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(en) Praxis #2 - Resisting the Entirety of the Spectacle - By Crudocrust and RedLibertad (with contributions from members of the RAAN online community)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 11 Feb 2004 07:08:07 +0100 (CET)


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Subjective Violence
I watched as the older pacifist types, the open-eyed new comers, and
the younger idealists of about fifteen aligned themselves with a "plus"
and "minus" quadrant graph on the floor. Taped to the four sides of the
wall were four "actions" that you had to align yourself with. On two
opposite sides there were pieces of paper that asked if you thought
that activity was violent or non-violent, and on the next set of walls,
two pieces asking if you would do the action or not. I had gotten
myself into another Ruckus Society style training session, and the
question we were being asked to align ourselves with was whether or
not we would destroy GMO (genetically-modified) crops that
belonged to a large corporation. I got on the non-violent side, and then
also aligned myself with "yes I would do the action", (a position that I
maintained through the questions about the Boston Tea Party and
property destruction).

Looking across the room, a few people had aligned themselves with
the "violent, no I wouldn't do it", quadrant. The instructor asked them
why they had placed themselves on that side of the room. "Well," said
one older woman, "I just think that it would look really bad in the
media. It would make the movement for getting rid of GMO crops look
like a bunch of criminals". Thinking a bit about this statement, I then
asked her, "and what if the media wasn't a factor? Would you then do
the action?" She thought for a moment, "Well, yes, I guess I would".

So this person would be in favor of going into a field and destroying a
whole acre - or more if possible - of someone else's things, a
corporation's things, if it meant that the corporate media would not
report about it on the news. This means that she also thought that the
action was productive enough where she would want to be involved in
it. In fact the only thing standing in her way was the anticipated
reaction from corporate media, an entity that people on the left and in
the post-leftist milieu have all supposedly come to the conclusion that
they don't like! So why is it so important to everyone?

The Predicament as it Stands

Why are we so concerned about the transgression of the free market
through mass mediums, and its perception of our various movements?
People who are in favor of working with corporate media argue, "it
reaches a wide audience, an audience that we don't have", something
that activists, no matter what circles we work around, need to obtain.
Just like public office, a lot of people think that this power and
influence can work to our advantage. Many activists have come to the
conclusion that a diversity of tactics must make way for forms of
protesting and voicing dissent that will look good for the cameras.
This will magically correlate through the mass corporate mediums to
TV viewers everywhere, and then suddenly all will be well. But as
capital becomes more homogenized in different forms of the
neo-liberal agenda, and the state annexes more areas of our personal
autonomy, we have to ask ourselves... isn't it time we ditch the
corporate media that we all (with copies of Manufacturing Consent
over our hearts) claim to hate so much?

Firstly you have to understand what drives the corporate media, and
how that drive, its illusions, and the alienation it creates from real
social interaction relates to the kind of world that we want to build.
Profit-driven media survives in the marketplace based on how
entertaining its programs are, or how well it can captivate an audience
and keep them watching. If their program is able to get the viewers
watching, then the company can sell advertising space to interested
companies. To create an interesting program, programmers have to
come up with stories that appear exciting to the viewer. Thus, it's not
the actual threat of Laci Peterson's kidnapping and the question of
whether or not kidnapping is becoming a social epidemic that drives
the media to cover that case, but rather it's the market drive of the
desired capital gain that Chandra Levy's disappearance created. It has
got to grab the viewer for people to make money, and that's what
these news companies do: they accumulate capital. Chandra Levy
grabbed the attention of the nation, thus the corporate media will
capture and exploit any tapering fascination with such triviality. As
with most large entities in a market system, mass mediums controlled
by powerful elites benefit pocketbooks, not community interests.
Almost all people working on the left and post-left know this, and yet
many of us believe that a key part of getting messages and ideas out
to the public at large, especially at large demonstrations, will come
through working with corporate mass-mediums and playing by their
rules.

To give another example, at the recent Sacramento mobilization
against GMO foods, many people weren't concerned with shutting
down the meetings of the visiting delegates, (something that would
actually have an impact on the people who were making those
decisions that we disagreed with) but seemed more concerned about
what message was going to go out to the corporate media. Although
many organizers also created outreach programs and workshops for
the public, and were able to educate a lot of people about GMO foods,
the point of the demonstration for many activists still seemed to rest
on media coverage. With many people's idea of a successful protest
shifting from trying to destroy and dismantle power, to catering to the
media, confrontations between activists that were actively trying to
shut down the meetings and those with "media" goals in mind soon
erupted.

What we need to know is that the corporate media isn't our friend, and
doesn't work the way we want it to work. When we have these
massive protests and demonstrations, when we try to disrupt
business as usual, the media doesn't fucking care, and it's in their
interest not to care. In the case of the Sacramento demonstrations,
the corporate media spent more time covering how well prepared the
police were for the protests, and if it would be "the next Seattle", then
they did covering the issues at hand. Reporters referred to the
activists as people who were "protesting the world food industry", in
effect marginalizing the whole point of the mobilization. Some people
would say that this could be blamed on protesters who were not
presenting a message or image that the media could pick up on, or that
"rowdiness" caused by some sections of the crowds had diverted from
the cause of the mobilization. However, the fact remains that the
media doesn't want to have a show on what GMO crops are, or on
what BIOTECH is. It's just not on the agenda, because it isn't
profitable.

