Monday, November 12, 2012

Anon Affect?

While thinking of a blog post for this week, I concentrated on the diverging ideas about public space (including the internet) and political performance utilizing the examples of the Anonymous phenomenon and the Nigel Thrift’s ideas about politics, the public and affect. What delineates some public spaces as viable for more extreme political performances, while leaving others inscribed in the certain paradigms? For example, I read “Our Weirdness is Free,” with its jarring images of extreme political performance, live, on the streets, unmediated, at the same time that I read the following lines “But more importantly, it seems to me that we are living in a time of greater and greater authoritarianism. But this is an authoritarian capitalism which relies on sentiment, media and lack of attention and/or engagement to most political issues to hold sway…”  (Thrift 222).  Perhaps the political actions by Anonymous (or performances, since it feels like they are almost the same thing) that have caused disruptions to the system are part of a larger scheme to bring certain subaltern affects (or any affect at all) back into the public realm, to make them acceptable in the face of the increasing authoritarianism, circumscription, that is characteristic of most politics and media today.
As if speaking directly to the revolutionary sentiments of the anon community as presented in OWIF, Thrift writes that the “only alternative left to moralism often seems to be a mystique of protest which can call forth a ‘community of angry saints in which the fire of pure opposition burns’… which then provides, simply through its existence, an apparent revolutionary justification, a kind of affective charge” (223). In this way, it makes sense that “Anonymous’s activities, however disparate and paradoxical on their surface, have tapped into a deep disenchantment with the political status quo, without positing a utopian vision—or any overarching agenda—in response. Anonymous acts in a way that is irreverent, often destructive, occasionally vindictive, and generally disdainful of the law, but it also offers an object lesson in what Frankfurt School philosopher Ernst Bloch calls “the principle of hope.”
 The limiting factor of the media and its analysis of the public stage leaves many people with information that freezes instead of ignites them, it does not make them feel anything. I think that the Anon “angry saints” are attempting to bring into the public realm (if not the mainstream media) a message that is rooted in affect: Their responses at first were meant to incite lulz and later, hope for change. With their meanness and trickery they evoke responses from people that would not be available otherwise from a widely rational, paralyzed, polite politics that is unable to sway people (Thrift 248). Thus, I enjoyed our Binders Full of Women-induced chuckles, while others complained about the lack of focus on ‘real issues’ during the campaign trail because (as I understand it now) those jokes may be residual of a politics of lulz seeping into the public arena as provoked by masses of a new version of semi-anonymous contributors, sharers and imitators. And then I thought, something that makes people feel is better than nothing.

No comments: