Brian Holmes on Sun, 15 Jan 2017 01:29:03 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The Meme Wars

   Thanks for this post, David. You bring up a lot of core issues!

          I am sure that many will already know that just over a month ago
          the writer and researcher Florian Cramer gave a lecture in which he
          shared his extensive research into little known factors influencing the
          rise of Alt.right.

   Well, I had no idea. Sounds important, bravo Florian. After the
   election I did spend some time on the alt-right blogs. Notably this
   disgusting text:

   The emergence of a twisted subculture from the anonymous and
   unrepressed dialogues of 4chan is painfully obvious. Along with the
   psychosexual dynamics of adolescent male domination. There is a kind of
   grotesque liberation happening there, or at least, an unleashing of
   vital energy. Like the attack dogs that were unleashed on the North
   Dakota water protectors.

   It's also clear that these energies have been spread through
   condensation into viral memes.

          All of this would be laughable if it had not been so successful.
          Moreover there is aparently no equivalent sub-cultural energy on the
          left.. where once memes such as the Anonymous V Victory -Guy Fawks,
          masks were everywhere, the anarchist/left has been strangely absent in
          the US meme wars of 2016, whilst alt.right has succeeded in transforming
          the spectacle of protest into the reality of power.

   The problem is, the alt.right holds a disempowering mirror to the
   anarchist/left. On the one hand they have adopted many of our favorite
   tactics, like networked organizing and cultural subversion. On the
   other, they are doing it explicitly in the name of, and with the
   implicit backing of, the President of the United States. To top it off,
   this is an anti-statist movement whose members, like most of the Tea
   Party affiliates, want to "blow up Washington." Never mind the
   incoherencies, they have never troubled any kind of populism. The
   alt-right manages to fuse the energy of libertarian anti-statism with
   the hypnotics of authoritarian submission. The radical fringes of
   liberal society in the Twenties and early Thirties could not stand up
   to that sort of thing. I see the anarchist/left as a radical fringe of
   contemporary liberal society, and I think it/we are structurally unable
   to generate a countervailing power to the current
   libertarian-authoritarian surge. Through the Nineties and the early
   Naughts I could already see that to be effective, our movements - and
   the artist-tricksters in particular - actually *needed* the democratic
   frameworks (individual rights, free press, rule of law) that many of
   their adherents sought to abolish outright. Well, that was pretty
   naive. Pure anti-statism doesn't cut it anymore. Yet there is no way
   for even the most populist left to imitate the delusional fusion of
   contraries that is currently sweeping the right.

   There are going to be lots of fights ahead, at all levels including the
   streets. We have to use them to move democratic society beyond its
   current liberal-free trade-tacit racist-active extractivist-"accept the
   power of the bankers and the military" format. I think people are going
   to need to develop radically political relationships to movements and
   charismatic leaders seeking to transform the state. "Radically
   political" means agreeing to disagree, cultivating and maintaining the
   critique of your own side as a constructive power rather than a
   continual incitement to splinter and break. "Movements and charismatic
   leaders" means organized and disciplined formations that seek elected
   office but are no longer conventionally liberal, because they recognize
   that the rule of today's law can be wrong, and they take the risk of
   changing it through personal and partisan action. In the States we
   already have people like Jill Stein of the Green Party who will take
   principled direct action. Bernie and the people around him should do
   this too, and actively support those who are already doing it. Then I
   think the tricksters and meme-makers of the left could do some
   surprising and powerful things.

   Getting back to the subject, I want to say don't kid yourself about the
   alt-right transforming the spectacle of protest into the reality of
   power. They did not do that as a subculture, rather they were
   integrated into a hegemonic bloc, along with lots of existing
   mainstream baggage. Subcultures don't take power, by definition. But
   they do change the mainstream culture to certain degrees. Occupy and
   Black Lives Matter did a lot to improve the Obama administration, which
   from the get-go was a liberal expression of the civil rights movements
   of the Sixties (already not so bad, I mean). Now the limits of
   Democratic Party style liberalism are a lot more clear. So if we don't
   just cling to old ways, we radical subculturalists can potentially go a
   lot further under current abysmal conditions.

    solidarity, Brian

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