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<nettime> The cult of the (fascist) amateur
Pavlos Hatzopoulos on Wed, 5 Mar 2014 19:27:17 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> The cult of the (fascist) amateur


published on http://nomadicuniversality.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/the-cult-of-the-fascist-amateur/

In this short text we address how the microfascist way of life
proliferates through You Tube user generated video production and
dissemination. Our focus is on the Greek Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn
has been widely criticized in mainstream media for using diverse
"politically incorrect" references to the Nazis and the Greek
dictatorship of the 1960s-70s in order to mobilize its members to "a
new way of life". Golden Dawn appears thus to be a return of a ghost
from the past, a short of anachronism strangely re-appearing in the
midst or because of economic recession, social discontent and
political corruption.  From our perspective, however, the digital
patriotic neo-fascism of the Golden Dawn is primarily a form of
microfascism that has internalized the failures of the fascist regimes
of the past, which we usually take as historical examples (ie. Nazi
Germany, Franco's Spain, Fascist Italy) only to twist and transform
them.

We take Deleuze and Guattari's term "microfascism" to understand
strategies and practices that develop in digital video production and
dissemination. To be sure, the concept of microfascism is a rather
ambiguous one. For Deleuze and Guattari microfascism emerges in
different every day environments (in the school, the neighborhood, the
army) and has to do with the adoption of a way of life that suppresses
desires. It is a "line of flight" from striated and territorializing
practices. Microfascist practices are productive of power relations in
the sense that they evolve like rhizomes that escape dominant
institutions and forms of organization. For Deleuze and Guattari,
microfascism emerges in both right and left wing movements. This is to
say, that microfascism is neither about totalitarian regimes nor about
oligarchic movements of brainwashed and fanatic masses, but it is a
process of becoming "a black hole". In fact, the crucial point for us
and perhaps the most difficult question to address in contemporary
Greece is the question of the micro-fascists around us: the
ultra-right wing parents and teachers, the self proclaimed policemen,
the amateurs who keep the order in their neighborhoods, the concerned
citizens, the amateur journalists and bloggers.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pa1vyywF0I

In this video, the leader of the Golden Dawn party makes the following
statement: "They accuse us of being Nazis. Even if sometimes our hands
salute in this way [and he performs a Nazi salute], these hands are
clean". This statement is paradoxical, while the leader acknowledges
the adoption of practices symbolic of a past that has been
delegitimized (i.e. a Nazi salute) and he himself does not deny this
delegitimization, he stresses the fact that his strength and
legitimacy derives from the purity of his deeds. Obviously this is
intended as a criticism against the corrupt and degenerate elites in
Greece, but also in a strange twist, (he says "even if we salute in
the Nazi way") it also implies that a Nazi salute is no longer what it
used to be. It has acquired new meaning, content and symbolism.
Nowadays, a Nazi salute is a patriotic gesture against (ironically)
the German plans to overtake the Greek economy.

Moreover the Nazi salute is no longer what it used to be because it is
intended mostly to be digitally performed. The digital
performativities of neo-fascist leadership do not mimic past
charismatic fascist or nazi leadership practices but reflect a new
media environment where everyone and anyone can produce and
disseminate a YouTube video. Michaloliakos may be playing the leader
in an old-fashion manner (aggressive, authoritarian speech) and he may
be made to look like he is obeyed, but his persona cannot and does not
play a central role in you tube video production. He is neither
mystified nor idealized.  For example, during the first press
conference of Golden Dawn after its election in Parliament,
journalists were asked to stand up in respect to the leader, and those
who didn't were kicked out. The incident was videoed and posted on You
Tube and later reproduced in all major TV channels. But, as the press
officer of the party noted, this was intended to be "a practical joke
on journalists" for keeping Golden Dawn outside mainstream media for
so long.


In the production of YouTube neo-racist performativities, there is no
cult of the leader, but rather a cult of the amateur, the one who
enjoys practical jokes and outbursts of rage. There is no grandiose
fascist propaganda either -at least in the sense of an organized
centrally controlled repetitive dissemination of messages and images
addressing a mass of docile and obedient recipients brainwashed to
follow the message.

As Ilias Kasidiaris, the Golden Dawn spokesperson argued when he was
asked about the blackout of party representatives from mainstream
media "ours, is a grass-roots movement and the internet is our
medium".

