Tuesday, April 14, 2009

AAARGH! New post outlining my online interviews was just lost; apparently if you sign into another google account in another window of the same browser (Explorer, anyhow), the post you're working on gets dumped when you hit 'publish' & it asks you to sign in again; going back to the previous page reveals a wiped white 'compose' window. I really don't have time to do this again right now...shame on me for taking this late. Presently poring through browser history, but it did not auto-save as usual (blank post) and can't seem to navigate back to a page with my content intact!!!

Sorry for yelling...

Monday, April 13, 2009

theory update

This post is just to try to introduce/clarify one major run of theory that I intend to employ in my paper for this course, and to explore beyond that in a subsequent revision/expansion I'm planning for after this tight time of deadlines (i.e. to expand the paper I will be handing in to incorporate more than can slide into the 20pp limit). As the idea of this blog is to get out the material intended for paper construction (and a lot more in practice, I think!) I do want to put this out there - I realize that I've been neglecting my blogging of late(doesn't help spending a time at my aunt's, where net access is tricky), and haven't squared up far too many loose ends!

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

new news from Greece, repressive measures announced - and noting the efforts of a few

The news does keep rolling in from Greece, via various sources and connections. One recent piece from libcom.org is similar to a lot of anarchist/radical-left coverage in that it lists a great variety of activity in Greece (cast as part of a 'social antagonist movement'), including pensioners marching in protest of their nest-eggs evaporating and a demo targeting Athens' mayor as a "mass-murderer of trees' for his involvement with projects that have redeveloped urban green spaces. Also noted is a string of firebomb attacks on Orthodox churches, also noted in a Social War in Greece post (which re-disseminates an AP article) and, the 'lead' - results of a closed-door security meeting, the announcement of:

"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 communiqu├ęs 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

...interesting update: the Social War in Greece blog has just added several pieces from On the Greek Riots, covering the occupation at Aristotle University, possibility of government action against occupations, the recent Patision occupation adjacent to the Athens Polytechnic, death of anarchist prisoner Katerina Gouloni in custody, etc. Basically transferring content over from O.t.G.R. This may well have been prompted by a recent comment frustrated that Athens IndyMedia seems to indicate a lot happening, but the poster didn't speak Greek. I responded to that recently, and lo and behold, more content amplifying these pieces.