Friday, February 27, 2009

On the Greek Riots blog getting back in the game

It appears that I am not the only one thinking that English-language info from Greece was getting thin in some quarters; the 'On the Greek Riots' blog has been 're-activated.' As they put it themselves two days ago:

"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.

An excellent article from the Observer, recommended today on one major anarchist portal's message-board thread about the Greek situation; while I had earlier noted (with some ambivalence) the tendency of some bloggers to use much of their virtual (and visible) space to re-disseminate 'mainstream' content, often with minimal commentary or supplement - a question I am still a hm-hawing about - the occasional well-chosen recommendation shines through:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

...and another aspect of the situation in Greece that doesn't make the mainstream: far-right targeting the radical-left in Greece, in this case a hand grenade thrown at a window of a buildingin Exarchia, Athens in which a group called the Association of Conscientious Objectors was meeting...

what flows through the networks when the smart mobs go home?

Just-a-thought has been pointed out, networked technologies probably played a significant role in the come-up of the Greek protests and rioting (though online/mobile technologies having the jump on 'traditional' media does not necessarily mean that that these technologies were primarily responsible for coordinating widespread actions - though this is certainly possible); as Howard Rheingold put it:

"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 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

new news!

...and it's on the front recently on topic in my blogging; a 'foiled attack on Citibank' in Athens:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

And aside from all of this TALK about anarchism, Marxism, spontaneism, historicity and the question of 'violence,' it would be a mistake to leave out the IMAGES; images are perhaps irreducible, their impact undeniable. Photographs and other images are variously emphasized at the different points in the networks that circulate information on the recent Greek situation from a radical-left/anarchist perspective (some forums, such as the discussion boards on major anarchist portals, are pretty spartan; others keep up a steady stream of engaging visual material). Just a taste...
Another AP article on recent Greek 'terrorism' scavenged from a left-wing blog:

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.

mainstream malaise

Among some of the more-or-less ongoing elements in Greece that are being connected with radical-left political causes and claims (and getting international media attention for once, painfully alarmist though it may be) is a sporadic spate of 'violent' actions (bombings etc.) hat have taken place recently and been attributed to 'revolutionary' or 'anarchist' splinter groups a la Baader-Meinhof. I think it is important to emphasize that they are quite distinct from, though not unrelated to, the wider public protests, occupations and actions - recent bomb attacks on banks and a couple of firearms incidents targeting police and others seem likely to involve a very small number of people. But given the fact that this made today (and was subsequently re-posted on at least one left-wing blog out of Canada), I think it is worthy of note.

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 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:,0,2579389.story

"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

A Workers' Party of Iran article on the Greek situation for the Kargar e Komonist magazine:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

partisan struggle?

One facet of discussions around the Greek upheaval of December and beyond that is manifested on some of the relevant discussion boards (on major anarchist portals) is the perhaps lamentably common split between those who see (potential) hope and resistance in limited insurrectionary or revolt-type protest actions, occupations, and even violence - and those who cast participants (particularly anarchists) as 'lifestylers' in it for the aesthetic and a (according to some analyses, essentially 'liberal') vision of autonomy and authenticity divorced from 'real' social struggle and progress against the vagaries of capitalism, statism, etc. This employs a set of oppositions already quite familiar on the radical left, one which pits (some) anarchists inclined towards making a show of resistance that might include actions against property and business interests or clashes with police and other representatives of state authority and more marxist-influenced actors (and many other anarchists) who might argue that this is counter-productive or pointlessly self-indulgent...not to mention more 'reformist' or 'moderate' activists who wish to maintain a strict code of non-violent protest/resistance. This facet, of course, reaches back well beyond some of its obvious past manifestations in the student communist/post-communist tensions is Paris 1968, the hippie/yippie/countercultural (Marxist, anarchist, and 'democratic') anti-war-and-more movements of the 1960s in the US (and Canada) - think Chicago 1968 - or, more recently, some of the controversies surrounding the anti-globalization movement (as realized in the squabbles after Seattle and the 'diversity of tactics' debates at Quebec City in 2001 and after). On an even broader historical scale, bits and pieces may well be traced all the way back to theoretical splits emanating from the First International (Marx/Bakunin) and on and on...

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

The Molly'sBlog post mentioned immediately below also drew my attention to another interesting blog on the Greek uprisings, one which posted a number of translations of documents from the Greek related to the situation there (and actually reported the ending of the Opera House occupation). Cool.

[thanks due to Molly for pointing this one out to her readers!]


Given that things have definitely slowed down (to a relative crawl on the blogs I've highlighted, none of which has posted in the past week following a brief spurt), it looks like my project might have me doing some reaching back and a bit of branching out. The ongoing/aftermath aspect is one which keeps developing, in that different accounts seem to provide radically different characterizations of whether this thing is still going on or whether we can 'wrap it up' (as the aminstream Western media surely has) and dissect the remains (or just forget about it). To some extent, this is a necessary problematic - we have a bit of trouble getting a cognitive (practical, political, historical, critical) grasp on 'events' that aren't at some point closed off and encapsulated for our analyzing pleasure; our capacities, understanding, attentions, energies and labour are limited. And one could well make a case that the most unusual or 'important' events were largely those of December and early January. At the same time, it makes good sense that those closer to the events in question maintain a greater sense of temporal continuity and forward thrust (if your friends are in jail and there are riot police hanging around, you might still think that something is going on)...while others are 'moving on' in various ways, or trying to see what can be learned from the recent Greek experience. The online presence of the Greek situation is increasingly sporadic - but it's still kicking, and in some interesting ways. Given that the blogs I'm looking at are turning out not seething with activity at the moment, I continue to consider (and investigate) opportunities for reaching back/branching out.

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

definitely a live one...

In case anyone thought the Greek situation was up for posthumous appraisal, some new developments: apparent moves to occupy the Lyriki Scene (Opera House in Athens) -

...and suggestions of shutting down Athens IndyMedia garnering an ongoing response -

...this is definitely a live one!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

ethics and question of the online/public

Having just put up a sprawling post on 'ethics,' I immediately find some of my now-stated thoughts in need of refinement - in light of the Rutter and Smith (2005) reading for this Monday's class, and with particular regard to the (previously discussed, but heretofore unacknowledged) question of the online/public.

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.

ethics and participatory theorization

I've been neglecting to blog of late; I want to say that 'life gets in the way' - but I could hardly justify the distinction.

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) 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 context or commentary, really, but continuing to focus on concrete events in Greece.