Filed under: Civilization, Interviews, Repression, Technology, US
Across North America, cities are hit by wave after wave of crisis. From drought, to poisoned water, to rampant police brutality and violence, to crumbling infrastructure and deepening austerity. At the same time, even mainstream scientists have been heralding the end times; claiming that the ‘point of no return’ in relation to global warming is fast approaching, if not already here. Plankton levels drop, temperatures continue to rise, massive amounts of species die off, and the effects of climate change become much harder to ignore. In the midst of this unfolding, there is growing interest in “re-wilding” and getting back to the land and to a simpler life as the mainstream culture laments the increase in addiction to technology and the internet as smart phones proliferate in daily life. Kevin Tucker, a long time participant in green anarchist initiatives since the 1990s, sat down to talk with us about this deepening reality, as well as drawing from lessons over the past several decades and point towards where we might go in the face of civilization’s increasing stranglehold.
IGD: In the first issue of Black and Green Review, you discussed how the radical ecological, animal liberation, and green anarchist movements and currents never recovered from the Green Scare. Why do you feel this to be so? What was weak about these formations that allowed repression to sweep people away so quickly?
KT: There’s a couple ways to look at this question in terms of what happened then and why it was so effective in suppression.
I think unequivocally the greatest impact in terms of the Green Scare was that the first rule of resistance, the importance of Security Culture, wasn’t taken seriously. I don’t say this to blame anyone in particular for what happened, but it’s obvious: there was a lot of snitching. These cases were built on a combination of informants, infiltration, and loose tongues. The ingenuity of the ELF/ALF cell structure should have been enough protection: keep everything small, autonomous and absolutely need-to-know. Maybe there was too much comfort in that structure and word spread a bit too much. It’s hard to say for sure. But someone like Brandon Darby shouldn’t have been able to bring down so many people. Yet that’s exactly what happened.
That’s only a part of the picture. Looking at the mid-2000s, things did change. I think a pinnacle was Rod Coronado getting thrown back in jail for befriending someone on Facebook, something that happened while there was an increasing change on the legal front over what constituted “advocacy” or even what was action. The sentences that the SHAC folks and the AETA arrestees got really emphasized that. Suddenly this buffer that people like myself thought we had in terms of speaking and writing was shifting and that made it harder to say anything at all.
The increase in repressive pressure was tangible. We all felt that. The response for a lot of people, sadly, was to lay low. It’s hard to push in that grey area and it became harder to justify the risk.
But in terms of the milieu, we simply failed. We failed to address what was happening. We failed to keep up vigilance in terms of snitches. We failed to catch these trends as they were mounting.
That certainly continues now. Suzanne Savoie, a known Green Scare snitch, is still trying to stay involved in forest defense campaigns. It was particularly disgusting when David Agranoff was outed as snitch: Will Potter (Green is the New Red) broke the story and got death threats! People were arguing that David snitching was less of an “offense” than people breaking veganism. It’s just absurd, but I can’t see that having happened 10, 15 years ago: that’s an internet forum kind of response.
We also historicized the Green Scare in a way that makes it look like it’s over. It most certainly isn’t. We still have friends behind bars and the repression is still there.
And that brings me to the overarching context: as a culture, technology has really become completely enmeshed with day-to-day life. Through the anti-globalization movement and street riots that take root in the late 90s through the 2000s, you saw this element of involvement form into spectator roles. There was a change in focus on taking part in resistance to documenting everything. Suddenly Indymedia was the focus. There were certainly pros to it, but at the time it felt like it stole the spotlight a bit. In hindsight, it absolutely did.
And it made sense in a way, as repression raised the need to document it was important. But in some ways we made the documenting the story, not the means. The spread of the internet was really the necessary piece of the puzzle to make that happen. I’m not sure if you can say it’s coincidental or not, but there’s a mirroring of shifts within the milieu and the culture at large towards a more internet savvy approach to radicalism.
In the 90s, there was a kind of rowdy spirit of anarchism that I often felt like Profane Existence kind of typified. Building through the late 90s that started to transition towards this Crimethinc. styled personal revolution. I feel like that kind of paved the way towards blogs and social media: a focus on the individual over the ideas. That flows directly into what praxis looks like and action falls by the wayside.
In hindsight, it almost looks like this master plan: channeling this voracious, rowdy movement into online posturing. Whether that was the goal or not, who knows, but it echoes through civilization at large. There’s unquestionable intention in creating the social media world but I don’t want to sound convoluted in thinking it was aimed at anarchists, it just turns out that it worked out the same. No doubt something that would be considered an added bonus from the eyes of the State.
So you have the interplay of two things: the rise of repression and the rise of social media. In my eyes, it was the combination of the two that really decimated this milieu. In some regards, it could very well die on Facebook. Everything becomes so absolutely personal in nature and so tied to the individual that we lose the ability to even think about these ideas as existing in their own merit. You don’t have arguments: you just have reactions. So you go round and round with the same argument, but it doesn’t matter. What is being said matters less than who is saying it.
That opens the door for a ramp up in oppression politics to further those divides. The ideas and the drive are what suffer. Arguments replace discourse. Praxis becomes impossible. So when everyone who laid low in the mid-00s started coming back around and saw what the “anarchist milieu” currently looks like, they just kept moving. Why wouldn’t they? We’ve just opened ourselves up to external influences to the point where repression, by and large, isn’t even complicated. A couple Facebook profiles and the State can just undermine anything.
So long as we use social media as the platform for communication, then we have no ground to stand on. No traction, no hope for meaningful dialogue and certainly not any kind of engagement. Having a critique of technology or capitalism doesn’t make you exempt from its consequences. Get off of social media is definitely my weakest call to action, but it’s sadly a necessary one. If we want to move forward, we have to recognize this.
IGD: In the case of counter-information websites such as this one, how do you think that a project like this can avoid falling into the trap of just constantly wanting to produce more and more online material for the sake of just producing more? For us, we see a problem in that generating a lot of content has the effect of generating people that simply consume it. Whereas we want to create a resource that people can use in struggle, in honing their analysis, and also finding comrades. To say it plain, in the current age, how do we use cell phones to, theoretically, take down cell phone towers?
KT: Unless people stop looking to be spoon-fed answers, there’s not a lot that can done here. There is plenty of information out there about how to deal with specific problems, information that’s been put out for historical or simply educational reasons only, of course.
There are pragmatic issues here as well as idealistic ones. There is a line between advocacy and information. There is a chasm between sharing a historical look at effective strategy and trying to flush out cannon fodder to implement “the plan”.
That’s part of the Green Scare change, reflected in the way the State has defined “terrorism”: there are reasons why you can’t just lay out a list of effective targets, but among them is the reality that the more you try to fill in the blanks, the more you set yourself up to just get that pressure. Fortunately, there are historical circumstances we can look at to try to understand more, but the language has to be particular.
But there is no shortage of information on the internet. Or within public reach offline really. How much of it is disinformation, well that’s hard to say, but I think there has to be some combination of just putting relevant information out there and wanting to really build up a basis under which the struggle against domestication is no longer an external concept, but a perceptible reality. I think it’s important to always link domestication back into our daily lives because that really is the universal thread. The designers of Jericho tore apart our needs as humans and redirected them the same way that the programmers of Modernity do today. This isn’t abstract: this is the functional totality of civilization. If there’s a barrier to break down, I believe that’s the one. Everything else is further context.
To the extent that there’s a way to ensure that some of that context is more useful and not just a consumable set of factoids for militant appeal, posturing needs to constantly be challenged. The increase in social media has strangely brought this to the surface: “Well, what are you going to do?” That question has never had a positive outcome. Lacking alternatives or the space for anything else, that’s why subsistence and social movements have gained such traction as solutions; particularly things like permaculture, land projects, and the like.
The flip side is this draw towards “anything is good,” which is how Deep Green Resistance got its 15 minutes. In the end, it’s this sense of a very American kind of individualistic entitlement that leads towards wanting to appear the most radical or radicalizing personal liberation as praxis. Both of those are non-starters in my eyes.
I hold a certain level of pragmatism on the matter. There’s an edging here around questions that shouldn’t be asked and ones I refuse to answer. Anyone who can’t figure it out on their own probably isn’t the right person to discuss with, if anyone even is.
IGD: Looking back on the period of the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, what lessons do you think could be passed down to the current wave of people?
KT: This is complicated. I tend to think that I probably sound like I romanticize that period from 1999-2008 or whatever. I don’t, we didn’t have all the answers and obviously we had holes large enough to undo it, but we did have traction that we don’t now.
I tend to talk about BAGR as habit. This is how we used to do it. An anarcho-primitivist arguing for a print journal sounds kind of funny in context, but it’s this simple: we had something before and we don’t now. I don’t know if this move is the “right” one, but it’s something.
For the “new people,” I think it’s absolutely vital to draw this out. We have generations coming into the fold that have lived their entire lives through devices. We need to shake that up. If you don’t have unmediated connections then what can you really feel? Again, it’s not the most radical starting point, or at least it shouldn’t be, but sadly it is.
Social media takes over-sharing as a given. That’s so contrary to the way I came up with Security Culture and even just the perpetuation of ideas in general. If you make yourself the story or the argument, then you are the target. I’m not sure what that can really get you, but we see where it leads.
To me it underlines the importance of rewilding: here is something real, something tangible, something you can experience without interpretation. It’s also why I think rewilding is so crucial to resistance. If you fight solely for ideals, then you stand for nothing. If you can feel that connection, it’s an entirely different situation.
I see rewilding as a process of observation to integration with wildness. Clearly I’m advocating a similar path in terms of creating discourse: stop talking, open ourselves up to our surroundings, get some grounding in the real world and then taking the obstacles on. Be prepared to get humbled and have your ass handed to you a few times in the process.
IGD: Green Anarchy and Species Traitor, two publications you were involved with, fit into a time period of the anti-globalization struggle as well as the growth of anarchist resistance both in the US and around the world. In the late 1990s, places like LA and Eugene, Oregon popped off in a real way. Looking back at this time now, what do you think that people in these moments did well and how did they fail?
KT: I won’t rehash the above much, but we left ourselves too open. Issues started to arise and we didn’t do enough to respond to them. That’s easy to say in hindsight, but the history is there to show it.
I think that the arguments about “activism” are easily removed from context and unfortunately that set the pace for generations of anarchists. I think all of us who came into this at any point prior to, say, 2002 had some grounding in activism or at least it was a given. When we were questioning “activism” in GA at the time, it’s because of a specific reason: the street protests were just becoming predictable bait, everyone was getting locked up and sentenced before the first brick was thrown. It was a practical consideration that this was increasingly becoming a symbolic notion instead of a gesture. And there were alternatives to that kind of resistance at the time that we didn’t even have to point directly towards, they were obvious. We also weren’t questioning the Black Bloc tactics as they were happening in Greece, among other places, where they were clearly effective.
Removed of context, it simply became any kind of “activism,” be it riots or forest defense, was ineffective. I’m afraid that set the tone later, clearly a misstep when you look at where things are now.
IGD: John Zerzan said that the green anarchist current was an attempt to bring the urban anarcho-punks together with the tree sitters in the forest connected to Earth First! Do you feel like this goal was achieved? If so how, and if not, why?
KT: My perspective on it is a bit different. I grew up in the midwest and moved to the northeast, so tree sitters weren’t a part of my world outside of reading Earth First! Journal or going out West and seeing how different the milieu was there. In Eugene, that certainly seemed to sum it up. You had a cross over in terms of people, but on the pages it still seemed divided. What John is talking about to me definitely explains an earlier publication like Live Wild or Die that came out of the 90s in the Pacific Northwest. No question that it set the table for Green Anarchy.
Outside of that area, it came together in different ways. Coming from the anarcho-punk world myself, I can see it, but I grew up in St. Louis where the die-hard anarchists were anywhere from 10 to 30 or so years older than me and pretty removed from the punks. I wouldn’t say green anarchism was a draw for that crowd though.
But there’s certainly some merit to that argument: the appeal of green anarchism is that it gives an anti-political basis for understanding ecological destruction in a meaningful way. So while a lot of people didn’t have tree sitters surrounding them, they certainly had places they loved destroyed for Progress. Same kind of connection: different scenario.
IGD: NASA now says many of the things anti-civilization anarchists were saying in the 1990s. How can we push the debate about civilization through word and action in a time when most people agree that the current industrial framework is going to lead to extreme consequences?
KT: That’s the big question. I felt kind of crazy when I was trying to take part in these arguments online; people saying that green anarchism and anarcho-primitivism were dead throughout this period of unquestioning decline and extremities in terms of resource extraction, social unrest, and climate instability. I think in the first issue of BAGR I mention about how sometimes it just feels wretched to be right. We were literally watching our predictions follow through in some of the worst ways imaginable.
The importance here is to push that bottom line. We simply can’t back down. All of these things are happening for a very real reason and they will worsen. If we don’t call it as it is: that civilization will destroy the world to feed itself, that technology is the carrot and the stick, then what are we here for? What are we doing?
I’ve seen people water their message down to get traction in the anti-fracking movement and it baffles me. Here is the reality of the mathematic impossibility of civilization in people’s yards and drinking water: why wouldn’t we point that out? That’s crucial!
The problem is that we need to find ways to connect these dots without just sitting on social media and arguing. If this isn’t driven home in a meaningful way, then it’s all just adding noise to the nonsense. It doesn’t amount to anything. How we do that? I wish I had an answer. Hopefully putting it in print helps, but if anything it’s a concrete alternative to point to.
I’m on the persistence hunt approach right now: just keep moving and don’t stop. I’d rather risk finding out I was wrong than to wait until I find the “right” answer on how to do this.
IGD: You’ve stated in past interviews that the Native resistance to fracking and pipelines is some of the most inspiring struggles happening in North America currently to which we also agree. What advice would you give to people that want to take part and engage in solidarity with these struggles but are geographically far removed and also don’t come from a Native background or community?
KT: Realistically I’m one of those people. I’ve been trying to get a line into some of these movements without success. I’m always hoping that changes.
What’s important is to recognize that none of these things are happening “there” anymore: we are all tied by this hyper-technological civilization. I live just outside the Marcellus Shale region right now, but there are (or were before the oil price dropped) 3 shale pipelines proposed in this area. ‘Bomb trains;’ trains carrying tar sands crude, have been derailing all across the States. These things are local only so long as they are perceived that way.
What seems vital, at least how I see it, is to remove that distance, to link cause and effect. We have to break down the psychological barriers in a globalized world. That’s no easy task: we evolved largely as bioregional beings with looser connections to the larger world. Not that there was a disregard or total lack of knowledge for the world outside of your bioregion, but if you don’t have the means to cause global impact from your day-to-day life, then it’s a non-starter.
For me, personally, getting immediately involved with the Dineh and Oglala on the genocidal consequences of resource extraction really drove home my “local” issues with deforestation, suburban sprawl, and having Monsanto in my “back yard.” Those are necessary connections and these campaigns need support and attention. Literally the least we can give. I hope to be able to offer more.
IGD: In recent years as the ecological crisis has gotten more grim, there’s been a rising interest in “re-wilding” and “back to the land” living. From the growth of the tiny homes industry to popular shows on National Geographic, the desire for a simpler life back in tune with nature has become prime time TV as well as a growing market. Do you see opportunities to create links between land projects, permaculture endeavors, etc, and on the ground struggles and projects in revolt, or are these alternative ways of living simply more subcultures that are dead weight?
KT: I think this signifies two things: one is that as we’ve moved further away from wildness, we’ve left room to expose the gap and the want is still there. The other is that we’ve lost the drive to seek out an unmediated life on our own terms and the do-it-yourself ethic has fallen to an era of gurus and cottage industries. The latter has grabbed its market stake on the former.
I do see promise here though. It’s like society has opened up a place to talk about how hunter-gatherer life shapes who we are as beings. Even if the anarchist world isn’t ready to take those steps, it’s essentially an anarcho-primitivist argument getting mainstream traction. Ultimately that’s a good thing. Everything from Paleo and Primal diets to MovNat and barefoot running, hark back to this primal sense of who we are and how we subsist and interact with the world.
There’s a powerful narrative there, but it gets picked up and redirected by marketers in the same way that all domestication works: we have our wants and needs as animals torn apart and sold back to us piecemeal.
It’s absurd to see aspects of our innate being commodified, but that’s the underlying history of civilization. So it shouldn’t be surprising. I think it’s important to give context here and that’s something we can offer. It’s easy to scoff when you see people talking about rewilding on TV or you have a douche bag like Daniel Vitalis attempting to claim “rewilding” and suggesting it as a way to cope with the human zoo rather than attack or subvert it. We just have to keep on pushing through that, to continue making the connections and give it the space to be grounds for resistance instead of a retreat.
The flip side of that is that the culture as a whole has lost all sense of ability to seek things out. There’s no way that is separate from having a device on you with Google or whatever on it, just being able to ask a question and get an answer right away. That’s a development inhibitor and I can’t point to Nicholas Carr’s work on the matter enough: we have literally been off-setting brain functions onto technology. Our minds aren’t taking in information the same way, we don’t develop memories and build up knowledge the same as you do through direct experience. That’s a frightening prognosis that applies to every aspect of this world.
But it’s a horrible habit that we get used to. Whether we posit this way or not, we turn to the internet for answers about everything. We aren’t absorbing reality; we’re just regurgitating points. That’s a reason why I think rewilding is so vital: it is about experience. Without grounding, what do we have to say or offer? Where can we go?
Rewilding is nothing new to the green anarchist world. It’s been a core part of Green Anarchy and spreads from there. It was a given that do-it-yourself was a part of that, more importantly, doing it together. In the early 2000s, almost everyone I knew was stealing field guides and trying to memorize them. We all carry on this survivalist mentality that capitalism implants, but it becomes obvious through experience that the knowledge and the skills are context, not goals. Subsistence creates substance.
We went out, we experimented, then came back and bounced ideas that worked and those that didn’t against each other. There was no want to profit, at least among the green anarchist scene. We didn’t have Youtube, just books and reprinted pictures. My first bow drill fire was with a two-foot spindle and a curved piece of Eastern Hemlock bark as a baseboard. It was hilarious, but with four people and hours of handing off, we eventually got a usable ember. Then we learned from that quickly.
Now everyone wants to make some money off of it. The community element is gone. There’s no humility in the process, just a façade of expertise amplified through social media. And the certainty gets dangerous, I’ve seen plenty of people on “identification” sites get a plant or mushroom pretty dangerously wrong and people just take a response as correct.
But it doesn’t end there. We, as green anarchists and anarcho-primitivists, were always very intentional about leaving gaps between theory and praxis. We aren’t ideologues with blueprints for the future. The reason is simple: all you can do with ideology is to regurgitate it. People will kill for ideologies, but they will die defending a known. That’s the message I got from comparing indigenous resistance struggles and revolutionary movements. One ends in gallows and the other ends with them. Ideologies are a dangerous matter.
