Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> next 5 minutes 4
alextext on Mon, 29 Sep 2003 05:46:36 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> next 5 minutes 4

Stopping the Fourth World War within the Next 5 Minutes 
or the End of critical Media Activism
For the fourth time media activists and net artists met in Amsterdam for
a “tactical media lab" (11th –15th of September). The highlight was the
showing of the new film of the US-american video-collective "Big Noise"
called "The Fourth World War.”  The celebration of this film with
standing ovations at the closure of the four day event I read as a
severe symptom of the de-politication of the worldwide resistance to
global capitalism: Movement of movement - how low can you go? What has
happened to the digital multitude? Actually, a lot has happened since
the last Next 5 Minutes (12th –14th of March 1999): the Kosovo-War,
Seattle, Prague, the outbreak of the second Intifada, Genoa, 9-11, the
war against Afghanistan and Iraq... The world has turned upside down in
the mean time. Still, many of the visitors seem to feel that they are on
the frontline of a new militancy, that they are "part of something
really cool that is about to change the world" (quote from the final
discussion). This is charming, but where does this optimism come from
while bombs explode every week killing civilians and a new kind of war
has been launched that puts the world in a “state of permanent
exception” (Agamben)? I am very sorry not to have brought this argument
forward during the 5 Minutes, but I was really shocked by the naivity
not only of the comrades from the US, but the general attitudes there. I
write this down now because I am honestly concerned about what is
happening within the ranks of activists that I counted myself a part of
until now. Now I am afraid that the same people I expected to put forth
a new view on the world are degenerating into a dangerously antimodern
movement that fuels a fire that should be extinguished - by "us.” I am
afraid that Geert Lovink and Florian Schneider are incorrect with their
statement that the choice between Bush and bin Laden was none for us -
and so we will proceed on our own path of globalization from beneath. I
want to urge everybody very strongly to reconsider if 'business as
usual' can go on in the anticapitalist movement - or if things have
changed too dramatically since 9-11. Maybe Genoa was the peak of this
'general mobilization' of a worldwide crowd and now this 'million men
march' of the global masses should be interrupted  - or even
In the preparations of Genoa the propaganda from Berlusconi and the
other G8-leaders about the anti-globalisation-protestors as potential
"terrorists" and the threat of an Islamist attack seemed like pure
paranoia from the side of the emperors. Just a month later it DID
happen. And this is where things have turned another way. During n5m4 I
got the impression that a lot of people treat this incident as a
propaganda trick from the evil George W. Bush in his crusade. Or even
turning it around into an image for the potential triumph over global
capital, the fall of the Empire, the death of the Beast, the crushing of
Babylon... A good example for this was the film of another
US-video-collective that subverted parts of "Lord of the Ring", turning
the gathering of the heroes into a gathering of the contemporary
anti-capitalist forces. A really funny piece, I loved it, I laughed a
lot, but at the end when the evil twin towers are mentioned in the
actual story there is a cut - and the approaching terror-planes are
shown. Got the picture? It is dangerous to play with the images of
terror, it is nothing less, than in retrospect giving truth to the
statements of Berlusconi & Co. prior to Genoa turning the movement of
movements into an "anti-glob-mob.” Some people associated with the
movement like Naomi Klein sensed this and urged a change in symbols. I
think that at least some people at n5m4 had some trouble with “The 4th
World War” -one of the organizers interviewed "Big Noise" and asked
about Naomi Klein’s intervention. Unfortunately this suggestion was not
taken up. The "Fourth World War" was presented: "Welcome to the war!"
(Or: "Are your ready for the war.") The question is if this is just a
rhetorical rather than radical gesture, 'radical chic’ - or if this is a
serious symptom. I left the room after the first ten minutes, because I
couldn't stand the way everything was mixed together and labelled as
this “new war”: “Argentine, Mexico, South Corea, Palestine...” The
original idea of Subcommandante Marcos to call the Cold War the "Third
World War" and corporate globalisation the fourth had some charm to it -
before 9-11. To apply it to the "war on terror" is dangerous. More than
that, I would label it a reversed Bush-ism, the re-affirmation of the
“state of exception”. It is the same political mistake as repeating the
declaration of war against the Empire, that the Tutte Bianchi made
before Genoa. After 9-11 it is very questionable if the movement should
use the word “war” with positive connotations. 
