Saturday, March 28, 2009

radical theoretical/perspectival pluralism, in-group/out-group communication, links and mainstream amplification...

This post is about the idea of posting links without making links; that is about sites (such as some of the blogs, etc. om the Greek uprisings) linking to sites that might appear to have very different ideas, agendas, or types of content, without making any content on this or making apparent any hierarchy of preference or judgments of quality (except, presumably, by inclusion and possibly by ordering/placement) ... this links with my discussion of 'laterality' earlier, as well as with ideas of theoretical or perspectival pluralism (and its perceived limitations) and the notion - which I'm taking from Owens and Palmers 2003 article 'Making the News: anarchist counter-public relations on the web' - that anarchist/radical-left web presence raises a possible tension between in-group and out-group communication.

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.

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