Our intent is to give context and open up the fold for forms of resistance. That is what makes grounding so vital. This isn’t about having cannon fodder and building a green anarchist army to take on the United States military. That is a futile move, but also unnecessary. If you understand how civilization fuels and perpetuates itself, you quickly realize that it is the ability of power to propagate itself that drives and ultimately undermines civilizations. Machines make far better targets than people.
What that looks like in terms of resistance can be many things, but a coordinated, ideological effort to undermine it will simply be smashed by repression. Gaps are unknowns. If we had answers for how to bring about the end of civilization immediately, then we would have done that. Clearly I don’t have answers here and it’s problematic to think that anyone should, myself included. What we can do is build that context and foster circumstances where action could arise. That’s the goal with Black and Green Review, just as it was for Species Traitor and Green Anarchy.
Yet as social media embeds ideas with individuals, you have this rising need to suddenly be right. You have to account for any hypocrisy or inconsistency rather than focus on ideas. You get this, “well why don’t you just go live wild if that’s what you want?” kind of questioning, which is disingenuous at best. It buys into narratives of freedom within civilization. I don’t go live as a hunter-gatherer for the same reason that struggling hunter-gatherer societies can’t: civilization stands in the way. Private property, the expansion of States, the nature of extraction, a shifting climate, and ecocidal rampages are the threats that make life outside of civilization improbable if not impossible.
We aren’t anarchists because we live in an anarchist society: we are anarchists because we strive to live in anarchy. Hypocrisy applies only if you believe some liberal shit about “be the change you wish to see in the world”. Granted, I’m not standing in the way of anyone who wants to try, but if we want to be honest about the state of the world then we have to be honest with each other and stop getting soaked up in focusing on individuals and look at the big picture again.
So long as civilization exists, everything is on the table and everything is at risk. We can’t escape that and we shouldn’t try.
The rise of permaculture amongst anarchists and even land projects gets wrapped up in the conflation of means and ends. I hope everyone strives to lessen their impact, to withdraw from domestication at every chance, but my goal isn’t about lifestyle choices: it’s about bleeding civilization until it crumbles. I have affinity for the drive here, but it arises for the wrong reasons: people wanting to be right, to accept that civilization is here, but that we can lessen our impact.
There’s a grain of truth there, but that’s not reason to get hung up on it.
And I can sympathize. I’m part of trying to build a land project as a basis to build community. It’s a really complicated process, but all-too-often, the land itself becomes the project, not the basis of the community or the connections. Permaculture can become a means of redirecting the controlling elements of domestication: small-scale agriculture in approach. It doesn’t always, but the language of control is pervasive. That it’s less impacting than industrial agriculture doesn’t change that.
I don’t separate this from these greater social changes that I’ve drawn on throughout this discussion and in my approaches through BAGR: they’re one in the same. We, as a culture, have to look up and assess the big picture instead of falling into the cracks of the details. Being imperfect is a perfectly fine placeholder compared to inaction caused by trying to simply be “right.”
That amplifies into the anarchist world: we spend so much time trying to chase out every boogeyman concept and having the perfectly worded subjective expression of anarchism. Why? What does that do? You see this as prevalent in a magazine like Black Seed where subjectivism runs rampant. They see a statement as “civilization is wrong” as moralistic and therefore problematic. I really couldn’t care less. If I can’t say civilization, the system that is killing the planet and all life on it, is “wrong” then what do I have to say to anyone?
We don’t have the time for that nonsense, so I don’t want to waste effort on it.
IGD: You mention that the goal isn’t about lifestyle choices but taking action against civilization. Earlier you discussed about the need to rewild and disconnect from social media. There should be no question that social media exists as a tool of counter-insurgency, but is it a worthwhile endeavor to abstain from it on principle, rather than using it strategically with this in mind? How then does this escape the traps of individualization that you cite as a problem of the so-called ‘social media age?’ Civilization won’t be stopped by people driving Priuses any more than it will be by people deactivating their Facebook accounts or living in the woods. Can you clarify your thoughts on this?
KT: Gladly. It’s easy to see that presence feels important in terms of these arguments. I’ve seen people argue with me that if they aren’t on there, then no one will be and the bullshit goes unchecked. On the face of it, that would seem to be truth and I’m sure some people did get genuinely involved with these milieus in a very real sense because they found them on social media.
But it’s important to point out that I don’t say this from a place of judgment, it’s from experience. I did the same thing. I used to spend hours arguing with people over social media and just got this tension all the time from it and just got so absorbed by it. I have reasons why my personal output for years was so minimal and it’s because I did exactly this: argued with people on social media, tried clarifying and furthering concepts while taking on challenges.
When I took a minute to breathe, I felt the symptoms of withdrawal. I’d stop and look at my computer and just wonder what I was even doing on there for so long and realized how much time I actually spent on it. That’s how this technology works, it’s how integrated it is with our own lives and how little we really consciously recognize it that reminds us how our participation really negates critique. That’s what the programmers of social media and networks want: no matter what your voice is, if you engage, then you’re right there. For them, we’re all just data and online habits. That’s the market scheme, but it clearly gets much more nefarious than that.
For us, it’s techno-addiction. We justify it however we like, but what I came to realize was that I was having these really intense arguments over and over again, often with the same people. I was battling people across threads and some times the context was there, sometimes it isn’t. So you’re just backtracking with everyone else who jumps in on another thread to explain why you’re jumping down someone’s throat. It’s a vortex in the true sense. The more involved you are, the more entrenched you become.
I don’t think shutting down social media accounts is the goal, but I think it’s important precisely because we’re all addicts and none of us really recognize or want to recognize it. Shut your accounts down for a week, just see what happens: this becomes a sub-conscious habit. Go back in and see the same arguments repeated forever.
My argument isn’t about morality, it’s not about boycotting Facebook because Zuckerberg is a socio-path: it’s that our ideas become real through grounding. They escape philosophical binds when they become mirrored in reality. We need that on all fronts. As much as I think running off into the woods sounds amazing (and I’m certainly not stopping anyone), that doesn’t take the problem of civilization on. I found that early on, the more I tried escaping civilization in the forest, the more apparent civilization ultimately became and the need to take it on became more of a necessity.
Socially speaking, deleting social media is complicated, friends and family won’t follow suit. I had people think I actually died when I deleted my profiles. I’m sure for some people I did. The real world communication and networks are lost in the vortex. I am sure projects like Black and Green Review could have more traction if I was online promoting them constantly, but I just can’t do it. I can’t stand seeing those sites. But if we continue to find reasons why we should stay on, then we’ll just stay on and nothing changes. There’s no easy answer here, but this is a very new problem and it’s clear to me that the answer to how we regain what social media has conquered won’t come through social media.
I don’t think there’s a more clear point of entry for rampant individualism than social media.
In every aspect it seeks to supplant reality. As Zuckerberg says it, people on Facebook are “building an image and identity for themselves, which in a sense is their brand. They’re connecting with the audience that they want to connect to.” Social media decimates true community by subverting it into a place to market the person you want people to think you are. I don’t think signing off is about engaging individualism; it’s about taking steps to see beyond the lens of the Cult of the Self.
IGD: You’ve come through a lot since the 1990s. How can radical movements and resistance struggles keep a wide range of ages and generations of people involved and engaged? Not only to have a wide range of people involved, but also to keep knowledge from leaving outward?
KT: There are cycles within radical and anarchist milieus. Just kind of comes with the territory really. You get a lot of really enthusiastic younger folks involved and they cycle every couple of years and go back and forth about what gets them hyped. Every two years there was a pretty steady insurrectionalist infatuation. Identity politics are always there, but go in cycles of amplification. Around every election you get some anarchists talking about how voting this time around isn’t the same as last time (in case you’re wondering, that’s never true).
If you stick around long enough, you learn how to avoid or weather the storms and carry on. However, this is one thing that changed with social media and it has to do with the fact that the broader sense of how personal affiliations have taken precedence over the ideas, critiques and praxis. So the posturing upticks and it just becomes a gossipy clique.
There’s no draw there unless you just want to be the most radical of your group of friends. Sadly, that retains some appeal. This milieu continues to lose its grounding in the real world just as all of society does. That’s a massive social issue that we should be spearheading resistance to, but, largely speaking, we aren’t. It’s a passé kind of joke to focus on social media and the Interface Revolution, but over half of all living adults have a cell phone.
As of the end of 2015, 23% of the entire global population uses Facebook monthly, that’s up from 20.5% at the end of the first quarter of 2015. Short of fire, this is the most widespread and rapidly acquired social change in the history of the human species. That’s fucking insane. When you use those platforms content fails in light of participation. The medium truly is the message and it dictates form.
This isn’t to say that anything about anarchism is dead. The ideas and realities it bespeaks are very real. There are innate truths that we’ve struck upon and as the façade of domestication tightens and cracks become more apparent, people will break out. I thought Occupy couldn’t have been a weaker campaign, but I’ve met people, young and old, whom it opened up doors for. The appeal of green anarchist and anarcho-primitivist critique comes from this search to understand how power functions, how civilizations perpetuate, and how domestication binds us on a daily basis. There’s no demographic for this: it literally impacts everyone. I’ve seen this working in campaigns, getting in conversations or arguments with people (I’m not one for keeping my mouth shut), doing speaking tours, and anything really.
I’ll never forget stopping in a gas station late at night while travelling years ago. I was wearing a “Better Dead Than Domesticated” shirt that I used to print and this older woman working the cash register, just kind of seething the depression that comes with working a shit job for minimum wage and being stuck on an overnight shift. She just stares at the shirt and looks me in the eyes and says, “Well ain’t that the fucking truth.” These aren’t exclusive ideas and perceptions, it’s something we all face and know if we acknowledge it.
Coming back to the actual question here, it’s vital that we don’t lose sight: we’re all in this. If we don’t keep our focus on understanding how civilization functions and seeking to undermine and attack it, then we have nothing. Our form should reflect that. Keep focusing on the ideas and less on the gossip and drama, there’s a lot more at stake here than any one of us.
IGD: Anything you’d like to add? How can people get a copy of Black and Green Review?
KT: I appreciate the questions and hope that we can take more time to assess what happened and move forward. I don’t know if our steps are the right ones, but it’s worth taking a shot. Our goal with BAGR started out as wanting to advance green anarchist ideas and push debate, but it’s proven quickly that we can’t limit ourselves to speaking to anarchists.
So much of the first issue was dedicated to focusing on technological change (the Interface Revolution) because it was the elephant in the room. It was impossible to address anything else until we took that on directly because it’s clearly standing in the way and has been for some time.
It may be ironic to argue against online engagement in an interview that is being published online, but we’re hitting this wall and it needs to be reiterated until we start listening and responding in kind.
Our goal with BAGR is to make these connections, to force the search to understand the domesticating process and how civilization works. We actively want its end. We push on this two pronged method of deepening bonds to build up a foundation for attack. “Wild existence, passionate resistance” sums it up. We want people to read it and respond. We want to build things up again and learn from our mistakes.
You can subscribe or order bulk copies through our website, order individual copies and other Black and Green Press books through Oldowan distribution or other anarchist distros/infoshops. Active carries Black and Green titles for European distribution. We’re always looking for more outlets and will to work with whoever to get this out there as widely and cheaply as possible.
You can write us online at [email protected] or mail us at PO Box 832 Ephrata, PA 17522.
Thanks for the time!
IGD: Thank you!
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