Also it would be necessary to reconsider the reality of terror. I
couldn't believe how one could compare the armed, but defensive
militancy of the Zappatista Army with the second Intifada: it is not the
old Intifada of kids throwing stones against soldiers, this time it is
kids throwing stones, but behind them are Palestinian snipers shooting
at Israeli soldiers – so you have the picture of the kids for the TV
cameras and when a kid gets in the fire line this also produces an image
(we will get to that later). This time it is an Intifada of terror,
suicide-attacks, “martyr”-murderers. It is not only unarmed people
against a military machine, it is also a terror apparatus against a
civil society. But in the “4th world war”, everything is getting stirred
together: the mourning for disappeared family members during the
Argentine dictatorship - a Hamas burial that is actually a hate rally.
However deep the differences about the Israeli-Palestine-conflict are:
Does anybody seriously believe that the Israeli Army is doing its
military operations to bring free trade to the Palestinian territories?
Can't we at least agree that this is not part of the frontline of
globalisation, but another kind of conflict? 

Probably we cannot agree on anything related to that conflict, because
the new militants really depend on the picture of the evil Israeli for a
black-and-white-picture of the world. Even more, it is needed to pump
oneself up with "aggression against the aggressors". The question really
is, if it is the moral outrage over injustice or if within that outrage
something else kicks in: the energy of a very old resentment. This seems
to be a problem I have with probably the rest of the world's left. As
paradoxical as it is, it almost seems as if only in the German and
Austrian Left, the countries where Nazism developed, there has been a
debate about antisemitism on the side of the left (in leading left
publications like KONKRET or Jungle World). Since the Gulf war in 1991
there was a strong thematization of antizionism being a cover-up for
antisemitism and in the last years a left radical pro-Israel-attitude
developed. On the eve of the war against the Baath-regime in Iraq the
left was deeply divided. Ever since the so called Al-Aksa-Intifada
started in September 2000 many political initiatives have broken up and
many friendships have been shattered. I came to Amsterdam hoping to get
away from this highly polarized atmosphere. I was - inspired by the
Munich Volksbad Declaration of the make-world-congress - hoping to meet
some people with a horizon beyond the question of pro and con, but
searching for a New World that transcends territorial disputes (even if
it is the "Holy Land") and that looks beyond "national liberation" as an
emancipatory strategy. So I was really disappointed: by Next 5 Minutes
as well as the makeworldpaper # 3, that was distributed there by Florian
and Geert. I will start with this: "A complicated affair" by Herman
Asselberghs and Pieter van Bogaert is a sad example for me of a
misguided solidarity, one-sided and wrong. I liked the approach of
talking about the everyday-life, about the conditions of artists in the
Palestinian territories and their strategies for (artistic) survival,
but I lost my sympathy when they mentioned a "suicide attack on an
Israeli target" - knowing that these targets are all (in the language of
the military) "soft targets": civilians. They seem to put the word
"terror" in quotation marks when they write: "CNN has proclaimed a 'day
of terror' for the Israelis due to a bomb attack on a hotel in Mombasa,
a failed attack on a flight from Kenya to Tel Aviv and a suicide squad
in Jericho." I would argue: this IS a day of terror for the Israelis, no
matter what CNN says. Mentioning CNN in this respect could all too
easily suggest that it is only CNN - the US-American media (and you know
how a lot of people think who controls the U.S. Media...) - that phrases
it this way, as this was an act of propaganda. It is propaganda NOT to
call this terror: this attack on Israeli people outside of Israel - as
far away as Africa. This incident showed the deeply antisemitic
character of the terrorists who want to make clear that no matter where
Israelis are they could be attacked. I perceived this incident as
another stage of escalating what anti-antizionist leftist came to call
"the new anti-Jewish war" (since the massacer during Passach on March
27, 2002 the antisemitic character has been very obvious). 
