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Re: <nettime> Phillips/Beyer/Coleman: "false assumption that
Florian Cramer on Thu, 20 Apr 2017 11:43:25 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Phillips/Beyer/Coleman: "false assumption that


Hello Gabriella,

>   "the false assumption that alt-right 'trolling' is equally
>    interchangeable with 4chan and Anonymous, an assumption that posits
>    static, ahistorical framings of both. Making this claim, eith
>    explicitly or implicitly, obscures the one basic, unifying fact of
>    4chan and Anonymous: that they _change_, both in terms of demographics
>    and ideologically."
>
>    This argument is, first of all, a red herring. Taking to its logical
>    consequence, it would mean that no community could be critically
>    analyzed in a historical frame.
>
> ** Why? We were precisely insisting on being historical, which for me,
> means both tracing lines of continuity and discontinuity. So while
> subcultural traits/memes act as strong vectors of continuity, which we
> state in the piece, we must also mindful of historical events, which also
> change the course  and imprint of these phenomena.


These are classical questions concerning the historiography of
fascism which also applied to the German Third Reich. Some historians
interpreted as a break with the previous society, communities and
even civilization, others analyzed the continuities that lead from
pre-WWI monarchy through the Weimar Republic to the Third Reich, such
as the authoritarian character of early 20th century German society. I
agree that both continuities and ruptures must be taken into account.
Yet the argument that communities change can be too easily misread
as exculpation, and foreclose a critical analysis of particular
traits within a phenomenon/community that helped it to develop in a
certain way, or foster particular branches and subcommunities. Taken
to a vitalist extreme, it would mean that no critical history can be
written because there is no such thing as continuity.


There are too many historical events to list here but a small sampling
might be useful to remember: like the protests against Scientology
that spurred an explicit protest group, Chanology, to form (and much
to the chagrin of the Anonymous band of trolls who at the time were
*so upset* at the earnest protests, they staged one of the worst
raids to date, attacking an epilepsy forum in the hopes they could
irreparably sully the name Anonymous; and frankly am surprised they
did not succeed).

Still, Chanology is also a good example of cyber-libertarian (free
speech) values driving the beginning of Anonymous; an operation under
which both left-wing anarchists and, say, Ron Paul supporters could
join forces. What we seem to witness today is cyber-libertarianism
having mutated into different branches, one which encloses major parts
of the so-called Alt-Right.

>   This once again presents the issue in an over-simplistic way; as if the
>    lines between "progressive activism" and "alt-right 'trolling'" could
>    be clearly drawn. For example, the Anonymous movement always involved
>    vigilante rhetoric and a visual aesthetic that even sympathizers - such
>    as my fellow panellists at the Networked Disruption conference at
>    Aksioma, Ljubljana in 2015 - characterized as "fascist". Conversely,
>    memes such as the pejorative "SJW" (for "social justice warrior")
>    pre-existed the present-day "Alt-Right" for years and have been equally
>    popular in parts of hacker culture that identify as left-wing.
>
> * I'll grant that the aesthetic could be read that way. And that's an
> interesting discussion to be had about Guy Fawkes and the cultural place of
> V for Vendetta. I can't deny the existence of a few outright fascist
> Anonymous groups. I believe there is a sizable one in Germany, which other
> German Anonymous groups tried to stamp out of existence but failed but this
> seems to again be an issue that can be explained as much by paying
> attention to regional differences (re: Germany) and histories as much as it
> is about "chan culture."


And here's another recent one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3oVktsOffs And this is a
German-language, pro-Russian and pro-right wing populist news site
using the Anonymous moniker: http://www.anonymousnews.ru

I wouldn't even use this as a fundamental argument against the
Anonymous movement. It is the nature, perhaps even structure, of
open-participation, collective identity movements and projects that
they attract and involve opposite extremes. Similar contradictions and
extremes existed in older shared-identity movements such as Neoism
and the Luther Blissett project, the same happened in subcultures
like punk. (Thomas Pynchon beautifully described it for the "Tristero
system" in his 1966 novel The Crying of Lot 49 which involved leftist
as well as neofascist participants.)


> I've certainly found that anonymous organizing makes some quarters
> of the left deeply uncomfortable (for lack of transparency) but
> the charge that AnonOps was fascist strikes as plain off the mark,
> especially when judged in terms of their actual political operations
> between 2011-2014, many of which were fully hinged to social justice
> issues with some key players now languishing in jail because of it.

The claim was not that AnonOps was fascist, but that both its
(vigilante) verbal rhetoric and (totalitarian) visual language had
fascist traits. This is by no means surprising if one considers the
original visual cultural context of Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta"
comic book, which portrays Guy Fawkes as a subversive against a
dystopian fascist regime who in the end becomes a violent and sadistic
character himself. The same ambiguities, btw., existed in punk where
early British punks wore swastikas and, before them, American punks
positioned their subculture as a back-to-the-roots movement against
the multicultural hedonism of disco. (The Ramones were, in this sense,
a reactionary band.) Punk, like the chans today, was characterized by
a paradox of being both "degenerate" and against "degeneracy" - to use
contemporary "Alt-Right" terms that have their historical origins in
the Third Reich notion of "degenerate art".

> As per SJW and hackers/hacker culture as you posit above: There are likely
> some SJW-hackers but if we are going to be specific about it, gamers not
> hackers are far more present among this contingent (hence the name
> gamergate). Note that many of the participants on 4chan also self-identify
> as NEETS (not in education, employment and training): not exactly the
> profile of the savvy-tech type worker either.


But I'd argue that it is fair to say that the "SJW" meme and
positioning of Internet-centric subcultures as resistance against
political correctness regimes has created a powerful grand narrative
under which both left-wing and right-wing cyberlibertarians could
unite, and which boiled down to a highly successful cultural-hegemonic
intervention (in a Gramscian sense) of the extreme right. The "SJW"
meme was act number one, act number two was the related meme of the
"Red Pill" which was shared in diverse subcultures, act number three
was to put these subcultures - or at least many of them - under the
label "Alt-Right".

I agree with your implications that subcultures like the chans
are, conversely, too unpredictable and irresponsible to be kept
in one party line. (If there would be a true fascist regime, then
the channers and trolls would be the brownshirts who would end up
getting liquidated in a night of the long knives.) We already see
the consent that has been manufactured through the memes mentioned
above crumbling - with Mike Cernovich and others falling out with the
white suprematists around Richard Spencer, renouncing "Alt-Right" for
"New Right", Milo Yiannopolous' fall from grace, the Neoreactionaries
distancing themselves from the populism of the "Alt-Right", white
nationalists like Paul Ramsey distancing themselves from the Hitler
salutes at Spencer's rally because they perpetuate "an old brand" of
the extreme right, now the general fallout of the "Alt-Right" and "New
Right" from Trump after the bombing of Syria.

> So if we want to talk about actual hackers/technologists (with loads of
> money, power and influence) and actual fascism this seems like a great
> place to start. And we should turn to geeky quarters of the conservative
> Internet composed of gamers, geeks, meme-makers, neets, trolls, and some
> hackers, who are successfully and adeptly advancing a right agenda.


Actually, I didn't try to make a case for right or wrong, or good and bad.
Rather, that it can be problematic to make general moral judgments about
and take sides with collective-anonymous subcultures, no matter whether the
Anonymous movement, the chans, gamer or hacker subcultures.

Best!
-F


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