While several of these influential videos are produced by Golden Dawn
members, microfascist production is principally distributed and takes
the form of seemingly apolitical every-day life videos. The content of
these videos is user-generated: the video reporting of simple, 'true
Greeks' is supposed to counteract the official, anti-patriotic
narratives propagated by mainstream media. Migrants are revealed as
inhuman, savage and animal-like creatures. One of the most popular
themes that circulates in Facebook is the revelation of the dog-eating
habits of Asian migrants. African and Asian foreigners are reported by
eye witnesses to slaughter and sell pets systematically. These claims
are substantiated by the eponymous testimonies of Greek citizens who
have allegedly experienced the savage spectacle of slaughtered dogs
being sold for food in the centre of Athens.  Another repetitive theme
that appears in several online postings is that of the monstrous and
violent sexual habits of migrants. Most of the posts in this category
refer to violence against migrant women, children rape, forced
prostitution and trafficking. The revelation of the inhuman treatment
of women, children and men unmasks their animality, positioning them
in the field of the "uncivilized savage". In most cases, the usage of
sexual violence is described as a common practice revealing the
inherent cultural incompatibility between Greek and migrant norms. The
"multiculturalist" mingling of Greek and foreign population is
presented as dangerous and destructive.


In this context, the connected microfascist is elevated into a symbol
of resistance: operating in a sterilized media environment, where one
can easily ban encounters with other races and beliefs, he is able to
perform his apocalyptic routines.  Take for example, one of the most
popular forms of microfascist activism in Athens today: online
publishing of maps and photographs of migrant street-vendors. In the
following video Golden dawn takes the role of self-proclaimed amateur
police.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeyrHCqmZoc

The video depicts Golden Dawn's "visit" to the Athenian suburb of
Rafina, on the occasion of a Christian Orthodox day of festivity.
Golden Dawn party members (recognizable by their black shirts stamped
with the party logo) proceed to "check the papers" of the migrant
vendors selling goods in the open air fare set outside the Christian
church. When they seemingly discover migrant vendors with no, or with
false, papers, they attack them, beating them up, destroying their
kiosks and smashing their goods. The video ends with a participant to
the excursion--and current Golden Dawn MP--explaining the rationale
for the party's initiative. He says: "We are here to honor the Virgin
Mary...In parallel, we saw some illegal immigrants selling illegally in
the fair and Golden Dawn did what it had to do about this problem".

The video follows some of the techniques and aesthetic formulas of
amateur videos filmed by citizen journalists. It adopts the aesthetics
of a first hand eye-witness account of a news event. It is filmed by
"someone who seems to just have happened to be there" when the news
event occurs. The video is entirely filmed through a hand-held camera
that follows the main characters of the event -the Golden Dawn members
and their migrant targets- as the event unfolds. There is minimal
continuity editing of the video footage and there are no separate
sound recordings or effects, so many off camera conversations that
might have provided a diversified context to the news event are
inaudible or missing for the viewer.

This similar aesthetic is rehearsed again and again in numerous videos
that 'document' the activities of the Golden Dawn. Most of these
videos are initially uploaded and then favorited, commented on, and
re-uploaded incessantly in numerous  YouTube user accounts. Even the
fewer videos that are featured in the official YouTube account of the
Golden Dawn follow the same aesthetics.

In a very characteristic incident, Golden Dawn's ambivalent entrance
to parliament in 2012 chiefly posed the integration vs. denunciation
of the political system dilemma, but it also posed a related, minor
dilemma regarding its online video strategy. More precisely, the
dilemma concerned how the Golden Dawn would deal with the coverage of
its parliamentary activities and the regularized mise-en-scene of the
TV coverage of all parliamentary discussions. Initially, Golden Dawn
pursued a tactic of purity: it tried to keep its official YouTube
account uncontaminated by the traditional media imagery by creating a
second, and much less publicized, YouTube account where all the
"professional" TV footage was gathered. It seems, however, that this
tactic was deemed as problematic. The final solution that the Golden
Dawn devised to solve this dilemma was much more radical - this tactic
can be described as the 'amateurization' of the traditional media
coverage of the parliament.

Here is the example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYULodmET8w

The video depicts a day in the Greek House of Parliament for the
Golden Dawn fascist MPs. On this occasion, and in many to follow one
guesses, the events of the day are captured by an "unofficial" hidden,
hand held video camera placed by the Golden Dawn itself in one of the
galleries of the House.

In comparison to the official television images broadcast from the
same parliament session, the Golden Dawn video strips the event out of
its concrete political context. We are not informed of what the
discussion is about, of what the speaker is saying, nor even shown who
the speaker is.