Why would you waste your time having a story on farmers' plight
when you could be covering Laci Peterson? The issues that we want
to talk about, and the spectrum of issues we want to bring up, can't be
discussed via sound bytes. During the period leading up to the
invasion of Iraq, when (if ever) dissenting views did get onto the
corporate media news and newspapers, we were either seen as
hippies rehashing the 60's, or as pacifists parading around the concept
of "baby killing" to frighten or guilt our view onto others. But many of
the traditional protesters were so pleased when an article in the
newspaper gave coverage to their marches, or showed people they
mobilized standing on the corner, or in front of a billboard they had just
paid to have put up, that they didn't care about how silly we seemed,
how dumb and behind the times we looked to everyone; the movement
was happy because we had made it in the paper. But where was the
substance? We were flower children who were left out in the rain
while the rest of the world went to pick up the pieces of
post-September 11th. Where was our substance behind all the "No
War" signs? There was none, but the usual suspects of activism were
content that a "No Blood for Oil" banner had made it into the 4th page
of the paper. Relying on the corporate media reduced us to the lowest
common denominator, we were cut down into the easiest and most
accessible (consumable) vision of what a person "working for peace"
should be. Where did this get us? It got us to the point where when the
war had started and suddenly the bombs were falling, there were only
10,000 of us in San Francisco who were marching in the rain, when
before we had filled the streets with up to 200,000. The media
marginalized us, and when they did that, all the people that were
clinging to the anti-war movement because they saw it as the "give
peace a chance" avenue, left when we needed numbers the most.

So then is that what we are holding back for? Holding back from really
trying to shut down the things we know we have to stop? Holding back
from creating real radical alternatives to the present system? Holding
back from saying and acting in ways that we know we want to against
the forces that are controlling us? For what? For a small bit in the 4th
page, with a couple of quotes that we know we didn't really say? Is
this getting us anywhere? We also have to ask ourselves, are we
going to be able to build a movement to challenge power through the
corporate media? The answer is obviously, no.

We understand the machinations of the media and the deterrence of
dissent, but entrism in media is no different than entrance to the State.
It is reformism, the participation in our own oppression. Just as much
as the military and police forces, the mass media is the implicit organ
of a hierarchal structure (the State) that benefits only those holding
the reins.

Insurrection Without Boundaries

At an ANSWER rally in LA, the ISO Socialists started a chant of
"The police work for us, the police belong to us!" However if the police
truly were a channel of revolutionary power, perhaps we wouldn't have
to sometimes throw Molotov cocktails at them in self-defense (or at
the very least have militant wet dreams at the idea). The corporate
media needs to be seen in the same light, because indifference
towards mass media is possibly one of the most dangerous tendencies
within the anti-authoritarian movement. Militancy is a revolutionary
subjectivity to be theorized and practiced. We should decline the
limits of our revolutionary scope to exclude mass media no more than
we should decline our scope to exclude the State. Both are something
to resist and abolish.

The channels of mass communication (IE news) are open, and have
been for some time; Indymedia was the formal announcement of that
much. Don't hate the media, become the media: get louder and louder,
drowning out and abolishing its contradiction, the corporate media. We
have created the alternatives and continue to maximize their use. It's
time to sabotage capitalist media, and put in our own alternatives.

We need to be clear when we participate in large, militant
demonstrations with the goal of being direct in our actions to halt,
prevent, or stop something, that the corporate media is not to be
worked with. As far as media goes, we need to do outreach and
education in our own communities, not only on the shortcomings of
corporate media, but also on the alternatives of Indymedia. Before
major actions, campaigns, or other endeavors, it is important to build
up a basis of community knowledge to the issues that you are working
around. Teach-ins, workshops, film showings, and speakers are all
good tactics, and will help you build up the base for your support.
Alternative media then, like Independent Media Centers, can be used
as a starting point for activists and a questioning public to come and
learn and create.

...Also a Creative Urge

When it is time to hit the streets, we need to be aware of the danger in
which the corporate media puts us. They can give information to the
cops about what we are doing, they can misuse information to make
us look bad and to get better ratings, (no matter if we are breaking
windows, or dancing around naked) and they can very easily cloud or
distract from the major goals of a demonstration. When one is
engaged in these types of activities, don't go out of your way to talk to
the corporate media. If they approach you, either direct them to
someone who specializes in talking to them, or just feed them
disinformation until they go away. If you are marching, demonstrating,
or doing any sort of direct action, it would be wise to avoid the media -
consider them to be police. The police are more concerned with
protecting private property and powerful officials than they are with
protecting actual people. With media, not only are they more
concerned with covering the side of the story holding the power and
wealth, but also the very system under which they operate is driven by
free market ambitions and the race for sponsorship. Consider the
media as a monolith of established capitalism, and an obstacle to its
superseding.

If you are engaging in direct action, then it might be to your advantage
to plan actions with your affinity group (or by yourself) that involve
disconnecting cable cords, destroying news equipment, or
misdirecting reporters; the less they know, they more they can't screw
you over. While this is going on, we also need to be helping out
Indymedia workers and alternative news providers. It is important to
keep in mind that we've created something, a self-managed media, and
only by destroying its opposite can we afford ourselves more room to
develop this new medium.

In Conclusion

We have to be honest with ourselves; we know we don't want their
world. We don't want a society that favors competition and not
cooperation; we know we don't want a society that isn't sustainable, a
society where communities have lost all autonomy and wield no
control over their futures. We know that we all want radical change
from the established norms, but how we get there seems to be the
subject of a large debate within our movement, and because of that
many of us have chosen to work with the corporate media. It is often
said that the master's tools will not destroy him. While this may be
true, let's keep in mind the power of our own tools, and what we have
to work with. What we have is a vibrant and ever-changing
underground of resistance, thought, and action; what we have is an
alternative. Since we know the kind of world that we want to live in,
let's stop using the old and hollow artifacts of this one. It's time to
stand up and show the established powers that not only do we not
agree with what they are doing, but will we stop them from
consolidating more power, and implement within our communities the
kind of alternatives we want to see.


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