Nettime mailing list archives

Re: <nettime> Martin Bosma the Steve Bannon ofthe Netherlands
Brian Holmes on Mon, 20 Mar 2017 06:35:53 +0100 (CET)

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

Re: <nettime> Martin Bosma the Steve Bannon ofthe Netherlands

   On Sat, Mar 18, 2017 at 8:30 AM, David Garcia <d.garcia {AT} new-tactical-research.co.uk> wrote:

     Ironically at a point when many on the radical left have lost faith in
     the gramscian concepts of cultural hegomony and the key role
     media subcultures in spreading these narratives below the radar, it is
     the Right who have re-discovered these weapons. We see
     this most bluntly from Andrew Breitbart's well know aphorism that
     -politics is downstream from culture-.

   You are right about this, David. I guess I am the typical case. When I
   looked into Ernesto Laclau's theories of populism ten years ago I could
   only come to the conclusion that the Right had proven the concept of
   hegemony to be useless for the Left. The reason is clear: almost nobody
   on the Left wants to rhetorically trick their fellow human beings into
   what Laclau "chains of equivalence," where the image of the thing you
   really believe in (or fetishize) is proposed as equivalent to a whole
   string of other, only partially related or even unrelated concerns,
   which themselves are to be subsumed by the "super-signifier" of a
   political party and a leader. Instead most people on the Left, at least
   since 1968, want each individual to understand the other's liberation
   as the necessary precondition of one's own. It's an ethics, really.
   Nobody is subsumed under anybody in this approach. Rather than having a
   whole set of pseudo-equivalences fused into a single rhetorical bloc,
   you get radical multiplicity. Difference that keeps on differing. Today
   this same ethics is known as "intersectionality" in the jargon of US
   political theory.

   Until quite recently, this approach seemed doomed to produce a
   forever-minority culture with almost no downstream consequences, good
   only to keep hope alive on certain college campuses and in certain
   activist scenes that usually had a hidden campus connection. Then came
   the pussy hat. Wow, here was a single signifier which did not seem in
   any way reductive (after all it was handmade) and yet which huge
   amounts of people could support, whether they wore it or not, precisely
   on the complex ethical basis described above. While that was happening,
   resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline was hitting its peak.
   Mayors, pushed by their electors, were declaring their cities to be
   sanctuaries. And the headscarf, that reviled object which can't be seen
   on a beach in France, became a symbol of resistance to Trump's
   ill-fated Muslim ban. Hey, spring is coming. Look for a huge pushback
   against climate-change denialism and undoubtedly the most
   mega-immigrant marches the US has ever seen. We'll get all kinds of
   cool signifiers out of those.

   Is this '68 all over again? I hope not. The problem with '68-style
   liberation politics has been clear for quite a while: its multiple
   demands can all be selectively satisfied by the neoliberal capitalist
   democracy that codes signifiers and their individual bearers as good if
   they're popular, ie if they sell. Whoever becomes the pop-star can then
   make a lot of money (and be politically neutralized) while supplying
   fuel for everyone else's vain aspirations to find some singular magical
   escape route from general social problems. The difference from '68 is
   that now is it's no longer *just* about liberation. People are
   recognizing that not only their existential fulfillment, but their
   existence full stop, depends on the *institutions* that guarantee the
   same possibilities for the others. In the US this realization coalesces
   around the issue of health care, that missing institution of American
   life, whose absence as such (as institution) is agonizingly "covered"
   by predatory, inegalitarian insurance contracts, whose deadly gaps in
   coverage reveal the sham and deceit on which all of neoliberalism's
   substitute or pseudo-institutions are founded.

   So far, health care and immigration are the central issues in the US,
   followed pretty closely by climate change. But there is another,
   nagging issue which troubles everyone without anyone yet knowing how to
   put their finger on it. It's the truth issue. So, why do we believe in
   truth, and they (the Trumpalistas) don't? What is truth? How is it
   made? Who produces it? In which places? With what methods? With which
   funds? How do you measure the value of truth? Can that be done
   economically? Is there - gasp - a *non-economic* criterion for the
   value of truth? The people who brought us "alternative facts" and
   "microwaves that become cameras" (don't even ask what THAT's supposed
   to mean) are really succeeding in provoking some thought in the USA,
   and that thought is about the structuring role of institutions for
   collective life. Including the institutions of truth (ie science, law,
   journalism, philosophy, etc). What's more - and very crucially, imho -
   this new political thinking is about the combination of widespread
   support and tenacious critique that alone allows democratic
   institutions to operate.

   Now, what has all that got to do with Martin Bosma, Andrew Breitbart
   and Tactical Media tricksterism? Well, ten years later I still think
   the answer is nothing at all. Because media memes are not what a viable
   politics rests on. Note that the theoretical problem here is not with
   Gramsci but with Laclau. Maybe, in fact, a true Gramscian hegemony -
   and not Laclau's rhetorical politics of the populist signifier -
   actually depends on the formation of an historical bloc around the
   constructivist aspiration to create better institutions. Certainly the
   post-WWII social democracies were founded on exactly that. And I wonder
   if a good many Communist societies did not emerge around the same kind
   of aspiration (think Yugoslavia). Of course aspirational signifiers
   like the pussy hat (or the radical headscarf, or the burning sage
   bundles of the indigenous water protectors) have an important role to
   play - and so does the entire grassroots networked media movement. In
   my view, Indymedia was a proto-institution. What's more, notice that
   '68 is still not over and did not have it all wrong: the other's
   liberation remains the precondition of my own. But how do we get there
   together? The answer, which can be added to '68 liberationism, is
   inherently complex, it's founded on an internal contradiction and not
   on the identity-principle of memetics. But it's also the one that
   rocks. We get there through a tenaciously constructive critical process
   that actually builds and maintains egalitarian institutions.

   Hey, I could live downstream of that kind of culture!

   warmly, Brian

#  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: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} kein.org
#   {AT} nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject: