"And finally, without doubt,these charges target a combative approach to anarchism that takes the individual, affinity, and informality as its starting points."

An Imagined Dialogue with a Supporter of Taking People’s Picture

Posted: April 3rd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Leaflets | No Comments »

Counter-arguments for those who no longer want to contribute to the spectacle of the end of the world, but to the end of the world of the spectacle

Translator note: translated from a pamphlet found in Paris and available online. There have been several texts circulating in the past month critiquing cameras in demonstrations, some online and some distributed as leaflets in the street. This one is perhaps the fullest articulation of the anarchist (but not just) argument against filming revolt.

Me: Stop filming or I smash your camera.

“But pictures are just raw information. They only show facts.”

The photographic re-transmission of facts depends on the point of view in which the person taking the picture situates themselves, which makes it subjective even though it claims objectivity. Proof through pictures is a lie, not so much because it speaks falsely but because it claims to be true. To try to be a spectator, neutral and exempt from the power relations at play can only be an illusion, because it is in itself a way of taking sides, though indirectly. In this way, no one taking pictures can be considered outside the action, they are in it, but on the wrong side: the one that fixes what’s in motion, virtualizes what’s living, spectacularizes rage and passion, and generally participates in neutralizing the subversive potential of attack. Among those taking pictures, some are clearly our enemies, because they declare themselves as such (cops, official journalists, video surveillance cameras…). Others claim neutrality and participate in “pro” and “anti” propaganda, like the more or less independent news agencies (Taranis, RT, Linepress, Street Politics, Remy Buisine) (1). And finally, there are others claiming to be friends or activists involved in documenting struggle, and even some people doing illegal stuff themselves and filming it for a few minutes of virtual glory and many hours of very real hardship. To be clear, ALL of these cameras deserved to be smashed, but especially those that pretend or claim to be on my side. I say this not because I want to engage in dialogue, but to make my reasons clear.

“But pictures are history, they serve the struggle.”

Images of struggles have mostly served to wield authority over people’s imagination. From the dawn of photography and before, they have created idols, artificial scenes that resemble what’s real. They elicit emotion, empathy or pity for certain subjects, fear or envy for others. In themselves, they don’t lead to revolt, but at best to indignation. Anti-authoritarian ideas and struggles have often done without images, because they hardly existed or because the means of producing them didn’t fit with what the moment required. Today, in a society where control and surveillance is one of the cornerstones of power, we can all recall images of demonstrations. Especially those that lead to people spending months locked up, whether they be comrades or strangers. From the ninja-hooligans of the movement against the retirement reforms in 2010 to those accused of burning the cop car on Quai de Valmy during the movement against the Labour Law in 2016, from the rioters in London in 2011 to those in Ferguson in 2015.

“But pictures protect us from police violence. They’re against repression.”

Wasn’t Theo’s rape filmed (2)? Weren’t there people taking photo and video in front of Bergson and other high schools (3) ? Sure, these stories spread in part because of the images, but who’s to say they wouldn’t have without them? The “buzz” is clearly not in our control. Is that rage and anger due to our experience of oppression and of seeing ourselves in the person experiencing it because we’ve been through the same, or is it because we watched it from behind a screen? And what’s the use of these images when the harm is already done, unless you believe in the healing offered by a hypothetical conviction thanks to the use of images, though this involves wasting your money and energy and putting yourself in the hands of one of the quintessential tools of the powerful, justice. By filming rather than trying to prevent police violence from happening through action, we’re not just letting it happen in the name of some hypothetical future trial: we’re repressing all those who might want to act directly against the police to give them a taste of their own medicine. Who would want to resist by hitting back during their arrest if photographers or videographers were filming? Who would try to rescue a friend from the hands of the pigs while being photographed from all angles?

If a few people are able to use justice against the police to get off their charges, we all know that most of them will be found guilty. It’s an illusion to think that a mere video can change the balance of power in the justice system, which, being an instrument of the powerful, is structurally not in our favour. And those few, couldn’t they have defended themselves without the video? What role should we give to images, even in the justice system, and at what cost for all the others who, without wanting to, find themselves in those same images? Is it that less prison for one means more for another?