The video focuses exclusively on the burst of "rage" by the Golden
Dawn MPs directed against an amorphous politician persona. This "rage"
seems to be relatively contrived. Out of a largely inaudible cloud of
noisy insults (the video purposely uses the sound recorded by the
microphone of the video camera, while it could have used the
'professional' sound recorded by the audiovisual equipment of the
Parliament), the word "thieves" (κλέφτες) sticks out at regular
intervals. Insults are combined with a repertoire of intense,
aggressive gesticulation towards the place where the speaker is
standing.

Rage is indeed the primary affect that weaves this, and numerous other
fascist, videos together. Neo-racist online videos, however, are not
primarily intended as a glorification of prominent Golden Dawn cadres,
so they should not be taken as admiring representations of their rage
against whoever their enemy might be in different occasions, be it the
system, the corrupt elites, or the migrant invaders of the country.

Instead of reproducing a cult of the leader or the leaders of Golden
Dawn, these videos are embedded in a cult of the amateur.

Let's go back to the Rafina video and the Golden Dawn excursion to the
open air market and try to view it once more from this angle. Initial
anti-racist reactions treated this video as the proof of Golden Dawn
violence that had finally been exposed to public light. From the angle
of the cult of the fascist amateur thesis, however, this anti-racist
critique misses entirely the point and it is no wonder that rather
than being denounced or concealed, the same video was openly embraced
by Golden Dawn.

The protagonists of this video are not the Golden Dawn members and the
focal point of the narrative is not their acts of violence against the
migrant street vendors and their goods. The true protagonists of the
video are, instead, the random users and passerbys in the open air
market, who are experiencing the 'problem' and the Golden Dawn's final
solution to it. And the focal point of the narrative is the affective
involvement of these random users in Golden Dawn's 'solution' of the
illegal trade problem. Along these lines, the true protagonists of
video is that passerby who just happened to be there and who yells
'Bravo', when the Golden Dawn are about to smash a migrant's kiosk, or
that passerby who instinctively joins the Golden Dawn members, in the
smashing of the kiosks and the goods, in the spur of the moment, or
even that passerby who might have not openly reacted to the violence,
but who might be affectively shaken by the event, with rage starting
to boil inside him/her about the decadence of her/his country. The
fascist amateur is enacted through this video simultaneously as an
active participant, as a voyeur and as the video's director.

In this sense, this video intends to simultaneously document and cause
an "awakening" - this is a key term in the Golden Dawn discourse- but
an awakening that can be attained only through rage. To awake means
that rage has already started to capture one's affective response to
existing realities. The video is also intended to be viewed in rage by
YouTube users. By focusing on the affective involvement of the random
eye witness, the video invites its viewers to perform their own rage
imagining themselves in the place of the real eye witnesses of the
event.

The amateur video techniques used in the video are embedded in the
representation of this   awakening. In effect, the video aesthetics
strip the event out of its spatial and political context. The space
where the event takes place could just as well be anywhere in Greece
(the only spatial references shown in the video are the Orthodox
church and the Greek flags) - and this is effected through the lack of
any narrative technique and the fact that the source for the visual
material comes entirely from a hand-held camera that usually focuses
on close-up shots. More so, the lack of use of diverse sources of
sound in the video allows for an obliteration of its concrete
political context. There is no substantial dialogue that is audible to
the viewers - no heated exchanges amongst Golden Dawn members and
migrant vendors, no articulation of the Golden Dawn's rationale for
this action, merely the rising sounds of rage.

The fascist amateur that the video enacts can be anyone and the
process of her/his awakening can emanate in relation to any event.

*Conclusion*

We would like to end with 3 general points that can be useful to the
ongoing discussions for devising an effective anti-fascist strategy in
Greece.

First: Let's forget historical analogies. The predominant tendency,
from a variety of political positions, to make analogies with
historical fascism or nazism leads to reductionist analyses of the
Golden Dawn and to the depreciation of the novelty of its startegy and
tactics.

Second: Greek fascism cannot be effectively countered if it is treated
as a top-down hierarchical political organisation, focusing on its
leadership -for exposing either its Nazist leniences, or its corrupt
practices.

Third: Anti-fascist strategies should acknowledge and try to
counteract the microfascist, distributed characteristics of Golden
Dawn politics. To simply denounce the violence of the Golden Dawn as
the principal threat to normal democratic politics misses the point.
As we have tried to show, the Golden Dawn strategy operates precisely
through the suspension of the violence versus normal democratic
politics dichotomy, by invoking the primacy of practices of rage. The
amateur, or the random passerby, is the privilleged subject-carrier of
this rage, the subject embodying the fascist reconfiguration of the
political.


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