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Posts Tagged ‘Anarchy’

On Sunday July 22, 2012, the Québec Student Strike (grève générale indéfini, #ggi or Indefinite General Strike)  resumed protesting after a brief pause in June to give students some time to rest.

Student Protest on July 22, 2012

Students marching in the streets on July 22, 2012.

The Student Unions that organized the #ggi in Québec used the summer pause to travel to Ontario for a “Solidarity Tour” to help educate Student Unions there about how to organize a successful student strike. The Canadian English media’s coverage of the tour has been astonishingly poor. Take for example Tasha Kheiriddin’s article in The National Post: “We don’t need no solidarity with Quebec students.” Here is an excerpt from her piece:

Rather than inviting Quebec students here to infect them with their protest virus, the Ontario students would be better off going to Quebec, to see the effects of all this mayhem there. I played tourist in Quebec City and Montreal last week with my partner and his teenage children, and we had no trouble getting into any attractions because there were few big crowds. In June, hotels reported that business in Montreal was down by $5.8-million from the May of the previous year, with 5%-10% of bookings cancelled. While it might be great for vacationers who do show up, it is bad news for tourism operators and merchants — and for their employees.

Among those employees, of course, are students working summer jobs to pay their tuition. Between May and June, employment in the hotel and restaurant sector fell by 9% — at a time when it usually increases to serve the high season. Meanwhile, student unemployment overall stands at 16% compared to 14.5% for the same period time last year. And even if they find jobs in July, students have to head back to class in August to recoup class time lost to the strike, precluding them from holding full-time employment for the rest of the summer. (Source: The National Post)

It is not clear to me why Ontario students would be expected to take advice about their solidarity interests from a Whitby-based journalist who is unlikely to share the same interests as them since she is no longer a student.[1]

But even more striking in this quote is the lack of understanding of what a strike is, what a strike is for, and how one might measure the success of a strike: It is even less clear to me why Ontario students should take advice from a journalist, like Kheiriddin, who could not even be bothered to research strike actions and their history before writing about them in a national newspaper.

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So I guess this blog was two years old yesterday. What do you do when you miss your own blogoversary? Do you punish yourself? Make yourself promise to make it up to you later? I don’t know. I guess you can always offer yourself excuses, like ‘but I am marking, that takes all of my attention right now.’ That is true enough.

I have written 71 posts (or 32 in the last year, see last year’s stats), and I have received 231 non-spam comments (or 90 in the last year, see stats link to last year). That is not too bad, although both stats are less than the first year I was writing this blog. I suppose it is not really surprising the stats are down a little, however, since I did have to finish my dissertation this year and that takes some time. I will give myself a break for credential attainment. I am still pretty good at keeping my comments and spam queues pretty cleaned up.

Things improved in the site visit department, however. Last year I had 12, 087 visits, and this year I have had 13, 287 visits, for a total of 25,374 visits in two years. This seems to be mostly due to the two posts I wrote about Portal 2. The first was about some worries I had after reading some developer commentary and watching the trailer at E3. The second was after I had played the game and was describing the feminist analysis of structural power relations that I believed was embedded in the plot. Thanks gamers!

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Protesters on the Bridge

Protesters on the Bridge

This is the second post in a series of posts I am writing in response to some inane commentary about #OccupyWallStreet. I am beginning with a response to Sally Kohn’s Piece “Follow No Leader” but will add to the discussion as I read more inane commentary from journalists who seem content to point out their own incompetence and call this “reporting.” I am not singling out Kohn’s piece because I think she is incompetent and other journalists are competent. Instead, I chose her piece as representative of a genre.

I don’t see this post as a defense of the movement as much as it is a criticism of journalism.

The sections I examine are as follows:

1. I Demand One Demand

2. Leaderless Clearly Means Pointless (This post)

3. They are Middle Class the Hypocrites!

4. Those “Smelly”  “Jobless” Hippies Should Just Try Harder if They Want to Succeed

5. Focus on What They are Wearing

6. Are Journalists Simply Incompetent?

Bibliography:  Link Round-Up of Decent Places to Follow the Protest

In the first post, I argued that the demand for one demand is forgetful of history. Once we recognize an injustice it is easy to identify that injustice as the demand (in retrospect). But at the time an awareness of a new form of injustice is developing the sense of outrage is usually amorphous, because we don’t yet have words or concepts to name that injustice. Usually there are a series of smaller demands that only later seem to be related to a single goal. “I have a dream” that we will be taken to “the promised land” is not exactly a specific demand. In retrospect, once we have a name for the injustice we can see how the “disparate” demands are actually “one demand.” But that only happens over time.

