Passive Revolution and the imperial way of living + digital repression etc, #isa47 #isaforum2016

After lunch on Tues 13th I ended up – after being approached by someone who had been at the last session who wanted to recommend “Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery,”  – at the second half (i.e. 180 degrees) of a roundtable on “Emerging Research in Environmental Sociology (Part 2).” Of particular interest was “Strategies of a Green Economy, Contours of a Green Capitalism. Sociology meets Political Economy”, delivered by Ulrich Brand. He had kindly printed copies of “Strategies of a Green Economy, contours of a Green Capitalism”, a chapter in the Handbook of the international political economy of production.” I have now read it and it’s dead useful!

He wanted to contest the idea that there is “inertia” in the current state of affairs. There is, he insisted, never inertia but always (capitalist) dynamics; “Bourgeois capitalist societies are never inert”. He warned that important elements are left out of the “Green Economy” discousrse, such as the political economy of resource competitiveness, and the geopolitics of competitiveness more generally (the “brown state”) and indeed the commodification of nature. He revisited the notion of the “imperial way of living” (see blog post about the pre-conference– basically cheap products, cheap fossil fuels and the exploitation of, well, everyone and everything). “Green Economy” discourse doesn’t even name this.Around this, he was interested to look at five things-

  1. Gramscian “passive revolution” (i.e. the deliberate actions of elites)
  2. Economic viability of production and consumption (will electric cars work)
  3. What are the aspects of an ecological way of living (contra imperial)
  4. Green corporatism – can trades unions, employer associations etc ‘go green’
  5. How the state stabilises local initiatives

There were some nice questions (if capitalism is surplus value generation, from nature and labour – where does surplus value come from under the “green” agenda) etc etc

I ended up at another session “From Indymedia ot #Occupywallstreet and Anti-Austerity Protests in Europe: Three Generations of Digital Activism Logics.”

There were some useful warnings about fetishising particular new media (people swarmed before twitter, you know). And stuff on protest cultures (Constanza 2012) and the “imaginary matrix” (Cabrera 2001, Flichy, 2007), which seems to mean the way difference activist groupings take different stances towards the usefulness or otherwise of new media, based on previous experience, skills etc. The most useful of the papers for me was by Perrin Ogun Emre (Kadir Has University) and Gulum Sener (Hasan Kalyoncu University), on “Digital Activism in the post-Gezi Era”.

They pointed out that there has always been censorship and repression, but that state tactics have become more intense and thorough after Gezi, aimed not just at prominent activists but also Joe and Jane Public if they voice dissent. They conducted semi-structured interviews with prominent media-activists, some of whom identified as activists, others as (citizen) journalists.

They gave a nice summation of the tactics used by the state – here’s what I wrote down

  • Blocking sites (especially before/around big events/controversies)
  • Filtering URLs
  • throttling the internet outright
  • monitoring social media users
  • Hacking activist websites and social media
  • creating a troll army, trolling people with hate speech (against journos and dissidents)
  • creating fake accounts/websites
  • exploiting facebook’s “community standards”
  • more repressive methods (assassinations, detention, trials. kidnapping.

They also listed the things activists do in reply

  • VPN/TOR browser, telegram
  • use of different platforms
  • solidarity with alternative media
  • organising and promoting hashtags
  • taking photos of “filtered” words and using them in the body of emails/websites to get around the filter
  • deleting and blocking trolls
  • back up, cloud service, password change
  • ‘trash’ tactic [no, I don’t know what this means either]
  • exposing trolls and police pressure
  • training and development networks.

As I said in the Q and A, a lot of this is not new at all, the FBI was doing it against civil rights activists in the 1960s, under the “Cointelpro ” programme. I also hyped Cory Doctorow’s two excellent novels “Homeland” and “Little Brother.”

Some things I re-learnt today about presenting

  • Don’t talk to the powerpoint screen
  • Have a powerpoint
  • The visual matters, more than you want it to.
  • Keep to time
  • Ask for what you want to get from the audience

Anyway, then a group of us (new friends, waifs and strays) then schlepped across town to a fantastic Austrian restaurant, and were later joined by my gracious host. There was beer. More beer. A bar. And it became a bit of a blur….

Today (Weds 13th July) There was a small matter of a large hangover and life admin this morning, so I didn’t get to any sessions. After lunch, I went to an appalling session. I am not going to name names/identify the research committee, but perhaps it is not best to start with a declaration that you do not want to follow the normal academic panel format and will have only “brief” contributions from panelists and then… have six, male panellists talking for just over half the entire period of the session? Perhaps this is not the best way to get people being creative and interactive – having them sat in rows listening silently for 50 minutes? Ego-fodder, much?

When the first “question” was an extended bit of self-promotion “I did what I should have did” about 40 minutes earlier, and invoked the law of two feet.

So I retreated to the safety of the Main Hall, and now know enough people that I inevitably had a lovely catch up with “old” (5 days) friends briefly, before we all headed off to the “General Assembly” meeting of the Research Committee within which I’ve been mostly hanging out. Then off to a local anarcho-style cafe, called Cafe Gagarin. Lovely falafel and hummus, and good conversation with people (more than one) called Anna or variations on that.

One more day of conference, (sessions to be attended, since I am off the sauce) to be followed by a quick stop-over in Prague and then back to blighted Blighty. Boris?  Boris is the best man to represent “British values”  overseas?    Well, I suppose if you think what BV are, as opposed to what we are always told they are by our Lords and masters, then it makes perfect sense…

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