Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, December 17, 2010

Radicalism For Real

For me, one needs to actually propose a path along which one might arrive somewhere better from where one is to provide a vantage whose radicalism is equal to the injustice and idiocy of our distressing moment. If you eschew legislative routes via actually instituted processes to accomplish what you think of as progress, just what alternative are you proposing? Violent insurrection, civil disobedience, general strikes, systematic sabotage, guerilla skirmishing, separatist communities, just what exactly? From a practical standpoint there is rarely much difference between the complacent declaration that all is well as it is and the demoralized or incendiary declaration that everything is utterly rotten.


jollyspaniard said...

Insurrection isn't really an option. They tend to install new dictators and nonetheless they'd be almost impossible to pull off against modern military forces (which by the way have had a lot of practice supressing civilian insurrections lately). Rebellions are like elections no matter what you do the government gets in.

Hactivism is interesting however and it's a genuinely new wrinkle. It's still in it's infancy and will probably grow in the future as the tools (which don't require a lot of technical know how to use) become more widely known. If a few thousand protestors decided to download Low Orbit Ion Cannon they could protest in cyberspace quite vigorously and frequently without having to worry about being kettled and beaten by the police.

If tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of protestors started using these tools then online protest directed against corporations that depend on an online presence could become extremely powerful.

And good old fashioned protest is coming back in fashion. Maybe we'll see governments start to get nervous and bending to the will a bit more.

Dale Carrico said...

I agree with you about violent insurrection and revolution installing violence, irresponsibility, and disorder. This is a large topic (one I teach about) since as Fanon made clear, sometimes the tragedy and intransigence of injustice and oppression provide no better alternative to this price. Some might propose that current corporate-militarism shares with Fanon's racist colonial regimes this tragic quality, while I would agree with King that they do not, while venerating both figures and what seems to me to be the continuity of their vision.

I always mention organized revolution as an alternative to the legislative reform and civil disobedience I advocate because it actually IS an alternative for such commenters who like to prance about in the Moot congratulating themselves about how much more radical they are than the likes of me, although one never gets much sense that their radicalism has ever reached beyond the declamation stage and isn't even particularly considered.

As someone trained in nonviolence at the King Center in Atlanta, someone who has been jailed for civil disobedience with Queer Nation, someone who has introduced thousands of students to Marxism, situationism, nonviolence, queer liberation, eco-socialism, environmental justice, p2p-democratization, culturejamming I really must say I find it simply annoying sometimes to get armchair revolutionaries like this Alan fellow (the latest in a long line of comparable, no doubt well-meaning but children of privilege) assuming their vantage of abstract radicalism purchased via demoralizing overgenerizations from which they declare in the Moot that the inadequate accomplishments and stopgaps of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid partnership (in the face of multiple catastrophes, disastrous neoliberal and GOP legacies, and literally unprecedented criminally irresponsible obstructionism from the right) are equivalent to the GOP or Worse as compared to some variation of libertopian hogwash. As a hard green queer atheist aesthete with no small amount of democratic socialist punk in him for whom Obama and the DNC are far from love's young dream it is a bit hard to take the self-indulgent self-destructive handwaving of armchair radicals disdaining substantial reform, especially when so much hard heartbreaking patient actual work is needed from people of the left in the midst of our real distress.

Walking and chewing gum at the same time, the ability to judge the difference between reform and stasis, the willingness to embrace the exactions of reform all the while keeping one's eyes on the prize of the ideal, none of these are easy. Sometimes the brutality of the mob right and the narcissism of the loud left leave little room for hopeful good sense.

I do agree with you about good old fashioned protest, though. I think the role of high profile uniformed folks chaining themselves to the White House railings had an effect comparable to the one it had for the suffragists under Wilson. I think activists need to move on (so probably does MoveOn, come to think of it) from endless online petitions to the facilitation of flash mobs and other forms of real-world nonviolent but truly disruptive protest, myself. Online activism enabled by social software, like so much "participation," amounts to little more than the usual harmless mass media marketing and consumption. If resistance has a logo, it isn't resistance.

jollyspaniard said...

I disagree with your closing comments. The street protests we're seeing in the UK are organised on Facebook and they've enabled disparate groups: unions, social workers, students and non of the above lefties to march together instead of separately. I participated in Brighton's biggest march last month it had been organised conventionally by unions but went viral on Facebook at the last minute and got several times larger as a result.

Governments can be pretty stiff and immune to protest. Corporations are a lot more thin skinned. I'm sure Mastercard isn't thrilled that they got shut down for a day and had millions of people cheering their shutdown. Corporations will take things like that into consideration.

Dale Carrico said...

I agree that p2p-tools can be tools that greatly facilitate real protest, but I disagree both with those who believe [one] that p2p tools can provide a substitute for f2f protest and those who dis-believe [two] that p2p tools precisely because they can indeed facilitate emancipatory education, agitation, and organization cannot also facilitate reactionary complacency and exploitation. Do you disagree with either [one] or [two] so stated? I rather doubt it, but I would be very interested in the case you might make.

jollyspaniard said...

I agree with you with one exception. The internet doesn't make everything better and its a double edged sword. Repressive regimes for one have learned how to deal with the internet quiet well for one.

The exception is hacktivism and distributed denial of service attacks. Its still early days but these could prove to be a very effective protest tool against private sector entities that depend on front end web operations for their revenue and online brands in general.

And there's a lot of diversity in how one uses the internet. For many it's simply an extension to channel flipping on television, couch potato infotainment.