In this post I want to look at the criticism in the mainstream media that seems to say that if there is no leader, then the movement cannot have any point. Once again, this criticism was raised in response to the G20 protests in Toronto, but once again, all it does is point to journalistic incompetence.

2. Leaderless Clearly Means Pointless

One of the main criticisms of the new kind of activism that eschews leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King is that without a leader the media cannot figure out what is going on, so clearly nothing is going on (they mistakenly conclude).

As was the case with the demand that there be one clear demand, this only shows that old-style media reporting cannot keep up with new-style activism. I agree with the journalists that it is probably more difficult to get a “sound bite” from a movement with no leader charged with producing such sound bites in their inspirational speeches.

I wrote before about why reducing arguments to sound bites in the media is harmful, but here is another shot. In philosophy we teach students that they must criticize the premises, or the connection between the premises and the conclusion. They may not just attack the conclusion. The reason we teach this is that if all one does is attack the conclusion one has “contradicted” the speaker, but one has not argued against the speaker. By reducing arguments to sound bites, as journalists have recently been doing, all we get in political discourse is contradiction. We don’t get any argument. If this seems confusing, watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ “Argument Clinic” sketch.

The complaint that there is no leader of the movement really boils down to a complaint that this makes the job of the journalist difficult in a way it used to be difficult before journalism gave up. If there is no leader, then journalists will have to research and think about possible reasons for a protest rather than reducing the argument to a “sound bite” which is even worse than reducing an argument to a conclusion.

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I work in health care ethics, and there is a saying in the hospitals, “Nurses Eat Their Young” (see for example this podcast from the radio show “White Coat, Black Art” on the topic of nurse bullying). Well it seems to me that the same can be said of left-wing activists. Once again a bunch of young activists from a “left” perspective are trying to do something and raise awareness about the economic injustices currently occurring and the (allegedly) “left-wing media” seems incapable of figuring out what is going on. The same thing happened after the G20 in Toronto, and I wrote about that here. I am a philosopher, and what we do is analyse arguments, so I am going to comment on the ridiculousness of mainstream commentary on the occupation. I am beginning with a response to Sally Kohn’s Piece “Follow No Leader” but will add to the discussion as I read more inane commentary from journalists who seem content to point out their own incompetence and call this “reporting.”

I don’t see this post as a defense of the movement as much as it is a criticism of journalism.

The sections I examine are as follows:

1. I Demand One Demand (this post)

2. Leaderless Clearly Means Pointless

3. They are Middle Class the Hypocrites!

4. Those “Smelly”  “Jobless” Hippies Should Just Try Harder if They Want to Succeed

5. Focus on What They are Wearing

6. Are Journalists Simply Incompetent?

Bibliography:  Link Round-Up of Decent Places to Follow the Protest

This list will grow as I read and run across new inane commentary in the media. Guess what journalists, I am an oldster, well out of my 20s, I earn well over $100K per year, and not only can I figure out why there is a protest, but I also think the protesters have a legitimate point.

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[Trigger Warning for Violence and Domestic violence, especially in the Video which has a battered woman as the opening shot]

End:Civ Poster

End:Civ Poster

This summer Franklin López released a documentary film called End:Civ (The full documentary can be viewed here). The documentary is based on the book End Game by the environmental activist, Derrick Jensen, and each section of the film begins with Jensen talking about one of the selected premises from the book. López then illustrates the premise through interviews with environmental activists and news footage. End:Civ is worth watching and I think it is worth thinking about the destruction that industrial production entails. Both Jensen and  López are anarchists (or so Wikipedia says, I don’t know whether they would accept that label). In any case, Jensen believes that civilization is not sustainable and should be destroyed.

In this post I will describe why Jensen’s over all conclusion, that we should return to a Stateless society (anarchy), is undermined by one of his specific arguments (sub-arguments) about the Structural Violence of civilization.