“But the picture is beautiful. People are reasonable, they know the risks and mask up. And I’ve got a technique to avoid causing them trouble.”

And that’s exactly the problem. It’s nothing more than liberalism to satisfy your need for pleasure and/or propaganda while accepting, or worse still, defending and promoting the presence of cameras, a presence that can only harm those who seek to act differently (without masking and without thinking it through in the intensity of a moment of revolt). It’s freedom without practical consequences or or ethical responsibility for your choices. Except in extremely specific cases where a group, for tactical and political reasons, decides to film themselves, image-taking affects everyone involved in actions larger than your own group. There is no correct framing, proper editing or blurring technique, no good moments to film or right way of publishing. There are a thousand and one good reasons, even after having taken all necessary precautions, for someone to not want it known they were there at a certain place and time. These days, where so many people have conditions forbidding demonstrations banning them from certain areas, where some would like to be more discrete in the eyes of power, where young people are slipping out from the yoke of family, community, or gender to express their revolt, where images, along with DNA, are the greatest proofs for determining THE truth, every piece of information counts, in society and in the courtroom alike. That the state will continue through its own means the filthy business of tracking revolt is one thing, it’s quite another to create more images of illegal acts yourself. To think you’ll be able to outwit the police’s techniques for finding third-party images — imagining quickly swallowing your SD card before being arrested, or dreaming of securely erasing all your videos, or playing at being a super-cropper and blurrer of the right moments — is nothing but a dangerous illusion, and one the pigs are counting on.

“But images are everywhere. Our enemies use them, so why pick on us?”

Like every fight I engage in, it might seem doomed from the start. I’ll certainly never manage to convince a majority that I don’t care about or a public opinion that doesn’t exist, or even just fix any individual problem. Through their integration into techno-capitalist society, the use and spreading of images has become one of the pillars of domination. That said, even if people don’t agree, on this subject and others, I still have the ability to act.  I can attack cameras, those of the city-prisons as well as those of Doc du Réel (4) or any other intrusive smartphone. I confront the harm done by those who, rather than contributing to the mayhem, are engaged in its narcissistic or authoritarian presentation (filming others without their knowledge to make propaganda), even with the best of intentions. These actions could be taken by anyone, as one contribution among others to widening the space for revolt rather than restricting and repressing it.

Me: So then, are you going to put the camera away or am I going to smash it?

Endnotes

  1. Taranis is a lefty news site, relatively good production values; RT=Russia Today; Linepress sells video and photo content to media outlets; Street politics, videos of demos and some commentary; Remy Buisine is a livestreamer who became well-known during Nuit Debout
  2. Theo was violently sexually assaulted by police in early 2017 during an ID check. Some translated texts here: https://borderedbysilence.noblogs.org/post/2017/02/10/ile-de-france-the-ongoing-revolts-against-police-violence/
  3. During the movement against the labour law in March 2016, students at Bergson were subject to a vicious police attack to break their attempts at shutting down their school as part of a broader wave of strikes. In general, protests by highschoolers seem to receive more than their share of police violence
  4. Activist media collective that has been the subject of repeated criticism for producing videos that contain obviously incriminating details

Montreuil: Oct 29-30 – Solidarity Weekend for Prisoners of the Social War

Posted: October 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Leaflets | No Comments »

Solidarity Weekend for Prisoners of Social War
Saturday October 29 and Sunday October 30

How do we demonstrate our solidarity with shared acts of revolt, even in the face of repression?
In this period of war and of generally heightened tension, the unbearable conditions under which we’re made to live are maintained by fear. Fear of losing your job and of coming up short at the end of the month, fear of police, fear of prison. This feeling is driven home by the indefinite extension of the state of emergency and by locking away for ever longer those who remain recalcitrant. And yet, there are so many reasons to revolt against this world of cash and cops, and so no wonder that many people don’t give in to resignation and continue to take action against it all, in small groups or in a crowd, by day or by night. Because the social war against the deadly rule of state and capital, there can be no truce: attacks against borders, rebellions in jail, escapes from detention centres, sabotage against the construction of airports or of high-tension power lines. Ransacking schools, burning construction equipment or the cables that permit the flow of information and transportation. Destroying campaign offices, riots following yet another police killing, daily hustles to avoid wage slavery… Beyond any law, whether earthly or divine, this routine disorder is able to flourish freely. 