It would be very necessary to transfer the debate of
antizionism-as-antisemitism into the forum of the world's left, but at
this point I want to adress one specific aspect: media politics around
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Because here the old myths of media
activism fall to pieces. Asselbergh and Bogaert mention the TV picture
of the shooting of the young boy Muhammed al-Durra "around Christmas
2000.” Although this connection of the Palestinian riot and the
Christian advent had often been made (one can speculate why) this
specific incident actually took place on the second day of the outbreak
of the second Intifada, on Septembre 30. It seems that the authors are
just as uninformed as most of the other blindly one-sided people. Maybe
they did not have a chance to see Esther Schapiras documentary "The Red
Quadriga: Three bulletts and a dead child" about this incident (it just
won a media-price in Moscow), but it has been shown in other countries
too. But they could recently have read James Fallows article in "The
Atlantic Monthly" (also: Zurich "Weltwoche" 29/30, also see the last
issue of KONKRET, as well as No. 12, 2000). In their research the
incident at the crossroad was closley investigated with ballistic
measurements etc. and it comes to the conclusion that it was not
possible for the Israeli soldiers in the fortress tower who were
attacked by a mob to have shot the kid. There are a lot more strange
circumstances: the father and the boy arrived at 15h, the burial shown
on TV was on 13h. Also the boy that was buried had a deep stab wound in
his stomach. The documentary does not answer how this boy could have
been killed, others like Nahum Shahaf who was involved in a lot of the
research done in Israel ask questions like: Why is there not more film
material than only these two minutes of the killing (while the camera
team was there far longer)? Why does it look as if the boy moves in the
lab, although he is said to be dead. Why is there no blood on the
fathers clothes? Why does the camera man shout: 'The boy is dead' before
he is hit? For Shahaf this scene was enacted for TV, the journalists
leave this speculation open. But the question remains: was this part of
a campaign? If it was, it was very successfull: this picture was not
only deeply engraved in the collective memory, it became a post stamp in
a couple of Arab countries, billboards were placed, a main road in Iraq
and a park in Marocco were named after the boy and in Palestinian
schools the kids learn to say: “We are all Mohammed.” His father said
that he would also sacrifice his other kids... But let's go on:
Asselberghs and van Bogaerts text really is a good example for the media
politics involved in this conflict, because they themselves mention that
many Palestinians work as camera men for Western news stations (the man
who filmed the al-Durra-scene was Palestinian and worked for France 2
for example.) One could argue that these camera men are "embedded
journalists" of the Intifada. And one could argue, that the news
management from the Palestinian authorities is a powerful weapon:
pictures from the hot spot of world conflicts are an expensive commodity
in the media economy, as we all know. But what most of us don't want to
know is how effective this news management from the Palestinian
authorities can be. Another example: when at the end of the year 2000
two Israelis were lynched by a Palestinian mob, because they took a
wrong turn and drove into a Palestinian village, the picture of one of
the murderers, who holds his bloody hands out of the window to show the
mob that they ripped the two men in pieces, was circulated around the
world. It was shot by a small Italian TV team. A major Italian media
corporation that didn't capture these pictures officially sent an
apology to the PA because they were threatened not to be allowed back in
the territories - a serious threat for a big media corporation in one of
the hot spots of the world! That should make every media activist think
twice about their black-and-white-view-of-the-world. Is it really the
independent media activists that go into the territories to show the
truth versus the censorship of the militaristic Israelis? Or are  the
pictures that this "alternative CNN" brings to us the SAME pictures that
we see on TV? In this respect the indy-coverage really is “parasitic” on
mainstream media - they merge. Don't the critical media-acitivsts
realize that they are reproducing the media? Or is this a contradiction
nowadays: to be critical and activist?
