some ambiguity as to whether I'm 'on' or 'off' as a researcher at a given time, a question to which I ought to remain attentive.
Of course the above is exhaustively non-exhaustive in its attempt to suggest some guiding ideas. Ethical language (assurances or ideals of 'good faith,' 'informed consent,' 'mutualism,' etc.) is never quite up to the vigilance-inducing task of ethics-in-practice. As Ludwig Wittgenstein suggests:
“the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the walls of language” (1965:11-12).
Sunday, February 1, 2009
And just as I was starting to think that the three blogs I tipped for focus had slipped into a state of somnolescence, new posts - though the content is very much on the basic level of information-sharing. The event poster-image (L) from the On the Greek Riots blog casts the Greek unrest as part of a series, linking up events in Greece, Iceland. Italy, Latvia and Bulgaria with local (UK) struggles and global crisis(es) alike.
In this connection, I've stumbled across a relatively fresh blog that seems to take up exactly this generalizing tendency in casting various episodes of civil unrest/rioting as part of a global sphere...
the greeceriots blog just tapped in with an (attributed) update from the Ekathemerini newspaper's site - a homemade bomb outside of a bank in Thessaloniki and a series of robberies (banks, a postal van) along the Southern coast...no context or commentary, really, but continuing to focus on concrete events in Greece.