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France: We are against work

Posted: September 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Leaflets | No Comments »

[From a leaflet distributed in the summer of 2016 against the Labour Laws in France]

Because we are against a system that exploits everyone.

Because the managers of this world transform living things everywhere into merchandise.

Because this society offers us no other choices than being put to work, a few crumbs for survival, or incarceration, for the undesireable or recalcitrant.

Because work means selling your time, your energy, your body, and your mind to bosses, leaders, and machines.

Because capitalism and the state try to control every aspect of our lives and take away ever more of our autonomy, including our dreams of something profoundly different.

Because this system of endless production leaves no space outside of itself, where we could each freely decide on our own activities.

Because the state only grants us rights at the price of our freedom: this same state sicks its guard dogs on us in the street, creates and militarizes borders, and wages war in every corner of the world.

Because restructuring (also known as “crises”) means an intensification of misery, social cannibalism, and further techniques and technologies of control.

For all these reasons and for many more besides, we aren’t just against work, but also against world that it sustains and that offers us nothing beyond it.

If we don’t want to just adjust the length of our chains but to truly destroy them, no dialogue or negotiation with power is possible. We need then to push this struggle beyond the limits imposed by those who want to see the struggle smothered in the confines of the existing world (which includes politicians and managers of all sorts).

Instead of always following agendas set by others, we need to ask ourselves how to expand the revolt while deciding for ourselves what we want to oppose, while imagining a thousand and one ways of overturning this world, while associating freely and organizing ourselves without leaders or hierarchy, while taking initiative individually and collectively with direct action. In this way, it becomes possible to confront the powerful who seek to impose their law on us, to do away once and for all the endless war they wage against us with their authority, money, and cops.

They offer big media spectacles of social engagement to reduce revolt to a simple matter of democratic indignation and to bring it back into the realm of politics and representation. But conversely, by directly attacking what allows this system to work, and to make us work, opens up possibilities creates the space needed to develop other ways of relating.

Blockades and sabotage aren’t just buzzwords, but rather real practices offering us a path out of the routine of exploitation and the logic of consumption, including the spectacle of opposition. For as long as the metro transports human cattle, as long as electrical lines power factories of death and laboratories of control, as long as money continues to circulate, as long as screens broadcast propaganda, as long as cables and antennas maintain our dependency, as long as the arteries of the city impose their rhythm on our bodies and minds, as long as…

And so let’s destroy the daily grind!


Paris: There will be no presidential election

Posted: September 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Leaflets | No Comments »

A call to break with the electoral circus

(Translated from an anonymous leaflet distributed in the September 15th 2016 demo in Paris. All brackets are translators notes)

There has been much water under the bridge since the Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS — party of French president Hollande) backed down from holding their summer congress in Nantes after a simple call to crash it. This came at the end of four months during which the movement against the “Work!” law (reform to the labour code) managed to dictate the terms and timeline of the debate. Four months during which the many attempts at concealing the real political questions of our present moment by launching the presidential campaign, with it’s clever catch phrases and insignificant revelations, were utterly rejected. It took the summer, the dead-time of the vacation season, and a few terrorist attacks to allow the elites to climb back into the saddle. The effect was immediate: public discourse immediately took a nose dive into the most crass nonsense, to such a degree that Marine Le Pen (leader of the far-right Front National) stepped in to moderate and the Prime Minister set off philosophizing about the burkini. We turned our backs for a moment and politicians of all stripes set up their little electoral and rhetorical machines, their pathetic personal ambitions, their desperate ideological mantras — each in their place, each with their own angle, taking aim at each other and setting each other traps that they end up caught in themselves. This whole spectacle wouldn’t deserve our attention if it didn’t have such real effects on our relationships and mental health, if it wasn’t able to suck all the air out of the room. We’re left with an even more intolerable atmosphere than what we had before the movement against the “Work!” law. Read the rest of this entry »