One last thing to Next 5 Minutes: That you only got a Palestinian
filmmaker instead of an Israeli-Palestinian cooperation is probably not
your fault, but simply impossible right now. But why as media critics do
you not have a critical view on the way reports come in from the
Palestinian territories? Why do you lose your criticism when it comes to
this particular struggle? After 1999, when we have seen the
Kosovo-Albanian seperatists succeed in internationalizing their conflict
and using the NATO air force for their own purposes we should be very
critical and look closely at what happens. It is not only the leading
industrial countries that organize the military action to expand the
reach of the EMPIRE, there also is effective lobbying and media work
from small ethnic groups that want to redraw the world’s map! There is a
collaboration of ethnic seperatism with the expansion of EMPIRE. Israel
is in danger to become a second Jugoslavia, a vicitm of the New World
Order. This danger comes from the politics of the EU (we’ll come back to
Second: I was specifically disappointed that there was nothing at n5m4
on Iran. we have a massive student uprising there, the population
supports it now, it is a pre-revolutionary situation there, but you seem
just as desinterested in this as the rest of the European mainstream
media. And there were a lot of things in the Net: the Student Union
SMCCDI (movement for the coordination for democracy) has an Internet
portal, there are webcams like www.Teheran24.com, there used to be
female sites like www.Iraniangirl.com or the website for censored music
www.teheranavenue.com (see: www.jungle-world.com, 35/03), - I mean,
there is the chance for a peaceful regime-change from within, without
the use of war from the outside – but the Europeans don’t care and their
governements keep supporting the Mullahs and all the other Arabic
despotic regimes. Ask Persian people in the diaspora what they think
about the Europeans these days...
And third: there was a lot of talk about EMPIRE, but most people seem
not to have read Negri/ Hardt, because it is definitely NOT the old
US-imperialism. What was completley missing was the other side of the
picture: the EU, the free trade partners of Saudi-Arabia, Syria and Iran
and the main financer of the Palestinian Authority - and maybe the
terror (see the work of the dissident German green Ilka Schröder against
the uncritical EU-support of the Palestinians: www.ilka.org). And why
was in the tech-debate on n5m4 not one critical debate about the
Galileo-project. A couple of months ago the EU told the public, it was
just civilian - now they admit, it is for military purposes. It is a
competition to the US-Army, because the Europeans got shut off during
the Kosovo-war. What do you need this for - except to be capable of
making your own war - or to even wage a war against the US. This makes
one very skeptical of this new axis of peace
(Germany-France-Russia-China). To speed up the military union of EUrope
is not a path of peace - or do you agree with most of the Europeans,
that this is a good thing – just because it is against the US? This is
not the EMPIRE, this is a new imperialist conflict and who wants to take
sides in that? Isn’t it the duty of leftists of all countries to first
fight their own goverments (like Liebknechts old slogan: “The main enemy
is within the own country!”) Even worse I think is that the
Antiglob-movement celebrating the global masses on March 20th  sides
with the mob in Jakarta and Egypt, burning US and Israeli flags - the
“small” and the “big Satan”.  Solidarity with the people in the Islamist
countries should not be uncritical, supporting hate rallies, antisemitic
resentments. Take as a counter-example the Iranian students movement's
paper "Leave Israel, what about us" in which they said they didn't want
to hear the governments antizionist propaganda as explanation of all
ills, being the ill itself: the theocracy. 
So fourth: I really missed a debate on terror. Why didn’t we address the
question of networks of terror like “al Kaida”. This is a truly dystopic
sci-fi-scenario: the EMPIRE striking back against an autonomous network,
a PC in a cave in Afghanistan. This brings me back to the beginning:
this war has to be ended by us – and by “us” I mean those people who
have thematized networking, the media, the new world of communication
etc. Of course, it is the souvereign who defines the state of exception
(Carl Schmitt). But it is up to us to intervene in this discourse!
Neither by re-affirmation of the “war”, nor by ignoring the reality of
terror or posing the question as Bush vs. bin Laden. It is about a
re-definition of peace. The EMPIRE used to be defined as EMPIRE that
brings about permanent peace (like the Pax Romana). Since 9-11 peace
seems like a promise, like an eschatological goal, like the beginning of
messianic times. Peace surely has nothing to do with the EU taking up
arms against the US - it is about the multitude taking over the EMPIRE.
But the multitude is not the new masses on the march against global
capital and it’s definitely not the mob raging against the US and
Israel! The multitude is a promise - like peace, the coming community
(Agamben): MAKE WORLD.  


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net