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Image from https://i2.wp.com/www.ynetnews.com/PicServer2/24012010/2629647/CANB104_wa.jpg

A Police Car on fire in Toronto

[Note: Some links are to PDF files]

I have been doing some reading on the Black Bloc tactic since the G20 in Toronto because I did not know the reason(s) for the vandalism, and I thought I should learn more before forming an opinion. Further, I had heard many politicians and  journalists concluding that the tactic was incomprehensible, ineffective, immature, and so forth. Before making conclusions such as these, I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt and look into the reasons that they articulate for their behaviour.

A number of  journalists (including Jon Stewart around 6:30, click here for the video if your are reading from the USA) commented that they were unable to discern the message of the march because there were too many messages. An example comes from the Canadian news site The Mark, where commentator John Stapleton writes in his piece, “The 2010 G20: The Day the Music Died?”

After a week of searching, I have no real idea who the leaders of the protest are or if we can even talk in those terms. There certainly seems to be neither a claim to leadership nor an overall narrative to articulate their goals or an assessment of the results. Few seem interested in assuming this leadership except to speculate on the motives of police and other security officials. In the 1960s, various groups and their leaders in Toronto and especially in the United States wrote books and articles, made public speeches in town halls, and met with media to carefully and meticulously articulate demands to distinguish the differences between sectors and groups. Back then, you knew in detail what the Students for a Democratic Society, the Chicago Seven or “Danny the Red” wanted. The “Weathermen” and the FLQ had visible and very public leadership, and that leadership appeared to have as much access to the mass media as it wanted.

Now we are left with the distinction that anarchists and everybody else want very different things, but I don’t know where to go to obtain the tracts, the manifestos, or the books that would give me more than half a page on the different motives of violent vs. non-violent protest.

Really? After a week of searching Stapleton could not come up with any writing describing the reasons for the protest? Because it took me about 1/2 an hour to find a number of descriptions about why the G20 protests were occurring, and why some people support using the Black Bloc tactic (including an assessment of its results). What I could find included some descriptions of the way the groups are organized, which details why they specifically avoid leadership and hierarchy. It also includes descriptions of why the various affinity groups avoid talking to the mainstream media, preferring instead to use alternative media and the internet to get their messages across. What I found also included some full-length books, available for free download, that detail the history behind the Black Bloc tactic and what those who use the tactic mean to achieve through its use.

(Note: I was only searching for information about groups that support the use of the Black Bloc tactic, so most (though not all) of the links above focus on that. Many other members of the various protest groups either do not support the tactic, or believe the tactic has its place but would not use it themselves. Information about the structure, beliefs, mandates and proposed alternatives from these groups is also easily obtained through a Google search. One place to start is this website, which provided a place to coordinate the various affinity groups, and links to publications detailing the views of some members of the protest groups. Although not all of these groups are anarchist groups, many of them eschew hierarchical leadership and prefer horizontal, decentralized modes of organizing and are also suspicious of the slant taken by mainstream media.)

The main point of Stapleton’s article is that there is no music to accompany the protests, that too was easily found by searching YouTube. I came up with bands like Test Their Logik, testament, the Dead Prez, Keny Arkana. I had never heard of any of them before attempting a search. He might not like the music, but it is hard to argue that it does not exist or that it is not political. Stapleton also complained that there was no concert arranged for the protest. This also turned out to be false (although from what I can gather from the internet the concert never did happen because all of the artists were detained/arrested by the police at the time it was supposed to occur).

So what is going on here? Are these journalists incapable of doing a Google search? Don’t they have research teams to do this work for them if they are too busy? It did take me longer than 1/2 hour to actually read all of the links I posted above, but it did not take long to find them.

I am not going to summarize all of the linked information, but reading the descriptions of those who support the use of the Black Bloc tactic made me rethink the post that I wrote before about “Classism and Reporting on Toronto’s G20.” In that post, I thought that the use of “middle class” to distinguish good protesters from bad protesters was really problematic because of the classist undertones of the description (I still do). After reading the linked information (especially the linked book), I now think that eliciting this kind of reporting might be part of the intent of those using the Black Bloc tactic and perhaps shows that the tactic is somewhat effective from their perspective.

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